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The wacky world of Les Claypool
The bassist, composer and rock 'n' roll weirdo plays Shoreline Ballroom

If he'd never done anything else - the frenetic and funky music with Primus, or Oysterhead, or the electric bass wizardry that thrills and chills the jam-band crowd to this day - Les Claypool assured his place in history when he wrote and recorded the theme to South Park in 1997.

(Claypool is the long-legged, guitar-playing animated character in the opening credit sequence: "Goin' down to South Park to have myself a time ...") The wacky closing instrumental theme, which he also composed, is performed by Primus.

"It's one of those things, like when I go to the dentist and they say ‘Oh, you're a musician. Would I know you?'" Claypool chuckles. "And they don't know anything I mention ... all I have to do is say ‘Well, I'm the guy from South Park.' And they go "Oh! OK.'"

Claypool, who also did the theme for the Adult Swim stop-motion comedy "Robot Chicken," takes such things as compliments.

"If ‘South Park' sucked, I would be bummed by that," he says, "but it's a great piece of comedy, a great piece of art and a great piece of social commentary. So that's fine with me. I'm proud to be associated with it. The same with ‘Robot Chicken.'"

Touring behind his latest solo album, "Of Fungi and Foe," Claypool brings his road band to the Shoreline Ballroom Thursday.

His music is quirky, dense and poly-syllabic; it's not for everyone. "I think the people that are attracted to what I do are the same guys that I was in high school," he theorizes. "Always looking for something that was different from what everybody else wanted to hear."

And Claypool - in the tradition of such boundary-bashers as Frank Zappa and Tom Waits - is just fine with that.

"I'm not sure I can make it more mainstream," he admits. "I'm not sure that's what I'm good at. There was a time, right before Primus broke up, that we were getting a little bit of nudging from the record company: ‘Hey, maybe you should work with a producer ... maybe you should do some things to be a little more palatable.' And we made some compromises, and I think it's some of the worst stuff we ever did.

"It's not in my nature. I'm not the guy who looks like the other guy. I'm not the guy who sounds like the other guy. The type of stuff I like tends to be pretty abstract."

Claypool, who's written a well-received novel ("South of the Pumphouse") and wrote and directed a movie ("Electric Apricot"), lives in Northern California with his wife and two young children.

He is a fly fisherman, a scuba enthusiast and a part-time vintner (he makes Purple Pachyderm, a custom pinot noir with limited distribution).

He says he's got just enough "fame and fortune," thank you very much. "I like the fact that I can go to the hardware store and nobody messes with me," Claypool says. "If anything, I probably have more fame than I ever thought I would have."

Les Claypool

Where: Shoreline Ballroom, 40 Folly Field Road, Hilton Head Island

When: 7 p.m. Thursday, May 28

Tickets: $23 advance, $25 day of show

Phone: (843) 842-0358


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