DON'T ARGUE THE CAPTAIN
CAPTAIN BEEFHEART: A PLAY ON WORDS
from ROCK vol.2
#16 150371 usa
by david reitman
is 27.01.71 interview
pictures by jeff feiner
note: totally re-worked version to make it more comprehensible - but if it happened?
part 1 - THIS is PART 2
ACT 3, PLAY 4
there is a great amount of hostility in captain beefheart towards frank zappa, because he feels that zappa has used him, misused him, and meant him harm to the point of paranoia. in fact much of the hour and a half interview swung around beefheart's verbally striking back at zappa. although he went to great lengths to put zappa down, there was a conflicting drive to forgiveness, and an obvious respect for his abilities. when i spoke to zappa a month before and asked him about beefheart, he replied, bitterly: 'he doesn't like me anymore. he never calls me'. there was bitterness there too, but i don't think i'm being too romantic by saying that they would both welcome some kind of reconciliation. nevertheless, beefheart's attacks were often quite brutal:
he didn't give us the time to do 'trout mask replica', say, that he would give one of his own recordings. i conceived the words and music in eight and a half hours and we didn't have much more time than that to record it... in fact i had to wake him up at the recording studio and he gave me fights and things which i don't want ever to happen to me again... i'm sure he was under pressure. i'm sure he put himself in the position where he just set me aside. and i'm the kind of person that just can't be set aside like that...
i was only with frank zappa under circumstances when he would allow me to be with him, which were very, very few - and from the time i knew him in high school i didn't see him for years...
do you feel that he has used you?
yes, i do.
do you feel you've used hím?
i don't feel that i've used him. it's just that i couldn't find any use for him...
what i'm trying to do can't be put into words.
ACT 3, PLAY 5
the word 'play' means a great deal to captain beefheart. he distinguishes playing from working in every sense. he plays like a child. he plays music. he talks to you playfully. it is this constant fusion of childlike wonder and free expression which marks beefheart, the man. yet when i asked him what playing was, he replied:
no way to define it. to define it is work, pattern. we're not interested in making dresses. you see what i mean?
what do you think of musical training and technique?
there are people who have been trained who are willing to forget it and not do an animal act....
do you think art can ever equal nature?
who'd want to match nature with art?
could it equal the level of nature?
i think that on a good day with a fair wind it could even exceed it. but if it did exceed it, it would be shock value - but if it went with it, that would be nice.
while in new york, beefheart spent a lot of time with ornette coleman. i asked him if he planned to do anything with ornette?
no, i don't anticipate things. i don't think he needs me to do anything with him, i think he's got it well under control. that is, he doesn't have it under control and doesn't require himself to have it under control.
ACT 3, PLAY 6
my musicians are on an equal basis with me, did you notice that? i mean i don't hold them back. i think they realized they didn't have to do as much as they thought they did in order to be good human beings. they're a lot happier now, which i say is music. if there is a music, it's probably uncontrolled laughter and unrelated feelings.
rockette morton: i had never heard anything done on the bass before, so naturally i didn't want to do anything. he helped me figure out that there's no limit on anything except what you put on yourself.
beefheart: i would say that they're more the leaders of the group than i am. i would say they told me what i could and couldn't do.
rockette morton: i've been in the group for three years and he's only gotten to sing 40 or 50 times, because of the limitations that everyone in the group put on themselves.
beefheart: i think frank zappa has a good chance of being a human being. i think everybody has a good chance of being a human being. i don't have any hatred for frank zappa, it's just that he has put out such a hype on me that he stuck a lot of people with it, you know what i mean? we invited frank into the group...-
ed marimba: we called him up one morning. we had been up talking for about two or three years and finally decided to give him a call and he answered the phone and we asked him 'come on over and join the group', that it was his last chance. and he made some little peepee comment about he didn't think he could cut the charts or something. well, we did a lot of heavy breathing and hung up and that was that.
beefheart: i felt he would like to join the group because he's a very good guitar player and could have exuded himself in this group. everybody does in this group. i thought maybe he would like to be frank zappa for a while without all those restrictions of success....
ACT 4, PLAY 1
the interview before mine had been done by a rock critic who shall remain nameless. he played quite the intellectual, and attempted to get beefheart to give him straight, academic answers to such pressing questions as: 'what does time mean in your work?'. poor kid must have had honors english on the brain. but beefheart is a nice, gentle soul and was trying to answer him in his own way, but it didn't satisfy the enfant terrible.
this critic remained afterwards during my interview. when someone asked beefheart if he wrote down his lyrics when he made them up, beefheart looked at the critic and replied: 'no, hé does'.
ACT 4, PLAY 2
later we discussed intellectuals in another context:
a real intellectual can reel off porcupine quills and they looked a lot better on a porcupine. get the point?
still later we were somehow talking about people who were too uptight to be relaxed:
if you can't relax, you're denying that you have blood, emulating statues, because they're important.... of course i found it hard to relax, i live here - where's the guy who wouldn't let me relax?
he left when his tape ran out.
there you go. hé ran out. the tape is still going.
as beefheart left the room, he looked at me and told me sympathetically:
you ought to start playing.
some of us are playing already.
a lot of people say i'm just moving my fingers, which is an accurate description of what i am really doing.
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captain beefheart electricity
as felt by teejo