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the interviews - band members


 

OUR DAY WITH ZOOT HORN ROLLO

from internet HI-FI MUNDO vol.1 #2 161297, #3 280198 and #4 150398 usa
by alex duke & rob denunzio
is 11.97 interview BILL HARKLEROAD

note: adapted from the original published by a now defunct e-zine

part 1 - part 2 - part 3 - THIS is part 4 - part 5

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at some point, john french just came in with this big pile of music?

he didn't hand me a piece of paper.

so he told you what he wanted you to play?

he would play what don played. and then, i would try to find out how to play it, and i would go: 'well, this doesn't work', and we would go: 'well, let's try this, let's move this note in here, we have to get rid of that note, that's the one that doesn't hurt the most', or whatever.

so, going in, you had this big body of knowledge about scales, and --

no. i knew an a from a g, i didn't know what a pentatonic scale was, i could play note for note blues....

you had a good enough ear then, if he would play something on the piano, you could do it, without really knowing what you were doing?

absolutely.

i guess, in some sense then, it was good that you didn't have all that other information.

absolutely. it would have hurt, that would have hurt me, definitely. he was smart, he knew to get young guys.

who had good ears, but not a lot of preconceptions.

good ears, and the talent, but not a lot of previous knowledge to do this, because the older guys he probably had tried to push in that way, said: 'i can't play that, fuck you, i'm not going to work that hard'. i don't know why i work that hard now, i mean jesus, that shit was hard to play.

i can imagine.

and to remember it? remember thirty tunes, with these weird parts that are so different and so - they're almost all the same, because of that. thumb on front, tapping, you know, doing everything you can to play. so, that just became my way of life after that. but john french had a big thing to do with how those parts came from don, and ended up in the band. he doled out the parts. how they lined up, the band kind of evolved that, don with an overview, would come in and push things around afterward.

obviously now you have much broader knowledge of the actual technical aspect of playing.

hopefully so, i have been working on it for a while.

*

i feel comfortable saying you know a lot about scales...

i have a good, blue-collar knowledge of music theory.

right, is that something you picked up during beefheart, or afterwards?

afterwards. mallard was a product of that.

i know you don't really play live, i know you don't really go out and get gigs much anymore.

not anymore, yeah. not for ten years, i haven't.

are you just kind of soured on it, just not interested in doing it anymore?

the real truth of all of it, it's a long answer.

that's ok.

because it's a real personal thing. because, i think these questions, one goes from just these ideals, and when it gets personalized by a person - and i really think of the psychology, or the feeling of people, and what happens to them...

you would be surprised at how much people don't think.

yeah, i know, i might not be surprised. but, i moved here to clean up my act, because of a real down period of my life. and i was playing and performing. so when i moved to eugene, it was to get my shit together, be sober, and just get on to an approach to be more domestically secure, whether music had a part of that or not. i wanted a job. i'd never had a job in my life. i had been a musician, so i came here to eugene to do that. because of that, playing live got thrown out of the case. but it was not a choice, it was save my life from being a drug addict.

captain beefheart - live picture bill harkleroad / zoor horn rollo - san francisco, california, usa, winterland concert 23or240373 - usa e-zine 'hi-fi mundo' 1997 / usa 010198 guitar player
live at winterland, san francisco, california, usa 23or240373

i came here, got a job, started rolling, getting healthier, and all of a sudden, this midi thing started happening, right? and so i started doing that, started getting really seriously into teaching. i had been teaching for years before that, but the last ten or so years, i really - i read some books about it, learned how to really get into people and understand students, and i really got into teaching. which was a good thing for me, it kept me in music, it kept me healthy, and i felt like i was doing something real positive.

if something would have happened, anything along the road which would have pushed me back into playing live, it would have been fine. but it didn't. it just didn't turn out that way, and i finally paid my rent, was clean, started getting happy, know what i mean? so, music had nothing to do with that. you know, it has always been secondary to this, sitting here and hanging out with people. i would much rather hang out and have a good conversation with a person than play music.

just to follow up, with sort of this ‘rollo-renaissance’ that's taking place --

yes!

-- if the opportunity comes around for you to actually perform live, or a mini-tour, would you take that?

good question, but i'm going to get long-winded again. i was offered a thing to go over to germany to play, it was back when i was living at the other house --

they have great sausage.

this was a go-to-play situation in bremen, germany, and they were going to pay me $3000 for a one-hour show, and per diem for the week. well, after cleaning out my underwear three times from the paranoia of playing live, after not playing live all of this time, which i've never been that comfortable with at any time - but when you're in a group, in a secure situation, i get really comfortable. i'm not an extrovert, so, playing live always has that tension about it.

i was ready to kill myself, writing tunes to do it, i was only going to do it because i couldn't turn down that opportunity, the money, and to do it again, but it was killing me, the fear of having to front a show, talk to an audience - after never doing that - so i was happy when it got canceled. which is a real sad case, but that's where i was, and that's the truth of it.

it will probably kill me, when i go and play live the first time, because i haven't done it for so long - i did it for so long, from the time i was thirteen until i was thirty-nine. but now as an adult, where i've sensitized myself - i'm not drunk when i'm up there, or ripped on whatever - now it's just me, and i'm a lot more naked sort of a person now. so, it will be difficult, but i probably will have to do that. i'm trying to steer zoot horn rollo into the studio, not on the stage, that's what i'm trying to say.

so would you feel more comfortable if you were a part of a band, and it wasn't like: 'here's zoot horn rollo!'?

yeah, yeah! that was the part of my life. it was like: 'you do the backflips, you've got the tits', whatever is going on up front. i teach everybody the parts, rehearse them, and actually get a band that knows how to play. because i think there's a lot of great musicians, but they don't know how to create a band sound; thinking of shapes, loud-soft, short-long, spacing, clearing out, you know, all those things that make a band sound. i like bands, that's why again, free jazz stuff will bore me because there's no idea of presenting something. it's like: 'hey, man, i do this', you know. and that's cool, but if you're going to go out in front of an audience, you have to think about them, too.

(*)

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