Sailing the Seas of Cheese

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Sailing the Seas of Cheese
Studio album by
ReleasedMay 14, 1991 (1991-05-14)
RecordedJanuary 1991
StudioFantasy (Berkeley)
GenreFunk metal
Primus chronology
Frizzle Fry
Sailing the Seas of Cheese
Miscellaneous Debris
Singles from Sailing the Seas of Cheese
  1. "Jerry Was a Race Car Driver"
    Released: 1991
  2. "Tommy the Cat"
    Released: 1991
  3. "Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers"
    Released: 1992

Sailing the Seas of Cheese is the second studio album and major label debut by the American rock band Primus. It was released on May 14, 1991, through Interscope Records. It spawned three singles: "Jerry Was a Race Car Driver", "Tommy the Cat", and "Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers".

Album information[edit]

The album has been described as funk metal.[1][2] Similar to its predecessor Frizzle Fry, founding guitarist Todd Huth received writing credits on the songs "Tommy The Cat" and "Sgt. Baker".

The album's lead single "Jerry Was a Race Car Driver" is known for its intricate bassline that Les Claypool played on a six-string bass using the tapping technique. It also contains a sample from the movie The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 in which the character Chop Top exclaims "Dog will hunt!" The track "Los Bastardos" contains samples from the BBC television series The Young Ones including Vyvyan shouting, "Shut up, you bastards!", Vyvyan's mother saying, "He is a bastard isn't he?", as well as Rick saying, "You just called me a bastard, didn't you?" and "Mike, you bastard!"

The single "Tommy The Cat" is also characterised by its highly complex bassline that mixes strumming and slapping; there is not a clear consensus on exactly what notes are being played, and as a result, numerous different interpretations exist on the Internet. The song features spoken word by Tom Waits providing the voice of the titular character; in live performances Claypool does these parts himself. Another examples of the album's musical complexity is the song "Eleven", which is named after its unusual time signature of 11/8.

The song and album title "Seas of Cheese" would later be referenced in the song "DMV" on their next album Pork Soda, as well as the song "Dirty Drowning Man" on 1999's Antipop.

Live performance[edit]

The album was performed live in its entirety in 2003 and 2004 on their Tour De Fromage, on December 30, 2010 and once more during a two night show at Royal Albert Hall in April 2012.[3]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Chicago Tribune[5]
Entertainment WeeklyB+[6]
Record Collector[9]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[10]
The Daily VaultB+[11]
Spectrum Culture[12]

Reviewing the album for AllMusic, Steve Huey contends that "Sailing the Seas of Cheese completely redefined the possibilities of the electric bass in rock music for those who'd never heard the group before." He describes the album as "mostly riff-driven, fleshing out their heavy metal roots with prog rock tricks from Rush and Frank Zappa, as well as the novelty side of Zappa's sense of humor." He notes that "the willful goofiness may alienate some listeners, but... it never detracts from the band's frequently stunning musicianship" and concludes that this album is "the tightest, most song-oriented representation of their jaw-dropping, one-of-a-kind style."[4] Simon Reynolds reviews the album for Entertainment Weekly by describing Primus as "too self-consciously goofy for their own good, but their rubber-boned thrash-funk can be cartoonish fun."[6]

In a 2015 Noisey interview, Les Claypool ranked Sailing the Seas of Cheese as his second favorite Primus album behind Frizzle Fry, believing the work to be "probably [Primus'] most respected album".[13] In addition, Claypool also outlined the experience of releasing the record on a major label, and the consequent inspiration for the album's title, when he remarked:

But [Sailing the Seas of Cheese] was also that record like 'Here we are, about to release something on a major label,' and we're right alongside the other bands that were popular at the time, which were these hairball bandsthe Poisons, and the Guns N' Roses, and these different things that we just did not fit in with. That was the impetus of the title, because we just knew all of a sudden we were going to be thrust into this world where we weren't sure anyone thought we belonged.

Release history[edit]

Sailing the Seas of Cheese reached gold status in March 1993. It was certified platinum in December 2001.[14]


Plain Recordings released a 180 gram version of the LP.

2013 reissue[edit]

A deluxe edition of the album was released on May 21, 2013. It is available in two six-panel Digipak configurations, each featuring the album’s new stereo mix on CD and the new 5.1 surround mix on Blu-ray or DVD, plus three exclusive, previously unreleased bonus tracks, and liner notes by music journalist Greg Prato.[15] Claypool stated, “Musically, it holds up incredibly well. Sonically, it holds up fairly well. There’s some old-style reverbs that are a little bit syrupy. With modern technology, we can fix some of that stuff. But we don’t want to mess with it too much, because it is what it is. We want to fatten it up a little bit.”[15]

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics are written by Les Claypool; all music is composed by Primus, guitar melodies on "Tommy the Cat" and "Sgt. Baker" by Todd Huth

1."Seas of Cheese"0:42
2."Here Come the Bastards"2:55
3."Sgt. Baker"4:16
4."American Life"4:32
5."Jerry Was a Race Car Driver"3:11
7."Is It Luck?"3:27
8."Grandad's Little Ditty"0:37
9."Tommy the Cat"4:15
10."Sathington Waltz"1:42
11."Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers"5:20
12."Fish On (Fisherman Chronicles, Chapter II)"7:45
13."Los Bastardos"2:39
Total length:45:40
2013 Deluxe bonus tracks
14."Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers" (Live at Bass Hall, Austin, TX, 11/07/2012)7:54
15."American Life" (Live at Bass Hall, Austin, TX, 11/07/2012)11:37
16."Here Come the Bastards" (Bassnectar remix)5:18
Total length:70:29



Additional performers

  • Jay Lane – drums (13, 14 & 15)
  • Mike Bordin – two-skinned foreskin drum
  • Matt Winegar – accordion, guitar
  • Tom Waits – voice of Tommy the Cat
  • Trouz – whistle


  • Ron Rigler – engineering
  • Chris Bellman – mastering
  • Tom Whalley – A&R director
  • Adam Gates – additional fisherman
  • Lance Montoya – additional fisherman


  • Paul Haggard – jacket design, photography
  • Mark Kohr – cheese coordinator, scenery
  • Michael Lavine – band photo
  • Lance Montoya – sculptures
  • Mitch Romanowski – ship (sculpture)
  • Snap – airbrushing



Year Chart Peak


1991 US Billboard 200[16] 116
1992 US Heatseekers Albums (Billboard)[17] 2


  1. ^ Jenkins, Mark (October 27, 1991). "California's Funk-Metalists, Putting on Airs". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  2. ^ "Top 8 Iconic 'Funk Metal' Albums". Ultimate Guitar. October 18, 2020. Retrieved July 28, 2023.
  3. ^ "Interview with Les Claypool of Primus: Odd Man Out | The Aquarian Weekly". The Aquarian. October 8, 2010. Retrieved March 1, 2013.
  4. ^ a b Huey, Steve. "Sailing the Seas of Cheese – Primus". AllMusic. Retrieved April 8, 2012.
  5. ^ Kot, Greg (June 6, 1991). "Primus: Sailing the Seas of Cheese (Interscope)". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved June 2, 2017.
  6. ^ a b Reynolds, Simon (May 24, 1991). "Hybrid sounds". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved April 8, 2012.
  7. ^ "Primus: Sailing the Seas of Cheese". NME: 36. June 15, 1991.
  8. ^ "Primus: Sailing the Seas of Cheese". Q (104): 130. May 1995.
  9. ^ McIver, Joel (July 2013). "Primus – Sailing The Seas Of Cheese (Deluxe Edition)". Record Collector (416). Retrieved June 2, 2017.
  10. ^ Kot, Greg (2004). "Primus". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. p. 654. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  11. ^ Thelen, Christopher (2019). "The Daily Vault Music Reviews : Sailing the Seas of Cheese". The Daily Vault. Retrieved February 18, 2019.
  12. ^ Kangas, Chaz (June 3, 2013). "Primus - Sailing the Seas of Cheese". Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  13. ^ Jones, Bill (June 4, 2015). "Rank Your Records: Les Claypool Rates Primus' Albums". Vice. Retrieved October 3, 2022.
  14. ^ "RIAA - Gold & Platinum". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved July 28, 2023.
  15. ^ a b "Primus' 'Sailing The Seas Of Cheese' Newly Mixed and Expanded for New Deluxe Edition, to Be Released May 21 by Universal Music Enterprises". Business Wire. April 3, 2013. Retrieved April 4, 2014.
  16. ^ "Primus Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved February 25, 2020.
  17. ^ "Primus Chart History (Heatseekers Albums)". Billboard. Retrieved February 25, 2020.