“It’s a story about gluttonous individuals sucking the colors out of the world,” says Primus singer/bassist Les Claypool. “The overuse of resources by the greedy elite, and how the meek masses can overcome them in the end by unifying. It seemed pretty relevant these days.”
The tale Claypool is describing comes from a 1978 children’s book called The Rainbow Goblins by the Italian author and artist Ui de Rico, and it forms the basis for the new Primus album coming out September 29, The Desaturating Seven. In the story—which is accompanied by stunning illustrations, done in oil paints on wood panels—seven goblins come to the valley where rainbows are born, intending to steal the rainbows and eat them. The valley, though, knows that the goblins are coming, and makes a plan to thwart the wicked creatures by hiding the rainbow. After the goblins are caught in their own nets, the flowers release the colors of the rainbow and drown the goblins, and in gratitude, the rainbow turns the flowers into beautiful birds who fly across the valley in freedom.
“My wife got turned onto it when she was a kid, and we started reading it to my children when they were very young,” says Claypool. “It became a bedtime story favorite. It always came across a bit frightening, like an old Grimm’s fairy tale—a little dark and creepy, which seemed very much up my strasse.”
Claypool found particular inspiration in de Rico’s paintings for The Rainbow Goblins. “The artwork is just amazing,” he says. “There’s a beauty but also a dark eeriness for this compelling, sinister story. The paintings are incredible, vibrant, very unique looking—it’s a good contrast between dark and light visually and also metaphorically. And there’s always been a strong visual element to Primus.”
Indeed, taking inspiration from a wide range of sources was part of what made Primus one of the most distinctive, innovative bands of the 1990s. The trio’s alt/punk/avant-garde/psychedelic/country attack, along with Claypool's surreal, fever-dream lyrics, resulted in some of rock’s unlikeliest hits, including "Tommy the Cat," "Jerry Was A Race Car Driver," and "Wynona's Big Brown Beaver." The Desaturating Seven marks the return of the definitive Primus line-up—Claypool, guitarist Larry “Ler” LaLonde, and drummer Tim “Herb” Alexander—for its first album of original music since 1995.
Starting as an underground phenomenon in San Francisco, the band’s cult grew rapidly. Such albums as Sailing the Seas of Cheese (1991), Pork Soda (1993), and Tales from the Punch Bowl (1995) all went gold and or platinum, and Primus toured with some of rock's biggest names—U2, Jane's Addiction, Public Enemy,
Rush—and headlined the third Lollapalooza festival. Alexander left and rejoined Primus several times, and Claypool alternated between the band and such other projects as Oysterhead (with Trey Anastasio and Stewart
Copeland) and the Claypool Lennon Delirium, alongside Sean Lennon. In 2014,
Alexander returned for the Primus & The Chocolate Factory with the Fungi Ensemble album, on which the group covered the iconic soundtrack to the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.