captain beefheart electricity

DON'T ARGUE THE CAPTAIN
the interviews


 

THE BEATING OF AN ASHTRAY HEART
captain beefheart spills all

from NEW YORK ROCKER #34 011280 usa
by john piccarella
is mid 10.80 interview

notes:
* reproduced in germany 1993 (art) book DON VAN VLIET * STAND UP TO BE DISCONTINUED
* all pictures by laura levine

part 1 - THIS is PART 2 - part 3

*

do you kid yourself about not being influenced by anything? is that a tease?

no...: my baby rejects it immediately, and that's it.

but the music has gone through certain stylistic changes....

oh... according to myself though, you see.

but at that time 'clear spot' seemed to pick up on a rhythm and blues type of feeling.

really?

like 'too much time', which is a great vocal performance, sounds a lot like an otis redding stylization to me.

(to gary lucas:) he wishes.

gary lucas: the single that was released from that album was in the charts in boston.

until they found out i was ---

gary lucas: white.

well, i don't know about white. everybody's colored or you wouldn't be able to see them. i put that in rolling stone [magazine - t.t..] - i don't understand those kinds of things. i know nothing of any of that. there's a lot of things i don't understand.

the new album is very guitar-oriented. you haven't done that in a long while.

yeah, i like guitar.

well, you've always used the guitars as the rhythmic base, but you used to have all these marimbas and different horns coming in and out, and you really cut that down this time.

yeah...: a skeleton crew. but i like all of the other things.

on the last album 'shiny beast (bat chain puller)' you did it all, it was really orchestrated.

i like that album.

i like it, too... and this one was a real surprise because it's real...: direct.

but i got the same thing down, i think. and i'm even thinking, on the next one i'll use just two guitars... maybe no drums... maybe... i mean on certain things.

well, you have those two instrumentals on this record. the instrumentals you've been doing, like on the last record, were with the whole band - and here you've got a solo guitar piece.... what made you decide to use the trombone and marimba on only one cut?

artistically that's the way i thought it should be. only that. for no other reason. you see it required it. whatever the music was in my head, that's the way it was, same as putting a line on a painting or a drawing. it's just music sculpture. then again i don't know, really.... you know, i don't know.

captain beefheart / don van vliet - new york, usa mid october 1980 - new york rocker 011280 - picture by laura levine

that's a great drawing.

thank you. yeah..., that was a great opera.

i didn't see it.

you should have. really, though.... i mean peking! when are they gonna do that again?

yeah, and you can't just go to peking ---

i don't know, i'm gonna try. those people are excellent musicians.

you didn't find yourself influenced?

no. i mean i wouldn't do that. it isn't my right. i am my own artist. it wouldn't work. but i listen - totally listen. i'm able to do that, i'm totally able to just listen. you know that isn't easy. i'm lucky that i'm able to do that. i heard it. ooooh, did i hear it! the thing that annoyed me was the public clapping. you know, like in all of the wrong places.... listen, they don't show them like that over there. they have tents and they eat during the thing. three days, they go.

it wasn't an entire opera, right? it was a greatest hits....

no, they cut it. and the thing is they had to. they showed it in a show... - i mean, a theater. everybody was acting like they do at the rose bowl. they have a fireworks display and every time a firework goes off they go 'ooh!'. it was horrible. really, really rude. i didn't say anything. it was really corny, like that cheap perfume that adheses to the plastic of a telephone receiver. one-dimensional. and there was a lot of perfume in there....

people don't like the way they are... and i wonder if women don't do that because men - i'm not saying you or myself - but what are they doing? i mean, they like that? i break out in a horrible rash if i use a telephone in the city. i can't stand it. i think it's fascist. very fascist odor on a telephone receiver.... --- what's that?

sound of the city...: construction work.

it's pretty good.

it's got a rhythm.

it's pretty good.

there are a lot of good rhythms in the city. but you were saying before that you didn't like all that.

but i'm not directly in the city. this is an older part, isn't it? cobblestone. there's a bar down here... i hate to say it, it's horrible... i mean, dylan thomas... the 'white horse'... i mean, the 'white horse' isn't quite the way i think it should be. of course, why am i assuming it shouldn't do something other than what i think it should? because i'm an artist? because i shit tie-dye? van gogh - i'm gonna see him soon..., when i go to holland [early november - t.t.].

did you see the picasso show?

they wouldn't let me in. they said it was only for foreigners and i said: 'i'm pretty foreign'....

that reminds me...: on the last album, on 'tropical hot dog night' and 'candle mambo' you had a south-of-the-border sound ---

the baby was south-of-the-border that night.

--- kind of a mariachi sound. where did you pick that up?

oh, i have all of that... and then some... i do. i mean, it's there, it's all there.

you do listen to music, though?

did i ever listen to music? yeah - i like to listen to music. but i won't trace. i won't go over something out of respect. what do you listen to?

lots of things.

you play guitar?

no, bass.

bass is nice.... i once used 'air-bass', did you like that?

you mean the trombone thing?

with an octave divider, yeah.

he's got in the band now?

yeah, bruce fowler.... he's a real good friend and he could be there or he won't, you know.

when you toured last time he was with the band.

yeah... - i like bruce. he's good. i think he's one of the best. i don't know what to say about him other than i can go... --- (whistles wildly.)

and he can play it....

immediately.

is that how you teach a song to the band? you don't write it out?

well, i could... and play the piano. i play all of these things - you didn't know that?

but you teach all the instruments by playing the parts on the piano?

you can do it on the piano, you can do it on guitar sometimes... sometimes on the mellotron... sometimes on the moog.... i like mini-moog, i think that's a real sensitive instrument.

captain beefheart / don van vliet - new york, usa mid october 1980 - new york rocker 011280 - picture by laura levine

you never let the players improvise?

no, because i'm the artist. that comes out of me. i'm the composer. very strict.

where did you get your horn style? your solo style?

i just paint through it. i don't know where... - i’ll show you a rehearsal exercise. this is the only rehearsal i do on that horn (lights a match and holds it up letting it burn down). i got too close the other day. only i'm trying to get where i'm really doing it. i'm trying to light a cigarette while i'm having a conversation with myself. i wait until a certain... and then before it burns, just when it heats up, then i'll light it and that is my rehearsal - you ever do that?

no.

but i mean: think about it...: are you sure? but you ought to think so. don't you?

i like sax.

i mean alto, though.

i like tenor.

not him? (gestures in the air.)

who?

oh, the guy who came through the skylight. charlie parker. ooooh, what about that guy?

oh, yeah. you like that?

oh, yeah!

now we're talking.

you like that?

oh, yeah.... you like albert ayler too?

not ever that much...

you don't like his marching things?

oh, i enjoyed him.... i don't like marches. you know why?... i'll tell you why: war. it's very similar to disco.

but there's another kind of march, you know: street parade.

oh, you mean philip sousa - yeah, that's pretty good!

i think 'candle mambo' is like that, with that trombone thing.

i do know what you mean, yeah... - and also the drums. right... well, do you know what that was?.... hounds rhythm (bends over imitating gallop)... that's what did that to me.

(*)

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captain beefheart electricity
as felt by teejo

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