captain beefheart electricity

THE DUTCH INTERVIEWS
translated interviews


 

DE VOORUITZIENDE BLIK VAN CAPTAIN BEEFHEART
de terugkeer van the spotlight kid

from OOR 19.11.80
HOLLAND fortnightly music magazine
by bert van de kamp
is 02-041180 interview

THE FORESIGHT OF CAPTAIN BEEFHEART
the return of the spotlight kid

part 1 - THIS is PART 2

*

MY SOLOS PROCEED FROM WEARINESS AND FROM WHAT I'VE BEEN EATING BEFORE'

at the age of eleven he makes sculptures from marble, and for a time he co-operates with the well-known sculptor augustino rodriguez.

i didn't learn anything from him. my art doesn't want to be influenced: my baby won't let me have a baby.

when he is thirteen, he is granted a scholarship for europe, but he won't use it. in the mid 60s he seriously starts to apply himself to music, stimulated by the friendship with frank zappa. the two regularly work together, yet in 1975 on occasion of the bongo fury tour.

on zappa: i like him, but his music leaves me cold. i don't like the way he talks about women. i don't need that: 'm nt afraid of women.

beefheart as a feminist. 'nowadays a woman's gotta hit a man' is the title of the song with which he begins his performances these days.

nowadays a woman's gotta hit a man to make him know she's there. man and woman are different, although they have the same mental faculties. i love women. thanks to them we're here. women also love my music.

asked about influences on his music, he states again: my baby won't let me have a baby.

someone like beefheart won't be influenced easily, but yet he can't escape it entirely. the influence of the blues is obvious. he willingly admits that he is fond of the music of people like howlin' wolf, sunnyland slim, muddy waters and robert pete williams. those are the heroes. and strawinski of course, who invited him for a social evening at his home when the captain just was busy with 'trout mask replica'.

i really couldn't leave, i couldn't let the boys alone. i feel very sorry now.

with the same enthusiasm he tells about his meeting with james dean, who took the 13 year old boy for a drive in his sports-car. or about that time he sold aldous huxley a vacuum cleaner. beautiful stories. why shouldn't we believe them?

what more does he like? chinese opera music, the films of polanski ('repulsion'), shakespeare, wyndham lewis, ezra pound - but especially the works of vincent van gogh. when, in the dressing-room after the performance at paradiso, one-or-another englishman gives his opinion that the works of van gogh just are 'a load of rubbish', i see the captain turning pale. the orator and his companion immediately are thrown out the changing-room. hours later he still is talking about it.

do you understand that somebody can say such a thing about the greatest painter of all time? must have got too little oxygen as a child. such an imbecile! the ocean gave me oysters but the people watching it gave me ulcers.

'I HOPE I'LL NEVER GET A FACE LIKE REAGAN'

next day we visit the van gogh museum. still life: basket with apples.

do you see the apple on top? that small stalk? that's his pipe. that's hm, that upper apple. self-portrait. oh, he was 'hip', he understood it. forever his works are completely clear, i don't believe he ever got off the track. that question with his ear probably was an accident during shaving. i think he was an epileptic. what a painter he is!

van vliet also admires the drawings of rembrandt, the works of legr and those of the contemporary dutch american willem de kooning ('door to the river', phew!). but what he absolutely doesn't like, is rock & roll. the band just finished the sound-check at paradiso when somebody starts a record on the house-set. beefheart runs to the microphone and cries terribly emotional: 'turn that off! please, i don't want to hear any rock & roll!'

later, in the dressing-room which stinks of some pesticide:

fly-spray and rock & roll, that's too bad! shit! rock 'n' roll is an insult to woman. that mama heartbeat - that's the sound you hear before you are born - i don't wanna go back to that. i don't want to be attacked by that mama heartbeat, i don't need to go back to the mother's lap. it is dangerous. rock & roll is hypnosis, it is fascistic, because it switches off the thinking.

the beatles? i couldn't hear it. that one song..., 'i want to turn you on'...: disgusting, the most!

(after the concert, a radio interview for the 'noen-show':) which of your records is the most representative?

i don't know. i would grab them all!

do you have a question for our listeners?

there are no questions and there are no answers. okay: what is the biggest living mammal? you don't know? it's not the elephant - nor the blue whale..., but the absent mind!'

captain beefheart / don van vliet - mojave desert, usa october 1980 - picture by anton corbijn / corbyn
picture by anton corbijn (read note at bottom, please)

i remind him of a concert with a former magic band at the concertgebouw in 1972 (rockette morton, winged eel fingerling, zoot horn rollo, [orjon] and ed marimba). the captain wore a large red cape then: impressive.

i needed a cloak to hide my fat dagger.

smashing hard sound.

was it too hard? good.

there are quite a few misunderstandings about beefheart's music. who talks about 'chaos' and 'free jazz influences' doesn't understand anything about it. this music is arranged from start to end, and must be played exactly as it is written. musicians must learn their parts very precisely, the captain is a very harsh leader.

free jazz influences? hahaha! i don't believe in something like free jazz. it sounds like a jam - and i even don't like jelly. it sounds so common. i haven't heard any good free jazz yet. how could it be possible anyway - with gravity holding us down, how can it ever be fre? my solos proceed from weariness and from what i've been eating before. i am the only one who has that freedom. a selfish composer, oh yeah.

i work very fast. that's the only way. i wrote 'trout mask replica' (a double-album with 28 songs - bvdk) in eight and a half hours, texts and music. it was the first time i ever played piano. we locked ourselves up in a house in woodland hills for six months in a row. the present band learned it in three week. it's the best batch i ever had. these lads are happier human beings, more exact musicians. these boys should have made 'trout mask replica', but alas, you can't go back.

'I DON'T BELIEVE IN FREE JAZZ'

what's that noise? a hair drier? who needs tht? my head is my only house unless it rains, and then i enjoy my hair getting wet. there was an indian chief, called rain-in-the-face. good name, uh? quite a guy. what do you think of 'brave midnight hat-size snyder'? not bad too, uh? that boy learned 34 songs in three weeks, that's how good he is. and my music is very complicated, you know.

on this tour i've already written new material for three albums. how i manage? by means of tape-recording. i hum or whistle the composition. i whistled down the 'safe as milk' album in a couple of days. it's easy. 'doc at the radar station' also was created in a few days. that's how it ought to be: art is the moment, not the time. a carrot is as close as a rabbit gets to a diamond. i knew you would like it. i only have but one diamond.

you mean your art?

oh, yeah.

the two virgin releases from 1974, 'unconditionally guaranteed' and 'bluejeans and moonbeams', generally are seen as the lowest point in beefheart's career. still they contain a number of excellent songs.

oh, yeah, i really like some of them. it hasn't been recorded properly.

van vliet can write very nice love songs. 'this is the day' for example, or: 'love lies'.

i dig love songs. yes, i really like those two myself. we can not play them with this group, they are more difficult than it seems. bruce fowler (the trombonist - bvdk) is touring in japan at the moment, without him it's impossible to perform songs like 'love lies' or 'run paint run'.

'I DON'T LIKE LOOKING BACK, IT ONLY SLOWS YOU DOWN'

'she's not bad, she's just... genetically mean' from 'dirty blue gene' off 'doc at the radar station'.

yes, i'm worried about all those recent genetic experiments. at a certain time they come with new diseases, whereas they don't even have a cure for a cold. i'm not against science, not at all. i think that scientists and artists should complete each other.

take einstein: that man was an artist. do you know his letters? splendid. he has been abused by politicians. what do you think, is that reagan gonna make it? i hope he won't. i'm not sure if i should return [to the usa - t.t.]. i hope i will never get a face like his. i may get hardening of the arteries, but i'll never get hardening of the eyes.

on a political meeting twenty years ago i heard one or other beatnik say: if you do not object to stupid people on high posts, you ought to love the government. i stood up and loudly applauded. i was thrown out immediately, of course, but i'll never forget it.

the set in rotterdam possibly was even more exciting than the amsterdam concert. the band was in very good form and the captain didn't have to look at his drawings too often. this has but little to do with rock & roll, it's pure artistic. seldom it is heard so original and inspired. after the show it appears that he still has plenty of energy left. he talks endlessly with everyone he sees. quibbles, jokes, teasings. we shake hands. not for the last time, we hope.

watch out for humanity!

what a man...

a gorillacrow trancelation 080497

*

note
a bigger version of the picture above can be found as you're sure nobody's seen it? in the weird stories

*


click clack back to the history or return to the power station


captain beefheart electricity
as felt by teejo

^