Dweezil plays tribute to Dad
Younger Zappa puts icon's music on stage
By MARK BROWN - Rocky Mountain News
Published on RockyMountainNews.com - October 16, 2006
With some of his dad's former collaborators (including guitarist Steve Vai) and a bunch of new young musicians, Dweezil Zappa is bringing Frank Zappa's music back to the stage for the first time since the iconoclastic rocker's 1993 death.
Question: How long have you wanted to bring Frank's music back to the stage?
Answer: "It's something I've been thinking about doing for a long time but it required serious studying and altering of my own skills to pull this off. I took two years of solid training study time learning music ... and also changing my whole guitar-playing style. It's kinda like when Tiger Woods changed his golf swing. You're going to have moments when suddenly it wasn't as good as it was before, then it gets to be 10 times better than it was before. It has really paid off. I'm able to do things I never could have thought about doing on guitar before."
Q: Musicians tell me that Frank's music is among the most challenging in all of rock.
A: "That's certainly the case. The people who do attempt it often times don't do it correctly. To me (they fail) unless it's played the way it's written. Frank really was a composer. He used a rock band as his orchestra. He wanted it played a certain way and that's how it's supposed to go. If you're not playing it that way then you're really not playing his music. You don't have people reinterpreting all these other classical composers' work and saying, 'Let me write this new part in here' or 'Let me change the rhythm in this.' I understand why they might try that. But you have to do right by the composer."
Q: How hard was it to find musicians with the skill and vision to do this?
A: "My goal was to find musicians I could work with from the ground up. I didn't wanna put a band together that was a bunch of guys who formerly played with Frank. A lot of people were very cynical in the beginning thinking, 'That's gonna suck.' They thought I'd put a guitar on, play a couple of notes here and there and pretend to be Frank. That's not what this is all about."
Q: Zappa fans are either complete fanatics or think of him as a writer of novelty songs.
A: "That's the misconception he faced and his music continued to face without him being here to defend it. By playing his music as authentically as possible, the music is speaking for him. The music we're playing onstage is the stuff that's most highly representative of his unique style of composing. We're not focusing on the songs that caused that misconception. The casual Frank Zappa listener may only know a few songs. They may know Camarillo Brillo and Dinah-Moe-Hum and Don't Eat The Yellow Snow or Valley Girl, things that might have been on the radio at some point. But this is a guy who made over 70 albums over 30 years. That barely scratches the surface of what he was about."
Q: Tell me about the audience.
A: "I really wanted younger people onstage so younger people in the audience could see 'Oh wow, if I worked really hard I could do that?' When I started (in music) there was still the notion of trying to be the best you could be. That's kinda not what it's about now. Now it's about 'Let's see if we can be fashionable and be around for just the right timing. Let's get instant gratification.' Music is quite disposable. And people's attitude about it is they don't wanna pay for it."
Q: Through YouTube and his legendary 1986 Crossfire appearance, your dad remains an icon for free speech for standing up to the Parents Music Resource Center.
A: "He was always incredibly astute with his observations about things. He was not afraid to speak out. If he didn't go after the PMRC I don't think anybody would have. He was the first one to speak out against that stuff. It was kind of an insane thing. What they were trying to do was the role of parents. Parents should tell kids what to listen to. The government is not responsible to say what you can or cannot hear or can or cannot write about in the way they were proposing. It was pretty ridiculous and Frank had some great quotes at the time. In his address at the Senate hearings he said, 'You're treating this problem like treating dandruff by decapitation.' "