EU Talks to Dweezil About Playing Zappa

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When Dweezil Zappa was 6 years old, his late father, the legendary Frank Zappa, released an album that his son, after four decades, still considers to be from the future. One Size Fits All was released in 1975 as the final album from Zappa and the Mothers of Invention.  Zappa Plays Zappa will recreate the album in its entirety in recognition of its 40th anniversary.

“One Size Fits All is one my favorite records for a number of reasons. The material on the record has incredible arrangements and instrumentation. Besides the complexity of the arrangement, the song also allows for beautiful improvisation. It is a hallmark of my father’s writing style,” says Dweezil.

Dweezil will also offer a chance for musicians to learn the material. Dweezilla On The Road: Dweezil Zappa Guitar Masterclass teaches simple techniques designed to eliminate the boundaries that confine musical creativity. “Anyone who has ever played the guitar has the same set of circumstances before them. I try to simplify that process and give them tools that make it more fun. They’re able to make connections so they can just make music instead of worrying about memorizing scales,” says Dweezil.

ZPZ_Press_Photo_1_Carl_King resizeZappa Plays Zappa was conceptualized by Dweezil as a tribute to the legacy of Frank Zappa and insurance that the new generations of fans will appreciate the depth of his father’s music. “When my father passed, there was sort of a trend that happened where people just sort of relegated him as a novelty artist and they didn’t have a full appreciation for what his musical contributions were,” says Dweezil. “For this music to carry on and for people to really get it, it needs to be played live, and people need to be exposed to a broader range of it.”

Growing up in the Zappa household was a liberating childhood experience. Freedom of expression was encouraged, and no words were off limits. “It’s different than what people probably imagine. When you grow up with what’s normal in your house, there’s really no reason to think this is totally crazy,” he says. “What I saw was my dad had a job that he loved and he was really good at it. The lesson I got from everything is if you’re going to be working for a living, you might as well do something that you like.”

Dweezil performed and recorded with his father as a young teenager. At 12, he made his first onstage appearance with his father’s band and recorded his first single, ‘My Mother Is A Space Cadet.’ Still, he played baseball and, like many kids his age, he admired guitarists like Eddie Van Halen and Randy Rhoads. “There was a very distinct point that I said, ‘Music is going to be cooler than Little League.’ That was the night when Eddie Van Halen called the house and decided that he wanted to come over. He came over and was playing the guitar. My dad played and I got to play a little bit. I had a baseball game the next morning but this guitar jam session thing ended at 2 or 3 in the morning and my game was at 8. It was that night that I said, ‘That’s it. I’m switching to guitar.’”

Dweezil is an accomplished musician in his own right. He won a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Performance for the Zappa classic ‘Peaches En Regalia’ and was nominated for Best Instrumental Performance for ‘The Deathless Horsie.’

Studying his father’s material was a learning experience as vast as the catalog. “It was like going to University to learn this stuff. I studied the music for two years before I even put the band together. When we did the first tour, we rehearsed for three months before we played a single show and that was only to learn about 25 songs.”

Like his father, Dweezil requires an unparalleled level of musicianship to navigate the balance between the structured and improvisational elements demanded by Zappa’s music. He is careful in his selection of the torch bearers given the awesome responsibility of delivering his father’s legacy to the future. “My dad’s music is more akin to classical music than anything else because it has very structured parts that are written to be played a very specific way,” he says. “That’s the big challenge to find young musicians with enough depth and background in their own abilities to pull this stuff off.”

If you’d like to step up and give it a try, check out the masterclass before the show.

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