ou les confessions de don van vliet
from ROCK &
FOLK #65 01.06.72
france monthly music magazine
by paul alessandrini
is 15.04.72 interview
note: the pictures were taken at the 150472 bataclan, paris concert
or the confessions of don van vliet
part 1 - THIS is part 2 - part 3
here the first part ends of an interview which, that was clear, was just the beginning. next comes the dinner in a restaurant at montagne sainte-geneviève. almost the complete band is present. beefheart speaks music, cites, evokes names of musicians. he seems to revive. the contact establishes, warmly. rockette morton is amazed about the size of the avocados... art tripp tells another zappa story... three o'clock in the morning, the p.l.m. again, this people's sleeping factory... alphacity... miserable wall paper music obtrudes on us... beefheart goes to accompany his tired wife... the large hall of the hotel with the false waterfall and its non-stop noise; the shops are closed; all is numb, frozen; the potted trees shake in a wind which is unnatural too: the air conditioning.
it gets cold. rockette morton keeps us company. curious situation: the echo of the voices, an impression of being choked in an empty space... that of a deserted city before it gets crowded. rockette morton is speaking discreetly, without emphasis. he is very different in this vast, luxurious, sinister hall: the musician who some hours earlier paced up and down the stage with great strides. his hollywood outfit is replaced by a very sober costume. left are the moustaches in dali style and the straw hat. he too is the anti pop star. he describes, analyses the english tour, talks about the considerable success the group had all over europe, the full venues, the long ovations - notably the impressive one at the albert hall in london. he has a double function in the band: he is bassist as well as guitarist. he also is the confidant, the protégé, the companion of beefheart.
rockette morton: i like it very much to play beefheart's music. in it i feel free to express myself. we all participate in the creation, because the music is partly improvised. i'm not so very fond of the improvisations on jam-sessions which many musicians play. i think that if you have a very strict arrangement it is a better starting-point and you can put any thing in it you want.
what's the role of the theatre on the stage? how does the transformation happen between the modest, almost timid musician you are here and the other, the dancing one?
rockette morton: i like to be on the stage. it feels like getting liberated: being able to express myself freely, to play with all of my soul... and the joy of a cigarette or a beer afterwards... i like to dance on the stage. tonight i sprained my ankle, i had to put off my shoes, but i kept on dancing. however, these tours are exhausting; especially because we never see the landscape; all cities resemble each other, they're all the same.
in which manner does beefheart compose? are there unreleased compositions on the repertoire of the group which you have never played on stage?
rockette morton: we have a lot of new songs, maybe a hundred or so, where he lets us choose from. don sometimes sits down behind the piano, he loves that. then he can play for eight to ten hours, although he doesn't have any real technique on the instrument. he creates rhythms, makes themes around which we embroider, construct the arrangements. essentially, it is meant to impart a certain feeling to the others, from a particular sound. you can't say that it's a proper béefheart feeling, it's that of the whole band, the sum of different personalities. starting from that particular sound - that of the entire magic band - we always try to keep ourselves on a high level of energy.
ROY ESTRADA oréjon / audi hon
beefheart has rejoined us, his voice is even lower, stony, coming from far away. seated in an easy chair he seems the more imposing, with that bonnet on his head which looks like a night-cap with the pompon that hangs down on his shoulder.
you say that you're unschooled, you state you never have read a single book, not heard, never listened to other musician's works, and still - during the conversation at the restaurant - you have brought up a quantity of names of musicians from jazz, rock, blues whom you seem to know well, you have spoken about musical forms, et cetera...
beefheart: it's normal, living in los angeles, that i've heard about all those musicians i know by name.i'm obliged to know who they are, but actually i don't pay much attention to them. the ones i know because i really listened to them, are charlie mingus, john coltrane. i've heard albert ayler on the radio. (addressing to rockette morton: have you often seen me listening to music? rockette morton: maybe once or twice.) i prefer to plunge into my own music.
they say you're a friend of ornette coleman, is that right?
ornette is a marvellous character, who i like very much; but our relations are rather friendly than musically or professionally. i wanted to know him, so i called him up in new york. i simply told him that i liked to meet him to have a talk. then he came up to listen to me at a concert some time later.
what do you think of his bassist charlie haden?
uhmm... (to rockette morton:) what do yóu think of him?
rockette morton: he's a very great bassist.
i know that it's a commonplace, but i'd like you to tell us about your quarrel with zappa.
he has told some very vulgar things about my person, like for ' "he's flipped out because he was married', that's very vulgar, i think. actually, i'm not so much interested in him at all, as he has tried to put me aside and exploit me. he wanted to make a 'freak' out of me, to present me as a monstrous person - instead of my art, of what i'm really doing. he has used me for the same purpose as alice cooper.
why did you work with him?
i've worked with him because i knew him vaguely from earlier days... vaguely, that's all. in the beginning i trusted him because he had ensured me that i would be on the 'straight' label and i wouldn't be confused with what i consider to be pseudo-freak rock and roll: all the folks who exploit themselves as bizarre persons to laugh at or to be scared of. in fact they aren't freaks, they have nothing monstrous. for 'freaks' don't exist. nothing is monstrous, all is natural....
so i was supposed to be part of straight, but i had no inkling he meanwhile sold me to reprise records. they sold me, just like any product industrials hand over to each other. you'll agree that that's a difficult thing to accept... what i think of zappa himself?... he's just a measly little fellow. to construct his music, he has 'picked up' things from everywhere. he didn't think up anything himself: he has taken his musical conceptions from stockhausen, stravinsky, varése; he is inspired by me for the words, the concepts; he also has loaned from all the currents of pop music. i think it's but little honest.
rockette morton: when we entered his record company, he told us that we would be absolutely free to completely do what we wanted, that he would give us a large equipment of instruments and amplifiers. for a year and a half, we had to be satisfied with one single ampli for the whole band, two guitars, one bass, a voice box, et cetera....
DON VAN VLIET captain beefheart
MARK BOSTON rockette morton
BILL HARKLEROAD zoot horn rollo
THE NICE ROLE
is zappa really responsible? isn't it his mere entourage?
i consider zappa to be responsible for all what has happened. they all just are doing small business. such small business that they aren't even able to make money with their stars. they had contracted alice cooper, who is a big star now; they had tim buckley and lord buckley who are becoming big stars and they didn't manage to keep them. as to the functioning of straight records, it never worked: i haven't ever received any royalties for 'trout mask replica' for example.
the only reason why i signed to straight is because they had promised me total artistic freedom. actually they've done everything to put brakes on me: it's very difficult to work with a sound engineer who isn't interested in your music at all, on the verge of falling asleep at the studio: zoot horn rollo was forced to go and wake him up several times. nevertheless, 'trout mask replica' is a great album, an important contribution which must be spread among the young generation: it would mean the discovery of a different kind of music, a new one, which isn't like the one you can click your fingers to.
it could have had that importance if it had been distributed correctly. i don't know quite well why zappa isn't interested in the distribution, perhaps simply out of jealousy, because - with an evil eye - he saw the appearance of musicians younger than he, with new ideas. he could have done it, if he had wanted to, by trusting the distribution to a capable person who would have informed the public in stead of just presenting it as a bit of strange record, bizarre. on my recent u.s.a. tour i discovered that in important cities, such as philadelphia, it even hadn't been distributed at all. he just didn't take the trouble to do it.
imagine!: a little fool like zappa deliberately neglecting an album like 'trout mask replica', which contains twenty-eight songs that are completely different from all what's known... nót taking the trouble, in three years, to distribute it normally! since i'm with reprise it has commenced to be distributed a bit better. for 'safe as milk' i never received any royalties too. 'strictly personal': the same. that's where zappa gave himself the nice role, telling everywhere: 'nobody has ever done a damn thing for this guy i'm gonna support'.
it is true, i've tried to put a band together, which i can trust, which can accompany me on stage without the idea of competition. most people who join a band immediately are thrown into a war of influences. to us, that's not the case at all. you were able to see it today, by the way. there isn't the faintest idea of competition - what makes this band different to all others.
IF YOU WANT TO KNOW
HOW THIS ENDS, CLICK CLACK TO PAGE THREE
click clack back to the power station
captain beefheart electricity
as felt by teejo