Kristine McKenna is an American music journalist who has written for Wet, NME, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, The New York Times, The Washington Post and many other publications. Over the years she has often written about Don, having interviewed him a number of times she was trusted by him and became a friend of his. In 1987 she had Don take part in a phone-in programme with her on her late night KCRW show. Some of this show is included in ‘Electricity: Conversations With Captain Beefheart’ available as part of KCRW’s ‘Lost Tapes’ series. In this Kristine talks about her encounters with Don and alsoRead More →

[alert_box type=”info”]This article originally appeared in the December 1982 edition of Musician magazine. It focuses on the making of the Ice Cream For Crow video, and includes an interview with Don conducted at that time.[/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 the prospect of having an artist in the family (“‘Cause you know, all artists are faggots,” is how Don explained their rationale), so they moved to the Mojave Desert, anRead More →

[alert_box type=”info”]This article and interview was taken from the May/June 1981 issue of Music & Sound Output[/alert_box] In 12 albums spread out over 13 years, Captain Beefheart has created a body of work that breaks most every rule in American music and results in something that couldn’t possibly be anything but American music. Hey, man, take a look at these,” Captain Beefheart exclaims, holding some slides up to the bare bulb in his dressing rooms at the Beacon Theater in Manhattan. “These are some pictures!” Taken by a local freelancer, the slides show Beefheart standing at the microphone, blowing his soprano sax. “These were takenRead More →

[alert_box type=”info”]This article was taken from Creem, March 1981, Vol. 12 No. 10. Many thanks to our man in Mexico City, Jesus Quintero for kindly scanning this article and sending it to me.[/alert_box] *May 1970. High School kids in my living room. Singing. “Hot and slimy weenie, knocking at my door/Hot and slimy weenie, crawling ‘cross the floor/Hot and slimy weenie/hot and slimy weenie/hot and slimy weenie… WHERE ARE YOU NOW?!?” The tape still exists, us mindlessly wailing away over the same bass pattern with our 1970 rock band equipment, seconds later me grabbing the microphone and reciting the words to “The Blimp” from TroutRead More →

[alert_box type=”info”]This excellent introductory article to the work of Don Van Vliet first appeared in April 1981’s Down Beat.[/alert_box] “My music is terribly personal,” Don Van Vliet says, his eyes fixed intently on me. “I think any artist is that way. I think there’s a lot of people out there that are kidding about art. I mean, literally kidding.” Van Vliet speaks in a soft, slow Southern California drawl that sounds nothing at all like the raw, rasping bellow he usually affects when he’s singing under the name Captain Beefheart. But his intensity is the same, and he is every bit as captivating, clever, charmingRead More →

[alert_box type=”info”]This originally appeared in the December 1980 edition of New York Rocker, later reproduced in the Stand Up To Be Discontinued book. Photographs by Laura Levine.[/alert_box] Whatever the relationship between the music of Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart) and new wave, it must be more than coincidence that after fifteen years as a largely ignored but legendary eccentric, he is making music that is as strong and strange as any he has ever made, and is receiving more recognition than ever before. Captain Beefheart has always represented the final frontier of rock weirdness, but his vintage records were only taken seriously by a fewRead More →

[alert_box type=”info”]This article was taken from the 27th November 1980 issue of Rolling Stone.[/alert_box] After 16 years and a dozen albums, the world has finally caught up with Don van Vliet. IT’S A DOGSHIT DAY ON West Forty-second Street, the neon-choked main drag of Manhattan’s cheap-thrills district. As the daily midmorning traffic jam congeals into an unmoving mass, Don Van Vliet peers out a drizzle-streaked car window at the shuffling tribe of hookers, hustlers and head cases that clogs the sidewalks, then squints up at the lewd movie marquees looming above: SLAVES OF THE CANNIBAL GOD. SUGAR BRITCHES. THAT’S PORNO! Reeling out into the street,Read More →

[alert_box type=”info”]This piece was taken from Creem magazine of April 1979[/alert_box] Don Van Vliet has just spent the last fifteen minutes wandering around the conference room at Warner Brothers’ New York headquarters, investigating the possibilities of undoing the corporate environment. He has painstakingly adjusted and readjusted the dimmer switch until the lighting in the room matches the twilight outside, and he has also managed to pry open one of those standard office building windows, the kind that no one who works in places like this ever even gets near for fear that if they do try and get some fresh air in, some alarm willRead More →

[alert_box type=”info”]This article / interview was taken from Trouser Press, Vol. 6, No. 2, February 1979. many thanks to Don Trubey for scanning and sending it along.[/alert_box] “Beefheart was a major influence on Devo as far as direction goes. Trout Mask Replica… there’s so many people that were affected by that album that he probably doesn’t even know about, a silent movement of people.” — Devo, quoted in Search & Destroy #3, 1977 I have been a staunch admirer of Captain Beefheart since 1970. The singular nature of his music, and the joy, excitement and mystery that are an inextricable part of it, are soRead More →

[alert_box type=”info”]This interview was taken from the March 1978 edition of Future Magazine. It is riddled with errors (Muhabbi? Denny Waller?) so don’t rely too heavily on anything they say, but is very entertaining nonetheless. A big thank you to Don Trubey and MJ Stevens for sending it along.[/alert_box] As we approached Captain Beefheart for an interview he was remarking to a small gathering of fans seeking photos “I wish I was an octopus, I really do though. I mean, could you imagine standing there octopied like that. No, I mean man, that’s beautiful, really… I love dolphins, and octopus…” We met the Captain [DonRead More →

[alert_box type=”info”]This article appeared in September 1974, although the source is unknown. It focuses very favourably on the so-called ‘Tragic Band’ era, and includes a couple of the contradictory statements which Don has made about this time.[/alert_box] Beefheart has been called a genius and that is unfortunate. Geniuses for the most part are people who die poor and unrecognised only to then receive attention (No, this is not Jim Crotchetey we’re talking about). For the most part geniuses are not rock stars and if they are they’re the type who don’t tour and only come out of seclusion every few years to record an albumRead More →

[alert_box type=”info”]This article and interview was taken from ZigZag 34, Vol 3 N0. 10, November 1973.[/alert_box] The article is introduced by the ZigZag editor, Connor McKnight. Many thanks indeed to Michael H for sending this along. In September of 1970, I moved into a new flat in Bayswater. It has about it an air of what indifferent novelists invariably call faded gentility. All our neighbours seemed very old and very quiet, but it was still a nice place. Now one evening when I was sitting on the toilet, of all things, a faint trace of musk wafted through the door, and upon closer listening itRead More →

[alert_box type=”info”]This interview was taken from the July 1973 issue of Oui magazine.[/alert_box] The introduction merely relates the Beefheart ‘legend’, however the interview itself is particularly interesting as the Captain discusses the formation of the Magic Band and the music which they produced, offering full credit to those involved and their contributions to the music. Captain Beefheart is not a military hero, the star of a kiddie show, or the symbol of a brand of dog food. After spending some time with him, though, you get the feeling that he could, if he really wanted to, be any one of those things. What he mightRead More →

This article / interview first appeared in Sounds 14th April 1973. Many thanks indeed to Simon Sergeant for typing it up and sending it. I must confess I didn’t expect Captain Beefheart’s reply to “Hello, how are you?” to be that he felt fine but was very angry about the Muhammad Ali fight: “Look what they have done to him man, I mean he won that, and they took it away from him.” Don Van Vliet and his wife Jan joined us for a lunch a couple of days after he flew in to London for his biggest and potentially most successful tour here. WithRead More →

[alert_box type=”info”]Taken from the 18th February 1971 edition of Down Beat. Many thanks to Francisco Vázquez for kindly scanning and sending it along.[/alert_box] The Manteno Festival may be the only festival not covered by the usual media overblow – mainly, of course, because Cincinnati is hardly your basic cultural Mecca. Also, no film was made, no records were cut, no one was killed or over-stoned or rioted – only music happened, albeit quite theatrical music, and a good but not revolutionary time was had by all. Well-met at the Ludlow Garage on Nov. 20-21, local entrepreneur Jim Tarbell by beneficent accident had simply assembled aRead More →

[alert_box type=”info”]This classic article originally appeared in Rolling Stone’s 14th May 1970 edition. Many thanks to Justin Sherill for making it available.[/alert_box] “Uh oh, the phone,” Captain Beefheart mumbled as he placed his tarnished soprano saxophone in its case. “I have to answer the telephone.” It was a very peculiar thing to say. The phone had not rung. Beefheart walked quickly from his place by the upright piano across the dimly lit living room to where the telephone lay. He waited. After ten seconds of stony silence it finally rang. None of the half dozen or so persons in the room seemed at all surprisedRead More →