An Evening with Primus & The Chocolate Factory
An Evening With Primus & The Chocolate Factory
In the summer of 1971, Primus’ Les Claypool was a couple months shy of his eighth birthday when David L. Wolper’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory debuted in movie theaters; based on the Roald Dahl book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Like many people of a certain age and temperament, the movie became a perennial favorite that Claypool would come back to repeatedly, throughout different stages of his life, taking something different away from it each time.
So it seemed equal parts genius and obvious when he decided to throw a Willy Wonka-themed Primus show on New Year’s Eve last year. During the second set, Primus performed the soundtrack in its entirety. “Of the 23 or so New Years shows, I don’t think we’ve ever had a better combination of elements,” Claypool reflects, seven months later. “It felt good. It felt like we needed to be doing this.”
It felt so good, in fact, that he decided to take Primus into the studio to prepare the soundtrack for an album release. Claypool admits that he’s always, “in some way, wanted to be Willy Wonka,” and, also, that he’s always wanted to work a cover of “The Candyman” -- a memorable number from the film’s soundtrack -- into Primus sets. “Hell, I’ve been doing the line from the boat ride on stage since the ‘80’s,” then Les sings, ”There’s no earthly way of knowing, which direction we are going…”
“The recording is about my early perception of the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory film,” says Claypool. “The notion wasn’t so much to go in and redo the soundtrack note for note as much as it was to utilize the classic elements of the music yet try to reflect some of the darker undertones of the Roald Dahl books, because when you read those books, there is an eerie and somewhat menacing aspect implied.”
With the album drop scheduled for October 21, Primus plans to tour the Chocolate Factory beginning the very next day. “We’re going to do some touring with it and we put together this pretty abstract stage production,” says Claypool, “We’re going to take it out there, around the planet, and see what happens. And, in light of the record business being gutted by the internet, we’ve made some PRIMUS brand chocolate bars to peddle as well.”
Of course, Claypool realized that it was risky business to adapt a cinematic classic that is so close to so many people’s hearts. And, naturally, he realized that it was dangerous waters to swim in the wake of Gene Wilder, who portrays Willy Wonka in the original film. The band pulls it off by making something that is truly their own, without taking anything away from the movie. When asked about the fairly recent Tim Burton attempt at bringing the Roald Dahl story to the screen Claypool comments, “Look, I love me some Tim Burton, when he writes his own stuff, and I respect what Johnny Depp has done over the years. Hell, Ed Wood is one of my favorite films, but that (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) is just unwatchable and believe me I’ve tried…twice as a matter of fact,” Les continues, “Even my kids hated it”.
“Our project is an homage to Gene Wilder and David L. Wolper’s, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and the effect it had on me in my youth,” spouts Les, “Now we get to sell PRIMUS bars and hang out with demented Oompa Loompas. Plus to top it off, it gives me an excuse to wear a purple, velvet waistcoat and brown top hat for the next 18 months.”