Primus' Les ClaypoolJeff Hanhe

Les Claypool Says He Felt Primus Never ‘Fit In’ On 1999 ‘Ozzfest’ & ‘Family Values Tour’


As a commercially successful alternative metal oddity, Primus held a unique spot in the 90’s metal scene. While the traditional heavier acts remained gated to the then fledgling nü-metal movement of the mid-90s, the aforementioned trio of virtuosic Californian weirdos embraced the fledgling upcomers, taking many of them out on the road. It began around 1995, when Primus did some touring in Europe and the UK with Korn.

In 1997, they embarked  on a headlining run with Limp Bizkit and Powerman 5000 in the opening slots. 1998 saw the favor returned as Primus were invited to a date of Korn‘s ‘Family Values Tour‘, which also saw Ice Cube, Limp Bizkit, Rammstein and Orgy join the bill.

A stint on the nü-metal heavy 1999 edition of ‘Ozzfest‘ would follow, along with a leg of the 1999 ‘Family Values Tour‘. Early 2000s shows with the likes of Incubus, P.O.D. and more would come about after that.

While many of Primus‘ openers from that timeframe would go on to experience astonishing chart-topping success, Primus‘ height of popularity remained centered around their early to mid 90s output.

As part of a new cover story feature with Revolver, the band’s raconteur at large, vocalist/bassist Les Claypool, jokingly reflected back on that time and how Primus became a launching pad for a generation of heavy music. He also revealed that there was a certain level of discomfort in being draped in that scene.

“A lot of these bands ended up touring with us. I always joke that we were the leapfrog band because you open for Primus and you become huge. I remember Interscope really wanting us to do Family Values and Ozzfest. And I was just not super comfortable in those worlds. I mean, we did them, and we made a lot of great friends from them, but it just didn’t feel like we fit.”

While he may not have felt comfortable on ‘Ozzfest‘, his experiences watching headliners Black Sabbath perform on it did have a profound impact on Primus in the years that followed. In particular it helped crystalize Claypool‘s desire to reunite with drummer Tim “Herb” Alexander, who had departed the band in 1996. He said of that:

“…That was a big thing with ‘Ozzfest‘. I remember sitting there one night and watching Sabbath with Bill Ward on drums. And I’ve seen those guys play with all these different drummers over the years that were amazing, but there’s something about Bill Ward‘s feel that you just couldn’t deny it. And I’m watching this and I just went, ‘Holy shit, this is unbelievable. We need to get Herb back at some point in time.'”

Primus would go on hiatus in 2000, before ultimately reuniting with Alexander in 2003. You can read more from Claypool and his bandmates in the entire feature over at

- Advertisement - Purchase Merch