You’d be hard pressed to find someone to call metal funky. But, if there was ever a band to excel at bringing the groove—among other things—to the age-old genre, it would be Primus. Then again, the storied group, that is most well known for creating the theme song for the popular satire cartoon series South Park, has been categorized in a plethora of different genres ranging anywhere from progressive rock to grunge to thrash to post-punk to psychedelica. Despite a brief hiatus in 2001, Primus has returned with a renewed energy and, after going through a number of lineup changes throughout its history, has settled into its current trio. Guitarist Larry “Ler” LaLonde was kind enough to spend some time with OurStage to give us an insider view of the creation of Primus’ latest album Green Naugahyde, the band’s upcoming tour and his experience working with the band’s returning drummer Jay Lane.
OS: There are a lot of different ways that the band has been described over the years. If you had to describe your own music with a term or a phrase, what would you use?
LL: Yeah, you’re right, because over the years it’s been called everything. Ahh, it’s just, you know, it’s “Freedom Rock”. Do you know “Freedom Rock”? [laughs]
OS: You were on a brief hiatus before you recorded this album. What was it like to come back together and record this?
LL: Well, it was actually pretty great for me, because I was pretty anxious to do some more Primus. When it all came together, and then Jay ended up being in the band and we got in a room and started playing, it was great, because all of a sudden we started writing songs. We had done some gigs over the last ten years but we hadn’t really done any writing or recording. So, you know, over that amount of time, I had come up with a lot of song ideas. Sometimes you’ll come up with an idea and you’re like “Aww, that’s a great Primus song” and so you don’t use it for anything else and then it kind of sits around. So, for me, it was great to all of a sudden to throw in these things that I had been sitting around waiting to use for Primus for a long time.
OS: Wow, I’m sure it was like a whirlwind when you got back together then. So much energy.
LL: Yeah, for the most part, it was like “Let’s go.” [laughs]
OS: You finished recording the album in May but then there were a lot of delays that went into releasing it. What went into the decision of doing that?
LL: We kind of totally finished in May, but we were still a little bit behind in getting the artwork done, which is one of the downsides of being a band that tries to do everything yourself. It was that, and some people at the record company needing more time to let everybody know it was out there. They’re much smarter than us when it comes to these things. There were a lot of different reasons to hold it off. As a band, it’s hard, because it’s finished and you wanna get it out there, and you’re trying not to play it for people and you’re making excuses as to why you can’t give a copy of it. But it seemed like all the reasons for it not coming out then all turned out to be good reasons.
LL: It was awesome, because I’ve known him forever. We’ve been friends, he’s a super cool guy. The other drummers that have been in the band were really good friends of mine too. But Jay is such a good guy to write songs with, because he’ll make you play things that you wouldn’t normally play or hear something. You know, I’ll make a mistake playing something and he’ll pick up on it and make it into something cool and all of a sudden now we’ve got this idea for a song that would’ve never happened if he didn’t hear that mistake. That’s one of the great things about him is that he’ll really really pay attention to what everyone’s playing.
OS: How would you characterize his drumming style compared to past drummers?
LL: Well, his natural style is very very funky. He comes from a super funky background in a lot of ways. You know, he’s played with Bob Weir from the Grateful Dead now for a long time. So he’s meshed those two as having as a super good groove, but also being able to be very musical, which is great things to have in a drummer.
OS: How did that fit in with what Primus usually plays?
LL: Yeah, he definitely had to do a little homework on some things. [laughs] Not really his immediate natural style, but he had a head start on some things too. There’s a lot of songs on Frizzle Fry where he was around when the writing went on, he was in the band then. So, there was a lot of things that were his style already and then a few things he had to do some homework on.
OS: You guys are kicking off the new tour for the album tonight in Boston. What are your thoughts and anticipations for the tour?
LL: Well, I’m a little anxious to be honest. [laughs] We’ve got a handful of songs that we’ve haven’t played in a long time that we were trying to work up in rehearsal and then our plan is to go out and play the whole album for one of the sets. So, there’s a couple songs we haven’t played that many times. So, I’m excited. I’m anxious. Today is a very crazy day. [laughs]
OS: Do you have an opener at all?
LL: It’s just us. We’re gonna do two sets. We’re kinda gonna go in and take over the building, which is cool. You know, we get to go in and sound check as much as we like and kind of do what we want in the building.
LL: Yeah, it’s kind of funny when we looked over the songs. We kind of have a lot of songs now. And, you know, over the years, you get so many people who say “Oh hey, you should play this song. You should play that song.” So, yeah, it’ll be good to have two sets. It’ll probably be the most guitar I’ve played in my life, but we’ll go in and sound check and probably not stop playing until the night’s over. It should be cool. It should be fun. It’s gonna be great to put together more and more songs. You know, sometimes when you go on tour, especially when you’re playing at a festival, you have limited time and you want to get everything and you can’t. So it’s great to have two sets to be able to throw more things in.
OS: Do you have a plan for your sets?
LL: We’re gonna switch it up. We’ll probably switch up the first set. We’ll pick through like we normally build a set, which is changed every night. And then the second set will be the whole album. And then, if people want to stick around to hear some more songs, we’ll see what we have left to play for some encores.
OS: Yeah, I’m sure the encore is key, because everybody expects a huge encore.
LL: Now the pressure’s on. [laughs]
OS: I’m sure you guys get this all the time, but do you guys keep in touch with the guys over at South Park?
LL: Yeah. Actually, we just saw them like two days ago. There was a fifteenth anniversary party for South Park. I don’t know whether it was the fifteenth year or the fifteenth season, but yeah, we hung out with those guys. I see Matt every now and then because we live pretty close to each other, but he’s been in New York a lot getting Book of Mormon off the ground. But, yeah, we see them every now and then. I know he’s back in town, so we’ll probably see a lot more of them over the next few months.
OS: I’m sure you’ve noticed how over the years South Park has changed. Does that reflect on how Primus has changed as well?
LL: Definitely. God, those guys, they never disappoint. That’s for sure. Hopefully, we can keep that kind of track record going of never phoning it in. But, yeah, those guys are awesome. They never stop. Hopefully, that answers the question.