captain beefheart electricity

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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 - part 4 - THIS is part 5

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all right, what was the last recording that you did that you were really happy with?

never.

you've never been happy with anything that you've ever done?

that's another sad case of the attitude i have towards myself.

is it just because you're a perfectionist, or do you think you're not a good guitar player?

kind of both. i'm a perfectionist. i think it's a natural tendency for anyone who is progressing, because you're walking forward and once you have recorded it, you are ten steps past it by the time you get to hear it, and that's old shit, every time. i think that's natural for anybody. you go back, and you can go: 'oh, that's a nice part', but my particular illness is i think i suck, and i don't know why anybody likes anything i do, and it's from low self-esteem, and i'll go back and listen and go: 'those four notes were cool, but god, why did i go and play that after that'.

so in the total thing, no, i don't think i have liked anything i've played in its totality. there's been nice moments. but, i do appreciate the fact that i have tried to do something different, and that i have a unique feel in my play, that is uniquely me, and that's something that is sadly missing out there in the world of musicians. and so, i respect myself for chiseling out something that is true to me, and also, unique enough that it's like that. at times, when you take that risk to be unique, you really miserably fail, because it sucks. but then you have to say it's ok because you're not doing the lee ritenour-proven perfect arpeggio, you know what i mean?

god, i love hearing people say that. it actually spawns a new question: do you think that there's anybody out there right now, who is really doing different things, pushing the envelope?

i'm uneducated to listening to a lot of different people right now, i'm not familiar enough. you two guys, you come back with sonny sharrock and derek bailey - i know the names, i haven't listened. i am sure there is - my experience so far is kind of bad, because i get a real snooty thing. like when people tell me how great phillip glass is. i don't get it. i don't get it at all, this guy plays nothing for twenty minutes, and finally we get to listen to a different riff, and that was minimalist creativity. to me, it sucks.

i haven't heard anything that i liked. the people out there that i hear, that get pushed on me, this john zorn thing and whatever is supposed to be so great about that. it just sounds like slightly, not played as good, jazz. meeting john mclaughlin, that was kind of cool.

when did you meet him?

the last days we were coming in here, we were staying at the same hotel. i'm sitting there reading this book, and my wife is sleeping, and i hear this ripping indian flute. and i'm going: 'what the hell?', and i look out, and there is this guy in the full indian garb, out in the garden, and they're taking a photo session. i figured he must be somebody important, and then i go down into the lobby and i see him standing there with some other people, and this guy walks up, and it's john mclaughlin. the whole group was there.

later that night i went up and put a note on his door that said he was, you know, one of the five people who i would go out of my way to go talk to, and three of them are golfers. anyway, i get to talk to him, which was really cool, because he really changed my life. playing with him when we were opening up for him at winterland, with the mahavishnu orchestra (310373 - t.t.), and we're playing our stuff, and there was a point to where i would go: 'captain beefheart, you suck, you're telling me this guy sucks, and these guys are ripping. they're doing new stuff with a rock attitude' - it was kind of like the beginning of fusion, it really was, so he really changed my life.

wow.

i said: 'that's cool, you're back with a major label', and he says: 'it doesn't matter to me, i just play until i drop'.

so, who are the five guys you would go out of your way to talk to?

that was a bullshit statement, you weren't supposed to ask that.

well, we need the three golfers.

the three golfers, um, well it would probably be - we are talking about musicians? i would say it would be him (so john mclaughlin), joe zawinul, ben crenshaw, davis love, and curtis strange.

bill harkleroad / zoot horn rollo - home studio 1997 - sweden 260298 vi tidningen - picture by lars kjellén
additional picture by lars kjellén
from sweden 260298 vi tidningen

what is your second favorite instrument? assuming that the guitar is your first.

it isn't.

oh, it isn't..., ok. what's your first favorite?

i would have been, of the three, a horn player, reed horn, or piano. the guitar was an accident, totally. i've only fallen in love with it recently, in the last few years, as i've gotten enough ability to sing, that it doesn't matter what instrument it is, that the connection between a note or an idea comes out, pretty much like talking. within my cliché-ed group of twenty words i know on the guitar, i have that connection, and it feels really comfortable. so, it doesn't matter now that i play guitar or any other instrument. if i was to pick it by the sound of the instrument: tenor, alto, soprano [sax] or piano, probably.

so, what kept you from those other instruments?

well, i played guitar. like i was going to go back and start over again.

so when you first started playing guitar, you enjoyed it?

when i first started, no. when i first started playing guitar, i wanted to get laid, it didn't have anything to do with music at all.

one of the most common answers....

*

what was your favorite gig that you ever played? assuming that you enjoyed it.

there were a few.... albert hall in london (270372 - t.t.). do you want a reason, or is that...

a reason would be nice.

obviously it's a huge gig, i guess there were about seven, eight thousand people, we packed it and we were the headliners. how in the fuck did that happen? captain beefheart filling albert hall? something was up, and i don't know why. there was the beatles in the audience, so we knew that, and i opened the show. i run out, start whamming on some power chord, e chord - i didn't know it was a power chord then, but i played it - and, my amps off. you run out in albert hall, the biggest gig in your life, balconies, people hanging out, you know, and i'm opening the show, heart beating clear through your chest, run out there and your amp is off. mommy, i wanna go home!

i mean, it really was that, my life passed before me. so, i hold up my finger a moment, '[wait just] one minute', and then i go back, flip the switch, get back and go behind the curtain, run out again, and pause a second, and start whamming the chord again, which, of course, brought down the house. i don't know where that came from. that's not my style of being this introverted little jerk. but, i pulled it off somehow.

and then, the bass player comes out, and his cord is wrapped around the amp, so he gets out there, and, boom!, the amp falls and slides down the stage. the crowd thought that it was totally choreographed, it was awesome. so, it was a large gig, that we played good, and the band felt good about how we played. and the opening, with me being able to pull my foot from my anatomy, get back out and retrieve my dignity, from letting that happen.

and thus set the tone that if anyone else made a mistake it looked liked it was supposed to happen.

exactly, but normally i wouldn't have thought that fast, but really, my life passed before my eyes.

ok, this is the last one, it's kind of bizarre, what's your favorite word starting with 'z'?

zoot.

*

 

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