Les Claypool is recognized as a modern bass-playing powerhouse and a punk-rock virtuoso. His mastery of the bass has made him genre-defying. He is together well-versed in jazz fusion as he is in heavy metal or steady rock. His band Primus mixed funk, metal, and other category to develop something unique. Recognized for his stunner playing and also his crazy style, this virtuoso is likewise known because that his unique sound and also equipment.

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There can not be a solitary genre or word to specify this musician, v a humorous touch and unique groove, Claypool consists a substantial amount the textures and also is normally a hard-to-miss visibility in any kind of song or recording he could be featured on.

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Photo through Kris Krug

Ever due to the fact that his breakout tenure v Primus, Les has end up being a gray area between a pop-culture behemoth, and a cult adored cartoonish figure that attributes on some of the most beloved shows and also movies of the 90s all the means through the 2000s and into the current day.

The parallel definition of a guitar hero, not just through his playing style but additionally with the basses the uses. The comes together no wonder that the sound adheres to his eccentric look. He has been known to usage a range of basses. Let’s have actually a watch at few of his favorites.

What base Does Les Claypool Use?

Les Claypool is most known for play his distinct line the Carl Thompson bass Guitars. While it’s no technically a signature line of models, he’s adopted the boutique brand if bolstering its status and renown.

Claypool has also been known to own and also play various other eccentric base guitar models consisting of his own designed Pachyderm maple bass, a fair share the upright Kay Basses, and also others. Check out the full list below.


Carl Thompson Piccolo Custom

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Years Used: 1989 to PresentFinish: Walnut Mahogany Natural complete with Stripes

Perhaps Les’s first main bass after a couple of years v his very first Memphis Precision, and also Ibanez EQ. Apparently this was the first bass the wielded for his early on tenure through Primus, that was routinely rotated with his Ibanez as he got about the tweaks and also specs on this CT bass. Nevertheless, it took the spotlight together Primus thrived in popularity in the san Francisco only area, soon enough Claypool would end up being a trademark player for this cult instrument line.

As because that the specs on this 4-string Piccolo, the only functions a solitary EMG soap bar pickup and also the remainder is history. Les cited his first encounter through the CT Piccolo Custom, together he thought to himself the this was “the ugliest point I’d ever before seen”. But, rather of fixating ~ above its looks, he would discover that it would be the most comfortable piece of gear he’ll ever lay his hand on.

Primarily, the use of this base was because that live performances, but soon enough it came to be his key instrument for Primus’s 1989, Suck on This and also its 1990 follow up Frizzle Fry. End the years this 4-string witnessed a fair share that upgrades and installments choose a Krahmer black tremolo bar, and also a changed headstock with a item of flamed maple signed by Rush’s Geddy Lee.

This bass has proved an ext than trustworthy 30 year after its first appearance on stage, and it remains on Claypool’s hands as among his couple of proud brochure pieces. The is said that he used it to record South Park’s intro design template song, that’s just a funny fact.


Carl Thompson Rainbow 6-string Fretless Bass


Years Used: 1991 to PresentFinish: herbal Padauk, Maple, Wood v Custom Stripes

One of the most iconic the Les Claypool’s basses his 6 wire fretless bass, which to be custom produced him by, when again, Carl Thompson. The Rainbow 6-string is a item of Carl Thompson’s history, talent & inventive design. Designed ~ Claypool’s original CT bass, Thompson took the an obstacle after Les told him he wanted in reality “a challenging” and completely different instrument.

This one was drastically different from his Walnut 4 string. First of all, it had actually six strings. There have actually been rumors that this etc was originally developed as a fretted instrument and also later had actually its frets traction after Lesley’s request.

The bass was made v a beautiful all-wood bridge assembly with wooden saddles to keep that herbal tone Les to be so famed for. After friend plug the bass in you deserve to hear the exceptional tone. Having the pretty matching colored fret lines inlaid in the ebony fretboard renders it simple to play. The strings space threaded through the ago of the rear extension – close to where the strap pen is. They’re extended over a one-piece, hand-made wooden bridge and anchored by Schaller tuning machines. The basic part of the neck is made of quarter-sawn hard rock maple. The center of the fingerboard is Indian ebony, through 1/8-inch-wide strips of padauk, cocobolo, and ebony on either side. Return the neck broad is the traditional for Carl’s 6-strings, Les uses a tighter wire spacing and also therefore has a tiny room on either side of the neck come play with. That originally had a single EMG-45DC but now has a solitary EMG-J pickup v the beforehand angled coil.

It is nicknamed the “Rainbow Bass” since it has actually strips of walnut, curly maple, padauk, purpleheart, ebony, and also cocobolo. Rumor has actually it that Les recently may have actually bought an additional 6 string base to retire the original Rainbow Bass.

Les obtained the bass simply in time to tour adhering to the record of “Sailing the Seas that Cheese”. But being one of the many memorable piece on his catalog, there are much more than a couple of tenures under Claypool’s belt v this bass, several of the many memorable ones encompass his guest cameo on bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey and also the music video for Tommy the Cat. This is just one of my favourite Les Claypool base guitars of all time.


Pachyderm base Maple 4 String


Years Used: 2011 to PresentFinish: Glossed Maple

This specific bass has been used by Les for some time. Draft by Les, and handcrafted through Dan Maloney, this hybrid distinct piece fits several of Claypool’s favourite basses into a single Maple piece. A tiny bit of Rickenbacker, Fender Jazz, and Precision, and also last yet never least, some of his signature Carl Thompson features.

Claypool operated with luthier and longtime girlfriend Dan Maloney to form the firm and produce his idea the the can be fried bass. This bass is a fog cutter of an instrument through its front punch and also growly finish. With its birds-eye patterned maple and also dark coco marbled cocobolo timber pickguard. This maple bass has actually a very forward attack and it is a punchy bastard. The bass is very lightweight and zingy, v perfect balance. It has actually one knob because that volume and a switch for the fingerboard next markers. Not only are the dots LED-illuminated, yet they’re additionally slightly raised giving tactile cues that help Les navigate the neck without having to look.

The bottom end is solid yet has actually a knocking hollowness to it when the low E is struck v the thumb. The upper pluck is bright and when playing pizzicato the notes leap off the fretboard. The bass’s birds-eye maple body, i beg your pardon is accented with a marbled cocobolo pickguard, offered the tool its name and its distinct tone v Its equipment EMG PA pickup. Claypool’s recent Pachyderm has actually the EMG pickup moved a little closer to the fingerboard contrasted to vault iterations. Other features encompass raised LED worry markers v a dimmer, a Kahler Whammy bridge, and a copper Pachyderm medallion.

“My idea to be to incorporate the characteristics of the tools I have actually loved end the years and also throw in a couple of innovations of mine own,” Claypool writes. “I wanted the basses come be incredibly easy come play and feel comfortable in the lap as well as on the strap.”

Les said that he used this base on specific songs that needed a bit much more edge throughout the Primus tours, needless to say, it’s seen some extensive activity in both studios as well as on stage.

As one of the highlighted pieces of Claypool’s catalog, there’s just a grasp of this in the world, two of them, however, have been auctioned online for approximately $75.000. The proceeds from these basses would go to Jacob’s heart Charity.


Rickenbacker 4003

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Years Used: 2003 to PresentFinish: Red/White Pickguard

Although the brand has actually thousands the fans, there room equally many bassaholics who just can’t heat to these basses’ features or tones. What is unarguable, however, is the variety of bass legends that have actually used one to good effect. Les Claypool is just one of them. The list does walk on and on! This particular bass isn’t a new model, but it is an example of the top quality coming the end of the Rickenbacker factory. This standard staple in red, and also sunburst to be originally given to Les through Rush’s guitarist, Alex Lifeson, and it debuted top top his hands in 2003 with his next project federal government Mule.

The 4003 base guitar is an iconic bass in visual terms – and this example in Midnight Blue is no exception. The deep, affluent coloring sits very well alongside the white scratchplate, truss stick cover, and white outer edge binding. The almost orange hue the the 20-fret gloss-coated rosewood fingerboard adds a natural element to the visuals, while the Sharktooth mother-of-pearl position inlays include a vintage vibe.

The bass’s human body dimensions are wide but slim, and although the tool is a little weighty, it has actually a substantial feel. However, details elements it seems to be ~ a small fragile, an especially in the hardware department, although this is a young concern. Having said that, this is a style that has stood the check of time; regardless of some the its idiosyncrasies, the 4003’s components and also construction need to be increase to handling some force, from even the most heavy-handed of players. Overall, ns really prefer likes bass, and it’s among the coolest looking Les Claypool basses in my opinion.


NS architecture NXT 5 string electric upright bass

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Years Used: 1995 come PresentFinish: natural Wood

The NXT Series double Bass opens up a brand-new horizon because that the serious bassist looking come play a an excellent instrument on a limited budget. Les is no exception. He supplied this upright on numerous occasions beginning on Primus’s 1995 story from beat Bowl as the tape retreated to their newly uncovered headquarters at Claypool’s home studio, Rancho Relaxo. This instrument is crafted in the Czech Republic by the machines of the renowned CR Series. It exemplifies perfect workmanship. No wonder Les chosen it.

Pizzicato and arco approaches have virtually unlimited expressive potential, many thanks to the Polar Pickup System. A convenient switch allows the selection of the traditional arco mode for percussive attack and dynamic bowed response, or pizzicato mode for a smooth, continual tone. Fitted with solitary volume and also tone controls, the passive electronics deliver unlimited overhead for the can be fried sound without cumbersome batteries. The flexible bridge and truss rod permit for low, fast action, or for greater string setups that encourage the traditional acoustic player come ‘dig in’ with gusto.

NS electrical Strings and most classic acoustic strings fit all NS twin Basses, enabling the player to select from a large range, each with a distinct sound and feel. In combination with the simple adjustment of an easy set-up parameters, the NXT series Bass is adaptable to numerous different styles of music. This feature Les supplied well in his style of music.

To this date, Les brings up this NS electrical bass top top stage, also when the setlist doesn’t cover any of the designated songs, Claypool doesn’t stop to amaze with some eccentric antics and also experimentation.


Les Claypool’s Whamola


Years Used: 2001 to PresentFinish: herbal Wood

Introduced greatly on stage, Les confirmed his keen nature top top exploring new sounds when he constructed himself a Whamola and popped it out on jam sessions throughout his an initial hiatus indigenous Primus. When it may not be his key instrument, he’s made part fair use of this simplistic “chunk of wood”, together he likes to call it in his very first studio album through Les Claypool’s flying Frog Brigade, notoriously in the track Whamola.

A Whamola consists of a modified long piece the wood v a pickup and also a jack wired to it. A solitary tune peg because that a independent string and also a pulling wheel to create tension, thus finally an altering the notes you can provide with it. In a sense, it’s much like an upright single-stringed bass through a leaver instead of a headstock.

Throughout the years, Claypool has actually seen this together his “fun” go-to instrument, and while the may absence notoriety it definitely makes for among his most emblematic pieces on his catalog thanks to his proven virtuosity.


Table reflecting Which Basses Les Claypool play at Each point of His Career


MakeModelColor/FinishYears
Carl Thompson Piccolo CustomWalnut Mahogany Natural finish with Stripes1989-Present
Carl ThompsonRainbow 6-string Fretless BassNatural Padauk, Maple, Wood v Custom Stripes1991-Present
NSNXT 5 String electric Upright BassNatural Wood1995-Present
Les ClaypoolWhamolaNatural Wood2001-Present
Rickenbacker4003Red/White Pickguard2003-Present
PachydermPachyderm bass Maple 4 StringGlossed Maple2011-Present

Les Claypool Amps and Effects

Les’s amp and also effect setup is an aspect that is continually evolving, oftentimes even during a tour. You’ll view a video from one show and his amps will certainly be one thing and then a week later they will be different. However, some usual pieces of gear have routinely been in the mix with the years.

Les’s weapons of choice in the amp people have bounced between Mesa, Ampeg, and Gallen Kruger. Specifically, he offers Mesa Boogie 400+ the most. This were virtually always supplied with an ADA MP-1 Preamp that had been modded through Tod Lange, according to an interview with Les, Tod go something come the EQ circuitry so the lows pass through better, and he likewise did something v the compressor to give me much more bottom end.

Les offered the MP-1 till 1995 as soon as he switched to the MP-2. This is allegedly a big part that his tone. He has additionally had a pedalboard the has constantly been in continuous flux. Recently, he has actually been making use of a Fractal AX8 in addition to a bunch of other effects. One of the more interesting things is an access Virus II regulated with a Roland PK5 which he uses for MIDI.

Les is regularly seen utilizing either 2×15 or 4×12 cabinet made by either Mesa or Ampeg, throughout the classic years the Primus, it was usually a combination of the two.


Mesa Boogie 400+


Years Used: 1991 to Unknown

Being the linchpin between rhythm and melody Les loves to usage this amp. Having actually the crucial ingredients of great bass tone there is no shortage that pitch, punch, and power through this amp. Every frequency that the keep in mind Les theatre is identifiable and also accurate, not the flabby rumble regularly heard by other players. The strike of each note is a precise event in time. Having actually the power to deliver what he wants with authority Les can disembowel the an initial five rows!

Artists often speak to to rave about the bass 400+ after switching from bi- or tri-amped rigs of approximately a thousands watts. Les likes exclaiming the pleasure of stepping forward in the mix come the point of top the band together he typically does. String definition so articulate that the rhythm ar locks together and becomes a machine of unstoppable momentum.

This amp head has actually made fairly a couple of appearances v Les transparent the years yet it shows up that the cabinets have constantly been a rotatory feature throughout live shows. Since 1991, this appears to be a must to Claypool’s pitch, yet as mysterious as this guy is, that would change many times. Nevertheless, that was offered on Suck top top It and also all the way through the Primus’ discography during the 90s.

Other features incorporate a 600-ohm XLR well balanced Out, servant Out, blendable FX Loop with twin patch points front and rear, and also a three-way switch for fan speed.

This thoroughbred stud has been a mainstay in Les Claypool’s behind rack because that a lengthy time and also remains a classic in its very own time…for an excellent reason. It produces a good tone and also musical power that never go out of style.


Fractal AX8


Years Used: 1989 to Present

Fractal Audio System’s rackmount Axe-Fx systems awakened numerous players come the possibilities of modeled amps, cabinets, and also effects. Fractal increased into the pedalboard layout with their FX8, which provided Axe-Fx effects minus the amp and cab modeling.

The AX8 amp modeler and also multi-effects pedalboard are practically a pedalboard version of Fractal’s flagship Axe-Fx II modeler. The key difference: less CPU. That means the sound quality is identical, but you just can’t heap on as many simultaneous models. However there’s plenty of juice for the sound Les wants.

Despite that size, AX8 offers substantial connectivity, v 1/4″, XLR, and S/PDIF outputs. A USB jack lets you affix to a computer. There is a MIDI in and out jack. Les connects 4 or much more pedals come this point to get his stunner sound out. The thing has a programmable stereo results loop because that inserting exterior hardware. AX8 can save 512 presets yet I doubt Les uses any of them as he has actually his sound.

The build is beautiful. Steel and also aircraft aluminum form the rugged chassis. The silent relay footswitches have no mechanical relations to fail. The knobs feel substantial. A folded stole bar doubles together a handle and also protection because that the surface ar hardware. The power supply is built-in. Perfect because that gigging.

AX8’s sounds room superb, thanks to a great-sounding signal path and also ultra-detailed models. The fat, three-dimensional tones have actually a stunning dynamic range. Metal, prog, and also shred guitarists are amongst Fractal’s best fans so the is no wonder Les supplies it. AX8 is adept at clean, rooty, and also lo-fi tones. The fine-sounding results can complement most sound Les wants to produce with one analog pedalboard.


Line 6 DM4 Distortion


Years Used: 1994 come Present

Following in the footsteps of the heat 6 DL4 hold-up and MM4 Modulation boxes comes the DM4, a heavy‑duty floor unit in gleaming gold, i m sorry is qualified of digitally modeling 16 different varieties of distortion pedal. No wonder Les provides it in his performances.

Like the other boxes in the series, the effects are selected and controlled from the front‑panel knobs, and also four-foot switches carry out easy storage and recall of 4 user patches. Since many of the original pedals had only two or 3 controls, line 6 has detailed additional tone manage whenever any type of of the DM4’s front‑panel knobs room otherwise unassigned. The DM4 deserve to be operation from a wall‑wart PSU or battery.

Most the the distortion box emulated below are solid‑state tools dating from the mid‑’60s come the existing day. Only the Tube-Driver emulates a valve preamp, and also can thus produce a more subtle overdrive. Due to the fact that vintage distortion pedals are regularly noisy, heat 6 has added a noise gate that may be switched in or out. Through none the the footswitches engaged, the unit is bypassed, v a relay providing a direct link from the input to the output to avoid any kind of audio thump. A pretty performance attribute of the DM4 is that it enables you to morph in between two various settings of the same model using an fastened foot pedal — this have the right to be used to differ the sound in number of expressive ways.

Les loves come use simple overdrives. Jet Fuzz, because that example, combine overdrive through flanging to develop that very dated whooshing‑jet effect. Weirder still space the two octave‑fuzz effects, among which produces a sub‑octave and the other of which adds a tone an octave above the original before fuzzing the result.


Line 6 DL4 hold-up Modeler


Years Used: 1993 come Present

The line 6 DL4 Stompbox delay Modeler came out well over 10 years back and has gathered a call for gift the go-to delay pedal. Les Claypool has actually been using it from the get-go.The DL4 has 15 effects modeled on popular delay gear as displayed on the knob to the right.

They advertisement 16 effects, but the loop sampler should be considered separately. The possibilities are if you hear delay used in a song, the DL4 can replicate it. The DL4 procedures in 24-bit true stereotype which typical that the left signal stays left and also the ideal signal stays right.

As is common with feature-filled hold-up pedals, the DL4 has an inbuilt looper. It’s likewise worth mentioning that the looper works in mono so both inputs will be taken simultaneously. Les has actually been recognized to usage the DL4 in a stereo setup as well as mono.

The first three footswitches permit storing various presets i beg your pardon is a really handy attribute for Les as he provided to pat live often. The 4th footswitch is specialized to tap tempo, again a super useful feature it is often absent in delay pedals.

Wrap Up

With three decades in and no signs of stopping, Les Claypool has made clear that he has no allegiance with specific projects. Lot like every various other virtuoso in the industry, the final goal is to do music, whether it is together Colonel Claypool or together a member that his initial band, Claypool is among the most differentiated players top top the rhythmic section, v no room for debate.

It’s been frequently said that he’s the one to credit for Primus’s success, and while this might not be totally true, Les is definitely the raunchy highlight of the act. As a solo act, Claypool is a prolific author, and producer, and also as understated, a critics darling. Maybe what has actually aligned Les as one of the most influential numbers of contemporary music as well as his humorous approach and antics, would be his boundary-pushing quality, one the extends native his gear and also into his abstract expression.


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My name is Chris and also I’ve had a enthusiasm for music and also guitars for as long as I deserve to remember. I began this website with some of my girlfriend who room musicians, music teachers, gear heads, and music enthusiasm so us could provide high-quality guitar and also music-related content.

I’ve been play guitar because I was 13 year old and also am an avid collector. Amps, pedals, guitars, bass, drums, microphones, studio, and recording gear, ns love the all.

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I to be born and raised in west Pennsylvania. Mine background is in electrical Engineering, earning a Bachelor’s degree from Youngstown State University. Through my engineering experience, I’ve emerged as a designer of etc amplifiers and also effects. A true enthusiasm of mine, i’ve designed, built, and repaired a wide range of etc amps and also electronics. Here at the guitar Lobby, our aim is to share our passion for Music and also gear through the rest of the music community.