DON'T ARGUE WITH
history - interview
BONO & BEEFHEART
from holland 15 december 2001 OOR
as well as
'THIS IS YOUR CAPTAIN SPEAKING'
from england 1 april 2004 MOJO #101
photographer anton corbijn has known bono and don van vliet, aka captain beefheart, for twenty years. last year, via a us conference call, he finally put the two legends in touch...
corbijn:) hello don, are you there?
all hands under the table.
anton's table is in london, mine is in los angeles and we are holding hands across the sort of cyberworld looking for your spirit. are you with us, don, are you with us?
little donnie d from the dynamo.
last night i saw all the stars streaking across the sky... it was unbelievable. did you see any of that?
they jipped us.
god stood us up.
well, how shall i put it, god is not reliable for appointments. in fact we have to wait for him...(laughs.) but i thought in the desert you might see these comets streaking through the sky - it was quite a sight.
it was, but not for us.
then you didn't see any?
god, they're flying by here and i thought - i'm in los angeles and they have a universe of their own here - that due to all the neon we might not catch a glimpse of god. but, really they flashed along every minute. i've never seen a thing like this. i thought they were heading to your place...
what i liked, was when you took off your [sun]glasses and gave them to the pope. you said he smiled devilishly.
that is true. i said i thought he was a great showman --
-- as well as a holy man, because catholicism is the glam rock of religion.
you set him up.
no! i mean it, it was perfect!
well, unfortunately his courtiers didn't have the same sense of humour as the pontiff, so the pictures of him wearing the shades never made it out. but i'm glad you spotted that from that far away. it was a moment i'm sure you would have enjoyed.
well, i enjoyed it.
it gets cold now in the desert, at this time of the year.
well, i'm up north.
you're up north? i always have you in the desert as a sort of john the baptist, and --
i always think of you as john the baptist, with honey and locusts.
and no bin laden (new, legendary american enemy, living somewhere in a desert - t.t.).
(laughing:) i thought i heard he was hanging out with don van vliet. he wants his picture painted.
you know what, that song you did - 'one' - is fantastic.... it was unbelievable.
ah well, i was..., er, that's the highest compliment i can imagine. i'm going to take that and repeat it to myself throughout the week, thank you. my favourite painting of yours is 'with twinkling lights and green flashes'(last word should be 'sashes' - teejo).
ah, thank you.
it's beautiful, extraordinary! my father was a painter. i would love to paint, and i think --
i think you're already doing that.
beg your pardon?
you're painting already.
maybe you could look at it that way, i hadn't thought about it that way.
you're doing something very unusual. you're able to have the song be moving and then you shape it.
yeah, yeah, that's about right. the way u2 works is maybe like a painter in that sense that we don't have a structure or such, we just start to improvise and discover the song whilst singing it. and i think - is that how a painter works? or do you have a very clear idea? i know you have got very clear ideas about your songs, but with páinting: is it discovery or do you have set it in your head?
it's no ván gógh!...
i'm not sure i agree with that. i think that this work (the painting mentioned earlier - t.t.) is really as bright, really luminous.
and what i wanted to say, is that joy is the hardest thing to contrive. happiness is an easy thing to construct, and sentimentality its next door neighbour. and: anger is quite easy to get across, just like it is easy to devote to melancholy. but joy is the hardest thing, and there is so much of it in these paintings. and in your music there was always the sense of the joy too - like lifting stones and discovering what was crawling and swarming underneath. it contained a pleasure --
is that fair?
yeah, that's fair.
it just felt like you're having fun, but it was the joy of just seeing things.
of fucking around...
yeah, yeah, and that's beautiful to see. there happens to be another one - i don't remember its title - from around '84. it's a painting with a horse in the background, it is kind of amber or card-coloured and it's got its hands up to the sky. it could be untitled, but that's another one i really love.
you know what, i appreciate that. but i can't remember which painting it is.
i don't have a boat.... got lots of raccoons, instead.
raccoons?... have you got raccoons where you are?
lots of them, and even mountain lions.
wow. that feels like a long way from ireland.
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