Mutation Blues

By Emmett Lake

East Village Other, March 1-15, 1967



FRANK ZAPPA DOUBLE EXPOSED
Walter Bredel photo

Frank Zappa is the leader of a freak-rock group, "The Mothers Of Invention," which originated on the West Coast. An article on Zappa and the Mothers recently appeared in the Jan. 15 issue of the World Journal Tribune Sunday Magazine.

FZ: If the kids who are destined to take over the country could somehow acquire the sense of  responsibility... In other words, from time to time there's lots of talk about revolution: "Ah, we're gonna revolt man, we're revolting..." They could tell everybody where it's at, but they won't. Kids today, as they stand, have the potential to do a really big number. They could OWN the fucking  country. You know, VISIBLY own it. Because they own it now, without knowing it. They are the important consumer group; they've got the nation by the economic balls. But they have to be made to understand what a responsibility that is.

Directly and indirectly they control the output of all major manufacturers. Cars are designed so that the young man in the family will suggest to the old man of the family: "That's a spiffy model, Dad." And it also works so the father says: "Hmmm, that's a hot little number, make me feel like I got some of my youth back." The older people identify with youth, and the younger people are responsible for a lot of the attempts at tastemaking. Of course, up to this point, most of the major manufacturers haven't the faintest idea of what the kids really want or where they're at. A few of them manage to succeed in giving the kids something that is really up-to-date youth-appeal merchandise.

EVO: What are you thinking of?

FZ: A few clothing manufacturers. The record business tries to keep up. Doesn't make it, most of the time. I'd say they're about a year behind. But almost everything also is based on what some young executive, which means about a 30 year old cat who probably did a lot of balling in college and all the rest of the guys in the factory look up to him. He says: "I know what those kids want. Look how youthful am." Beats his chest, and exerts his influence there at the place. He says: "I know these kids. They want something snappy. Here..." Sketches it out at the board meeting and they all say: "Sure, youth approach. That's what's happening. Pop art. Yeah, yeah." So they make some pajamas with Campbell's soup cans all over them and sell a lot of them, yes sir.

That's the way it's been up till now. If the kids would get themselves together, and take stock, get an orderly program, they could take over the country and run it. Personally, right now, I would hate to see them running it. Cause they're not ready to run anything. They can't even run back and forth to the bathroom without tripping on the wallpaper the way they are now. I would say that in the elections of 1972 it's possible that a candidate who would be neither a Republican nor a Democrat, and youth oriented, could get it. It's possible that an 18 year old vote could be lobbied in that time and we could have an 18 year old President. I know a lot of people would be afraid of an 18 year old President, but I'm afraid of the ones that are over 30.

EVO: What's your viewpoint on, uh, peaceniks, and Johnson, and South Vietnam, and Paul Krassner, and...

FZ: I donno who Paul Krassner is.

EVO: What?

FZ: Who's Paul Krassner.

EVO: He edits the Realist and...

FZ: I never read the Realist... Peaceniks... Bullshit. Demonstrations of that sort don't do anything. They're not effective. People have a misguided conception of what is effective politically. I can't believe those people really believe that marching around with a sign saying "Peace"... I would say "Sure. If you just keep on marching around with your sign and it's gonna happen."' That's really dumb. I was uptown Christmas Eve and got caught in the middle of a Vietnam peace march, and here are these people, man, just walking along the street, and it's cold, and they're carrying shopping bags with "STOP THE WAR." There's this one woman out there with her shopping bag and a mess of leaflets singing: "STOP THE WAR IN VIETNAM, BRING THE TROOPS HOME. STOP THE WAR IN VIETNAM, BRING THE TROOPS HOME." All the way down the street. Until she was hoarse. For nothing. Maybe in their minds they think: "Listen, somebody in town, some important person in town is going to see us marching, and he's gonna say 'The public is upset about the war in Vietnam,' and he's gonna tell one of his influential friends, and that guy's gonna go to Washington, and they're gonna hear about it, and they're gonna stop the war." That's POSSIBLY what's going on in their heads. But that's a terrible fantasy. The war should be stopped. It's a war of greed. They all are, I guess. Even the crusades. But that's not the way to do it.

EVO: What's the way to do it?

FZ: It's only gonna be stopped by the President. And if you want somebody who's gonna run the country the way you want it to be run, and if you're a peacenik, and you want something done about it, I mean peace, get somebody in there who's gonna be effective. Get somebody into Congress that's gonna do the job. Those assholes, man, they've got no idea about who or what is behind their government. For the most part, the people that you can turn to and say "Yeah, he's in the government," really aren't DOING anything. Because the power is really in the hands of a few. And a lot of them are OUTSIDE of the government, because the government is like partly controlled by the military and partly controlled by big business. The power structure is very similar to South American governments where the leaders are protected from the people by the military. Where would the presidency be without the SS men around? Without the CIA what are we? I think it's time that most of the kinds found out that they are part of a nation that was built on a giant lie. And because they live here, they have to bear the stigma of all the bullshit of their ancestors, man. They come to a land and just raped it. They ruined this whole fucking country. In the beginning. The original settlers here were assholes. You take a bunch of people out of debtors' prisons in England. THE ORIGINAL AMERICANS. Plymouth rock. Shazam. They arrive over here, you know, the ones that live through the ship ride, terrible, middle of winter on the Atlantic – they probably lived because they ate the bodies of the ones that died. You got a bunch of religious maniacs that land here who are afraid to fuck. And they set up an industrial society. And here you've got a bunch of groovy Indians who were already happening, on a spiritual level, and OWNED the fucking country; and you get these creeps. you know, who come over here and claim the land in the name of Jesus Christ and the cross, and the rock, and the buckles in their hats, and get a turkey, and write all this shit down so the kids can identify with it, and, here we go – got a nation. From the beginning, it's all wrong. It's been carefully smoothed over. They keep putting vaseline on it every year. They say: "Well, uh, George Washington didn't REALLY cut down a cherry tree, and, uh, he didn't really tell his father 'I cannot lie.' He didn't REALLY do that. It was only KINDA like that." Pretty soon we're gonna find out that he was a sodomist. And all the real facts about the guy. The actual case histories of Lincoln and all the rest of the heroes, you know. But... maybe they won't.

I think the kids are in a very ambivalent situation right now. They actually control the country. From the economic point of view. But they are the ones who must be the target for the hatred of everybody else in the world towards this country because of the greed that's been exhibited by the people that've been taking care of things before. Their own mothers and fathers, man. And in a way, to get the whole revolutionary job done, they're going to have to disown their parents. They're gonna have to take an honest look at what mommy and daddy really are, which is gonna be rough for most of them. I mean it's one thing to say: "I hate my mother, I hate my father, he won't give me the keys to the car, the sonofabitch," but it's something else to look at him and see that he's a coward. And he's an alcoholic, and if he's not an alcoholic, he's taking pills of some sort, and he's a liar, and so's your mother, and they're all just ROTTEN, man, and they have bad taste... They select the ugliest drapes and furniture in the world. You know. They're shitty. Try and get a nation of teenagers to really see mommy and daddy that way. That's a little bit of a job, but it can be done. Now, the question is, once they perceive mommy and daddy in the proper perspective, what do they do about it? Let them replace it with the truth. You don't want to give them a mommy-daddy surrogate or any of that kind of bullshit. Let them replace it with self-confidence. Let them fill the gap themselves. They should all do a mass penance, man, for the sins of their parents. "BECAUSE MY FOLKS WERE SO ROTTEN, I'M REALLY GONNA BE PURE." They really ought to do that. They oughta really get out and be real people. What a fantasy that is.

EVO: Do you think there's any kind of psychotherapy that helps you to be a real person?

FZ: Yes, indeed. The MOTHERS.

EVO: How about psychiatrists?

FZ: Those rotten motherfuckers! Those assholes! Those idiots! Those cowards! Man, that's your mother and father with a different uniform on! Those poor people that are deluding themselves. (Mocking:) "I'm going to this analyst." (And it's very hip here in the Village.) "I got me this analyst, he don't charge much, listen, he can really help you out. Look, he told me all about why I can't COME." Meanwhile this psychiatrist himself is so aberrated he can't stand it. Did you ever try to listen to everybody's problems for so many hours a day and try and come out unscathed? That's like working in a TB ward with no mask on, man. Those guys gotta be the sickest people in the world. There's no way they can avoid that if they hear all those cases every day. That's gotta be the most depressing...

EVO: How about Zen and Yoga?

FZ: I was interested in Zen for a long time. That's what got me away from being a Catholic fortunately. But it's my observation that eastern religions are wonderful if you are living anywhere but the United States. The best they can do for you here is, uh, give you a certain feeling of calm, if you can practice meditation and abstinence by yourself, away from everything else that's happening. The real goal of eastern religion, with mystical experience and all of that, those aims are difficult if not impossible to achieve in an industrial society. And I think that most of the people who claim to have made satori someplace in the States today really gotta be pulling your leg. And I think that that sort of enlightenment bears very little relationship to the amount of chants that you can sing.

People tend to, today anyway, equate that with, uh, all-knowing sort of intellect. Which don't happen, it's a great tragedy that the underground doesn't really exist, because if it did, man, it sure would be a scary thing. Most of the people that are supposedly a part of the underground now are very cowardly ... and dumb.

EVO: You mean they're just in it because they can't make it elsewhere?

FZ: They're in it because they didn't want to do something else. They're too lazy to do anything else. "Hey... I found a way of life where I can be a Vegetable Man and nobody is going to say anything to me! Quick, give me another hit on that!" And if anybody bugs you, you just tell 'em: "What, man? I'm an individualist and this is the way I do it." I found very few of the people that I've met in this supposed underground who were really willing to work for anything. I don't mean a 9 to 5 job, keep yourself alive, but to work for any cause, real or imagined. It's all so superficial, man. Assholes! If the kids that think they're in the underground could match even five percent of the dedication that you see in the camp of the enemy... You've got to... Like, these people that are running the war machine are really dedicated to it, man. You've GOT to be into that to do it so good. Those people are very sick that are running that machine... but they're very dedicated. And the ones that are running Madison Avenue are just the same way, because they got something to believe in, man, they got MONEY to believe in. And the kids that are in the supposed underground don't have anything to believe in. And most of them that are tripping out on their shoelaces and the wallpaper and "cosmic consciousness" and everything else don't even really believe that's happening, because they're still wondering whether or not that's a fantasy or is this a fantasy? Or is that a fantasy over there? They're not sure. They're all twisted around. But those guys out there, they know where it's at. "I got a dollar... and if I do this and if I do that, I'll have two dollars. And I believe it, and it's true, and I'll show you, and it works like this." And they're on that level and they're tenacious, man.  They hold right on to it. And THEY have built a country. An ugly, fucking country. And here it is. They did it. With their own minds – the size of raisins.


This interview was quickly, in the same month, printed in British main underground paper International Times. Later it was translated into German and published 1969 in a book Acid, Neue amerikanische Szene.

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