Should it be a surprise to anyone that Primus, one of the most original of original bands, is putting on the first-ever 3D enhanced live concert tour?
No, it shouldn’t.
The band will present the shows in Quad Surround Sound (meaning, among other things, it will sound really good) and audiences will be given 3D glasses upon entry to experience the full effect of the groundbreaking visuals.
Longtime Primus guitarist Larry LaLonde took a few minutes to discuss the genesis of the 3D live show, what it’s like to go so many years without being ripped off and putting together a new Primus record after 12 years, among other things.
Was there something in the making of 2011’s Green Naugahyde that inspired the idea for the 3D enhanced concert tour?
Not necessarily. I think it’s just that when we were done with the record and… there’s so much technology now that allows you to do so much visual stuff live now. It’s always been a Primus thing to incorporate visuals with our music. It’s gonna happen; we’re not the greatest at premeditating all the steps. I should just say yes, right? (Laughs)
It seems like Primus has been building to something like this for a while; you’ve always been a very visual band.
Right. At one point… we actually did a bunch of theatrical-type scrims and full-out art that we kind of flew in and out. We kind of just graduated to the high-definition video screens. We’re always trying to build and build on what we’ve got going—building more visuals and adding to [them] and beefing up the catalog of everything, both song and visual-wise.
Was Primus as focused on visuals when you first joined?
Well, when we first started, we finally had the opportunity to do a video. I think that was one of the things that started really kicking off the idea of doing the visuals. It was like, “Oh, there’s a whole other side to this where we can put our own stamp on.”
We did the “John The Fisherman” video, which we ended up doing with an animation guy… and all of the sudden we realized that we could do all this stuff and we were just trying to take it from there and keep up.
It was cool to make even crazier and crazier videos. But when we did the video for “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver” we may have pushed it too far because then we had to sit in those makeup chairs for hours getting stuff glued to our faces.
That remains one of the most frightening music videos I’ve ever seen.
(Laughs) Yeah, it’s even creepier when it’s you and you’re seeing yourself up there.
Were there other bands you guys looked to when it came to advancing the visual end of your live show?
Well, years ago, before I was even in Primus, I used to go to Grateful Dead shows and they always had this amazing light show. So I always thought, “Wow, if I was ever in a band where we could dictate what our lights were, it would be amazing to do something like that.” It’s always been a thought.
One of the coolest things I ever saw was on the Rush Moving Pictures tour. They had a big screen behind them and when they played “Tom Sawyer” the cover of the Moving Pictures album was on the screen and it was actually moving like a film.
How are these 3D elements going to fit in with all the improvising Primus tends to do in the live show?
We’ve kind of learned that it’s stuff that can be done on the fly. We have a guy that’s running it and he’s doing it manually, so things can be kind of loose. We’re doing it different every night. Things can kind of be freeform. We’ve been given a lot of freedom and, luckily, I think we’ve found a way to do it that works and will be kind of cool to go along with the music. It’s built to go along with the music.
We haven’t actually done a 3D show yet. We’ve been putting it together and so far it’s pretty cool, I’m pretty blown away by it.
We’ve got all kinds of different corners covered… hopefully. (Laughs) We’ll soon find out. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
One of the things that always blows me away about Primus is that no one has ripped you off.
Yeah, definitely. I’ve had a handful of bands say they are influenced by us. But one of the things about Primus that makes it turn out the way it is that it happens organically to some extent. We’re not really playing to one sound or another; we just kind of put it together. But, on top of that, if you’re a band and you want to get famous, this isn’t exactly the sound you want to copy.
Right, it’s just weird. There’s a ton of bands that sound like Metallica or Tool, Rush, but nothing like you.
Yeah. And it’s not that anything we do is that complicated, but it’s very untraditional. You’d have to really try to fit all the different pieces together.
But I’m glad. I think it’s cool. One of my goals was always to do something that wasn’t already done… It’s been awesome. Here we are as far down the road as we are since our first record and people are still coming out to see us. That’s ultimately the thing that’s cool about it.
You were a thrash/death metal guy before you joined Primus, right?
Yeah, I was in a death metal band when I was 15. When I started [playing] guitar when I was 12, it was all about Van Halen, Ozzy, Iron Maiden, which it probably still is, but that turned into trying to push the metal thing even further, so that turned into death metal. And, you know, there was a lot of breaking new ground with that. I’ve always really liked the idea of finding new kinds of music and genres that further the guitar. That definitely got translated into Primus to some extent.
What was your reaction when you first heard Les Claypool and Primus?
I didn’t really know what the hell it was (laughs). We lived in the same town and I think I heard it on a tape from a friend of mine, which was the funny thing about back then. I heard a lot of bands for the first time on tape. And it was pretty crappy quality. I first heard Jane’s Addiction and the Red Hot Chili Peppers on tape and I thought those bands were terrible.
It was probably the same with Primus. It probably sounded like a tin can or something. I didn’t really know what it was, but a couple months later I was actually in the band. So I had to figure it out pretty quick.
I feel like Green Naugahyde is a record that really embraces the quirky and creepy elements of the band. What was the mood like in the studio?
Well, for this one, things were just coming back together. It was like, “Okay, so we’re going to do a Primus record,” it turned out [drummer Jay Lane] was going to be in the band. So it was all kind of happening. Everyone was very excited. We hadn’t been on the road in a while; we hadn’t toured in a while. Jay is super great to hang out with so we were rolling with it. It was fun, it was easy.
A lot of older Primus records, it was a cycle of tour forever, come off the road and get in the studio and start creating, which is sometimes a grind to do that.
This time, everyone was very fresh and it was nothing but fun. The other ones were fun too, but sometimes it can be a little more work if you haven’t had a break or haven’t had time to think about things and write new ideas.
In the years that you weren’t in Primus, were you ever sitting around playing guitar and stumbling onto something that you ended up saving for Primus?
Yeah, all the time. That describes a lot of the songs that are on Green Naugahyde. The riff for “Jilly’s On Smack” is a riff I’ve had for a couple years. Most of the stuff I write you could fall back on, but some of the stuff—there’s just no other place for them.
[Some riffs] stick around until Primus happens. I’ve got a giant archive of things that are just Primus guitar parts.
Primus didn’t intend to write new music at first when Jay Lane came back, correct?
That seems to be the way a lot of things happen for Primus. We find things work out a lot better when they’re allowed to happen rather than when you’re trying to force them.
The first song we wrote that was on Green Naugahyde was “Tragedy’s A Comin’.” We were rehearsing, trying to do shows and it came from a jam that we had going. So that was a song that we listened back to and said, “Hey, that sounds like it could be a new song.”
The first [track] on the record was something that we came up with in the studio. It was straight out of a jam that we had going.
Primus will perform at the Tower Theater in Philly on Oct. 17 and Hammerstein Ballroom in NYC on Oct. 19. For more information, go to primusville.com.