A Matter of Taste
By Rob Fixmer
This is an album of greasy love songs & cretin simplicity. We made it because we really like this kind of music (just a bunch of old men with rock and roll clothes sitting around the studio, mumbling about the good old days). Ten years from now you'll be sitting around with your friends someplace doing the same thing if there's anything left to sit on.
– Frank Zappa (Ruben and the Jets)
I base most of my life's activities on the well substantiated presumption that there is a bit of the werewolf in each of us – only our expression of its existence varies somewhat, depending to a large degree on who caught us with our pud in our hand the first time around and what was done about it. I failed to ask Frank Zappa about his first encounter with sex. Then again, he failed to offer the information freely. However, this much we do know:
Frank Zappa is a nasty man whose greatest satisfaction in life is realized only when he has successfully shocked his audience into jelly-like submission by reflecting their own obscenities back into their deserving faces. Beelzebub, perhaps, but with a rich and rewarding sense of humor and comic pathos.
My first encounter with Zappa occurred quite by accident in 1966 when a friend (who has asked to remain nameless) desecrated my living quarters with an already scratched and dusty copy of the now classic Freak Out. To my knowledge, no album has ever (before or since) been more appropriately titled, with the possible exception of George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. The difference, of course, is that Gershwin was not putting together an album. Zappa had realized in 1965 what the Beatles and others would not realize until '68, namely, that an entire album could be structured around a single theme. And although now, almost ten years later, I am still trying to decipher that theme, I can state without the slightest morsel of doubt that the album does have a theme. Some things are best left to faith.
So it was that on Thanksgiving Day, 1975, while the rest of America was slurping and chomping, chewing and devouring and burping to the last vestiges of this nation's rumored prosperity, Frank Zappa and I were doing a bit of lonesome electric turkey in his room in the notoriously lovely Pfister tower, an edifice unequalled in its sheer comfort, except perhaps for the Tower of London. It will no doubt go down in literary history as a meeting of two great minds. But before it does, I would like to apologize first to my mother who taught me never to talk to strangers, especially strangers as strange as Zappa, and to the kind nuns who taught me that I would go to heaven if I refused to have anything to do with the powers of darkness. Last, but least, I would like to apologize to Jon Landau who cannot help it if he writes with his coat on and has no sense of lust. Asi es la vida, Jon.
A word of caution: I had for some unknown reason assumed that Frank Zappa would be totally different in person than he was on stage and album. Silly me! While I am at the advantage of protecting myself by allowing you to believe that my questions were asked exactly as they look on paper, in all honesty they were not. To my utterances your imagination must apply the missing albeit necessary quirks of a slight lisp, a whole lot of stammering, humming and hawing, and a nervous giggle about which I fully intend to see an analyst. To Zappa's prosaic remarks you must apply all the vocal intonations and "funny voices" which you had always supposed Frank put out as special effects. Heh, heh. Fooled you, didn't he? So, without further doo-doo let us begin:
(Editor's note: Rob Fixmer's questions and comments are in regular print; Zappa's are in italics.)
I caught part of your interview on Radio Free Madison the other night. You sounded like you were either under the weather or pissed off. I couldn't tell which.
Look, you go to a radio station, you got two guys who are sort of inept at conversation, and neither one of them has any questions. I've got to spend almost an hour there talking to them, and while they're playing records they're trying to figure out what to ask you. In the first place, they're not even interested in the answer, and in the second place they are just trying to cover their asses 'cause they're radio personalities. They're the – quote, unquote – "stars," so whenever you do a talk on a radio station it's a real weird situation. And then we went over to WISM. (Ed. note: WISM is a top forty AM station)
How did that go?
That was great! I was a disc jockey for a while. (changing to a deep, resonant dj type voice) I was talking like this and everything!
I got visions of Centerville from 200 Motels in your description of your reception in Yugoslavia: You know, with the images of the barbed wire fences and all.
Yea, there was a hint of that there. Quite a bit of the time we were just following orders. Even in the dining room. The guy who was the maitre d' wouldn't let us order anything. It was really hard to get anything good to eat.
Well, first of all your jacket wasn't right. So you change your jacket and your pants aren't right, and your hair ain't right, and this ain't right, and that's wrong, or you don't have a meal ticket. Or if you do have a meal ticket, it's got the wrong date on it. And if you ask any questions everybody's just following orders.
What's the story? Is everybody there on a meal ticket?
Well, we had meal tickets because we were guests of the government.
Was Yugoslavia the only so-called Iron Curtain country you visited on this tour?
They poo-poo the idea of that being an Iron Curtain country. They don't approve of the term. I suppose because they are the most liberal of all the "Bloc" countries.
Because of Uncle Tito?
Yea, and when they show you around you'd think they'd just discovered the wheel And they haven't really quite come around yet, so you see these people – not horses, but people – dragging these wagons with the big wooden wheels. Ladies with the babushkas on their heads, big coats and monster shoes, pulling wagons with twigs that they're gonna burn in their fireplace, I guess.
You know, I didn't catch a lot of the radio interview, but from what I did hear it struck me that when you were talking about Yugoslavia in that way you might be walking on thin ice because I don't know how you would classify yourself, but ever since Freak Out I've considered you to be a satirist. Sometimes there's a fine line between satire and elitism. I'm wondering if you're becoming more elitist not only about your own art, but about the culture that spawned it. So when you start talking about Yugoslavia in that way....
Would you mind explaining "the culture that spawned my art?"
Well, let's go back to "Go Cry On Somebody Else's Shoulder." You're obviously making fun of rock and roll, aren't you?
No. Not necessarily.
This has always confused me about your music. I don't remember if it was Jon Landau or whoever, but I remember reading a critic once who stated that you were a person who could never decide whether you wanted to play rock and roll or make fun of it. That's the impression I've always had myself. That song stands out on Freak Out to me because the other songs are so obviously cynical. But in that song the melody line, the lyrics – except for the root beer stand part – display an empathy for rock which gave me the impression you were being more serious about that one song on the album.
OK, explain to me what you were doing on that album.
On the Freak Out album? All the songs were serious. All the songs were as ugly as possible to be serious and humorous at the same time. I think you can seriously have a good time about anything that you want to do.
You know, the problem with Jon Landau and all the rest of these rock and roll writers is that they're so immensely full of shit. They have no sense of humor, never did, and never will. You couple this with the fact that they don't have any balls, have no interest in lust, have no knowledge of music in a general sense, have no idea of what musical history is all about, have no concept of craftsmanship, integrity, or anything really artistic, and are doing that – 'writing,' shall we call it? – for a living. Those guys are so fucked that I should be so lucky that they should write something about me like that. I can't decide whether or not I want to be serious, or like, I want to be like this? Like I always have to choose.
Think about that. And don't forget the syntax and verbal emphasis.
I'll do my best. Okay, well, let's back up for a second. I don't give a damn about Jon Landau. I don't even know if he was the guy who made the remark that touched this whole thing off. His name probably popped into my mind because of his recent involvement with the whole Springsteen promotion thing.
What's the "ha!" about?
Oh, never mind.
Come on, let's have it.
How can a person hear about Bruce Springsteen and even take the whole idea of rock and roll journalism seriously? I mean, let's face it, for half a million dollars, you're Bruce Springsteen.
Don't I wish.
Exactly. So what are we doing here?
Well, I didn't come here to talk about Jon Landau.
But you did. And you brought it up in such a way as to indicate that there was some kernel of truth in what Jon Landau said.
Not truth necessarily, but a kernel of something which I myself have felt about your music.
You mean that you confess to, deep down, having something in common with Jon Landau? Can you make me the next Bruce Springsteen?
Would you like to be the next Bruce Springsteen?
Doesn't everyone? I'm telling you, you have potential, because you can talk and wear a coat.
What's this "talk and wear a coat" shit?
It's just the problem of doing anything with a coat on. I used to try playing guitar with a coat on, like on a sound check when it was cold. I didn't like it and eventually I came to distrust anyone who talked with a coat on. Landau's probably like that too. He probably types with a coat on.
So I'll take my fucking coat off, but if I get too comfortable I'm likely to stay all night.
When did you record Freak Out? I was a little seminary boy, you see, and I was cloistered until '66.
And you did not consider what you were doing in '65 as satirizing rock and roil?
Now wait a minute. What does satire mean?
Well, I don't mean that you were doing a Mencken or Twain trip exactly, but I do think that you were making candid fun of certain aspects of rock and roll.
Nah! What's this "making fun?" If a thing is not funny to begin with, do you make fun of it for somebody?
Well, let's start with the assumption that rock and roll is fun.
To me it's fun.
OK, now is this you as a writer, or you as a drummer, or you as a listener?
I only write about music because I love it.
Well, I'm just trying to find out which person is talking. Are you a listener, a writer, or a drummer? Because rock and roll is something different to each of those three kinds of people.
Well, I function at all three levels, or at least try to, and that may be why I'm not particularly good at any one of them, but I'm not able to separate my appreciation of music into different aspects of my personality. Rock and roll is fun, but what you did was you exaggerated. You took all the things that were preposterous about rock, and all the funny little quirks, and exaggerated them. You know, "I met her at the root beer stand. I thought she was sharp, she was really so grand." It was how many years before American Graffiti and "Happy Days" did the same damn thing? But they make no pretense about making fun of the period, while you don't seem to want to admit that you were doing it.
No, I just want you to make sure you understand what your terminology is, because eventually you're going to have to get back around to explaining what you're talking about in the realm of elitism and this "culture that spawned my art." I'm still waiting for that.
OK, to me the art of American rock and roll is a Black art form which was – and I want to be careful here – vulgarized by the recording industry. I don't mean that in the sense of an abuse of electronics. I just mean that commercialism came into it when White covers started coming into Black rock. These White cover artists began to almost make fun of the idiom they're working within. And you in turn were making fun of the cover artists. You weren't making fun of people like Little Richard or Screamin' Jay Hawkins. You were making fun of....
...Gale Storm and Pat Boone.
Yea, and some of the shoo-bop stuff, the do-do-do-do.
I wasn't making fun of do-do-do-do. I love that! That's the real shit, there. I mean, you can't make that any funnier than it already is. Don't you understand? All you have to do is listen to a record called "Can I Come Over Tonight" by the Velours and you'll understand what I mean; you can't make it any funnier than what it already is. If you could hear it you would know that it's already "too good."
So are you laughing at it?
No. I'm just going right along with it. I'm saying that the people who were an audience for that album in 1965 and '66 knew nothing of that kind of music. Had never heard it. There was no fifties revival. The fifties had been gone for what? Fifteen years? They didn't know. They'd never heard do-do-do-do for real. Nor had they heard Stravinsky, nor any of the other musical references which were in that album. And if you recall, the album contained a list of all the musical references which were contained therein.
Including Tiny Tim, as I recall.
Yes, approximately five years before he attained any fame.
As a matter of fact, when I first read the album cover, I thought it was a cryptic reference to the Dickens character.
What about Ravi Shankar?
I don't remember seeing his name there, but you know I didn't memorize the list.
Not only did we list him, but his drummer's name.
Well, it was a long time ago, but I do remember Tiny Tim's name, and the mention of the fact that someone was trying to repossess Jimmy Carl Black's drums, which hit close to home because someone was trying to repossess mine at the same time.
Was it the Laurentide Finance Company? The idea of some guy sitting there and saying "We're a multi-million dollar operation, and we can raise havoc with you"... you know, saving that to Jimmy Carl Black, was just too good to miss.
Let's get to some more recent trivia. Last year I had the misfortune of attending a press conference which you gave in Milwaukee. You got a little defensive when somebody asked if you missed Flo and Eddy, and you stated that you always consider your present band to be the best group you've ever worked with, no matter who's in it at the moment.
That was my impression at the time. But the question I had wanted to follow up with, and couldn't is this: People like Roy Estrada, Flo and Eddy, Aynsley Dunbar, Ian Underwood, people who have made it on your reputation and through your influence - and all right, Aynsley had a good thing going before he went with you, and the Turtles were pretty popular, but none of them had ever drawn the artistic respect that they eventually gained until they worked with you – but why do all these people always split?
It's very easy to explain. You see, I have no contracts with anyone. They can come and go as they please. Roy Estrada is back in the band. Some of the people have been in and out five times. Roy Collins was, Jeff Simmons, about three times
Jimmy Carl Black left and came back, didn't he?
Well, he worked with Beefheart for a while.
Beefheart's another one. What was this whole thing about you and Beefheart and some audition with you. From what I gathered, you auditioned him and he couldn't cut it.
That's right. He called me up about a year ago and apologized for being an asshole for five or six years. Said he was really depressed and asked for an audition. I said ok come on down. He was living in Northern Cal at the time so I invited him down. He was really just looking for something to do. His band had just broken up, you know, and he was feeling lousy and wanted to go out with us. So I said if he could cut it, but he'd have to audition like everybody else. He came down to the hall, couldn't carry a tune, couldn't keep time, just couldn't get it.
What makes that sort of thing happen to a musician like Beefheart?
Some people have absolutely no natural rhythm. He's one of them.
Well then, how did you manage to cop things like "Willie the Pimp"?
Oh my goodness. Do you know anything about a recording studio?
I've spent some time in studios.
Well, then you know that you can start and stop and do things over again until you get them right, and you can punch in and....
Sure, but there was a very natural sounding rhythm to it. It was a good product.
I'm a good producer. Have you heard the Ruben and the Jets album?
Yes, but I don't think that's a very good production.
You didn't like it?
How do you feel about the vocals on there? Do they sound like real performances?
I don't recall what I thought about the vocals because I was upset about the fact that it didn't have the punch to it, and wasn't as ballsy as your other stuff. I also didn't like your last album, One Size Fits All. It was the only one of your albums I really ever panned, and although I liked some parts of it, I got lost in it. You lost me and you had never done that before.
My fault, eh?
Absolutely. Definitely your fault.
I lost you, eh? Shitereeee!
I'll send you a plaque commemorating the event. In "Inca Roads" were you making fun of (author of Chariot of the Gods) Von Däniken?
Of course, of course. No seriously, I'll tell you what "Inca Roads" was about. It was an instrumental melody which existed for three years before I tried to write words to it. The melody covers more than two octaves. It's very difficult to sing, and I wrote words to it one day. That's what the actual history of that song is all about. I thought it was quite an accomplishment. And it was written before Von Däniken.
I didn't know that, but unfortunately it didn't come out until after the Von Däniken book.
Yes, but it had already been corrupted by the time that it came out. It was totally corrupted from the words which had originally been written which was way before all this stuff was considered commercial.
I didn't mean to imply that it was commercial but either way, I didn't like the lyrics, and I was wondering what the purpose of the song was. If the melody was capable of standing by itself, why not just release it as an instrumental? You did that with other pieces such as "Peaches en Regalia."
"Peaches en Regalia" is the only one I've never really been able to write words for. I've tried, but I can't come up with a set of lyrics which will work with it. The trouble when it comes to writing lyrics depends on where you're sitting and the size of your challenge; whether you're going for intelligibility or going for a phonic sense that matches the line. The only way I can judge my words is by whether I achieve what I set out to do with the thing. I thought I had really done myself an anagram by the time I got done putting words to that instrumental tune. If you saw that tune on a piece of paper and somebody handed it to you in a music class and said "write lyrics to this" you'd be hard-pressed to do it. One syllable per eighth note. You can't change the melody. That's the game.
Ah, the game, eh? Is "Dinah-Moe Humm" one of your phonetic exercises?
No, that's not.
That was the one that just lost me.
Just couldn't handle it, huh? That's a golden piece of music.
And the words.
Would you condescend to explain the thing, or is that asking too much?
No, certainly. First of all, the cover is what that song is all about, and its part of the conceptual continuity of the story of "Billy the Mountain." But you had no way of knowing that.
No, I didn't, and neither did anyone else.
But these things are revealed later.
See, that's the way continuity runs. Well, say three albums from now you'll find out that all that stuff fits together, and while you're sitting there in your little room going "Wow, this one's for shit!" you'll suddenly say "Hey, wait a minute." But that's only for people who actually go back and listen. Most of the people who write about myself just go, "Huh, ya this doesn't matter and that is irrelevant and none of it's serious." But it don't work that way, because nobody has the budget in terms of either money or time to sit down and listen to one complete idea that I have. They couldn't sit through it.
What about 200 Motels?
That is not all there is to it. No, as a matter of fact, 200 Motels is still coming true. If you go back and see it again, you'll find there are some things in there that at the time it was released hadn't happened yet. They're still happening. I wouldn't doubt that that movie isn't over yet.
Are you going to do further cinema work on it?
The thing that needs to come out is the documentary which was shot while we were making it. At the point where that material is made available to the public and they can watch that and 200 Motels at the same time, people who thought they knew what they saw before are going to be in a lot of trouble.
I'll have to take your word for it, I guess.
Please do, because I'm not lying to you. There's a lot more to it than meets the eye or the ear.
What kind of documentary are you talking about?
Well, the Dutch television company sent a crew up there to film us in 16 mm while we were shooting, and I have all the footage. We have interviews with various members of the cast, asking them all kinds of questions that I wasn't in on. It was all done completely and independently of my knowledge. When you see Mark and Howard (Volman and Kaylan) in the interview, and when you hear the things they have to say about the film and about the group, and find out how they talked and what kind of people they are in real life, and watch them against what's happening in the movie, and see Jimmy Carl Black talking about his role in the film, Motorhead, Don Preston, and just watch how this is all connected, and see what 200 Motels is in terms of a documentary of the most advanced nature, by taking the actual facts – statistical facts – he is this; he said that; he did this; he will do this; he has done that; later on he won't even know he's done this over here; – and they're all that way in the film – you take the facts, and then transmogrify that into a musical event with optical effects that have to pay for the day, and you stick it all together in one package, and that's what 200 Motels is. Now, because the elite corps of rock and roll journalism who wound up suddenly being film critics – and those were the ones who panned 200 Motels, because the largest number of reviews of the film were favorable, but the people who were the audience for the film – the kids – don't see film criticism in the papers they read. Most of the things they read about 200 Motels said "Well, that's not quite hip enough for us here at Rolling Stone." That sort of shit. And so the overall lasting print of what was written about 200 Motels was negative. But that's not really important because we have most of the reviews which came out world-wide, and I would say 2/3 of them were favorable.
That's interesting, because my wife and I were commenting earlier today on the fact that we had never met anyone who had not liked the film.
There was a guy in here just a minute ago who didn't know the top from the bottom of it.
You mean he hadn't seen it.
He saw it.
Well, what's to know about it?
He couldn't handle it. What is it? He didn't know, which I presume is a negative response because he certainly didn't say that he liked it. He claimed that he didn't understand it. But what he meant was that it was a piece of shit.
Are you assuming then that because I said I got lost in your last album I think that's a piece of shit?
No. But you see, you prefaced that by saying that the only album of mine that you panned was that album. I'm saying that in ordinary English usage the word "pan" presumes a negative value attached to that album. Now that album I happen to believe is one of my better albums.
What I meant by "pan" is that, with earlier albums my own comments might not have all been positive, but I at least discussed what was going on in them. In the case of One Size Fits All I had no idea what was going on. I'd be a liar if I sat here and said I did. My question is....
The important thing to me is that you said earlier in the conversation that you've got all the albums, and you obviously consider yourself to be some sort of scholar on my work....
No, I don't.
Well, you have some opinions about it, which is different from that last guy I was talking to who was almost down to asking me what the name of the group was. You know a little something about something. But you come to one album, which you say is the only one that you panned, and follow that up by saying that you couldn't follow it. You had trouble with it. Do you really think it's an intelligent conclusion for you to assume that I lost You? Now, wouldn't you rather....
Yes I do, and I'll tell you why. You see, you just got through admitting to me that there are things about that album that I don't know because I had no way of knowing them. Therefore, you did lose me. You chose to be enigmatic in certain ways. You chose to put in a clue here and a clue there, and the fact that I didn't pick up on it is not my fault.
No, that's not the way it works. First of all, they aren't clues; they're part of a whole. Second of all; on their own they exist as entities that are worthy of not only consideration but edification. Especially in the instance of "Sofa Number 2" and those lyrics because that's a fine piece of poetry. Now whether it had anything to do with the cover art or with "Billy the Mountain," I think that that particular song is a wonderful song. Let me tell you the story of that song.
First of all, it was written in English. Then it was translated into German. I got a transcript of the phonetic pronunciation of the German lyrics, and the music was written around the German pronunciation. It's the first time I've ever tried to do that. It was considered to be quite an achievement in the German press, because many German groups won't sing in German because they don't think they can do rock and roll in German. We went over there on a tour with Mark and Howard and went on performing that as part of our show. They were surprised that an American group would want to make up a song – and we actually had a whole section of our show that was done in – German.
Is that the part that you did on the Dick Cavett Show? It was never on a record as far as I know.
That's right. And that is it.
That is what?
The song that you lost on the last album. That's the same thing we did on the Dick Cavett Show. You take the feedback off of it and that's the song.
OK, so what does it have to do with "Billy the Mountain"?
Well, did you ever wonder where Billy the Mountain came from?
No, I can't say that I did. I just accepted old Billy at face value.
And you didn't ever wonder about Billy's childhood or how he got there in the first place?
Well, I did.
Are you speaking geologically or something?
No. I'm talking about, you know, here's a mountain that can talk and has got a tree for a wife. Now, where the fuck do they come from? I mean, he's got to have some kind of a background. Well, where he comes from is, a long time ago when there was nothing in the universe except blackness and this floating sofa, God explained to the sofa while holding a cigar, speaking German, and with a Pachuco cross between his thumb and his first finger, looking at the sofa, and he's trying to explain to the sofa where he's at and where he's coming from, and making sure the sofa understands his or her or its particular place in this cosmos that he's constructed. He gets the sofa organized, see. And then he orders boards of oak throughout the emptiness to support the sofa, and then he calls for his girlfriend.
That's right. The Short Girl, he called her. So Short Girl and Squat, the magic pig, are both there, and he makes a home movie with the girl fucking the pig, and sends it to a lab that he knows. And she sings a song to the pig, and he sings a song to the girl. The next thing you know, this guy named Old Zircon, a phased-out Byzantine devil, his body covered with old musical instruments....
Excuse me, but what's the significance of Zircon? I mean, you use the term "zircon encrusted tweezers" in one of your songs. What is zircon, if you'll forgive my ignorance.
A zircon is a fake, cheap diamond. Now you have to understand that things which are cheap are wonderful, and nothing could be more wonderful than a zircon ring with a stone this large (2 inches diameter) for the person who wanted to simulate the Fats Domino look. You know, to keep on his little finger. Now this is a phenomenon that I've known about for 23 years. People who wear zircons are a special breed.
So anyway, Old Zircon, the phased-out Byzantine devil appears on the side, and he's got a plan. Because after God makes the movie and sends it to the lab, he sends these cherubs to pick up the package. So they fly off to the lab while he's lying down on the sofa. He's having a sleep and dreaming a great dream. Well, Old Zircon appears in this dream and he walks out of the cave and his cloven hooves hit the rocks, causing sparks to shoot out, igniting all the adjacent moss. And these flames come up. And smoke comes up from the flames. And he beats his magic drum and he blows his magic trumpet, and strums his little guitar. The sound waves of all these instruments being manipulated at the same time cause the smoke to form into several large, new, lumpy mountains, one of which can talk. That's where Billy comes from. Now what you don't know is that Ethell the Tree is under the control of Old Zircon who has this special flashlight that controls her thoughts and she's operating Billy. So this is all working in the background. Just like a Wagnerian opera, who can sit through it? You know? And when you're trying to get the proper level on a 33-1/3 disc, if you go over 18 minutes per side you're in trouble. And when you talk about musical ideas that take hours to spin out, you can't get it on a record. So a lot of the things that I'm talking about happen over a series of albums, because you're only putting out one every four months at the most.
And with different bands.
OK, but when will you start connecting them?
Well, to me they're always connected.
Sure, to you they're always connected, but to the rest of us, all we're getting are bits and pieces.
Look at it this way: The rest of you don't care. So what the fuck's the difference? I think a song like "Sofa" is fine the way it is, whether you know about the novel or not. I'm just telling you that there's more to it than meets the eye or the ear. And that's the way it is with all the compositions that are on the album. They're connected, they're done in mysterious ways. But they exist on their own as sound events and can be appreciated just like that. Now, it baffles me that a person could listen to One Size Fits All, which I think is an excellent album, and get to that song and say "It loses me." First of all, it has got a nice little tune. Second of all, the production on it is good. Third of all, I think the words are great, and especially funny if you think of them in the context of the rest of what's going on. But that aside....
Yes, but what you just pushed aside there is damned important.
It's important only if you want to really be into the total thing, but I'm looking at it from a normal rock and roll record buyer's point of view. Can he tap his foot to it? Sure! Why not? Just because you got three beats in every bar doesn't mean you're gonna get your foot tangled up.
OK, as far as the rhythmic, melodic and harmonic structure is concerned, I won't argue with you. But if you really are putting together what I guess would amount to a mythology, why are you wasting your time on unrelated material? For instance, I happen to really enjoy "Montana," but it obviously has nothing to do with the story you've just told me.
Because it's not time to complete the myth. You have to do these things on schedule. Besides, it's not just one myth. You see, one of the problems is that people have the wrong idea about time itself. Now let's start with the basics, alright? Time is nothing more and nothing less than fractional divisions of eternity. And they're irrational divisions at best; stupid mechanical divisions of a continuum that is gonna be there and is gonna be there. Even if there isn't a "there" at all, it's gonna be there. Now, people presume that it's got a direction, that it goes from here to there, and sometimes – if they have to think of it at all – have to think of it in terms of a line or band, or a continuum that is progressing in a direction. But it doesn't work that way at all. It's spherical.
No, it's an oval.
It's spherical. And it's a moebius sphere, and it is moving inward and outward at the same time. It defies being chopped up into segments like that.
Well, we have to have something to live by, something by which to function.
OK, but that's only to live by.
But art is an expression of life, right?
Maybe. Maybe. But maybe not. You see, the concept of, uh, dealing with things by this mechanical means that you use to set your alarm clock, if you want to set your art works by it then you're in trouble, because then everything is going to get boring. So I'm working on a different type of a time scale.
Until it comes to eighteen minutes per side of an album.
That I don't like to fuck around with too much because I'm very concerned about getting proper level on a disc.
But you have gone beyond it.
I've gone almost up to a half an hour on a side and regretted every moment of it.
As a matter of fact, Live At The Fillmore East goes more than eighteen minutes per side, doesn't it?
Of course, you were working with a live recording there, and you didn't have to try to sustain the type of quality you would on a studio production, but that was not a badly produced album. The overall sound was good.
What is your big kick with four channel? Maybe I should preface that question by saying that as a poverty stricken musician I am exultant that I can afford a stereo at all. To go four channel is just beyond me totally. So when you said at last year's Milwaukee press conference that in a nation which can afford two cars in every garage people who are really into music should all go out and get four channel stereos, I wasn't sympathetic to your cause.
Well, as a matter of fact, One Size Fits All is not available in quad, and The Roxy and Elsewhere, which was mixed in quad, was never released in quad. The only two albums available in quad are Apostrophe and Overnight Sensation.
In other words, you're not really pushing anymore for quad.
No. I figure if people are having trouble getting something to eat, they're possibly not going to go out and get two extra speakers and another stereo amplifier.
A little while ago you jumped on me for mentioning something about the culture that affected your music.
"The culture that spawned my art."
Well, who were your major influences? I'd like to go back to Freak Out.
Well, there's a list in the album. 156 names.
All these people have been...
What about since that time?
There have been about three or four.
I expected you might say that. Would you mind naming them?
Krzystof Penderecki, Gyorgy Ligeti, Phillipe Koutev... and I can't think of another one. There must be only three.
Those are people I'm not familiar with.
Krzystof Penderecki is a composer. He's the head of all Polish music and writes in a certain kind of style. Gyorgy Ligeti is a composer best known for his "scary music" in 2001. But they just borrowed that from his straight compositions. Phillipe Koutev is the organizer of a folk music ensemble in Bulgaria; it's the hottest band in that area.
Are they available on European discs?
Yea, sure. And American discs. Nonesuch has got several albums of the folk music of Bulgaria, the Phillipe Koutev ensemble included. Gyorgy Ligeti is available on Columbia, and Penderecki is available on RCA.
What about fusions of rock and jazz? You were working with fusions of rock and jazz, and even classical long before people like Mahavishnu John McLaughlin. Are you impressed with any of the electric jazz things that are going down now? John McLaughlin?
You don't like them?
You asked if I was impressed with them. I said no.
In order for you to be impressed with someone, does he or she have to be innovative in a certain way?
Actually, it's all just a matter of taste.
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