DON'T ARGUE WITH THE CAPTAIN
history - interview
|WHERE ARE THE ANIMALS IN THIS PROGRAM?
a study of captain beefheart
from usa 19 march 1972 CRAWDADDY #7/72
note: with some dates and facts set straight, and a few editorial adaptations
i know that ornette coleman feels the same way about that; i'm not trying to put my name beside ornette coleman, because you can't put your name beside ornette coleman. i think he is one person who has done that. i just wish that people could drink water with him. i think he's one of the greatest artists of today.
i wish they would let him out of that trap that they've made for him. he never wanted that; he was ahead way long ago - he wasn't ahead, he was right with himself, you know? people try to make you go ahead and try to make you go back, and whenever you play, whenever í play the horn, i hope that people don't try to tell me how to play that horn. because the minute they try to make me go back or go forward on that horn, i'll stick that horn into a mushroom and let it grow in a mushroom, and i'll be out painting with a brush.
i've watched what they've tried to do to him, and i tell you, i don't like it. i don't think they're trying to do the same thing to me, because i'm a white boy, you see - which is ridiculous because everybody is colored or you wouldn't be able to see them. i mean, réally, i don't feel that i'm any color, and he doesn't either. he just wants to pláy.
i wish my audience would listen to him, and just go on to become greater and greater.
there are thóusands of people blowing rainbows out of their horns and rainbows off their finger, and seeking to bring the light to those who need to hide their shadow (second part is a cite from the lyrics of 'electricity' - t.t.). there's thóusands who never get heard because they just don't have the energy to fight off that machine. i think that everybody has to do all they can do to improve themselves, not to deteriorate themselves with speed and things to emulate the fast society. the society should slow down, it's so fast and bulbous. there can't be a continuous tumescence like that.
(he pauses to send zoot horn rollo [aka bill harkleroad], a member of the magic band, out into the metal winds to look for artists' materials. zoot does not return.)
why don't they réalize and start doing nice things? where are the animals, man? why are there no animals in this program? do the children get to see the animals? do they allow people to look into the eyes of another animal that can't reason, but is on the natch and doing real nice - even with all these horrible, horrible onslaughts?
beefheart sees the mountains being covered over with mayonnaise. he sees the gigantic buildings blocking out the sun, throbbing with pointless life (death).
i don't believe in insanity, i believe in varying degrees of disconnection.
the bee takes the honey and he sets the flower free (cite from 'ant man bee' - t.t.). man takes the honey and he gets stuck in it. men get so intelligent that they're stupid. man is a child that can't accept his natural functions.
beefheart is an artist - a painter, a musician, a poet. see his paintings on his album covers, hear his music and his poetry when he makes it in a recording booth or on a stage - preferably the latter, if like me you have trouble hearing his magic on vinyl. alive, in person, he and the magic band are light-years closer to you.
beefheart is more than pleased with his current band. his music cannot be played by any old musician; it takes a breaking down of conventional musical theory and practice, a smashing of structures and a willingness to pláy. hence, he re-named the people he found for his band when they came to him - he found zoot horn rollo at a ballroom in california:
i looked down and saw this wide young face
staring into my eyes. they're not interested in having their surnames,
see, because of the fact that they're attached to all those nests their
folks tried to keep them in. we have to get away from the nest.
beefheart writes all their material, letting it flow out through his voice onto the piano and onto the tape, to be taught to the band. they help too, of course, more now than a year ago; between them and himself there exists a total relationship which seems to be almost wordless.
i've watched their walk, i've watched their talk - and not just watching. it's more like i have been a sponge and soaked up all their water. they were pretty contaminated when i first found them: they'd been listening to radio....
picture by ed gallucci
ed marimba (art tripp) plays drums, marimba, piano and harpsichord. winged eel fingerling (elliot ingber) plays guitar. rockette morton (mark boston) plays bassus ophelius. zoot horn rollo plays glass finger and steel appendage guitar. beefheart himself plays tenor and soprano sax, bass clarinet, and anything else that comes to mind.
onstage, they are a visual delight: rockette morton, looking like a reincarnation of beaudelaire, toulouse-lautrec and gene vincent all rolled into one, jerks the most astounding dance to the thrashing of his bass that you are ever likely to see. his playing is certainly the best of any bass player i have ever seen, and charlie mingus is likewise impressed.
zoot horn rollo and winged feel fingerling sway in unison, and blend two beautiful flowing fluid guitars. ed marimba, monocle and yachting cap secure from the rhythms of his drums, blows out the patterns of the skins. beefheart stands and paces, watching like a benevolent giant until he moves up to the microphone to howl and screech and moan and rasp any one of a thousand voices from the mississippi delta to the further reaches of the cosmos, or play chaotic rainbows from his horns.
i cannot déscribe their music, just as i cannot tell you how beefheart plays with the words in his head (except by saying that he does pláy with words, turning the boundaries of semantics into starting points for the surreal expansion of meaning). beefheart tries to paint the clouds in music; he comes in colors.
beefheart seems to have found some peace with his surroundings. he lives with his gentle wife, jan, in a house which offers a panorama of ocean and redwoods outside of eureka, northern california, up by the oregon border. the local fishermen bring fish up to the house for his family table, and when he dons a suit, just for, the hell of it, they take thát as a sign of strangeness.
with such a solid basis for his art and a happy gaining of self-confidence, beefheart may be ripe to overcome the obstacles to popularity which have previously hampered his acceptance.
i'm not riding in a stagecoach and reaching
out to shake hands with the indians. maybe i have lost the ability to wear
an indian hat.
this interview was
larded with TWO POEMS
when the ocean
don van vliet 1971