captain beefheart electricity

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CAPTAIN BEEFHEART / VAN VLIET

from ANOTHER ROOM (magazine) vol.3 #6 010185 usa
by kristine mckenna
is ±summer 1984 interview

notes:
* also part of usa 1985 media package AUDIO A.R.M. #1 * FIGHT PRIME TIME
* text reprinted as don van vliet in usa 010385 EMIGRE #2
* half of (edited) interview text reprinted as don van vliet - 1984: trinidad, california in usa 2001 book KRISTINE MCKENNA * BOOK OF CHANGES

part 1 - THIS is PART 2

*

BUGS AND CHOCOLATE

(his wife jan brings him a slice of chocolate cake.) i can't eat that chocolate! it would make me fly around the light like a moth or a little fairy! you know, i used to think those little green things that fly around lights were fairies - and they probably were. (points to a large spider on the wall:) look what i have on display! isn't he lovely? in mexican his name is papa puenas largas (translation: daddy long legs). would you like some vitamin b for the aftershock you'll get from this cake?

SYNTHESIZERS

most people don't know how to play synthesizers so they're having a bad effect on music. dead people playing a synthesizer? of course it's death! you should hear me on a synthesizer. the original one that moog designed was a brilliant machine and i'd definitely have one if i could afford it.

DUKE ELLINGTON

you don't play jazz in a hurry and that seems to be all they're doing these days. i don't need that, so i go back to duke ellington and people like that. one time i went to see ellington in new york and hung around after the show and asked him for his autograph. he took out this beautiful gold pen and said: 'oh yeah' in this cool voice. he says to me: 'i'm leaving now to go on a cruise with the boys', the boys being the mafia. he wasn't hooked up with the mafia but they had electricity and so did he, so they hired him to play at their party. you know, money.

i said: 'let me buy you a drink' and he said: 'no, i'm waiting for my chauffeur and one of us has to be sober'. his chauffeur was upstairs with a girl and ellington was waiting on him! i asked him why he would wait on his chauffeur and he replied: 'he's my chauffeur. he drives me'. in other words, he was real good to the person who drove him around. he had on this watch that must have cost eighty thousand dollars, with diamonds all over it, and he had so much class he made it look like a timex. he left me saying this: 'keep your top happy'. i said: 'i'm sure gonna try. i'll tell you that'.

he was really a brilliant man, and the exact nature of his musical genius was its spareness. he would wait and wait, then make small gesture in exactly the right place. he didn't like marmelade, obviously, and there was nothing rococo about his music. it's not how it goes on, it's how it comes off. not too many musicians really know how to use silence. roland kirk did, and so did billy holiday, stravinsky, beethoven and charlie parker. charlie parker was wonderful. he came in through the skylight.

SMOKING: A CYLINDRICAL CONSPIRACY

they used to have this billboard at hollywood and vine that sent out these huge smoke rings. oh man, how could anybody not smoke after seeing those huge mechanical smoke rings? the circle in records, the circle of the smoke rings, the circle of the tobacco cylinder - a very clever campaign. it was hard to quit cigarettes but i quit - lucky's too - because i was too green to burn. (laughs.) no, actually i quit so i'd be able to do anything i wanted with my voice, and i can finally hit really high notes now. i smoke a pipe now and keeping the damn thing lit is so hard it's really taught me patience. 'the gentle art of smoking' by alfred p. dunhill is a very good book on the subject. i have a huge collection of pipes and i got this particular one [the one he smokes from on a picture along this interview - t.t.] on duke street in london in 1971. i like london.

THE PASTEL POND

i used to set up some pretty funny things onstage. one time i bought myself a pair of blue suede flamenco boots at this silly outlet store and got an identical pair in green for art tripp (former percussionist with the magic band). during the show that night i started telling the audience about these wonderful original shoes i'd gotten that day and art comes out and says: 'hmmm... your shoes are just like mine! the salesman told me they were originals!'. so i ask: 'did you get yours at the pastel pond?'. we did this whole bit. i recently talked to art. he is a chiropractor now, and i predicted on one of my albums that he would eventually become a chiropractor [which song, don? - t.t.]. he sure was a great percussionist.

MAN'S WORST TRAITS

greed and pouting are mankind's worst traits. i don't like that damn violence, that bloodshot crap either. i've got a shotgun, but the only reason i have it is because mathematically it's a lovely instrument. i would never shoot an animal or a human with it.

don van vliet / captain beefheart - trinidad, california, usa summer 1984 - another room 010185 - picture by nick chase
picture from 'another room' by nick chase

REAGAN

reagan has had a dire effect on me and i hate to think of what four more years of him might do. good grief! if i had castanets i'd let it explode! i mean, he doesn't even beat a bubblegum commercial. that little smile of his... why doesn't the man get a face lift? he is certainly a perfect candidate for one. he looks like a popcorn ball that didn't come off. you know, before reagan was elected to office i predicted that he and margaret thatcher [the british prime minister at the time, and just as dangerous and conservative - t.t.] would do the napalm palm dance, and the only reason he was elected to office is because people are so goddamn dumb. no gray matter.

EVIL: ITS ROOTS AND ORIGINS

i think at one time there was no evil and that evil is something invented by man. evil is an act. i was thinking about the insanity plea this morning and i think that unless someone's really got the cord unplugged, people are responsible for what they do. but hell, there's no way i believe in capital punishment.

BACK TROUBLE

don't ever let them operate on your back. that's how we lost jeff chandler.

THE ORIGINAL MICKEY MOUSE

one time when i was five years old i was laying on the floor watching teevee with my folks and we were watching this program featuring this all girl band that this woman named ina ray hutton was in. all of a sudden the top of her dress fell off and i saw the original mickey mouse! there were these two aureolas looking at me like two big eyes while i sat there with my folks! they were laughing but i didn't laugh. i just looked.

LUCILLE BALL

lucille ball is the only person who knows how to use henna [a red hair paint - t.t] correctly. she was so hip, good god. how about that movie of hers, 'the long, long trailer'? i first saw that at the alex theater in glendale, california, and seeing it made me never want to collect anything. remember what happened to that trailer? (author's note: no, i don't. informed readers feel free to write in.) they didn't know what a whole lot of knives were.

ARTISTIC ANGST

most people are so goddamned stupid they can't even see what artists are doing, and if they're appreciated at all during their lifetime, it's usually for the wrong reasons. i once saw a woman making up her face in the glass on a van gogh painting. not only did they have non-reflective glass on this van gogh, they put a gilded frame on it! can you imagine van gogh in a gold frame?! he never made any money in his life. he couldn't have a gold frame. nobody could frame a van gogh. i saw this woman making up her face in his painting and i had to split.

HENRY MILLER

henry miller is so nasty. a trash poet. i never liked that guy. he always had all those nude girls around. sure they made him look better, but why use human girls as props? i think he's a jerk.

THE AUDIENCE: PROS AND CONTRAS

it really makes no difference whether the audience is there or not. thought it sure is nice when they're there, i'd probably do what i do regardless of whether anyone took any notice. it helps when people appreciate what you do, but i'm an artist, so thanks for the hand, but don't touch me.

EPILOGUE

i could use a little gold, but other than that i don't have any problems and i never have, knock on wood. so yeah, i plan to stay here for a while. i have to, because gravity is holding me down - it's holding us all down. think how high we could jump if it wasn't for gravity! might be fun for a while. actually, though, i like life as we know it. i'm naive. i like it. i sure would like to hear 'mambo #9' by tito puente right now. real loud.

*
 

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captain beefheart electricity
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