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Author: Subject: Viva Interview - 1977
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[*] posted on 5-1-2018 at 00:23
Viva Interview - 1977

A very obliging Viva employee sent PDF's of this 1977 interview to my father. A hearty thank you to this person, but unfortunately we have to ask her if she can procure the one bit that's still missing.

Viva appears to have been a different magazine back in the day this interview was published, compared to what it is today - an 80s ad shows a strong interest in herbal medicine. Present-day Viva is a woman's magazine that is... well... closer to some of Zappa's lyrics. And I don't mean the political stuff.

All the same, Zappa in a women's magazine is an odd sight.

The use of language is quite colourful and I often struggled to find a word that covers the full feeling of the Dutch text.


Frank Zappa:
"You get sugar from the Osmonds, sex from me."

Text: Brenda Haan / Photos: Gijsbert Hanekroot

Filthy and subversive. That's what the music by Frank Zappa and his Mothers of Invention used to be referred to.
The Mothers don't exist anymore, but Zapa himself goes on relentlessly. The Sjors van de Rebellenklup* in music land made a new LP. Still subversive? Or did Frank Zappa let his sarcastic head droop? The American Master was in Amsterdam recently. Brenda Haan crossed three obstacles and spoke with him.

Hit stars pale and top of the pops wither, but Frank Zappa (37) will always exist. *
How's that even possible? That was never the intention of moral preachers, penitent preachers, Van Agts* and Ethic Reveillists. If they had their way, Zappa would have died a musical death ten years ago. Besides that, Joe Average Audience left his music on the shelves, radio- and TV-channels kept quiet on his music and person.
But there were exceptions. The Dutch music magazine 'Hitweek' called Zappa a genius back in 1966. And our VPRO brought Zappa and his club of lady friends 'Girls Together Outrageously' in full width to the screen. Result: urgent letters, cursing* and thousands of cancellations of VPRO-memberships. Plus an official reprimand from the secretary of state for the brave channel's pixie.
Zap Appelflap* couldn't be bothered. From Mother's Day 1964 on he hit where it hurts in American society. Even the phenomenon pop music itself was often target of his sharp wit. Because Zappa was always a lot of musical notes ahead of his colleagues and contemporaries. Long before musical 'nostalgia' was invented, he bitingly satirized the hits and lifestyle of the Fifties.
Later he created hateful parodies of the then beyond popular Beatles and Rolling Stones. Hypocricy, fakeness and old-fashioned conventions were given the full treatment by him every time.
Late 1971 things suddenly became very quiet around the Maestro, when a jealous audience member tossed him off-stage at the London Rainbow Theatre. Zappa fell down several metres into the orchestra pit, got a skull base fracture and a few more fractures, and was in a wheelchair for almost a year.
But His Satanic Majesty has returned. With a sparkling new album 'Zoot Allures'. Two things are noticeable from it: his target is no longer the plastic person in a robot society, but relatively innocent groups of dozing drunkards and sleepy disco dancers. And secondly: 'Zoot Allures' (with Zappa as star guitarist) draws a remarkably young audience. An audience that can't know his early work because it's no longer available.
What now? Did goatee-moustache sink his sarcastic head tiredly into his lap? Did the Satyr grow old? More than enough reason to talk to him.


That's not an easy task. At the bottom floor of Frank's hotel by an Amsterdam canal, is the first, unsurpassible, obstacle. In the shape of a dangerously looking powerhouse. A sort of room-size King Kong.
Ever since his London accident, Zappa is surrounded by this kind of mildly sinister body guards. Day and night, apparently. Or else the insurance can't cover any damage that may occur.
He also had a phobia of staircases left over from the fall. In the contracts he signs these days, there are always articles about the desired length and width of access paths in halls, stages and emergency routes.

"Say, girl, you don't happen to work for the American magazine Rolling Stone, do you? Or else you..." Kong grins. One "no" is not enough. Kong will be checking up with the record company, to be sure. (Frank Zappa and Rolling Stone thoroughly hate each other. Rolling Stone thinks Frank is a 'cooky jazz imitator', Zappa says the magazine collaborates with 'dubious characters within the American government.'
Obstacle Two is from Himself: journalists who wish to talk to him, first have to read a pre-printed interview of Frank by himself. A clip from that:
"Here you, priviliged and ridiculously overpaid pop journalist, have, in your hands, an overview of the most annoying questions that are asked to me anywhere anytime.
Question: "How do you feel as a musician, after thirteen years of working in this trade?"
Answer: "Excellent, because practice makes perfect. Especially with me."
Question: "Oh yeah, really?"
Answer: "Bet your ass."
Thank goodness, it appears that Sjors van de Rebellenklup is not dead yet.
Up in the elevator, to obstacle number three: Frank won't open his door. Not a surprise: first two perfumed, scantily clad ladies* must leave the room. Fashionable blow-up dolls. In passing they loudly say "Wow!" to each other, so they have to be real.
Finally, there's Zap himself. He sits upright in the best armchair in the room, wrapped in a cream coloured suit. He looks amused-sarcastic into the void, his hair is tightly stuck to his head, wrapped together in a coquettish tail. He looks more affluent than in the pictures, like a cross between a cardinal on holiday and a mafia-Godfather from the New York quarter Little Italy.
He speaks computerlike, alternating between bored and patronizingly cynic. Or, when he's out of character, slow and patient. As if he also needs to convince the people in the back of the class that he's right. After all, nobody may forget that Francis Vincent Zappa Jr. is one of the smarter types of people than all interrogators put together.

Zappa forpresident
"Mr Zappa, your name and that of your accompanying Mothers was synonymous to filth and subversion. Now I read that you wish to be a candidate for the presidency of the United States. A little strange, don't you think so? Are you feeling all-right?"
"Oh yes. Well enough to think up such filthy and subversive plans. If I would join the race, I'd win straight away. Because I'm opposed to mothering and manipulation of people, to restrictive mentality*, to alcohol, drugs and violence. Opposed to the delapidation of the United States, the most beautiful country in the world.
However I'm in favour of openness of all forms of thought, of enhancement of communication between people, in a sexual way too. One of the best ways to get this society ahead, is to get rid of religion, the ban on pornography and other neuroses. That can't just happen by making laws and articles. The most important change has to take place in the minds of people. Up to now that was the ugliest pat of their body. People are caught in their own neuroses. They have to be able to decide what is good for them.
I'd prefer to abolish all forms of government and start the anarchy. But at this moment that would get you nowhere. Science, technical development and politics are the most important levers for change. If only we can use them in the right way, so for the people. Now they are but machines in the grubby hands of the powerful, who only want what's best for themselves.
Hanging on to religion and turning your back to the world has no purpose. Because if everybody does that and meditates underneath the green lime tree, there will be no more lime tree in ten years to meditate under. That's why I want to be president. If you think that's filthy, you have a sense of humour that's radically different from mine.
Other than that I'm very proud of America. Although my father was from Sicily, I'm an American through and through. A real one, not one of those who comes here in Hawaiian shirt to photograph wooden shoes and mills here, goes to the bulls in Spain and to the blondes in Sweden. My father was musical, but he didn't sing Verdi arias, didn't make icecream or terrazzo mosaics, but he always tried to get ahead. He was a ruler, who couldn't accept any boss over him. I have that too."
"Those musical talents you mean?"
"No, getting ahead, getting a good job, being the boss. I developed my musical talents all by myself. By listening to music, analyzing it. rom Igor Strawinsky, Edgar Varèse and the black boogie blues of the late Howlin' Wolf. If you understand that music, you really know something about composing. In America, they don't teach you that in school. There you can - at least for advanced music class - listen carefully to Eine Kleine Nachtmusic or, as a treat, to the Nutcracker Suite. I didn't learn anything at school. Oh yeah, I learnt how to make explosives."

Musical collages
"Critics call your music an electronic mishmash, that lacks all spontaneity."
"Nonsense. Composing music is like chiselling at a chunk of granite, until you have a sculpture.
I experience my music very picturesquely. First I see shots, fragments in my head, and only then the matching music and words. Such flashes bring me to the next section, until my piece is finished. I make a sort of musical collages. Not all notes for each instrument separately. You can't draw a statue on a piece of paper in one go, can you? Then I have to find the right musicians, who can perform my collage-ideas. If they turn out not to be flexible enough, I usually fire them as soon as possible. Authoritary, yes, but it's the best for all parties.
My ideal is: to write all music I want to hear. And I can manage, both on stage and in the studio. There I translate my flashes into technology. You then catch those flashes at home, with your own playback equipment. That's why I'm highly annoyed by the dozens of white albums of my music that are being sold. There I am, working in the studio for days to get the right balance for my sound, and then a scalawag goes to my live concert with a crappy recorder and turns it into an original "Zappa-LP." It's not about the dollars I'm not being paid. My reputation as a serious artist is at stake because of such records. It's a true musical lynching. The sound of such records is miserable. As if you're in the middle of a symphony orchestra and all you want to hear is the triangle."
"One more reproach: you consider love between people to be purely technical."
"What nonsense. Other people's emotions or love life is purely subjective to me. If I want to sing purely technically about love, it doesn't mean there's no emotion involved. If Neil Young for instance sings about emotions, he's not talking about himself. That's a terrible misunderstanding.
Many of those 'emotional''pop musicians can eat their own feelings. Do you get what I mean? No? I'll explain it to you. Whining about lost loves and misery is okay by me - in your private live. But not if you coquet with it on a record. If you are troubled by emotions, you're neurotic. Then you have to go to your nearest psychiatrist. But it becomes repulsive if musicians sell their emotions on a piece of black plastic. And gain golden records and a million dollars on the bank with it. Bah!
Besides, if they really believe in their love songs, they're simply insane. Out of their fucking minds. Freely singing about love has nothing todo with the way love really functions in a human life."

(from this line it's on the next page, but for now I'll leave you with the quote from the rear photo:
"Ladies feel like an ironing board.")

* Lead character of a 1955 film (after a comic series) about a mischievous boy.

*Paraphrases the Dutch version of roses are red/: roses wither, ships sink, but my love for you will always exist.
* Dries van Agt, Dutch conservative Christian prime minister
* Cursing doesn't quite cover the explosive charge of the word scheldkanonnade.

* Jocular phrase because it rhymes. An appelflap is a pastry, apple and cinnamon in a triangular puff pastry bake with sugar sprinkled on top.

*Scantily clad ladies are referred to as "gezelschapsdames", escort girls.

viva77_1.JPG - 44kB viva77_3.JPG - 16kB

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[*] posted on 5-1-2018 at 00:24


viva77_2.JPG - 47kB viva77_4.JPG - 31kB

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[*] posted on 10-1-2018 at 17:58

And here's the rest of the interview!

Mental foolishness

"And then there's something else: the love situations on most popular albums are infinitely old-fashioned. It's almost like science fiction. For example: the girl says: "Now it's over between us." The boy replies: "Boo hoo." Elevating such trite stereotypes to the ideal leads to a state of mental foolishness with the audience. It's up to me to tell people that love in everyday life doesn't exist in that way. That there are positive sides to a break-up. After all: "Broken Hearts Are For Ass-Holes." I'm probably the only one who dares to say that out loud like it is. In that way I can increase the scope of the people a little more. That doesn't mean that I personally am a sex maniac. Only journalists looking for juicy stories would do that. I'm happily married with three children, and for the rest I'm out of range.
Sex and other bodily functions are just fascinating. Although people still think in a very old-fashioned way about that. In America, industries exist by the grace of fear of the human body. Factories like that make an anti-stinkfoot product and tells you that it's a-social to have sweaty feet. And that it's only possible to "remedy the disease" with their product.
That goes for sex too. But then a lot worse, because sex isn't purely physical. Making love would only keep people from reaching their "higher ideals". Yeah right. And that in a society where love, sex and emotion are strictly commercial."
"You participate in that yourself. For instance with a song like "The Torture Never Stops", on your most recent album, in which you can hear an orgasm that lasts minutes."
That's no sex or filth, it's ART. The Torture is a beautiful absurd song, an exceptionally successful parody. A beautiful example of harmony between lyrics and music. It doesn't get any sweeter. Human voices provide the completion and support of my music. When I use human voices in a song, they should form a virtuoso tension arc with the melody."
"That song hasn't been played on the radio a lot, has it?"
"No, but neither have all the dozens of other hits. That's why I unfortunately still have to have interviews, sometimes up to twenty in a day. Because of the eternal boycot of my work. Oh sure, my records are played every once in a while. But in the dead of night, in programmes nobody ever listens to. There are plenty of people who know I'm famous, but not why. They know my face, goatee, from that poster of me on the toilet. There are probably more copies of that poster than of my oeuvre put together. So if you want to get famous, you know what you have to do. Sit on the toilet on a poster."

"Your later work, mainly Zoot Allures, misses the social criticism that made you notorious."
"So what? I've never been a real critic. I've never been the Che Guevara of rock that people wanted to make of me. No anti-prophet or electronic social worker. Fine, I've always had my own completely subjective view on people and the things around me. I occasionally put them on an album, if social situations became too mad for me.
I don't believe that music in itself is revolutionary. At most I can try to influence people on small scale. My audience understands that - it doesn't expect anything else from me. You get your sugar from the Osmonds and sex from Frank Zappa."

"One more question, mr Zappa. What do you think of the women's liberation movement? You don't seem to think very much of it, judging from your lyrics."
"Women don't need liberation. They can - like men - do with their life as pleases them. They are born free as a girl. Then they can choose: whether they want to be a lady or a woman. Ladies are people who wear long white gloves and carry a heavily hairsprayed hairdo.
When you grab them, they feel like an ironing board. Women are more normal: you usually find them behind a stove. I've often talked about this with Germaine Greer, the feminist author of "The female eunuch. Even she doubts whether most ladies and women would be really happier when you take them away from hairspray and the stove. Oh yeah, and then there's this: a lady and a woman can be assholes too."

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[*] posted on 10-1-2018 at 19:25

Good work, Bonny.

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