So it sounds like that band was already getting pretty strange.
Claypool: Doing the Primate at the time, I was just like...What the hell was I into? I was into all this experimental stuff. I liked all the Bill Laswell stuff and Fred Frith and Fetus and old Pill and Adrian Belew stuff and all the old funk. I was always listening to old funk stuff. Of course Todd didn't have a funk bone in his body. He couldn't relate. And we went through so many different drummers. Finally in the end, before Larry and Herb joined the band, we had this drummer, Jay Lane, who was the drummer on the Sausage album. Jay Lane was my hero. He was the drummer for the Freaky Executives. I don't know if you remember the Freaky Executives. They were like the king daddy-o's of the Bay Area for a couple of years. Do you remember the whole world beat scene with Big City? I used to roadie for all those bands, so I knew all these people. And Jay Lane was, I was the roadie and he was one of the guys in the most popular band. He was like a star to me. When we were getting rid of our drummer I called him up to see if he knew any drummers. I go, hey Jay, you know any drummers? And Primus was actually getting pretty popular at that point. We were selling out at Berkeley Square.
Claypool: No it was Primus. Primate only lasted about a month because there was another band called the Primates. We were called Primate. There was another band somewhere in the country called the Primates. Their lawyer came down on us when we were starting to get ready to air play. So then it was Primus. So, Jay Lane, says, I'll join the band 'cause the Freaky's were like in record company hell. They were somehow getting dicked around by their record company. He says, I'll join. And I just about shit a tomato. I freaked out. I was like, really, OK, cool. I hung up the phone and went whoa. I called Todd and I go, Todd, Jay Lane wants to be in our band. He's all, really, no shit. And I go, yeah. So we had Jay Lane. He played this drum kit too [points to the drum kit set up in the studio] because he didn't have his own drums. He's got his shit together now but back then he was pretty flaky. So that was exciting. We had old Jay Lane. But it didn't last very long because then the Freaky Executives...Something good happened with their deal and he decided he couldn't take the time for Primus anymore. And Todd, at that point, when we started auditioning drummers, realized that he wanted to spend more time with his family. He just had a son and he was about to have another son. We did some traveling and he was away from his kid for a week and his kid had grown. You know how babies grow and it freaked him out and so he just didn't want to do it anymore. So he quit and there I was, with this band that was one of the more popular local bands and I didn't have anybody in it. I knew Larry Lalonde. And I knew he was a great guy 'cause we toured together a couple of times. He was one of my best friends. I was like, hey, Larry. Todd just quit, you wanna join the band? And he's like, hell yeah. He was all excited. So we were auditioning drummers and actually I had already auditioned Herb with Todd and I knew that he totally ripped. So me and Larry auditioned another handful of drummers that had already called us back and I said, let's just play with this guy Tim, he's totally ripping and we got together with him again and that was it. That became the band. It was funny because Herb was...that was before he was Herb but he took me aside and goes, so what about this Larry guy, is he going towork out? Because Ler had to try and learn all Todd's parts and when we jammed with Herb, he didn't really know him quite yet, you know, so he was slopping through all this shit. He sounded god awful. It was a whole different world than what Herb had auditioned for the band as. I'm like, he'll get it, he'll learn it. I just made Ler just sit and learn every little thing. Because the band was popular enough that if it didn't come out sounding like what we sounded like then, people wouldn't have liked us anymore. Or we would have lost a lot of our audience. And a month later, we did the album, the first album. We got very lucky. I had many friends, like the Looters and Big City that would change one member and the whole band would just lose the chemistry and I got very lucky finding those two guys. Because it went from a band that was a great group of players to another band that was a great group of players that had a totally different approach to music but still had an energy that was tangible to people, I guess. Or to people I was catering too. So it worked out. I was a very lucky guy. So a month later you recorded the first album, Suck On This.
Originally you released it yourself. How'd you record that?
Claypool: It was a quarter inch reel-to-reel. It's a live recording. Claypool: Oh, yeah, it was live. We did two shows and we recorded them both and took the best material from both.
Claypool: Berkeley Square.
Then that got picked up pretty quick by Caroline Records, right?
Claypool: No. The thing that we were doing back in the old days is we'd save up enough money, $1200 or so and once a year we'd go into the studio and record a demo. And none of them really sounded that great. They sounded OK. We played with this band Fungo Mungo and they played us their demo in the car. Check it out, dude. They played it and it sounded amazing. I was like, whoa, this sounds great, where'd you record this? Oh, we did it in our rehearsal space. We got this machine. I'm all, really? It sounded phenomenal. And they're like, we'll record you. And so we went out to this place and it was one of those rent-a-spaces. Just like a little storage space. And there was this guy, it was Matt, he was like 17 or 18 at the time. He had this little reel-to-reel and they had a couple of little Shure 58 microphones. So we were like, OK, this oughta be fun.It was the most barebones basic hokey setup I'd ever seen. And we recorded it and I still have people say it's one of the best recordings we've ever done. And that was the Sausage tape. It was Primus but it was called Sausage and that was me and Todd and Jay and that's how the band Sausage got their name. It was from that demo tape. It didn't cost us a dime and we thought, well shit, we can make a record. This was after Larry and Herb had joined the band. I go, hey, we made this demo. Didn't cost us a dime. We can get Matt to do it again. We'll record it and all we have to do is pay to have it pressed. My dad, he was able to loan me like $3000, which was a big deal 'cause he really didn't have any money. We were able to press them. We pressed 1000 records and took them around to the stores ourselves and we set aside like 200 records to send out to radio stations around the country, college radio stations. And it sold out like right away locally. We were like selling out at the Omni at that point. Then the college radio picked up on it somehow. It was total flukish thing that they wouldpick up on it.
When you say college radio, you're talking about the college station in Berkeley?
Claypool: Stations all around the country. 'Cause they got the record. I think what helped us is the record itself looked really good. We had this artwork done. I had the sculpture made by Lance, who's done all our sculptures and Bosco, who's actually Merv's brother, he's a layout guy for Bass Player magazine. He did the layout of the album and it just looked really professional, I think. The radio stations weren't expecting some independent thing to come to looking that professional.
It was a 12-inch album?
Claypool: Yeah, that was before they were all phased out. So anyway, college radio started playing it around the country and it just caught on and we made another 1000 records and sold those. Me and Larry used to drive, we drove up here to record stores in Sonoma.
The boxes of records in the trunk deal.
Claypool: Yeah. We had bleached blonde hair, total Deadhead looking guys. Driving up to these record stores asking them if they wanted to buy any of our records. And it was a big deal if they wanted five, we'll take five, you want five? Wow! They're gonna buy five! We'd give them five. That's how it all got started. And then after that, the college radio picked up on it. All of a sudden there were record stores around the country that wanted five. We talked to Rough Trade and we signed a deal with them where we'd pay to manufacture them and they would distribute them for us. Then we started talking to a bunch of labels and Caroline just seemed like the coolest one. They would sign us for a one record deal. That was a big deal 'cause we wanted a one record deal. We didn't want to be tied to anybody, you know, which was one of the smarter things we've ever done. And they said they'd do a one record deal but they wanted the first record as well. They wanted that as part of the catalog. So we said, OK, that's cool. And we did that deal with Caroline and it just worked out really well. Janet Billig [who later worked at Gold Mountain, the company that manages Sonic Youth and Beastie Boys, etc.] worked for Caroline at the time and she's fabulous person, one of the best people I've met in the industry. She worked our record. Now she's vice-president of Atlantic which is marvelous. To see someone like Janet in a position like that just makes me feel good about the world, you know. That's a really, really good thing. So it just worked out well for us on Caroline.
Your success with the album you recorded for Caroline, Frizzle Fry, led to a deal with Interscope.
Claypool: The thing about Interscope that was so great was that there was [no bullshit]. It was very much that A&R man Tom Whalley came and saw us at a club and the reason he was at the club is he had just sort of heard about us. And he saw the band, loved the band, came back to say, listen, I want to sign you guys. Because he loved the band. He didn't know that we had sold 80,000 copies of our independent record or whatever. And there were a couple of other majors that we had been actively talking to that had become aware because we had sold all these records and it was obviously a money thing. Whereas, right off the bat, with Interscope, with Tom, it was, I like this band. So that was a big selling point for me and plus, the whole vibe at Interscope was like an independent label and we had some experience with independents so it just seemed like, wow, this is just like another independent but these guys got money. It wasn't like money for us, it was money like if we needed an ad somewhere, we could put an ad somewhere. Or if we needed tour support to go somewhere. We could do those things.Just a great vibe, a great vibe there.