Interview with Mark Volman

Here's an interview with Mark Volman from fall 1993, where he talks about the plans for a Mothers of Invention Official Bootleg Album, which was never released. Transcribed by Chris Ekman, "this is the whole 09:20 clip, with most of the stutters and false starts removed for clarity's sake".

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CO DE KLOET: Yeah, we're ready ... We're sitting in Sprouting Wings.


CO: Tell us what it is.

MARK: Sprouting Wings is a health food store that is run by me and my girlfriend here in Los Angeles, in Burbank, California. Health food, vitamins, supplements, and a 30-seat all-vegetarian cafe, that serves healthy food for people who are interested in purifying their bodies.

CO: So why don't you play "Would You Like a Snack?" here?

MARK: Ha ha, yeah, this would be a good time for it.

CO: OK, well, so basically what I want to ask you is, since we talked in 1990, Frank has put out the Playground Psychotics album, and I think that is a very remarkable CD - it's more like a documentary to me.

MARK: Well, I don't know if Frank tells you the story of Playground Psychotics the way I will tell you the story, but it's no secret that Frank used to carry his Uher tape recorder with us on tour constantly, and Playground Psychotics' basic foundation started during a weekend when we travelled to Spokane, Washington, Seattle, Washington, to the Edgewater Hotel, which was the foundation for the "Mudshark" and the whole story on the white Live at the Fillmore East [Fillmore East, June 1971] album, and we also played Portland, Oregon, and Eugene, Oregon, it was a trip to the northwest of the United States. And Frank edited together that weekend into an album that he gave to Warner Brothers Records, and it was called the Official Mothers of Invention Bootleg Album, and this was -

KID: Bye, Mark!

MARK: G'bye! Heh heh ...

CO: Bye!

MARK: And that was -

KID: Bye, Julie!

MARK: That was given to Warner Brothers right after we did the album "Billy the Mountain", Just Another Band From L.A., and Frank gave it to Warner Brothers as our album, as his new album. 'Cause he was trying desperately to leave Warner Brothers, he had two albums that he owed them. And what he was trying to do was to put together two records quickly, back to back, and one of them was this live touring record, which was kind of an offshoot of what had really transpired during the movie 200 MOTELS, which was really life on the road with a band, purely documentary.

And Warner Brothers turned it down. And so the Official Bootleg Album went up on the shelf, and Frank basically sat on it, and squelched it. It was a bit too ... I guess you could say listening to it now, for that time, 1973 or 1974, it was way far ahead of its time, obviously, as alternative music goes - there wasn't very much music on the Bootleg Album, it only had "Easy Meat" at a rehearsal and it had another, maybe, "Tears Begin to Fall" ["Tears Began to Fall"], a live version of it. And those didn't actually even make it to Playground Psychotics, in fact, what he did was basically took the outtakes of the live Fillmore East recordings with John Lennon and a few other things, "Billy the Mountain", the original version, the 30-

CO: A very good version.

MARK: -35-some-odd minute version, excellent version, with Studebaker Hoch, all of the ramifications of Studebaker Hoch ... It was, I went up to the house the day he got copies, and we sat at his house and listened to the record, and I swear, I cried and I laughed and he, him and I just listened to it with relish because here we were hearing this history, and those intimacies, I mean, the girl on the airplane, and the things that you thought you'd never see, let alone being released to the public! To be made available! The feeling I've gotten back from musicians who I know that've heard this is that, truly, this is the first, and only, album that ever really documented what it's like to be with musicians on the road. It really shows you the insanity, and the chaos, and the fun that makes up a touring band.

CO: Yeah, because, the criticism was, of course, as expected of course, that there is too little new material, there is too little music, that, that ... I don't think it should be approached as just another rock 'n' roll album.

MARK: Right. Well, I think if you are a fan of Frank Zappa, if you are a fan of the history of rock 'n' roll and the history of what music is, and you know Frank, you know that whatever it is, it's a part of a career-long commitment that Frank has to making his music available. No matter what you think Frank Zappa's music is, he always seems to be somewhere else everytime he gives it to ya, he regurgitates this, this music and this dialogue and he calls it a record and he puts it out and you can enjoy it for what it is for the moment, which is really what Frank has always done best, captured the moment, the essense of a band. With every group, that's
why there have always been so many live records, so many live pieces on albums, from when I was in the band, from Chunga's Revenge, "The Nancy and Mary Music", from the Tyrone Guthrie Theater, through all of the albums we made to You Can't Do [That] on Stage Anymore, to - the essence of a band is what they are the moment they make that music, and that's what Frank probably has done better than any other rock 'n' roll band. Nobody has the, the balls to let people hear what they sound like on a night-to-night basis, and live and die with it, you like it or not, that's the way it was that night, there it is - as Frank said best, "There it is, the way we made it."

And you can - Frank never stopped and said, "This is my career. This is, this album, this moment." It's just another breath of life as a part of the history of Frank Zappa. And boy, when I hear these things come out, and I hear the pieces he's used of us on all the new product and all the official bootleg albums that've come out, it's just so much fun to hear - it makes you remember so many good times that that band was a part of, and I know that when we get together, Frank and I, he still to this day, we laugh so much about that band, and that particular group of Mothers. And he's had so many great bands, and so many fabulous albums, but that particular band was one of the few bands that I was ever involved in that had so many leaders, so many guys who were individually so established and so successful, Anysley and Ian and George Duke and Jeff Simmons - I mean, this was, these were all to me superstar players, and people.

CO: And up 'til today those years are still, for a lot of people, still the most famous years, of course. Especially in Europe.

MARK: And, quite honestly, the most spontaneous records that Frank probably made are those small two years, two-and-a-half year segment of the Mothers of Invention. There was so much that took place, from the movie 200 MOTELS, to the fire in Montreux, to the Rainbow Theater incident, and I mean, there was so many high moments, and so many low moments. I mean, if there, if Frank, y'know, you look at it in terms of Frank's life, it was like those two years was a life unto itself. And what went on with a band it terms of the amount of rock history that we made with the "Mudshark" and in "Billy the Mountain" and the motion picture and all the rest of it ... it was an entire decade of a band's history sandwiched into about two-and-a-half years, and it really happened so very fast.

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[TAL: That's Mark alright, with Co de Kloet, in the Fall of 1993. It was part of the FZ Memorial program, Supplement, December 93. You can find lots of audio from these interviews over at Co's website,]

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