captain beefheart electricity


history - interviewflits


from england 12 december 1969 FRIENDS #1
by dick lawson
is 31 october 1969 interview

note: appropriate pages are misdated 22 november 1969

THIS is part 1 - part 2


in the course of a two-hour lunch and press reception (a weird ritual steak-eat) and an evening at the cap's hotel which ended up at the speakeasy, we must have talked for about eight hours. that included two meals, a dozen cokes, a couple of packs of kool cigarettes, and topics ranging from killing whales for facecream - "just so as they can lick it off ladies' faces" - to english chicks - "you get there and start going off, and they want you to be there; they get very anxious". eight hours of word conjuring and blowing people's minds can get pretty heavy, but then, in beefheart's terms, everything is viewed from an astral plane. he very rarely touches down. he doesn't need to...: he comes from mars.

is the whole band from mars?

the whole band. i really do believe that if they aren't now, they will be. i think they are.

that must make it hard to function on the ritual level of a press reception.

i never get confronted with it very often. yesterday was about the fourth time in my life. i suppose it's necessary for them to be able to do what they have to do. i suppose.

to plan it?

to planet or plan it?... planets planning planets - mmm. shall i have them send some tea up here, just to bother them?.... hallo. is it possible to get some tea sent up to my room?... really?... couldn't you just get a little teacup and put some wings on it... put wings on the cup and let it fly up... hallo... stuck to the table... hmmmm... oh, you're not either... you're just teasing me... you're sending me up... i know, i'm just teasing you... that's all right... bye.... that's a nice girl on the switchboard. she's like a petunia in an onion patch. she could be from mars. if she'd brought the tea up i think she would have been; especially if she had put little wings on it and let it fly up. but it was stuck to the table anyway.

captain beefheart /
                          don van vliet - england 31 october 1969 press
                          meeting - picture by alec byrne / london photo
picture by (alec byrne from) london photo agency

you were talking earlier of your words and music being an unconscious 'stream of consciousness'....

yes. they should not be thought of while in the stream.... we did 'trout mask replica' in eight and a half hours - writing the songs.

the first time you had done it like that?

that was, yeah, the first time i had ever played the piano, and i did it on a piano.

what about the other two; were they written before?

you mean 'the dust blows forward n' the dust blows back' and 'orange claw hammer'?... i did them sitting in the living room. i had a cassette and i started singing. just those two. the album was done in the studio.

the previous two albums were prepared before the studio?

i get those across orally.... i don't believe in writing music.... it's in the past.

in the past as far as it was preordained?

well, you'll have to ask the doughnut. the doughnut knows that, because it doesn't know that.

but the doughnut is a circle.

ah. you see you can't see the doughnut or describe it.... i don't know. do you? i don't think it's square.

wouldn't a circle be dangerous: self-conscious and repeating?

i suppose a circle is. or is it?... (laughs) we'd better play music now; i think we'd better.

okay, what happened in belgium? (28 october, the 'amougies festival'. frank zappa was there too, as master of ceremonies. - t.t.)

well, frank zappa sang five songs and we had a good time (the writer must have misheard don. frank sang not a single word, he only guested on guitar during the sixth, last track, a blues jam - teejo). i don't know, what they were doing; they were throwing what looked like birds nests at us, and then one fellow out of the audience - between one of the compositions - said my name was captain bullshit, and i said: "well, that's all right baby, you're sitting in it." you know what i mean?

i don't know if he was an american; i'm not sure, because he was using early gary cooper movie talk. like "yep", things like that. i think they did well in five days and moving it from france to belgium. but it was awfully cold - twnty degrees (fahrenheit; about minus five celcius - t.t.) - the people in the audience, i don't know how they did it. i think it was probably pretty nice for them to leave their bodies.... but the amplifiers were blown out by the time we got to them, and we need clarity for that, and there wasn't any. i don't know. i hope they enjoyed it. enjoyed it.

captain beefheart /
                          don van vliet - england 31 october 1969 press
                          meeting - picture by alec byrne / london photo
(outcut of later published glossy) picture by (alec byrne from) london photo agency

when are you returning to england?

in the fall i hope. (in fact, he'll be back next spring - d. l. [but that didn't happen too - t.t.])

with the same band together?

they will be if they will be.

there's been a lot of changes.

yeah. these are kind people. that's what's important. very important.

but it has taken years to get together?

well, drumbo (= john french, but he means jeff burchell - t.t.) has been there for three months, but zoot horn rollo (bill harkleroad) has been there for a year and two months. rockette morton (mark boston) has been there for a year. and the mascara snake (victor haydon), who is my cousin - he's twenty-one now; i've been around him all his life, calendar life - and he's been with the group for about two months, but, there again, he came over and played on 'hair pie; bake 1' - so i guess he was to be in music rather than painting. he's a painter, a very good painter.... would you like some scotch? (no, thanks.) - i don't like it; i've been using it for mouthwash.

is the reaction in america very different to anywhere else?

things are moving so fast there. the people try to keep up with 'general motors', and become 'general motors', and our music is too slow for them to hear.

too slow? not too complex?

i think it's too slow. too bulbous.

fast and bulbous?

fast and bulbous. a fast thing being bulbous is really slow.

it seems as if the band's lifestyle is totally orientated towards 'antiritual'....

yeah. i think they're beginning to live that more now than they had before they got it.

from years of living in the desert?

that's like staying up to see if you're asleep. i've no idea.... fortunately, i have no idea.

where is this consciousness-stage?

frank says the nice state to be is halfway between zen and boogie-woogie.... frank's definitely from mars. he's got a lot of nerve - he comes down a lot - he's got a lot of nerve.

how dangerous is it to come down so often?

i don't know; i haven't been engaging in it a lot, you know what i mean? probably afraid to.... i'd rather not, but occasionally you have to, like, put a leg down. it's almost like dipping your toe in the cold water, in a pond.

not very often?

not that often.


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flits captain beefheart electricity
as felt by teejo