captain beefheart electricity

DON'T ARGUE THE CAPTAIN
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STRICTLY PERSONAL
'yeah, i'm happy. happy as a clam.'

from MOJO #2 011293 england
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

part 1 - THIS is PART 2

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do you think that your earlier artwork was unsophisticated? what do you think of the art on your album covers now?

i think i was completely involved in what i did. i think they were me. but it's a puzzle.

what was the last piece you did?

the last piece?

the last painting.

(pause.) let's see. . . what the hell did i name it? i didn't name it yet.

do you first paint it and then name it?

well, it varies. sometimes the name is right there; sometimes it comes later.

you don't go to many of your own art exhibitions, do you?

i went to the one in san francisco. ['new work', opened 301198 - t.t.]

how do you feel when you're there?

scared. all of this... paintings that i did? oooh!

is your house filled with your own art?

usually i just paint and they're gone. michael [werner, his art agent - t.t.] gets them.

what has kept you and jan together for so long?

love... we've been married for twenty-four years.

do you think there's a reason record companies have been reissuing your older material lately, or why your music is still being listened to so avidly?

it's pretty good music. (laughs)

it's great talking to you, but i feel as if i'm making you talk more than you feel like talking.

no, i don't usually talk that much.

you sit there in front of your canvas and paint most of the time?

yeah. (laughs.) that's for damn sure.

do you listen to music at home a lot?

yeah.

like what?

beethoven, and, let's see... let me think. (pause.) damn, i can't think of his name. hold on a minute, i have a list... (puts phone down, then returns.) wagner. wagner and mozart.

do you listen while you paint?

no. (laughs.) it's hard enough to paint.

do you see many people?

no.

do you miss people?

no. i'm smart. (laughs)

some of the people i've talked to have said that you've got a temper.

temper? mé? (laughs.) they can't take a joke! i'm too smart to have a temper, that's the truth. i never had to deal with a temper. oh god, i bet that would be frightening.

do you stay in contact with any of your old friends or past band members?

i spoke to eric feldman recently.

he's producing in san francisco, right?

yeah, and also, he plays with pere ubu.

do you watch much television?

i watch a few programmes, usually... oh, oh god, what's that? (calls to wife.) 'fishing out west', in the west. have you seen that?

no.

they let them go after they catch them.

don van vliet / captain beefheart - 931201 mojo - anton corbijn
picture by anton corbijn
i heard that someone wanted to put out the original 'bat chain puller' album.

zappa. he was going to release it.

fairly recently?

yeah.

have you spoken with him in a while?

yeah.

itís a sad story over there.

misdiagnosed. ooh - horrible. [a few months after this interview, on 4 december, frank zappa died of cancer - teejo]

how's your own health? there are people who have said your health has deteriorated.

really?

yeah, really.

ha! ha!

i hope you're well.

i feel pretty good. who's saying that?

henry kaiser, among others. on the other hand, building a new studio, like you have doesn't seem like the sort of thing someone would do who didn't plan on doing a lot more painting.

of course.

let me ask you this: bill harkleroad claims he should be entitled to some record royalties from his work with you.

harkleroad thinks he should get money? for what? 'trout mask replica'? (pause.) hmm, sounds far out.

do you still get your royalties for any of that?

for 'trout mask replica'? writer's royalties.

does it upset you that he feels that way?

well, i think he should get some money. what i'm trying to figure - harkleroad said he didn't get any money?

he said the magic band signed a contract in which they were part of the corporation, and that they would be paid by you.

i owe him money? i didn't make any money myself! jesus christ. (pause.) i can't believe that after this many years - it's been twenty years... - i got beat up for money for those records as much as anybody. yeah, i got beat. sounds like they picked you for a target.

well, i've been conscious about what people's personal motivation might be when they spoke with me. someone told me henry kaiser sniped at you because you used to say he gave you negative vibes, for instance.

i don't quite understand - kaiser? god! that's so long ago! he's obsessed. he's trying to make himself look good. i wonder if he's after garcia [the frontman of 'the grateful dead'? - t.t.]? let me grab a drink. (puts down phone, soon returns.) god, i had to have a drink. blechh! i'm trying to figure out what on earth - when did you talk to all these people?

within the past two weeks.

really?

yeah. of course, the fact that people are still talking about this - harbouring grudges or whatever - may say more about their current lots in life, financially or otherwise, than your own.

well, definitely. i'm with a top gallery.

you're one of the few people i've spoken to about this who's doing what he wants to do and making a living from it. which is something to consider.

indeed. (laughs)

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