"These days for the most part, I miss the deep feelings that Rock expressed. I miss the honesty, the spontaneity, and the message of the 1960’s that for the most part gave us hope and inspired us to push forward, breaking through the boundaries which many of us had outgrown."
Jeff Cotton: Melodic Philosophies, Aloha!
Jeffrey Ralph Cotton professional musical career started with a band called The Exiles, which had local hits in the Los Angeles area in 1964 and also co-founded Blues in a Bottle. He is an American rock guitarist, known among other musical formations, for his work as a member of Captain Beefheart's Magic Band. Jeff Cotton, under the pseudonym Antennae Jimmy Semens, was the guitarist in Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band for three albums - Trout Mask Replica, Strictly Personal, and Mirror Man. Jeff contributed his unique musical and challenging bottleneck guitar skills to - Strictly Personal - Trout Mask Replica (for which he was also known as Antennae Jimmy Semens) and Mirror Man. Jeff left the Magic Band in 1970 to pursue his musical career as co-founder of the band MU. MU recordings became critically acclaimed. Cotton contributed unique and challenging slide guitar to live performances, Strictly Personal, Mirror Man and Trout Mask Replica; for which he was renamed Antennae Jimmy Semens. He left the Magic Band in 1970 after being attacked by temporary drummer Jeff Burchell during a group "talk" and having ribs broken, and having experienced the reclusive 8 months of rehearsals for Trout Mask Replica during which Beefheart experimented on the group members with sleep deprivation, food deprivation, and physical violence in an attempt to break their mental state down. (Photo: Jeff Cotton, 2023 Hawaii)
He renewed his professional relationship with Merrell Fankhauser (of The Exiles) in a band called MU. Despite a critically acclaimed album there was no commercial success, and he retired from the music business in 1975 to study the Christian Ministry. In 1981, long after the group had disbanded, a second LP of unreleased MU material was issued. In 2022, a 50 year recording hiatus ended with his first solo album, The Fantasy of Reality. Jeff Cotton's new album will be available soon, and includes the songs titled: "Where Are The Children" greatly inspired by the movie "The Sound Of Freedom"; and "A Song for Lahaina".
How has the music influenced your views of the world? Where does your creative drive come from?
My Music is a direct reflection of how I view the world, and my “creative drive” comes from great desire to share as much of “REALITY” as I am capable. We have been raised from birth in a Matrix which was specifically designed over many millennia, to keep us as subservient and blind as possible. At this time, it is evident through many voices, that the veil is being pierced by those who feel the call to Freedom from tyranny. The outcome is inevitable.
How do you describe your sound and music philosophy? What's the balance in music between technique and soul?
I guess I would describe my sound signature as Melodic, and more toward musical movements. The Creator and Redeemer has laid out a very clear and simple message of hope. It’s taken me most of my life to navigate through many self-elevating philosophies, feel good philosophies, which only served through supposed “higher learning” to sidetrack me, albeit temporarily, and for that being temporary, I am grateful. I’d have to say that for myself, technique being of primary importance early on, it soon became secondary to feeling and spirituality. Once one learns to ride a bike, one can get from point A to point B. In other words, the early years through much conscious practice, taught me to ride the bike, and because to some degree this part of my travels has served to become habitual and subconscious, it allows for soul expression.
Why do you think that Captain Beefheart’s music continues to generate such a devoted following?
The longevity of CBMB's music could be due to many factors, two of them being the sheer originality, as well as the individuality of the sound.
"I am an optimist, and have every reason to be. And I say that because, Music is such a vital aspect and precursor of Culture itself, that we all are in for a ride! Many of those with great talent are breaking the shackles of power and fame and are joining the ranks of the lovers of Truth. And when you love the truth then you begin to experience and to love freedom." (Jeff Cotton with Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band / Photo © by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
What moment changed your music life the most? What´s been the highlights in your life and career so far?
The first moment that changed my musical life the most, would have to have been in the 4th grade when my grandmother bought me my first instrument, a professional LeBlanc clarinet. And again, when on my thirteenth birthday, Ralph and Marge Cotton handed me an old Kay’ acoustic arch top guitar which had been in a friend’s attic for who knows how long. So, the highlights in my life would have to be, raising my three children. I have always been guided by a higher voice, and looking back, I can see the directing wisdom which saved me so many times from complete and utter ruin.
The highlights are many, even though my career has been relatively obscure. Our first European tour in 68’ with CBMB was big. And for a young twenty-year-old, having Paul McCartney come to see us perform in Cannes France and hanging out with us for the evening, was sheer magic! The greatest highlights are yet to come… And in these latter years, just building a Solo career and having the freedom to speak my truth, would have to be at the top of my list.
Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
Here’s a gig to remember. In late 67’, having been just recently inducted into the Magic Band, we played a set at the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco. Also on the bill, was Buddy Guy, and also Big Mama Thornton. Real Heavies! So, our manager at the time, a real Head, who later became the CEO of Elektra records got us super stoned just before we went on stage. This was my first live gig with the band. I somehow remembered all of my parts and the entire show went off well.
What sticks in my mind is, the entire trip, this manager kept telling me to blow Alex St. Clair off the stage…. Keep in mind, Alex was the musician who brought me up to speed with this new style of playing and was without a doubt the dominant musical force at this time in the band. I had a great respect for him, and I was grateful for his instruction. This manager wanted a hot shot lead guitarist (someone like a Hendrix) yet we were playing Delta Blues, not City Blues and the two styles in my opinion would have clashed, not to mention this kind of a move would have been most dishonorable.
"My Music is a direct reflection of how I view the world, and my “creative drive” comes from great desire to share as much of “REALITY” as I am capable. We have been raised from birth in a Matrix which was specifically designed over many millennia, to keep us as subservient and blind as possible. At this time, it is evident through many voices, that the veil is being pierced by those who feel the call to Freedom from tyranny. The outcome is inevitable." (Jeff Cotton, 2020 Hawaii / Photo credit by Madfish)
What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
These days for the most part, I miss the deep feelings that Rock expressed. I miss the honesty, the spontaneity, and the message of the 1960’s that for the most part gave us hope and inspired us to push forward, breaking through the boundaries which many of us had outgrown.
And yes, now there is so much fear in the world, and as we know, a primary weapon of the dark side. But one thing is sure; when you see such a marked increase in evil, you can bet, that Truth, Light and Love are even more accessible and available to us.
What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?
I am an optimist, and have every reason to be. And I say that because, Music is such a vital aspect and precursor of Culture itself, that we all are in for a ride! Many of those with great talent are breaking the shackles of power and fame and are joining the ranks of the lovers of Truth. And when you love the truth then you begin to experience and to love freedom.
So, I would like those who hear my music to be encouraged to stay the course, to believe that eventually Love Wins and Evil Ends. When you change your world, you change The World.
What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?
Lesson #1…To never lose your personal joy and naïve wonder in playing your music.
#2…Respect all other musicians and be open minded so as to be able to appreciate their own unique contribution. There is always something to learn from them.
#3…Do it all for The Glory of God...
(Jeff Cotton, 2020 Hawaii / Photo credit by Madfish)
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