In 1984 Les Claypool, not long out of high school (Kirk Hammett was a classmate) was running around San Francisco, terrorizing music store owners by testing all of their basses by playing Yes' Roundabout, listening to Rush, 80s era King Crimson, XTC and 70s funk, writing original material (amongst the earliest were Too Many Puppies, some of the Sausage stuff and a few of the Holy Mackerel album tunes) and looking for a guitar player with an equally unorthodox outlook. After hooking up with high school buddy Todd Huth, the band (at first Primate, later changed to Primus) went through a revolving lineup of drummers. In fact, one of the early drummers was Brain, who broke his foot skate boarding and didn't last long. The first stable lineup was with drummer Tim "Curveball" Wright, who lasted from '86 until early '88. At the time, the band drew heavily on 80s Bay Area influences like the Chili Peppers and Fishbone. Jay Lane took over the drum throne in 1988; the following year both Huth and Lane left (the former to raise a family, the latter due to contractual obligations) and the lineup cemented into Les, Ler Lalonde (with whom Les had played in Blind Illusion) and Tim 'Herb' Alexander.

This lineup lasted from 1989 through May of 1996, when Alexander left due to creative differences. In that time they released a number of critically and commercially acclaimed albums (Suck On This, Frizzle Fry, Sailing the Seas of Cheese, Miscellaneous Debris, Pork Soda and Tales From the Punchbowl) and the Cheesy Home video. Primus also toured extensively, cementing their reputation as a potent live band and influencing a generation of future bands, many of whom opened for Primus at one point or another (Limp Bizkit, POD, Incubus, etc.). They played a number of high profile gigs, including opening for both Rush and U2, co-headlining Lollapalooza '93 and performing at Woodstock '94. When touring by themselves, they broke ground by beginning an annual NYE tradition (FreakOuts) in 1992, and by having less commercial bands that they admired open for them (Melvins, Residents, Meat Puppets).

After Tim's departure, Les and Ler recruited Brian "Brain" Mantia (they also auditioned Jay Lane and Mike 'Puffy' Bordin of Faith No More at the time), who cut his teeth first on the Holy Mackerel tour. This lineup released the Brown, Rhinoplasty, and Antipop albums and the Videoplasty and Horrible Swill videos, played a number of multi band tours (HORDE '97, Sno Core'98, Ozzfest and Family Values '99) as well as touring on their own and continuing the FreakOut tradition. This version of Primus also introduced unique and offbeat musicians such as DJ Disk and Buckethead to a wider audience, and collaborated with Tom Waits in the studio (he guested on Antipop, Primus played on Waits' Mule Variations). After a cycle of decreasing support from Interscope and shorter, more formulaic tours in support of Antipop, the band disbanded in April 2000.

Claypool went on to form the Frog Brigade, then Oysterhead and C2B3. When Alexander joined the Frog Brigade for their summer 2002 tour, the atmosphere was set for a Primus reunion. In the fall of 2003, the trio of Les, Ler and Tim released the Animals Should Not Try To Act Like People EP/DVD and engaged upon the groundbreaking Tour de Fromage, with Primus playing two set shows for the first time in their long career, the second set being a complete rendition of the Sailing the Seas of Cheese album. Claypool's intervening three years of live experimentation and participation in the jam band scene spilled over into Primus, with the band reinventing itself as a powerful jam band. Tour de Fromage was followed by the similarly minded Hallucino Genetics tour, including a first ever complete rendition of the Frizzle Fry album, commemorated on their first live DVD. In 2006, the band released Blame It On the Fish, a DVD documentary of the Tour de Fromage, and a greatest hits compilation CD entitled They Can't All Be Zingers.

In summer 2010, Primus reunited, but this time with Jay Lane as the drummer (fresh from his brief stint in 1988 as the skinsman). In multiple interviews, Les cited his longstanding musical relationship with Lane (he had been Jay's roady in the late 80s when the latter was the drummer for the Minneapolis funk band Freaky Executives, and they had also played together in Sausage, Frog Brigade, Fancy Band 2005, etc), band chemistry and desire to forget new territory. Both Les and Jay spoke favorably of prior Primus drummers. Les noted that the 2003 tour had been successful artistically, but that Tim was not interested in writing new material, and thus between 2003-6 Primus had never gone into the studio to do a proper full length album. The band toured in summer and fall 2010 without any new material, then continued to tour throughout 2011, unveiling songs off their Green Naugahyde album (they played it in full on the fall tour). This era of the band continued to feature significant improvisation


Les Claypool: see Claypool's Unusual Instruments section.
Larry Lalonde:

Tim (Herb) Alexander:

Live Repertoire

Suck on This

Note: Album was recorded live 02/25/89 and 03/05/89. All other songs on this live album exist in studio versions elsewhere and will thus be dealt with later. The Heckler description was left here since the studio version released on Antipop was an unlabelled entry.

Frizzle Fry

Note: Besides the 5 songs released on Suck On This, all original material off the album has also been released in official bootleg download form on (all but Sathington Willoughby and To Defy were played on the Tour de Fromage, and the entire album was played at all summer 2004 shows), as well as on the Hallucino Genetics DVD documenting the 06/26/04 show.

The original demos of this album included the Hello Skinny/Constantinople medley, which was not included on the 1990 CD pressing. The 2002 re-release of Frizzle Fry included these two covers - see Covers section.

Sailing the Seas of Cheese

NOTE: All of the material off the album has been released in official bootleg download form on (full sets on all Tour de Fromage shows from 10/14/03-03/13/04, plus select songs featured on shows from 5/29-6/26/04).

Pork Soda

NOTE: Wounded Knee is not live material. Hail Santa has never been played live. Pork Chop's Little Ditty remains unconfirmed - there are reports that it was played in 1993.

Tales from the Punchbowl

NOTE: Space Farm and Captain Shiner have never been played live.

Brown Album

NOTE: Return Of Sathington Willoughby, Hats Off and Arnie were never performed live. 


NOTE: The Intro is not a separate track (it's an excerpt of Waits' Mellotron line from Coattails). Natural Joe, Mama Didn't Raise No Fool, Dirty Drowning Man, Ballad Of Bodacious, Power Mad have never been played live. Coattails Of A Dead Man was premiered by Claypool's solo band in spring 2008, but has never been played live by Primus. Eclectic Electric was never formally played live (an 11/99 soundcheck has the band practicing a rickety version). Heckler live info listed under Suck On This page.

Animals Should Not Try To Act Like People

They Can't All Be Zingers: the Best of Primus

NOTE: Although this 2006 greatest hits CD contained 16 previously released studio tracks (excepting a longer rendition of Beef), the Best Buy version included a bonus live CD from the 08/13/94 Woodstock performance: Bob, Jerry, Mud, Tweekers/Star Spangled Banner

June 2010 Rehearsal EP

A live in the studio EP available as a free website download, it featured renditions of Pudding Time, Harold, American Life and Duchess.

Green Naugahyde

Note: Salmon Men was not formally played, just over the PA a la Michael Malloy.