Dweezil Zappa on How Learning Frank Zappa's Songs Was Like "Getting a Lobotomy And Then Training For the Olympics"

Categories: Q&A

Dweezil Zappa is scheduled to perform on Tuesday, February 11, at Celebrity Theatre.
Frank Zappa needs no introduction . . . Or does he?

Considered one the 20th century's greatest modern composers, much of his music, while applauded by critics, wasn't accessible for mainstream audiences. Songs like "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow" and "Valley Girl," a duet with daughter Moon Unit, broke through, but only enough to present Zappa as a novelty act. His passion for music and composition that pushed the boundaries of modern rock by incorporating elements of jazz, rhythm and blues, disco, electronics, and classical, was lost on most ears.

That, however, is changing though a series of Zappa Plays Zappa tours orchestrated by his son Dweezil, who is determined to preserve his dad's legacy while simultaneously introducing it to a new generation of listeners.

Up on the Sun caught up with Zappa at his Los Angeles studio to discuss the creation and goals of Zappa Plays Zappa, what it took to learn the music, the intricacies of playing it live, resurrecting his own musical career, and contemplating growing his own iconic mustache.

When did the concept for Zappa Plays Zappa begin?

It all came from noticing people under the age of 30 didn't really know that much about my dad's music. They might have known his name, might have heard the kid's names [Dweezil and Moon Unit], but the majority of what his music represented was lost on that generation. I thought, in my lifetime I'd like to see that change. I always felt that his music and his contributions to music were under appreciated so I thought it's worth embarking at least on some journey to present the music to new generations to see what this music is like performed live. It makes a really big difference seeing it performed live as opposed to just listening to it.

Perhaps some of it was just misunderstood. Much of Frank's music was progressive and ahead of its time. A lot of it wasn't so accessible for the average listener, so hearing only a record might not have revealed enough.

One of the things is, if you're talking about popular music in general, things that are popular have a lot of exposure. If this music has a lot of exposure it would be easier to understand because you hear it and it becomes ingrained. But, a lot of Frank's music that did get on the radio was misrepresentative of most of his music. So "Valley Girl" and "Don't Eat Yellow Snow" gave people the impression that the only kind of music that Frank made was comedy music, some novelty type of songs. And that wasn't accurate either.

Part of what we do is try to educate the audience by giving a little background on the songs, telling some stories about things. That way, even the people who are familiar with this music a little bit can learn some insights into Frank.

I think it's been a good and successful venture because, for example, the keyboard player in the band is 26. He's been in the band for three years and never heard the music before he saw us play and thought, "Wow, I have to learn how to play this music, and I want to be in this band." That's exactly the kind of thing this project designed for, to inspire younger musicians who want to take it to the furthest lengths to develop their potential as musicians, and have an open mind to what music can be. That is a perfect example of how this works and why it works.

Location Info


Celebrity Theatre

440 N. 32nd St., Phoenix, AZ

Category: Music

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"They might have known his name, might have heard the kid's names (Dweezil and Moon Unit)"

No love for Ahmet the Vomit, eh?

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