For many people on the first listen Trout Mask Replica just sounds awful. For those of us that grow to love it, it’s a masterpiece. If you don’t entirely get it yet, this 10 minute feature video from Vox nicely picks apart what’s going on and why so many of us consider it to be uniquely special. If you enjoy this and want something more in-depth then have a look at Samuel Andreyev’s analysis of Frownland and his extended conversation with John French.  Read More →

NTS Radio recently broadcast ‘The Magic Behind Beefheart’, an hour long look at Don and the Magic Band’s career by Imogen Eason. A great selection of music, albeit brief extracts, keep the show moving along. It includes interviews with John French and Denny Walley talking about their time in the band, about Don and Frank Zappa and about playing the music again in the reunion Magic Band. It’s not clear when these interviews were done but presumably they must be a few years old and recorded before Denny left the band – (I’m guessing 2013). Take a listen here  Read More →

As the Magic Band begin their Farewell tour of the UK this excellent interview by John Martin has appeared on the Nottingham cultural website Leftlion to advertise their performance at the city’s Rescue Rooms on Sunday 12 November 2017. Read the interview Check out details of the Magic Band tour      Read More →

Around July 2017 John French was invited to take part in the Austin Corn Lovers Fiesta in October to celebrate the music of Captain Beefheart with a collection of local musicians. This was an exciting opportunity for John to not only perform in the US but also to present some of Don’s songs with an extended band, horns, back-up singers and even a concert level theremin player! The Radar Station was unable to attend the show but we know someone who did and he has sent us this review of the event. Review by Patrick Grant Threadgill’s is a bar/restaurant/music venue in Austin, Texas havingRead More →

John French will be playing a show at Threadgill’s in Austin, TX, October 7th, 2017 as part of the Austin Corn Lovers Fiesta. Here’s what John has to say about it: A four-piece band, 3 backup singers, and 4 horns! Whoa! Twelve people on stage during parts of this show. This will be sort of a “celebration” of Beefheart music. A one-hour show at the former location of Armadillo World Headquarters — where I played with Don in 1971 and also where “Bongo Fury” was recorded. It will be a pretty different experience for me. Oh, and one of the singers, Aileen Adler also will beRead More →

We recently posted about composer Samuel Andreyev’s Youtube analysis of the album Trout Mask Replica. A fascinating piece if you haven’t watched it yet. On the back of piece we were able to put Samuel in contact with John French and he has now posted an excellent video interview with John on Youtube lasting an hour and forty five minutes. In the interview they discuss John’s time in the Magic Band (unsurprisingly), concentrating on the time in the Trout House and the making of TMR. Take a look here: [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Od0_LRNlE5A]Read More →

2016 has been a bad news year for all sorts of reasons … unfortunately here’s some more of the same… On 15 December John French posted this on The Magic Band Facebook page: I have decided not to pursue any more tours. There is precious little demand these days, and not enough offers to actually support any group. I have sincerely enjoyed the actual tours, but the five to six months leading up to them is filled with tedious details. Too much time is spent on the business and not enough on the music. Since I founded the whole project in 2002, the difficulty levelRead More →

A look at the new book from Herb Bermann, Don’s co-writer on Safe As Milk. It’s not that long ago that many people thought that Herb Bermann was just another myth created by Don Van Vliet. Although he shared writing credits on eight songs on the Safe As Milk album, and, much later, one on Shiny Beast, he seemed to have disappeared off the radar. But the Radar Station kept looking for him … You can read about my and Derek Laskie’s search here. We were certain he was out there and Derek eventually managed to secure an exclusive interview with him for the RadarRead More →

Magic Band Members: Mark Boston, John French, Bill Harkleroad, John Thomas, Art Tripp Is is a duck ? … is it a train? No, it’s the Magic Band after they left Beefheart in 1974. Bill Harkleroad (aka Zoot Horn Rollo) and bassist Mark Boston (aka Rockette Morton) decided to form their own band. John French joined on vocals and drums and John Thomas, who’d been with French in Rattlesnake & Eggs, played keyboards. Unfortunately only six demo songs were recorded with this line-up before French got the call to rejoin the Magic Band. Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson, a Magic Band fan and friend of MarkRead More →

Catalogue number: PRPCD024 Label: Proper Records Released: November 2008 Track list Bogeyman Bus Ticket Outta Town Blood on a Porcupine Quill City of Refuge Abandon Get so Mean Maybe That’ll Teach Ya To the Loft of Ravenscroft The Shirt off My Back Wicked Witch of War Whose Side Ya On The Withered Hand of Time Proper Records publicity Recognised among many as one of the most innovative percussionists of his generation, Drumbo now sets out to resurrect the style of music he helped make famous in Captain Beefheart’s legendary Magic Band. For his new CD, “City of Refuge,” Drumbo set out to inject new lifeRead More →

John was in and out of the Magic Band a number of times between 1967 and 1978. Before the Magic Band he had drummed on occasion for The Exiles (with Jeff Cotton) and fronted his own blues band, Blues In A Bottle, on vocals and harmonica (again with Cotton, as well as Mark Boston). There is some confusion over whether he was ever recorded with The Exiles, but it is definite that Blues In A Bottle was never recorded. Another band, Rattlesnake & Eggs, he formed with John Thomas also failed to leave a recorded legacy and his stint on vocals with the original MallardRead More →

In early / mid 2000 John French called on Radar Station visitors for some help writing his book, Beefheart: Through The Eyes Of Magic… From: John Mackenzie As a long-time Beefheart fan, I was fascinated to learn that YOU transcribed the ideas in Don Van Vliet’s head, and what he whistled or banged out on the piano or sung or whatever, into the music we hear on the records that were made. Please go into more and specific detail on this intimate musical relationship you had with the Captain. Since you were able to transpose his “conceptual” ideas into wonderful, beyond-compare music, have you foundRead More →

In early / mid 2000 John French called on Radar Station visitors for some help writing his book, Beefheart: Through The Eyes Of Magic… From: 5th Procurator of Judea Date: Fri, 21 Apr 2000 10:13:44 -0400 Okay conspiracy theorists… There’s this part in “Moonlight On Vermont” (Trout Mask Replica) where Beefheart intones “Come out to show dem” repeatedly. Then there’s this early piece of music by the “minimalist” composer Steve Reich called “Come Out” where Reich loops a quote from someone (about being beaten) and then gradually delays a second channel of it causing a very strange effect. The quote which is sampled and thenRead More →

In early / mid 2000 John French called on Radar Station visitors for some help writing his book, Beefheart: Through The Eyes Of Magic… From: Paul Lewis Sent: Tuesday, April 11, 2000 4:55 PM Thank you for taking the time to field questions from readers of the Radar Station. I’m a big fan of your work and am hoping that you can shed some light on a few questions that I have. You have mentioned previously that you expected to be part of a blues band when you joined the Magic Band in the mid 60’s. What kept you going when the band started findingRead More →

In early / mid 2000 John French called on Radar Station visitors for some help writing his book, Beefheart: Through The Eyes Of Magic… From: Ralf NygÂrd Sent: Monday, April 03, 2000 6:40 PM As far as I understand it, you saw some references to Vliet’s massive use of cocaine in the later years. I only saw fringes of Don’s cocaine use and never really saw much of a negative effect. However, one reliable anonymous source made it clear to me that there was in fact quite a problem with cocaine use in the later music years. Why did he start using it in theRead More →

In early / mid 2000 John French called on Radar Station visitors for some help writing his book, Beefheart: Through The Eyes Of Magic… Name: John Wilby Sent: Sunday, April 02, 2000 11:58 AM Of all the numerous musicians who have cited Beefheart as an influence, who are the ones that band members feel have ‘got it right’? Unfortunately, I have to plead total ignorance here. I personally have to admit that I have no interest in reading rock articles, so I would even know how to begin to answer this. I don’t listen to music, generally and never have. Perhaps this is an areaRead More →

In early / mid 2000 John French called on Radar Station visitors for some help writing his book, Beefheart: Through The Eyes Of Magic… Name: Basil Storey Sent: Sunday, April 02, 2000 1:40 PM Did the band rehearse every day? When I get a question like this, I always refer to the Trout House times and you may be thinking of a different era, or a time when I wasn’t in the band. During the “Trout” era, the band didn’t necessarily rehearse every day, although we rehearsed every available day. I often went for weeks without actually being able to do much practice or muchRead More →

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, “WhenRead More →

In early / mid 2000 John French called on Radar Station visitors for some help writing his book, Beefheart: Through The Eyes Of Magic… From: Monique / Michael Cohen Sent: Monday, February 21, 2000 3:47 PM I am very excited about this book! I’ve reread the Zoot Horn Rollo book at least 3 times! I’m sure the book will address things that I’m already interested in like Beefheart’s relationship with Zappa (and also how Zappa interacted with Magic Band members), I don’t know who to address my answers to Monique or Michael, because there’s two names here. Beefheart’s relationship with Zappa was an always-changing love-hateRead More →

In early / mid 2000 John French called on Radar Station visitors for some help writing his book, Beefheart: Through The Eyes Of Magic… From: Steven Vacca Sent: Friday, February 18, 2000 12:41 AM Has anyone ever talked in-depth with Beefheart’s old girlfriend, Laurie, to get her perspective on the Don Vliet that she knew during the ’60s and the Trout period? That would be one very different perspective apart from the band, the music industry insiders, the fans, etc. She obviously saw the raw Beefheart in private and in public, and must know the truth about the guy. If interviews are conducted to obtainRead More →