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Frank Talk
Dweezil Zappa Plays On
Published in the CityPaper (Philadelphia) - July 31, 2007

Frank Zappa is a tough guy to explain, but that doesn't mean Dweezil isn't trying. With Zappa Plays Zappa, the eccentric guitarist and composer's son is keeping his nu-rock tunes alive. Rather than a lame tribute, ZPZ showcases the elder's enigmatic depth and the younger's endearing respect. While Frank fanatics marvel at Dweezil's choice of rarities — such as the politically charged "Son of Suzy Creamcheese," "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" and "America Drinks and Goes Home" — even newbies can appreciate the uncanny presentation of Frank's notoriously impossible material.

City Paper: You're a smashing guitarist beyond playing your dad's stuff. Do you feel as if you're putting "Dweezil" on ice?

Dweezil Zappa: Not really. Different people have different views as to what my responsibilities might be. There's no pressure for me to carry it on. I love his music, always did. To do it right requires a lot of work. The fact that I'm related and can play the music in a very appropriate manner's a badge of honor. It's about doing the music justice.

CP: So why now put your father's music out there? Some of his more avant-garde pieces are already part of the orchestral canon.

DZ: The proliferation of orchestras wanting to do his stuff is a good thing, an appropriate measure. But when you're looking toward the rock context, the selections I've chosen are solid. There's nothing at all like it. The word "unique" doesn't sound right. Frank totally forged his own way. Too much of what he's done has been overlooked or misunderstood about him and his music.

CP: Because of his humor.

DZ: Too many people in their casual exposure to Frank have the opinion that he's like Weird Al Yankovich what with songs like "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow" or "Valley Girl" or "Dancing Fool." Society tells you that if you have a sense of humor, you can't be serious about what you do. Frank made over 70 albums full of wildly diverse music — very serious, complex stuff.

CP: What do you think about guys like Don Preston, Ike Willis and other Zappa band stalwarts going out and doing their Frank thing?

DZ: I think they've taken advantage of their reputation. They change it to suit their needs. Now some people say, "That's OK. That's the evolution." But Frank's a composer. And you don't have orchestras rearranging Beethoven because they think it's cool.

CP: Remember the first time you gigged with Frank?

DZ: I was 12, at the Hammersmith Odeon in London after I'd been playing for, like, 10 months. I only knew how to solo in the key of "A." He wanted me in the key of "B." So when it came time, he gave the band a hand signal to modulate down to my key. Instant solution. Cool.

CP: Other than the musical talent, what'd you inherit from Frank?

DZ: I haven't recognized it, but people remark that there're certain resemblances between he and I onstage — mannerisms and such. There's no act. That's just the weird part of nature.


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