[alert_box type=”info”]This is an interview / conversation between Don Van Vliet and Bono from U2 which appeared in a Christmas special of Dutch magazine Oor in December 2001, double issue 25/26. This Christmas special was laid out by Anton Corbijn, hence the Bono / Beefheart connection. The conversation took place around October / November 2001. Many thanks indeed to Rob van der Kroef for taking the time and trouble to translate the interview from Dutch back to English. Since this text has been translated from English to Dutch and then back again, you may expect all kinds of peculiarities to have worked their way inRead More →

[alert_box type=”info”]Otis Owens e-mailed me in early April ’98, putting me straight about a few things, and I soon realised it would be worth getting him to write something for the site. He agreed to answer a few questions, though at the time I didn’t expect the result to be quite so fascinating.[/alert_box] First, some background info… You said that you worked for Zappa… how long was this for and what did you do? I worked for John Williams (Art Director) for Frank’s Bizarre/Straight records. I began in 1968 and was there until August 1970. John hired me because my style was very similar toRead More →

[alert_box type=”info”]Article taken from the 24th August 1997 Sunday Telegraph.[/alert_box] Also guaranteed to have a catastrophic effect on your love-life is the music of Captain Beefheart, subject of John Peel’s adoring if oddly po-faced tribute, The Artist Formerly Known as Captain Beefheart (Tuesday, BBC2). But then perhaps he too is a “boy thing.” Years ago, I never understood why any woman I succeeded in luring home vanished swiftly into the night as soon as I played her some of the Captain’s more tender bellowings. All this time later, I couldn’t help but be moved to find that he’d lost none of his power to sootheRead More →

[alert_box type=”info”]Article taken from the 17th August 1997 Observer, originally titled simply ‘UK Television’.[/alert_box] We at the Observer can boast a couple of ancient links with Captain Beefheart, subject of tonight’s Rock Cults programme, The Artist Formerly Known as Captain Beefheart (BBC2, 11.15pm): Tom Hibbert’s band, the Angry Crabbers, played support to Captain Beefheart in a San Francisco club in 1981. `Nice set, son,’ rumbled the Captain when they came off stage. `I’ve got one word of advice to you: don’t sign with Virgin.’ Well, as those old cosmic links go, I was initially instrumental in signing the Captain to Virgin in 1974, after anRead More →

[alert_box type=”info”]Article taken from the 17th August 1997 Daily Telegraph.[/alert_box] But why did he throw it all in and go to live in the Mojave Desert? Mike Barnes finds out. “I’M a genius, I was born with my eyes open,” said Captain Beefheart back in 1972. A lot of people still agree with him. John Peel is one of them. “If there has ever been such a thing as a genius in the history of popular music, it’s Beefheart,” he says. “I heard echoes of his music in some of the records I listened to last week and I’ll hear more echoes in records thatRead More →

[alert_box type=”info”]Article from unknown source on the 16th August 1997. If you know where this came from, please let me know.[/alert_box] An ornery cuss is Don van Vliet, the subject of next Tuesday’s BBC2 documentary Rock Cults: The Artist Formerly Known As Captain Beefheart, introduced and narrated by No 1 Beefheart fan John Peel. Frank Zappa, for instance, was almost literally on his deathbed before he could bring himself to comment in level tones about his former musical partner, the duo having fallen out horribly and infamously almost 20 years before. Tuesday night’s fascinating programme in fact arose accidentally out of producer-director Elaine Shepherd’s previousRead More →

Elaine Shepherd’s classic BBC documentary, introduced and narrated by John Peel. Completely wonderful, a 50 minute joy: Reviews, articles, blog posts, etc. relating to The Artist Formerly Known As Captain Beefheart. When the film was first screened by the BBC, it was followed by the Anton Corbijn / Don Van Vliet short Some YoYo Stuff.Read More →

[alert_box type=”info”]This first appeared in the 21st August 1994 Independent on Sunday.[/alert_box] Gary Lucas First saw Captain Beefheart play at a New York club in 1971. Their acquaintance was years old before he plucked up the courage to reveal that he played the guitar. Then Lucas’s wife became Beefheart’s manager and he was given an instrumental to play on ‘Doc at the Radar Station’ (1980). By 1982 Lucas was a full-time member of the Magic Band. It was at this point that Beefheart decided he didn’t want to make records. Lucas now has his own band, Gods and Monsters. [wp_quote]The first time I saw himRead More →

[alert_box type=”info”]This article appeared in the 21st August 1994 edition of The Independent on Sunday, prior to the Stand Up To Be Discontinued exhibition opening in England.[/alert_box] Don Van Vliet is probably the only full-time painter who used to be a mythical figure in music. Once Captain Beefheart, he is soon to exhibit in Brighton. Ben Thompson sent him a fax. DON VAN VLIET lives in the small and beautifully named town of Trinidad in Northern California, up by the Oregon border, 135 ft from the ocean. He paints there. He is a painter of note – “Stand Up to Be Discontinued”, the second BritishRead More →

[alert_box type=”info”]From the Stand Up To Be Discontinued book, Cantz, 1993[/alert_box] Ice Cream for Crow. On the Relationship between Music and Painting in Captain Beefheart’s Work Those who, over the last twenty years, have loved the music of Captain Beefheart cannot forget that he decided to abandon the music scene (it would seem definitively) to devote himself full-time to painting. Specialist rock critics, who were left the sad task of a retrospective tribute to his career, each time have boldly tried to establish correlations bet-ween yesterday’s music and today’s painting, acting in a way that is markedly ‘reparative’ and which, implicitly placing diachronic continuity toRead More →

Anton Corbijn taking Don's photo

[alert_box type=”info”]Some of the greatest Beefheart photos were taken by Anton Corbijn, who writes here. He took the famous Ice Cream For Crow desert snaps, and numerous others scattered through this site. Originally appeared in Mojo Magazine, December 1993[/alert_box] I am a photographer who is a friend of Beefheart’s, rather than being an authority on him. When I met Beefheart on an NME assignment in September 1980, I didn’t know much about him at all. I met him at the County Museum of Art in LA and suggested photographing him in the desert, where he’d just come from. He said yes rather reluctantly, and weRead More →

[alert_box type=”info”]Interview taken from December 1993 Mojo Magazine.[/alert_box] On September 30, 1993, Dave DiMartino received a phone call from Don Van Vliet. I heard that you have a new studio up there. Is it a big one? Yeah. Is it complete? Yeah. I’m painting like a house afire. (laughs) How do you spend your time now? Mostly painting? Yeah. Do you do any drawing? Oh yeah. All the time. How is your day spent up there? Do you see many people? Just paint. No people. Just painting. Are you happy up there like that? Yeah. Happy as a clam. (laughs) Does it seem as ifRead More →

In April 2003 I received a message from Dave DiMartino, the author of the 1993 Mojo article “Yeah I’m Happy” featuring interviews with Don, various members of the Magic Band and Henry Kaiser. This article caused John French to write a letter to Mojo expressing his unhappiness with the article and apologising for any upset to Don that may have been caused. Years later, Henry Kaiser wrote to me to say that he never conducted an interview with Dave DiMartino and that the quotes attributed to him in the article were made up. Dave DiMartino contacted me around 1999 to express his sadness at JohnRead More →

[alert_box type=”info”] This letter originally appeared in Mojo Magazine as a response to their article about Captain Beefheart entitled ‘Yeah I’m Happy‘ from December 1993. John French (Drumbo) wanted to set the record straight, though the allegations in this letter are strongly denied by the author of the original article, Dave DiMartino. See also Henry Kaiser’s statement on the matter and Dave DiMartino’s response. [/alert_box] I just read the Beefheart story a week or so ago. DiMartino, the author, was supposed to send me a copy (all writers promise, most never carry out their promises.) Eventually, I stumbled on it by myself through a friend,Read More →

[alert_box type=”info”]This article first appeared in Mojo Magazine, December 1993 as an introduction to an interview with the man himself.¬†Please also see John French’s response to this article.[/alert_box] He is alive. A recluse. Painting in seclusion up near the Oregon border. There have been weird signals through the ether since he stopped making music 11 years ago, but they were faint, confused, unintelligible. But now Dave DiMartino has finally made contact with the man who used to be Captain Beefheart. It is entirely fitting that Don Van Vliet, painter of international repute, and one of a handful of truly legendary figures in rock ‘n’ roll,Read More →

[alert_box type=”info”]This highly recommended interview was taken from the January 1988 edition of Spin magazine.[/alert_box] Don Van Vliet was born in Glendale, California, on January 15, 1941, the only child of Glenn and Sue Van Vliet. Don began showing artistic talent at a very young age but Glenn and Sue were none too keen on having an artist in the family. “Cause you know, all artists are faggots,” Don explains. When he was young, the family moved to the Mojave Desert, an isolated, brutal environment that they hoped would bleach the creative juice out of their son. But Van Vliet’s drive to translate the worldRead More →

[alert_box type=”info”]From the 18th December 1985 New York Times[/alert_box] A painter whose first one-man show in New York runs through Saturday at the Mary Boone Gallery, 417 West Broadway, may be better known to music-lovers than to the art world. The prestigious gallery, which has represented David Salle and Julian Schnabel, has a show of eight large, boldly colored canvases by Don Van Vliet, the composer, saxophonist and harmonica player who has been making records since the 1960’s as Captain Beefheart. The style of such paintings as ”Eye Whine” and ”Gum at the Bottom of the Grocery” will be familiar to owners of the albumsRead More →

[alert_box type=”info”]This interview was taken from the August 1983 edition of Heavy Metal Magazine. A big thankyou to Don Trubey for scanning and sending it along.[/alert_box] Photograph copyright Anton Corbijn, used by kind permission There’s no doubt in my mind that Don Van Vliet (better known by his nom de disc, Captain Beefheart) is one of the most extraordinary humans on the face of the Earth. A few years ago, in a youthfully effusive frenzy, I called him an ubermensch (superman, for you non-Nietzscheans), something he’s never let me live down. But the man isn’t so much a superman, as… well, a separate genus andRead More →

[alert_box type=”info”]This article was taken from the January 1981 edition of Trouser Press. It was originally titled simply “Captain Beefheart”.[/alert_box] The first thing Don Van Vliet does when you meet him is to bring you immediately into his world. “Those people over there take too many showers,” he said to me seconds after I walked into his manager’s Greenwich Village apartment for our interview. “There.” He led me over to a window and pointed across the courtyard to a large living room. “They parade around there in their bathrobes!” I hadn’t even taken my coat off, but I felt comfortable already. Van Vliet / CaptainRead More →

[alert_box type=”info”]This excellent article / interview was taken from the October 1st – 7th 1980 edition of Voice.[/alert_box] He’s alive, but so is paint. Are you? Don Van Vliet is a 39-year-old man who lives with his wife Jan in a trailer in the Mojave Desert. They have very little money, so it must be pretty hard on them sometimes, but I’ve never heard them complain. Don Van Vliet is better known as Captain Beefheart, a legend worldwide whom the better part of a generation of New Wave rock ‘n’ roll bands’ have cited as one of their most important spiritual and musical forefathers: JohnRead More →