Captain Beefheart VPRO Radio Interview, 1980


During the European leg of Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band‘s tour promoting ‘Doc at the Radar Station‘, Don Van Vliet was interviewed by VPRO Radio (Amsterdam) on November 1st, 1980 (no doubt prior, or just after the infamous Paradiso show during which Beefheart was heckled by a drunken patron).

Anyone interested in discovering what Beefheart fans find so appealing about Don Van Vliet need only listen to this interview. His peculiar individualism shines throughout while he playfully teases his interviewers. It’s clear that a lot of what Vliet says goes right over their heads. I suppose the same can be said about Beefheart’s music. Either you get it, or you don’t – it’s that simple.

Beefheart VPRO Interview (Part 1)
Beefheart VPRO Interview (Part 2)
Beefheart VPRO Interview (Part 3)

In addition, I recently came across an interview of John ‘Drumbo’ French – interviewed in mid 2005, when French was fronting a reformed Magic Band, and touring in support of their CDs ‘Back To The Front‘, and ‘21st Century Mirror Men‘ – on the weblog, The Funky Goat:

He [Vliet] was in competition with Frank Zappa, I think that’s one of the reasons he went so far out. Frank was actually playing accessible music. Another thing was that being in Frank’s band had a sort of prestige, the instrumentalists would go on and play in other groups, they were wanted. Who was going to want a Beefheart musician? Half the public didn’t even think we knew how to play!”

A very illuminating interview for any fan of Beefheart’s music. Read the transcribed interview here.

Author: urbangraffito

I am a writer, editor, publisher, philosopher, and foole (not necessarily in that order). Cultural activist and self-described anarchist.

5 thoughts on “Captain Beefheart VPRO Radio Interview, 1980”

  1. Drumbo should realize that The Captain was only teasing when he was treating The Magic Band like shit. Ha! I doubt Mr. French would buy that excuse. I believe Don’s insane behaviour is a good part of what makes Beefhearts music so interesting to me.

    Drumbo’s interview was very enlightening. Don gave his name (Drumbo) to the band’s next drummer! That’s cold. Still I loved the Beefheart VPRO interview. Some funny stuff.
    Here are some of more favorite Beefheart quotes taken from this interview:
    “Old age is when the (body) organs play.”
    “I abandoned my facial expressions at (age) three. Probably a little late.”

    The interviewer says his website is called Rub-A-Dub. He tries to get Beefheart to explain what the phase means.
    “Rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub” In this case, what’s a dub?
    Wiki says a dub is slang for twenty dollars worth of weed. That’s news to me! I pretty sure this doesn’t apply here. After all three men in a tub is outrageous enough without the doobie rubbing, especially for a nursery rhyme!
    So what’s a dub? . . . bub.

  2. Yet Drumbo baby there were a bunch of people who were in the Magic Band who played with P J Harvey Pere Ubu Jeff Buckley etc and a bunch of people in the Mothers who only ever played with each another:- ………?

  3. I had to laugh when he made another prophetic statement about Shakespeare and language traps and they called him on it. He really tried to squirm out of that one: “ah wuz juss teezn…”

    It’s a shame about how they questioned him about breaking the microphone with his voice. He did, you can hear it on “Electricity” but his singing voice had been damaged after 20 years of hard blues and chain smoking.

    There’s a story that during the Hot Rats sessions, Don attempting to make glass crack with his voice in the cafeteria. His wailing was so loud, Frank had to stop recording.

  4. [quote comment=”7765″]Yet Drumbo baby there were a bunch of people who were in the Magic Band who played with P J Harvey Pere Ubu Jeff Buckley etc and a bunch of people in the Mothers who only ever played with each another:- ………?[/quote]

    Speaking of P J Harvey, apparently there is a mutual appreciation society between her and Captain Beefheart. I knew she had spoken to Don over the phone a lot and sent him demos of her music, but I only learnt recently that he’s a big fan of hers! Also Moris Tepper and Eric Drew Feldman listened to her “4 Track Demos” one day and were in awe. They also recognised the Beefheart influence. Both Tepper and Feldman have worked with her, Feldman extensively. She is, for me, the closest we Brits have got to a Beefheart. Check out the aforementionned album, “Rid Of Me” and “A Man, A Woman Walked By” for her best work.

  5. Vliet is/was, by many accounts, a frequently-insufferable person. Add the personal insecurities to heavy drug use, and you get one giant asshole. I don’t see anything incompatible between that fact and his being a rare and incredible artist.

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