captain beefheart electricity

DON'T ARGUE THE CAPTAIN
the interviews - band members


 

BACK IN THE SPOTLIGHT, KID
making magic with captain beefheart

from STOMP AND STAMMER vol.4 #12 011099 usa
by heywood jablomi
is 08.99 telephone interview BILL HARKLEROAD and GARY LUCAS

part 1 - THIS is PART 2

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i guess the longstanding myth about 'trout mask replica' is that it was all done in eight hours or so. that it was somehow spontaneously composed. which i know you guys had to work forever on it. but it is amazing to me that you could record it in a day, 'cause you were so well rehearsed. that has to be astoundingly difficult to do.

(bill:) yeah. there's no way to relate to something that becomes your lifestyle, a job. i mean, it changed the way i thought, the way my saliva tasted in my mouth. it was that overly encompassing to me. playing parts like that, feeling these polyrhythms, and actually not being a studied-enough musician to understand three against four, or whatever. i wouldn't call it atonal, i would call it poly. and of course he didn't write it in eight whatever and a half hours. i mean, i'm sure it didn't take him long to bang out a lot of parts on the piano, so maybe that's how he justified that statement, but they weren't written.

what was daily life like in the band?

(bill:) in the 'trout mask replica' house? practice. practice, and maybe eat. sleep on the floor, get up and do more. for fourteen hours straight. for nine months. my mother and john's mother supported the band. don probably had money coming from other places i didn't know of. he didn't get skinny (laughs).

it kind of reminds me of these stories of sun ra (an other band leader - t.t.) leading these marathon rehearsals. i think there's probably some other parallels.

(bill:) obviously there are certain issues that create people to be like they are. i mean, of course people want to see him positioned as this crazy genius, and the art that's created makes it ok that these people are brutal with their interpersonal relationships. which i think is bullshit. people should be accountable for everything. but he couldn't have done that if we weren't willing to take it. it's not his fault, it's our fault for standing there and taking it.

did you ever reach a point where you ever had a straightforward human dealings with him?

(bill:) all the time. all the time when it was just me and him. if there was a third person, the triangle broke the magic, and he had to be captain beefheart again, and he had to have an image. there was rarely..., i can't even imagine a time, other than the third person being jan, his wife, that he didn't have to perform and become this image.

many times i had a great.... i watched a lot of [american] football with him, and just bullshitted, and had a drink here and there. and i was always the official driver. he wouldn't drive. he was very capable, very sweet, a very nice person. but whatever it is, that image that he projected out there that he had to hold up to, was very difficult.

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what kind of stories did he have about his own development as a musician?

(gary:) well, he would always claim that he was not influenced by anything. that he had his own windows on the world, his own channels. and in truth, he was an original, but i can't deny that he was influenced; certainly you can hear influences of blues and free jazz, and early rock. but what he did with it, i think, is pretty unique.

he really just dismantled these structures, and rebuilt them from the ground up, with his own twist. which coincided with his wonderful lyrics.  you know, i think he's one of the best poets out there. i rate him as highly as any so-called 'rock poet'.

after 'ice cream for crow' he just sort of dropped out.

(gary:) well, he did in that he vowed not to go back on the road. in fact, he was pretty shaken when john lennon (one of the beatles, a legendary pop group - t.t.) was shot. he was sitting in my apartment that night, being interviewed, and in the middle of it he said: 'wait, did you hear that?' i didn't really hear anything, maybe a car backfiring, i don't know. and then he just went on with the interview, and this guy left and another critic came; and in the middle of the second interview the first critic called me and said: 'did you hear the news, gary? john lennon was shot and killed tonight'....

and i'm playing back the tape, because in the middle of it he said: 'hey, man, did you hear that?'. and i forgot to mention that after that he said: 'listen, something really heavy just went down, and you're gonna read about it in the newspaper tomorrow morning on the front page'. which isn't exactly a total prophesy, but it's close enough that it made us feel really weird.

anyway, that shook him up a little bit, plus people ware always after him, trying to find out where he lived. just the freaks of the world were always trying to get ahold of him. they would take acid and think: 'oh yeah, he's speaking directly to me'. i remember getting woken up at three in the morning from a german acid head saying: 'i know that in that song 'tropical hot dog night' he's speaking about me'. i was like: 'oh man, stay away, and don't call me back'.

so, he decided to not tour anymore. which is why i was happy to get a video made for the song 'ice cream for crow'. but then, you know, the sad thing is, mtv (popular tv music program - t.t.) refused to play it, because they thought it was too 'way out'. so therefore i got him on david letterman (popular tv talkshow - t.t.), and we got a piece of it shown, and he said: 'i don't want my mtv if they don't want my video'.

recently a friend of mine had a tape of that letterman show, which i watched.

(gary:) where he wobbled out as if he was a wino? he was absolutely stone sober, obviously. i can vouch for that. but that was kind of his schtick. he had water in the paper bag. he loved to come off as just this dilapidated eccentric. but a lot of it was for show.

(bill:) on the david letterman show, it's like he faked it so much he became it. he became that out-there person that was disjointed, and i don't know if he was still dotting the i's, you know what i mean? i think he faked it so much that he looked lost. he looked just like a stupid buffoon, and it was too bad. it seemed like he really just lost touch.

again, with beefheart, rumors abound, but what's the last you've heard of him? i get the sense that he's ill and living in the desert somewhere....

(bill:) there's a corbijn video (some yoyo stuff - t.t.) where he can barely talk....  his multiple sclerosis is confirmed. my last remembrance of don, though, were those rumors of his stroke, you know.... this might be the last year of his life, is what i hear.

(gary:) i myself have not been in touch with him personally since the mid-eighties. i hope he's alright. i certainly hope he is.
 

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