captain beefheart electricity

THE DUTCH INTERVIEWS
translated interviews


 

DON VAN VLIET
beefheart special

from COPYRIGHT art-magazine #5 spring 1991
DENMARK quarterly art magazine
by lars movin
is 30.01.91 denmark telephone interview

note: besides the danish text the writer published the original english version (with some wrong dates corrected by me, teejo):

part 1 - part 2 - THIS is PART 3

*

there have been so many rumours about your relationship to frank zappa - about him stealing your ideas and so on...

we are talking again. i called him up, and i said: 'hi, frank'... and he said, he, he, he: 'hi, donny'... he calls me donny, but my name is actually don. anyway, he seems to like to call me donny.

was he very surprised to get a call from you?

he was vry surprised. after eight years, hu, hu, hu...

yes, i just read his book called 'the real frank zappa book' - it's a kind of autobiography...

really? at his age he is writing an autobiography? hu, hu, hu...

yes, i think he felt that so much bullshit had been written about him, he wanted to tell something that was more true...

it isn't worth getting through the bullshit to find out what the bull ate!

you are probably right.

is it a good book?

well, part of it is quite interesting. he is focusing a lot on the early years around studio z in cucamonga, about the film that you wanted to do together, 'captain beefheart versus the grunt people' and so on...

hmmm, he is a funny guy...

you used to go to high school together, or...?

no! i never went there. i went to the kindergarten for half a year (somewhere else he has stated: dy - teejo), and i called my mother and said: 'get me out of the place'... - and she did. she should! - i'm her only child. i was the ruler of that road, he, he, he...

you have been saying something about the importance of not going to school and staying a child...

i think that school has so many freudian concepts - i mean, that guy (freud, a psychoanalyst - t.t.) was a crp. hmmm, academia is steeped in all kinds of sleeping... too melodramatic, although i suppose if one knew what one wanted to do, it would be alright to go to school. but i have never seen a school that would let one do what one wanted to do.

is that how you felt as a child?

yeah!

what were you like as a child - is it true that you were some kind of a wonderchild --

h, h, h... h, h, h... don't say that...

-- appearing on television, and doing sculptures? is that what you did?

that's what i was doing at the time, yes. i mean, one doesn't give up what one wants to do.

some children do...

they shouldn't! because i think that's bad for the mind. i knw that's bad for the mind. i mean, i had that small time in kindergarten, and this bright girl told me: 'you were there tht long? you were there to long!'

so what do you believe in today?

the same thing, essentially. i just like to paint.

are you optimistic about it?

oh, yeah. i'm pretty happy. i'm so happy with who my art dealer is - michael werner. he's great. he has baselitz. he has immerdorf. he has penck. and he has afellow from over where you are...

is it kirkeby?

yeah. he is good. i'd like to meet him.

you know, francis bacon once said that he was very optimistic about...: nothing --

h, h, h, h, h, h...

-- and that way of putting it for some reason reminded me of you...

that's good, he, he, he... i understand that perfectly! do you like him?

yes.

good. he is very optimistic at playing. if he wants to play, he plays. what i mean is, he looks like he is having a real good time. i have seen him in london - his paintings, i mean. i never met him. i would have liked to meet van gogh, from the hague.

what do you think about the art censorship that is happening in the united states these days?

i think that they ought to start an rmy. i mean, that's the same thing. from over here it looks pretty funny, doesn't it to you?

the art censorship or the war?

both, hu, hu, hu... can you imagine that someone is censoring your art?

well, at least it means that art means something to somebody - otherwise there would be no reason to censor it.

(....)

don van vliet / captain beefheart (and jan van vliet) - picture from 1988 - denmark 010591 copyright art-magazine
(picture actually is from 1988)

by the way, what made you call frank zappa again? did you just want to talk to him, or did you have an idea about working with him again?

no, i just... somebody told me that he was sick, so i called up and said: 'how do you feel?' and he said: 'pretty good'. and i said: 'good'.

(....)

i understand that the person of the... -- i hear myself coming back, and that makes me confused, hu, hu, hu... so, let's see... czechoslovakia, the president...

vclav havel...

yeah, nice guy. he told frank that he preferred captain beefheart! hu, hu, hu....

well, that's nice - how did frank like that?

he told me that he had dinner with the president of czechoslovakia, and he preferred my music, he, he, he, and i said: 'how was your dinner?'.

so what did he say?

'fine!'

so, maybe you would like to go and see havel next time you come to europe?

yes, i like his beer... pilsner! that's good beer.

can you get it in california?

yes, i got a lot of it when penck was here. it's penck's favorite beer. but i hear that it is different on draught. what do yu drink?

beer. danish beer. tuborg or carlsberg.

pretty good, isn't it?

how do you feel in general in the nineties? is there any decade where you have had your best time, or have you been out of time all the time?

hu, hu, hu. eh, i always have a good time. i can't think of any time that is better than now, right now. yu have a favorite time?

well, i kind of like nw too, but when i think back, i definitely liked the eighties better than the seventies.

hmmm - you are younger than me, i think.

yes, i'm 31.

oh god, you've got it made. when you turn 33, you can say that you are 'long playing'...

yes, right, i never thought about it that way - so that means that you are faster when you are 45?

hmmm, let's see... i just turned 50, january 15th, and i strung the 5 after i bent it straight and put it through the hole. so i escaped that. i think jack benny said he was 39 all along.

for how many years?

for years. he was a good comedian. do you have any favorite comedians?

not really.

do you know lenny bruce?

yes, he was good.

i knew him. he was a very smart man.

i'm too young to have known him, but i heard him on records, and i saw this film where dustin hoffman is playing him...

that's no good. as a matter of fact i think that that's the worst thing dustin ever did. nothing like lenny bruce. he was a smart, smart man...

are you still writing lyrics?

yes.

what are you doing with them?

putting them into a pile, he, he, he... it is fun to write poetry.

so what do you want to do with them, when you have a big pile? hello! hello! hll! (telephone disconnected.) hello - what happened?

i think dustin hoffman was listening - he is probably working at the telephone company.

probably.

do you like bunuel? (artistic filmmaker from spain - t.t.)

very much.

yeah, me too. do you like philip larkin, the poet?

i don't know him.

he is good; oh, he is good.

thank you for this time.

thank you. say hello to kirkeby from me.

you might meet him if you come to denmark for the exhibition next year.

i might meet you.

yes.

try and hold up a hand so i can recognize you.

i will. that'll be me in the crowd with the hand up.

yes, wave to me.

nice talking to you.

nice talking to yu. you sure speak good english - way better than me, and i'm supposed to be an american, he, he, he...

*


note
also two poems were reprinted from don's 1987 book skeleton breath scorpion blush:
a tin peened reindeer
three months in the mirror

*

click clack back to the power station


captain beefheart electricity
as felt by teejo

^