Claypool didn’t know he was supposed to start For Whom the Bell Tolls at “loud” tryout with schoolfriend Hammett’s band

Les Claypool

It doesn't toll for thee: Claypool

Primus mainman Les Claypool is looking forward to the band’s future after bringing it out of hiatus and preparing their seventh album for release – but he’s taken a moment to reflect on his 1986 audition for Metallica.

And he says the band knew from the moment he entered the room he wouldn’t get the job.

Schoolfriend and Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett invited the bassist to audition for the thrash giants after the death of Cliff Burton in a tour bus crash.

But Claypool admits he didn’t realise how big the band already were – and didn’t know their music well enough.

He tells Rolling Stone: “I just thought it was my buddy Kirk’s band. I wasn’t really following metal; for me, metal was the old Judas Priest and Scorpions records we used to listen to at high school.

“So when I went in and there was this kind of air of royalty to these guys from their caretakers, it was a little strange. It made me realise, ‘Maybe this is a bigger thing than I thought.’

“It was extraordinarily loud – I remember Kirk telling us to turn down. We played Master of Puppets and From Whom the Bell Tolls. I didn’t know the intro of For Whom the Bell Tolls was on the bass – they were waiting for me to start it and I was just looking at them.

“I think that’s when James Hetfield knew. Well, they knew I wasn’t the guy when I walked in the door. They were all in black. I had two different-coloured tennis shoes on, skater pants and a blonde mohawk. There’s a reason I didn’t get the gig.”

Claypool has brought Primus back with early-era drummer Jay Lane and says it’s “breathed life” back into the band.

“The end of the nineties was unhappy,” says the singer and bassist. “I hit creative stagnation, and with the personal elements it was just time to stop. It just wasn’t fun any more.

“When we readdressed Primus in 2003 and 2006 it was a nostalgia thing, but it just didn’t have that creative spark.

“Larry LaLonde was very passionate about doing it again but Tim Alexander wasn’t. So the notion of Jay coming in was a welcome idea. He quit the band a month before we made our first record so the early material is very reflective of his style.”

Primus will release Green Nuagahyde on September 13.

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