Episode 192: Dweezil Zappa This week Pat welcomes guitarist extraordinaire Dweezil Zappa to the show to discuss growing up Zappa, cats, fretless guitars, yoga and of course his upcoming album which can be preordered here: http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/dweezilzappa From March 19, 2015
With your host:
Pat welcomes us to the show. We got a very special guest in studio today. It's Dweezil Zappa!
Pat's been a fan of Dweezil since 1986, but Dweezil got big on MTV before then. The gig fell into his lap and he only had it for a short amount of time, but he made the most of it. He was sort of a precursor to Beavis and Butthead with sarcastic commentary between music videos. His sense of humor got him in trouble quite a bit of time. MTV didn't like him messing with the advertisers.
Frank Zappa wasn't a fan of MTV because he felt that the music itself should be the spectacle, not the video. Pat says he can't think of songs without also thinking of the video. Dweezil says it's because music attaches itself to our memories. Now music is very devalued. Dweezil complains about kids not knowing the history of music. Darn kids and their youth.
Today the biggest live acts are DJs. They're making millions for creating a playlist and hitting the play button. Pat remarks that you gotta play and suck for a long time to knock the smart-ass out of you. Musical ignorance, it's all musical ignorance. Now most of the income streams for musicians have dried up. Speaking of income streams, none of Dweezil's music is on iTunes. He has no interest in dealing with iTunes. Even his physical CDs are out of print. No wonder DZ isn't making money, he's got nothing to sell! Dweezil says there's not enough time in the day to deal with it all.
Cataloguing music takes a lot of effort. Pat gets a headache thinking about Frank's catalogue. All those albums.... the horror, the horror. Dweezil notes that analog tapes will degrade in sound from generation to generation, but they will also last the longest. Pat thinks that Dweezil doesn't get out much. Dweezil agrees, he mostly keeps to himself.
Dweezil has a new album coming out thanks to funding from Pledge Music called Via Zamata. He likes Pledge Music because it gives artists the chance to fund their album based on the donations of people who actually want to hear it. Dweezil also gives the people updates and backstage insight into the making of the album. We actually have a ROCK SOLID EXCLUSIVE! We're gonna hear a song from the new album right now. It's a song called "Dragon Master" and it was co-written by Frank. It's an homage to classic heavy metal. Ronnie James Dio's cousin sings lead vocals.
Pat turns the clock back to 1986 with Dweezil's first album Havin' a Bad Day. Young Master Zappa was 16 years old. We hear a song called "Let's Talk About It", produced by Frank and with Dweezil's sister Moon on lead vocals.
The video includes such luminaries as Jane Fonda, Daphne Zuniga, Robert Wagner, Frank, Charlie Sexton, and Don Johnson. Dweezil is actually in the video for Johnson's song "Heartbeat." He plays on the album, but not the actual song. Dweezil brings up Don Johnson's Miami Vice co-star Philip Michael Thomas and his awful music video for his song "Just the Way I Planned It." Behold the majesty of PMT's face superimposed on a pregnant woman's belly:
Dweezil went to Miami to play on Johnson's album and Stevie Ray Vaughan's guitar was still in studio. The strings were so taught that Dweezil couldn't even bend them. Fun fact: Robert Wagner is in all of Dweezil's music videos.
In one video Dweezil wanted Robert to wear the full H.R. Pufnstuf suit. Most of the Krofft Brothers stuff had burned down, but luckily the smelly, nightmare fuel Pufnstuf suit had survived. Dweezil imagined some sort of suit guardian who finally got the call after 30 years to unleash magic onto the world once more. This is the kind of quirky humor one comes to expect from a Zappa.
Pat's idea of growing up in the Zappa household includes homeschooling and sleeping in a treehouse. Dweezil says that wasn't the case, he was private and public schooled. Dweezil left high school because he narced on a cocaine-dealing student and people hated him. Hello, Degrassi storyline idea. Frank's homeschool was called The Beigemont Academy as a play on the conformist private schools. To him, everything bland and milquetoast was beige. Pat wants to know where the name Zappa comes from because he's never heard of anyone else named Zappa. Dweezil says that it's Sicilian.
The Zappa clan traces its roots back to a small Sicilian mountain village. Frank visited once in the early 80s. He described it as "fourth world." Dweezil went a few years ago and it's modern now. He met a bunch of people named Zappa. The village even renamed a street Via Frank Zappa.
1988, Dweezil puts out an album called My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama. Metal was all over the scene at this point. Dweezil was given a guitar first at age 12. He tried learning Frank's stuff, but it was way too hard. He listened to Randy Rhoads and Eddie Van Halen instead, which is also quite difficult to master, but it's what he wanted. Pat feels like he isn't smart enough to listen to Frank's music. Dweezil says it's like having to learn math and diving straight into calculus. But there is a through line to it all. All 80+ albums are connected, you just have to find it.
Pat plays Dweezil's version of "My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama". Steve Smith from Journey on drums. The next album in Dweezil's docket is Confessions from 1991. It features a kiddie Dweezil in what Pat believes is the Zappa Hippie Compound. Dweezil corrects Pat by saying that Frank was firmly anti-Hippie. He was totally anti-drugs, anti-drinking, and anti-smoking too. People assumed Frank was a wild man, but he was stone cold sober. The whole Zappa family is the same way.
Dweezil and Pat don't understand when people get smashed at concerts. They think they're enhancing the experience when most times they aren't. Frank got so much done without resorting to drugs. Sometimes Dweezil doesn't pick up a guitar for months. His kids are just getting into music, although their favorite music is much different than Dweezil's. But enough about that, let's get back to playing music. Off of Confessions, we hear Dweezil's version of "Any Time at All" by The Beatles.
Guests on the album include Steve Lukather, Warren DeMartini, Nuno Bettencourt, Josh Freese, Zakk Wylde, Donny Osmond, and Gary Cherone. Dweezil ran into these guys over the years on the music scene. With his new album he's working with Geoff Emerick who worked as a studio engineer for The Beatles. We listen to another song from the new album Via Zamata called "Truth". Dweezil used a fretless guitar for the song.
Dweezil was also in the video for "Shot in the Dark" by Ozzy Osbourne. And this was lesbian hair-era Ozzy. He was pretty cool. Ozzy came over to the Zappa house and hung out with Frank a few times. Ozzy's favorite Zappa song? "Big Leg Emma." Even though Frank was anti-drinking and drugs and Ozzy was... well, the opposite of that, they got along. Frank always gave people a chance. If he liked you, he liked you. Frank also had a zero-tolerance policy for drinking and drugs on the road. You know who else went over to the Zappa compound? Eddie Van Halen. He came over and gave Dweezil some guitar advice. For Dweezil, it was like meeting God. When Pat and Jimmy Pardo saw Toto at the House of Blues, EVH was smoking on the balcony. He was wearing overalls with no shirt. Pat couldn't speak, he was so starstruck. But he did say hello to Gary Cherone who was there too. Again: Pat said hello to Gary Cherone and not to Eddie Van Halen. *Facepalm*
Who are Dweezil's guitar influences? Unknown guys like Alan Wordsworth, Tim Miller, and Tom Quayle. Dweezil also teaches guitar before shows and at a camp called Dweezilla. He even brings kids on stage at shows and gives them an instrument to play. The man is a regular Mr. Holland.
Bring your daughters to the slaughter, because it's time for another edition of
Pat has a brand new album that he, Kyle, and Dweezil have never heard before. Let's crack it open and listen.
This week's CD is Wrong by Anthony W. Rogers
"Crunch" --- Pat's not feeling it. Dweezil says that you might not get into it on the first listen. Sometimes it takes a few spins to really understand a piece of music. Judging something based on the first ten seconds reminds Dweezil of A&R men. So maybe Dweezil wasn't the right guy to do this bit with. Oh well, we've committed.
"Crunch" --- Pat likes this a lot better.
In addition to his solo career, Dweezil was also in a band with his brother Ahmet Zappa called Z. We hear a few selections from the Z catalogue. First it's "Jesus Clone" from the album Shampoo Horn. Then it's "Rubberband" also from Shampoo Horn. Then we end the trifecta with a cover of "...Baby One More Time" off the Ready to Rumble Soundtrack. Ahmet is definitely the kookier of the two.
The two of them would go on Late Night with Conan back in the day. Ahmet's shenanigans include:
Telling a story about Santa Class anally raping him on Christmas Eve.
Putting on a Kenny Rogers wig--as Kenny Rogers is sitting next to him--and speaking as Kenny Rogers. Then they sang a duet together and Ahmet deliberately sang like a crazy person.
Playing "The Wizard" by Black Sabbath with John Tesh.
Ahmet wouldn't talk unless he had a guitar backing him.
Z broke up when they both got too busy. During the 90s Dweezil felt like playing the guitar was becoming more of a party trick. He got into music production and film scores and didn't get back into playing until Zappa Plays Zappa. Pat saw Z play live and afterwards a drunken fan kept bothering Dweezil and Ahmet about Frank (who had just died). Pat finally told the guy to shut up. Dweezil keeps calm in situations like that, even when people think that Frank is still alive. Yes. Pat plays a song from Dweezil's 2000 album Automatic called "Purple Guitar".
Pat is not an instrumental guy, but he enjoys what Dweezil does. Dweezil isn't big on singing. He sings, but he doesn't concern himself with it as he does playing the guitar. We hear another song from his new album Via Zamata called "Rat Race".
We hear some long snippets from two more songs from the new album. The first is called "Hummin'". The second is called "On Fire", which features Dweezil's wife and kids.
Pat wonders if during the 1980s any metal bands tried to recruit Dweezil. Dweezil says no, but Andy Taylor from Duran Duran asked Dweezil to play in his solo band. It didn't work out in the end. But Dweezil did wind up being in a band called Zappa Plays Zappa. Dweezil and a group of musicians play songs from Frank's catalogue. It came out of his frustration of people not knowing who Frank really was. In Rolling Stone, there was a portrait of Frank smoking a joint. Most people also only consider Frank to be a novelty act because of songs like "Valley Girl" and "Bobby Brown." Dweezil wanted to go out and play Frank's music to get people in the know.
Dweezil didn't want to modernize the songs. He considers them to be like classical music, where you have to keep the traditional sounds alive. Pat recently recorded an episode about Frank Zappa with a fan of the podcast, which will be out soon. The music of Frank Zappa is not encoded in Dweezil's DNA. He is constantly re-learning the songs. Pat plays a song from the Zappa Plays Zappa live album Return of the Son of.... The song is called "Broken Hearts Are for Assholes". Pat asks him what makes a bad show? Dweezil says that based on their type of show, they don't really have bad shows. Unless of course the equipment fails, in which case it's a bad show.
Plugs time. You can go to Dweezil Zappa's website at DweezilZappaWorld.com. His next tour starts in a couple weeks. His new album is coming out in May. You can also find him on Twitter @DweezilZappa, or so he thinks. The man is so laid back that he's practically sleeping. He also hasn't aged a day, the handsome bastard.
Thanks to Dweezil for hanging out. Pat takes us home with a song off the album Go for What You Know. The song is called "Chunga's Whiskers".