captain beefheart electricity

the interviews - band members



from internet newsgroup 070899

note: this just was sent out to everyone...


Yeah, Beefheart was an intimidating hard ass with an attitude but he pushed his musicians to where the writers for Star Trek only almost thught about. Originality can be good and it can be pathetic - but when it's good, it's special, very special. He blazed a big ass trail (even for Zappa) and widened the musical road for us to travel.

Listen, if anyone suffered the brunt of his 'acting out' during the late 70's and early 80's it was me. He picked on me constantly. I was honest with him. When I told him that I played much better when he was nice to me he said, "Listen man, I pick on you because you can take it. If I picked on those jews they'd fall apart!" [see note about 'those jews' at the bottom - teejo]


I hate to say it but the others kissed his ass. Rick Snyder should remember the time in my home town Boston when he went up to Don Van Vliet after the show and said in a schoolboy tattle tale voice, "Don, Robert's playing Suction Prints too fast!" Don came up to me and gave me a rash of shit. In the dressing room, with my mom and my family and friends waiting outside, I told Rick that I'd love to put my foot up Don's ass but I was afraid to hit Mr. Midnight Hat Size Snyder in the back of the head....

He responded by taking swing at me, under which I ducked and managed to get him in a headlock and made him promise to stop. When he said OK, I let go and just when I did, he bent over to pick up a chair and when I saw what he was about to do, I dashed out of the room and closed the door behind me.

Standing there in the hallway were my mother and younger brother. "Hi!"~"BOOM!"[chair hitting the wall]~"How's it going?" I deserved it. I rode Snyder to hell and back. I pushed him so hard that I'm lucky he didn't kill me. I was a bastard to him. He sounded good live though, didn't he? (Just a rhetorical question.)


I guess that I had always resented the fact that Denny Walley was cut loose the way he was. Everyone was just a substitute for Denny after that in my mind. He was the real thing! He's the real difference on the original recording of Bat Chain Puller. In the end, my calculations come up with Jeff Tepper making the most mistakes, breaking the most strings and sucking up the most. In close second was Eric Feldman. He even ratted on me with laryngitis.

Now that's a good one! New York City, The Bottom Line with Dianne Keaton, Woody Allen, and John Belushi in the audience. At the end of the show we went back stage and the audience was screaming for an encore. Bruce Fowler and I were at the top of the stairs and I was right behind him. As we went on through the curtain Don reached up and stopped the rest of the band. Standing there, Bruce sort of fidgetted about and I was already done re-adjusting the drums. The audience was buzzing and the energy in the room was something you could walk on.

Bruce and I - after what seemed to be an eternity - silently agreed to perform a duo-pantomime solo. I raised my sticks above my head and started in motion with Bruce in a high energy silent duo solo. Bruce's face went red as if he was playing the solo of his life with me doing my best impersonation of Billy Cobham with my sticks coming within an inch of the skins and cymbals, and at the end we looked at each other and faked the ending as well. There was a standing ovation.

Then in Texas, two weeks later in Feldman's hotel room Don said in a meeting, " Does anyone know why we're here?" Eric Feldman with laryngitis asked for a pad of paper and pencil and wrote in all caps: SILENT DRUM SOLO. Don looked at me and said, "Why did you do that, man?" "Oh come on Don, the audience loved it!", I said. He said, "The audience would applaud even if I were to sht on stage - and yu, Bruce, were you thinking of that fly legged Zappa creature?!!!!"

Bruce - after a few more insults - left the room and I sat there and took the rest of it while Feldman sat there smirking.


Jeff Tepper was the first one to pull Don aside after my audition to remind him that I was only the first drummer to audition and that Don shouldn't rush his decision. Don told him that he knew his man when he saw and heard him.

I have a reputation for being a tyrant as well. I think one should check one's ego at the rehearsal room door and concentrate on whatever is good for the show. I spent countless hours of my free time in the rehearsal studio working with Jeff, helping him to get his rhythm correct. Crazy Little Thing ver and ver again.... He thanked me for it, but in my heart I really wanted to thank him.

Those were some of the best times of my life. It really felt great on the nights where there weren't many mistakes.


special note by teejo about:


 for a long time people have thought that the beefnames for jeff tepper and eric feldman were 'white jewel' and 'black jewel (kittaboo)' respectively. that was based on bad listening to live tapes - probably caused by the fact that it doesn't completely fit in with our idea of the free spirited don van vliet, if he would plainly have called them jws - for which was no good reason. i for one think that don didn't really bother about such details like someone's race, but after he found out that by coincidence there were some of 'those poor jews' in the magic band ('dachau blues': in the oven / like hot rats...), he started to remind it.

at first as a tease, but - as correspondence with an intermediary on this subject brought to light - unfortunately, later he started to use it against them when one of them was 'today's no-good'. but on the other hand, he never used the word jew frequently or in a stigmatizing sense in public. except for the mention of the nicknames on stage [it's loud and clear nt 'jewel'], it even is extremely difficult to find any other remark about this matter.

in fact there only seem to be three references about the question, all of them were published in one (1!) tiny 'miscellaneous pop news' article in which don showed a funny way to deal with the fact that he was 'surrounded' by jews. as a sort of variation to 'if you can't beat them, you gotta join them' he speaks about the circumstances he's fallen into.


from RECORD vol.1 #10 010882 usa
by chip stern
is very short 07.82 interview / feature


'ooooh, the karma of the guitar is really heavy - it'll harm you, man,' don van vliet tells me, his warlock eyes glowing wolf-blue like some sort of psychic traffic light. 'but dig,' he adds in a conspirational whisper, 'it doesn't affect jews.'

just the kind of offhanded, napalm non sequitur you'd expect from captain beefheart, author of 'dachau blues'; perpetual legend of rock 'n' roll; composer, painter and poet; godfather of new wave, punk jazz and what have you. [....] currently, van vliet is working [...] on the music for what could be his most stunning work since 'trout mask replica': 'ice cream for crow'.

with jeff tepper and manager gary lucas forming his jewish guitar army ('jews can really play the blues because they understand suffering'), plus bassist richard 'midnight hatsize' snyder[a half one - t.t.] and his remarkable new drummer cliff martinez, van vliet recorded and mixed at amigo studios (scene of 'clear spot') in may and june with engineer phil brown, then began work on a promotional video in the mojave desert.


'i like to use music as an irritant,' van vliet chuckles, flinching at my comparisons to rock. 'we gotta get past that mama-heartbeat,' he cautions, suddenly serious. 'i don't want there to be another war, you know what i mean?'


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captain beefheart electricity
as felt by teejo