Avid fisherman, father, and husband, one of the world’s only whamola players, and knowledgeable music industry connoisseur Les Claypool (of Primus fame) is stopping by the Majestic Ventura Theater-a venue he calls “precious”-this Saturday night. And if you haven’t had a chance to grab a ticket to the legendary bassist’s show, fret not; general admission seats are still available.
Claypool hasn’t played the Majestic before, but “we’ve driven through,” he recounted recently. “We stopped in Ventura at some mom-and-pop place for ice cream for the kids, and I’ve always thought, ‘Wow, that’s a cool venue, I’d like to play there.’ I mentioned it to my manager, and so now we are.” Built in the 1920s, the Majestic is a rather remarkable place for a live show, with a capacity no less than one would expect in Los Angeles, and an ability to book bands and musicians of the highest caliber. “I just think it’s great you have this kind of venue and the community supports it,” Claypool said. “Especially the old theaters; they’re so precious, and there are fewer and fewer of them. They should be supported.”
In that way it seems the Majestic and Les Claypool might have something in common: They’ve each survived some turbulent times in the music industry and still somehow continue to thrive. How’ve they survived? By doing their own thing, not compromising for the sake of money, and taking things as they come. “I’ve been at [recording] a while-seen things come and go. Things move in waves, cycles. Right now, I’m seeing a resurgence of things from the ’80s, but it makes sense since we just saw a resurgence of the ’70s. Eventually it’ll be the ’90s, etcetera. The industry is a whole new ballgame these days. My very first recording was a blue vinyl we released ourselves; nowadays, it’s all different. There’s not so much nurturing from record companies-they go for sure bets-so the playing field has changed a bit.”
The playing field may have changed, but it hasn’t affected Claypool, who continues to, as he always has, record from home. “I self-produce; I’ve been doing it for years. I find it easier to do myself,” he explained. “I used to be a carpenter, and I do things myself on my property. I hate waiting. If it’s the middle of the night, I want to catch that moment, I don’t want to wait until the next day, book space, call an engineer, and all that.”
Never one to do things in a typical way, Claypool has expertly left himself open and available for many new endeavors. Once turned down as a replacement for Metallica bassist Cliff Burton because he was “too talented,” the Bay Area-born bassist went on to found the much-lauded band Primus, and, perhaps even more notably, create the theme song for Comedy Central’s breakout hit, South Park. For the South Park theme, Claypool used a strange instrument called a whamola. A legitimate name (it can be looked up), “the whamola is a piece of steel someone gave me,” Claypool explained of the single-stringed, pulley-lever system that came mounted on metal. “I hammer on it with sticks and it rumbles the bowels and genitalia. Some fans gave it to me years ago; they showed up in the middle of the night and dropped it off by the bus.”
If you can’t catch Claypool and his whamola this Saturday, be sure to keep an eye out for his famous New Year’s Eve shows, held every year in San Francisco. “I’ve tried to stop the NYE show,” he laughed. “Every year we try and do something extra special; we’ve played the Opera House, doing all these amazing 3-D projections, and this will be the 20th year. Planning will probably start pretty soon here.”
Les Claypool will play the Majestic Ventura Theater (26 S. Chestnut St., Ventura) on Saturday, June 13, at 7 p.m. Call 653-0721 or visit venturatheater.net for tickets and info.