The late Frank Zappa has been hailed as a major influence for innumerable musicians going back decades. Not only this, but he is often referred to as the most important and influential composer of his time. And it's for this reason that the tribute act Zappa Plays Zappa was started by Frank's own son, Dweezil, to ensure that his father's legacy isn't lost to history.
"In its simplest form, it's to be the catalyst to a new generation," Dweezil said about the band's course. "I knew it was going to be a big challenge on a number of levels going into it, but it has been rewarding that people recognize the intent."
Frank was interested in all music, according to Dweezil, from sea shanties to Bulgarian women's choirs. His decades-long career gave us almost 100 albums spanning and combining a variety of genres. But with such an enormous collection of music to pull from, how does the group hone in on what they want to bring to their audience?
"It's a challenge, because I take into consideration new audience members who have never experienced the music, and the lifers who know the music; some things that are well known by the fan base, but also some things that are rare," Dweezil said. "Each time we try to make it different. We try to have a more open format so we can change it on a nightly basis or even change it on the fly."
And thanks to technology, sometimes Frank himself even joins the band onstage.
"The way that it's done is not as high tech as one would imagine," Dweezil said. "You need the right kind of video footage and separate audio. We probably have about six or seven songs we can do it with."
And as far as his experience learning his father's music?
"It's been very rewarding just because I've been able to understand the compositions by dissecting them," he said. "The first thing I did was listen to all the records in chronological order. I tried to pinpoint the things I wanted to focus people's attention on. A lot of the elements have been misrepresented over the years. There are amazing classical pieces that are misunderstood because people want to put it in one box."
Photo: Diva Zappa