Don Preston Interview, 92-08-26

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Don Preston Interview 1992, August 26
By Fred Tomsett
T'Mershi Duween, #28, November 1992


What have you been up to lately? Are there any more soundtracks?
The last recording I did was called Aurora with Peter Erskine, Buell Neidinger and Marty Krystal. I also recently completed a film with a Spanish production company called 'Believe in Eve'. I am now working on a techno-dance album (!?) with Mark Wheaton (a musician for Johanna Went).

What was it like working FZ and the Mothers?
Please buy the book. But for now, bittersweet memories of having great music to play, great women, being in the limelight, having to deal with Zappa and being broke most of the time.

Are there any good stories we could print, about the Mothers? Even better, any good ones we can't print?
When we arrived in Montreal in 1967, we stayed at a little hotel near the club we were playing at. After one day, we found to our surprise that not one restaurant would serve us in the entire city, except the one in the hotel where we were staying. The reason, of course, was our long hair and beards.

Then there was the time when we were in Amsterdam and Jimmy Carl Black got totally tanked on beer and decided to go down to the red light district and get laid. He came back a little later and told us that he would see a beautiful girl sitting in her window with the red lights on and go up and knock on her door, but she wouldn't answer. When he looked back at the window, she had closed her drapes. After this happened ten or more times, Jimmy gave up and went home totally pissed off. He must have been a sight, this tall drunk Indian dressed in these wild clothes.

What's your current view on Zappa, especially after last year's litigation?
I feel sorry for him. If he'd have stuck with the original band, we would be making about ten million a year now. Look at the Grateful Dead and they can't even play!

What were the sessions with Ant-Bee and Eugene Chadbourne like?
With Ant-Bee, very nostalgic. I haven't played with that kind of material for some time now and I enjoyed it very much. As to Eugene; I have to say that was one of the weirdest jobs I have ever played, and I've played some weird ones. I think it was mostly the combination – acoustic guitar, electric bassoon, didgeridoo, two drummers, sitar, flute. But it was lots of fun.

You're said to be an electronics genius. Where did you learn about the electronics side of your work?
I started to get into electronic music about 1960. I listened to Luigi Nono, Luciano Berio, Karlheinz Stockhausen and other composers like them. I was close friends with Paul Beaver who was at that time the West Coast distributor for Moog Synthesisers. I built my first synthesizer around 1966, mostly out of oscillators, filters and tape delay, and I used this with the Mothers.

Anything else you'd like to say about your career?
For many years, I thought of myself as a jazz musician, and that most people recognised me as a rock musician. Now people are starting to see that I am a jazz musician from my recent efforts, and I feel real good about that.

(As a footnote to the above interview, and the opening question of soundtracks, it would appear that Billy James' new label, Electric Yak, is about to release the video of a Don Preston film from 1968, called 'Dr. Ogo Moto' (yes, it'll be on NTSC, not VHS – what a drag ...), a solo CD of stuff from 1967 to the present, a video of the Grandmothers then and now, a CD of solo material by exMothers, and a book of interviews with the early guys. More news on this in TD29. I don't know when this lot is due, but we'll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, Billy tells me that the new stuff he's been recording is 'um-fucking-believable', but then he would, wouldn't he? For more info, write Billy James at PO Box 1422, Cornelius, NC28031, USA. TD will however be stocking all of the Yak goodies, if the price is right. And on the subject of stuff we want to stock: still no news on Mike Keneally's solo CD, 'hat.', but we hope to have some news and a review and even copies to purvey by the advent of TD29. You betcha!)