ARGUE WITH THE CAPTAIN
history - story
a rare interview
(outtake) from usa 9 october 1981 BAM (bay area music) #114
by david gans
note: ted - who worked with a lot of famous musicians - produced 'clear spot' in summer and autumn 1972
what did you expect when you did captain beefheart's clear spot?
i liked his rhythmic ideas, for one thing, and he had good players. his other albums were interesting, and i was fascinated by his lyrics.
beefheart was so crazy! if he didn't think the drummer (art tripp, aka ed marimba - t.t.) was playing with enough soul, he made him wear blackface. one day he stopped and said to the bass player (roy estrada, aka oréjon): 'did you eat? did you éat?!'. he said: 'yeah'. beefheart said: 'what did you have?'. 'a taco.' 'a tácó', beefheart says, and then bóóm! he threw him out of the chair. just nutso.
what did this accomplish in the way of motivating his musicians?
he was a complete fascist, and he was physically intimidating. but they all lived together, and they did everything he said. he used to sing the guitar parts to the guitar players, and he came up with great beats for the drummer - who had been with a symphony orchestra and could do anything.
one time, i was trying
to record a vocal, and he said: 'i can't use this
microphone - i will blow
this apart'. so i shock-mounted an old rca ribbon
mike - and put it in
front of him. then i put another mike on the stand,
a 545, and actually
recorded with that one. he stopped in the middle of
the tune, threw his
headphones down, and said (produces a menaging
growl): 'god dammit!
i can hear the typewriter through the walls!'.
he made up lyrics, but he would never figure out exactly how they would go with the song until he actually started to sing it. he would néver have tried it before.
once he said: 'okay, ted. the way i'm going to get this is, i don't want any headphones. you point to me when the track starts and i'll start singing' (laughs). he was serious! we tried it a couple of times. it sounded ridiculous, of course.
did 'clear spot' do well?
probably a little better than his other albums. it's recorded well.
did you want to work with him again?
i never wanted to sée him again! later, i became friendly with him. he's a nice guy, but unpredictable.