captain beefheart electricity

history - interviewflits


from england 1 december 1969 ZIG ZAG #8
by pete frame
is 31 october 1969 interview

* all pictures by rod yallop
* half of text reprinted as captain beefheart in GERMAN translation in germany 1 january 1970 PENG vol.3 #1

THIS is part 1 - part 2


it's strange.... until last month, it was practically impossible to find any articles on, or photographs of captain beefheart. now, since his promotional visit, his face, views and ideas have been spread over practically every periodical i pick up and his music, hopefully, will now rise from the underground cavern of complete oblivion to the more hospitable soil of relative obscurity. we joined the interviewers queue and asked him some questions.

there are rumours that there are at least seven unreleased beefheart elpees in existence - some possibly from the 'moonchild' / pre-buddah days.


do you remember the a&m single 'moonchild'?

do i have to remember that?

you don't know anything about any other albums then?

i sure don't know anything about it if there are. i did a single called 'diddy wah diddy' - an old bo diddley tune - but that's all i remember other than 'moonchild'. buddah have a lot of unfinished tapes.

you've known frank zappa since your school days. had you worked together before the straight album?


doing what?

it was a long time ago.

you don't recall?

i don't remember. i remember feelings, but it's almost like perfume. i don't..., um, i could sit and think about it, but it wouldn't come.

captain beefheart / don van vliet - press meeting england 31 october 1969 - picture by rod yallop

were there magic bands prior to the 'safe as milk' period, or was that the first?

that was the first (well, i don't want to argue with you, don, but that's not quite true - teejo).

and the musicians on that album weren't just session musicians as some people think?

no, but one fellow who was there - ry cooder - he was in the group at that time, but refused to go on the road.

could you identify the people on the 'safe as milk' sleeve?

yes. john french (in white suit) played drums, alex snouffer (in hat) played guitar, jerry handley (check suit) played bass. ryland cooder (inset on doll's head in american inner sleeve) played guitar. hank cicalo (emerging from same doll's right ear) engineered the album and mixed it very well..., but then someone else re-mixed it. (beefheart is a trifle less than pleased with the post session studio work on his first two albums - see the zappa interview in zigzag #3 and miles' article in zigzag #6 'it's the blimp, it's the blimp'.) on the other side of the inner sleeve are bob krasnow and richard perry (under the crowns), and down in the corner there are krasnow's wife and children. he got it all on there.... didn't he just?

there are conflicting interpretations as to the meaning of the title.

'safe as milk' was about the fact that there's too much radiation. the milk wouldn't be safe - it would be contaminated in the mothers when they nursed their children. but it's out now, isn't it? it won't be long before they can't nurse children, will it?

you're reputed to have a very strong anti-police feeling, provoked by a particular accident.

yes, i was picked up for walking down the street in lancaster (california). i was visiting this artist, and i told her i was going for a walk because there was a drunk woman in there from the south and she was talking about my hair.... and i really just didn't feel like hearing about it, so i went for a walk. and the cops picked me up and pulled guns on me and took me to jail, saying things like "we've finally got captain beefheart". i think they did it just to see what i was - do you know what i mean? i don't know why - it must have been a mistake. i wasn't using narcotics or anything, never have. i don't use them at all, because i don't see any reason to.

time magazine - you must be getting really famous - said that you and the band rehearsed for fourteen hours a day. is that right?

no. we ply. we don't time ourselves.... i suppose someone must have snuck in with a circle that was divided, ticked and wasn't an orange. i don't acknowledge watches because that's too much attention focused on one point. it's like being in a cloud, and when you come out there's too much light.... that's what i think of narcotics too.

captain beefheart / don van vliet - press meeting england 31 october 1969 - picture by rod yallop

i gather that plans are afoot to begin filming 'captain beefheart versus the grunt people', which frank wrote some years ago. can you tell us anything about that?

yeah... it should really be interesting.

what's the theme? who are the grunt people?

(to frank zappa:) who are they, frank?

frank zappa: they're these people on the moon, who wear these clothes which are like burlap bags with fish and garbage sewn on them. they are the villains of the story, but turn out to be the victims of a government agent. it's a little warped - just enough to retain clarity..., like a mirror that makes your arm look a little larger.

yes, like a little doodab.

what happened to the band which was with you on 'strictly personal'?

they're all gone. one is a car washer, one is a press operator, and one is a drummer in a marching band. warlike, isn't it: very scary.

in late '67 you were doing 'family dog' gigs and things like that. did you do much work on the road?

no.... we did a lot of playing, but no work. the fact is that i don't really remember it, because i was actually playing. it's like a child which is playing - i'm sure he wouldn't remember it. it's the way the music is.


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flits captain beefheart electricity
as felt by teejo