The Hippo


May 25, 2020








Dweezil Zappa

Zappa Plays Zappa: Roxy & Elsewhere 40th Anniversary Tour

When: Thursday, Feb. 27, at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Capitol Center for the Arts, 44 S. Main St., Concord
Tickets: $35-$55 (VIP w/ access to sound check) at 
Also: Dweezilla On the Road Guitar Master Class at 3 p.m., $75

Like father, a Mother
Carrying on the musical legacy of Frank Zappa

By Michael Witthaus

 Dweezil Zappa set down the guitar for several years before deciding to bring the music of his father to a new generation of fans. He was briefly an MTV VJ and did a bit of acting. There also was a lot of golf — a 2 handicap made him popular in celebrity tournaments — and he studied audio engineering with plans to be a producer. 

Then he started mentioning Frank Zappa to his thirtysomething friends, and things changed.
Many didn’t know the name, and those who did only recalled “Stinkfoot,” “Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow” or another novelty song. 
“I was feeling, that’s just not right,” said Zappa recently from his Southern California home. “There needs to be something for a younger generation to understand and appreciate his contributions to music.”
Zappa Plays Zappa was born in 2004; featuring Dweezil and former Mothers of Invention members, it was initially planned as a one-off. 
“But it grew into an annual thing,” said Zappa, and 10 years on, “it has gotten to a point now where people have seen us more than they have seen Frank. There’s a strange thing … for some people, there is Frank’s version and our version, and they are happy to have both. Even though our goal is to play it the same as Frank.”
The current tour features 1974’s Roxy & Elsewhere performed from start to finish. It’s a nod to the two-disc live set’s 40th anniversary and a chance to showcase what Dweezil thinks is his father’s most representative work. 
“It’s such a great variety of compositions and styles — there’s rock, jazz, avant garde, a bit of everything. On top of that … it’s probably the grooviest and funkiest record in his whole catalog.”
It’s also incredibly complex music, and Dweezil spent most of a year committing it to memory — literally, since he can’t read music. 
“I learn everything by ear [and] upload it into my player in my brain,” said Zappa. Some songs proved especially challenging. “‘Be Bop Tango’ was never meant to be played on guitar — it’s so intervallic, with crazy rhythms. … I had to use extra fingers on my right hand for picking just to get to the note, because there is not enough time to get the pick there.”
Before the Feb. 27 Concord show, Zappa will conduct a stripped down, guitar-only version of his Dweezilla summer music camp. The 2-hour session is appropriate for both seasoned and novice players. 
“There are a couple of universal themes that can work for anybody at any skill level,” explained Zappa. “It’s fun for me to be able to open up some doors for people, because the way most people learn, you end up getting in a rut. There are certain pitfalls that I try to circumvent, to show people a different approach to get back to being fun and creative.”
Finally, there’s the matter of his first name – a rather tiresome question he’d prefer not to hear any more. But he isn’t the first artist forced to set people straight about a faulty Wikipedia page. 
“It’s been twisted that my name is not legal,” he patiently explained.  But “Dweezil” was right there on his birth certificate — followed by “Ian Donald Calvin Euclid Zappa“ — all to satisfy a straight-laced hospital official who didn’t like the name any more than the one Zappa gave his first-born child, daughter Moon Unit. 
“They wouldn’t let Frank in to see me unless he offered some others,” Dweezil said. He learned about his four middle names at age 5. “I said ‘I hate those!’ [and] they were removed. Occasionally, people think they are so clever when they come up and say, ‘Hey, what’s going on, Ian?’ I say, uh … that’s not my name.”  
As seen in the February 20, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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