DON'T ARGUE THE CAPTAIN
'yeah, i'm happy. happy as a clam.'
from MOJO #2 011293
by dave dimartino
is 30.09.93 telephone interview
note: part of a captain beefheart special. reprinted in JAPANESE translation in 011296 japan THE DIG #10 as i'm happy as a clam
THIS is PART 1 - part 2
on september 30, 1993 our interviewer received a phone call from don van vliet....
i heard that you have a new studio up there. is it a big one?
is it complete?
yeah. i'm painting like a house afire. (laughs)
how do you spend your time now? mostly painting?
do you do any drawing?
oh yeah. all the time.
how is your day spent up there? do you see many people?
just paint. no people. just painting.
are you happy up there like that?
yeah. happy as a clam. (laughs)
does it seem as if you made your music a very long time ago?
no. it seems like a long time since i saw you, at that frightening place. [have no idea what they're talking about right here - t.t.]
it scares me how long ago that was.
twenty years. twenty years. how do you look?
uh, about the same. are you feeling okay?
i hope things are working out well for your in that regard.
they seem to be.
with your being so reclusive now, it seems as if the door has been opened for people to discuss you and your music - maybe criticize you both in the process - without having avenues to respond. people like henry kaiser...
uhh...: little rich boy.
well, he's got an audience, and he's saying things in the liner notes of his albums about you. maybe he's getting more of an audience than he should with --
are you happy? are things looking good or looking bad?
i'd like to talk to you about your approach to art and music, about similarities and differences. is that too difficult a thing to go into right now?
no. but tell me what he's saying about me.
he's saying he's not sure how much responsibility for the music you can claim, that it was your former magic band people who --
(interrupts:) ah! hahaha! ooh!
and what's especially disturbing to many - that you're seriously ill and that your health is gone.
what? hahaha! he hopes i am!
why do you think this is happening, that he's so fascinated with this? why does he spend this much time thinking about you and your music?
he likes boys, i guess. he's married, what's he talking about? are you married?
me? yeah, i am. sure.
i know. i've always thought when you left music, it was something you wanted to put behind you. you just wanted to be thought of as a visual artist and that [dropping out] was the method by which you'd do it. is that a fair assessment?
it's fair with me if it's fair with you.
were you unhappy in the world of music?
did i sound unhappy?
no. you sounded like you usually do - hilarious.
(laughs.) thank you.
how do you spend your time?
i paint every day.
what size paintings are you doing?
well, let's see. seven feet, eight feet, ten feet... - but what things are people saying about me?
well, take henry kaiser - someone told me that he thought he's trying to rewrite history and make it sound like he was part of the magic band, but that he was barely there in any capacity at all.
huh! he wasn't there, period. kaiser's nuts! he's obsessed. (laughs)
but by voluntarily pulling yourself from the scene, you've left yourself open to people like this who can say what they want, without your responding. i thought you might find it beneath your dignity to even respond to people trying to take some of the responsibility for the music away from you.
how could they take anything? i did it. tell me something: did you write all about what they said?
some of it, sure...
because it seems like you and your music have had tremendous personal impact on so many different people's lives. it's interesting that this stuff is still an issue for them.
he's obsessed. i hope he gets help. it's too pathetic to even talk about.
do you derive more pleasure from art than you do from music?
yes, i do.
it's all just from the paintbrush to the canvas. and the paint doesn't say anything. it just allows me to make mistakes. then i have to completely go over the canvas. if one thing changes you have to completely deal with the whole composition.
is it vastly different from music for you, or are there parallels?
they're both art.
do you see your past as a musician handicapping your career as a painter?
yes, because of people like you're talking about. people don't like to be used as paint (laughs). if they're gonna be used by me, that is the only way they're going to be used.
would you say that you said everything you needed to say in music?
i think that i did what i could do.
could you ever say the same thing about painting?
no (laughs). have you ever seen mondrian's broadway boogie-woogie [smaller version down here - t.t.]? fantastic - you con hear the horns honk in the cars!
what is it that brings you the most pleasure in your life right now?
do you feel like there's anything you still want to do that you haven't done yet?
i've got thousands of canvasses.
that you're waiting to paint on?
yeah. i'm selfish. i love to paint.
was there something that you wished would happen during your music career that didn't which might have affected whether you stayed in music longer?
no. i felt comfortable leaving to paint.
is the fact that people you've worked with before are still talking about your music, its effect, and you - is that something you're glad to be away from now?
it's sour grapes (laughs). too sour for me.
IF YOU WANT TO KNOW HOW THIS ENDS, CLICK CLACK TO PAGE TWO
click clack to the power station, the news or the other INTERVIEWS
captain beefheart electricity
as felt by teejo