captain beefheart electricity

the interviews


captain beefheart spills all

from NEW YORK ROCKER #34 011280 usa
by john piccarella
is mid 10.80 interview

* reproduced in germany 1993 (art) book DON VAN VLIET * STAND UP TO BE DISCONTINUED
* all pictures by laura levine

part 1 - part 2 - THIS is PART 3


you take visual motions and put them into rhythm all the time ---

like thát (snaps fingers).

so you're not kidding about that, when you talk about sculpting into sound? it really does work that way?

yeah!... and music gets in the way. i don't like music. i really don't. i'm a sculptor.

you like your music. you like this record.

no i don't. i've listened to it a few times. that's it. like getting your wing caught if you're flying. too much of it is sickening. and that happens to me like that. so it's a real exercise in boredom.

you like charlie parker, though?

yeah, but you see i didn't have to be there, throughout.... you see, i wonder if he liked charlie parker.

he had a rough time.

i think maybe he had an irritation in time. i mean he was irritated. i mean he created irritation. i think in a lot of ways he may have been a sculptor.


i knew john coltrane. i mean i knew him. i liked him, he was a nice man.

did you hang around jazz circles at that time? you knew ornette [coleman - t.t.]?

you see, i never... i was always the person. the music was just... i mean it was the individual. oh, i loved roland kirk... for years. we were friends.

did you ever play with him?

oh, no. i just enjoyed what he does. how could i? how could i play with him? how could he play with me? although we were real good friends. total respect. i think he's the most underrated american musician of all.

'the best batch yet'- what's that about?

they are cardboard balls seamed in glue / overwhelming technique / done from the inside where you can hardly see / done through diligence... you know, they're just balls floating across the music. i mean very, very tapered. just a poem. but who has ever said that?... they're pearls, you know... uh, that music on that thing - do you like that?

sure.... you've heard pere ubu?

i don't have to.

i think they use that kind of rhythm a lot.

do you? they don't know what i'm doing.

captain beefheart / don van vliet - new york, usa mid october 1980 - new york rocker 011280 - picture by laura levine

maybe they don't, but they use similar rhythms.

they try. and if they use that rhythm...: nobody else but me has used that rhythm. i guarantee you, because it comes out of me. a lot of people think i don't know about rhythm...

who thinks that?

people who think too much. i mean, everybody has their own rhythm... i don't need it. i have my own rhythms. it's very selfish, what i do. i'm an artist.

do you think this album is in any way a response to the people you've influenced? to the new wave?

not at all. no, i could care less. really. i don't even listen to....

'ashtray heart' isn't addressed to ---


well, it sounds like that: 'you used me for an ashtray heart', like 'you know you made me into this'....

i'm talking to my baby. my artist. what it is that makes me get up in the middle of the night when i haven't had any sleep and i'm really fatigued or dazed like i'm five days awake... that span of time and i finally get to sleep and all of a sudden...: bing!... you know, a piece of clay or a pen. it's ridiculous.

i've had times when i didn't sleep for a year and a half. that's a fact. i couldn't. i wrote down everything. everything! what it was to me was a mental fast. because to get rid of... - you know, getting it all out. like an illness or a fever, burning off.... in nature, a fire burning everything away and then coming back with new things. ooooh, i've been through it.

do you know what 'a case of the punks' means in that song?

no. but do you know anybody who has a lot of money that would come out with a new product? 'a case of the punks' - it may be funny, though. i think... well, then it could mean that, couldn't it? it could be that they lost sight of... - and became a product, you know, a case....

that's what i thought you meant.

well, i did and then again i didn't. i meant other things. i'm not being evasive. the thing is that it means a lot of things, try and not have it just one fixated thing. but then again i'm not gonna go: 'well, this is art....'

do you feel, as an artist, that there shouldn't be an interaction between you and the culture you're addressing? you have fans that are in the rock culture. they have bands. there are connections that exist. do you think that should be avoided? everyone should do what they do? or should there be some relation between you and what's going on?

i think everybody should do what they do. because wouldn't that be interesting? then, as an artist, i could go out and hear something that has nothing to do with me, which is so pleasing.... the chinese opera was wonderful....

yeah, they've never heard captain beefheart. isn't an artist in some way representative of his culture?

at times, but isn't it funny i'm not that representative of it?

i think your work is very american - like i was saying before about the blues. did you listen to a lot of blues when you were younger?

you know i didn't. i was sculpting. i used to lock myself in. my mother would have to put food under the door, like a cat door, 'cause i was in there, man.

on 'trout mask replica' you did those solo vocal places which you've never done again, like 'well' that had a real old blues feeling, like a field holler ---

yeah, who said an albino can't have soul? what i'm saying is that i think a poem like 'well'... - and i have that voice. where did it come from? ooooh, if i were to think of that.... i have an awfully powerful voice. i haven't heard the likes of it. although if i could parrot - whát? - i'd feel so funny, like putting on a sleeve of someone else's coat.... it is fine. i have seven and a half octaves. i actually do. i don't know how. why? because i never went to school. and never did i train myself.

captain beefheart / don van vliet - new york rocker 011280 - by laura levine

did you practice singing?

no, i don't... at all. i don't rehearse anything.

except the band.

oh, yeah. but they love it. if they didn't, they'd leave. and they do. some do.

drumbo [john french] just left again, right?

yeah.... fine. he'll do something else. i don't want to restrict anyone from leaving. i have a great fellow playing guitar. you have to hear him. the fellow who came to me after drumbo left....

what kind of a sense of your audience do you think you have?

probably very honest, because i'm doing what i'm doing solely... i don't want to bother them.... i don't mind if they come there.

you certainly hope they do.

no, because i don't want to control them. if they want to see me, i think that's interesting. i appreciate it. because i can do more.... that's amazing. they could go somewhere else... and i was gonna say, they often do. but how do i know that? i wouldn't be able to be doing my art. that's selfish.

do you feel like you're communicating?

i m not an entertainer. you know that.

you're doing it for people? you're doing it to tell them something?

not really. no, i don't like politics, do you? but what would be better? ooooh, do you know what i mean? i mean i don't think it'll work, but i just think people should help themselves and really worry about every place they put their foot, because there's something living there.

you're still very interested in ecology?

oh, yeah. i think, if anything, that's my instruction.

do you worry about the world political situation?

it is scary. oh, it's so stupid. oh, it's corny... for an observer. it's really corny, isn't it? i mean, why do people step on other people? they want to get there before the other person gets there. i mean, it's an exercise on the streets of manhattan...: 'white ants running' - remember that?

yeah..., i don't remember where it's from.

no, you didn't? yes you did. isn't that funny? the mind, it's like a computer.

yeah, now i have to match it up ----

why? you see, i don't have to do that. you're a musician. i don't think i'm a musician. what do you like on this album?

most of it. i really like the first two on the second side.... do you really think this is your best album?

let me think about that for a second.... yeah, i would..., i think so, but i'm not going to be that facetious. i really liked it. i felt that the baby got to be the baby.


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captain beefheart electricity
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