Zappa Digs Sabs Shock!
By Sandy Robertson
Sounds, January 28, 1978
HACK WRITER Sandy Robertson once again finds himself with nothing constructive to say, and so resorts to the usual cop-out of writing down almost everything on the tape and giving it a flashy title like... 'AUDIO WASTE', the soundtrack to a non-existent movie, starring FRANK ZAPPA as 'the hero', GENESIS P-ORRIDGE as 'the other hero', SANDY ROBERTSON as 'the rock fan', and THE BODYGUARD as himself. Stills by Harry Murlowski.
Sandy: Can I ask you firstly about one of my own obsessions, Kim Fowley, (Oh No! – Ed) who was on the 'Freak Out' album, on hypophone. How did you meet him?
Zappa: He was just one of those people who was wandering around the street in Los Angeles in those days. The hypophone is his mouth, 'cause all that ever comes out of it is hype. I don't listen to much of what he does now. I happen to like 'Popsicles & Icicles' by the Murmaids on the Chattahoochee label, I dunno about his recent stuff.
Sandy: That'd be the punk rock thing. What do you think of all that stuff, like the Sex Pistols?
Zappa: Well, I think that it definitely gave the writers of the rock 'n' roll publications something to write about, which is what they always want. And since what they do with their little typewriters and pencils has little or nothing to do with music, then the punk rock phenomenon was ideally suited to their talent and craftsmanship.
Sandy: You've always been down on writers in the rock medium ...
Zappa: Of course (LAUGHS)
Zappa: Because I think that's the only logical attitude that a person can take. Rock journalism is people who can't write, preparing stories based on interviews with people who can't talk, in order to amuse people who can't read (NOTE: this is a tried and tested, prepackaged Zappaism) ...
Sandy: What do you think of the view that generally prevails with rock critics when they review new Frank Zappa albums, when they say: 'This stuff is a lot more commercial and simplistic and every album sounds the same nowadays, in comparison to stuff like 'Lumpy Gravy'.
Zappa: All the people who write about me are the same people who write about the Sex Pistols and so forth ... So based on what they say about them, you can analyse how much accuracy there must be in what they say about me.
Gen: But you must know that you lost a lot of one kind of audience when you switched across round about the 'Live At The Roxy' 'Bongo Fury' albums.
Zappa: Of course... listen, they come and they go.
Gen: So you're not bothered who's listening?
Zappa: No. Because the success of various albums varies from city to city. For instance the Roxy album was perhaps the most popular album we ever had in France ... It outsold everything we ever put out, and it's the only place in the world where it was really heavy. 'The Grand Wazoo' and 'Waka Jawaka' were both number one albums in Finland, and didn't do shit anyplace else. 'Just Another Band From L.A.' and the 'Fillmore East' album were both gold albums in Australia. The most popular record in England was 'Hot Rats'. It didn't do anything in the States. When it was released it went to number 90 for a week and then disappeared.
Gen: What about 'Zoot Allures'? When I was in America it was popular with a lot of people who didn't usually like your stuff.
Zappa: Didn't do as well as some of the other ones, but it got a lotta airplay.
Sandy: Does this matter to you? Do you think, 'When I'm dead this'll be recognised as something', or do you care, or do you just do it for yourself?
Zappa: I just do what I like to do. That's the album that almost came out (holds up sleeve design for 'Lather' album).
Sandy: What's happening with the proposed legendary 12-album set?
Zappa: Well, I can't do anything about it till I have a record contract, which I don't have right now.
Sandy: I recall reading an interview where you said Wild Man Fischer asked you to do another record with him.
Zappa: No, he never asked me.
Sandy: Well, he has a new record out anyway. Do you think you just made a statement with the album you did with him? Why didn't you follow it up?
Zappa: I tried to help Wild Man Fischer and he turned out to be just as crazy as everybody thought he was.
Sandy: Does that mean he's impossible to work with?
Zappa: Well, I think he's dangerous to work with. He'd come to my house at one time ... he used to live in the street, his hair was all dirty, he lived in dirty clothes. I brought him in, my wife shampooed his hair for him – he started breaking the kids' toys and punched the babysitter and left.
Gen: Don't you think that's an inevitable result of working with eccentrics? If you dabble in crazy people you're gonna get some kind of crazy behaviour ... it's like voyeurism if it's safe. 'I don't mind him being Wild Man Fischer as long as he's not wild in my house.'
Zappa: I don't think that applies.
Gen: That's what you've just said.
Zappa: When he was in the studio he wasn't doing that sort of thing.
Sandy: Do you have any other people you'd be interested in producing? Beefheart?
Sandy: Is there anyone, a new artist say, you're listening to at the moment?
Sandy: What do you listen to?
Zappa: Classical music.
Zappa: I listen to a little rock 'n' roll.
Sandy: You worked with Grand Funk. Was that a joke, or did you genuinely think they were underrated?
Zappa: I liked them, and I like that album. I also happen to like Black Sabbath and ZZ Top.
Sandy: What percentage of the fans do you think appreciate what you do in the way that you intend it?
Sandy: Do you think any of the musicians on the albums appreciate it in the way that you intend it?
Zappa: No. They do it because they get paid to do it.
Gen: Do you only pick musicians who are only interested in getting paid?
Zappa: That's all there are in the earth.
Gen: Oh ... that's bullshit. Why don't you pick non-musicians? Is it because you've still got that obsession with being musical?
Zappa: I'm making music, and musicians are the bane of composers. Say you're an architect, you need to hire plumbers ... and you know that plumbers only do their job because they get paid for it, and that's the way it is.
Sandy: Ian Underwood, was he ...
Zappa: What does Ian Underwood signify to you?
Sandy: I got the feeling that he didn't solely do it for money, since he'd been on so many of your records... I thought he could have made more money elsewhere, unless you were paying him very well...
Zappa: I was paying him very well ... and he is now making more money elsewhere ...
Sandy: He was on the soundtrack of 'Demon Seed' ... is that the sort of stuff he does ...
Zappa: Yeah ... TV ...
Sandy: Do you think he was never interested, just did it for money?
Zappa: Yeah. Musicians come to this band for two reasons. One, the status of being in the group itself, and the fact that they're getting paid good for doing it.
Gen: Do you never bump into people anymore who you feel empathy with ... who would help the overall view of the music?
Gen: Isn't that a bit sad?
Zappa: For who?
Gen: For you ... to be on your own like this ...
Zappa: I've been on my own and I'll continue to be on my own. There's nothing sad about it, that's the way it is.
Sandy: All these references from album to album. Are they serious or just an off the wall joke to imply continuity?
Zappa: Well, I think for the people in the British Isles we'd better just call it an off the wall joke or they're liable to think it's something serious, and they have a tendency to get entirely too pedantic for their own good ... better let 'em off the hook easy.
Sandy: When you do these interviews, or when you speak to people generally ... do you feel you're not talking to people who're on the same intellectual level as yourself?
Sandy: Do you ever meet people who you can communicate with on what you would see as an equal basis?
Sandy: Do you care?
Gen: Would you put yourself at the top of your own poll?
Zappa: Well, in the field that I operate in ... I AM the only game in town. But I am in a very specialised field.
Sandy: To me at least, you seem to be very secure/nonemotional. Do you feel emotions, do you ever cry?
Zappa: No. I never cry ... and I hate a lot, so I guess I'm emotional.
Sandy: But do you like people?
Zappa: Do I like people? I love people.
Sandy: Particular people or just everyone?
Zappa: I love the idea of people more than particular people. I really feel sorry for the stuff they have to go through. I have those kind of feelings.
Sandy: I don't have anything else to ask (click).
Read by OCR software. If you spot errors, let me know afka (at) afka.net