JEANS IN DE WOESTIJN
een ontmoeting met captain beefheart
from OOR 23.04.83
HOLLAND music magazine
by tjerk lammers
is early 1983 usa interview
IN THE DESERT
a meeting with captain beefheart
part 1 - THIS is PART 2 - part 3
it's funny: the band is always praising you, and you are praising them.
i think they're really great. for heaven's sake: i don't understand how they tolerate me, because i always wanna have it exactly right. (he puts a finger in a glass of ice water.) i need to get thát sense of water, and i'm dissatisfied with anything else. and you know, you can get it on the guitar when you know how it has to be done.
don't they ever object to something you try to force upon them?
no, they like it; for they love the fact that i know exactly what i'm doing. and that is just why they can let themselves go.
i heard that musicians you've worked with, like zoot horn rollo, have been talking about you in a quite denigrating way.
ha, ha; whoever is zoot horn rollo? i thought out his name, i've learned him to play guitar. it is melodramatic, that such a lad starts telling strange things about me later on. but afterwards he has apologized, though. what then!: where is he now? have you heard of him lately? not, uh?
you're not touring any more. why not?
because i prefer to paint; which i do a lot nowadays.
is one kind of art more important to you than another?
when i come across a piano, i dig making music. when i get in front of a piece of canvas, i wanna paint. i like all art forms.
you made a video to the song 'ice cream for crow'. are you too gonna lose yourself in that kind of modern art now: video?
i'm gonna make a video with each elpee. i love video, but i just have no money to go into it. you got any idea how much paint costs, these days? oh, oh!
gary lucas once said that if they gave you an awful lot of money, you would make unbelievable things.
yes, but i'm simply limited by an everlasting shortage of money.
during the whole interview captain beefheart is busy with crayon and sketch book. at high speed the one after the other abstract is put on paper. accidentally available ingredients like coffee and orange juice are used as special pigments. obviously the captain doesn't intend to spill time when doing an interview. yet he is continuously disturbed during the creation of his drawings. it isn't our talk that distracts him, but the almost inaudible 'muzak' that drips on us from the ceiling. beefheart gets mad of it. harassed he looks up time after time - for slashing comments upon the elevator music:
jeez...; they even have it on the bog. i can't piss when i hear it: i simply can't!
how much the muzak frustrates him, gets clear when he needs an unusual long time for a drawing and at once calls out:
god, i'm wínning! the sketch comes off - i have beaten the muzak!
it's evident that muzak isn't captain beefheart's cup of tea at all. in his own music he just wants to break up the established musical values, throw them together and re-arrange them. he experiments with sounds and lets his musicians play most frantic tricks on their instruments.
gary lucas was facing the almost impossible task to transform a complicated piano composition of his chief into a two minutes guitar solo, evening bell. poor gary worked on the piece for weeks, and each day he played the blood on his fingers. it was so difficult, he was even happy when he mastered ten seconds in a day. once in the recording studio, the captain had the nerve to further introduce a few unexpected changes. evening bell actually has become a monumental guitar piece.
muzak and music are like black and white. no wonder that the captain can't stand supermarket sounds. for indeed he himself fights with his music and continuously searches for new forms and sounds. strange enough he uses remarkably few effect-apparatus and principally confines himself to the application of traditional instruments.
why do you never experiment by using real door-bells, tinkling of real glass and so on?
what do you think i'm doing...? i'm working within existing restrictions. when you're writing, you're limited to what the dictionary contains. that also goes for music. it is much too easy to use real tinkling. it's just getting interesting, when you can juggle that same sound on a guitar.
i also hear few synthesizers on your records.
i dó use them. on the last album we've used a moog for the bass sound in human totem pole.
anyhow you haven't investigated all the possibilities modern technology offers.
i just don't have enough money for it. i'd like to work with those things, whenever they would be around long enough. at a certain moment they would start to irritate me, so i would be forced to dó something with them…. music is an irritation. for instance, take the guitar: those things extremely irritate me. the usual sound of a fender guitar...: i gótta do something with it, place it in one or other strange view. i want to cross the border of the usual guitar play.
do you know adrian belew?
oh. yes, i've heard him, yes, ha ha. (laughs sarcastically.)
he pinches his guitar, bends it, he also goes beyond the normal guitar play.
unfortunately he doesn't have the brains for that. he isn't interesting me. the guys in my band are better, because they play what i want them to, ha ha. gary lucas is great. evening bell, you ever heard such a thing? do you think belew ever did something thát good?
belew is a completely different type of guitarist.
that's right, he doesn't have mé to arrange for him.
i don't say that belew is better or worse, but i just must hand to him that he too is doing more than what is common in guitar playing.
well, i'm glad he tries; but i'd wish he stayed off the weed, ha! (laughs roguely.)
is there no-one in pop music you're interested in?
you know, i haven't heard anything, so i wouldn't know. however, i think i would have noticed it if anything was good. someone probably would have drawn my attention to it. somebody recently did that with a group called 'the dead kennedys'.... horrible, just horrible! to dare to use a name like that, and then not be véry good. terrible!
perhaps they don't have the talent to play perfect, but even so they push on till the bitter end, they really foam at their mouth when they perform...
god, they're awful. do they take drugs or so? perfume? i get that with perfume. i foam when i make a call in a phone-booth and a previous visitor has been using some cheap scent. that stuff sticks to the plastic. it gives me acne.
there are a lot of new pop groups that mention you as one of their main influences. does that give you a special feeling?
i never can hear it. they always use those same old drum beats, that have nothing to do with what i ever did.
i don't agree.
(very amazed:) nóóó...? óóóh!
there are a couple of bands which have left the main stream and make very individual music. have you ever heard of 'pere ubu'?
i think they're terrible. their drums (starts to bump on the table), it sounds as if it comes from someone with a disabled leg. that momma heartbeat they never get rid of. and their sax player is disgusting. how could they ever think i would play sax-from-the-assembly-line like that!
yes, but even your drummer who studied your style for years, sometimes finds it almost impossible to play the things you demand.
but he does play it!
but yóu aren't with 'pere ubu' to show them how it has to be done, is that it?
i don't even wanna get near them. i think them to be stealing charlatans. for god's sake, why don't they start concentrating on their own navels?
IF YOU WANT TO KNOW HOW THIS ENDS, CLICK CLACK TO PAGE THREE
click clack back to the power station
captain beefheart electricity
as felt by teejo