Interview by Bob Marshall, October 22, 1988 - Part 03

Bob Marshall: I remember you talking a few years ago about the inability of Europe to come together - the tribal hostilities that go back centuries.

Frank Zappa: That's right.

Bob Marshall: And you preferred the basic unity in America. That was a value you admired in Americans who are in the structure here. You are talking again as a citizen about the threat of what's going to happen in Europe. It may help you, might be good for you if you buy the products and it helps your musical apparatus but...

Frank Zappa: No, I didn't say either of those two things. I'm talking generally about the difference between Europe the way it is now, hacking it out with intertribal debates that have been going on for a couple of thousand years, and having the opportunity to blend some of that stuff together in 1992 to give that whole region the kind of cohesion that the United States would have under ideal conditions. I'm making a comment about that. And meanwhile, I would say that the reverse is happening in the United States. We are breaking up into regions. It's the North versus the South, and the East versus the West, very much in politics and every other thing. We're moving apart.

Bob Marshall: I saw a book that came out a few years ago, "The Nine Nations of North America." It breaks it down like that, the different regions. And Marshall McLuhan predicted this fragmentation that would come to the United States and doom the United States to be a bunch of little bickering mini- states. You see that coming, also.

Frank Zappa: I see it. Let me tall you about another trend that I see as long as we're talking trends here. The amount of money that is generated by cocaine that flows directly into the hands of the cartels that make the cocaine is, right now, translating into political power. And over the next, say, twenty-five to fifty years will translate into even more political power for those people. They will transcend governments. Because there is something that I heard about last night, that I imagined could happen, and it turns out I was right. This friend of mine who's spent some time in Brazil verifies the fact that the cocaine cartels have gone into the worst slums in Brazil and played Robin Hood to the people there. They're giving them cocaine profits to give them clothes and set up these little fiefdoms. Basically what they've created is an army of people who are willing to protect them. The police can't even go into those slums because they're at risk. Those slums are literally under the control of the guy from Colombia with a bag of money in his hand. Now as a test balloon, I would say what's happened in Rio with that would indicate to any good businessman, and I would presume that these cocaine guys are good businessmen, that that's the way to go. Think of every place in the world where you have an underclass - it's poor and it's being pushed down by the middleclass, directly above in the case of the United States, or the upper crust that does all their bad stuff. Who is going to take care of these people? In the United States you've got a homeless underclass that's developing that is unprecedented. If the cocaine cartel came into the United States and helped the homeless, what do you think would happen to the War on Drugs here? Playing Robin Hood is easy when you got that kind of a profit base. It is so peculiar to think about that and I predict that there is going to be more of that happening all over the world. It doesn't cost that much to give people a little something to eat and a little something to wear. When they've got nothing, anything looks good. You don't have to be a major benefactor - just give them a little present and you're a good guy.

Bob Marshall: Two people who predicted that, too, were Mae Brussell and a person who is running for President of the United States, Lyndon LaRouche. He has mapped that out. His magazines are very good for charting these cocaine cartels. Would you support a President who wants to fight that trend or a Presidential candidate who's honest about that?

Frank Zappa: I certainly wouldn't support Lyndon LaRouche. I'll say that if he has information that backs up what I just heard from a guy who was down there, then I credit him for having at least one piece of good information. That seems a little better than saying that the Queen of England is involved in the drug traffic, which is another one of his favourite...

Bob Marshall: That's the way the media present him. I've read his literature and he doesn't say that. He says that those old banking networks allow this laundering of dope money to happen through their banks and don't take action which he claims he would do.

Frank Zappa: Well, what he's done, he's taken some things which actually are facts and said them in a way that makes them sound ridiculous. Because of the banking laws in England it is possible that especially British banking concerns and British off-shore banking concerns have been deeply involved in money laundering. In fact, some of their branches set up in Miami are involved in it. We're just now beginning to see how this stuff works, but the other thing that ought to be said is that these people who make the billions from cocaine also finance right-wing governments. You know why? Because as long as the right-wing governments are in operation, their drugs are going to be illegal and as long as they're illegal, they're going to make more profits. It is so twisted.

Bob Marshall: Like the pornography racket.

Frank Zappa: That's right.

Bob Marshall: But what if LaRouche is taking on this issue? He's the only politician who's doing that. That's commendable, isn't it?

Frank Zappa: No. I wouldn't say that Lyndon LaRouche is commendable by any stretch of the imagination. I believe, although he hasn't been convicted yet, that the whole business with the credit cards and the rest of that scam, that's not commendable. That's the end justifies the means. That's not commendable.

Bob Marshall: Right. But what if certain people have a control over the media and can distort the public's perception of LaRouche, and that there are even people infiltrating his organization to do the credit fraud because he's the only one taking on this most present, pressing problem that you predicted or that you see coming?

Frank Zappa: I don't think that he's really taking it on. I don't see him taking it on. I see him stating some facts that any trend spotter could state if you saw it. The way I arrived at it was: I just start with the premise - follow the money. You know, the old Iran-Contra "follow the money". (Both laughing) Now, if somebody's got money, what do you do with it? Answer number one: you go for power. Now, where do you get the power? Power comes from might. The might is either going to be in large armaments or in large armies. Now, where's a man, with a buck in his hand to spend who wanted power, going to get an army? The answer is simple: any slum. And then, just by chance, last night I talked with this guy who had been in Brazil and he said that's what they're doing down there. O.K., why? Now, Lyndon LaRouche may see this same trend. I don't see Lyndon LaRouche out there fighting it. I see Lyndon LaRouche doing a credit card scam. That's what I see. If I had other information, I would see something else. I don't.

Bob Marshall: But you're relying...

Frank Zappa: I've seen LaRouche on television. I've seen him being interviewed and he does not come across to me as a guy that I would trust at all. I don't buy Lyndon LaRouche.

Bob Marshall: This is an example of a political concern of yours that you wrestle with daily that we talked about at the beginning of the interview. How much do you want to take on to deal with this trend? Do you have any personal strategies for stopping that or do you think that the force is so large there is little you could do?

Frank Zappa: The only way that I can see to reduce the influence of something that would behave like a government, cross international boundaries but not be a government in the sense that people elected it, the only way that you can reduce the influence of that creeping mess is to legalize the substances and cut their economic base. Now, let's talk about the drug problem. Drugs do not become a problem until the person who uses the drugs does something to you, or does something that would affect your life that you don't want to have happen to you, like an airline pilot who crashes because he was full of drugs. That's a drug problem. I believe that people have the right to commit suicide. You can stick a gun in your mouth. You can stick a needle in your arm. You can do whatever you want, but you own your own body. I think you do. Drugs become a problem when the person who uses them turns into an asshole, and they also become a problem when the person who manufactures and distributes them turns into a politician. That's the drug problem. Now, you want to fight the drug problem. You have to be realistic about what the problem is. The substance itself is not immoral. Without cocaine you're going to have a hell of a time at the dentist's office. You can't say, "We have to burn ever coca plant". Otherwise, no more Novocaine, buddy.

Bob Marshall: The dental hygiene dilemma

Frank Zappa: Yeah. So there are things that you have to consider. There are the fine, little points. The problem is that the public gets saturated with the rhetoric about "just say no to drugs, there's a drug problem", and this and that and it puts it into a context where it becomes a moral menace. It's not a moral problem. It is an economic problem. It is a social problem. It is a mental health problem. And it can be a matter of physical danger to you when you have people who have life-and-death control over other people, who are users and they can endanger the life, like a physician, who might use drugs, who might give you the wrong kind of an operation. Or different ways the person who uses the chemical can fuck up your life. That's what you've got to look out for, but the substance itself is neither here nor there, and the person has as much right to drink a beer as he does to use the substance. The only difference is we have prohibition now of these certain substances. If you'll let your mind drift back to the time there was prohibition against alcohol, think of what happened. Remember: those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. Without Carry Nations, every Italian in the Mafia would be out of business right now. It was Carry Nations who put them into business. Because there was the law of supply and demand. People wanted to drink beer. They wanted to drink gin and a few guys say, "Hey, I don't care, I'm going to supply the demand", and they became billionaires. And they eventually found out and people got killed for years all during Prohibition. The machine gun was busy. People were dying because they wanted a beer, and the government literally could not enforce the prohibition on alcohol. And in the time that they had this moral law to keep people from drinking alcohol, they managed to create the empire of organized crime. And the same thing is happening with cocaine. A guy in the jungle with a swami shirt on some place is going to wind up ruling half the world because somebody decided that cocaine was a moral problem. Cocaine used to be an ingredient in Coca Cola. Was it a moral problem then?

Bob Marshall: That's well-spoken, and that distinguishes the difference between you and LaRouche because he thinks the solution is to continue banning them.

Frank Zappa: It won't work.

Bob Marshall: And that feeds the problem. Yes, you've made that clear. I'd like to go into the satire you do. You emphasize and you're known for, a polyrhythmic approach to composing. I read a recent interview where you talked about working with harmonic, melodic and rhythmic elements, but in earlier interviews I've noticed you emphasizing the mutirhythms, the polyrhythms. Do you see that society is hypnotized by a beat, by a rhythm, by a hypnosis that you feel that you can shake up with your polyrhythms?

Frank Zappa: It's real simple but real complicated at the same time. There are certain basic natural rhythms. How often does the moon become full? Once a month, O.K. That's a rhythm. When does the tide come in? When does it go out? That's a rhythm. What is your heartbeat rate? That's a rhythm. Call those natural rhythms. You don't think about them but they're there. There is also an average tempo at which people conduct their lives. That is a rhythm. If that average didn't exist, then people wouldn't know whether or not they were going fast or going slow because those are terms which are used to compare to an average. "I'm having a slow day". That means that you're behaving less than your imaginary average rhythm. "I'm really getting a lot done today". You're going faster than your imaginary average. Now, music, the way in which it connects with human behaviour, takes into account the implications of these universal natural rhythms. Certain types of music reinforce them. Disco music, for example, is banging you over the head and reinforcing your factory rhythm. Anything that deviates from that reinforcement of your factory rhythm could be perceived as rhythmically dissonant. So, if you understand the whole idea of dissonance, dissonance when resolved is like having an itch and getting to scratch it. Dissonance when it's unresolved is like having a headache for life. So, the most interesting music as far as I'm concerned is music in which dissonance is created, sustained for the proper amount of time, and resolved and got your scratch and next case. So, the concept of dissonance in my work works on a lot of different levels. You can have rhythmic dissonance. Any rhythm which goes against the grain of a natural rhythm is going to be disturbing for the period at which the dissonance exists. But once you get back to that downbeat, you can then look back and say, "Hey, that was quite fascinating what happened there. I didn't know that you could squeeze all those beats into that one factory cycle". O.K. Same thing with harmony. Certain chords, when you hear them, it's like, "Ah, we're now relaxed because all the harmonics have lined up from here to there and it's all complete, and it's like a nice big C major chord". Like the drone that they give you in the New Age music that just makes your brain sit still. That's the reason it makes your brain sit still. It's like, it's all there, there's nothing else to do. It's done. Now, how long can you listen to that. A long time if you're closely related to a jellyfish. But if you, in that harmonic environment, include some irritating notes, notes which are not part of the harmonic structure, so long as the note then moves to one of the partials in that static chord - like certain notes want to move upward, some want to move downward, some can actually live in there at a lower volume and just be like a pollutant in the chord, giving texture to the chord. All that stuff is part of the skill of writing music. But unless you understand why you're doing it, and how long it lasts is very important too because it's only interesting for a certain period of time, then after that it's obnoxious. That's what I do when I put stuff together. Same thing with words. You have to understand the overall concepts of natural rhythms, things which exist that people take for granted, and the idea that one can create an artificial irritation for a certain period of time to give a pleasurable sensation when it stops. It's like the kid banging himself with the hammer: "Why are you doing that" - "Because it feels good when I stop". And in medicine it's like people who want to be young again, they go in and get their face sand-blasted. That probably doesn't feel very good, but when it's all over, they look like Mick Jagger.

Bob Marshall: I remember an interview you did for a television station in Toronto, the one where you, disguised as a journalist, asked Frank Zappa, "What do you really want to know?" And Frank Zappa answered, "What time is it?" Now, that is what you've just explained - the importance of timing, and time, and the model of the audience you're targeting, and what you're trying to create. So, that is what you want to know - what time it is.

Frank Zappa: I think that's what everybody wants to know if you get right down to it.

Bob Marshall: You mean on the personal level? If they're going to "meet their Maker"?

Frank Zappa: No, I don't think people really give a shit about that unless they're completely bamboozled by religious superstition - to live your life in planning for this good time you're going to have in the sky. There are certain religions which emphasize that more than others. I believe the Mormons have this proposition where if you're a good Mormon man, your reward is you get to have your own planet and it will be populated with women who will do whatever you want them to do. Now, that's a strong incentive for a certain weak-minded man to join that religion.

Bob Marshall: That must be Top Secret. I haven't hear that one.

Frank Zappa: You haven't heard that one? Well, there's a lot of good Mormon stuff. Did you know that caffeine is one of the big no-no's?

Bob Marshall: Really?

Frank Zappa: You didn't know that? "Don't drink coffee". You can't drink Coca Cola or any of that kind of stuff. That was written in the Book until they bought into Coca Cola. And suddenly this one particular form of caffeine was O.K. and now Mormons get high on Coca Cola. That's their big thrill.

Bob Marshall: What did you mean by "time" when you said everybody wants to know what time it is? What's the context of that statement?

Frank Zappa: This goes back to what I was just telling about the natural rhythms.

Bob Marshall: You mean that's health, you're talking health.

Frank Zappa: Yeah, in a twisted way, sure it is health.

Bob Marshall: O.K., then say it your way

Frank Zappa: No, I'm trying to see it that way.

Bob Marshall: Like being comfortable.

Frank Zappa: You're comfortable when you are in phase with all of the rhythms. If you spend too much time moving too slow, you are out of phase with your factory rate, your factory set rhythm. You spend too much time moving too fast, you're out of phase with your factory rate. You have to spend a certain amount of time at rate.

Bob Marshall: That's the consensus of the community, I guess, or the environment you're working in.

Frank Zappa: And also based on your own personal metabolism.

Bob Marshall: You don't mean the factory you're working for?

Frank Zappa: No, factory rate is like a product that's set at the factory. They turn a little screw and then they put some stuff over it so they can't touch the screw anymore.. That's the factory set rate, the calibration.

Bob Marshall: You're talking biology.

Frank Zappa: Your biological clock. Your personal clock as indicated by your personal chemistry as opposed to the phases of the moon, all the rest of the cycles that are going on. That's your rate. Your biology versus the cosmology. You've become accustomed to that rate. You perform at a higher rate, at Olympic level, or at a lower rate, quaalude level.

Bob Marshall: Homeless level.

Frank Zappa: Right, whatever it is. If you're not at rate, you're uncomfortable.

Bob Marshall: And that would cause disease

Frank Zappa: Rate is time. "What time is it?"

Bob Marshall: But then you see how that relates to health because if you're comfortable and you're satisfying your different rate needs, you probably will be a more energetic, healthy person.

Frank Zappa: I don't know whether you're going to be more energetic, but people talk a lot about stress. That's a big media thing. Stress is the difference between your calibrated rate and another rate at which you are forced to perform.

Bob Marshall: "One size fits all" and that causes stress.

Frank Zappa: I don't think so.

Bob Marshall: Well, if you impose...

Frank Zappa: "One size fits all" means that the Universe is the one size. It fits all.

Bob Marshall: Oh, I see. It's not imposed. It adapts to everything.

Frank Zappa: "Impose" is the wrong word. It exists and you can consider the Universe an imposition if you're truly arrogant, or you can just deal with it the way it is. Here, it's a universe of rates. You have molecular rates. You have large- scale rates. You have the expansion of the Universe rate. You have the rate of atomic decay. You have the rate of aging. You have all these rates. So, it's a world of rates, and rates are time. Just so you really understand it, the rate is the difference between when it starts and when it ends. That's the rate. These are cycles. A cycle is the way it goes up, the way it goes down. That's one cycle. You know, it's pretty consistent the way I look at stuff. But I seldom do interviews with people where they ask me about any of these kind of things. They usually want to know, "Well what about that Tipper Gore?"