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Published: Friday, 7/18/2003

Frog Brigade hops into town tomorrow

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

“Variety is the spice of life,” said Les Claypool, “and I'm getting a lot of spice.”

The bass player and songwriter known as much for his quirky sense of humor as for his masterful musicianship is bringing his latest band, Frog Brigade, to town for a concert tomorrow night at Headliners.

In addition to touring and recording with Frog Brigade, the bassist with a penchant for the piscine performs with several side groups including Oysterhead (with Trey Anastasio of Phish and Stewart Copeland of the Police), the Holy Mackerel (with Charlie Hunter, Henry Rollins, and Jay Lane), and Claypool's Bucket of Bernie Brains (with Bernie Worrell, Buckethead, and Brain).

He also heads his own record label, Prawn Song, and said in an interview this week that his most famous band, Primus, recently reunited for an EP/DVD project for Interscope Records.

“We hiatused for about three years, but got together about a month ago for the DVD, which is a retrospective. It's got a lot of live footage from the entire career of the band,” Claypool said from a tour stop in New Jersey.

“When we got together and started talking about it, we decided to play some stuff. We wrote new material with the original band, Tim Alexander and Larry LaLonde, and recorded five new songs.”

At the moment, however, Claypool is focusing on the Frog Brigade tour and the band's latest release, “Purple Onion,” an eclectic mix of punk, funk, jazz, and rock. The music features an unusual array of instruments including tenor saxophone, yaili tambour, sitar, marimba, tabla, and vibes along with the more typical guitar-bass-drums lineup.

One high-powered jam, “Whamola,” features Claypool on a unique instrument for which the song is named.

“It's basically a pole with a handle and one string and a pickup that somebody made and gave to me. I started beating on it with a stick and liked the way it sounds,” said Claypool.

Claypool, a native of Richmond, Calif., said he started playing bass guitar in the late 1970s because “everybody wanted to be Eddie Van Halen and nobody wanted to play bass. I got a job as a bass player even before I knew how to play the instrument.”

Frog Brigade changes its song selections every night, Claypool said, to keep it interesting for the band and for the “caravaners” who follow them from show to show.

“We stretch out on the songs quite a bit. We'll do a 2 or 21/2-hour-plus show and it might only be nine or 10 songs,” Claypool said. “We try to enjoy ourselves.”

One of the band members sings some opera and blows fire, he added.

“We're all a bunch of characters, semi-lunatics - but I mean that in a positive way.”

Les Claypool and the Frog Brigade performs at 8 p.m. tomorrow at Headliners, 4500 North Detroit Ave. Tickets are $17.50 through Ticketmaster. Information: 419-269-4500.



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