Ode To Gravity - Frank Zappa: World Affairs Commentator
"Host Charles Amirkhanian talks with musician and world activist Frank Zappa live by telephone. Discussion includes the state of world politics and culture from the viewpoint of one of the United States most provocative and original speakers. At the time this recording was made in April 1991, Zappa was exploring the possibility of running for president of the United States, and he discusses his views on the first Persian Gulf War, the legacy of George H. W. Bush, and the possibility of having John Cage or Noam Chomsky in his cabinet. A phone-in segment enabled callers to speak with Zappa directly to pose questions on topics of significant interest. Also, the intergalactic premiere of Zappa's arrangement of Ravel's "Bolero", performed by the 12-piece 1988 Zappa Band and found on the CD, 'The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life'".
Ode To Gravity
CA: Tonight we celebrate the 42nd anniversary of Radio KPFA, which went on the air April 15th 1949, and joining us to do that, live by telephone from his studio in Los Angeles, one of America's most outspoken prevailors of the free speech crusade, composer and guitarist Frank Zappa. We're going to hear him discuss current World events and introduce his new 2-CD-set on the Barking Pumpkin called "Zappa – The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life".
In the second half of our hour-long program we're going to be hearing listeners talking directly with the composer through our KPFA calling number and … ah … we'd like to wish a good evening to Frank Zappa, who's with us from Los Angeles … Hi, Frank … you there? … Good evening, Frank. Can you hear me now?
FZ: Yeah, I hear you.
CA: Oh, I'm sorry about that.
FZ: … hear me?
CA: I just wanted to … ahm … welcome you to our 42nd anniversary second … ah, ah celebration of KPFA and … I'm beginning to wonder as, maybe you have – ah, over the past few years – whether it means anything, that … uh … Pacifica hasn't lost its license … er … and does it mean in fact that the Government's not listening and we're no threat to the status quo and do you think it really does any good to … try to counter the propaganda machine which keeps … ah … Bush's approval rating at record high levels on the positive side?
FZ: I think part of the reason why you guys are still in business is, maybe they think that nobody listens to the radio and most of the propaganda comes out through the television. Most of the propaganda function of radio is to provide happy talk and, ah … kind of … er … non-musical tapestry to your life style … so it's … probably statistically they think the amount of broadcasting damage that could be done by a Pacifica station is neglegiable compared to the amount of brain washing that can be … ah … conveyed to the public through CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC …
CA: Could you tell me how it is that you've been gathering information lately? What, what d'you think we should be watching in the media other than Pacifica to get the straight stuff?
FZ: I recommend C-SPAN and C-SPAN2. Those are the cable networks that ally you to watch the Congress … ahm … in action. C-SPAN1 shows you the House of Representatives in action and C-SPAN2 shows you the Senate in action. And when either of those two bodies is not convened, the rest of their programming is live coverage of Congressional hearings of all different types and … ah … sometimes call-in shows from viewers who can talk with Government officials or other journalistic experts about current events … and … ah … on Sundays they have shows about recent political books that have come out. So, I think it's very interesting programming for me, and there's a lot of raw data there, that there's no commercials on there, and all of the material is presented uncut, end-to-end, uh … nothing beeped out, and it's really very interesting.
CA: Well, I wonder if there's anything recently, that you've seen on C-SPAN, you'd like to comment about?
FZ: The other day I watched an interesting hearing on the A-12. Now, the A-12 is a type of aircraft, a stealth-type aircraft, that was running Billions of Dollars over budget and way behind schedule and Dick Cheney, the Secretary of Defense, cancelled the contract in January. And, what happened at the point of the contract cancellation, was, the … these two companies, who are partners in building the plane, McDonnell Douglas and General Dynamics, they were sharing the Government contract to build the plane, and they had been … ah … paid, overpaid and paid in advance to the tune of about 1.35 something-something-something Billion Dollars, and … ah, when the program was cancelled, they were obliged to return this money to the Government. But instead of giving the money back, they worked out some kind of a hanky-panky with the governmental agency, that is supposed to oversee these contracts. And they kind of let it slide, and the net result was the biggest bail-out in Government contracting history, except that it wasn't a bail-out, it was a de facto bail-out, and so they were holding a hearing on this matter, I guess about three hours worth, that went on C-SPAN the other day, and I taped it, it was quite interesting. The chairman of the committee was Representative Connors, and the thing that struck me about the proceedings was, it was very bi-partisan. The Republicans and the Democrats on the committee were equally irate, that this event had occurred, and it was propably the least partisan committee hearing that I viewed on there, just because all these guys seem to be equally outraged at what had happened.
CA: What about George Bush? Did you happen to see a speech over the weekend?
FZ: I watched his speech, in fact I taped the speech, that he made at the airforce base in Alabama.
CA: Anything strike you about it?
FZ: Well, he's still talking about the New World Order. And one of the great lines in there was, "… Yeah! Well, the New World Order: of course we'll be using force. But then we'll extend the Hand of Friendship or the Hand of Comfort or something like that. And at the point where he says that, he reaches up and scratches his face.
CA: Very convincing!
FZ: Yeah! Well, the hand went nowhere except to his face. So what do think from a guy who goes fishing when there is a war?
CA: I wonder … maybe you could give us an idea of any thoughts you've ever had about political ambitions. Have you ever thought of running for office?
FZ: Well, funny you should bring that up at this particular moment, because last week I made a decision that I would investigate that possibility, and last Wednesday I made a phone call to a guy named Ray Struthers, who is a … he used to be a political consultant and is now in the business of making political commercials. He … I think he ran Gary Hart's presidental campaign. And I had seen him on C-SPAN about a year and a half ago in this symposium with Lesley Stall. He and Bob Beckal were the two outstanding speakers on this thing. And at the end of this symposium he made this comment, that nothing was goin' to change in American politics unless somebody came in from the outside.
So I called this guy up, and I said, I seen you on that symposium and I also saw you about a week ago on C-SPAN talkin' to some college students and you made the same comment twice. So, I'm thinking about being the guy who would come in from the outside to run for President, and … his jaw dropped a little bit … and I said, do you ever come to California? He said, yeah, I'll be up there in two weeks. So, in two weeks, ah, he's gonna come over, and, we're gonna discuss whether, in his view, I would have any chance to mount any kind of a campaign, because I want to do it as a non-partisan candidate. I don't want be connected with any party. In fact, I think, the condition of politics in the United States right now is so drastic, that any thinking individual, who still says he belongs to a party, is just kidding himself, because neither party is doing anything for anybody except their buddies.
CA: Yeah, but everybody who runs as a third or a extra party does it more or less symbolically. You wouldn't be intending to just make a statement you'd really seriously be trying to be elected?
FZ: Well, first of all, I'm not sure that I would announce that I was gonna run, until I have done some research. There are certain things that have to be found out. One of the question marks, aside from how I would get any money to do this, is … ah … because of the 1990 Census, there's a lot of wiggling around, that is being done to create new districts and lose some other ones and it's gonna have an impact on the Electoral college. And, I need the advice of people who understand the strategy and tactics of dealing with that final problem that any candidate will face, 'cos no matter what amount of vote you would get in the general election, it doesn't matter, unless you got the electoral votes. That's really what the name of the game is for a Presidental campaign. And, so, hrm, that's one of the things I've been talking with them about, and, ah, I've also called Beckal, to see how he felt about it, and he's coming out in May, and I … I'm pissed off enough that I'm at the stage where I'm considering running and I'm taking concrete steps to look into it and between now and the time when I would meet with these guys I'll be conducting some other research to see whether there's any real reason to do it, 'cos if I do it, I would do it to win! Not, just … ah, go out there and … just be … symbolic.
CA: Let me ask you something. Are there particular people you look to as models, politically somebody that you admire as a policital leader and who might have given you some inspiration in what might be a quest for this office?
FZ: Well, from time to time, you see people that you agree with. And then two weeks later, you go "No! He could not possibly say that!". And just about everybody that I have admired who stood up for something has had their good days and had their bad days, as far as that kind of stuff goes. I mean there are some traits of Harry Truman I have found really outstanding. And then others that I have found "Well, that's quite miserable!". Now, on the other hand, there are some things that, I found out later in life, that Eisenhower had done that I didn't appreciate at the time that he did them.
And ... it's ... There's good days and bad days for most of these guys. I am still waiting for George Bush to have a good day, though.
I mean ... That's ... He's a real big disappointment as far as I'm concerned.
CA: Let me ask you this. I'm... I understand that you were about a year ago in Czechoslovakia. You met with Václav Havel who is a fan of yours, musically speaking. Could you give us an impression of what he is like as an individual?
FZ: He's really a very nice man and is also, I would say, a reluctant politician. I don't think he wanted the job of president. He was kind of trussed into it. And he was probably just as happy writing and having his plays performed and his books published. But he was the right guy to do that job at that time and he's got the position.
Now his biggest liability is, and he admits it, that he doesn't really understand economics or any that kind of stuff. He's kind of in there as a moral and spiritual leader of that country. The people really respect him because of what he went through and how he helped to guide some other principals of their revolution. But when it comes time to talk about the Czech economy, he'll aim in the direction of other people in his cabinet.
CA: We're talking with a composer, guitarist, politician Frank Zappa who is live with us on KPFA this evening in celebration of a Pacifica radio's 42nd anniversary. You've got a Pacifica station in Los Angeles: KPFK, have you listened to it off and on during the war?
FZ: No, most of the time I was busy. Taping all the different video sources for the war. I've got quite a collection of war artifacts, everything from the first time that the Desert Storm T-Shirt was announced on the Home Shopping Network including the women who called up to order the shirts' and say how nice they were. And looking at the world wrestling federation when they had a fake Iraqi wrestler in the ring. And some of the coverage that C-SPAN did of the war which is interesting. They had some one-on-one interviews with some of the pilots who have been dropping the bombs talking about what a Turkey shoot it was and the amazing gun hole attitude. And also comparisons between what CNN was doing and the networks and sloping back and forth and trying to collect as much stuff as possible and now when people come over and the war comes up as a topic, if I've got a point to make, I can generally reach into this little chest that's here in the basement and pull out the tape and show them what was said and what was done at a certain time, in fact that just happened just before you got on the phone.
CA: So you've just been composing the whole time, getting ready to... [laughs]
FZ: Yeah! Well, it's... That was a quite time consuming thing - a little though - to be ready with a cassette in the machine at the point where you suspect that news was going to happen. You got - especially in terms of CNN - you got a feeling for the rhythm of when the news cycle was going to refresh itself, and they got into a special cycle. Because of the time difference between here and Bagdad where you knew that the live reports that were gonna come in would come in, at a certain time in the middle of the night. So you had to be there to tape that, otherwise all you would get was their shrivelled down encapsulated version of it that they would run later in the day.
CA: I've been thinking a little bit about your composing lately and what might inspire you to write a piece of music. And it seems like you have several different kind of things that get you going. Is there anything besides the war that's got on you going lately? Or is that been a primary focus and would you make a piece of music or series of pieces based on this research?
FZ: One thing that we started doing today is ... I have a new piece of gear in the studio called Sonic Solutions, and this is a hard disk based digital audio editing system. It's got a Macintosh frontend, and then it has a an interface box and several hard disk [sic] which can store up to five hours of stereo digital material. And today we started transferring in my collection of George Bush speeches. And the first thing we are going to do, after we get it loaded in there, is find as many times that he - over the month of this event - that he's said the name "Saddam Hussein". And we're gonna get a collection of those, and that in itself should be pretty good material for a tech sound composition.
CA: Why is that? Did ... because he prounounces it differently each time?
FZ: It's a set of variations, it's like listening to a Jimmy Reed record, you know? You know ... you know the riff is gonna be the same but there's a few things that change. And the other thing we're looking for in speeches is the times when he has gagged on words. You know when the word doesn't quite come out and that should make a nice assortment of background textural things that can be used as percussion.
CA: I understand, everything the president says is in the public domain, so you shouldn't have any copyright problems there.
FZ: I can't imagine why! I mean, he said it, he must be proud of it. Hum ... then there's some of these classic statements like at one of his press time once he blurts out: "THERE'S NO ANTI-WAR MOVEMENT ANYMORE! [imitating the voice of George Bush]".
CA: That sounds very useful. We're talking with Frank Zappa in case you've just joined us on KPFA and KFCF in Fresno. Hum... and tonight Frank, we're gonna be listening to a cut from a new two-record set that hits the stands tomorrow. The title of the album is "The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life". And this is recordings of the Zappa band made in 1988 while you were on tour between February and June. I noticed in the album notes, it says that you rehearsed for 4 months before you recorded all this material. And then the band self-destructed. What happened to the band?
FZ: Oh, well! There was a couple of guys in the band who decided that they hated the bass player. And they convinced everybody else in the band that this bass player was such a subhuman individual that they should never perform with him again. And what happened was, we had a bunch of concert dates locked in the US. We started the tour in the US in the winter... in the spring, for two months. And then we went to Europe for two months and we were supposed to come back in December and play at the West Coast and the South and those parts of the Midwest I've been missed. And the gigs were there but I have to cancel all of them because of the end of the European part of the tour. After asking everybody in the band how they felt about this bass player, they all said "No, we hate him and we're not gonna play on stage with him anymore". So I didn't have any choice there was no time to replace anybody whether it was the bass player or anybody else, because there was not time to put another four months of rehearsal before I did the gigs in the US. We disbanded the tour in Genoa, Italy.
CA: Well, it's good that we had the recordings, we do because the band was really an amazing unit, there were ten players and we're...
FZ: Twelve. [inaudible]
CA: We're... How many?
CA: And we're gonna be listening to your arrangement of Boléro by Ravel. Why did you select this piece for treatment?
FZ: I always liked Boléro, I think that it's really one of the best melodies ever written, and most people in the audience have heard it in one form or another over the years. So into going to conduct an experiment in arranging technique - this is a reggae version of the Boléro - it's nice to be arranging a tune that people are already familiar with.
Interlude: [Boléro from The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life]
CA: Recorded in Rotterdam, the Zappa band from 1988, doin' Boléro, arranged by Frank Zappa, who is on the line with us from Los Angeles from his studio. This is KPFA or KPFB in Berkeley, KFCF in Fesno. Great arrangement, hah? Amazing. Frank?
CA: Hem. Let me ask you something about the political stuff again because a couple of people in the studio is … err … are speculating on your vice presidential choice and getting Noam Chomsky and John Cage into the cabinet. [CA laughs and so FZ] Any … any … err … person fit to be vice president? How about Scott Thunes?
FZ: I was thinking about my wife.
CA: Your wife Gail?
CA: That'd be a good idea. Was it … when was your last time you had a husband and wife team up there.
FZ: It has been a while I think.
CA: Yeah, it think it has. [laughs] Hem. I wonder if we could ah … err, just ah, in response to that piece of music ask you about your opinion of Spike Jones. Were you at all ah … interested in his music when you were younger.
FZ: Yeah, I was a massive Spike Jones fan, and ah when I was I guess about six or seven years old he had a hit record called All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth. And I sent him a fan letter because of that, and … hem … I was expecting a photograph of Spike Jones in the mail, but instead I got a photograph of a man named George Rock who was the actual vocalist on that … hem … tune. And he looked like a master criminal. It was like a frightening thing to receive in a mail. [almost laughing]
CA: How old were you then?
CA: Yeah, he was scary.
FZ: Yeah. Well, that's what this guy looked like. And he was a trumpet player.
CA: That's great. [laughing] So did you collect all the records, continue to maintain interest after the age of seven?
FZ: Hem, I didn't get a record player until I was about fifteen. And so, I didn't start collecting records until then.
CA: And by then, you got interested in Varèse about that time ?
FZ: Yeah, the first err … record L … the first LP that I've ever bought was the compl … ah The Complete Works Of Edgard Varèse Volume One. And the second LP that I bought was ah The Rite Of Spring. And those are the only two LPs that I had, I listened to them over and over again. And all the rest of the records that I owned were R&B singles. Cause they weren't making R&B albums then.
CA: Fascinating. I've promised that people could call us here in the control romm and talk to you. Are you game for a few questions from …
CA: … from the masses?
CA: Err … our telephone number is area code (415) 848-4425. And if you were to call that number, we might put you on the air. Good evening, can you here me?
Caller: Yes, sure I can!
CA: You're on KPFA, do you have a question for Frank Zappa?
Caller: Yeah, n' but … Well, you know it's not so much of a question, it's that that that that Boléro was wonderful. That was wonderful. I've always been a fan of Frank's ever since he's done ah ah you know when's when he was with The Mothers way back when (?). But you know he started moving away from that. He worked with George Duke and Jean-Luc Ponty in Twenty Small Cigars. That, you know, ah this was great this was great. Is this ah … can we purchase his ah this piece anywhere, Frank?
FZ: Yeah, it's all probably gonna be in the stores tomorrow or at least by the end of the week, it's just shipped. In fact, I think this is probably the first time that it's been played on the radio
Caller: Anh it's good. It's it's it's great. I think it's a wonderful way for me to introduce this ah ah classical music to my kids. You know what it was, its sense of humor, you know it it's w… it's wonderful. I really adore it, Frank, I'm really diggin' it.
FZ: Thank you.
Caller: This is, thanks!
FZ: The next album that'll be out in a couple of months is called Make A Jazz Noise Here and ah one of the things that's featured in that is our version of the ah Stravinsky's Royal March from L'Histoire Du Soldat. And … hem … the opening theme of the Bartók's Third Piano Concerto.
FZ: Well I don't think we're gonna be doing that, because too many other people have done those kind of things. But err there's not too many rock bands that are playing "The Royal March".
CA: We have another caller on the line, Frank. Err... Good evening, you're on KPFA.
Caller: Yeah. I was wondering ah when when can we expect the other versions of You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore to be released.
FZ: Within moments the Volume 4 … hem … should be coming out to you in the in the same release batch with this album.
CA: Good evening, you're on KPFA. Do you have a question for Frank Zappa?
Caller: Well, yeah! Let's get into that! One of the light-hearted stuff now. You … you said at times that, and made very observations on the state of the ah censor's … ah … scissors and the … ah … application of the scissors to reflections, remarks, comments, explicit descriptions of anatomical parts in process use, functions if you will. And … ah … it has been n… noted by many observers that this is the flipside, if you will, the coin, the other side of which is the censorship of information such as that which we have witnessed in the mass media propaganda wars, psychological warfare, tactic that has been employed recently on the population at large. So can you comment on the connection of these two streams of censorship?
FZ: Well, it's the same tools, it's the same goal. I mean it should ... it should be … hem … fairly obvious to anybody who has seen how censorship has worked in the past, that they'll pick something that maybe a few people could agree with. You know ah they always say that reasonable people can disagree on certain things. And they come up with something that's sort of reasonable and they'll established … ah … a bureaucracy which is capable of conducting the heinous deed, in this case censorship, who'll set up some mechanism for conducting the censorship, and … uhm … then it'll look for other things to do.
And that's … once it gets set up, you're out of information, and if you're out of information you're out o' touch with the real world, and once that happens just … kiss your future goodbye.
Caller: … pull out your platform plank (?) on the issue of censorship and government secrecy?
FZ: Well, I think, that there are lines that can be drawn if a piece of information that is going affect the lives of troops, I think that's very clear cut. But as far as any kind of a campaign plan regarding censorship, what I would run on is the idea of that my first job would be to uphold the US Constitution. And believe me, the First Amendment is an important part of that.
Caller: Well, thank you for your responses, Frank.
CA: You think you'll legalize Music if you get elected?
FZ: [laughs] Well, I certainly will improve the recording equipment in the White House.
CA: Good evening, you're on the air with Frank Zappa [laughs].
Caller: Aw, yeah, I just …ah … wanted t'ask Frank about a … there's a lady (Emily Alana James; Ed.) that he talked about on this … aw … other song Panty Rap who was actually making … aah … a quilt out o' panties (see Undergarments (CC)) and her town got destroyed by a tornado last year in Colorado, and I was wonderin' if she's still ok …
FZ: I don't know … you know at the point where I handed her … aw … these garbage cans full of underpants and she went to work to commit her artistic deed. I didn't speak to her after that.
Caller: Well, aw … I hope she's ok. And I wanted to say thanks a lot for showing those people in Congress what they are really all about.
FZ: [laughs] If only more people knew!
CA: Good evening, you're on KPFA with Frank Zappa.
Caller: Hi. I'd like to know … ah … how … how much Frank would cut military spending if he was President.
FZ: I would cut it a lot. Because one of the things that is grossly wasted in the expenditure … the expenditures now is – and you can see what's happening with these base clothings that everbody is worried about, ah – … the size of the military it's too large. You don't want to have an enormous military unless you'r expecting to go out and conquer other people's countries. The idea of national defense should be structured in a way that it defends this country rather than being used as a mechanism to enforce bad foreign policy.
Caller: Ok, thank you.
CA: Good evening, you're on KPFA.
Caller: Oh, hi. Ah, yah. I just wanted to ask … ah … if Frank knows anything about what's happening with Don Van Vliet, Captain Beefheart, these days. We haven't heard much about him since he took up painting. So I'm just wondering if he can say anything about that.
FZ: Sure, Don calls me about once a week, and ah … he's still painting away. He's had some problems with his health, he's … had some troubles walking recently, but I think he's getting better, and … ah … he's still painting and is still … he calls me up and turns on a cassette machine and plays me … ah … so… he has some of the Rhythm and Blues records we used to listen to in High School, sounds like "Tell Me, Darling" by The Gaylarks, y'know, 'n' the phone will ring and there'll be this cassette machine on the other end with this song playing on it. So, he's still easy.
Caller: But is he still playing?
FZ: No, he's not playing, he's painting.
Caller: Painting, just painting. Do you think he'll ever play again?
FZ: Not likely.
Caller: Not likely, that's sorry to hear that, Thanks a lot.
CA: Thank you for your call. Good evening, you're on the air with Frank Zappa.
Caller: Yeah, ah … couple o'years ago, ah, I was watching Johnny Carson and Frank had made a comment, I just didn't get, kind o' late, I wasn't sure … he had said something about AIDS bein' a Government engineered virus, … knows one if he can get any more indepth news if he still thought that later … that's what I really understood.
FZ: Ok, let me tell you what I'm talking about. Hrm … there … are … aw … well, there's one book in particular called "The Higher Form of Killing" (Random House Trade Paperbacks (August 6, 2002), ISBN-10: 0812966538, ISBN-13: 978-0812966534. Ed.)" and … ah … in the back of the book there is an extract from the Congressional record, circa 1967, I believe, where somebody is standing in front of a Senate appropriations committee, asking for money to construct a virus, which would be, quote, quote "refractive to the human immunological system", and, what is not included in this book, is … are the names of any of the Congress men or Senators who are members of that committee, whether or not they gave the guy the money he was asking for, and information about what company got this money. And whether or not any o' those people are still in the Congress, and … ah … I … I don't have … aw… the ability to do that kind of research, but since the original information came from the Congressional record, maybe somebody out there with a research frame of mind would like to look into that, then it certainly would be a trail we're following.
Caller: Yeah I'm certainly kept me interested there was something like that years ago. Thanks a lot.
Caller: And one other thing. Ahm … do you listen any Eugene Chadbourne's Zappa medley per chance?
FZ: I've never heard it.
Caller: Wonderin' how he popped out his music ###################
FZ: I'm sorry, I haven't heard it. …
Caller: Hey, that's life, hey, thanks a lot Frank.
CA: Thanks f' your call. Out telephone number is 415-84844-25, our guest is Frank Zappa, live on KPFA, this April 15th, 1991, the 42nd anniversary of listener-sponsored KPFA. Good evening, you're on the air.
Female caller: Hello, I'm wondering, if you could tell me what you would do as President with the educational system and what would you do about poverties in the inner cities.
FZ: Well, first things I would do about the educational system is, put a stop to the meddeling, that the … uhm … fundamentalist groups have engaged in regarding the text books, which are used in US schools. I mean, you can't blame a student for not wanting to study out of a book that contains little or no useful information. And the … I b… I'mean … I know it sounds really corny and you heard it a million times before, but this country isn't gonna have a future unless there is some way to educate the people who live here. One of the problems that any educator is gonna face in this society is, it's a post-literate society. And the easiest way to get information into the face of the students is unfortunately not through a book, but is more likely too … the information is more likely to stick if it's delivered through … ah … some other visual medium, whether it's video tape or some sort of produced lecture material, that graphically demonstrates what the subject is about, whether that's done on an interactive CD or on some kind of a computer situation, where a person can access the database and interact with it and comprehend it at his own speed. Those are things that need to be installed in US education.
And as far as poverty goes, I'm amazed when faced with the amount of people who are still homeless, still starving, still messed up in the society, that this president hasn't said to the Congress, "Do something about it." I mean, there is just no priority there. And, nothing is gonna happen, until somebody, who's running the show, says, "Make it happen." And … he … George certainly is not sayin' "Make it happen," his biggest worry is … capital gains tax.
Female caller: Could you say something about what the content of the education like you think it should be?
FZ: I think that it should be as varied as possible, I think there are all different kinds of things that need to be known about all different kinds of topics. Let me give an example of the type of interference which has already occured in the world of the text books. And … as you might know, the publishing business for school text books is a multi-Billion Dollar business. And the way the text books are provided to each … erm … state, is … they looked toward (?) the Texas school system, which is one of the biggest purchasers of books, and the books are kind of put on trial in the Texas school system or in hearings before the've gone into the school system. And there is a husband-and-wife-team, that operates out of Texas, they are the Gabblers, Mr. and Mrs. Gabbler, and routinely they bring to these hearings complaints about the contents of the books.
In the case of science books it would be, that the book doesn't contain enough Creationism, and in the case of a Geography book, recently, they objected to the book, because, in the chapter that dealt with Siberia, there was a sentence that said, 'Siberia is just like the US Wild West, in the Olden Days', and they complained to the board that this made Communism appear in a favorable light. And, believe it or not, the publisher changed the book. When you have little, small-minded people like that, with that kind of power to … modify the contents of text books, I think that … ah … the nation suffers, because it doesn't … the evil doesn't occur just in Texas. The books, that passed muster in Texas wind up being used in other states.
Here is another example: In the early days of the Reagan administration there were a number of court cases, where parents … of ah … fundamentalist parents had complained to the school system that science books didn't contain enough Crationism. And … one of these cases occured in California. And the result was, that the state ordered a whole new badge of science text books and told the publishers to put Creationism into the science text books. So a few years later, when the books were finally delivered to the California school system, there was so little science in the book, that the books was rejected. Now, two things happened then. That means, that eventually they're gonna have to get another book and the California tax payers already paid for one load of books. It also means that those books which contained no science didn't go into a shredder, they went to somebody else's school system.
Female caller: Um … could you say something about the Geography as it's bein' taught now and offer some thoughts on your foreign policy? Now, take the answer on the air, thanks a lot.
FZ: Ok, Aw, first Geography, as it's bein' taught, well, you have to wonder, ah, when some of the polls have shown that, ah … hello, can you still hear me?
CA: Hold the line, caller will be with you in just a second.
FZ: Yeah … that so many people in this country can't even identify the US on a map. So … you can just extrapolate from that what happens when a person who doesn't understand Geography, let alone the culture of the people who live in different countries, look at the Evening News and see these events happening in far away places.
CA: Our guest is Frank Zappa, who anounced earlier that he is investigating the possibility of running for political office, specifically the Presidency of the US and … ah …we have another caller on the line. Good evening.
Caller: Yes, I got … ah … two quick questions: Are you gonna ever tour again and, two: wha' happened to Ray White?
FZ: Ah, well, I don't think I'm gonna be touring again. That's not likely. Because, in the 1988 tour I lost about 400.000 Dollars with this … ah … wonderful band that just played the Boléro, and so I can't assume that kind of financial burden anymore. And as far as Ray White goes, I talked to him about three, four months ago, and … ah … he's still playing, and he is playing in a … I don't know whether it's a Bay Area Band, but he's working in Northern California, and doin' Blues.
Caller: …m … m great, thank you.
CA: Ray White, … um … go ahead …
FZ: I wanna to finish off the second half of that woman's question about Foreign Policy, it's a little bit difficult to encapsulate the whole notion of what Foreign Policy ought to be, but the closest I would come to at is, that I don't think the US should be in the business of being the World's policeman, I don't think that it's … ah … that we really have any moral high ground that we reside in, that we need to inflict our morals and our ideas on other people. If they care to adopt them of their own free will, that's fine, but inflicting them on somebody else is not something I would do.
CA: A … are you not worried, Frank, that you might loose more money being in politics than you did in the music business?
FZ: Only if I hire musicians to work in the Cabinet.
CA: [laughs] Good evening, you're on KPFA with Frank Zappa.
Caller: Hi, I'd like to hear something about your experiences in Czechoslovakia.
FZ: What particular would you like to know about Czechoslovakia?
Caller: Ahm … what was your position there?
FZ: That's a long complicated story. I'd say, got another one that you'd like to try … tell you a little bit what it was like there and … ah… I guess it was January of last year?
CA: That would suffice.
FZ: Well, the people were very excited about themselves, because they had just accomplished a miracle, without … ah … too much loss of blood, I'm not saying that it was a completely bloodless revolution, but it was about the cleanest revolution I ever heard of, they managed to defeat the Communist regime, that had made their lives miserable for about forty years, and so they were still … y'know … they had stars in their eyes, and …ah … the problem with what did happen was, it was a miracle that they had this so-called Velvet Revolution, and they had this wonderful man, Václav Havel , as a new president, and he was putting together a government, that had as it's avowed purpose to do politics better than politicians had done it. And to that end, he end he put a lot of people into the government, who are not politicians, the people who were more philosophical, artistic bent.
Hrm. I looked at this, and I said, if he succeeds in this, this should be a model for other people's governments. But unfortunately, from … as you look at it today, it doesn't look like the artistic element of his government has been very successful in … managing the economic and political situation there. And part of the problem was, that when they kicked the Communists out, none of the people, who were artistic and philosophical and benevolent knew h ow to pick up the garbage, turn on the electricity, or turn on the water. And so consequently they had to rehire some of the Communists to do some of the real jobs.
CA: Where there any differences, do you think, in the lifes of, let's say, an artist, who's complete income in that society was dependent on the government and a factory worker, who was in the same position … ah … financially?
FZ: Well, in an economy, which is a command economy, where the governemnt controls everything, I guess … aw … they all have the same problem. You know, the cash comes from the central government. And, ah, if you are a performer, you may have life a little bit easier than a factory worker, but, you're still not … or let's say, you're a musical star in Czechoslovakia and tens of thousands would come to see you there, you would still be making a very low income, because you're owned by the state.
CA: So, in the post-Communist society, would there be any difference between an artist and a factory worker? It seems to me, a factory worker at least could probably have a useful skill that could make some money in a capitalist society, whereas artists? Who knows?
FZ: Well the problem with the artist … ah … in order for a Czech artist, for example, to make a lot of money, or money that mattered, he would have to earn hard currency. Which would mean, his reords would have to sell in a Western country, where the money was worth something. And the problem of selling any kind of a record in Western society is, it's not quality driven. Ah, the … the selection of who gets to be a star is not a matter of how good you are. Forget aboou the language barrier. It's a … to have hit record in US for example, you just merely have to pay off. It's all about payola. And one of the problems with all the musicians that I've talked to in Czechoslovakia and Soviet Union, they're all convinced that their music is good if only somebody outside the country would hear and then buy it and then they would … could make some money, the problem is, that they'll never have a hit record, because they can't pay off. And when you explain that to 'em, they get very disillusioned.
CA: I can imagine, just like … ah … people here, who grew up to be or aspire to grow up to be Frank Zappa, huh?
FZ: Well, I wouldn't advise that for anybody, y'know, 'n I appease you to grow up to be yourself. You don't want to have my problems, have your own.
CA: Good evening, you're on the air with Frank Zappa, do you have a question?
Caller: I knew I was gotta be in for this … ah … my certain folio (?) … I love you, Frank, always have … er … since, ah … I don't know, since '66, and … I wish I could listen to all your records, but the librettos demand too much of my time, so they sit on the shelf, but, all the rest of it … that I get my hands on and … more or … continue to … consume for you … and the bunch … but ah … I loved your book too, and ah, it's like, one of the few books that I've actually read from cover to cover but new books somebody writing in this century …ah … still alive in all that certain things, so I think there is something going on here … but ah, there's something also deeply disturbing, and I think it's from just how maybe just … ah … taking on too much of the world or something but there is something in the vibrational quality of your voice and the way I feel listening to you and talking to you, it's just … sigh … I mean it's a quandary for me, is I wonder, some kind of question is how to … ah … be in the world but I love the world and … er … I just, it's almost like a moral distinction or something like that, and … er … how, how, how can you have fun with it, and … ah … now I had to get you, that's the question. It's a question for you and a question for me.
FZ: Well, can you define the "It"?
Caller: The "It"?
FZ: Yeah, "… how can you have fun with "It"? What's the "It", you're talking about?
Caller: Oh, I feel, you're creating beauty. And that's the "It", or Love, or some kind of ahm … ah … reality … I donno, some, some kind o' concept, … there is something moralist or wonderful about life itself, y'know, it's a kind of thing that … ah … the bootest call in effable or something that you can't talk about it that bad it …
FZ: and so … and so we … regarding that "It", what is the question?
Caller: (helplessly laughing) The question is …
FZ: Do have a good time dealing with "It"?
Caller: Yeah, how we goin' let people know that …ah … we're not out to get 'em an' let not be out together [laughs] to let us not think that they, y'know … something, some kind o' idea … (sigh)
FZ: Well, the problem is, that there are people who're out to get you. You know? I mean, I don't think that's paranoid, I think that's a fact, there are people who have no regard for the Human race and act accordingly. That's why, that's why we can have still something as stupid as a war in the Middle East in 1991. It's the utter failure of diplomacy, it's the utter failure of the UN to act responsibly, we got shep-herded into this stupid batch of resolutions, and … er … there are people out there to get you, unless you're one of them, unless you join their club. And then you'll be out to get somebody else.
CA: Good evening, what club are you in?
Caller: Ah, I have a comment for Mr. Zappa, who's ah …
CA: Go for it.
Caller: … that his … one of the issues for his considerations of presidential campaign is … ah … learning more about the Electoral collage, ah, …
FZ: ... the size and shape the Electoral college the way it's gonna be after the … the res… the restructuring that is occurring as a result of the 1990 Census.
Caller: There's one guy you might want to check out, his name is John Banzhaf, who … B-A-N-Z-H-A-F, he was the first person to get a so… piece of software copyrighted and the piece of software was a computer analysis of the inequities ### to elector assessment (?), ah … he teaches at the George Washington University, you wanna check him out. I'm not sure how well you guys get along, 'coz he's a … a rabid anti-smoker.
FZ: [laughs] well, I guess it's a fax relationship …
Caller: [laughs] but check it out. Thanks for your music.
FZ: Thank you.
CA: Good evening, you're on KPFA with Frank Zappa.
Caller: Oh yeah, hi Frank, greetings from the SubGenius Church …
FZ: oh yeah, good (both laughing)
Caller: Thanks for always …
FZ: How is old Bob?
Caller: Oh, he's doing good. He sends his regards.
FZ: You know the best thing's about Bob?
Caller: What's that?
FZ: He's a smoker.
Caller: Yeah. Yeah, throb all the way. Well, not really, but ah … anyway, I want, you mentioned in your book, and I, I hope I'm paraphrazing you accurately here, that attittudes of a number of people you've encountered fallen to the roam of bad mental health … ahm … my question is, do you have any thoughts on what kind of job the mental health system is doing in this country and second, do you have any views on the prescriptioning uses psychotic tranquilizers and other mind altering medications used today?
FZ: Well, let's take the mental health system first. It's a desaster area, because … ah … most of the facilities were decimated by the early budget cuts at the beginning of the Reagan administration, and when those facilities closed, a lot of people who were in there being cared for wound up sleeping under bridges and in cardboard boxes and on cratings in Washington, D.C., and people who should be receiving a medical help are now regarded as these denizens of the underworld and … ah … it's, really a very sick thing for a society that likes to think that it's fair and caring, it's a sick thing for it to do to save a couple of bucks on the back of people in those institutions, I just … that's reprehensable.
Caller: Do you think that the mental health system works when it's allowed to work?
FZ: Well, let's just say, that having one is better than not having one. I would disagree with some of the techniques that are bein' used in mental hospital, not that I'm an expert, I've never been an in-mate in one, but based on things, that I've herd about what goes there, I wouldn't say that we're talking about a system that had spectacular good results in healing people, but, at least in the case of the people who are now sleeping in the street, they had a place, they wouldn't freeze to death. Whether or not they would ever get over their Shizophrenia is another question, but at least they're not gonna freeze to death because they hear voices.
Caller: What would you plan to do if you are President in that kind of situation?
FZ: The same thing I would do about the rest of the homeless problem: You go to the Congress and say, "Fix it." You know? Spend the money and do it. Because, obviously there are people, who have dealt in the roam of social services who know far more about this than I do, but nobody is turning to these people saying, "Do it."
Caller: Hm. Well, I'd … I'll not only vote for you but I'll campaign for you in '92.
FZ: Well, I gotta figure out whether or not …
Caller: If you do decide … yeah
FZ: Yeah, that's …let's keep that … because I'haven't made the decision to do it, but it's nice to talk to people to see there that there is some enthusiam …
Caller: … you got … there is … uh … and keep up the good work musically and politically.
FZ: Let me just say something about your second question about the mind altering drugs. I don't think that's a good idea to use them, I think that, one of the reason why they work is, the drug changes your body chemistry, ok? The chemistry of your body is being changed in most instances by artificial substances. In other words, a chemical which is derived from isolating a molecule, that came from a plant, or a mushroom, or a some other source that has a special chemical effect on the human body …
Caller: So this kind of things goes on regularly, ah …
FZ: That's right. In other words, if you wanna feel mutated, you could just eat a strange diet and you'd be out there, I mean, how many macro-biotic people do know?
Caller: Ok, … [laughs]
FZ: You know, they're kind of bobbed out, and if you want to be altered, I think you could probably achieve some unique results by over-amping on a certain kind of Pizza, if your body responds to the chemical …
Caller: What do you think about not ah … drugging, which is not of one's own free will? I would assume …
FZ: Oh I think, that that's a no-no. You mean like sticking stuff in the water supply? That's terrorism
Caller: No. Drugging someone in the mental hospital who doesn't necessarily agree with that.
FZ: Well, now you're getting in a Constitutional area, because I'm not sure, that I'm fully informed as to what the legal status is of a person, who has been committed to a mental institution. Whether or not he retains the … still retains the right to reject medication. Because he's in there because he is out of his mind. It's a little bit difficult for the doctor to sit there and say, well, what do you think? Do want to take these pills now? Come on, let's negotiate it, okay?
Caller: [laughs] … okay, it is a tricky area.
CA: Thank you very much for your call. Ah, we're out of time, Frank, I'm sorry to say we have 36 more callers waiting in line. Is there any chance you'd do this again for us?
CA: How about May 20th, at this time? Are you gonna be in town?
FZ: Well, I should be.
CA: That's a Monday night.
CA: Okay, we'll do it one more time and by then, will you know anything about your political ambitions?
FZ: Well, by then I will have met with … ahm … ah, Ray Struthers, but I don't know whether I will have met with the other guy, and I really need to talk to both of these guys befor I can draw a conclusion. And the other that I would do before I would announce, is, I would tryin' to line up a bunch of the people …
intruding call: … if you would like to make a call, please hang on …
CA: I think, we're back, go ahead
FZ: [laughs] That was a good one. I wanna try to do is line up a bunch of people who are not involved in politics, who might like to volunteer to go with me in case I won, to go to Washington and help fix this crap up.
CA: The only thing I'm worried about is that since John Cage is macro-biotic, he won't be available for the Cabinet now.
FZ: Well, you know, there are other things to do besides to be in the Cabinet.
CA: Yeah, that's right, there's also …
FZ: Y'know, how about Hood?
CA: How about Secretary the Army?
FZ: That's a good idea!
CA: Our guest has been Frank Zappa, thanks so much for visiting, that it's been a pleasure to having you with us on our anniversary and we'll see you again on May 20th, at this time.
FZ: Ok, thanks, ###, bye-bye.
CA: All right, bye-bye. Once again, Frank Zappa's new, 2-CD-set hits the stands tomorrow, it's on the Barking Pumpkin label, and it's called, Zappa – The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life. I'm Charles Amirkhanian, stay tuned for the re-broadcast of the KPFA Evening News.