Interview With Les Claypool: A Casual Affair

Do you find that it’s more the fact that you’re coming up with a product that’s more entirely your own and you’re not competing with another vision, like a guitarist’s vision for instance?

Not necessarily. I just knew I wasn’t going to have a guitarist on this next tour, so I saw no necessity to put a guitar on the record. That’s a big part of it.

My buddy Merv, I’ve been trying to get my buddy Merv to tour with me for quite a while because I think he’s a phenomenal guitarist. But Merv has a real job and he has another child coming, and he just can’t go on the road for a couple months out of the year and then just sit around. He’s got a real job, and he makes really good money. If Merv would have said, ‘Hey, I’m going to go on tour with you this next year,’ there would be guitar on the record because Merv is a spectacular musician.

So it’s not even so much, ‘Hey, I don’t want any guitar,’ it’s ‘Well, I don’t have a guitarist at my resource right now that I’m really, really interested in playing with besides Merv at this point in time, but I do have a cellist that I’m very much enjoying playing with.’ So I’m going to write some parts that will incorporate the cello or saxophone or marimba and vibraphone. A lot of it is forward thinking as to who is going to be able to go on the road with me in the following year.

Do you plan out your year like that? Take a long-term project, write a record, record a record, put out a record, tour it and then next phase?

Not necessarily. Back in the old days, you’d make a record, tour behind it for 18 months, make another record, tour behind it for 18 months. I can’t do that now, because being a family man, I have no desire to be away from my family for 18 months. It’s much more casual now. I wasn’t going to put out this record this year. I had recorded the material for the soundtracks and thought, ‘This’ll be good, this is good stuff to have in the vault in case I do decide to make a record.’

But because of some changes in my management, and some other projects not coming together, I decided that I like this material so I started working on it again, and when you start working on something you get excited about it. I finished it, gathered my guys and go on the road. It’s all pretty casual. We’re not invading any countries here (laughs).

You’ve always written songs that explore American life but they’ve turned a little more political lately. Particularly with ‘Red State Girl,’ it’s kind of screaming that.

But is ‘Red State Girl’ screaming? It’s a love song (laughs). It’s basically just two characters that happen to identify with Sarah Palin, and the audience is left to wonder if these two characters will ever find each other, because they’re both looking for love.

There is a bit of a sneer about these characters though. At least I read it that way.

I think it’s somewhat in the eye of the beholder. I’m not bashing anybody in it. It’s an observation of a couple characters.

Are you a fan of Sarah Palin?

I am not a fan of Sarah Palin. I think if I was buying a new vehicle or perhaps a piece of real estate I would consider dealing with someone like Sarah Palin, but it frightened me to think that there are actual people on the planet who felt that she could run our country.

So those characters are scary to you?

Certain elements of them are scary to me, but the thing you have to remember is some of my very good friends are the types of individuals I’m describing right there. I have many progressive liberal friends, and I have my fishing buddies and my contractor buddies, and they listen to Rush Limbaugh in the morning and they vote Republican because their daddy voted Republican and their granddaddy voted Republican before then, just like they’re 49ers fans because of the same reason.

And there’s certain topics I don’t discuss with them because it would make for a lousy fishing trip. Same with my relatives. I have certain relatives that have similar viewpoints, and I have progressive relatives. I think the notion of completely alienating yourself from potential friends or relatives or whatnot because of their political viewpoints is counterproductive.