Morgan intervjuar Zoot Horn Rollo
This is a transcript of a telephone interview made by Morgan Ågren on August 7, 1999.


M: You have probably seen BBC´s documentary on Beefheart?
Z: Right, exactly.

M: There is some footage of the house that I guess is more recent?
Z: Actually no, I think those pictures were taken. Wow!! - It was that funky when we were living there. (laughs) It was pretty bad. That was funny for me to see that stuff, cause I don't remember those cameras, and all the sudden I see pictures of myself thirty years ago!

M: There were some pictures taken inside the house as well.
Z: Right.

M: Did you like the documentary?
Z: Yes and no. I wish they would come up and talk with me, which they were supposed to, but they didn't want to make the trip. I thought it was strange that they would spent so much time with Jimmy Carl Black, who played about 2 notes in the band. I thought what he was saying was pretty ridicules, but maybe he is a nice guy, I don't wanna ruffle feathers here. It's just that, gee, he couldn't play that shit (laughs)

M: It's kind of new to me that he was even involved?
Z: Well, he wasn't. I think he played one or two gigs.

M: I would have guessed it to be some very few times though, even despite the fact that he was one of the "Cave Men" with The Mothers, but he wasn't too much of a Beefheart drummer.
Z: He was to the Mothers what Ringo was to the Beatles.

M: Well, that couldn´t have been said better! (laughs)
Z: Anyway, as far as the documentary goes, I have always had a problem with the word genius, attached to anybody and to proclaim Don is the only rock genius. I have a problem with that only as a title. Of course, I thought he was an extremely talented person that really did something large in music, okey? But again, the Jimmy Carl stuff was a little funny. I thought that the interview stuff, especially with Frank, was very good. He was being his usual, very diplomatic self, and he could have just ripped Don a new one, you know what I mean? He could have really been truthful and said - God this guy can be a real asshole, but he didn't, he was really nice about it, how Don could do silly things. The Ry Cooder stuff I thought was interesting too, 'cause it gave a clue into how Don could be strange long before even Trout Mask, you know where we were having fake heart attacks and falling off the stage !! (laughs)

M: What about Ry's story about the guy with the crossbow in the studio?
Z: Well, that was the guy who did China Pig, which always kind of pissed me off, because it's like, I can play like that, I can do it while I'm sleeping, why is this guy getting to do it? That was the only part that really kind of bugged me through the whole situation, as that I felt like I had to carry the weight of guitar players where they improvised because they couldn't play the parts, I didn't get to, because I could. Also with Elliot (Eel Fingerling), and I loved Elliot, and I loved his playing and so fourth but. hey Don, what about me???

M: Another thing I remember from your book was when you described how Don stared at you guys after this guy had played "China pig" meaning -"there you have it, simplicity is where it's at", kind of. and as I understand it, simplicity was the thing you guys were missing most of all?
Z: Right, and I think I say in the book also that, after I'd be playing Trout Mask tunes it seemed. you know, why should I play like that? (laughs) You play like that for so long, it's like the difference in said 'well I got a car right here, why should I get on a bicycle'? That's what it felt like.

M: Did you see Anton Corbijn's short film too?
Z: Yeah.

M: Did like it?
Z: Actually, cause it's about Don and his art and his views and things, yeah I liked it.

M: There is a part in Corbin's video were Don is just commenting on different things, amongst others Frank Zappa, where Don says 'he was the only Frank Zappa I knew.', which I guess could mean that there was only one like Frank, but I got a feeling that Don said it like - only knew one by that name. a little bit, and I wonder if you felt there was ever some kind of rivalry feeling between the two?
Z: They were people that were leading things, and when you are the front dog walking out there, everything hits you in the face, and than the guys behind you looking at your butt. The guys behind you thinks that you are an ass because that's all they're seeing. I think that anybody that lead people are gonna have disenchanted people following them, and I think Frank proved that, 'cause I think Frank did some really shitty things, but I thought in general he was an extremely nice man to me. But between the two of them. they were so different. I mean they were so damn different. Frank was extremely predictable and workwind like. and Don was like, phew. Thelonius Monk spinning around, you know. I am sure there was, especially early on as they touched basis with each other, some competition, and I would say probably from Don more than Frank. I think Frank was. - he was a pretty fucking cockey guy, you know what I mean? Meaning very self assured. He was very confident and felt very comfortable putting his view of life out there. I think Don did it in a much more chaotic and fearful way, and I don't think people perceived that. I think Don was a little more sensitive and hurt inside than Frank, and so I think of himself as like "domm d'domm" (Zoot sings) -even his music "domm d'domm" you know, grandiose, and Don were more this kind of "Albert Einstein/Thelonius Monk Combo guy", so I am sure it was there me at times I just saw them as being siblings that were arguing! (laughs)

M: Someone told me a really weird one about Frank and Don, from the first time Don introduced Jan (Don´s wife) to Frank. Don and Jan came to visit at Frank's house one day and Don introduced Jan as "this is my girlfriend" or something, wereas Frank gave Don some kind of "yeah sure baby." kind of response, which pissed off Don to the degree that they didn't talk to each other for seven years ! ?
Z: Well.that's not true, that can't be truth, I mean timing wise, if that event happened, I can imagine why Don would be pissed, and I think that's the one thing of Frank that always gonna bum me out is just his... I can't explain, anyway, that sounds like something he could have done and said, but the fact is that Jan was there and we were at Franks house right after that, you know what I mean ! There was a lot of contact in the next seven years, especially right after that, 'cause Jan came by the house and Jan and I probably spent a day or two together before Don saw this girl, (laughs), and then if he was introducing her before they were married, if he introduced her as his girlfriend. we hadn't even done Trout Mask. or we have just finished it, so I think maybe that happened but it didn't create a seven year.

M: Did Jan change Don's personality? I wonder if she had a lot of influence on Don? People say that she controls which phone calls to let through, which mail to read, etc?
Z: I would think up until exact complete recent history, where Don isn't in good health enough that he wants to talk to anybody, but I would say that the original influence was Don now had a very close companion, a companion that he probably did as much changing and creating of her, and she grew into an image that worked with him like he did with our band people. She was very young. I am not saying that she gave up how she was, but she turned into something while she was with him. In that process, just like I run business here, and most business has a good cop/bad cop, I think most of those decisions were Don's and then gradually as she learned to just kind of predict what his will was or what he wanted, she started to make more of those decisions so he wouldn't have to think about it. But I don't think she was controlling him by any means. I just think that she grew to be a monitor of answering the phone or doing whatever, I just think that's a natural extension of a relationship in a way, especially with somebody like him.

M: Right.
Z: I just read Thelonius Monks book, and a woman took care of him (Nelly), and they were never married, but they lived together and they had kids for ever and ever and ever. I see a lot of parallels after reading that book. I don't think that Don had the mental disorders that Monk had, but the people around Monk, although he wasn't as vindictive, you know, he was in his own little world, but he had outside people running the things for him after he kind of gave them the. "silent input" or whatever, as to what his basic feelings and choices he wanted made for him. Makes sense?

M: Yeah!
Z: Good.

M: Is it true that Don hired some kind of wood doctor during the Trout Mask rehearsals?
Z: I think so, yeah.

M: In order to save the trees from dying 'cause of the music?
Z: Well, from the music? I don't think so. To me that doesn't sound right. It never did. I mean, Don would have a very self-fulfilling idea that his music is beautiful and that it made them grow. I can't imagine he would think his music was killing trees! But calling the tree surgeon and having Herb Cohen get all pissed off about it. I am sure of it. That sounds perfect! That happened really early though, so I don't even know if Rockette Morton was in the band yet for that, just in the first few months I was in the band that happened.

M: When was the last time you saw Don?
Z: Wow! Let me think, right after Mallard, I´d say right around 1978-80, almost 20 years ago. Last time I saw him, I think he was in his cocaine period, and he was founding all over me, I don't know why. Cause he had badmouthed me so bad with the Mallard stuff, which is fine, I can care less about that you know, and some of what he said was right but, he was founding all over me, and what I mean by that is just "Oh god you are so great" telling me how bitchen I was etc. We were sitting in some room, some band was playing somewere, and Don and I went to see them cause we knew them, and we are in their hotel room and I was sitting there playing the guitar to have something to do, and all he could do was talk about how bitchen I was. and it was so unlike Don, I just think that it was a real weak time for him. I think he gained strength right after that and got into his paintings and got more successful, but I saw him I think in the down time. It's a wierd memory for me to have my last view of him be that way, because I always thought of him as an extremely creative person, and he seemed pretty wimpish the last time I saw him...

M: So, beside the fact that he is sick now and all that, would you be extremely surprised if he had called you now, or lets say 5 years ago?

Z: No, no...

M: Or did he call?
Z: No he hasn´t , and that was fine with me, quite honestly a few years ago, I didn´t wanna have to. If Don got your phone number and called you, guess what, you'd gonna be talking 5 days a week, see what I mean?

M: I have a friend in Santa Monica named Gerald Fialka. Once when I stayed at his house, I heard Don call him right in the middle of the night just talking, and since he is just a fan, "not involved", he didn´t mind talking to him.
Z: For 2-3 hours

M: Yeah, Gerry even kept notes of the dates and the lengths of each call down on paper! It was like that for a couple of months, then Don just stopped calling.
Z: Right.

M: I'm wondering, after all the stuff you've been doing together, all this incredible Music, being a part of a really heavy period in music history, do you ever miss Don?
Z: Oh yeah, oh yeah. I wish he wasn´t such a difficult person, and again if we were to not consider his current physical illnesses, if he was in better health, it would be wonderful if I could see him, and see him as a painter and that creative person that I miss, there's just not that many people like him. But being that we have so much history, he knows that he screwed me big time, he's not gonna admit it, I don't care about it, but there is still that feeling. I mean, everything that happened to me I let happen to me, because I was there. I could have left anytime I wanted, so I take full accountability for all of that, but because that happened, and I was very young, and we grew older very apart, it would be difficult. But yeah sure, you know, he doesn't live that far from here, I can drive down there, but. the last time Art Tripp went to see him, Jan ran in the house locked the door and closed all the windows !

M: When was that?
Z: About 4 years ago. And Art was Dons chiropractor, and was the first person that was telling Don hey, I think you have a physical element here, and Don later found out he had MS, but when people treat you like that it's kind of hard to wanna see them you know!

M: I guess so! But you really sound balanced about this though?
Z: I'm 50 now, I´m a grown up you know. What I was doing with him as I was a very young impressionable person. If I could see him now, and we could be a couple of adults talking. I'd love it, because he is an extremely creative guy, and I'd like to see his work, I´d like to see his paintings, but. it's not reality.

M: What is his current health like?
Z: I don't know, cause I haven't talked to him, I am not sure. I think his MS is a sure thing, and I think there is a stroke or two also. I don't know, they are all rumors. Anybody that I know that had contact, isn't anymore, so.

M: I remember when I heard him on the CD that followed the book "Stand up to be discontinued".
Z: What book?

M: It´s a book about his paintings, like a compilation, entitled "Stand up to be discontinued"
Z: I haven't even seen that. It's the first time I've heard about it.

M: You know, when we did our Beefheart tribute here in Sweden, this book came along with Dons paintings to the galleries, where we played. There was also a CD along with the book, with poetry!
Z: Ah, cool!

M: It came out in 95, and Don sounds very weak when he reads the poetry, I mean sick, and now it's 1999, so, one can only wonder how he is doing now?
Z: Exactly, I was going to tell you something. but I forgot. Well, one thing ! Just think; I mean people like me, we worry about how to make money as an old person and take care of our retirement and all that. I think about all the paintings I tossed of his, when I left the band !!! (laughs)

M: The paintings?
Z: Yeah, I tossed them.

M: Oh wow...
Z: YEAH ! (laughs) I could have a whole recording studio in my room and not have to go to work. I mean that´s how I felt, when I left the band, when he was bad-rapping me like that. My opinion was -Fuck you asshole !
The thing is that after a year or so feeling that way, I went - Okay, so what, it's was my fault, I was there too, so...

M: When I read your book, I thought for myself that Zoot should release recordings of Dons piano tapes, rehearsals etc.
Z: I don't have any tapes!

M: You don't ?
Z: No, no, no...

M: Because IF you had them, they would be easy for you to sell, I guess?
Z: Oh yeah!

:: Part 3

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Morgan Ågren free drumsolo, France July 2010 (part 1)
Morgan Ågren free drumsolo, France July 2010 (part 2)