captain beefheart electricity

DON'T ARGUE THE CAPTAIN
the interviews


 

BEEFHEART
interview

from musiczine MOONLIGHT DRIVE #1/81 and #2/81 0102(?)81 and 0104(?)81 england
by phil maltman
 is 28.03.72 interview

note:
privately recybered in fall 1994 as 'let's hope the hip people choose life instead of death on their hip.'

part 1 - THIS is PART 2

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does zappa still hold some of your music?

yeah, well he better turn it over to warner reprise, because they bought my contract. he and cohen: they sold me in the night, like they would an indian dancer or something, you know what i mean - a sort of shanghai job. if you'll listen to a song called 'orange claw hammer' i think you'll know i was aware they were going to do that anyway, but there was no way i could get that out of the paper at that time.... you just listen to that and see what you think...: 'a high hat / shanghaied by a --', you know. not only that but 'the blimp' also.

but what can you do when they pull business routines on you like that...? i mean, i was free, but i'm not that hole they want to make me go through, that blows the musical trumpet.... you know, like, man, i'm not gonna do that for nobody. i blow my own horn, nobody tells me when to blow my horn. that's what they were trying to do and there's no way.... so it just delayed me, let's say, and also deluded me.

what really worried me, is the way that this society is like. when i did 'trout mask replica' that sort of imagination is few and far between, and i wonder about zappa putting me off in the category of a freak, because i thought maybe that would encourage children, and men and women and everything.... ah, dogs are just too unattached to take hard narcotics and try to be as freaky as captain beefheart and the magic band when they see that album, and the thing is that i was totally down.... always have been, once it was slipped on me, but....

it seems a bit strange that nobody, even people i know, can't seem to realise that 'trout mask replica' is so far ahead, and get onto it.... i just don't understand it....

that's it. you're an artist and a writer, and...-

yeah, but it's sad....

it is sad.

how do you find a business man who has the mind of an artist?

you know, i think i've done that - and it has taken me seven years. a lot of people say: 'it's about time you made it....', but man, i don't like people telling me 'it's about time you're making it'. i've been making it all along, and they haven't been making it, you know, i mean the business.... because there's a lot of people who would like to hear this group, i know.... well, they are showing it now, but that's because of warner reprise. but they have rooked people again with the words not being on the album [english copy]. i don't know what to do about that, but i'll try to get them out in a magazine over here. i think they should pay for publishing it, i really do.

it's like that with most records, say, the grateful dead or jefferson airplane....

no, don't say those in comparison with me, please.

i'm talking about the business men, not the musicians.

but don't say those names in the same room or interview with me, if you will.... i mean, if i have any control: don't say that! because it just doesn't come near: i'm an artist, not a seller of narcotics..., ooh!

terry: they have the same problems...-

don't they make their own though.... they are phasing themselves - and for what? like, that isn't art man. if that's art, it's not the way í see art, any of my group and me.

i think a lot of people get it so mixed up.

of course they do, that's society.

have you met any musicians over here?

a band called jethro tull, who i went to see. ian anderson, jeffrey hammond hammond, ian's wife jenny - they're really nice people - and i just vaguely met the guitar player. i didn't meet the drummer, but they are really nice and i think they will continue to be nice throughout their success. ornette coleman is the only person i have met who is that way. i thought jethro tull were very good and they really had it worked out. it looked like theatre to me, the way you seldom see theatre in this day and age. a lot of people say it's too worked out or over-rehearsed, but what they don't give them credit for, is that they're growing. it is knowing you are a human being and remaining a human being, fighting off the star seat....

i mean, just because i am a star doesn't mean that i don't know that i'm the one who is shining, that the audience isn't making me shine. you can't really entertain and play to somebody if you think that they have turned you on. i turn myself on, they turn themselves on and we meet in a nice happy doughnut..., something like an almond roll - and it just rolls and rolls.... that's a good line....; you gotta give me a copy of this [tape]. i'll put that on an album, right there.

zoot said that in america they didn't receive 'trout mask replica' as well as they did over here.

well, maybe they received captain beefheart singing. maybe zoot horn wasn't himself then. you have to be yourself before you can give something as far out as music out. that's why blues singers are themselves: they are talking about themselves and their work, their labour, the sky the way it looked that morning. if you are yourself, you can smile out what you are doing. you know, paint out love rather than complication. if you are playing telepathic music, you have to be twice as relaxed as you would be to go out and emulate.... umm... bop, bop, bop, you know, like mother heart-beat. i would like to get away from that, leave my heart alone and play freely. you know: one, two, three, four, bang bang, bang, two step is a war. back and forth it's negative, that much emphasis on one point is too intellectual. rock and roll must move. i mean, a rock is stationary but doesn't a rock roll? well, they should know that. all that emphasis on one change of life. rock and roll, i think, is disappearing. what with anderson getting into theatrics. i would like to be able to do that.

it was nice to be able to meet you the other night.

i am glad you did, but that speakeasy thing was so corny. we had to turn the record player down to even talk.

they wouldn't even do that.

well, the people were very frightened and drinking poison in a dark cavern and everything. saying cunts about women and stuff like that.... i mean, why do they always use a woman as a...: derogatory like that? they must not have got over their mothers or something. you have to get over your mother to love a woman. really love a woman.

do you listen to the beatles now that they have split up?

i have listened to some. i have definitely heard mccartney's 'ram'. i haven't got that much into it. he went through a hell of a note there, being thrown up into stardom, and then in the end throwing rocks at each other. it's a shame. maybe they wanted everybody to know they were human beings, maybe that was natural.

you've had a lot of interviews, do you think people are just trying to fathom the 'legend'?

maybe they think i am bacon or shakespeare... - i'm just kidding.... i am not putting myself up alongside shakespeare, because he's gone and i am better. he's gone and i'm here. he did some awful nice stuff and i am not comparing but it seems that zappa tried to make something like that out: you know, a real classic. or a callic or something - he has no business trying to train callics. i have always been a callic and if i am lucky, one day i may even be a cauliflower but for a better evolution.... a flower, we could be picked like a flower. but people just don't understand simple things like that.... i would never want to be a guru or anything like that. i did a satirical thing, 'ella guru'. that's obvious. but people don't seem to understand. there is too much freak stuff attached around it. they have got the wrong guy. i don't want them to take the needle or be a porcupine to dig captain beefheart.

well it even clouds me. when you tell me about various bits and pieces it becomes clearer because you have been under zappa's command.

(turning to his wife jan:) are you all right babe? you have been sitting there all day not saying a word.... do you wanna go to the toilet...? there's one through the kitchen.

jan: too much work.

too much work...! getting high on your own urine you're liable to things.... think you are a yoga - a yoga is a policeman with a paper gun. you can get high on holding your own urine, that is one form of poison. when people say they are doing drug music, i really think a human being did it. i don't think that an aspirin, on that particular day, that wonderful day..., that an aspirin suddenly turned into a human being and painted the world - no.... i don't think god is a modern tablet: i have a song called 'ussen's bible' that i wrote over here. i wrote it very freely. there was no fear of guns and i like that. i could come over here and really write, i am sure. it is a drag man, thinking that they are having life and death on their hip. let's hope the hip people don't have life and death, let's hope they chose life instead of death on their hip. that's significant what i just said - is that on the tape? that would be good in an article or a.... but i hope people don't interpret it as an article of clothing....

you are going to liverpool, aren't you?

is that the mersey?... i heard about that, with somebody named 'the pacemakers'.

oh: 'ferry 'cross the mersey'.

that fellow was pretty good, wasn't he? the way he played the guitar: as if he didn't really want to do it - that was far out. he sure had an artist approach; i mean, good grief, he was really into it. we have already eaten today, we are starting on the night, no tooth to the moon.... no, i'm just teasing you; acting like one of those heavy-duty indian poets. i have a '50 hudson hornet at home and it is barbecue brown. almost like they have taken a syringe and taken the colour off a buffalo and put it on the metal and it didn't quite make it, that's the colour i am talking about. animal colours look very far out on metal....

i have a friend who sells clothes in his shop in london and he has got a ford mustang...-

oh brother, that's a tyrant.

and he has got it yellow and flocked to look like a tiger.

oh lord, that's really far out, where's he at man..., doesn't he know that some chick is liable to dig the material and have it put on a coat. a very dangerous thing to emulate anything that beautiful; that is really weird: a tiger.... i wish they would quit poaching all those animals over there, you ought to scream back to your ancestors... - i'm just kidding. but that wasn't in africa, that was here, like rabbits and sheep....

and salmon.

you mean i may have eaten a poached lox.... do you like creamed cheese and lox, it is like salmon. nova scotia lox are salmon with cream cheese on a bagle. it is a jewish dish.

it's a shame that people still come and see you and think of you as a freak.

well, i think they are beginning to get over that now. i guess it is better that they get over it now than prolong it and get embarrassed to even come and hear me after that.

you are gonna make this regular now: coming over?

yeah, oh yeah; no more milk of magnesia... - gonna be regular.

g.s. (friend of phil): can you record your own things at home?

i can. i did, for instance, 'the dust blows forward and the dust blows back' and 'orange claw hammer' and 'china pig' on the 'trout mask' album on a cassette.

it said something on the word sheet to 'trout mask replica' about the condition of the players on 'china pig': what was the condition?

oh that. yes well, i will tell you about that, completely sober as a matter of fact. in the background there was a fellow typing out the words to another song. it was a strictly spontaneous thing.... music is good for you, makes you let go of things without getting anything back. you know, like, how are you gonna trap a note?

do you ever write things for piano? do you play lots of piano?

yeah, a lot.

i find piano music to be incredibly timeless....

yeah, i do too. i played for five days once without stopping. my back was, ah..., for the times that i did find the time, my back and muscles was hurt on every one of them. you know it is silly, but i'm not that..., there yet. i mean, i don't know all about it yet.

what about guitar: do you play that?

oh yeah.... i like to fool around with the guitar, pretty far out man. a piano turned up like this [a harp] and you are accused of being an angel every minute, like catching a harp string on a curb field.

how long have you been playing the soprano?

let's put it this way: i played it the first time i came over here to middle earth. antennae jimmy semens and drumbo gave me a soprano and i played that soprano at the middle earth for two and a half hours and i had never played it before - and it is the same now: i never played it before, every time that i play it. i never rehearse. drumbo was never..., was keeping track of the times that i played that horn. i have played that horn now probably 240 times and never rehearsed in between them and won't. i don't rehearse the voice either. like 'trout mask replica', i just sang that thing when i went in to do it. i had no idea how it was going to sound, i just read the paper and sung it.... occasionally i'll just sing out of memory but i usually just read it.... then sometimes spontaneously i will do them....

do you still play the bass clarinet?

oh yeah, i love it.... i did that on 'dachau blues' and also on 'flash gordon's ape'. had three of them going, it was really weird.... and man, the guy left the studio: thought i was kidding. well i was, you know, i always am.... but why more significance on that than any other thing that i do? they just left the studio and i left the thing running. they thought i was 'goofing off'. well, i have changed engineers and now i'm gonna be with a fellow named ted templeman...: does a lot for van morrison. i think this guy is good....

the other guy was good, but just doesn't have enough time for someone like me. by the way: he told me one thing that was really funny. he told me that this album that i had done now - listen to this, it's hilarious - he told me: 'well you are sure feeling better, a lot more down to earth, a lot more this and a lot more that...: you were really crazy when you did 'lick my decals off, baby'...'. like that, and i was half way through the album and i went..., oh boy, i was really scared.

could you tell me a little about that song 'when it blows its stacks'?

you mean, the fellow that takes the girl out on an iceberg, hands her a ronson and says: 'i'll see you around'. well i think that is sort of what has been done to women, you know, kind of left floating when they are on the ground. as it is, they have this blood clock, you know: the period. if you want to know what is happening, ask a woman, right? i mean, men are really far out; woman is considered to be far out, but i think they're ín. a lot of men would really disagree with what i just said.... women certainly know what is good for men.... i guess man is the biggest flaw on the planet, but since you have to survive i think it's very important to take into consideration the natural flaws that already exist. i am trying to find out if i have arrived or not....

it's not that many people that have got control over their own destiny....

why?.... you can get your own distillery, people have been making their own whiskey for years. just take the fire out of it and you have got nice water.... or put the fire into it and you have got in nice cases some good water too. but in my case i get allergic when i drink, i break out in a horrid rash. i look like the beatles record of 'strawberry fields forever' - fields, not feels....

(here there is a long pause until the captain starts talking about the famous two-fingered peace sign.)

don't you think it is a bit fascist nowadays? don't you think that when it closes (brings all the fingers together), it's a nazi salute because of all the tv type of thought pattern that would make somebody do that..., replaces 'hello'.... now when the monkey reaches into the jar for the raisons if he can't let go of the raisons, he can't get his hand out of the jar. you go round with a glass jar on your hand all your life.... then the monkey, being that his claws are worn down - as is referred to in 'when it blows its stacks' - has a glass jar on one hand and is holding onto the tree with the other, afraid to break the jar in case his hand gets cut.

( the captain asks jan if she would like to write the b-side to 'blabber 'n' smoke'.)

do you have a new single out?

there is one out right now. ['click clack' - t.t.]

they may want you on 'top of the pops'....

i would love to man, but i wouldn't want to be on top of anything...: if i couldn't hold up, i may topple off. (girl walking past.) that's a really plastic show though.... not with me on it. though imagine that plastic. it would be almost like an artificial hand to a real one, if i went on. if you wanna know what that is: it is a man running over a stop sign. i know it was a man, because a woman would have had to pay for the tyres....

(speaking very deeply:) don't i have a deep voice, eh...? they would have to bury me pretty deep to keep my voice off the air. they had to dig real deep to find a way to keep me from being around. i mean like, zappa was just digging till his shovel ran out..., and his shovel is worn out now, poor little thing.... probably had a bent sand bucket when he went to the beach as a child. i find more and more that zappa is less and less: i always thought he was a nice fellow till he made me think that he wasn't. he forced it on me..., like 'i'm not níce'. i never got paid for 'willie the pimp' or 'trout mask replica': that's business? i think he is a very bad, very bad business man: don't keep all your eggs in one basket!

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captain beefheart electricity
as felt by teejo

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