Zapping Around With Head Mother

By Lon S. Cerel

The Cowl, April 30, 1975

Cowl: What do you think of the PC campus?

Zappa: Well, I’ve never heard so many echoes in one room in my life.

C: I was standing on the side, and I could hear the drums coming off the far wall ...

Z: You could ... But try to play along with the drums like that.

C: Have people’s reactions to your music changed since you started ... say, in 1964?

Z: Well, every time there’s a different band, there’s a different reaction.

C: Then there’s a difference between the “Flo & Eddie” days and the present?

Z: Certainly!

C: Would you say that there have been about ten distinct sets of “Mothers”?

Z: Oh, more than that.

C: You started working with Captain Beefheart in high school?

Z: Yea.

C: Aside from yourself, was there anyone in the original group that is still with the band now‘?

Z: ... No.

C: How can you account for the fact that you’ve been able to sell quite a few records, despite the lack of airplay?

Z; Somebody likes it, but not necessarily the people who play records on the radio ...

C: How do they find out about your music?

Z: Word of mouth ...

C: Do you own the rights to the Discreet label?

Z: Yes.

C: Is there any reason why you deem it necessary to own your own company?

Z: I just thought it would be fun ...

C: What happened to all the Straight records?

Z: My contract expired.

C: Is Reuben and the Jets a real group, or just something that you created?

Z: It is a real group ... It was a real group, it was on Mercury, and I put it together.

C: What ever happened to the film, Uncle Meat?

Z: It’s not done yet.

C: Then your still working on it?

Z: Every once in a while. yea ...

C: It’s been said that your music is “revolutionary”; do revolutions work?

Z: Well, it remains to be seen ... it‘s not over yet.

C: Could you reflect on the part that the Mothers played in the “Fillmore” days.

Z: Well. we played there, the same as many other groups ...

C: How did you arrive at the title Freak Out? Do you consider yourself a freak?

Z: Yes.

C: How would you define “freak”?

Z: It’s already written on the inside of the album.

C: About the lyrics to Absolutely was there any censorship at all?

Z: Yes. They wouldn’t let me print the lyrics on the cover, that’s why I put a note on the inside of the album saying that you could write away and get the words ...

C: Are you still getting requests for those?

Z: Yes. I’m not the one that’s mailing them out, I know we have them. We had many thousands of them printed up.

C: What kind of fan writes you?

Z: Mostly guys. Lonely guys, 17 years old and Jewish.

C: How can you arrive at their statistics?

Z: By taking the mail, and counting it. The figures are based on a study that was made by my secretary, who collated all of the forms, that were sent over a one year period. And on that form it had all the information. So all she had to do was to break it down, and that’s what it came out to be.

C: What is your definition of “good music”?

Z: Whatever a person likes ...

C: I understand that you have a pretty sizable rhythm and blues record collection?

Z: I have a few, yes.

C: Could you clear up something for me? What is the Bullet?

Z: A bullet is a mark that is on the chart that goes along side an album to indicate that it has moved more than ten points in one week. Its shaped like a bullet, and hence why they call it a bullet.

C: How did you originally meet up with “Flo & Eddie”?

Z: They attended a concert that we played and we met them ...

C: Who was the original “Susie Creamcheese”?

Z: The original girl’s name was Jeanne Vassoir.

C: Was it just something that was adopted into the show? Who approached who?

Z: It was something I made up, and then she became “Susie Creamcheese”.

C: You’ve said that everyone that comes to interview you doesn’t know a thing about what you do. Is this true, or am I classified in this category?

Z: Well, don’t be tense! I never said that everybody that comes to interview me doesn’t know a thing about what I do. I never made that statement. However, l might be tempted in the future to make that statement. I‘m not saying that based on you! It’s just that I have had a run of interviews on this particular tour that have been some of less than cogent, but what usually happens is people that talk to me are really nervous, so consequently they ask me nervous questions and our interview comes off as being less informative, and real tense ... I would say that 50 percent of the people that come to interview me asks me three or four questions. They shake. They turn their machines off. Then they ask me for an autograph, then they go away. So what I say to that is if somebody wants my autograph, just ask me for it without having to put themselves through the agony of going. (Note: At this time, Frank Zappa made some distinctive noise verbally, to imitate how an interview might sound.) I know this is different! I’m just telling you what happens when I give some interviews.

C: Okay, point made.

Z: Settle down now ... (Note: Zappa said this in an attempt to show Lon he was just “busting”.)

C: Do you think that your music has a definite purpose?

Z: Yeah!

C: Is that purpose different to everybody, or do you have a purpose you want the audience to get out of your music?

Z: Well, there are all different ways of looking at it. You can be purely subjective, and say that everybody that hears it has a perfect right to construe it his own way. What I intend, and what they make it, is something else again. And I realize that the odds of the whole audience feeling exactly the way I feel about the music are very heavily against that, so I guess it’s enough that they come and listen to it ...

C: You own your own ad agency, correct?

Z: No, not correct.

C: Did you at one time?

Z: Yes, in 1967.

C: Has there ever been a place where you’ve been restricted to play, by law?

Z: That’s never happened in a city, it’s happened in some halls. Never in a city.

C: Have kids changed much since you were a kid?

Z: Well, it’s been so long ...

C: Is “Eddy Are You Kidding Me?” a satire on the great American rip-off?

Z: No. It’s about a specific commercial in Los Angeles, and a guy named Eddie, from a store called Zachary All, and it’s almost word for word of his commercial on the television.

C: So the truth hurts?

Z: Yeah!

C: How did you meet up with Jimmy Carl Black?

Z: He was working at a bar.

C: ... and with Don Preston?

Z: Well with Don Preston, I met him when he wasn’t working in a bar. You see, we planned to put a group together to get a job at a bar. He didn’t have a job, and I didn’t have a job, and we both went and auditioned for the same job ... in a bar.

C: Do you think music is heading towards innocence or violence?

Z: Both! At the same time, and every place else, too. It’s rather presumptuous to think that it all goes in one direction. I mean, if it did, everything would be Cowboy music, wouldn’t it?!

C: Is it true that you are planning to make a Japanese monster movie?

Z: I will make a monster movie, whether it will be Japanese, I don’t know.

C: What ever happened to No Commercial Potential?

Z: One of these days ... it’ll be out.

C: How did the album set come about?

Z: For instance, we recorded tonight’s concert. We record all of our concerts. I have a huge amount of tapes of live concerts, and things that were left out of albums, funny stuff from studios, rehearsal recordings, things like that, I
wanted to put together a special album.

C: You met Captain Beefheart at Antelope Valley High?

Z: Ummm-hummm.

C: Were you in a band with him then?

Z: No.

C: Were you in a band at Antelope Valley?

Z: Yes. The name of the band was the Blackouts, and it was a Rhythm & Blues band.

C: Is any of the Mother’s music reflected from the old “Blackout days”?

Z: Of course!

C: It’s just built on it than?

Z: Right.

C: Whose idea was it for 200 Motels?

Z: Mine ...

C: Was that a reflection of what goes on when you tour?

Z: Yes.

C: Is it true that Flo & Eddie supposedly “killed you in print” or misquoted you at one time?

Z: Just about everybody I know has said something about me in print that wasn’t too kosher. Whether or not I’ve been “killed in print” is kind of a moot point. (Laughing) I may not be “killed in print” until you finish your article.

C: I assure you that won’t happen ...

Z: I‘m just kiddin’ ya ...

C: You’re not half as ugly as they say, you know that?

Z: Oh, yea ... ?

C: What’s the difference between a Sears‘ poncho and a Mexican poncho?

Z: Well a Sears’ poncho gets theirs from Guatemala ... or Taiwan. Just kiddin’ ya ... But, really, I couldn’t tell ya. The Sears’ poncho has orlon.

C: What kind of stereo do you own?

Z: I have a Pioneer Quad preamp, with two crowns, and a Skully two-track, and a Skully four-track ... that’s downstairs. The speakers are four Altec 604 E’s, with Master and Lab cross-overs. Upstairs I’ve got a Sony tuner and KLH speakers.

C: Whereabouts do you live?

Z: I live in California.

C: What do you listen to ... ?

Z: Mostly “Mothers” music.

C: What’s your favorite American band?

Z: My favorite American band ... hummm ... let me see ... I’m not too enthusiastic about ...

C: What’s your favorite music besides the “Mothers”?

Z: Well, I used to enjoy the old “Magic Band” – Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band – it doesn’t exist anymore.

C: You once did an anti-drug commercial ... could you tell me how that started?

Z: Well, a guy came up to me and said that people are killing themselves from using methedrine, could you do a commercial and try to dissuade them from its use? I said, Why of course!

C: Who wrote the words to that?

Z: I just improvised it ...

C: Have you ever heard the “mating call of the adult male mudshark”?

Z: Yes!

C: What does the “mating call of the adult male mudshark” sound like?

Z: (Teasing) Well, listen to the album Mothers at the Fillmore East, and hear it for yourself.

C: Do you see any changes forthcoming in the “Mothers” music?

Z: Yes!

C: In what way?

Z: Tomorrow we’ll play a different show ...

C: How does the theme in the music change?

Z: The theme has remained fairly constant since.

C: Can you project how the “Zappa” sound will sound, say five years from now?

Z: I think that you should just listen to it!

C: What did you think of the crowd tonight, out there?

Z: I think they had a good time!

C: You’ve said that you’re “tired of playing for people that clap all for the wrong reasons.” What are the right reasons?

Z: How many words do I get?

C: As many as you want ...

Z: Well, I’ll have to amend that, and say that I think it’s okay if anybody claps for any reason at all, these days. When you can see how grim it is out there ... if you have a reason to clap, go ahead and clap.

C: So you’ve changed since the time you said that they clapped all for the wrong reasons ...

Z: Yes, I’ve changed since then ... (Jokingly). I was such a bitter person then ...

C: You’re so sweet now ...

Z: Yeah!

(Note: At this time, Lon Cerel was told that he could ask one more question, as Frank Zappa had to get back to the hotel ... )

C: Okay then, I’ll make it this. Could you please do a station I.D. for the campus radio station WDOM, mentioning the city, Providence?

Z: Hi! This is Frank Zappa. You’re listening to WDOM (Did I spell it right?), in Providence.

C: I thank you very much.

(At this time, reporter Lon Cerel and Frank Zappa exchanged handshakes, as Zappa handed Lon his half-eaten apple, telling him to finish it. Lon did so, ending his evening with head Mother, Frank Zappa.)

Read by OCR software. If you spot errors, let me know afka (at)