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Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Hero Worship: Cliff Martinez on Captain Beefheart

Captain BeefheartSoundtrack composer (Drive, Only God Forgives, Sex, Lies and Videotape) and former drummer for Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Dickies, Cliff Martinez tells us of his lifelong love for Captain Beefheart, and what it was like to work with him
Don Glen Vliet, better known as Captain Beefheart, has been my musical idol since I was 13 or 14, and remains so to this day. Usually, your musical heroes fade as your tastes change, but his music is still a big inspiration to me. I'd like to think that in some way he has had a powerful influence on my music.
In a nutshell, he invented his own unique vocabulary for the music he made. The first thing that sucked me in was this completely new language for the drums. John 'Drumbo' French played the drums like nobody else. I don't even know where it came from, that style. I've talked to him, and he mentioned his own influences –Sandy Nelson, Ginger Baker, and some other guys, but it just didn't sound like anybody I'd ever heard before. It sounded like a completely fresh take on an instrument that millions of people play, and that millions of people have recorded – somehow he found something completely and totally new and different. A different way of thinking about it and approaching it. It was the same for the bass, same for the guitars and the other instruments. It's the same for Beefheart's composition – I don't think there's anything like it. You can't even describe his music without using the word 'Beefheart.' To this day, that's what I want to be when I grow up.
Working with Beefheart, he was really demanding – it was very hard to keep up. You had to have a tape recorder running at all times, because a lot of the things he wanted to capture would be spontaneous, improvised things that he would not be able to repeat. That might be a vocal performance, or he might sit down and get you to play the drums, giving you directions like 'Give me that thing that's meat on a plate with red asparagus dangling through the teacup,' or 'You know! Giant blue babies levitating over mountaintops.' And you were on your own! So it was really, really hard work, but it was my Gary Cooper, High Noon moment. I had a front row seat to experience his process. I don't think there will ever be another chance like that.
The Lost Broadcasts
DVD - £9.99
Lunar Notes - Zoot Horn Rollo's Captain Beefheart Experience
Book - £9.99

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