Few things are more exciting than the return of a drummer to the band in which he made his name. That’s exactly what happened to Tim Alexander when he got an unexpected call from Primus main man Les Claypool offering him his old job back. Since leaving the band – first in 1994, then playing sporadically with them in the early 2000s – Alexander has been making all kinds of racket in Laundry, A Perfect Circle, Puscifer, a solo project, and more. We caught up with the 48-year-old drummer at rehearsals in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he had just woken from a power nap and proceeded to answer our questions in that inimitable Cali drawl of his.
I live in Washington now, up in Bellingham. I’ve been a stay-at-home dad the last few years. I was on a trampoline with my daughter and the phone rang, and it said restricted, but I picked it up and it was Les, and he was saying that Jay [Lane, drummer] was going to go do his other gig with Rat Dog and so he wanted to know if I wanted to play again, so here I am. It’s been about eight years since I used to play together with Les and Larry [LaLonde, guitarist]. We just jammed a little bit and then we started playing the tunes and it’s as if we hadn’t ever left. It’s strange.
I’ve been learning the last album that Jay did [Green Naugahyde] and it’s really hard. Jay and I are like two completely different drummers. He’s really a lot more focused on hi-hat and he’s really good at, like, the bouncy feel and I’m more of a rock player. So he has a lot of trouble with my stuff and I have a lot of trouble with his stuff. I’m not one of those kind of drummers that can just sit it on any situation. I’m my own voice and it kind of limits me as far as doing other things, but that’s fine because I haven’t really wanted to do too many other things.
After leaving Primus [the first time in 1994] I immediately started Laundry with my friends and we did that for a little while. Then I had also done an album with Attention Deficit as well – two of them, actually. After that I ended up in Vegas at Blue Man Group. But even long before that I was going through a lot of changes, and kind of not knowing what to do, and really feeling lost. Sitting down and playing wasn’t satisfying and wasn’t fun. I’ve been going through that probably for the last ten years, not really sure if that’s what I should be doing. It wasn’t so much the drumming but just other aspects, relationships, that kind of thing. I think I was probably wanting to be more of like a Dave Grohl, writing my own songs, and playing other instruments. And so that’s why I made my own record, which was called Fata Morgana. I wasn’t thinking it was going to really do anything, I just felt like I needed to make something by myself. And, you know, it turned out pretty good.
I had gotten a text from Maynard from Tool. I played with him in Puscifer. He had dinner with the curator [from the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix] awhile back and so my name popped up. That place is incredible; it’s as big as any modern art museum you’d go to, like MOMA, and they have filled it with all these exhibits from different countries and their music, and their instruments, how they make them, everything. And so they wanted to do a rock drum display. I thought that’d be kind of cool. So, yeah, I’ve got my Pork Pie set in the museum.
There’s the opening fill to “Southbound Pachyderm.” I’m like, “Why in the heck did I do that?” It’s so fast, but I fumble through it. It’s not really hard as much as the amount of work involved. Some songs require constant sixteenth-notes – I don’t like doing those. I like just having some bass drum in my stuff. Back when I was younger, I had a lot of energy. I was trying to prove something, but getting older I haven’t been wanting to play that so much. The only song we have that’s in a constant odd time is “Eleven” off [Sailing The] Seas Of Cheese. But that’s not really hard because it’s just ingrained in us. There’s one that I have to learn which they did with Brain off the Brown album. It’s called “Duchess” and it’s a measure of six and a measure of five, so it’s in 11. And Larry plays a straight four over top of it, and it’s like, “Oh, man, this is going to be some work.”
We’ve been jamming and recording some interesting sounds. It’s been pretty promising. I definitely want to come back into this scene a little bit, bring it to that next level. I don’t know what that means, but bringing in some kind of new creativity that I haven’t done before. We’re talking about a lot of crazy stuff, so we’ll see how it turns out. We’re going to try and record in November. Maybe we’ll record and do some shows at the same time. New Year’s in Oakland at the Fox Theater is the only thing that’s confirmed. I don’t know if we’re going to do anything before that. I haven’t thought too much about it but I’ll probably be pretty nervous. I think once I start playing I’ll be okay. The waiting is what gets me.