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Strange Fruit 

Primus might be a little older, but they're just as weird as ever.

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Primus has returned. But the band’s reunion is far from a nostalgia trip.

“I like to re-address [Primus] when it’s exciting so that we can make sure that what we’re doing is special for those people that it’s dear to. If we just go out because we need to re-fill the bank accounts, then that’s just kind of lame,” bassist/singer Les Claypool said in a 2007 interview. “It might sound a little bit cliché, but it’s really true. George Clinton always said, ‘You can’t fake the funk.’ You can’t fake any of it, otherwise what the hell’s your point?” There certainly doesn’t seem to be anything contrived or rote about the current reunion of Primus — which marks the return of original drummer Jay Lane (who was in the band only for a year, in 1988), the reunification of the group (which also includes long-time guitarist Larry “Ler” LaLonde) and a new album, Green Naugahyde.

This reunion is definitely feeding the part of Claypool that demands to stay creative.

“I think for me, if I am scratching that creative itch, that’s a big itch,” he said recently over the phone. “It’s always nice to fill the coffers and go play in front of people and do these things, but if I’m not being satisfied on a creative level, it’s tough to go out there and really put on that.”

“With Jay Lane, he’s really good at shooting from the hip,” Claypool says. “So we do go off into sort of strange territory every night, and … that’s very enjoyable.”

“I mean, it’s great to play the old tunes and play them the way they should be played, but you also have to have that little bit of stepping off into new territory, that dancing on the edge, so to speak, element.” The Primus reunion began gathering steam in 2010 and led to the current summer/fall tour. Ironically, Claypool was skeptical about the idea at first.

“Basically I ended my cycle of the Of Fungi And Foe (his third solo album), and started looking at what’s next,” he says. “And Primus happened to be one of the things that was being talked about. To be honest with you, I wasn’t really that interested in doing it. I like turning over new rocks, and it didn’t feel like it was a new rock.”

But when the band got together and felt its old chemistry, Claypool was hooked.

And that’s when Green Naugahyde happened — perhaps the most substantial Primus reunion yet.

Originally formed in the mid-1980s, the band recorded demos with Lane and guitarist Todd Huth in the original lineup. But by the time the first Primus studio album, 1990’s Frizzle Fry, arrived, Lane and Huth had both exited the group.

Over the next decade, Claypool and different incarnations of Primus carved out a singular style built around angular melodies, Claypool’s multi-faceted bass playing and lyrics that frequently had an absurdist bent.

The group never achieved major stardom, but albums like Sailing the Seas of Cheese, Pork Soda and Tales From the Punchbowl produced such popular songs as “Tommy The Cat,” “My Name Is Mud” and “Wynonna’s Big Brown Beaver.” The group got some play on MTV and built enough of an audience to headline the 1993 Lollapalooza Festival and Woodstock ’94.

Primus went on to make three more albums before going on hiatus in 2001.

Claypool kept himself busy: he formed a band named Sausage with other Primus members. He released three solo albums, formed Oysterhead — a bizarre match-up of Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio and Police drummer Stewart Copeland — and fronted the Frog Brigade, Colonel Claypool’s Bucket of Bernie Brains and the Fancy Band.

Claypool said Green Naugahyde merges a bit of the early Primus sound with newer stylistic elements that haven’t filtered into the previous albums. But Primus fans shouldn’t worry that the new record will sound unfamiliar, as tracks like “Last Salmon Man” and “Tragedy’s a Comin’” fit the group’s idiosyncratic mold, and the band’s humor remains evident, even in the music of the playful oddity “Eternal Consumption Engine.”

“As you move through life, you acquire barnacles on your hull,” Claypool says, “We have a few more barnacles on the hull, so we were able to draw from some of these things and put them into the music. It’s interesting.”

Primus • Sat, June 16, at 7:30 pm • The Fox Theater • 1001 W. Sprague Ave. • $36-$46 • All-ages • ticketswest.com • (800) 325-SEAT

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