channel of the wah for more
subtle Cry Baby work.”]
How about guitars?
LaLonde: It’s all Fender now.
The first couple of months
of recording were either a ’ 69
Thinline Tele or a ’ 76 Strat—
which is the sparkly green Strat
that I’ve had forever.
LaLonde: The other guitar was
an American Deluxe Strat. The
[S- 1] pushbutton out-of-phase
stuff and the hardware is just killer. That became my main guitar
for playing live, and that’s how I
ended up choosing those pickups
for the ’ 76, too.
I love—like Bow Wow Wow, the
Police, and Iron Maiden—have a
lot of bass. And in a lot of bands
you can’t even hear the bass. Plus,
it’s just fun trying to be more of a
there without it being a distraction from the melodic element of
Okay, enough about gear. Let’s
talk more about playing. Very
Les, what do you think was
most instrumental in the devel-
opment of your commanding
That’s what you used in the
early days, right?
LaLonde: Right. In the really
early days, I also had a ’ 79 Strat
that had a Floyd Rose on it. I
routed it out with a steak knife or
something to put in a humbucker.
You really used a steak knife?
LaLonde: Yeah. I didn’t know
what a router was, and I didn’t
know how to have it done, so I
was, like, “Well, my mom has
a steak knife. . . .” I don’t even
think I soldered the wires—I just
twisted them together. I didn’t
even know where they went. I
just moved the wires around until
some sound came out the other
end [of the cable].
Is the Thinline Tele a reissue?
LaLonde: No, I was actually
going to sell it, because I have
so much vintage stuff and I was
getting tired of storing it and
worrying about losing it. I took
it to this guitar store in Venice
and I was like, “Can you just sell
this?” So they cleaned it up and
rebuilt it, but when I saw it all
put together I was like, “Maybe
I’ll hold onto this one!” That’s
probably the guitar I used the
most on the album. It’s totally
beat, but when we started going
through guitars that was the one.
Ler, Can you take us back in
time and tell us about the most
memorable lesson you had with
LaLonde: At first, the biggest part
was just sitting in a little eight-by-eight room and seeing someone
playing like that. I’d never just
sat by somebody who was that
good. One lesson that clicked big
was when he had that song “The
Enigmatic” from [1986’s] Not of
This Earth. At first when he was
teaching me theory, it made no
sense at all. I didn’t get how all the
different modes worked together
until he taught me a scale and
had me play a part or a rhythm
in that key, and he would solo
over it in that key. Then he taught
me the Enigmatic scale [Editor’s
note: Italian composer Giuseppe
Verdi invented the scale in the late
1800s], and I learned the riff to
that song and played it for him to
solo over. And then he would play
the riff and I would solo over it—
which must have been pure comedy to see the contrast [laughs]. I
didn’t realize you could make up
your own scales and keys until he
explained that to me.
Claypool with one of his many Carl Thompson 4-strings at the Ottawa
Blues Festival in July 2008. Photo by Jonathan Joncas
Why was that so important for
you as a player?
LaLonde: Because when Les
comes up with a part, I’ve got to
sit down and figure out what he
played. He’ll play something and
you can’t just go, “Oh, that’s in E
major,” or something. I’ll have to
pick out all the notes and make
up new chords and scales within
the key that’s been created.
Is the ’ 76 Strat modified?
LaLonde: Just the pickups. I
ended up switching them out for
whatever comes in the American
Did you use any other guitars
on the album?
few bands are defined as heavily
by the bass as Primus is. What
are the pros and cons of that
LaLonde: Probably the con—
actually, it’s a pro for me—is that
the guitar isn’t as prominent.
So I’m in the background a lot,
which I enjoy because it gives me
some freedom—but it doesn’t
get you as much notoriety. But
the only reason I want more
notoriety is to try to get more
gear [laughs]. But there are a million pros for me. A lot of bands
Claypool: I grew up listening to
bands that were defined by the
bass, because A) I’ve always loved
the bass, and B) I was always
drawn to ’70s soul music—which
is all bass driven. I was also very
drawn to Chris Squire and Geddy
Lee. I mean, you listen to Yes
records, and Squire’s bass is the
loudest, most prominent thing
on the record by far. Even Beatles
records—the bass is huge. But
[Paul] McCartney’s such a melodic and unobtrusive player that
the girth and volume of it can be
Ler, when you were in high
school, you were really into
thrash and speed metal.
What steered you off that
path and toward a more avant-garde approach?
LaLonde: Everyone started trying
to top each other with the speed