captain beefheart electricity

the interviews


collection of fragments

from bono to beefheart; 30 stars pick 1994's discs to die for

from MOJO #14 010195 england
is end 1994 telephone interview


captain beefheart, artist

one-string sam! he's a black hobo! it's either one-string sam or one-string jones depending on the neighborhood! ha ha. there's a particularly good one he did called "he was a-fuckin'", recorded quite some time ago. winged eel fingerling (elliot ingber - teejo) gave it to me to hear, about - oooh - twenty years ago. yeah! it's pretty good.

i will play it for you. let me ask my wife if she has this tape. (off phone) jan! jan! i want to play the tape for him. (back on) it'll be one minute. he has this plywood board. he comes from... god knows where. he has one string! you won't believe it! (sound of tape being cued up) here we go! here he is! listen to it!

blistering blues vocal with paint-stripping, single-stringed backing, lyric approximately as follows: god made the elephant big and stout / he wasn't satisfied till he made him a great long snout / he made him a anout that was as long as a rail / he wasn't satisfied till he got him a great long tail / he made him a tail that was too bad to little flies / he wasn't satisfied till he made him some great big eyes / he made him some eyes... (indecipherable) / he wasn't satisfied till he made him a nine inch dick / an' if anything caught him he was a-fuckin' / he was a-fuckin' / etc...

(back on the phone) that's our man! he's incredible! ha ha ha. what do you think?

the q 100 interview

from Q #100 010195 england
by mark ellen
is end 1994 telephone interview

note: right part (with famous hat-off picture by anton corbijn) of a special item called Q CHARTS, with on the left a CAPTAINS LOG [includes the captains pugwash, america, kirk, haddock, and morgan a.o.] a log of 50 good, good captains, and the best captain of all...


how the devil are you?

i feel like the world... is my yster! it sounds like yu're quite healthy.

have you ever read q magazine?

sure! yes. it sells in eureka (california). 'course!

what did you read?

i'm having a hard time remembering.

what's it like where you live?

i can walk about a hundred and fifty feet and i would be in the ocean. there's raccoons. 'washbears', that's what michael (werner), my art dealer, calls them.

what's the most you've ever been paid for a painting?

in my imagination, that's the most i've been paid.

are you still composing?

mainly, i'm just painting. i believe a composer is one who gracefully avoids - what do you call it? - 'rigor mortis'. that's a composer!

how have you changed in the last eight years?

i hope i'm smarter.

tell us a joke.

yes. one joke i sure do agree with. it's a joke that the chinese are killing tigers. they have a pussy problem! (laughs) oh. i can tell you one more. if you're ever in japan, don't turn on a big faucet because they eat whales!

if i could be a camera

from Q #100 010195 england
by mark ellen
is end 1994 telephone interview

note: part of an interview with / article about don's later personal photographer


the longest and most inscrutable of all his relationships is with don van vliet, the artist formerly known as captain beefheart, several of whose paintings hang in the sitting room of anton's west london pile.

sightings of the good captain these days are rare. he lives with his wife jan overlooking the ocean up on the oregon border, funded by a brisk trade in his canvases. one of the few visitors he entertains is the fellow dutchman (? - teejo) he met in the mojave desert fourteen years ago and whose world-view he so profoundly adjusted. last time he called, they spent the day listening to blues records and watching beefheart's taped appearance on the 'david letterman show' and a john huston film called 'treasure of the sierra madre', all through a dense fog of davidoff cigar smoke.

anton corbijn: when i lived in los angeles, he'd ring me up in the middle of the night and say: 'listen to this!', and he'd play something on the cassette, miles davis, howlin' wolf, and ten minutes later he would go: 'whaddabouddat!'. i met his mother this year and she says he does the same to her. when the phone goes at two in the morning it's don, playing her favourite music.

he recently cut together a lavishly surreal twelve-minute profile of the great man, currently awaiting a nighttime screening on bbc 2 (ah, that must be some yo yo stuff - teejo). shot in stark, industrial, almost 'eraserhead' black-and-white, it begins with his octogenarian mum approaching the camera, nursing a familiar cardboard cut-out: 'this is my son, don!', which she leaves half-buried in the sand. there's a 75-second beefheart piano composition illustrated with high-speed footage of a forest of joshua trees and - strapped to the outside of the car, apparently lip-synching - something that is unmistakably a mackerel. and there's an interview with the captain conducted by david lynch, who's projected on to a screen beside him.

beefheart has some ailment that neither he nor those close to him will acknowledge, so he talks - as he's about to down the phone - in a voice that's painfully slow, strangely over-emphatic and, if this is imaginable, even more bass and sand-blasted than the one which once brought us 'gimme dat harp boy' and 'dachau blues'. this is him now.

what did you think of the movie?

it's like a horror picture, a horror movie! anton is awfully good. i think he's the... best i've ever seen. the fish looks cute. it's incredible. he got the timing with the expressions on the... different mackerel's faces.

how did he do that?

smart! (laughs) he's ral smart!

did you meet david lynch?

(lynch impression) hey don! daaaahhn! what do you hear nw?! he's cute. in the movie he was definitely there. i talked to him but i never met him in person. he said that he'd liked this song from 'trout mask replica', 'the dust blows forward 'n' the dust blows back'. (sings) there's old gray with 'er dove-winged hat / there's old green with her sewing-machine / where's the bobbin at? totin' old grain in uh printed sack / the dust blows forward 'n' the dust blows back... (laughs)

i love that mojave desert picture. you look like a sort of 19th-century itinerant pastor.

thank you! tell him, thank you too. i told him...: 'just shoot the meat!'. haha. yes! i like it because it's so honest. i think he's taken the best pictures of me that anybody has ever taken.

why are they the best?

because he made them that way!

what did he bring out in you?

he brought out... my love of animals.


because he got the real me, the real stuff.

people's image of you seemed to change after those photos.

probably. he got parts of me i didn't even know i had. the complete proof. right there. scary!.

that picture seems to resonate.

yes! you can hear the twang. ter-wangggg! (laughs)

bono (from the popgroup u2 - teejo) thinks his pictures can give you a substance you might not have but were working towards. did they give yu a substance you didn't have?

yeah. he made me feel like an older man... - immediately. i grew up looking at that picture.

he makes people look like isolated souls in torment.

i think i am that way to begin with. but i think he ingratiates it.

and exaggerates it.

sure! anton shoots the edges and occasionally... even the bent parts!

beyond that?

there isn't anything beyond that.

some people can't see the humour in his pictures.

(laughs) i think they've had too much to think! they have humour because they're... so real!


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captain beefheart electricity
as felt by teejo