For over two decades, Primus has captivated audiences with their eccentricity after the band first made a name for themselves in the early ’90s with the release of records such as Frizzle Fry and Sailing The Seas Of Cheese. Though their last album of purely original material, Green Naugahyde, was released four years ago (their first since 1999’s Antipop, the last LP they made before beginning a three-year hiatus in 2000), the band has been touring steadily in support of Primus & The Chocolate Factory With The Fungi Ensemble, a project they took on last year which features the trio putting their own eerie spin on the soundtrack from the 1971 film, Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. The show relies heavily on the use of extravagant visual effects and props to put a nightmarish twist on the classic children’s movie.
As this run begins to come to a close, the group will be taking a break from the theatrics to hit the road with alt-rock giants Dinosaur Jr. for a summer concert series before wrapping up the Chocolate Factory days once and for all. During some very rare downtime, longtime guitarist Ler LaLonde discussed the upcoming cycle, new music, and what has changed since first entering the industry.
So the band has been touring on Primus & The Chocolate Factory material for almost a year now. How does it feel to go back to the “normal” Primus music and show?
You know, we haven’t actually made it back to the old set yet (laughs). But I’m anticipating it’ll fly by because while we’ve been doing this whole Willy Wonka thing we’ve done a set of Primus music and then a break and then a set of the Wonka music and then a little more Primus. I think we do a couple more of the Wonka shows, like three more, and then it’s just Primus music. So it should be interesting, to feel like a normal person again. It’ll be interesting to go back to just playing our own songs.
The Chocolate Factory has its very own unique stage show, but Primus has always been very visual. Is there anything new planned for the tour with Dinosaur Jr.?
We’ve always been very last minute so we’re not sure exactly what it’ll be. We’ll probably have some form of a giant TV up there that will show crazy stuff while we’re on and try to make it as trippy as possible.
Are the spacemen going to be back?
You know what, that’s another thing we’ve been debating—I’m not sure! I guess we better figure that out real quick (laughs). The truck better get on its way very soon, with lots of stuff in it.
How did touring with Dinosaur Jr. come about?
I think for the past couple years we have always been on the lookout for better bands and to see if they wanted to put on some sort of evening of music together. We’ve done little short runs here and there, but I think this was the time that we found another band that wanted to go on and put on an evening together, so it just kind of came up that way, probably about a year ago. We had also played together years ago at a festival.
When the band is getting ready to go on tour, how do you prepare?
You know, that depends. We have been playing so much that we’ve only been home for a couple of days, so we’ll just slide back into it like normal pretty much. Usually over the course of the tour we’ll experiment with different things and we’ll try to re-learn different songs and try to see if there’s anything new we can fit into the mix.
You’ve been touring and playing so much recently, does it ever get dull? How do you keep up that energy?
For me, I just sort of think back to when I was going to shows. For some weird reason, every show seems to be exciting for me; I can’t really put my finger on it. Maybe it’s because it is the only thing I know how to do (laughs).
Primus has accumulated such a huge discography, and every fan has their own personal favorites. Is it difficult creating a setlist for tour?
Yeah, I mean, it definitely can be. We’ve toured a lot so there’s the factor of trying to think back or look back to see what we did last time so we can try to throw something new in and something that a lot of people want to hear. It can be pretty tricky. That’s the power of doing a lot of shows or “An Evening With…” and playing two sets, so we can try to play as many songs as possible.
Doing a double set has to get exhausting.
It does! It doesn’t seem like it is until you play a festival or something, and you play one set then it’s like, “Whoa! That was… Really fast.” (Laughs) Then you come back and play two sets and then you’re like, “Wow, this is a lot of music.”
Are there any plans in the works for a follow-up to Green Naugahyde?
Yeah, we’ve been talking about it and have been recording ideas here and there. I’m sure once we finish up all the touring and everyone gets their brains back on straight we’ll be trying to make something happen.
Primus has been an entity for decades now, and besides that you’ve been involved in music for so long. If you could tell yourself anything when you were first starting out, what would it be?
It’s so weird to think about that, because when we first started it was such a different time in so many different ways. Like, I know it’s going to sound like we are total dinosaurs (laughs), but we first started touring when there really was no internet, and there were barely any cell phones. When you got into the van and drove away on tour, you felt every mile that you got further away from home because you were really cut off. If you went to Europe, forget about it. You might as well be on the moon.
So there was definitely a kind of gypsy lifestyle that I don’t think really exists as much anymore, so starting out now I would imagine it would be very different. Back then, it was like, “Hey, don’t do this unless you are okay with completely cutting yourself off from the world and living in a van!” (Laughs) I don’t think that would apply now, because you can basically go anywhere on the planet and stay connected.
What are your plans for after this tour? You’re doing another run of Primus & The Chocolate Factory this fall, right?
Yeah! I think we’re going through and doing some outdoor summer stuff, and then in September we’re going to all of the different places we didn’t take the Wonka thing to. Then after that I know we’re playing in Arizona with Tool on Halloween.
Oh, that’s the Monster Mash, right?
Yeah! Yeah, I just saw what it was called yesterday, so I’m looking forward to that one. And then hopefully something will go on after that.
Primus and special guests Dinosaur Jr. will be coming to Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia on July 23, the Stone Pony Summer Stage in Asbury Park, NJ on July 24, and JBL Live At Pier 97 in New York City on July 30. Their latest album, Primus & The Chocolate Factory With The Fungi Ensemble, is available now. For more information, go to primusville.com.