captain beefheart electricity


history - interviewflits


from england 1 april 1972 NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS
by danny holloway
is 23 march 1972 interview

* text reprinted as captain beefheart: spotlight kid talking in usa 1 october 1972 HIT PARADER #99
* the interviewer also wrote a concert review


recently moved from his desert domain in lancaster to the remote forests of oceanside eureka in northern california, captain beefheart, at a comfortable thirty-one, is happier than ever. when we met in his publicist's apartment, he remembered me from the last time i had seen him - in the whisky-a-go-go in west hollywood in 1966 when i was part of the crowd in front of the stage.

the spotlight kid is currently on tour in europe and as you are about to experience, our interview was extremely out of the ordinary. but then, so is hé. his brain freely flows with no apparent logical train of thought, but the result is interesting and amusing.

do you plan to visit any museums or art galleries while you're here?

i sure am. i can hardly wait. i like van gogh. is he here..., or his paintings? i mean it's nice to be able to walk out of the warm sun and be able to walk in and see a lot of sun on the canvas like that. sssshheeeeew. that cat, man, was all together: van gogh.

i would have liked to have met him in person. i guess i'll just have to settle for seeing his paintings. although they don't influence me, they make me feel good. it wouldn't be fair to my own art if they did. but i sure would like to see them.

it seems like a couple of times in a lifetime a person meets someone who is really special to him. like you said you wanted to meet van gogh. have you met anyone that special?

my wife. ornette coleman is very special. i've met a lot of special people. everyone who thinks they're special is special. it's all in what you think. i notice that you think you're a little more special than the last time i saw you at the whisky-a-go-go. you were far out, man. so was i. i was just as far out as you were. you remember that?

i was wild, man. i'm still wild. but i was wild. i was restless then, i'm a lot more comfortable with my own water now. at that time, occasionally, i would throw sparklers in my water. i mean, i would drink a wee bit. now i don't drink at all, but occasionally i'll have a cognac. on the night i saw you, that was a rare occasion. on that night i had drunk a half pint of cognac. but that was silly.

when you look back, are those good memories from those days?

i'd have never thought of it unless i'd seen you - you know what i mean? but i remember now. i don't think back. i don't think it's fair. i might run into somebody if i was looking back like that.

i think there's an order on this planet, and the order is: not to look back. while you're looking back, your car could crash and kill a whole lot of people - you know what i mean? i don't think that is fair, do you?

besides, i don't want to go back and push up a war. i notice that the youth - or whatever you want to call it, because i don't believe in age or rulers - are looking back to the twenties and they're going to discover another war. why do they want to do that, man? why don't they not look back and be nice now, then there won't be any wars. they can stop war.

why do they want to go back and fish up those p-38 brassieres and pants that look like guns? what is that, man? why do they want to do that when they're all right now? come out! they should get off their butts and quit smoking things that make them drunk and get it on - you know what i mean?... good... hard drugs are ridiculous. how can they profess organic foods and take poison like that.

you must feel the same way about people who look back to the fifties for their music and lifestyle.

it's ridiculous. why? they didn't miss anything... that's gone, all gone. this is today. that's silly to try and go back like that. they'll bump into something. another war? why? that's so corny.

do you think there are any cycles to life?

no. do you? i know there are motorcycles and man made them, so man must have made the damn cycles of war too.

you seem like you would only sleep for three or four hours a night.

well, it's kind of silly. it's like having a baby bottle. good lord, they broke the sound barrier in 1950, can't they break the sleep barrier in 1972? i stayed up for a year and a half once without any sleep or narcotics. just food and water. i did that and i'm not anything special.

it's ridiculous: people sleep all their lives away. a big snooze while all these wars are going on without stopping. you would have to be asleep to look at the sky the way it is.

captain beefheart / don van vliet - new york, usa mid january 1972 - picture by ed gallucci - usa 011072 hit parader
uncredited picture by ed gallucci from the usa version

i've got blue eyes and i want a blue sky. that's our blue eye up there. that's why i'm going to quit smoking. if thousands of people did it, the sky would look better.

when are you going to record your next album 'brown star'?

probably when i go back. i may record some of it here.

do you think you might be one of those artists who go unrecognised until after they're gone?

no. i am not that silly. you notice that opposed to doing 'trout mask replica' and having nothing but frowns. i've done 'lick my decals off, baby' meaning get rid of the labels. and now i have done 'the spotlight kid' and i'm here. why should i poke at people something they don't want to hear?

there's got to be a way that i can get to the people. whatever it is, then that's what i'm going to do. not to be commercial, just to be cordial. why shouldn't i? i'm not hiding anything. why should i? i'm not silly.

i'm very nocturnal - but i'm not afraid of the sun. but i mean, don't sit out in it for hours and get a tan: burn myself. i like the sun and the moon, i like them both the same.

i have heard you've got a manager that you're happy with.

yeah. tremendous shadow. beautiful shadow. he weighs around 450 pounds. he looks good. he's losing weight for his health, but he looks good anyway. he is very artistic.

you seem to be a much more satisfied man now that you have a good band and a wife and manager you're happy with. but it has taken you a long time, hasn't it?

sure. but don't you think it's more realistic because it has taken me that long to get people like that around me? there are some fish, when a lure is splashing in the water, come out fast and disappear soon. and some fish don't even come out.

i thought you might be one of those.

oh no. i am not a monk. maybe a monkey, but not a monk. do a neptune? i'm not afraid. i'm out here, man. i've always been playing. it's just that people didn't know where i live or they couldn't find my house.

a lot of people came up to hear me. i was playing all the time that they say i was incognito. but that's because they wanted something 'neato' to say. so they thought i was part of the neato-cog. i'm here and i will be here.

do you play up in your home in eureka? there are a lot of trees up there...

they love it, man. they send out tremendous breaths of air to us. i can play my horn. the place is long, as opposed to short. i don't mean by the ruler. the trees give you air, but, of course, at night they take it away for themselves. they give air all day until the sun goes down and then they start spitting out poisons like we do. at night, a plant has to shut down and after it does, it smokes for a while.

so when is your first date on the tour?

my first date is going to be in egypt: a belly dancer. i'm gonna have a belly dancer, a glass blower and a ballerina at the albert hall.

on stage with you?

no, on stage before i come on. that would be too many if they were on at the same time as us, because we move. i don't want to run into anybody.

wait till you see it. i have to get my exercise somehow. i have red silk suits from china i wear on stage. i like to wear silk. i have silk suits, silk shirts, silk socks. air, you know. i've done a song for my next album 'brown star', called 'shiny around the edges with a breathing top'. it's a beautiful song, it's like a cheer. it's a good cheer though, not a bad cheer. you'll like this next album.

have you ever heard of sun ra? you know what he says? ornette coleman told me. sun ra says that when he walks into a football game, the crowd would all call out his name: 'ra, ra, ra'. that's silly. that's funny though. sun ra - ra, ra, ra. he's a funny guy. i've never met him, but ornette coleman told me that he is funny.

the intro to the new musical express version contains a kind of bonus:
before we parted, he took a felt tip and draw his impression of his bass player rockette morton (mark boston):

rockette morton / mark boston - captain beefheart / don van vliet drawing 23 march 1972 london, england
don van vliet 23 march 1972

want to see more portraits of this band member?


click clack back to the history or return to the power station

flits captain beefheart electricity
as felt by teejo