Where's The Beef?

By Konrad Ebisch

Express, March 1985

Captain Beefheart interview as rendered by Konrad Ebisch which was conducted before his appearance at the Starship Club in Milwaukee in 1982.

BEEF- How's the Art Museum over here?

K.- The Art Memorial down by the lake? It's very interesting.

BEEF- Any Viglioni, Van Gogh?

K.- I'm sure there's a Van Gogh (laughs), but it's mostly contemporary.

BEEF- Hippie blow-ups of a lysergic ghost? ...

K.- Why don't you go there tomorrow and look at it? You're probably much more versed on what's in there than I am. (Looks over at Beefheart). Is that your sketchpad?

BEEF- My earth pad.

K.- Did you listen to the blues?

BEEF- No. The way I was influenced was that my grandfather used to play rock harmonica and lap guitar and he was from Louisiana and his name was Amos Burtiner Warfield, related to the Duchess of Windsor's second cousin who gave me this pin (on collar). It's a diamond with very unusual brass fittings – brass, gold and platinum.

K.- So, where were you actually born? Were you born in the south

BEEF- Los Angeles, [Glendale], really.

K.- Your parents were from the south?

BEEF- My grandparents on my mothers side were, Warfield, my father was born in Missouri, he's Dutch. So I'm Dutch and English, right down the middle.

K.- Are your parents still alive?

BEEF- My mother. My father ate a potato chip, blew up ... and split. He's a nice guy.

K.- All this stuff about your parents. Not probably enjoying your artistic attributes. Is that true?

BEEF- We're from where those Orientals were held in camps during World War Two in the Mojave.

K.- Is that still the type of area where you're living now?

BEEF- No, I'm living in a trailer out in the high desert in Mojave, California. But I was living up in Northern California's rain forest by Patrick's Point before I moved down to the desert. I moved down to get closer to everyone in the band – they all live in L.A.

K.- What were the reasons to take you out of this thing? Your age? Do you have any animosity towards them?

BEEF- I'm too smart to hold a grudge. I have enough trouble peeing. Too boring ... B-O-R-I-N-G.

K.- Do you find contemporary rock and roll boring?

BEEF- I don't even find it. I don't look for it. I paint and write music all the time. ALL the time. And I wrote five albums when I was in England on this supposed difficult one-nighter tour.

K.- This present one?

BEEF- Yeah. I didn't sleep.

K.- Not at all?

BEEF- No. What's the use, you just gotta get up again.

K.- Did you write the lyrics ...

BEEF- Everything.

K.- Do you write charts out?

BEEF- No. Not that lower mathematics. I think those are blockants. I use pictures, tapes, illustrations and forms. That's how I, write music. And, unless you want a whole bunch of lazy people to play it. I've never heard anything good by Stravinsky, who I dig very much – unless it was conducted by himself.

K.- You've heard some Public Image music ...

BEEF- I haven't even heard it.

K.- So you don't listen to anything. You mentioned Eric Dolphy...

BEEF- No I KNEW Eric Dolphy. But my baby won't let me have a baby. I do what I do. I think every artist should do that. Then there would be definite things instead of one – Bomp! Bomp! Bomp! Mama heartbeat, which I think is a distillation of lower mathematics, really, and it's too hypnotic and it doesn't move me at all. As a matter of fact, it breaks me out. In a rash, hearing it. I think it's stupid. I really do. I mean there's other things. I've done different things the whole time I've been doing music. I've never done a repetition of anything. There isn't any repetition in nature. Why do they want rigor mortis to set in to music – that isn't music – is it? I don't think it is.

K.- You don't think the repetition in music is music itself?

BEEF- I don't think so. Not in my kind of music. I do what I do.

K.- Are you speaking of sounds rather than music?

BEEF- I'm a sound sculptor.

K.- Would you call yourself a musician?

BEEF- No. I wouldn't. I do spells.

K.- One thing I'm curious about, what kind of feelings do you have about what happened to John Lennon?

BEEF- I'm deeply concerned. That was too bad. The fellow had two children. One five, Sean. It's a shame for the child to grow up without a father.

K.- What did you think about the Beatles' music – the early stuff?

BEEF- I don't think of it. I don't pay any attention. I know McCartney pretty well, I know all of them.

K.- Some bands take a lot of your ideas, for instance this band Pere Ubu – are you familiar with them?

BEEF- I'm familiar with what people tell me about them.

K.- They really – you've lent them a lot!

BEEF- Why don't they do their own music?

K.- It sounds like sculptured music – the pieces are put together in a way that there's very little repetition.

BEEF- The only repetition is that they must be awful guilty. I think it's an illness. I don't think it's a tribute. Give me some money, then, and I'll tell them whether they can do it according to what I like.

K.- Do you live in an isolated portion of the desert?

BEEF- I sure do. It's about 2-1/2 hours before I hit government roads. That far from L.A.

K.- What kind of things do you eat?

BEEF- I like bean sprouts and alfalfa sprouts. I drink a lot of water, never out of the tap – other than coffee or tea or something, but I prefer eating fruit or vegetables and things like that. I don't care for the narcotic effect of meat. Red meat. I like fish.

K.- Do you do much drugs? In the 60's?

BEEF- No, they kind of attribute the creative minds to capsules. Like "Safe a Milk" (LP) was about the strontium content in mother's milk not hysergic acid, as they said, of course they capsuled everything in the 60's.

K.- Do you think there's any comparisons between the 60's and what could happen in the 80's?

BEEF- I can suggest a book. "Get rid of the labels – children coming." Meaning, I think people should look at the labels on their food and really investigate and have it tasted with a cat. They're anti-chemical.

K.- I think society is in to sex and drugs and rock and roll.

BEEF- I know a lot of people who aren't ...

K.- Well, I still think you're in a minority (ha-ha).

BEEF- Being an artist, I mean a real artist, I can't help it. I don't have any choice. I have to paint, I have to write, sculpt, poetry.

K.- Have you had any other jobs besides your art?

BEEF- I sold Aldous Huxley a vacuum cleaner – in California.

K.- What kind?

BEEF- Electro Lifes.

K.- I got one!

BEEF- I can believe in that, I owned one. I enjoyed it.

K.- Do you spend much time in your trailer?

BEEF- It's my only house. I paint.

K.- Speaking of the desert – that "Don Juan" thing – did you explore any of that Carlos Castenada?

BEEF- How about Shakespeare. Although I like Leonard C. Hall and his research center, he's read thousands of books.

K.- Do you read?

BEEF- I write constantly.

K.- Do you have any publications?

BEEF- I will soon. My storage bill is so big in L.A. I have so much stuff. I have to start selling it, the horrible thing about an artist is that they have so many things.

K.- When was the last time you toured?

BEEF- You mean here, this is my first time here. I wanna see some of those horses who pull those carts.

K.- When was the last time you went out on the road with a band is what I meant.

BEEF- Oh, we're always touring here in the U.S. We played the Mudd Club.

K.- How was that?

BEEF- Here's mud in your eye!

K.- What kind of audience are you drawing?

BEEF- Very young and older, too.

K.- How did you like Saturday Night Live?

BEEF- I enjoyed it. My band is better than any group I've ever had.

K.- What are the old men like Zoot and Rollo up to?

BEEF- Rollo got stale. Rocket misfired.

K.- Where's the Snake?

BEEF- The Mascara Snake is up in the redwoods fixing his eyes.

K.- Does your manager take good care of you?

BEEF- She's Mandarin-Chinese. Very good, she was in the Peking opera. Sings beautifully. We're opening the show with an oriental piece ...

K.- You've always had a lot of oriental feelings in your songs ...

BEEF- Always have. She got us gongs from Mainland China.

K.- Do you ever see Zappa anymore?

BEEF- No ...

K.- You were friends in high school ...

BEEF- I wasn't in high school, he was. No, I never went to school in my life, never. Kindergarten, I wet my pants when I was four. They called my mother and I left. It's disgusting, all that competition.

K.- How do you feel about this Ronald Reagan business?

BEEF- Deeply concerned. I think he's a bad actor. I don't like his acting. I don't like his politics, I don't like politics. "Stupid people in high places" – a beatnik said that.

K.- Do songs come to you – sitting somewhere – and you'll hear the parts to it?

BEEF- The music and the lyrics ...

K.- You don't actually sit down and say 'I'm gonna write a song now'?

BEEF- You mean like Billy Williams, "I'm gonna sit right down and write myself a letter?" – No. No way.

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