Saturday, December 18, 2010

Lester Bangs profile of Don Van Vliet (a.k.a. Captain Beefheart)

In case you haven't heard, Don Van Vliet passed away yesterday 12.17.2010 :-( I've always found his music weirdly entertaining but, in retrospect now, I suppose I haven't given it enough chance to really move me and this has motivated me to go back and give it a few more earnest listens. By coincidence, I also happened to have read an interview with / profile of the one and only Captain Beefheart, included in Mainlines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste: A Lester Bangs Reader, not too long ago. I had honestly never read any of Lester's inimitable writing until a couple months ago (I know, right?) and sought out this book at the city library after seeing P4k Reviews Reviews mention him so frequently. It's a great read: a perfect example of Lester's passionate, free-flowing, and free-wheelin' but thoroughly insightful writing style, and it's a great description of Mr. Van Vliet himself. The L.A. Weekly blog posted the full transcription of the article (oroginally published in the Village Voice on 10.01.1980) just last night, but I'll quote here one of my favorite sections of the article. It's a quick burst of questions from Bangs trying to dig deeper into Beefheart's influences, musical or otherwise, and he ends up further away from his goal than when he started, but in a strange way, that tells you more about the guy than any "direct" answers possibly could. You'll see what I mean.

LB: Have you ever had somebody you idolized or looked up to as an artist?

DVV: Can't think of anybody, other than the fact that I thought Van Gogh was excellent.

LB: How about in music?

DVV: Never in music I never have. A hero in music. No, fortunately.

LB: So you didn't listen to like Delta blues and free jazz and stuff before you started to---

DVV: Not really. . . I met Eric Dolphy. He was a nice guy, but it was real limited to me, like bliddle-liddle-diddlenopdedit-bop, "I came a long way from St. Louie," like Ornette, you know. It didn't move me.

LB: Dolphy didn't MOVE you?

DVV: Well, he moved me, but he didn't move me as much as a goose, say. Now that could be a hero, a gander goose could definitely be a hero, the way they blow their heart out for nothing like that.

LB: Is that because you think that people generally do it for purposes of ego?

DVV: Um, yeah, which I think is good because it gets your shoes tied. You know what I mean, it doesn't scare old ladies, you get dressed. So I think that's nice.

LB: You don't think it's possible to create art that's egoless, that just flows through you?

DVV: That's possible, I'm tryin' to do that, on this last album definitely.

LB: Well, one thing I find is that the more I know the less I know.

DVV: Me too. I don't know anything about music.

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