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 - part 2 - THIS is part 3
the fact of becoming 'real' professionals won't compromise your music sooner or later, force a rupture? some people already have seen a first concession, in your latest album 'the spotlight kid'.
'the spotlight kid' only sounds different on account of the use of harmonica: on that instrument you can play scales, melodies. i've realized, playing the songs of 'trout mask replica', that - for a young audience - they were too intellectually. it rather noticed the intellectual side than the feeling which should come loose. i said to myself: there must be a way to make my music accessible for all, to transmit the energy which all avant-garde propositions have, by adding an element which makes them immediately perceptible to everyone.
we absolutely must reckon with the audience: when i get on stage, it is to communicate with it; otherwise, why not confine in my house like i have done for a long time? it's better to be on its level, rather than just playing for 20, maybe 40 or 50 thousand people who each time, always the same, buy the new record of beefheart for usually not-musical reasons, like buying a curiosity, an animal with five legs. you see what i mean: the mother's breast must be fit for babies. that's why there shouldn't be any misunderstanding about my intentions; i don't want my music to pass beyond the public... you think that playing often, playing on stage, has made us lose something? i don't know... and you, what do you think?
rockette morton: it seems to me that - contrary to what's taught at a musical school, where you get tics, where you get stuffed with prejudices - playing on stage, for thousands of people, gives you a direct experience, just enables you to play better and better.
JOHN LEE HOOKER
from your attitude on stage, it seems that you try to give the music a certain theatrical aspect that intensifies it.
for me it aren't just theatrical effects, but they're extremely important. i like to include different forms of expression in the music, do some painting action on stage.
do you want to organize the gigs totally as a show, or improvise it?
organize it in main lines, but there must be a large space for improvisation. it should be without restrictions, without limits. i think the public right now is ready to accept what we are doing. i've noticed during the tour, in glasgow for example, that i could have played much more 'trout mask replica' songs.
are you interested in cinema?
yes, i'd like to make movies. i have made an one-minute-movie, very droll, and which doesn't mean a lot; an absurdity. it has been banned from american tv, perhaps you've heard about it. that was at the time of the release of 'lick my decals off, baby', and was supposed to promote the album. they have refused it for television because of the word 'lick', which was considered to be dirty. it's a very funny story.
do you often rehearse? is the music written in advance or created while playing?
usually we start from a rhythm i play on the piano. i don't write the music down, but we tape all. once i wrote the drum parts of 'trout mask replica' in just one night. the drummer, drumbo, couldn't do it; he wasn't a real drummer. and we only had two days to record the whole album. i had to occupy with the drums myself to find out a new way of playing. now there is ed marimba, and i don't have to worry about the drums anymore, which is a relief. that also goes for having roy estrada on bass...
i've heard art tripp for the first time in los angeles at the whiskey a gogo: he was alone and played as guest with another band. he was eager to play with me after hearing 'trout mask replica'. he was tired of zappa's band: matters of money. he's part of the magic band since two year and a half now. as to roy estrada, we saw him in new york with his group, little feat. he came to see me and told me that he wasn't completely happy with that little feat. he said: 'i need bigger feat'. he worked with that band since his return to los angeles. he took up a guitar and that's how he joined us for this tour....
ELLIOT INGBER winged eel fingerling
as to the new guitarist winged eel fingerling (elliot ingber - t.t.): he has his own band 'the fraternity of man' and i've known him for several years. i was very happy that he accepted to join the band, because he's one of the best guitar players i know... all the musicians can do what they like; you know, i am not really interested in writing the music down. i want them to realize they're totally free, so they can deploy their imagination. and i know that there are qualities in the band that allow them to create something new... i'm not a composer at all. such, that's the role zappa wants to play.
how would you define your own role in regard to the other musicians?
rockette morton: he's a great arranger. he knows to find the best forms and puts together all we make.
does that mean: to unify, link all those tries?
beefheart: probably. but you'll know it better than me.
you think it's right to say that your music is a sum, embracing all the music from john lee hooker to frank zappa?
my intention is not: to appropriate other musical forms. for example, today i have played a john lee hooker composition, 'black snake blues'. i don't see any objection to sing that kind of blues, but it would never enter my mind to take possession of it; to sign it with my name or that of the band, that's impossible. i just like the song very much and i thought it would be great to perform it on stage.
besides: it is the first time we play a composition that isn't mine, since ry cooder, in order to play on my album 'safe as milk', conditioned that we should do a song of robert pete williams, 'grown so ugly'. his name was mentioned on the disc; shortly afterwards, ry cooder came to me and said; 'why didn't you pay r.p. williams for the song you have used?' i told him: 'man, that record didn't bring me a dime of royalties; otherwise he would have been the first to receive some money.' since then i always hesitate to record songs of somebody else. very long ago i've recorded 'diddy wah diddy', from bo diddley, and that's all. to work on compositions of other people causes terrible complications.
do you consider 'mirror man', that practically unknown album, to be a clear proof of your music in '65, at the start?
some time ago i was told that i would have the possibility to remix 'safe as milk', along with ' mirror man'. they asked me to send some poems for the sleeve; they used them, and then released both records without my meddling! i really suspect they're gonna try to carry them off, to diminish the drift. i have bombed them with letters and phone calls; my californian lawyer traveled to new york, but nothing did work. the mix has been done badly, i'm the only one who could have done it right. you practically can't hear the brass on the record, just like all the bottleneck guitar parts, and certain words are inaudible.
DON VAN VLIET captain beefheart
don't mind the text-over, but blimey,
watch those shiny shoes, man! (- teejo)
are you satisfied about this tour? how are the concerts going, in general?
sometimes the concerts can go on very long; like in glasgow, where i have played saxophone non-stop for two hours. other times that doesn't last more than fifteen minutes; it depends on the audience as well as the musicians. i think that tonight was a good concert. although i had to wait for hours before we arrived at the hotel... and especially the ambience of the hotel wasn't very promising... unbelievable! an american hotel...
what do you expect from the future? do you think the magic band will become a very big group, will know a huge success?
a very big, i believe so. but never like the beatles! it took me three years to put this band together, to let it stay alive. it isn't an union dictated by commercial reasons, dollar matters, but a true band. i wanna send money to africa, to contribute to the rescue of endangered species of animals. i also would like to help people around me in los angeles, all those who are destroyed by hard drugs or having trouble to survive. i think that the public starts to feel the need for a band like ours, a band that doesn't secrete poison....
we come to an end; behind the immense windows the day begins to break. we make appointments for the next day to go to the second-hand market, and specially, as beefheart insists on it, to see some van goghs. nothing of our program will be carried out. the whole sunday afternoon we stay in this large hall. we return to the neckties for which beefheart shows much interest.
he buys a notably aggressive one, because he considers it to be horrible. the vendor will be staggered about the justification for the interest beefheart shows for some patent leather shoes: 'i like shiny shoes - as i can see myself in it when i play bass clarinet and it's very good for the feeling. always different personalities.' don van vliet wears a very classical suit of british elegance with a curious 'two floors' butterfly-tie. 'it was só incredible, i could not resist it.' on his head, the bonnet.
it is sunday afternoon, the local civilians have come to visit 'the american hotel'. some dandies descend the stairs; he adds unto them: 'poor somes'. he loathes freaks. we will talk on without tape-recorder about van gogh, artaud, rock, blues, ry cooder, zoot horn rollo. he is drawing, asking questions, reveals that he was a friend of lenny bruce. he talks about ecology.... the puzzle beefheart progressively is taking its form.
a gorillacrow trancelation ©201297
this feature contained so many pictures i used two of them as an addition to
contemporary french publications without useful illustrations:
captain beefheart et les relations télépathiques
captaine âme d'abeille - coeur de boeuf
click clack back to the power station
captain beefheart electricity
as felt by teejo