Les Claypool Talks Twangy Duo, Primus' Future

Les Claypool's Duo de Twang
 Jeremy Scott

Duo de Twang, featuring Les Claypool and Bryan Kehoe

The bassist-vocalist grew up listening to "hillbilly stuff" and found a natural fit in the roots-flavored Duo de Twang; also says Primus is talking about recording their version of the "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" soundtrack

With Les Claypool, you have to accept that his myriad musical enterprises are either a) uniformly weird or b) perfectly fitting. And he claims the bluegrass- and roots-flavored Duo de Twang is definitely the latter. 

"When it came time to do this, it felt pretty natural," Claypool tells Billboard about the bluegrass- and roots-flavored group he started as a one-off for the 2012 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in San Francisco and decided to continue as a going concern with M.I.R.V. guitarist and longtime pal Bryan Kehoe. "I have a pretty strong background in blues and R&B and whatnot. I was in a bar band that played biker bars -- I mean, like, Hell's Angels' bars -- up and down northern California three to five nights a week playing a lot of traditional blues and R&B. And as far as the hillbilly stuff, I grew up listening to it -- more subjected to it, by choice. Working in the garage on my bike, my stepdad was always out there drinking his can of Buckhorn with the radio going and playing what he called the Okie station. It just washed over me. At the time I didn't pay attention to it, but it was just there years later and became very endearing to me -- Vernon Dalhart, Johnny Horton, Eddie Cochran. So when it came time to do this, it seemed natural."

Duo de Twang released its first album, "Four Foot Shack," in February, featuring rootsified takes on Primus favorites such as "Wynona's Big Brown Beaver" and "Jerry Was a Race Car Driver" as well as surprising covers of the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive," Alice in Chains' "Man in the Box" and "Battle of New Orleans." "I feel like it's expanding me once again as a musician," Claypool explains. "Obviously I'm always shooting off into some different direction or another; a lot of it is just me trying to stay interested in being on the planet, and if I only did Primus or only did Oysterhead or only did Frog Brigade and all the time and stuck to a certain thing, I'd probably go nuts. So for me it's very interesting to keep opening doors as a player and a performer."

And because Duo de Twang, which wrapped a tour on March 15, is so low-maintenance, Claypool is confident it can remain alive amidst his other endeavors. "It's a great release for me, and it's so casual," he notes. "Even the show is less like a show and more like a hang. We come out and sit around a campfire and usually have a cocktail or two and drink and talk and tell jokes with the audience and play a song every now and then. Sort of the glory of it is in the stories; if the stories or jokes fall short, we can always play a song."

Claypool and Kehoe will be out during June and will play at moe.'s moe.down festival at the end of August. Primus, meanwhile, has "been working in the studio on some stuff," but Claypool says he doesn't expect to have anything ready "until later in the year or early next year." He adds that the trio is also "talking about" recording its version of the "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" soundtrack that it played this past New Year's Eve in Oakland, Calif.