Claypool's ongoing crusade is something VH1 spinsters wouldn't really know what to do with. In his 15-plus years as the frontman of Primus -- as well as his endless sundry side projects -- Claypool has earned notoriety while fulfilling none of the "Behind the Music" coming of age requirements: no skyrockets to fame, no tragic plummets into oblivion and no pathetic come-back stories. Rather, he has settled for churning out a consistent level of inscrutable and eccentric musicianship, leaving audiences forever asking, "What the hell is he talking about?"
"If anything, this is the skyrocket into oblivion," says Claypool in reference to his musical journey. "I've got my own category. But I don't think there's ever going to be a 'Behind the Music' special on me. I don't think they'd be able to sell any ad space."
Speaking of ad space -- and in case further proof is needed that Claypool has an aura of the bizarre -- consider one of his recent endorsement opportunities. "I was asked to do a Twix commercial not too long ago," Claypool says. "I passed on it ... It was for a lot of money, too. They were gonna have, like, some singer be the creamy chocolate, and then they had a rapper who was going to be the chewy caramel and then I was supposed to be the crunch."
Indeed, a newfound calling as a personified candy bar sound effect would not have been the most advantageous career decision for the gifted musician, who has instead formed his newest chops-heavy ensemble: Colonel Les Claypool's Fearless Flying Frog Brigade. Only a few months old, the expansive lineup brings together original Primus members Claypool, guitarist Todd Huth and drummer Jay Lane, former Galactic sax player Skerik (who also plays with Galactic on this same tour), Ratdog keyboardist Jeff Chimenti and guitarist newcomer Eenor under a kind of avant-prog rubric.
"Basically what I wanted to do was put together a collection of the best musicians I could possibly find to make a band that could play anything," Claypool says. "What I've got is five guys, plus myself, that are all monsters at what they do. It's kind of Zappa meets Pink Floyd meets King Crimson. That's probably the best way to describe it."
The Frog Brigade represents Claypool's most recent foray into the world outside of Primus. He has taken time away from his bread-and-butter act in the past to do work with such varied musicians as Tom Waits, Stewart Copeland and Phish's Trey Anastasio.
"It's siesta time in Primus-land," Claypool explains. "I've been doing Primus since 1984, so I tend to like to do other things. People always ask me what my advice for young musicians is, and I always say, 'Play with as many people as often as you can.' That's how you grow as a musician. I know a lot of guys who are great technicians, but they never play with anybody, so they're not good at it. It's like having a conversation -- the more conversations you have with different people, the more well-rounded of a conversationalist you are going to be."
As long as they know what the hell you're talking about.
Les Claypool's Frog Brigade play as part of the SnoCore Icicle Ball tour, along with Galactic and Drums & Tuba, appearing at the Tabernacle, Fri., Feb. 23. Show time is 8 p.m. Tickets are $26, available through Ticketmaster.
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