Les Claypool takes us through Primus’ multicoloured world
Taking inspiration from the rainbow-hungry goblin protagonists of a 1970s children’s book, Primus are back with another madcap concept album set to spook and spellbind in equal measure
In 1978, the Italian illustrator Ulderico Conte Gropplero di Troppenburg published a children’s book. The Rainbow Goblins was a vivid affair that told the story of seven evil goblins, each named after the colours of the spectrum: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet. In the tale, the goblins traverse the land stealing the colour from rainbows with their lassos, filling their bellies with its kaleidoscopic goodness. It all comes to a surprisingly violent end for the miniature protagonists, but the story doesn’t end there.
While Ul de Rico – as he’s more commonly known – went on to publish a sequel (The White Goblin, in 1996) and work as a designer on Hollywood blockbusters The NeverEnding Story and Flash Gordon, the goblins have made something of a comeback: their story is retold in new Primus album The Desaturating Seven.
“I’m getting older,” says Primus mainman Les Claypool, speaking to Prog from his home in Sonoma County, California, punctuating his conversation with suitably maniacal cackles. “I’m figuring I need to pull some of the pots off the stove that have been on the back-burner, and this is something that I’ve been thinking about for a long time. My wife used to read The Rainbow Goblins to my kids a lot when they were little. I remember going through it and thinking how amazing it was: the artwork, the colours, the beauty… and yet the darkness, and the creepiness, and the message. It was just an amazing piece of art.
“It was inspiring to me and I wanted to supplement it with my obscure interpretation and perspective. Obviously it’s also fairly relevant to what’s going on today. It just seemed like the right time.”
Thinly veiled political sentiments aside, the album manages to capture the book’s prismatic yet black-hearted vibrance perfectly. From the ominous spoken-word introduction – read by Tool bass player Justin Chancellor (“the champion goblin,” says Claypool) – to the story’s startling denouement, it’s an album that conjures up images of peculiar lands, epic journeys and dark, sinister activity with some considerable degree of skill. From the stumbling lurch of The Valley, with its spookily disembodied vocals that sound as if they were recorded underwater, via the stuttering The Seven – a song with a cadence that makes it feel like a demented, foreboding sequel to John Walter Bratton’s Teddy Bear’s Picnic – to the off-kilter, racing drama of the climactic The Storm, it’s an album full of squirting rhythms, lolloping basslines and enormous mischief. It’s like a nursery rhyme set to some form of alien, disjointed jazz, but it somehow succeeds in breathing life into Ul de Rico’s deviant story.