Dry Cleaning

Ex-Phoenician Tim Alexander steps out from Primus' drum seat to lead Laundry

Primus did go beyond Lollapalooza in terms of participating in bombastic tours, to wit, the band's opening slot on the Zoo TV extravaganza.

"It was crazy," Alexander says. "I mean, U2's as big as it gets. But I kind of thought to myself, 'Is this something I want?' I think it's neat to play in front of that many people. It's kind of the mountain peak. But it made me think about Primus' future. Are we going to be this weird band the rest of our lives? Are we ever going to grow and make it a big thing like this?"

The questions were later compounded by other concerns. Like by the end of the Tales From the Punchbowl tour, Alexander and Primus leader Les Claypool were actively avoiding each other.

"There was always this tension inside the band," Alexander says. "Les and Larry [Primus guitarist Larry LaLonde] were friends, they hung out all the time, and I was always on my own. I've always been like that. So I felt like just the drummer, you know."

Alexander quickly emphasizes that he and Claypool collaborated on the band's music, something he feels compelled to bring up in light of recent stories in which Claypool suggests Alexander contributed little to the Primus oeuvre.

"That's just not true," Alexander says. "Larry and Les were with each other so much they apparently now consider hanging around together as the creative process. But Les and I did the music. The guitar and vocals would usually get added on last."

Alexander says he knew the time had come for a change when Primus played a few dates in Alaska last summer and, after returning home, he realized he and Claypool hadn't exchanged a single word the entire trip.

"It wasn't really nasty," he says of the split. "I just wasn't happy. It was like, 'Man, we can't do this anymore.' It was horrible."

Alexander adds that along with the personality problems, he was getting impatient with the band's increasing image as a novelty act.

"I just wasn't happy playing that music anymore. It wasn't moving me. I was a little less interested in songs about made-up characters and the 'Wynona's Big Brown Beaver' kind of stuff. The comic thing was getting a little old. Don't get me wrong, I love comedy, but in music, I don't know, you've got to feel it, and I just wasn't feeling it."

With Laundry, Alexander gets to feel his own songs with a band (Tom Butler on guitar, Ian Variele on Chapman Stick) that dabbles Primuslike with odd time signatures and inventive sounds, but does so without hiding behind a bunch of yuks. And Alexander gets to perform his songs without hiding behind his cymbals. It's a welcome change for the newfound singing drummer.

"When I'm just playing drums, I'm not really too involved," he says. "It comes pretty easy for me. But now, singing and playing at the same time, I'm a hundred percent in concentration. I've never felt like that about playing. Now I'm diving in deep, I'm submerged into what I'm doing.

"It's all been a test," he continues. "Writing songs and recording them for a demo is easy. But when you're actually playing the drums and singing and doing it live, you wonder if it's gonna work. Are people going to get bored not having a singer running around? It's a battle you either win or lose.

"We've played some shows and they've gone well. So we've won. We know now this is a real band. We're going to tour and record, the whole thing. We're going to pursue it."

Laundry is scheduled to perform on Saturday, September 13, at the Electric Ballroom in Tempe, with Fred Green, M.I.R.V., Sourpuss, Chaos Theory, Last Supper, Bionic Jive, and Hot Turkey Brown (showtime is 7:30 p.m.); and at Big Fish Pub in Tempe on Sunday, September 14, with the Brides (call for showtime).

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