DON'T ARGUE WITH THE CAPTAIN
history - interview
THE TENDERIZED BEEFHEART OF 'CLEAR SPOT'
from usa 20 november 1972 warner/reprise CIRCULAR vol.4 #46
note: main part of text reproduced in england fanzine 1 november 1998 STEAL SOFTLY THRU SNOW * #7 SINGIN' FOR WOMEN!
part 1 - THIS is PART 2
so it is still captain beefheart, still the magic band, still the mystic minstrelsy of self-styled amateurs, in the best meaning of the word: 'one who cultivates any study or art or other activity for personal pleasure...'. this accurately describes the members of the magic band. don says of his henchmen: 'zoot horn rollo started playing guitar on 'trout mask replica', and rockette morton first played bass on the same album.' together [with artie tripp on drums - t.t.], in his words, 'they are the baddest trio in the world.'*
to elucidate a little: lead guitarist bill harkleroad aka zoot horn rollo, guitarist mark boston aka rockette morton (who also plays bass guitar, though not on 'clear spot') and drummer artie tripp aka ed marimba have, in the course of roughly three years, managed to attain musical standards which don van vliet aka captain beefheart, will discuss only in superlatives. to this 'baddest' of trios a new member, roy estrada aka oréjon, had been added as bassist.
one more bit of background, before we return to other contexts. don envisioned 'clear spot' as a gleaming disc of clear vinyl, very possibly to symbolize the clarity which he and [producer] ted templeman had labored to achieve in the captain's latest work.
however, tests on clear sample platters revealed insurmountable obstacles - a nasty tendency to pick up other colors in smudges and flecks, which spoiled the brilliance of the crystal plastic; an even nastier tendency to go gooey and stick to its sleeve at temperatures which might be reasonably be anticipated during shipment.
an extravagant series of experimentations compromised with the captain's original concept and the customary black record will be visible through a clear vinyl liner - strikingly unique, even for a one-of-a-kind artist. (i suspect that disc-jockeys will be grateful: how easy for a clear disc to vanish in a cluttered control room, how difficult to squint for the cut to be aired.)
now about those dangling contexts. the matrix of all that don van vliet says expresses aspects of identity, oblique or head-on, statements of who he is, with or without cross-referencing. since he ís a poet and a painter among these identities, i asked him about his painting. for instance, what are his views on form in painting?
'i've been told to think about it that way. and i have tried, but it always slips out... i think i'd rather send you one, because i sure don't know how to talk about it. to be really truthful, i can expound about poetry, but the thing is that there's no way - you know that as well as i do, man....'
he added: 'i have painted with my wife, who is a painter, both of us painting on the same picture, and i enjoy that. it's great, because you can't do it all, anyway.'
what about color? 'i love black and white. i really do, but then that gives people a chance to put their own color into it, lets them use their own imagination.'
there's a strong, however shifting certainty to these identifications. in the hour or so we spent together i don't think he ever departed from this positive mode of expression. for every 'no' he would find an encouraging 'yes'.
'i was born in glendale,' he told me. 'they cáll it glendale, but there wasn't much of a dale or a glen left when i was born there.' and he went on to speak glowingly of his present northern california home country.
trying to steer our discussion back to his music and the new album, i went out on a limb - and of course he followed. i asked: 'they have described what you do as dada rock. well?'
'that's ridiculous, man. i mean, i never cut my hair off on one side, or anything like that. i'm not really interested in either disevening things up or in evening things up.' he grinned. 'that was a quick one, wasn't it?'
it was. so i asked him straight out: 'what about your new album?'
'i would like to take about six weeks off and lay down and drink the water a little bit slower. i have looked for these people (ted templeman, his producer, and don landee, his engineer - l.b.) for seven years. that's how long i've been in the music business. and i've looked for someone like ted for seven years. and the engineer is fantastic as well - i mean: i can't believe it! i think that this fellow is equally underrated as i have been, not that i was looking for any rating or anything like that, but the thing is that i did have something to say and i felt that people should hear it. very few did. they are hearing it more since i have been with warner bros. they're helping out.'
there is no beginning and no end to a conversation of this nature. one last sample:
'first you have to love animals before you love people.'
i can't make that differentiation because people are animals. don't you think?
'of course they are. the idea of them thinking they aren't, even the idea of that being something to think about is even more preposterous....'
presently there was an end to talk. don wanted his 'baddest' trio to jam for me, and ted templeman gave his assent. it was like family fun, the way they played and enjoyed each other. captain beefheart, on the sidelines, had a lingering impulse to break something just to contribute a token of his excitement, but the notion itself was enough to sustain him. and he beamed with pride on his magic band.
this issue of the warner / reprise record company's weekly magazine for music business insiders, also contained an interview and news dealing with the actual release of the 'clear spot' album: captain beefheart meets the wolfman