Zappa Does Zappa
Dweezil Plays Father Frank's Songs On First Tour Since The Elder Rocker Died In 1993
By ERIC R. DANTON, Courant Rock Critic
Published on ctnow.com - October 29, 2006
His attention to detail is either impressive or monomaniacal, but Dweezil Zappa spent five hours a day for six months learning a 2-second guitar part from "The Black Page," a song by his father, the eclectic rocker/composer/satirist Frank Zappa.
"It took that much time to work out the right picking technique and fingering it to get where I would be able to play it on stage and not feel like I'm not going to get it right," Dweezil Zappa says by phone. "You have to be able to execute it, or you shouldn't be playing it. It wasn't meant to be played on guitar, and it's definitely a really hard part."
Zappa's concern about getting it right on stage is understandable: For the first time since his father died of cancer in 1993, the younger Zappa is taking Frank's songs on the road as Zappa Plays Zappa, a tour that stops tonight in Wallingford. His band features a handful of musicians who played with the elder Zappa - guitarist Steve Vai, drummer Terry Bozzio and singer and sax player Napoleon Murphy Brock among them - and a group of players who were new to Frank Zappa's enormous catalog.
"I wanted a whole new troupe of players that were willing to take this journey, and really it is like boot camp," Dweezil Zappa says. "Learning this stuff, it consumes your every moment. You sleep, and you're thinking about the parts you're working on."
Choosing material was no easy task, even for a three-hour show - Frank Zappa was incredibly prolific, releasing more than 60 albums spanning a dizzying array of styles from doo-wop to hard rock to jazz fusion.
"There are several great areas within his catalog," says Dweezil Zappa, 37. "I started off in the '70s, because that was the stuff I grew up listening to him write and perform, and I felt he really hit a stride between 1972 and 1979. He was blending rock, jazz, funk, classical all at once, in such a unique way, there was nothing that sounds like his music, and now, it's still ahead of his time and very contemporary."
Bringing his father's songs to life on stage is an emotional experience, Zappa says, both for the audience for himself.
"I have a hard time," he says. "I get a little teary-eyed, and then the neck starts getting blurry."