Marshall Needleman Armintor – John French’s Q&As 2000/1

In early / mid 2000 John French called on Radar Station visitors for some help writing his book, Beefheart: Through The Eyes Of Magic…

From: Marshall Needleman Armintor
Sent: Wednesday, March 29, 2000 3:42 AM

First off, I’m very glad that you’re getting the chance to expand on your excellent Grow Fins material.

Thanks you, Marshall, for the compliment on the Grow Fins set booklet. I actually received a postcard from the people at Revenant last year saying the liner notes were being “considered” for nomination for a Grammy!

In the liner notes to his small-group album Locus Solus, John Zorn says something like, “When I was recording these tracks, I felt like we were really onto something and, I dunno, that it was going to be a huge hit. I listen to the songs now, and I think, what charts were we going to be on? On Mars?”

I suppose I want to know what y’all thought you were doing, musically, while you were working on Trout Mask Replica. I realise that you were under a great deal of unimaginable stress, and perhaps didn’t have the wherewithal to really reflect on this, but surely one of these thoughts crossed one of your minds: “If Don is trying to break us out, this isn’t the way to do it.” “I don’t understand what this music is supposed to sound like.” “What the hell are we trying to do here, anyway?”

As far as our vision of the Trout Mask music as it developed, I can only speak for myself. My thoughts on the music are mixed. In a self-absorbed way, I loved much of what we did, which is one of the only reasons I stuck with the project as long as I did. However, at the same time, I knew that the Grateful Dead would probably wind up being the definitive band of the era. Much of Trout Mask was like a driving musical windstorm that the public would react to as they would with any other windstorm; by battening the hatches and running for cover. It’s odd that even with the supposed assistance of psychedelics that “opened up the mind,” people seemed more interested in watching Jim Morrison masturbating onstage than seeing really serious musicians playing technically advanced, innovative, and groundbreaking music.

“NO!” I never thought that I would see any financial gain. I thought for a short time after the release of Trout Mask (When Don’s picture was on the cover of the Rolling Stone) that I could have misjudged the public and there may be some financial gain. But I also knew from the article that Don had already began to encroach upon the credit rightfully due his players, and so the whole project became entrenched in several layers of deception, making an already difficult situation nearly impossible.
– John French

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