Well, as I posted earlier, one of the most memorable days of my life was 08 May 1980, the day I interviewed Frank Zappa at his suite in the St. Regis Hotel. I was a 22 year old, second-year law student at the time. The following is a transcript -- heretofore never published -- of that interview. Being only 22 at the time, many of my questions are clumsy and/or naive -- certainly not up to the level of a professional journalist. But I was just a fan, meeting my idol, and I don't think I had ever interviewed anybody about anything before.
I should also tell you that this transcript is unedited. Every word of the three-hour interview is in here. Unlike a magazine or other professional publisher, I have not omitted "stuff that might be boring," or otherwise chopped, channeled, lowered, louvered, or altered any of the content so as to make it fit between ads, or to satisfy the desires of some editor or publisher. It's all here, all raw.
And since this is a for-real interview, and an important historical record, I might as well tell you all that my real name is Larry Rogak and I am an attorney in New York. I'm also a writer. I write law books, and I also write comedy. If you go to Amazon dot com and search my name, you'll find two very funny books I wrote that you'd probably enjoy, being the Zappaholics that you are: one is called Haiku For Guys. The other is called You Don't Know Dick. Trust me on this one: if you're a Frank Zappa fan, the edgy humor in these books will amuse you.
The original transcript of this interview was typed, by me, back in 1980, on a typewriter (any of you kids remember typewriters?). To get this transcript onto this website, I had to re-type it, by hand. It took me 6 hours.
Meanwhile, this might just be...
The Greatest Frank Zappa Interview You Never Read In Your Life.
New York City, 08 May 1980....
Larry Rogak: Did Jane Friedman [FZ's press agent] tell you what gave me the idea to do this interview?
Frank Zappa: No.
LR: I'm a law student. I was sitting in Corporations class and we were talking about corporate responsibility and how boards of directors get away with incredible amounts of thievery because the courts will let them sweep all their dealings under the rug. My professor said, "There's some rock guitarist, I think his group is called the Mothers or something, and he said that if you want to stop crime in America, the thing to do is to put a policeman on every board of directors."
FZ: Well, that's not true. I never said that. It's not even a paraphrase of anything I ever said, so your professor is out to lunch.
LR: But what do you think of that idea?
FZ: You mean putting a policeman on the board of directors?
LR: Maybe not literally, but do you think that a lot of crime in this country is committed by people who are in the best position to cover it up? And how about the fact that if a board of directors steals millions, they may just have to pay it back but if some poor slob steals a few bucks for himself he'll wind up in jail for years?
FZ: That's right. The thing is, you can't legislate morality. If there's one thing the human race is famous for, it's being so stupid as to ignore all the danger signs of everything that's been going on through history. You can't legislate morality. You can't make people be nice. And you can't stick a policeman on the board of directors because somebody will buy the policeman.
The problem is, you have people making 25 to 40 thousand dollars a year handling millions of dollars a year, and they sit there scratching their heads saying, "Why isn't it mine?" And they don't realize why it isn't theirs: they didn't earn it. But nobody wants to work for a living in America. The work ethic is a thing of the past. The unions have done away with that.
LR: When an artist makes a deal with a record company, how much bargaining power does he have?
FZ: If an artist hasn't made a record yet, the leverage is based on what the record company thinks the artist is going to sell. It's like buying pork futures. But other than that, when it comes time to negotiate, there's so many problems in having a good negotiation with a record company because the legal side of the record business is very complicated and very mysterious, and very tied up with unusual accounting procedures that vary from company to company. Unless your lawyer knows the accounting procedures or is in touch with an accountant who understands the subtleties of the way these people can rip you off, it's almost impossible to have adequate representation at the time of making out the contract and also in terms of enforcing the contract once you've signed your name on the line.
LR: You once said that frequently the same attorneys represent both the artist and the record company, and it's the record company's attorneys. Is there any way the artist can get a fair deal that way?
FZ: How can you get a fair deal? A guy wants to become an attorney. Why? Because he loves the law? No! Because he wants some fuckin' money!. Do you want to sit there and go through all those dumb books for years on end because you're a nice person? You want to rake in the bucks. That's why they go. That's why your parents sent you there and that's why you're gonna get out of there. You're gonna get a good job and be real rich.
LR: Like Bobby Brown.
FZ: That's right. You're gonna go in there, you're gonna do the boring drudgery, you're gonna say "yes" a lot, stay up late, crack the books, and when you get out you get a tie, you get a suit, you get an office, and you start taking money from people who don't know what you know. And that's what the legal profession is all about.
LR: Well, it's the same as being an auto mechanic, then.
LR: Well, people are paying you because they don't know how to fix a car.
FZ: Yeah, but I mean there is a slight difference: some auto mechanics actually do work. Now I'm totally an outsider to this, and I have a very biased opinion about the law, and I'll admit that I am incredibly prejudiced on this topic, but the way I see it, the attorneys who make the most money do the least work. The guy who looks the best, the tallest guy in the firm maybe, or the one who looks the most distinguished, the guy who went gray first, the guy who has the best clothes, the one who has the manicure all the time, the one who looks best with the briefcase, is the one who gets to talk. He's like the figurehead in the front of the boat. Meanwhile, you've got all these other guys, mensching away in the background, slaving away, doing the research work...
LR: The second-year law students working for the summer...
FZ: Right! They're working their butts off, and this guy's getting a big paycheck, and he gets his name in the paper, and you're back there slaving away, and you know, you'll never get his job; you don't look like him. That's what it's down to. It's looking that certain way that a lawyer is supposed to look like in each different classification...
LR: Having a Roman numeral at the end of your name...
FZ: Yeah. The right tie... really nice. So how can a person expect justice from any facet of the law in a system that operates this way? You can't. You shouldn't be so naive as to expect that everything is going to come out all right. There have been exceptions, but I think that the whole process of justice is very badly managed in the United States.
LR: When was your first encounter with the law?
FZ: My first encounter with the law was when I was picked up for vagrancy when I was a teenager. I was living in a small town in California called Lancaster. Unbeknownst to me, about two years before I got to this town, there was an unspoken law in the community that rock n roll was not allowed there, because a concert was held prior to my arrival that was sponsored by a lady named Elsie who ran a record store, and she brought these rhythm n blues acts from Los Angeles up into the desert to work at the fairgrounds. And along with these R&B entertainers of the Negro persuasion came people who were selling pills and naughty cigarettes to the local hillbillies and so the community was all aroused that drugs were coming in because of this vile rock n roll music.
LR: Were they using the term "race music" back then?
FZ: No, that was the earliest terminology, back in the early '50s, and this event happened around 1955, and they were calling it R&B then. The place was very rural. The major industry was alfalfa farming. I moved there because they started having the aerospace industry at a place not too far from there. It was a boom town. I didn't know there was an unwritten law against rhythm and blues music and they didn't want to have teenage dances unless it was being played by the high school prom band.
So I put an R&B band together and we were getting ready to put on our first dance at the women's club. With the help of some other people I had rented the women's club and we were putting on our own little dance. The day before the dance I was walking down the street and I got arrested for vagrancy at 6 o'clock in the evening and they put me in jail and kept me there overnight.
What they were doing was trying to stop the dance, but I got out and we played the dance, only to find that the entire Lettermen's Club was waiting in the parking lot to beat us up after it was over. That's when the chains started coming out of the cars of all the Negro members of the ensemble and it looked like it was going to be the "big gang fight in the parking lot."
LR: In your opinion, has the political climate in this country in the time that you've observed it really become more liberal, or do you think that for the extra rights we seem to have today we've given up something? Do you agree with one of my professors when he suggests that the Supreme Court recognizes no absolute rights but only conditional rights which must bow in the face of an overriding state interest? For example, when Japanese-Americans were placed in concentration camps [during World War II] even though none had been accused or tried for any crime?
FZ: You have to understand that the law is here only to help out the rich people. It's always been that way and I doubt it's ever going to change. Not just in this country but in everybody's country. The law is here to serve the interests of rich people.
LR: And yet, certain conservative elements say that what the Supreme Court does is tie the hands of the police and make it easy for habitual criminals to roam free.
FZ: That's only because certain types of things get in the papers and certain things don't get in the papers, and I think that may be a PR gesture on the part of certain right wing groups. It's always great to scream about law and order when it applies to street crime, but none of those people are going to scream about law and order when it comes to crime in the board room.
LR: How is it that anyone who is an independent thinker is portrayed by the media as crazy or on drugs so that no one will take him seriously?
FZ: First of all, it's not important that anybody take anybody else seriously, so that shouldn't be a worry in anybody's life. Are you trying to tell me that certain people haven't already stopped and listened to what I have to say?
LR: But not the people who should hear it.
FZ: Not true. The people who should hear it have already heard it and the only ones who will agree with me are those who already agree with me, and that's not just in my case, that's in the case of everybody else, because, since you were born free, you know deep in your heart that you're right and everybody else is wrong.
LR: I've felt that way most of my life. [laughter]
FZ: Okay. That's one of the reasons you went to law school. Hey, you know what's happening; nobody's going to change your mind. In your heart you believe you've got it wired. You're only just serving time at the law school. You know everything. Hey, get this over with, get the fuckin' paper that says I'm smart, I know I'm smart, but they're gonna give me a paper that says I'm smart, then I can go out and make the big bucks.
So the way it works is: nobody ever agrees with you unless they already agree with you. If I say something that you already know, then I'm smart. But if I say something that shows some insights into some things that are really correct in general terms, but you don't agree with it, I'll never change your mind because that's insulting to your intelligence.
LR: You changed my mind on a number of things. I'll give you an example. In 1976, Jim Ladd of KMET in Los Angeles asked you about your views on the Summer of Love in San Francisco in 1967 and the flower power movement in general. You said that the whole '60s experience was an experiment by the CIA to test the effects of LSD on a large segment of the population just as they had done to individuals in the Army. I'd never heard an assessment of the '60s like that before. Would you expand on that?
FZ: It seems perfectly logical. I have no top secret information to back that up. That's my gut reaction to the '60s: it was all fake. The concentration camps that were being refurbished were being refurbished not because of political dissention. That's no sweat. Political dissention, you shoot 'em. But you have an LSD experiment going on in a major metropolitan area, the San Francisco Bay area, what happens if it goes wrong? What are you going to do with all those people? Where do you think those camps were? Easy access to San Francisco. If those people go crazy and start murdering each other in the street, we've gotta do something with 'em. The Bay area was also used for biological warfare testing, and that was on the fuckin' news.....
LR: I heard about that. They had a ship in the Bay and it had canisters of experimental germ particles which were released into the atmosphere...
FZ: Right. And one guy's father died from it and he sued the government. I saw that on the TV news in LA, and that's got to be pretty safe before it gets on TV news in LA. The demographics of the area were apparently the right kind of testing grounds for something: social experiments, chemical experiments, biological experiments; the facilities were there, it was a convenient testing place, and that's why I think you had that whole hippie syndrome happening there.
LR: What else do you think has been commonly accepted as a phenomenon when it was really well-engineered? What about Watergate? Was Watergate a different story from what we generally believe?
FZ: I don't think so.
LR: Because I've heard rumblings about how Watergate might have been a plot to get Nixon out of office because he wasn't taking orders from the powers that be.
FZ: I think that's bullshit. Let me tell you something: you are talking to a conservative guy. I am more conservative than you'll ever know. I am totally conservative. I'm for all those things that conservative say they're for, and then some. I'm interested in the capitalistic way of life, and the reason I like it better than anything else I've seen so far is because competition produces results. Every socialistic type of government where the government theoretically owns everything and everybody does their little part to help the state, produces bad art, produces social inertia, produces really unhappy people, and it's more repressive than any other kind of government.
LR: Have you read Ayn Rand?
LR: Ayn Rand takes the exact same stance. She says you can only be free under capitalism. Any form of government under which the individual exists to serve the state is slavery and your life isn't worth a nickel.
LR: Pick up her books; she's really great.
FZ: I don't like to read. To me it's boring. I have enough trouble getting through Time and Newsweek. Reading takes too much energy. Besides, I already know what I like. [laughter]
LR: Why is it that conservatives want a free marketplace, but they don't mind the government telling them what to smoke or read or eat or drink, and liberals want complete personal freedom but they want the government to have tight control over the marketplace and all kinds of regulations? Why doesn't anyone come out for a government that doesn't interfere in the marketplace or our personal lives? 
FZ: The answer is simple: bad mental health.
LR: It's as simple as that?
FZ: It's as simple as that. That's the major problem facing the world today is bad mental health. The major contributor to bad mental health is religion. Anybody who tries to run a company by a book or a country by a book....
When the Ayatollah  says, "My book says this and if you die here you go to heaven for this book," he's full of shit. And if Jimmy Carter sits here and tries to run this country by his book and says we're all going to be nice, he's full of shit. And you can't run a corporation by the book, you can't run a band by the book, you can't run a taxicab by the book, you have to take it as it comes.
When people put all their faith in the insulation of religion, that that is going to guarantee them a ticket to heaven, peace on earth, of whatever it is, so long as they follow these prescriptions these religions preach, it sets up blockades to progress, it sets up blockades to all kinds of creative things happening which is what I think being alive is all about.
LR: Especially if they think that no matter what shitty thing they do during the week, it'll be forgiven on Sunday when they feed the collection plate.
FZ: You bet. I'll give you a simple formula for straightening out the problems of the United States. Here it is: first, somebody told me that there was a poll taken, and people now at last believe we're in trouble. People are starting to suspect that drastic measures have to be taken to straighten our country out. And they're ready to do all kinds of horrible things to straighten the country out.
LR: Like the draft?
FZ: Yeah. Well, look. There are a few things that will straighten the country out that aren't horrible, but they won't try them. And these are the things: First, tax the church. The first thing you do is tax the church, and then you have to get them for all the taxes in arrears.
LR: How could you do that?
FZ: Hey: write it on a piece of paper and say, "This is the law."
LR: That's what's called an ex post facto law. 
FZ: Give them the fucking business. They have been running a con game in the United States for far too long.
LR: Large and small religions?
FZ: Large and small. Everybody pays. You tax the churches and you take the tax off of capital gains and the tax off of savings. And you'll put the budget back on the road to recovery.
You decriminalize all drugs and tax them the same way as you do alcohol. You decriminalize prostitution. You make gambling legal, and you've got plenty of tax revenue coming in for all of your social programs, and to run the army.
LR: In other words, the function of government is simply to protect us from each other?
FZ: Hey; the way I see it, the function of government ought to be: make sure you got good water to drink, somebody picking up the garbage, good roads to drive on, enough electricity to turn your light bulbs and record player on, and whatever smaller amounts of regulatory assistance is necessary to make this society work. That's what it should be doing.
The problem is that the people who are doing the jobs are more interested in perpetuating a system that guarantees them certain types of power, giving them status above their social security number, and that's their main drive. Once they get elected, they're not doing their job anymore. The day they win the vote, it's, "I'm a new man; I am now a public official, above and beyond anything that afflicts the rest of the human race." And these people are not deserving of any stature like that. They're nerds.
LR: When only one-third of the voters go out and vote, what else can you expect?
FZ: If you had two hundred percent of the voters going out, who are you voting for? Who runs? Who runs? Who's motivated to put their name on the fuckin' ugly posters on the wall? Only these psychotics.
LR: The same people who were sucking up to teachers in high school. So how could we have a better government? How can we get the people who should be up there to run the place?
FZ: First, you have to require fewer of them. There's too many jobs in government. There are too many holes to fill. And everybody who gets elected starts another committee, and it spreads like a fuckin' disease.
LR: And they hire their nephews.
FZ: It's not just hiring the nephews, though. It's setting up a committee to take care of this, to take care of that, to scrutinize this that reports to that one, and the bureaucracy builds on itself. There are just too many people contradicting each other in too many ways from local government all the way up to the Federal government. There's just too many people getting in on it.
One of the worst things, one of the shabbiest things I've seen in the last year that happened to this country is our Federal government allowing amateurs to participate in foreign policy. When a plane load of blacks goes over to have their pictures taken with Yasser Arafat, I mean, what are we doing here?  How can the government allow citizens to go and participate in volatile issues like that on a person to person basis?
LR: The government was just too chickenshit to say...
FZ: "Get back there!"
LR: The things that are done in the name of political expediency are frightening.
FZ: That's why it is never safe to put a religious guy into a position like that.
LR: But it makes them seem so pure.
FZ: Yeah, but you don't want a pure guy in there. You want an asshole. You want someone who wants to kick some ass in that kind of job.
LR: Why don't you send John Smothers over to talk with the guys at Warner Brothers, in a closed room for a little while? I bet they'd settle pretty quick.
FZ: I don't think so. I don't think you deal with corporations that way. That's the way they deal with other people.
LR: Well, when you learn about the structure of a corporation you find that the reason they're often so brazen is because no individual is liable for any but the most outrageous acts. The reason that a large corporation can, hypothetically, take four albums from an artist and release them without paying him is that at worst they'll have to pay back the money they made but not the interest they made on the money. 
FZ: Except in the case where the suit involves punitive damages and damages are awarded. Then they're exposed.
LR: That's not easy because the trend in the courts is not to interfere with the internal affairs of a corporation. Another problem is that it's hard for people to conceive of a corporation acting in a malicious manner. 
FZ: Especially when their logo is Bugs Bunny. So let's stop talking about it.
LR: I presume you're against the draft. 
FZ: Yes, and here's why: I'm against indentured servitude. I'm against people being put into jobs they don't want to do, because they don't do good work. When you're dealing with something as critical as the defense of our country, you don't want to have bimbos in there doing the job.
The volunteer army is a flop for two reasons. One, their recruitment techniques are just dumb. Totally dumb. The pitch is wrong. It's a totally mercenary pitch. There are millions of people in the country right now who would join the Army in a minute if you pitched it to them right. And they would be the best people to be in there because they want to be in there.
LR: You mean like you can sell them anything else they don't need?
FZ: No, no. The idea is, if the recruitment commercial said, "How many of you guys want to kick some ass?" That's the way to get them in there. That's what it's all about. You don't want an army of people waiting to serve four years so they can go to college. All the ads say, "Hey! Come on in! When you get out, you'll have all this money! You can go to college! Really good!" That doesn't qualify you to murder Russians or anybody else. What you need is people who really want to go and learn to wreak havoc. That's what armies are for. If you're going to have one, you want a mean motherfucking army. You don't want to have an army of people waiting to just get out, get a degree, become a lawyer, go and make some money... you don't want those people in there.
Now here's why the draft is stupid: they've got to set it up. Costs a lot of money.
LR: More jobs for the nephews.
FZ: That's right. Then, they'll have to round all these people up, they have to ship them somewhere, and they have to train them, they have to feed them, they have to clothe them, they have to pay them, and when it's all over, they have to hope they won't hurt each other. Because the kind of people that you stick into an Army under those conditions, those are the guys who shoot each other in the foot so they can get out, or shoot each other in the back because they don't like somebody. And an army like that ain't gonna scare nobody. You can have an army of 20 million men; if they don't wanna be there, the Russians are gonna laugh at them. 
So who's paying the tab for all this untalented material? What you want is talented material in there: people who like the military as a way of life, who have an aptitude for it and who really want to do it. That's the kind of army I'd like to see.
LR: I've always felt that, just like for any job, those who are the most qualified, those with the disposition to fight and kick ass, should be in there. A guy who gets into bar fights every weekend, shouldn't he be in the Army?
FZ: You bet he should be in the army. And especially now when there's something to be pissed off about , is the best time to appeal to those instincts that would make him want to join.
The other reason why the volunteer army doesn't work is because the government has allowed itself to fail in delivering benefits to the veterans who have already served. They have a bad reputation for failing to come up with the goods after the veterans went in there and did their job.
From the Vietnam thing, the claims of the veterans for things they were supposed to get that they didn't get, and no respect when they came back after serving time; and inside the military itself, bad conditions for medical treatment.  Not too many people came back from Vietnam feeling like they had a chance to do what they went there to do. The ones who went willingly, went for a chance to serve their country with capital letters, and came back being treated like shit while they were there, and being treated worse when they came back.
LR: I read an article by Gore Vidal in Playboy, where he says that sex is politics; that p o r n o g r a p h y, prostitution and homosexuality are really political issues and not sexual issues. How do you feel?
FZ: The reason why the whole idea of smut is perpetuated is just to be used as a political tool. Without the spectre of smut, how can the knight in shining armor come in and clean up your neighborhood? It's "smut at any cost."
LR: I don't know... smut never bothered me. [laughter]
FZ: Well, you haven't been elected yet. [laughter] When you get elected, smut is going to rub you the wrong way, won't it?
LR: Why do you have such a bad reputation?
FZ: I'll tell you why I have such a bad reputation. Everything you read about me...
LR: Is bullshit.
FZ: ...is bullshit, and here's why: I have been written off by the trade papers and the rock n roll consumer publications so many times, and have refused to disappear. And the audiences keep getting bigger and bigger, and somebody's embarrassed. After about two or three years in the business, everything that was written about me was negative, and was all downhill. Everyone was thinking, "It's all over." But it's not over. It's merely 15 years of getting better and doing more stuff. Once the editorial position of a publication is fixed, it's difficult for them to turn around and say, "Hey, we made a mistake for the past 12 years."
LR: So many rumors about you pass for fact. I used to believe, when I first heard it in the early '70s... oh man, I'm embarrassed to even say it...
FZ: That I ate shit on stage?
FZ: You believed it, right?
LR: I believed it at the time because it was consistent with the terrible image you have.
FZ: They also say I stepped on baby chickens, and that Mr. Green Jeans from Captain Kangaroo was my father. None of it is true. None of it.
LR: At this point I know that.
FZ: I don't eat doo-doo. And it's so persistent, it's accepted as fact by just about everyone in the business. I answer that same question about three times a week.
LR: When Jim Ladd asked you in 1976 about your famous sitting-on-the-toilet poster, I loved your reply. Remember? You said, "That's right. I sit on the toilet. So do you. So does everybody else. But I also write and compose music for orchestras, and play the guitar and sing and perform on stage and quite a few other things."
FZ: Sounds perfectly logical to me.
LR: You come back with some of the greatest answers. I love it.
FZ: There is no substitute for common sense.
LR: The only publicity you ever seem to get is when there's a negative story, like when B'nai B'rith raised a fuss over your song Jewish Princess. And they never even really sued you.
FZ: There was no lawsuit. It was bullshit. There was no suit with the B'nai B'rith, there was no suit with the FCC. I think that the B'nai B'rith treated me in a very malicious and underhanded manner in order to get their name in the paper at my expense.
LR: I thought it was a great song.
FZ: It is a great song. All they have to do is prove to me that a Jewish Princess doesn't exist. I don't see what's wrong, especially when a guy says he wants one. Some Jewish princess specimens are of a negative variety and anyone who takes one would be doing the world a favor. I had the nerve to say that I want a little Jewish princess; that's humorous and something that had to be done.
LR: A lot of people are only your fans because they believe the things about you that aren't true.
FZ: I'll give you an example of that. The first time I went to London I went to a club called The Speakeasy and I was wandering around and a guy comes up to me and says, "Hi, I'm so-and-so, the such-and-such player from The Flock. Remember that group from the mid-'60s, put out a couple of records on Columbia?
FZ: Okay, "I'm from The Flock. Hey, when you ate that shit on stage I was so proud of you..." I said, "I really didn't eat that shit on stage." He went, "You didn't?!?" and walked away.
What is it with these people? Drugs have taken their toll on the American mentality. You know, the most horrible thing about drugs in the United States is, not the teenagers who are getting ripped, it's the drugs that have gone into the executive boardrooms of America. Everything that is used to modify the intelligence or the judgment of people in situations where they can control the lives of other people, that's what's bad. Because all the major financial decisions that are being made under the influence of cocaine are affecting the rest of the world. You're seeing bad decisions made by people who are hopped up bearing all this ugly fruit all over the world.
LR: How is it that drugs have become so prevalent in just the last 10 years? How did they spread from the underground to the board room in so little time?
FZ: Pretty easily. With the media to spread all of this information, it goes really fast, and that's one of the reasons why these changes don't occur as frequently or in as widespread a manner in other countries, because we have so much media here, there's so much TV to watch, and so many more hours spent watching TV here than in other countries.
LR: It's been said that the reason education is failing in this country is because the people who pull the strings in our society would rather have it that way so our schools turn out consumers instead of thinkers.
FZ: This is something that I've been saying for the last 15 years. The educational system in the United States is designed to manufacture consumers. You learn enough about your trade to do your job, to earn enough money to buy things. You're not given the criteria by which to judge the difference between good and bad; an American will never know what a good wine tastes like...
LR: Because we don't teach our kids aesthetics?
FZ: There is no aesthetic in the United States. The only American aesthetic is: number of units sold. Most is best. Biggest is best. How many shoes you sold, or how many ball bearings or nuts and bolts. It's number of units sold that makes you good.
LR: You said it first, on the cover of Freak Out: "Drop out of school before your mind rots from our mediocre educational system."
FZ: Hey: the library is free. You go to school., what do they tell you? "Read the book." If you want an education, the odds of meeting a great teacher who will stimulate you and teach you something are nil. The only thing they're going to do is give you a list of books to read. Why do you need to pay money? You go to the library, you go to the bookstore. You get the books and you read. If you're going to school just to get a piece of paper that says you're smart, what's that worth? Look how many dumbbells get that same piece of paper.
LR: How do you feel about the position a person is in when he fights for his rights in court?
FZ: Well, just leave a little blank in there that says, "How much money have you got?" Because that's the bottom line. The law is for the rich people. Unless someone does something to prove that's different, the whole record of the way the law has been conducted in the United States leads me to that conclusion. The law is for the benefit of the rich people.
LR: But some of the most famous Supreme Court cases have involved some poor schmuck who, through Legal Aid, went all the way up on appeal and won important rights.
FZ: There are always exceptions. But take it on the average. The bottom line is, the way it works, in general, is it's always to the advantage of the person who's got the money, to either buy a judge, buy a jury, buy this, buy that. It's buy your freedom time. 
LR: What happens when two giants collide in court?
FZ: It's still the biggest amount of bucks. Because then the bucks are translated into time: how long can you stand to struggle your struggle, because every minute costs you money.
LR: There's a suit that's been going on for 12 years now where the government is trying to bust up IBM...
FZ: My favorite 13 year long suit was the guy who invented Have Gun Will Travel. He was a carnival performer who had the card, he had the whole Palladin thing, Have Gun Will Travel, it was his whole shot, and they stole it from him. He sued the network, the producer of the show, the writers, everybody. Took him 13 years, and he won.
LR: Who is it that controls the trends in music? Why does it seem that no musical trend takes hold unless there's a lifestyle that they can sell you to go along with it?
FZ: You're very astute. The answer lies in the interrelationship between the media and clothing manufacturers and all of the support systems for clothing manufacturers. No musical trend ever took hold unless you could dress up to it.
LR: Carnaby Street...
FZ: Disco clothes. Twist dresses with the fringe on them. You have to understand that there are forces at work here that are very scientific. They go way beyond the name of the jeans...
LR: The Hidden Persuaders?
FZ: Yeah, the real hidden persuaders, and it's in the music. In all music, especially consumer music for radio. That's the way hooks work.
LR: Do you think a person who tapes a record would have bought it anyway? 
FZ: If he had the money, probably. Because at least 50% of the charm of the record is the package. The person who doesn't own the package doesn't have the status of the package, to display in his own little environment as part of the decoration to his lifestyle. You are what you display on your coffee table. You have the great books of he time, maybe a few tasty little records here and there, that's who you are. Somebody comes in, they can tell what kind of a groovy guy you are as soon as they see your mess. That's what it's all about. That's why you have to get the album, because who can tell from a fuckin' ugly cassette whether you've got anything good on there? The whole idea of merchandizing books and records is not the initial way you think they would be consumed. There are peripheral types of consumption that bear of their case.
LR: Like the way that most of the people who own all the latest best-sellers...
FZ: Haven't read them. It's like people who buy pianos.
LR: And "best" is "that which appeals to the most people"?
FZ: But here's the hook: How do you know it's the best? Somebody told you it was the best. You wouldn't know it was the best until somebody told you it sold the most.
LR: It's that reinforcement I've heard you talk about.
FZ: And that reinforcement means more to your lifestyle than it does to your intellect.
LR: Why do most people need that reinforcement?
FZ: It starts in high school. In order to have friends, you have to be a certain way. Nobody wants to fuck a smart girl. Nobody wants to go with a guy with glasses. The one thing that's guaranteed to send you home to beat your meat when you're in high school is if you have a brain. Anybody with a brain is totally ostracized in American schools. So what happens? Some people say, "I can't stand it anymore! I've gotta get my rocks off! So I'm gonna act dumb." So they act dumb, and they get laid! And they say, "This is great! All I gotta do is talk dumb, drink beer, go to football games, and no problem!"
LR: And entice girls into their cars by offering 'ludes.
FZ: That's the way it really is. So as long as you have to act in a certain way, you have to bland your personality out in order to take care of your basic body functions. This leads to a whole host of other problems. Like when you get out of high school, how are you going to let the world know that you're the same as the next guy, and therefore suitable for pooching? You have to display artifacts of "bestness" and uniformity, and that's the thing: as long as the whole high school syndrome is based on "cool is best," "cute is best," "normal is best," and anybody who doesn't fit that mold is weird and undesirable and may even eat shit on stage...
LR: Or listen to Frank Zappa...
FZ: That's what happens. And one of the reasons why I have fans of any description is, I think I appeal to the people who need reinforcement for being different. There's not millions of them, but the few that are out there really like it because it helps them out. It gives them something to do with their spare time when they're not getting laid.
LR: You really go all out for your fans. No other artist tries to give their fans as good a time as you do.
FZ: I get a lot back from it, too. You think it's not fun to stand up there and be in a room with thousands of people who came there because they like you? That they're your friend? That's pretty spectacular, and I would do anything for them, except eat shit on stage.
LR: What happened to you in Cucamonga back in 1963?
FZ: Yes, that's some great story. I had a recording studio across the street from a holy roller church, with a 5-track home-made tape recorder. I bought the studio from the guy who built it, with the money I had earned from doing the score from a movie. In buying the studio I also agreed to take over his debts: his arrears in his rent and a few other utility bills and stuff like that. So I was in there recording 12 hours a day, having a wonderful time.
And I met this girl who had a friend, who had a black baby, and she was a white girl....
LR: And back then --- whew.
FZ: ... and in Cucamonga, California, across the street from a holy roller church. They didn't like to stay in the studio all the time, they were living in the studio with me, and they went outside and would hang out in front of the place. We were also a black and a half away from a grammar school. And the town of Cucamonga is the intersection of Archibald Avenue and Route 66, that's all there is to it. This place is really tweezily small-town mentality, so they were out there playing with the baby, and people were just acting really weird.
The next thing I know, certain strange things started happening around the studio. A guy came in, said he was an insurance inspector for the landlord and I'm sure he wasn't, he was some kind of cop, he came in and I think he planted some kind of listening device in the studio.
The next thing that happened was, I was trying to produce this movie called Captain Beefheart And The Grunt People, and we were holding auditions for anybody in town who wanted to be in the movie. We had this casting call for local people and we were trying out this guy for the role as the senator in the movie. One of the guys who tried out for the role was actually the vice squad guy who busted me, as I look back and recall.
So I don't know anything about any of the vice laws in this place of what the deal was. I was completely oblivious to all this stuff. Shortly thereafter, this guy comes to my place. I had this sign out front that said, "Record your Band, $13.50 per Hour." This guy walks in and says he was a used car salesman and that some of the guys he worked for were having a party on Wednesday, and could I make a movie for them, something to amuse the guys. I asked him what he had in mind and he described this porno-type event.
What he was describing, even if I wanted to do it, would have been impossible to do, especially on a used car salesman's budget. He wasn't thinking about lab costs and all that stuff. So I says, well, if you just want to make some used car salesmen laugh, how about if I make a tape recording for you. I thought that as an entertainer it was part of my civic duty to make sure that used car salesmen could have a few laughs.
So he says yea, that would be a great idea, and that he was going to give me $100, and he listed all these things that he wanted to have on the tape: certain types of fucking and sucking that were supposed to be... I mean he gave me this shopping list. Meanwhile, he's got a wrist radio on, broadcasting it to a truck outside. So I said, this is no problem, come back tomorrow noon and pick up your tape and away you go, the lads will have a fine time.
So that evening, me and one of the girls made this tape, and it had nothing to do with fucking or sucking. Nobody even had their clothes off. It was complete comedy.
LR: Well you couldn't see the bodies on tape anyway. 
FZ: Well, what happened was, there were so many laughs. We were squeaking the bed and doing all this stuff, and I spent the whole night cutting the laughs out of this tape, so there were nothing but grunts and stuff. Then I overdubbed some background music on the thing -- it was totally produced. And we had the final tape.
The next day he comes back, wrist radio again, truck outside, and he hands me $50 and I said, well you were going to give me $100. And the tape never changed hands. At that moment, the door swings open, fuckin' flash bulbs going off all over the place, handcuffs, they started grabbing things off the shelves, they took every tape I had in the place, they took an 8mm projector, they took any film that they saw lying around. They were just grabbing things and sticking them in boxes.
LR: Was the sheriff running for re-election that year?
FZ: Who knows? It was baffling to me. I didn't know what was going on. And they arrested me and they arrested the girl. They took us to jail in San Bernadino. And meanwhile, they are driving us to jail, and the guy with the wrist radio is in the back seat of the car and he's interviewing us and it's being broadcast to the truck again, and I found out that these tapes existed because while I was in the tank, they took the girl out and were playing them, saying [Frank uses a mock-State Trooper voice here] "This is really incriminating, and we got this and we got that and we got all these other tapes... We're breaking up this smut ring..." and all this shit. I mean, it was totally preposterous.
I didn't have any money. My father had had a heart attack and he was out of work. He had been in the aerospace industry in California and he was out of work. He was broke, and he had to scrounge around to get enough money for me to get bailed out. I got out and I went to LA and a guy from a record company there who had released one of my songs owed me some money and I picked up a couple of hundred dollars from him, and went a bailed the girl out. And we went a got a lawyer.
The lawyer told me that if the thing really went to trial, since they had taken all those tapes I had, they would play every tape I had in evidence at the trial and it would make a lot of trouble. His advice to me -- for a thousand dollars -- was to plead nolo contendre. So I said, what the fuck. even if I wanted to take it any further than that, I didn't have the money to do it. My father had to get a loan from the bank in order for me to fight the thing. I tried to get ahold of the ACLU, but they wouldn't touch it. They said the case was too small and insignificant, even though it was a matter of illegal entrapment and all the rest of that stuff.
So they take me to jail. When the thing finally goes to a hearing, they play the tape in the judge's chambers. There's a 26 year old D.A. who is out to get me. And there's a judge, there's a vice squad guy, and there's me and this girl. And we're sitting in the judge's chambers and playing the tape and he's laughing, and going, "Hey, this is pretty good! It's a funny tape, right? What is this?"
So they plea-bargained the thing so I would get 3 years' probation and a six month suspended sentence. But the deputy DA insisted that I must spend time in jail. I had to have at least 10 days.
LR: We have to keep dangerous people like you off the streets, right?
FZ: Well, the other thing that was bearing on the case is they were getting ready to widen Archibald Avenue, and they were gonna tear down the place. So they figure they'd get me out of there...
LR: Saves the trouble of taking by eminent domain.
FZ: So anyway, on my way to the little holding tank before the bus comes to take me to the county jail, the vice squad guy comes into the place there with the district attorney, and they've still got all my tapes, everything they took out of my studio, and he says, "If you'll let the sheriff decide which of these tapes are obscene, we'll give you back everything else." And I pointed out to him that it was not in my jurisdiction to convert a sheriff into a judge. And they walked out. And that was the last I ever saw or heard of all my property that they took out of the studio. I never got it back. Including master tapes of musical performances and things that weren't dialogue, they just took the whole thing, and they never gave it back.
LR: Maybe it's still in the property clerk's office back there.
FZ: Probably not.
LR: Who is your legal representative now?
FZ: Steven Miller. He's really good. He's a real stinker, and boy is he clean. He's one of those manicured guys. He handles a lot of big cases.
LR: Frank, how many people do you think know that Stick It Out comes from an old piece of yours called Geff Mijwat Vloor Bedeking Onder Deze Vette Zwefende Sofa?
FZ: A lot. The hard-core guys all know it.
LR: I pride myself on knowing little things like that.
FZ: If you want to know a "little thing," where does Duke of Prunes come from?
LR: Before Absolutely Free? I don't know.
FZ: Years ago I wrote a score for a Western called Run Home Slow, and there's a scene in which a nymphomaniac idiot girl is fucking a hunchback dwarf next to the carcass of a rotting donkey, and Duke of Prunes is the music playing in the background. Later on I added words to it for the album.
LR: Frank, it's been a real honor.
FZ: Well, I hope you had a good time.
LR: I know you don't like rock journalists, but I'm not one of them.
FZ: I know. That's why I'm talking to you.
1. Frank used the wrong Yiddish word here. A mensch is a stand-up guy, an honorable man. Mensching, the verb form of mensch, therefore has no meaning except perhaps the awkward one of "acting like a stand-up guy." What Frank probably meant to say was schlepping, which means to drag or haul oneself or other objects around.
2. This was before I heard of the Libertarian Party.
3. At the time this interview was conducted, Ayatollah Khomeini was the political and spiritual leader of the "Islamic Revolution" that had taken over Iran the year before, and the Iranian government was holding Americans hostage. Iran's fundamentalist Islamic government had banned all music, a fact alluded to in Joe's Garage.
4. My point was, and I'm not sure Frank got it, was that changing the law to impose income taxes on churches is one thing. But making taxes retroactive to before the law was passed is probably unconstitutional.
5. The reference is to Jesse Jackson's trip to the Middle East in 1979 in which he engaged in a notorious embrace with Yasser Arafat.
6. The veiled reference here is to Lather, which I was not supposed to mention.
7. In the wake of Enron and Tyco, this is one concept that has changed dramatically since this interview.
8. I Don't Wanna Get Drafted was released shortly before this interview.
9. For the benefit of those under 30 reading this: in 1980 the biggest military threat to the United States was considered to be Communist Russia. Times have changed.
10. The holding of American hostages by Iran.
11. Isn't it amazing how this and other comments by FZ are just as accurate today as they were 27 years ago?
12. I think O.J. Simpson and Robert Blake would agree.
13. The reason for this question is that, at the time, the record companies were pushing Congress hard for a "blank tape tax" that would supposedly reimburse the music industry for the money they were losing because people were making casette tape copies of records instead of buying the records themselves.
14. A dumb and obvious comment by me, but I left it in anyway because as I said, this interview is unedited.
Last edited by BigLarry on Sun Feb 17, 2008 1:48 am, edited 2 times in total.