Eugene Weekly : Music : 11.25.09

Zappa On Zappa
Dweezil brings Frank’s iconic music to Eugene
by Vanessa Salvia

If you’ve only heard Frank Zappa’s funny songs — like “Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow” or “Valley Girl” — or if you’ve heard only a handful of his more than 80 recorded works, then you really don’t know Frank Zappa. Even students of Zappa’s music, like his eldest son Dweezil Zappa, don’t know it all. For the past four years, Dweezil has toured as Zappa Plays Zappa, performing selected pieces of his father’s music. When Dweezil and his band visit Eugene, they will play several new songs that they haven’t played on a previous tour. Eugene Weekly spoke with Zappa for the scoop.

Tell me what you will be playing on this tour. 

Over the last four years we’ve learned about 100 different songs. A lot of the stuff is from classic fan favorite periods, late ’60s through the late ’70s. We have played multiple cuts from certain albums like Apostrophe and Roxy & Elsewhere, but in general, we try to give audiences a broad overview of the music. It was a goal to learn some of the difficult music, the stuff with lots of crazy time signatures and polyrhythms. 

You’ve shown that Frank’s music is appealing to a wide variety of fans. Can you put into words why you think this is?

When you see this kind of music performed live, it stands out in stark relief compared to other things that are out there. Most stuff that people are exposed to that is called music these days is very predictable on so many levels, whereas Frank’s music is built on twists and turns, especially in the live setting. You don’t know where it’s going, even if you’re playing it. It can change [your] perspective of what’s possible with music. That’s really what a lot of exposure to Frank’s music does to people — they start to get a sense of, “Oh, you really could be more creative and take some more risks.”

How did you bridge the gap between your approaches to music and what Frank was doing?

The technical aspect of what was required of Frank’s music was the biggest challenge, as well as some mental aspects … to create ideas on the spot with more fluidity and that have more contrasting elements. My father taught himself everything he needed to know. He never went to school to do it, and that’s a large reason why his music has no boundaries: because there was no one to tell him not to do it. The next project I do will be very different than what I’ve done in the past. Based on my experiences of the last four years, I have so much more available to me in terms of musical knowledge and other technical knowledge, so it will all come together in a way that I don’t really know yet. I look forward to that challenge.

Knowing you had a music career, did your father ever give you any advice?

The best advice he ever gave me is don’t be an asshole, unless you’re getting paid a lot of money to be an asshole. Which probably means I’m not making enough money.

Dweezil Zappa Plays Zappa. 8 pm Saturday, Nov. 28. McDonald Theatre. $35-$49.50, $75 VIP tix.


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