DON'T ARGUE THE CAPTAIN
from musiczine MOONLIGHT
DRIVE #1/81 and #2/81 0102(?)81 and 0104(?)81 england
by phil maltman
is 28.03.72 interview
privately recybered in fall 1994 as 'let's hope the hip people choose life instead of death on their hip.'
THIS is PART 1 - part 2
while captain beefheart was touring england in 1972 he gave an exclusive interview to phil maltman after his march concert at the albert hall. phil never published this interview and it seems a shame not to do so now, at the time of captain beefheart's reappearance in this country. we are pleased to publish this interview as the captain spoke to phil in depth about several aspects of his music and his relationship to the music business.
how has the tour gone up to now?
real good, yeah, we've had a lot of nice talks. also i enjoyed the people last night, i really did. i did have a little trouble with the fact that there was only one microphone on the stage.
i had heard that when everybody asks for more, you would whistle the tune 'more'?
i did it, yeah.... no, i'm just kidding, i was just teasing.
did you really want to come back on stage?
no, because i really feel that - well, like, i don't need to come back on, but if they wanna be the switchmen for a little while, i'll let them do it. i must admit i enjoyed coming back, but i don't believe in comebacks. i am always a never was; there ain't no never the same - do you know what i mean? i mean, i've never seen the sun setting, i've seen it móving.... i have set on my ass a lot, too much in my lifetime, but i know the sun has never had a day off. they try to pretend it's an off day or something, but every day of my life has been really nice, even though i haven't always admitted it.
i read that you had written about ten novels...-
more than that....
and done hundreds of paintings and so on. what's your working day like..., or just a day....
i don't work though, i just play.... as if i... the same thing i did when i was a child. i would go out and play and, all of a sudden, i would be interrupted in the garden, seeing butterflies as big as my eyes..... somebody saying 'it's time to come to dinner' or 'come on to dinner'. when i wasn't hungry i would stay longer, if i was i would go eat, that's what my day was like.
you have moved to a new place in california. what's the country like?
eureka...: that's where the rabbits go two miles an hour and the trees walk right into the ocean - the redwoods.
bill harkleraod was telling me about the whales.
oh yeah, the whales cleaning their barnacles out there - and they sing! a fellow named mike tierson recorded that and gave me a copy of the whales singing.... but i had heard that a long time ago.... like, the other night i got on that horn with ed marimba, you know, at the end there or whatever it was. well, anyway, i was playing my horn with him on that 'spitball scalped a baby' and i feel i was communicating with not only people but...: dolphins and whales. i feel that i sound like a whale..., but ah... i definitely think that those things are very intelligent. they are not going to find out how intelligent they are by cutting into their brains, and all that bullshit that the scientists do under the auspices of inserting a ruler into their way of life. you know, i would never allow anyone to insert a ruler into my way of life - that's all i haven't done, that's what an artist does: rebut, but not rebut too much. i mean, i don't give a damn, i think they're all disconnected or they wouldn't wanna do things like that.... a monkey, you know, is a smart animal. like, why can't man be as smart as a monkey? you have never seen a monkey try to operate on a man's mind, but you have seen men try to operate on a monkey's mind - that's ridiculous man. i don't want anybody messing with my mind, and i don't wanna be the monkey that monkeys with a monkey's mind.
that's interesting what you say about tampering with people's minds. from what you say i shouldn't think you have much faith in art schools.
not much, not really. but i think some people need those things to get them going after they have been stopped by themselves, you see?
but just things like, you say your working day is play..., they don't take that kind of attitude....
then they are very retarded art schools. if they were the other way, it would be nice, man.
i know you didn't go to art school, but are there any in the u.s. that you know or have seen?
mine, i think.... i mean, like, with zoot horn rollo and with rockette morton, them teaching me, me teaching them, us playing together..., em..., well, i thought it was awful nice, it should have been filmed; but frank zappa - i was on his label at the time - i begged him to film a day's activity at the house. i couldn't get the money myself.... he didn't even give us any amplifiers till three days before we did 'trout mask replica'. i told him, i said: 'excuse yourself, move aside and allow me to go onto a label which can afford - rather than buying bullets for vietnam - can afford to let this be seen'.
and at that time i was willing to conduct that school, as well as all of us. but not now. that's one time that i was, now.... i'm putting my art out myself, you see? but i think it's all right on that album, i think that that's a definite way, a very important contribution to the world, very free and open. i wrote it in eight and a half hours. words and music, and there was no thought in it other than the playing of it. come to find out that the damn words aren't on it over here!... people paid money for that album and got an incomplete album!... i would like to do something about that.
it was the same with 'lick my decals off, baby'.
that's because of the 'straight' label. that's because he didn't want those words out there. he wanted to hold me back.
i can't understand that.
well, he is not an artist and i ám. you can understand it.... i mean, they have always tried to put artists in a line.... there is no way i can walk a straight line, there is no such thing as a straight line. all nature is a circle, and he is a jerk in a circle, a circle jerky. he's a jerk. he said he discovered me: he didn't discover me man, my mother gave birth to me.... not that mother, you know: the mothers of invention....
when are your books coming out?
all the time right now.... no, no..., i got a lot of books and i will be sure to send you one, without money or anything like that. some people are gonna have to pay for it...: we gotta eat.
what are the books to be published?
one called 'old fart at play', which is a novel, a humorous novel, not a novelty, no tees or squares or rulers or designs.... you know, it's just - it's funny. i hope nobody takes it seriously: too much drug attention on it makes it into another pill....
that's one thing, the drug thing. i know how you feel about it, but does that ever stop you getting into people's music or writing because they have been using drugs?
no, no, not at all. but i don't particularly care to be around people who are on poison. poison pen letters aren't all that palatable to me, because it is against my system. i really don't think people need poison to distort, or whatever they wanna do to their imagination, i don't think it is necessary.... as a matter of fact, i think it is a hindrance. hendrix certainly proved that...: he had so much to give, it was so good, it was too bad he never got off that. i would like to hear him now, in person, wouldn't you? i would, right now; i would, i mean that.
he was very much an entertainer in the same way as you are on stage. he held all that and he had so much, it just....
that is terrible man. i mean, it doesn't delude the art for me, but i must admit - when i think about it - it seems a shame that someone that artistic would have to poison himself. whether he was forced to it by social fads or....
it must be difficult for you and the band to avoid people who smoke and take...-
not really, but i don't mind.... i mean, marijuana is a weed, let's face it. it's a weed and excess of anything is harmful, but it doesn't freeze one's blood like hard narcotics. myself, i smoke occasionally, more occasionally than i should, but i am now beginning to cut down. but it's not that good to smoke, i don't think it's that good to put any emphasis, you know.... psychologically pot may be harmful because people say: 'that's my imagination.'
i notice they are holding up a joint like this as something new, and as i've said so often: i think that now the joint has become part of the human anatomy. that may have been written before, i don't know - i don't read that much - but i say myself that if a joint has gotta be a part of the human anatomy, i don't think it is possible. the leader that runs out of the back of your leg is your leader, makes you move - not marijuana, you would be walking anyway. so why put that much emphasis in this day and age on one thing, is it to avoid everything else..., or what?
i suppose it is to make it respectable, like they try to make you - by saying your new album 'the spotlight kid' is a lot simpler and easier to 'get into' than the rest.
i don't think it is any easier, do you? i think it is more raging than the others, and the feeling in the group is a lot stronger and warmer than all the others. i don't think it was commercial, although it is palatable it seems. i thought 'trout mask replica' should have been the most commercial thing that ever happened.
you have been put over a lot better by warner reprise.
well, i think i should have been put over a lot better before. like i said, 'trout mask replica' was very important. you said: 'is there a school?' thát was a school. like a school of fish, you know, ah..., swallowed by judas.... i'm just kidding.
the next album is 'brown star'. can you tell us something about it?
on that album is 'big eyed beans from venus'. it's like, one thing: 'don't let anyone get between us' - meaning like love people.... you know, big eyes as opposed to... (eyes like slits). another song is 'blue something'.
are you still constantly changing the band?
no, no, this.... it's.... i would feel good the way it is, i like it, the telepathy....
what happened to antennae jimmy semens, the mascara snake and drumbo?
well, my cousin is the mascara snake, so i'm in contact with him.... he is painting, and he is thinking about having a band of his own, though i wish he would do it and not think about it: he has always thought too much.
what about drumbo?
that is a good question. what would you say about that, jan?
jan (the captain's wife): i don't really know.
that's like, really funny. i mean, playing with us..., three years with rockette morton and zoot and myself, a year and a half with ed marimba, and then just leaving.... but who is to question why? who is to walk after a cat?... all of a sudden you are petting a cat and it just leaves...! i mean, where does it go? he wanted to leave; i can't say: 'you stay here!' - i don't have contracts with musicians. i really think he made a bad mistake.... i mean, it is sad when people want to hear him and now he's not playing.
yeah, he sounded so distinctive....
although, i am gonna tell you something. i wrote every drum part he ever played, every one of them.
are you still doing this?
no, i just wanted to tell you that.
terry (a friend of phil's): it was funny last night though, ed was playing so much like drumbo on the songs from 'trout mask replica'.
but not like him now.... man, this cat is...: i really dare say, the best there ever was on this planet. i mean, when i say best, he feels about it so nice, he doesn't mean any harm. i have to tell you the truth: drumbo occasionally meant harm when he played that instrument. he had a real hatred, but that's all right as long as it goes into the music.... it is washed clean - not to be religious - like holy water.
drumbo, well, i think he left because of the fact that, since i created all of the music all of that time, because i had been defending that stuff for a long time, now we are beginning to, everyone is beginning to.... and he didn't want any part of it.... and i always tried to get him to play his own parts, and i always try to get this group to play their own parts. they are now beginning to.... sometimes though, i don't know what it is, zoot and rockette don't want any part of playing their own parts. they just wanna play my music, but i always told them, you know.... this is my idea, it took me a long time - that's why we didn't get a lot done, but at least we got...: something honest done.
how is winged eel fingerling fitting into the band? is he still living in los angeles?
he lives in los angeles., but comes up there whenever we are.... so it is ok to have him live in l.a.. until he gives up, i would.... he lives on santa monica straight, and there is a lot of health food stores....
is it a big community?
i don't know, well, i.... varied.... like, a hundred and ten acres overlooking the ocean. rockette morton has a goat named caleb, a big billy goat. nice thing, smart. as a matter of fact: that goat was trained by a woman named della mallory. when it was a baby - it's four now - that goat was trained on horseback to jump through a hoop, a hoop of fire, onto another horse's back...; but he would never perform in public. he was too bashful. they say he would have been worth 150,000 dollars in a three or four year period. but he is smart...! goats áre smart...! people say they aren't.
do you think people have to teach goats then?
i don't think so. i think goats have to teach people. did you ever eat goat's milk cheese? you can eat that without even spilling blood.
can you tell us about your last manager: grant gibbs?
man, i don't know where he's at, but all i can tell you is: he tried to pull a very funny stunt. because we had a..., like, corporation, 'god's golfball', that i started. he was in the corporation, with a fellow named mark green, al liefer and myself. very nice: open, books on the table, above board corporation - and he just blew it! grant gibbs blew it...: he was trying to act like thoreau or something in a day and age when it's ridiculous, man.... he was supposed to be my manager, you know, with people like writers, people i really like...; he didn't even relay the messages they sent me, things like that! it was just vulgar. carl scott is there now. he is really there, casts a big shadow, casts a real big shadow.... ah, that's a nice way of putting it: he weighs 450 pounds, you know, american.... he casts a beautiful shadow, artistically. he is losing weight now for his health, but he sure looks good. he is a good man, that's how come i'm over here.
terry: the things that are on the back of the new album [poems], i saw those in an american magazine, 'creem', with cross marks on them.... apparently where herb cohen had crossed them out, crumpled them up, and thrown them in the bin.
isn't that enough? you know what is really ironic, is that grant gibbs used to work for straight/bizarre, frank zappa, herb cohen. evidently they shamed him to such a degree that he tried to be with me to get that past out - which i think is even more vulgar than what théy did. he found those, uh, biographies in a trash can, and he is the one who saved them and had them put in creem, and there were the slash marks he thought was such a degradation to art. but then he did the same thing, when he thought he could be with beefheart and get back at zappa... - í never wanted to get back at zappa: i wanted to get away from him -... and here he goes and does me worse.
i mean, just as bad: pretending to be nice, then being like that. a complete detumescence of my business, just like that. where is he, gone away again? no, man! i was waiting by the phone, you know, like..., i had a line out over the hills. a lot of people were trying to contact me for work over here.... i didn't even héar about it...!
then all of a sudden i get this tour of the u.s.. 'where have you been; it's great, this legend'. i said: 'what do you mean?'. they said: 'what about gibbs?', and all of a sudden i get the tip off - isn't that it, though? you know, the books they delayed me getting out, 'old fart at play' and 'singing ink', the book of poetry, and a lot of things.... he had nothing to do with a film with me - even zappa had nothing to do with a film with me. i wouldn't do a film with zappa..., i would do it with someone that would sit down and look in my eyes, eat with me, breathe with me, or hold their breath.
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captain beefheart electricity
as felt by teejo