Primus anchor Les Claypool says he never gets nervous, not even when he’s plotting his annual New Year’s Eve shows, like the 20th anniversary ones he’s playing today and Friday at the Fox Theater in Oakland. But in March, the bassist was sweating bullets when he performed Rush’s “The Spirit of Radio” for the band’s induction into the Canadian Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. “I was really nervous,” he says. “We played in front of a society crowd and the Rush guys, with cello, marimba and vibraphone, then I said a little speech. And I actually croaked a little bit during it — not like me at all!”
So how are things at your home, Rancho Relaxo? Uhhh … it’s not so much “relaxo” these days. There’s a lot of friggin’ work. I’m knee-deep into this new Primus record, and also getting ready for the holidays and these New Year’s shows. Then chasing the kids around, and dogs. It’s difficult when you’re in the middle of working on some tunage and your young Australian kelpie is rolling around in a big pile of fox s--- (because that’s what dogs do out here in the country) and you have to stop everything and go hose her down. When I go crabbing, I have to find a big hole to bury all my crab shells in ’cause she’ll dig ’em up and roll in ’em.
What’s involved in crabbing? You go out and drop crab pots with your line and your buoy, and you come back a day later and hopefully they’re full. And they’ve been very full this year — it’s been the most insane crab year I’ve ever seen, with lots of huge Dungeness. But I have a fishing boat out in Bodega, then we have a little houseboat — an old trawler, actually — down in Sausalito that we use as an apartment. I’d been lobbying for that for many years, and I finally won.
Do you find it hard to believe that you’ve been doing these yearly gigs for two decades now? Yes. And there’s so much preparation this year, because I’m actually doing three totally different sets — I’m playing with my Fancy Brigade band on New Year’s Eve, then with Primus, and the night before is us and the Residents. And I actually said, after the 1999-2000 show, “All right, I’m done, no more New Year’s, no more interrupting my holiday with rehearsals and all this production!” Then in 2000, (promoter) Michael Bailey called and said “Do you want to do the Fillmore?” So it started right back up again. And now it’s like doing a marathon. You don’t want to pull out on mile 15!
IF YOU GO
Where: Fox Theater, 1807 Telegraph Ave., Oakland
When: 8 p.m. today, 9 p.m. Friday
Tickets: $42.50 to $146
Contact: (800) 745-3000; www.ticketmaster.com