Kim Fowley's Sins & Secrets Of The Silver Sixties
By Mike Stax, pp 5-47
The latest West Coast way of life-rebels with a cause, & their music
(reprinted from Record Mirror, October 22, 1966)
By Norman Jopling, p 23
When Frank Zappa was out at the studio he used in Cucamonga where they did "Wipe Out", there was another version of that studio, it was called S&L Recorders and I did a bunch of legendary stuff there. As you know, I'm having a dispute with Dionysus Records; they never paid me the royalties I believe I deserve from my perspective on two different reissues (Outlaw Supermall - Bacchus Archives BA1113; Underground Animal - BAI13I, both 1999). A lot of those records are on those packages, you can hear for yourself. I did them as experimental fun records the same way that Frank did his experimental fun records out at Paul Buff's. It's a total Mexican neighborhood and you're a white guy and you have pure white trash disgruntled middle class-to-rich kids all showing up together and being stupid and having fun. We wanted to make records like "Wooly Bully" and we wanted to make records like "Surfin' Bird", and we wanted the glory of a boxy drum sound and the glory of bad smelling people standing around and burping and farting and being ... Nuggets. Very Nuggets. We didn't know what Nuggets was because Nuggets didn't exist, but what became Nuggets. All the records that were done, they're on the two Dionysus albums - either that or the Creation reissue (Mondo Hollywood - Rev-ola/Creation CREV036CD, 1995). Between those three releases in recent years you'll hear them all. They're all there in all their slimy beauty. It's just a bunch of people making stupid records for stupid reasons.
MS: On these records you were making in '65 and '66 in LA, you were comparing your state of mind to that of Zappa and what he was trying to do ...
KF: I didn't know he existed really, in that regard. Basically, it was like this: From 1959 to 1963 I was young, smart, bright, well-dressed, trying to make it clean and nice and corporate. Coming out of the gutter, nobody cared if I was a piece of shit, even though I occasionally had a good idea. So then I decided I would fuck dirty bitches on the weekends, I would lay in squalor during the week and fuck dirty bitches on the street at night, and then from time to time I would go out to a Chicano neighborhood in El Monte and make these garage records – because I liked garage crap more than I liked Top of the Pops crap. So in that regard, I sympathize with you and your readers, even though I make fun of you guys for being closeted back in the '60s, and that almost 40 years later you're jacking off to pimples on men's faces like the Standells and the Music Machine and your whole orbit revolves around maybe ten records from the time. I agree with you because I was right there doing bad versions of that shit. But on the other hand, I moved on and you guys didn't – shame, shame, shame! (laughs) If Sky Saxon came to your house you and your wife would probably cry tears of joy and bake him a cake ...
MS: (laughs) I'm not so sure about that! But my point about the Zappa comparison is that somehow he picked up on you to sing on the Freak Out album. Was he aware of your stuff?
KF: No, he didn't know who Kim Fowley was. He knew me because a) Elliot Ingber said I was cool and Elliot Ingber was his original guitar player. Because Elliot knew me from way back when he was in the Gamblers, and he was also in a group called the Phil Harvey Band; they were Phil Spector's instrumental group and they were great. And I knew him from around town and, b) he knew I could get up there and ... I'm a sensational performer. I'm really astonishing as a performer. I'm a piece of shit as a human being and I'm an asshole as a businessman, and I'm creatively valid, but in front of an audience I'm one of the most entertaining fucking things you've ever seen. Imagine if Ichabod Crane had the cock of John Holmes, pre-AIDS, standing up there like Elmer Gantry, man. A male cheerleader that Satan has endowed with the ability to change your life, just by standing up there and asking, "Is anybody having a birthday today?" I'm really, really good. I mean, better than anybody you've ever seen who's white. You've never met me, you don't know who you're talking to!
MS: I'm aware of your reputation.
KF: It's hard to take – I'm a piece of shit, basically. If I was dead I'd be a better interview than I am now because my personality wouldn't get in the way of my work. We complain about Keith Moon or Kim Fowley or Sky Saxon all being difficult or impossible to deal with, however, if we weren't these interesting people we wouldn't have made those interesting songs or records that have changed the history of teen culture. Everybody reading this knows nice people who they have over their house on Christmas Eve who didn't change their fuckin' lives, but you won't let me in your town on Christmas Eve, let alone your house! But my records are in your fuckin' house and you can't live without them, so fuck all of you! That's my message. But thank you very much for buying them, even though I don't always get royalties – but sometimes I do; when I do I thank all of you and you have great taste for seeking out the records, because they'll change your life. Go on.
MS: (still laughing) OK, so through Elliot Ingber you hooked up with Zappa and what? He just invited you to appear on the album?
KF: He invited me to jam.
MS: In the studio, you mean?
KF: No. His idea of a jam was "We're doing a gig. Show up on stage and if you're great you can sing with us, and if you're horrible that'll be great too because then I'll tear you apart and throw you in the street and that'll be good too. I don' t care either way whether you're good or not." But I happened to be good.
I showed up at the corner of La Cienega and
I said, "Oh shit!"
Then he told me to come down to the studio – he didn't ask, he told. Then everybody made his record with him and nobody got paid any money, and nobody got paid any royalties either; no session man royalties either, but we all did it anyway. It was a great night.
MS: So it was all basically done in one night; one big freakout, like it said?
MS: Was Zappa directing things very closely, or did he just kind of let the tape roll and let the freaks play?
KF: It was organized chaos. It was like the Titanic on a recording studio floor, like "The ship is sinking, let's get all these people's agony on tape" kind of a 'happening' type thing. I guess he took the Hindenburg disaster and an Andy Warhol happening and made an album of it. I sang "Help I'm A Rock" on the album and I sang on some other tracks.
MS: What happened after that? Did he want you to continue to perform with the Mothers?
KF: Yeah, he came to my apartment and said, "I want you to be my Brian Jones. I want you to be a permanent member of the band" and I said no.
MS: Why didn't you want to do that?
KF: I said, "I know I'm fun to watch in the context of what you're doing, but I'm not interested in pursuing that as a career."
He said, "What is your career?"
I said, "Fucking dirty bitches and making stupid records, and when all this longhair bullshit is over with I will go back to what I was before the longhaired thing. I'll just be a shorthaired guy in a suit doing business with music. Frank, I've had three #1 records in the world, so I know what it's like to get royalties and fees and stuff, and if I'm your Brian Jones I'm just a weird guy in a weird guy's band and I will end up with no money and no nothing. And although I'll fuck some amazing bitches and have some great times, it won't mean anything and I'd rather stumble along and scream like a dog. I'm my own man."
What I should have done, in hindsight, is done two or three albums with him, and then I would have been legitimate as a performer because I would have had Zappa certification – "Well, he can't be too bad he's on three albums with Frank." But I'm only on one album with Frank. But the great one that you should lobby to find is The Mothers of Invention Live at the Whiskey, which was the same people that did the first album all reunited to do the same exact songs in front of a live audience. Somewhere in Frank's archives there's that live album of all of us a year later, in '66, all reunited, every last person that was on that record showed up and did the same shit again.
I did get laid a lot. The two records that got me laid the most from the '60s was having my name and voice on the Mothers of Invention Freak Out album, and being the introducer of John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band in 1969. Having your voice on a Beatles record – or if not a Beatles record a Lennon record – and then "The Trip", because it was a psychedelic underground sensation. Yeah, those three records got me laid multiply hundreds of times. I didn't have to say anything. Girls I'd meet in pubic places pushed me away to their bedrooms: "You're the guy on John Lennon's record, fuck me and my girlfriend."
"Because we're not going to be able to fuck him and you're the closest thing."
FREAKING out' is a term which is being thrown about with gay abandon on the West Coast (
Freaking Out is described in detail on the sleeve of the "Freak Out" album from the Mothers of Invention, one of the leading pioneer groups of the movement. It reads "On a personal level, FREAKING OUT is a process whereby an individual casts off outmoded and restricting standards of thinking, dress and social etiquette in order to express CREATIVELY his relationship to his immediate environment and the social structure as a whole. Less perceptive individuals have referred to us who have chosen this way of thinking and FEELING as 'Freaks' hence the term 'Freaking Out. On a collective level, when any number of 'Freaks' gather and express themselves creatively through music or dance, for example, it is generally referred to as a FREAK OUT. The participants, already emancipated from our national social SLAVERY dressed in their most inspired apparel, realise as a group whatever potential they have for free expression ...