Primus do their best to honor Rush on A Tribute To Kings tour
When it comes to debates on the greatest rock bassists of all time, it’s often a tossup between Les Claypool from Primus and Geddy Lee from Rush.
Yes, there are other candidates, but let’s put them aside for the time being. Both Rush and Primus have some similarities as trios, with Claypool, guitarist Larry “Ler” LaLonde, and drummer Tim “Herb” Alexander making up the former and Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson, and the late, great drummer Neil Peart making up the latter. Claypool also sings vocals, and so did Lee with a major difference being that Primus are much funkier while Rush are considered pioneers in the prog rock style.
Rush called it a day back in 2018, and with Peart’s passing last year, a reunion is literally impossible. Primus, however, is paying tribute to one of the rock giant’s iconic albums as part of their A Tribute To Kings tour that comes to the Leader Bank Pavilion in Boston on Sept. 24 with the Sword opening.
Claypool and I recently spoke about how the idea for this tour came to be, doing a virtual show at his winery, people bringing bottles of wine to barbecues, and of course the Rush tribute.
The A Tribute To Kings tour has Primus performing Rush’s A Farewell To Kings in its entirety, so what inspired the idea for this? Was it Neil Peart’s passing last year? Or was this planned out years in advance?
We’ve always sort of joked that we should go out and play Rush’s album Hemispheres in its entirety, and then it sort of became something that we should seriously do. We thought about Hemispheres because Larry and I’s first concert was actually part of Rush’s tour for that album back in the day. Then we thought that we should do something else because that album is a little keyboard heavy to take on right off the bat and 2112 seemed a little too obvious. I remember a magic moment when I was a kid at that first concert and seeing the Rocinante fly through the black hole during the performance of “Cygnus X-1 Book I: The Voyage,” so I thought we could do A Farewell To Kings. We were going to do it a couple years ago, but then Slayer’s farewell tour came about and we did that instead.
Then we were going to do it last summer, but of course the whole world turned on its ear. When we were actually talking about doing it, Neil was still alive.
Did you approach Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson about this idea to get their approval before you started promoting the tour and everything?
Yeah, I talked to Geddy to tell him that we were thinking about doing this and to see if the band was cool with it and he was very excited. Him and Alex have been very supportive and very helpful actually, Alex has even lended us one of his guitars. They’ve been really cool about the whole thing.
That’s awesome. Each show on this tour has a different poster being made for it by a different artist. Is this part of a certain contest you guys put together? How have you gone about finding these different artists?
We’ve been doing that for years, Primus is kind of known amongst the poster collector world for our posters. We’ve been doing it for quite a while with having different artists for each show so these posters have actually gotten to be pretty collectible. My son actually did one of the posters for this tour, I think he did the one for Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Last December, Primus did a live stream titled Alive From Pachyderm Station which was filmed at Claypool Cellars, which is your winery. What was the experience like for you and do you view virtual shows as something that can coexist with live music or do you think they should stay with the pandemic and not become a regular thing?
Obviously, the past couple years have been odd and disturbing. The rules have been rewritten on many levels for many different things. Ahead of doing the live performance in our tasting room, we had a bunch of different things we were trying to do and the pandemic kept knocking it back and knocking it back. We actually had a spectacular time doing it but is it something that I would want to do often? I don’t think so, but it came out better than I thought. Sonically, especially for me watching Herb play, his playing and the tonality from the recording of that show was actually one of the better live moments that I thought we had in a long time.
It’s like anything else, sometimes you’re on and sometimes you’re off. In fact, we tried to do it the night before and we were definitely off, we sucked so we bagged it and did it the following night.
Do you plan on eventually putting out the recording as some sort of live album for some sort of special release?
We have it, so maybe we will but we’re not really sure yet. We’re currently going through a bunch of our live recordings so we can put out a series of them over the next year or two.
How has it been running your own winery? What made you want to get into making your own wine?
I used to smoke quite a bit of the old marijuana bush and I was realizing that it was adversely affecting my memory. I didn’t want to forget what my children were like when they were young so I decided to put that aside and of course I needed a vice. My family and I live in the mecca of pinot noir for the United States which is West Sonoma County in Northern California. Like living in Hollywood where people come to your barbeques tend to be in the entertainment industry, where we live the people who come to your barbeques tend to bring bottles of wine, they work in some part of the winemaking industry. We’re sort of steeped in it and one day a couple friends and I figured that since we’re drinking so much vino we should make our own because it would be cheaper, which is the stupidest thing I’ve ever thought in my entire life because it’s incredibly expensive to make wine.
It’s been a wonderful thing for my wife as a transition from our kids being young to being adults because she was a supermom and she was very involved in all aspects, she was literally class mom for like six years in a row. It’s been great for her because she can come on the road with me with some vino and we throw a great party.
I like fun, I’m an advocate for fun.
Same here. With marijuana, a lot of states have been legalizing it and different musicians and artists like Snoop Dogg and Willie Nelson have been putting out their own brands of it. Have you ever thought about that and doing your own blend of different buds and strains?
I’ve been approached to do it by a few different companies, some pretty reputable ones, and I just haven’t done it. I haven’t gone down that path, I got a lot of irons in the fire so I don’t really need to add to it just yet.
What can people expect from A Tribute To Kings when it makes its stop in Boston? Do you plan on turning these Rush songs into funky, weird jams or do you plan on honoring them for what they are?
Somebody taped our very first show of the tour, which was in Boise, Idaho, and I fucked up the first notes I played on the keyboard. Of course, that’s what Rolling Stone decided to post on the internet. We’re doing it as close to Rush as we possibly can while getting pointers from Alex and Geddy on how to play some of this stuff because it’s tough but we’re doing it as close as we possibly can to the original versions.
Rob Duguay is an arts & entertainment journalist based in Providence, RI who is originally from Shelton, CT. Outside of DigBoston, he also writes for The Providence Journal, The Connecticut Examiner, The Newport Daily News, Worcester Magazine, New Noise Magazine, Northern Transmissions and numerous other publications. While covering mostly music, he has also written about film, TV, comedy, theatre, visual art, food, drink, sports and cannabis.