Les Claypool Shares How His Metallica Audition Changed Primus’ Sound

Primus founder and bassist Les Claypool recently revealed in a conversation with Revolver how his audition for Metallica impacted his band’s sound.

Les Claypool pursued to be a bass player from a very young age. He went to the same high school with Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett. Impactful musicians like Geddy Lee, Roger Waters, and Geezer Butler were the influences for him.

While Hammett was already a member of Metallica in 1986, he encouraged Claypool to go for the band’s audition after the bassist Cliff Burton’s passing. However, Claypool did not fit into the group’s sound, and the members encouraged him to create his works with his unique talent. As the bassist stated in a previous interview, the frontman James Hetfield told him he was so skillful that he should have done his thing.

Claypool declared what James Hetfield said to him:

“Man, you’re much too talented. Go do something wonderfully weird on your own.”

Later, Claypool founded Primus in the ’80s and released the debut album ‘Suck on This‘ in 1989. The album was considered an alternative metal sound that brought this genre out of the underground at that period. The band gained massive attention with the songs like ‘Tommy the Cat,’ ‘Jerry Was A Race Car Driver,’ and ‘My Name is Mud.’

In a recent conversation, Claypool opened up about how the Metallica audition impacted Primus’ sound. Claypool stated that Primus’ music was influenced by the early Peter Gabriel style and sounded like Public Image Ltd. and XTC.

As the bassist revealed, Primus’ edgy sound came after he auditioned for Metallica as the band’s style inspired him. While preparing for the audition, the rocker listened to the band’s songs. Metallica’s style was so inspiring that he added these influences to Primus’ sound.

About how Metallica influenced Primus’ style, Les Claypool said:

“We started getting some momentum as this weird band. We were almost like early Peter Gabriel-type stuff because I was way into that era of Gabriel. A lot of our stuff was like that old Public Image Ltd., XTC stuff like that. The edgy stuff didn’t come along until I auditioned for Metallica. I remember all our friends hearing, ‘Oh, Kirk’s in this band that’s doing well.’ I was like, ‘Really, he gave me ‘Ride The Lightning.’

I used to listen when I was a carpenter. I used to listen to ‘Ride The Lightning’ every morning before I went to work while I was in the shower because it would wake me up. Then when I auditioned for Metallica, I had to learn all these songs, and I was like, ‘Well, some of these songs are very prog as far as lots of changes.’ So, it got me in that mindset, and I started adding that to what we were doing as this kind of lack of a better term, old Public Image, old Peter Gabriel type band.”

You can watch the entire conversation below.