Don Van Vliet is the real name of Captain Beefheart. He was born January 15th, 1941 as Don Glen Vliet. What's here is a transcript of an interview he had on the "The Late Show with David Letterman" in 1982, helpfully typed by Jamie Gullikson.
David Letterman: For the last 15 years my next guest has been making music that sounds like no one else's in the world, and he has aquired a fiercely devoted following amongst critics and fans. This is his most recent album right here "Ice Cream For Crow". Please welcome Don Van Vliet - Captain Beefheart ladies and gentlemen. [lots of applause! after a long pause, Don Van Vliet appears, wearing a fedora, and carrying a bottle concealed in a paper bag]
DL: How are you doing? Nice to meet you sir.
DVV: How are you? Nice to meet you too.
DL: Thank you very much. Have a seat there, if you will.
DVV: Thank you.
DL: You brought a little refreshment along?
DVV Just water, just water. [brings Perrier bottle out of paper bag]
DL: Would you like a glass for that?
DVV: No, but the war is a pimple on a puffed up dragon, you know...What did I mean?
DL: No, that's all right...you go ahead... [DVV sips from bottle. laughter]
DL: uh...before you came out, I was looking at your album. Let me ask you one question about this gentleman here on the back. A picture, obviously of a guy who performed on the album, Richard "Midnight - Hatsize" Snyder...
DVV: Yeah! Right!
DL: I know that you sometimes give musicians names.
DVV: Well I had to in this case. I mean "Snyder"...I mean I had to give him "Midnight Hatsize" because we got him that hat. I had him put those bow ties on the front and the back [points to band photo on back of "ICFC"]. Black one and the white one. Now it looked better. That red derby didn't make it without them.
DVV: But...uh...he's a Winnibago Sioux indian!
DL: mmm-hmm [laughter] So "Midnight Hatsize", that's a very unusual name.
DVV: He needed a hat. He called my manager, Gary Lucas, who is also on this album, he called him in the middle of the night - said he wore a size 8 hat.
DVV: Now that's impossible.
DL: It is impossible? That's a pretty big hat isn't it?
DVV: Well, i mean, it's possible, but impossible in his case.
DL: Well...um...[laughs] What size hat does he wear?
DVV: Seven and three eighths.
DL: Oh good.
DVV: Which ain't bad.
DVV: But not an 8!
DL: No, not an 8, sure. [laughter] If you're just joining us, we're talking about hat sizes and uh...Now you have an interesting name yourself. Can you tell us a little about the origin of Captain Beefheart?
DVV: Captain Beefheart - I have a beef in my heart against this society. They're cutting the beaks off of penguins down at the marina in L.A., you know that, the water...
DL: No I didn't.
DVV: Cutting the beaks off of...uh...not [penguins]...uh pelicans. Cutting the beaks off! The top beak...
DL: I know, but why are they doing that?
DVV: I don't know, but I sure would like to find out who's doing that, because they need a spanking.
DL: Well it's cruel, if in fact that's the case. That seems like it might be cruel.
DVV: It's not right.
DL: No...uh, now let's talk about your music. You were the first person to actually record a video right?
DL: How long ago was that?
DVV: I think that was about '72.
DL: What was the name of the song for which you recorded...
DVV: "Lick My Decals Off, Baby" - meaning "get rid of the labels, children coming".
DL: "Lick My Decals Off?"
DVV: Not nasty things like they thought...
DL: Yeah and...uh...this...uh...
DVV: ...thought some nasty things! [laughs]
DL: You were ahead of the rest of the music world, and this video is now in a museum isn't it?
DVV: Yeah, Modern Art...yeah...M.O.M.A. [spells out with his finger]
DVV: Yeah! [laughter] ...that's it "mom". Museum of Modern Art.
DL: Now we have a current video from uh...[DVV waves at camera]
DVV: Im just waving to my mother...[another wave] and my wife.
DL: All right. We're going to pause here. We'll be back with Captain Beefheart and many more hat sizes, so come on back.
DL: Captain Beefheart, and you're talking about Will Lee, our bass player.
DVV: He's good. [turns to see band] You're good.
DL: Steve Jordan, our drummer.
DVV: Yeah, you're good.
DL: Hiram Bullock, guitar; Paul Schaeffer our director.
DL: Now, Captain, if...do I call you Captain, or Don?
DVV: Don is fine.
DL; Don, o.k., we're going to look at your current video. Tell us about that. This is from " Ice Cream For the Crow"?
DVV: "Ice Cream For Crow".
DL: Yeah. What does that mean exactly, the title?
DVV: Uh, it has a lot to do with Ray-Gun [ie: Ronald Reagan]. I mean, he saddle soaps his hair and tosses jelly beans through rope tricks. He's a bad actor! [laughter] No, uh, what it has to do with is - it has to do with black and white; you know, and a raven; vanilla ice cream...
DL: Oh yes.
DVV: Yeah. Yeah!
DL: All right. We're going to take a look at the video now. Is there anything you'd like to explain about the tape from the..,
DVV: I'd like to say that I really appreciate you showing this, because - what was the...MTV? I don't want my MTV if you don't want my video!
DL: They uh...they have not...
DVV: They won't show it.
DL: Well, it's too bad. It's their loss.
DVV: Yes, I think so too!
DL: Here now, a minute or so of "Ice Cream For Crow", Captain Beefheart. [a minute of the video is shown. applause and cheers]
DL: "Ice Cream For Crow", Captain Beefheart. That appeared to be shot in the desert, and you live in the desert don't you?
DVV: Uh, after a fashion, it was 114 [degrees] the day we shot that. It was that hot - "it's so hot" - it was that hot.
DL: Yeah. Do you like living in the desert?
DL: No? [laughter]
DVV: I'm gonna move to Arizona, it's hotter.
DL: You've lived there quite a while, haven't you? You and your wife live there.
DVV: Yeah, in a trailer out in the...well, way out in the high Mojave. Pretty nice, I mean, ravens for neighbours...
DL: But, you don't like it, but yet you don't leave.
DVV: I love the tension, discipline.
DVV: It's good for painting. I'm a painter.
DL: Oh I see. Is it true that you once managed a Kinney's Shoe Store?
DVV: Yeah. The funny part about that is, I managed the shoe atore and I quit on Christmas eve, and I went down to Warner Bros. - I got signed to Warner Bros. - it's also Kinney's - so I walked out of one shoe store, into another shoe store!
DL: [laughs] We're going to pause right now, and continue with Don Van Vliet, Captain Beefheart, right after this. [commercial break]
DL: Don, it was a pleasure meeting you. Come back and see us anytime sir. I enjoyed talking with you. Captain Beefheart ladies and gentlemen.
DVV: Thank you, it was really good. Thank you.