After launching sonic assaults for twenty years as a member of Primus, Les Claypool decided to make the leap from bass man to movie mogul. His first film, National Lampoon Presents Electric Apricot: The Quest for Festeroo, is a mockumentary in the tradition of This Is Spinal Tap that aims to take a few whippets out of the music-festival scene. The film features South Park’s Matt Stone, Seth Green, the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir, and Warren Haynes and Matt Abts from Government Mule. In addition to directing, Claypool is also in a leading role as Electric Apricot’s drummer, Lapland “Lapdog” Miclovich. Claypool talks about the film (a marked turn from the low-rent comedies National Lampoon has released in recent years), the future of Primus, and the power of peyote.
Have you always been a filmmaker? I actually made my first film when I was twelve years old. It was called The Dog That Ate Detroit and starred my family’s Saint Bernard, Barney. The dog was defeated in the end, because evil, of course, can’t prevail.
Can I get that somewhere on DVD? That particular film is probably in somebody’s attic somewhere.
Why did you decide to parody jam music? Isn’t that kind of like picking on an asthmatic kid? I don’t think Electric Apricot really parodies jam music but rather the setting where it takes place and the bands that play all the festivals. The film really takes the piss out of the four individuals in the band and certain other creative individuals that take themselves a little too seriously.
Are there any true festival stories that made it into the film? The impetus of the whole of the movie was my in-depth experience with the festival circuit. There are some experiences that were translated pretty literally into the film and also a lot of composites.
How did you get Matt Stone and Seth Green to be in the movie? Both guys are pretty good friends of mine, so it was natural to have them in the movie. Matt was there at the brainstorming stage of the film, so he had kind of a vested interest in it. As for Scott, I just sort of called him up. It was all very casual. I was able to put these two very talented men together and make a movie.
How much of the movie was scripted? It was very loosely scripted. We created a storyline and then put the actors in a situation. We would ask the actors questions and then get their reactions on film.
What was the hardest part of directing the movie? Of the challenges I experienced in making Electric Apricot, I would have to say the greatest was the daily kick to the nuts I was receiving from Murphy’s Law. Actually it was more like Murphy’s Law squared. Shooting a film is like building a house with apprentice carpenters and with all the materials on fire. But it’s also like climbing Mount Everest. There’s lots of pain and suffering involved, but there’s a real sense of accomplishment. People go back to do it again and again.
Were you able to apply any of your songwriting or video-making experience to Electric Apricot? I have pretty extensive experience making videos, and anything you know, however limited, helps. I couldn’t have made this movie without having shot videos. Going back to the challenge aspect, one of the hardest things about shooting the movie was that I had basically the same budget that I’m used to for a three-minute video to shoot a whole movie. Record companies will put money out there to promote albums, and there wasn’t any album to go with Electric Apricot.
The Internet Movie Database recommends This Is Spinal Tap and the live action version of Josie and the Pussycats starring Tara Reid. Which would you recommend for a double feature? How about The Road Warrior instead? That’s a fabulous hunk of film. Perhaps after you watch Electric Apricot, you might want a little va-rye-uh-tay. And that movie was made back when Mel Gibson was actually a champ.
Do you consider Primus to be a jam band? Primus has never been able to be defined. We’ve been filed all over the place and played Lollapalooza, Ozzfest, and just about every other festival out there. I think the only one we haven’t played is Lillith Fair.
Any plans for Primus? We played a few dates in recent years, but we don’t really have plans at this point in time.
Can you tell us anything about Pig Hunt? Pig Hunt is a film about a three-thousand-pound pig that terrorizes the pot fields of Northern California. I play a redneck preacher bent on vengeance.
Was there any method acting involved? I did look back to my days as a man of the cloth when I was playing the role.
I was actually talking about the bent on vengeance part. Oh, I’m not a very vengeful person really, but I’m working on it.
Who do you consider to be your contemporaries? I consider my contemporaries to be someone around my age and experience that I respect as a musician. One guy that I really miss is Mark Sandman. He was so amazing and doing interesting things in a very primal way. And there’s Mike Watt. He’s always a champion. I’d also like to meet Tony Levin sometime.
What is your favorite type of game fish? Definitely albacore. Going albacore fishing is like going on safari, and hooking into one is like catching a Volkswagen.
Did it kind of hurt your feelings to license “John the Fisherman” to Guitar Hero II? Do you think that the game should be Bass Hero instead? I don’t think Bass Hero wouldn’t be quite as compelling for the youngsters out there. When I was a kid, nobody wanted to play bass. We all wanted to be Eddie Van Halen. While I think that Bass Hero would be a great idea, I’m pretty pleased to have been involved with the Guitar Hero franchise.
Where do your ideas come from? It’s all peyote induced.
All of it? All of it. And if you don’t vomit before you get high, you’re not going to get truly high.
Are you comfortable with the fact that a whole generation of kids knows you as the guy who sings the theme song for South Park? I’m very comfortable with it. South Park is an incredible show. It’s changed social commentary and how social commentary is presented. There’s also the Robot Chicken theme. I’d be embarrassed if it was crappy stuff, but both shows are great.
Does the cartoon version of you live in South Park? What’s your status? They threw me in there for a minute at the beginning. There was some talk of me becoming a character on the show, but that kind of fell by the wayside. I guess I’m kind of a wondering minstrel at this point.
What would be your ultimate concert? I would be perfectly happy to sit in the Greek Theatre in Berkeley and watch John Bonham play drums for two hours straight.