an artist, a heartist
from FUTURE #3 010378 usa
by greg prevost and carl mack
is 11.77 interview
we approached captain beefheart for an interview, he was remarking
to a small gathering of fans seeking photos:
wish i was an octopus, i really do though. i mean, could you
imagine standing there octapied like that? no, i mean man, that's
beautiful, really.... i love dolphins, and octopuses.
met the captain (don van vliet) in the parking lot, between
concerts at the red creek inn here in rochester [new york, usa
- t.t.] recently, during his north eastern tour. we recorded
the following interview:
greg (photographing carl and the captain holding a 'trout mask
replica' album, leaning against a white station wagon): have
to stand back a bit further. - snap! - did it work?
thought you said for us to stand back a bit further. i mean,
that's asking a bit too.... impossible.... but no, it is possible
to go right through the car: i have done a lot of things like
that. no, i mean, i have.
is your favorite album that you recorded?
one i just did. the name of it is 'bat chain puller', and i'm
serious - and that isn't for publicity reasons - and it is,
man, it is góóóód! i got to hear
every little note. i wrote every little note - of course, i
always have - but i got every little note right on the tape.
you write your music down?
don't write it down. well, i do write it down sometimes, but
the way i write it most people can't read it. like paintings.
i actually do, like in 'electricity' (from 'safe as milk'):
the theremin fellow that played that was about 65, had a little
pencil thin moustache, conservative suit, black, very, ummm...
the background friends were whistling for their dog to stay
out of the kitchen) - let him go. please let him go.
owner: in the kitchen? sure,
let him go get something to eat. (returning to subject:)
what is it? bella lugosi - no: boris - ummm, bella lugosi: 'tonight
we fly' (waving a pointed finger toward the sky). no, he looked
like that, played a theremin and was an apprentice of dr. theramin
[the russian inventor of that instrument - t.t.]. and i wrote
it on a blackboard and he played it note for note. i mean, i
wrote it advanced music - and he played it note for note. i
am talking about shapes: he did it note for note, and he didn't
miss what i thought. i mean, he was fantastic.
you originally a musician or a painter?
was a sculptor, a child prodigy sculptor. when i was 13, i had
a scholarship to europe from 'nuitsence creamery' (or so - editors),
and then my folks moved me to muhabbi (or so - editors; what
about: mojave? - t.t.) near the high desert, where they put
the oriental people during world war two, which was real sick.
so here i was in mojave, a marine base, no, an air force base;
i mean, in order to keep my mind the way it is, they didn't
like my eyes you see, so i had to defend myself. i mean: i had
to every day. five people at a time. i mean, all you can do
when people jump you like that is punch your way out - i mean,
who would want to punch out? but if you don't punch, you get
poked. and i never got poked.
was terrible, leaving that art area in los angeles. i used to
go to the park zoo, i knew all the animals, sculpted all the
animals, they were all friends of mine, and that's about what
all i knew were animals, and then bóom!: here i am in
mojave. my folks moved there, i couldn't get away. i ran away
many times. i never went to school in my whole life. if you
want to be a different fish, you've got to jump out of the school.
what other bands do you listen to?
don't. i mean: i don't. i have one that suits me just fine.
i'll tell you who has been on this tour with me - and i wished
he was here tonight. his name is sunnyland slim, a black blues
pianist. the most fantastic. listen, i thought i had heard it
all, but man, i hadn't even begun. this fellow is a genius.
there's no doubt about it. i mean, this man is brilliant. brilliant.
brilliant. i mean: brilliant. just a grand piano, and a drummer,
and man he did 'tin pan alley' for me the other night and i
was crying my eyes out. i almost fell off, in buffalo. i was
standing there, and denny walley, our slide guitar player saved
me, because i was falling backwards - like that, man (captain
demonstrates) - and he saved me. i was falling down a hell of
a flight of cement stairs. i mean he just took me. i swear i
was off the ground, i think he did levitate me. i mean, i mean
that. you've got to hear him, man.
captain's new drummer approaches:
here is the percussionist, and his name is:
williams: robert williams.
he is the best i have ever played with, and i have played with
a lot of them. he is the best i've ever played with.
what label are you on now?
wrote 'lick your labels off, baby', and i'm having a little
trouble getting back on a label, because they know i believe
in it. but we're in negotiation with several companies: epic,
you changed to mercury records, your style was a little bit
different from the previous albums on straight / bizarre...
mask replica', 'lick my decals off, baby', 'the spotlight kid'
and then 'clear spot' - the steps down, because i like people,
i like to play, and i want them to play to me, with me - you
see. and the point is that then i did an album for the group,
because they weren't making any money. they lent me their hands
to do 'trout mask replica', 'lick my decals off, baby' - i didn't
want to do 'clear spot' at that time. i went down a little lower
like that for the group and did 'unconditionally guaranteed'.
they left me after that, and left one with some monsters. i
got these people who they could relate to, and then they gave
williams: the shaft.
two, three, four, fíve days! and i gave them six yéars!
they gave me five days with their audience, and with their fans
as well as my fans. in europe, england, everywhere, holland,
switzerland, germany, america - a tour, a big tour, and they
gave me five days to get a group together to do my music. that's
what you get: 'tonight we fly' (once again pointing a finger
toward the sky).
thís group! i have looked for this group for twelve years!
we all love animals, the whole group, complete consciousness,
we know that the largest living mammal is the absent mind....
been getting these record negotiations out of the way, so i
will be completely clear for publishing books and things like
that. i mean, i really have a lot of novels, and a lot of poetry.
any of that available now?
will be. as soon as the end of this negotional things that's
in doing. i have exhibits of paintings available now if you
have a plane ticket. they're back there
(california - editors). i would like to
do an exhibit in new york.
this concluded the interview with the captain. the band (captain
- sax, lead vocal, harmonica; robert williams - percussion,
drums; jeff morris tepper - guitar; denny walley - slide guitar;
eric 'black jewel kittaboo' feldman - bass, keyboards, synthesizers)
went on to do the 10:00 performance to a packed house. they
played cuts from the new album and various classics from the
captain's earlier works. the band performed with amazing accuracy
and enthusiasm along with the captain's inimitable, charismatic
to Beefheart - Back to Music