Zappa lecture 23 April 1975
23 April 1975
v 1.0: May 24th 2006 transcription by Bonny Ploeg
v 1.1: May 25th 2006 added italics, edited lines, changed font, changed font size
v 1.2: May 25th corrected some errors and filled in blanks, million thanks to Studebaker
On this page,
you will find the full text of a lecture given by Frank Zappa, George Duke
and Captain Beefheart, in Syracuse on 23 April 1975. It is opened by a short
word from the host, one Mr. Krantz. This part I deliberately omitted in the
Also deliberately omitted
are some phrases that are typical for speech, but not for writing. These are
phrases like "like", "you know", "you see", and sentences that are restarted.
They are available on the audio version. Also, I decided to let out the occasional
messing with the microphones at the question part.An
audio version of this lecture can be found at http://www.beefheart.com/zigzag/articles/lecture.htm.
1 Introduction by Frank Zappa
2 Zappa and music
3 Zappa on record producing
4 The story of 200 Motels
5 Lumpy Gravy fight between Capitol and Verve
6 Multi-instrumentalists and rehearsing
7 Problems with producing new groups
8 Zappa's inspiration
9 Beefheart's increasing commercialism
10 Music interests and recordings
11 Conducting the band
13 Camarillo Brillo
14 Plans for the future
15 Roxy album
16 Roxy movie
17 Beefheart and the Mothers
18 Silly interviewer questions
19 David Walley biography
20 John Cage and aleatoric music
21 Apostrophe (') cost, timewise and budgetwise
22 Guitarist on George Duke's Feel album
23 Pre-Freak-Out recordings
24 George Duke recordings and bio
25 6 hour movie and 200 Motels editing process
26 The best way to get going in the music industry
27 The Underwoods
28 Beefheart/Zappa combination, quadrophonic recordings
29 Beefheart's inspiration for Trout Mask Replica
30 Jack Bruce
31 Appearing "courtesy"
32 Wild Man Fisher
33 Panning effect at the War Memorial concert
34 The lady on the Roxy cover
35 Alice Cooper and helping prosperity
36 John Lennon collaboration
37 Cover design
38 Sound during performance, PA system
39 Cheepniz adlib and stealing hubcaps
40 Touring, PA and rehearsing
42 Political role for music
43 Roy Estrada and Ray Collins
44 Release problems with Uncle Meat
45 The occult
46 The Zappa family / We're Only In It For The Money
47 Zappa and quitting
48 Drazy Hoops
51 The Rainbow accident
52 Music Zappa listens toAt this point, there's a break in the tape.
53 Mud Shark
54 Zuben Metha collaboration and the lack of popularity of classical music
55 Orchestral Zappa scores
56 Poodle dogs and zircon encrusted tweezers
57 Unions and Suzy Creamcheese
58 Lord Buckley
59 The new album (One Size Fits All)
60 Last night's performance
61 Explanation of 200 Motels
62 College education
63 Changing the order of songs at performances
64 Eric Clapton playing on We're Only In It For The Money
65 Music education
66 George on synthesizers
67 Guitar synthesizer
68 Waiting for Inspiration
69 Artist responsibility
70 Bored with playing / Playing War Memorial and other halls with bad acoustics
72 Vocal effects on Montana
Lecture by Frank Zappa, George
Duke, Captain Beefheart transcription
Wednesday 23 April 1975 Gifford Auditorium,
Syracuse on making music,
composing and arranging films, producing...
Hello Boys and Girls, alright can you turn this up because I don't talk very
loud, besides that we did a thing on stage the other night with a pillow,
and we dismantled this pillow and large quantities of feathers were strewn about
in the air and they remained in circulation for approximately two hours
and a number of them have settled in my lung... so... I don't want you
feel sorry for me, but I'm hurten folks... So Mr Krantz, where's the coffee?
Krantz: "It's coming
in about two seconds, OK?"
FZ "Oh OK, Well I have this
letter here, I'll read to you the letter that I received about this event so
you can see where it's all at, OK? It says:
"I am in receipt of your letter of March
28th 1975 regarding Frank Zappa: Mr Zappa will be available to speak to the
students from 12 noon to 2 PM Wednesday April 23 1975 in Gifford Auditorium;
he'll be prepared to speak on the following subjects: his music and how
he creates it; record producing, composing, arranging, his experiences filmmaking...
I will underline the part "He will be
prepared to speak on the following subjects... Now this... He will not really
be prepared to speak on those subjects because he never does this kind
of thing... but luckily I have the letter here which has the list which
will remind me of the things that I am supposed to talk about.
I'll begin with subject number one: His music and how He creates it....
When I first met Frank and he was working
on his music...
It all started a long time ago...
When I was little, my family was really poor, not only that, they didn't
like music too much, see, so... I didn't really get into contact with
anything that resembled musical expression until I was about 14 or 15 years
old, which is when I got to hear some of it on the radio. I remember riding
around in a car and by accident while somebody was turning the station,
we came across some oddball station out in Chino, California that was playing
a record called "I" by the Velvets.
Has anybody ever heard "I", by the Velvets?
Of course you haven't! It was a long time ago!
They were playing "I" by the Velvets and
I said "What was that?" And my father says: "No, turn it away! Don't listen
to that!" And then that gave me the first inkling that there was something
interesting about to happen in the world, then about a week later I heard,
I went looking for that same radio station where the weird music was coming
out of, and I mashed to hear another record called "Riot in Cellblock
Number 9," by the Robins, then proceeded to go to a place that actually
sold records, I'd never been to a record store before, I thought that was a
good place to start and went in there, and in those days you could take
a record into the little room and listen to it before you bought it, so I snatched
up "Work with me Annie" and two or three other... A Joe Houston record, and
I listened to it and I was hooked!
There was one problem, I didn't have a
record player. It took me a year to convince my parents that they should purchase
a record player. When they finally got one,it was... I'll
describe it to you, it looked like this:... And it had little fake rod
iron legs this big, I believe it was a Decca, and it had these little legs at
the bottom, so it elevated it off the table about that much cause the
speaker was in the bottom. It had one big needle, Osmium tip job... remember
the Osium tip? It was capable of the playing of 78rpm records which they provided
us with one free record with the record player, the name of the song
was "The Little Shoemaker" and my mother used to play that while she was ironing,
it was the only record that she liked. And they were very opposed to any involvement
to music that I might be interested in you know, that stuff, it was not
a good thing for an Italian sort of a person to be doing when you could probably
make a better living if you went into science, or engineering or something
intelligent. So when I wanted to listen to music I had to unplug the
record player from near the ironing board and take it into the bedroom and listen
to other things. Well, that got me working on music, and from listening
to it for about two years, I decided I would start writing it, and I started
writing when I was about 14, and I'm still writing today, I'm 34... And that
takes care of Topic Number One.
producing, OK what is record producing?
Well folks, if you're an artist, that
is the person who has signed a contract with the record company, chances are
that, I would say 9 out of 10 times, you do not know how to operate the
equipment that is in a recording studio. And what a producer ideally
should do, is run the interference between you and the engineer, you being the
person who's making the music, and the engineer being the person
who pays strict attention to the operation of the machines involved. The
producer's job is to make decisions like "How loud should the drums be in
the mix?" "Should you put echo on the voice" and things like that. He's
also the person who has to watch the budget of the recording session because
he's the one who knows that if you're budgeted to spend $25000 on an
album which is about an average figure they spend these days, that
if you're spending more than 3 or 4 days on recording sessions, that you're
gonna be in trouble by the time you start mixing. and he has to keep
track of details like that. If he's a producer who's employed by a record company,
he has to provide a financial report to that record company, do a bunch
of grubby paperwork and so on and so forth , and he's also entrusted
with the job of sort of babysitting a group. If you've got a group that is a
brand new group, and are going to the studio for the first time, a lot
of times they have mysterious ideas about what a record contract is, what a
recording studio is, and what they're supposed to do once they get in
there. And the producer's job is to keep them sane during the time that
they're actually making the record, because, having produced some other first-time
groups myself, it's very difficult, you have to, I mean it's worthy of
a degree in psychology if you can get through with a session with a new
group and the group is still together by the time they made their first record.
Another thing that a record producer will
do, if he's an independent, he may be brought into completely package a group
or work on a concept album with a group... say who's a guy that might do
that right now... who's that guy that produces Carly Simon that has the
big teeth? Yeah Richard Perry. He's one of that kind of guy. He gets a
lot of money to go in and take an artist, probably an established artist,
and work up a whole concept around that artist, and usually to do this
he's given somewhat unlimited funds by a record company. So it's not too hard
when you get to that (...) record production.
topic: Composing and arranging, I don't know what to say about composing and
arranging, because I don't know whether I'm talking to music students
or people who just came down here to say hello, or, you know, because
you're getting into technical... Well I tell you What I'd rather do about composing
and arranging, is I'll accept questions on that and answer individual
things there. and move on to experience as a filmmaker and producer of soundtracks.
This is the story of producing 200
Motels. I'd been working on the music for this film for about 5 years, I've
been writing it while we were
travelling around, and I used to take bundles of music paper in my suitcase
and when we get into a hotel after a concert I would go back and I would
write music 'cause there was nothing to do. and those were the days. Well
I collected about 2 or 300 pages of orchestra manuscript from that 5 year period.
And I was looking for some sort of an event that would give me a chance
to hear the music played and to visualise the story line that I thought was
going along with the music, and so after some intense negotiations we
convinced United Artists to put up the money to do the first feature
length video tape motion picture. Total budget of the film was $679,000, nobody
had ever made a feature length video production before. The process was
unusual in that we were doing it in England and their video system is different
than what we have in the United States. They use a 625 line system, I don't
know whether that means anything to you. But it's a higher resolition
system and the way in which the colour is printed onto the tape differs from
the way that the colour is printed on the tape here. And this difference
makes it possible to extract the three primary colours one at a time.
And by coupling that with the old technicolor triple negative process to make
a print from a video tape that has better colour than what you would
get making a transfer off an American video tape. Get the picture? OK So after
having them agree that they were going to invest this amount of money to
put something on the screen that nobody had thought of trying before
the next problem was keeping them out of the way while we worked on it. Because
every time somebody has money invested in a film there's always the temptation
that they want to come down there and watch you spend it. and we were
very fortunate in having some people at United Artists who were smart enough
to stay home while we were working on the movie so we didn't have too
much interference. The only problems we had working on the film were these
factors. There was an exact shooting schedule above which we could not *proceed*
more than one minute. Because the costs of shooting with about 150 people
on the stage is exorbitant, so the film we shot in exactly 7 8-hour days. that's
to the minute including two tea-breaks per day. Because when you work in
England, it is not funny. They do take tea-breaks. The world stops, and
a lady with a green *smock* comes around with a wagon and there's... we were
on stage A, which was the same stage where they shot the special effects
for 2001, and we had 120 people in the orchestra, and about 30
other actors, and dancers, and assorted what-nots, and the minute tea-break
came, all 150 people had to get tea, and you had 15 minutes to do it.
So that meant that although the tea-break would commence at time, it was very
difficult to get everybody back in their place at the end of 15 minutes.
So that our little tea-breaks tended to drag over, and the accumulative
effect of tea-breaks throughout the week probably cost us 4 to 5 hours of
production time. So watch out for that if you ever work in England.
And the other thing is, because I was
crazy, and continue to be crazy about certain things in production, I insisted
that the orchestra actually be performing on screen instead of pretending
to play on a pre-recorded track. This gave me the chance to get absolute
synchronisation on film. I hate to see a film where the sync is funny. Where
the mouth doesn't move exactly right, or where somebody's supposed to
be playing an instrument and their fingers aren't doing what they're supposed
to do. That bothers me, and so we had the orchestra actually playing. Now this
is something that hasn't been done in a film since about 1930, in a musical,
and I sure did find out why the hard way, so if you have a chance to do a
musical, pre-record the tracks. See... what else can I tell you about film
productions... OK then after we shut the thing, it was 110 hours, that's
11 ten-hour days, of video-tape edit, after which it was transferred to film,
and then a total of 3 months in post-production, that includes dubbing
in sound effects, shortening the total thing from 2 hours and 20 minutes
to its eventual running time of about 108 and the final post-dubbing process
where you combine all the music tracks the dialog tracks and the sound
effect tracks, put it all together. Then your only problem if you're the person
who's responsible for putting the film together, is going through all the
*judgery* of trying to deal with the people at the film company who are
going to promote it and how they're going to advertise it. We did have a lot
of trouble in this regard with 200 Motels. You see right next-door
to us, at the sound stage where we were working on 200 motels, they were
filming Fiddler On The Roof. Now Fiddler On The Roof cost about
22 million dollars, so they wanted to get their money back in a hurry,
and when our little cheap movie came out the same time as that, we were having
a lot of difficulty getting them to pay attention to it, so they tried
to rely on certain procedures that had been standard in the industry for
about 30 years, they would send out *mimeo..graph* notices to newspapers saying
that "Rock Star Frank Zappa will be arriving at the airport at such and
such a time, we're sure you're going to want to go down there and meet him"
this kind of stuff, really old-time Hollywood
swill you know, and we had a lot of trouble convincing them to make the
right kind of commercials and put up the right kind of print advertising
for the thing.
But the biggest problem that you're
ever going to encounter if you work on a film is getting paid for it later.
The danger there is that major film companies who are frequently willing
to put up investment money for new film projects are never willing to give you
an accurate accounting of what the film did when it's gone into distribution.
They have so many ways of charging things against that film's account
that it's absolutely amazing, you'll wind up spending the latter part of your
life with accountants and lawyers trying to decipher what really happened
when the thing went into the theatre. As far as 200 Motels
goes, we still have not received an accounting
and the thing was done in 1971 I believe, still not received an accounting
of whether it went into a profit situation or... anything, they just lose
contact with you after the first 3 months that the film is in running,
and anything you want to find out after that has all got to go through legal
channels. And so, now that I've blabbed for about 15 minutes, let's have
questions and answers, and then turn it over to Mr Krantz!
Mr Zappa, could you explain the fight that went on between Verve and Capitol
Records for Lumpy Gravy?
FZ Sure. It works like this. And now,
I got to explain to you how Lumpy Gravy was made in the first place.
In 1966, a guy who was staff
producer for Capitol Records named Nick Benay came to me, and he said: "How
would you like to do some music with an orchestra?" and I said: "An Orchestra?
Why that would be wonderful!" He says: "Yeah, 40 pieces!' I said 'Wow, what
a wonderful large orchestra!' It just so happened, though, that time I was under
contract to Verve, and so the question came up was I under contract as
a composer and conductor? and I said: "No, I was signed as a rock n roll musician
who is a singer in a group. And he presumed, and I thought that he would
have checked it with his legal department, that it would be OK to go
ahead and produce such a record not there wouldn't be any problems about it,
so I went ahead and did it, and the next thing we knew there were problems
about it, so they argued for 13 months, it took from the time that the album
was done, to the time it came out was 13 months, they finally settled it
by Verve purchasing it outright from Capitol.
I have a couple of questions dealing with the more technical aspects of the
FZ: I can tell from your baret...
Q Thank you. The first one deals with
doubling on instruments, that's something I tried to do with some success for
several years, but eventually the technical problems involved just keeping
up the contrasting techniques on all the instruments, forced me to choose
one instrument you know to be my main thing, and I just pick up some of the
others occasionally, and I know that you yourself have done some
doubling, and you have worked with Ian Underwood who I was very inspired by
for quite a while, and I was wondering how someone goes about doing that.
FZ Doing what?
Q Playing I'd say, 7 or 8 instruments
with a fair degree of proficiency.
FZ What happens in Los Angeles studios
is a lot of the woodwind players double an enormous quantity of instruments,
you know, and they keep it going by practising all of them all the time
and by being employed all the time and by being forced to use that skill.
There are maybe 20 or 30 guys in the LA studio business that play more 10 instruments
and play them well, and read good and anything.
Q It generally works then with wind
FZ Well there's some brass players who
double, but mostly it's the wind players that double. George doubles a vast
amount of keyboard instruments, but... usually find that... well There's
a new breed of keyboard players coming up today that knows a lot about
synthesizers... Sometimes it's hard for a person who has just straight classical
piano chops to make the concept switch from a normal keyboard to operating
knobs and dials and stuff. But usually you find that the doubling instruments
are going to be people who play wind, people who play percussion and people
who play keyboards.
Q So it's generally one class of instruments,
rather than you know say playing one or two wind instruments, and a keyboard
instrument and something like
FZ I tell you about a guy I know
that was working with blood, sweat and tears... I can't remember who he's working
with now, who's that drummer? He's working with Billy Cobham now, His
name was Tom Malone, and he was in my group at one time, he has
the weirdest assortment of doubles I have ever heard of. Piccolo trumpet, tuba,
tenor saxophone, alto flute, electric bass, and normal trumpet. So if
you stop and think what you have to do embouchure-wise to switch from playing
a tuba to an alto flute to a piccolo trumpet and he was good on all those
instruments, he was just an absolute freak.
Q So it's not really done that often
in other words...
FZ No it's not.
Q And my second question is about rehearsal
techniques, putting a group together like... In the past, you've worked with
people who had limited amount of experience
with the kind of music you were trying to do. I was wondering how you exposed
them to some of the complicated arrangements
or rhythms you were working with, and any special ways you rehearsed the group.
FZ I'd say the normal procedure for rehearsal
involves memory drill. You just keep doing it over and over again. If you
don't understand it the first time, yu keep doing it just like a parrot until
you learn it, and then sometimes you understand it, and sometimes you
don't understand it but the net result is that you learn it.,you know. I stopped
worrying long ago about whether or not the people who were in the band
actually understand what they're playing. As a matter of fact there were
times when I thought they did and I was absolutely wrong, so I guess it doesn't
matter so long as they learn it.
Frank, could I have some specific examples about the problems you have in
dealing with producing a new group, like you
mentioned, psychological hassles or
FZ OK Here's what happened: you get a
group in, and everybody in the group is... they're all hot to tropic because
they just got a record contract and immediately they think: "Aha, stardom..."
And they're already spending their royalties before they've even sold
a record you know, and they're talking about what car they're going to get,
where they're gonna move, and the clothes they're gonna get, wait till
we go to England, you know, and all that kind of all that stuff, that sort of
thing happening, it's like visions of sugar plums dancing in their head,
and then they come into the studio, and the producer's gotta be the guy
who says "OK the session has just started, now let's make a record", you know.
And so Once they managed to lay down their first track and they listen
to it back in the console room, and the drummer will say: "I can't hear
enough drums!" And the singer will say "I can't hear my voice", and the guitar
player says "Turn me up!" and the bass player says "Where's the bass?"
you know, and they go on like that, and then you have to say "Well you know,
it's just the play-back, it's not the final mix! Just go back out there!"
and it's like that, you know. To the *inth* degree.
Q Does it seem to be a real bring-down
when they find out they have maybe one tenth of the artistic control they thought
they might have when they signed?
FZ What do you mean by Artistic Control?
Q Well you know, like they do all their
songs, they think of their best songs, and they think they're really great,
then you say "Well this
isn't going to sell, or this song is too long, it's going to be cut two minutes,
cause it don't make a good single, or... whatever the hell...
FZ Well the matter of artistic control
is something that's usually specified in their contract you know, it just depends
on what kind of deal they've made. There are some groups who do not generate
any of their own material. There are some groups who can play good and
sing good and wind up doing material that is brought to them either by the producer
or by the publisher or something like that. And there are various degrees
of artistic control, up to and including control over the artwork on
the cover, it just depends on what their deal is at the time they sign. But
George can expound on that, why don't you tell 'em about your record
George Duke: You don't
want to hear about it...
FZ Tell em, really.
GD: Well, if you really want
to hear about it, I'll tell you, it's a... My contract is with a small company
and I have complete artistic control as far as the music goes, but that's
it. As far as the contractual obligations with the company ** that's
about as far as it goes. The worst they can do whatever they want with the cover,
I have nothing to do, nothing to say about it, they can put whoever they
want out, they can get any artist to do it. I don't even have to see it.
They can put it out, nothing about it.
FZ How did that happen?
GD Wel it wasn't in the contract.
You see when I went to Mutt... no it's just something that I over-looked I guess,
I didn't think it was that important, and I guess my lawyer over-looked
it too, because it wasn't in there.
I was wondering if you could, this concerns your music, if you could just
give a general summary of what inspired you
to create the music that you create, you know, how it differs...
FZ A general summary?!
Q: You know, what inspired to, you
know... get into it...
FZ: Well if I had to bring it down to
a general summary I would say that the music that I do is made from things that
have either happened to me or that I have seen happening to other
people that I think are worthy of commemoration... An example would be
in the Fillmore East album the business about the girl who won't take
her pants off unless the guy sings his hit single. That's a true story.
In fact, a lot of the things are true stories. That actually happened to Howard,
when he was in the Turtles, and when he first told me abuot it I thought
it was pretty funny. and so I wrote this piece for Mark and Howard so
they could re-live their past experience night after night for a larger audience.
There are other things that I've done,
that relate to personal matters that are so obscure that couldn't even be
deciphered. But they still provide the idea for a song.
Yeah I have a question for Captain Beefheart, are you there?
FZ What a silly question.
CB Take it with you when you're cold,
Q I was just wondering why in relation
to your past albums, your latest one is so much more commercial.
FZ Tell 'em about your record contract,
CB I signed with a *gatling* pin,
with no conscience.
I went into Mercury Records, and I took
the guy's shoe off, and pulled his sock off, and he didn't have little ways.
But he was fast without them. So they took Winged Eel off the album, the
drummer, anything, ran me out of town, said that they would do the album
when I got back, and they had, but I hadn't gotten back.
FZ Any more questions?
This is a... Here I am...
FZ How's it going?
Q This is a question for you: is the
music that you first put on record the music to which you were aspiring at the
time, or would you have
rather done a different kind of music like the orchestral stuff you did in 200
Motels like Varese kind
FZ Well I have a wide range in musical
interest, and I'm interested in all those things at the same time, but the music
that comes on a record is usually the direct product of the people that are
available to play in the band at that time. Like for instance, all the
early albums would have sounded completely different even if I would have done
the same song, the same vocals and everything else, if I would have had
different people playing the instruments. Because what I was asking of
them instrumentally was so weird for that day and age, that I don't think that
it came off as good as it should have. But I would have been just happy
writing for an orchestra and having it played, but nobody wanted to give me
an orchestra until Lumpy Gravy, see, cause orchestras happen to
cost a lot of money.
Q: OK Thank you.
Well we were talking about your orchestration, I noticed during your concerts
you lead your band, like an orchestra
leader would. you know. Why do you do that? How come you have such total
type control over your band?
FZ Well when I give a hand signal, the
net result is to keep everybody together. I don't know how much experience you
have on a stage, and know what the difference is in sound on the stage as
opposed to what's in the audience, but there are times where you can't
tell what is going on on stage, you can't hear the drums, which means you can't
hear the beat. You can't hear the vocal, because the monitor is not as
loud as the speakers that are going out over the front, and it's a combination
of guess work and you know, radar that gets you through a show. And when I'm
giving you a cue, you know a visual representation of "this is the down-beat",
then it helps to keep everyone together under those circumstances. And there
are other times, if you want to put an accellerando ritardando into a piece
of music, the only way that you can keep the group together is by indicating
how the rate at which the music is speeding up or slowing down, so that's why
I conduct it. And then I have other hand signals which are used to make
punctuation and sound effects. For instance if I go like this, it means
"Get ready", and I go like that everybody goes "Grunt" and hits a low note,
and that's a cut-off, which will stop the band and leaves a soloist playing
by himself, or if I stick my hand out like that and reach around, that
means: Get ready, and then I go like this, and I pull, that means: figure out
any note that you like and play any note that you want, and increase
the volume as I go like this. That result is different every time you do it,
but it's a texture, you know it's a textural kind of a thing, you can
see how that would contrast against a straight beat, the beat is going
on like this and you suddenly go whoooOOoo like that, you know, just something
to stick in there to make your eyebrows go up and down. Then there's
this signal, I go like this, that means "Get Ready" then I go Phweet! like that
and then everybody is supposed to play the highest note that they have
on their instrument. and there's variations on that, there's one that goes Toot!
a little one, then there's a big one, then there's one that goes Pweeeet Toot!
I love your shirt!
FZ You like my shirt? Why, because it
looks like your shirt?
Q I understand that you score all of
your music precisely... that's the lead in... Do you ever do any improvisation?
FZ Of course!
Q On stage?
FZ Yeah, on stage, yeah. See because you
write something out or that you plan events doesn't mean that 100% of everything
you do is plan. You can plan a structure, You can plan the front, the back,
and one piece in the middle and leave all the rest of it to chance.
Eventually can you bring the microphone
down here and get the girl who's squirming in the front?
Could you tell us what inspired you to do Camarillo Brillo, the song?
FZ Camarillo Brillo, well, There's
a certain kind of girl in California they have em in some places in New York
too... easy there...
It's like cartoon here, that goes Hinnnnnn... like that, you know this kind
of girls? Yeah well, I always thought that those kind of girls needed
to be commemorated you know, there's a certain way... because the way pop culture
is constructed, the way dress fads come and go, and hair styles come and
go, and so forth... If you don't make a note of it while it's going by,
then it will be lost to the ages. And a hundred years from now, somebody will
get that record and say: Hmm... Camarillo Brillo, what does that mean?
But you know, see.. Hey you got the microphone!
I really love this, this is beautiful, but I wanna know your plans for the
FZ: Well you see this? That's one of my
plans for the future.
Q No really.
FZ That's it. I'm gonna grow this...
know what I mean?
FZ You don't?
FZ I'll tell you later.
FZ Yeah, so it's a deal.
I have a lot of respect for all your albums, even including Over-Nite
Sensation and Apostrophe ('), but I'm kinda lost
at the Roxy, and was wondering what you think of Roxy.
FZ Well, I like it, or I wouldn't have
put it out.
Q Do you think it's as good as some
of the other stuff you did?
Q I have one more question: Who do you
enjoy listen to most? What group?
FZ I don't listen to pop music.
Can you tell us if anything is going on in your life at the Roxy movie.
FZ I wish there was... The status of that
film is this: I spent about 30 or 40000 dollars,trying to get the thing on film,
and I got it on film, and there's some things that happened down there
that are absolutely fabulous. However, they're too weird to show on television,
and I don't really think there's really a market in the theatres for a straight
concert film like that, you know, so right now, this thing on my shelf
being an expensive piece of home movie... Maybe one day when TV looses
up a little bit we'll be able to show the lovely Brenda, doing her... That a
real nice piece of film, that Brenda.
Uhmm Frank? Over here! I was wondering how you and Don got together to be
in the same band, that was a surprise.
FZ Why don't you ask Don?
Q Don, could you tell me how you got
together with Frank in the Mothers last night... please?
Q Please, please...
FZ Oh come on, tell 'em Don...
CB Well, I just came down.
Q: Here or there?
CB Here AND there, and there and here,
and here... Who asked me that question?
Hey Frank, it's about time, I wanna ask you a little different sort of question,
FZ Yeah I'm ready.
Q It's about the press and stuff like
that, like you're reading a lot of weird things about yourself, and stuff, but
there was one article
that came out in something like Circus
or something, this really weird sorta guy interviewed you about
what you wore, how did you handle that?
FZ Well you see, it's hard for me to assume
the responsibility for the skill and interest of the people who write about
me. You know, people come to me, and they say "I want to do an interview,"
and I say "Go ahead", you know. Then they ask me questions and I just take my
chances with the questions that they ask me, and if they're stupid, that's my
tough luck, and if they're intelligent, that's also my tough luck. Fortunately
I don't run into that very often. Most of the people that I talk with
from the world of the printed page, they're not too suave. First of all, they're
not good writers. Second of all, they're not good interviewers. Third
of all, they're doing it because it's a job. So, I'm not trying to make their
lives miserable, it's their job. They come out and talk to me, and talk to
somebody else, and it goes on and on and on. I do the best I can with
Q: Do you still
have any animosity towards David Walley and his biography?
FZ I wouldn't say that it's animosity,
but I wouldn't say that it's too enthralling either, because I think that it's
a bad piece of work, and I
hate to see my name connected with it. I asked him not to write the book, because
I didn't think that he could do a good job on it, and he said that he
already had a contract to do the book and that he was going to go ahead
on it whether I cooperated or not. And so it puts you in a position where somebody
is going to write the story of your life, you don't think that they can
do it and there's no way you can stop him from doing it. So you have a choice:
you can either not talk to him anymore, or you can give him some interviews,
and try to give him some information he can use. But what happened at
the time Walley interviewed me, is he'd come over to my house, he'd ask me a
question and I got to answer it, and then he'd start talking about his
father. I mean I spent two or three nights listening him telling how his
father sent him to military school, and him comparing me to his father, and
I'm going "Jeeesus!"
And then he would do numbers like he'd
bring his girlfriend over to my house, with licks like: Yeah, you know, I'm
going up to interview Frank Zappa, you wanna come along?" And all that
kind of shit, And I'd sit there like "Ngngng..." And then, when he had
finally finished the book, he sent me the galley proofs, you know the galley
proof is the book before it's a book, except that it wasn't. He sent
me some printed pages, but there was already 10,000 finished books sitting in
a warehouse some place, and there was no way that I could have corrected
any of his errors. So it was just an unfortunate thing that happens to
someone in show business. And when you're in showbusiness, and somebody comes
up to you and says:
"Hey I'm gonna do a book about your life,"
you just tell him: "GO FUCK YOURSELF!"
Before you mentioned the aspects of chance in your music, how much if any
do you have looked at anything as far as John
Cage has been dealing with, or also have you had any experience with a group
of artists in New York called Fluxus?
FZ: I've heard of Fluxus, and I have listened
to John Cage's albums, and I have attended a couple of John Cage lectures,
and I did some research into that kind of aleatoric music, and studied other
aleatoric composers during the late 50s when that was turning into something
to be reckoned with, but there's very few of those people that I thought did
anything that sounded musical, you know, it was interesting, but I wouldn't
compare it to any lasting musical expression, you know it was just the
sound of the times, and it was worthy as such, and if I listen to any of those
records today, I just hear it as an indicator and not as a piece of music.
Like the Bartok 2nd piano concerto is a piece of music, and John Cage's
music for 2 prepared pianos and something or other is.. That doesn't register
as music with me.
Q Do you find that to be the case with
most aleatoric music?
FZ It depends on the piece, there have
been some pieces that contain improvisations that I've enjoyed, a couple of
Earl Brown pieces I like, and, what's that guy's name, Donald Erb...
You know that record? Yeah I like that. But most of the earlier things
in the aleatoric vein... were not to... I'll tell you part of the problem: Whenever
a composer relinquishes part of his control to a musician and says: OK
Just fill in the blanks here, I'll trust your judgment" he's putting
a lot of faith into someone who may or may not be too interested in what his
musical goals are. Whenever you're writing a piece of music and you say:
"This space is for you to fill out with an improvisation, you're really taking
a lot of chances, and because of the attitude of most symphony musicians,
or most of the people who were playing those early aleatoric pieces,
they hated what they were doing, and I think that comes through in the recordings
of that music very strongly, that the people who were playing that stuff
just couldn't stand it, didn't understand what the idea was behind improvisation
and a lot of people who play in symphony orchestras have never been asked to
improvise before, so they're very uncomfortable with it. And it's possible
that some of that music might turn out to be better if it was recorded now
with people who understand that kind of improvisation.
First I want to thank George for the peanuts because I haven't eaten all
Frank I wanna know how much did it
cost to put Apostrophe(') together and how long did it take?
FZ It took approximately two and a half
years, on and off, because that's the span that the pieces cover in there, and
the total budget was $65,000.
Ah Frank Are you the guitarist on George Duke's Feel album?
FZ No that's Obdewl'l X.
Frank I wonder if you could enumerate on some of the recordings that you
did pre-Freak Out. I know there were some
singles under other names, and I wonder
if you can go through some of those.
FZ Well, let's see, there was The Big
Surfer, which I wrote and arranged and was performed by some other people,
and then there was World's
Greatest Sinner, which was my group with Ray Collins doing the lead vocals
under the name of Baby Ray and the Ferns, there was Memories of El
Monte, which Ray and I wrote and was performed by the Penguins, there was
Grunion Run, which I played most of the tracks on,
which was the flip side of a record called Tijuana Surf, and was also
released by Original Sound, and There's about three or four others I
can't remember. Well Big Leg Emma was not pre-Freak Out, that
was done in 1966, that was done at the same time as the recording session
of Absolutely Free.
I have two questions for George Duke, I have you performing with Cannonball
Adderly on The Black Messiah, I have you
performing Gerald Wilson orchestra,
I have Reflections and Feel.
Now other than as member of the Mothers, what other LPs can I
find you on?
GD Oh yeah, you want to know? I'm on a
Billy Cobham album, what's the name of that thing? I forgot the name of
it, it's the second album of
his. Crosslines, yeah. I'm on that, and I'm on a Louis Gasca-album called
Born Free or something, I don't know. I don't know the
name of half of these records. If you... Flora Purim, I'm on a couple of her
albums, Stories to Tell, Butterfly Dreams.. I could
dig up a half *arb* of records I do with other people.
Q Last question is: could I get some
brief history of George Duke? I mean what inspired you, your style of play?
GD Oooh.. Well when I was seven, my mother
took me to see Duke Ellington, I guess I was about 5, and that inspired me,
I said I can do that, I was crazy though at the moment. I sat down and
my mother bought me a little piano and I started practising, and I used
to walk up the hill, once a week to take lessons from this little lady who lived
upon the hill, in the ghetto, and I did that for like 3 years. But who
inspired me? Probably the first record that sent me somewhere else was,
I heard a James Brown record, and the thing was flames, that really put me out,
what was the name? Stink! You know that? Yeah that was some Ng!
in there! Anyway, there was that, and then I heard a Miles Davis record, Kind
of Blue, that put me somewhere else. I said I couldn't play like
that, the only thing I could do was play... I don't mean to demean this
guy, cause I love his *...*, I could get into that. But I wanted to play more
in the style that Miles was doing at the time so I went into that sort
of thing. I don't want to take too long with this, but I went to school, I studied
all this classical music and you know, got my degrees and all that, but
I wanted to play some music that involves some improvisation. And I love
I read somewhere about 5 or 6 years ago that you were gonna make a film that
was 12 hours long, or 6 hours long, or
something like that, and I was wondering if first of all that was just a
put-on and whether you had something like that...
FZ Just remember don't believe anything
you read in the papers.
Q Yeah I read it in the papers.
FZ That was in Random Notes in Rolling
Stone. And it was a joke and I had nothing to do with it.
Q And secondly, when you made 200
Motels, when you cut that, did you transfer it to film and then cut it down
FZ The first editing was done on the video
tape stage, a lot of the opticals that you see in there were done in post-production.
And then after it was the complete video tape, one real video tape was done,
they transferred that to 35mm, and we got a black-and-wite work print,
and then cut the work print down, and later put the sound effects against
the work print.
I like to ask 2 questions: What does the producer get and what does the artist
FZ It varies from group to group, company
to company, every contract is individually negotiable.
Q It's not a regular form anymore?
You can negotiate whatever you want?
FZ That's right, it's whatever you can
Q And what is the best route for a
new artist to take, to find a producer, do his own demo, or just knock on doors?
FZ Well it always comes down to knocking
on doors, whether you're looking for a producer or finding some money to make
demo, it's always knocking on the
Q Is there a better route though? to
FZ Unfortunately there isn't you know,
since the pop business became such a huge industry, and every time you turn
around there's another band that wants to do something, and they're
not all good, and they're not all worth recording, everyone of them believes
they are entitled to his shot, and of course he is, and the problem that the
record company has, is they can only record so many artists at one time,
and after they recorded them, they have the big problem of getting those
things into a store, like I'll give you an example: Warner Brothers their
last album release, they do a mass release every 6 weeks, there was 44
LPs in their release alone, for that period of time, and every other record
company has got a similar large amount of albums, so you know, there's
tons of stuff coming out all the time, and a record store, especially in
the current economic slump, is not going to take a chance as readily on a group
that he's never heard before, that is not promoting in his town, not
doing concerts or something like that, he's not enthusiastic about taking a
bunch of these new albums from a new group from the distributor and putting
them in his store, cause he has limited shelf space, you know, he's only
got so many places on the wall where he can show albums, and he wants to show
the albums that are going to bring him a profit in his store. So all
this keeps reflecting back to the record company, the group comes to the company,
and they say: We have some songs, you know, record us, they're really not
enthusiastic about even listening so it's hard to just get them to pay
attention to you. The best way, I think, is to get your group together, and
play in an area, that has a number of clubs where you can get exposure,
and build up a strong local following and then based on activity in a certain
area playing in a club in this town, I don't know what the club situation is
Q There are none.
FZ There are certain towns in the States
where there is a lot of club action, you know, and that seems the way of seeing
things to happen, like San Francisco. When San Francisco cut loose there
are a lot of places for groups to play, and when there's places for clubs
to play, there'll be a lot of groups. And there'll also be good groups just
because the odds go up, you know, and so people get to play and develop
their skills and good things happen. So you know, move to a place where
there's a chance for you to play. Get in there and play, and when people notice
you and like you, and follow your group from place to place, then you
can believe that there are people from record companies who go into those areas
and check it out, and see who's doing things. That's what happened recently
in Austin, Texas, that's why it's turning into something down there.
There's a lot of groups happening, and people started checking it out, and they
Q Where are the Underwoods and what
are they doing musically now?
FZ Well let's see, Ruth is at last...
I got a letter from her about six weeks ago, she was living with her mother
in Long Island, and Ian is working in Los Angeles in studios, playing
synthesizer in a lot of film scores, they had some marital problems,
I do not know how they're being resolved, and musically Ruth is not doing too
much, and I already told you what Ian is doing.
GD Ian is on Freddie Hubbard's album too,
by the way.
Is there going to be a combined effort of Beefheart and Zappa, and is there
another Hot Rats in your system?
FZ Well my system is full of hot rats,
at all times.
FZ And also some feathers, as he pointed
out. There will probably be a combination FZ/CB album.
Q Are you at all interested in doing
stuff for quadrophonic reproduction or is that at a total dead standstill right
FZ Well, let's see, Over-Nite Sensation,
Apostrophe(') and Roxy are all available in quad. The new album,
which we have coming out in
June, is not going to be available in quad, 'cause I didn't have time to mix
it in quad. But the two track mix of it is absolutely fab.
This is directed to the captain:
Q: I was wondering if you could talk
a little bit about your Trout Mask Replica album.
Q And also specifically what inspired
the old fart at play.
CB An old fart. Not working. Where are
Q I'm right here.
CB Ah! It's a nice panning I couldn't
see who was... moving?
Q Could you talk some about the album,
what went into making it, it's pretty amazing.
CB Yeah. I have the notes. When I was
knee-high to a grasshopper, this black juice came out on a hard-shelled chin,
and that called that tobacco juice. I used to fiddle with my back feet,
music for a black onyx my entire room absorbed every echo The music was thud-like.
I usually played such things as rough-neck and thug, opaque melodies that would
bug most people. The music was thudlike. Music from the other side of
the fence, a black swan figuring lay on all colour lily pads, a little
conglomeration table of pressed black felt with same colour shadows, and obscene
knob-knees and what-nots, A long hallway rolled out into oddball odd
, beside the fly-pecked black doorway, that looked close on a tar-lattice
Q Thank you.
I'd like to ask Frank how you liked working with Jack Bruce and you think
you'll ever get back playing with him again.
FZ Well it was an interesting experience,
and we probably will not work together anymore. What was wrong with it?
Nothing! Nothing at all, you know, it's just that.. is he? He is? He's in jail?
See what I know about this stuff? George says he's in jail all the time.
So that makes it tough.
I was wondering what's involved with guest artists on albums, like when they
have in the back of an album, like *..*
appears courtesy of Sleazy Records, does that mean he's really appearing
courtesy of Sleazy, or are they taking a cut of that album, or how does
that whole thing work with guest artists?
FZ They don't take a cut, and in fact
up until recently, some record companies wouldn't allow their artists to be
on other labels. Columbia had a policy for years, where... I tried
for a number of years to do an album with Jeff Beck, we discussed it
about 5 or 6 different times, but because he's signed with Epic, and that's
part of Columbia, they would never let him do anything like that, and
so it could just never come off. But the tendency in the business today is to
let things like that, let it slide. They don't take a cut of the artist's
share, they just make you put the record company name on the back of
I'd like to know what it was like working with Wild Man Fisher and what's
he doing today?
FZ Well, it was hell, working with Wild
Man Fisher, I spent three months, sorta working FOR Wild Man Fisher at the time
I was putting his album together. And right now he is walking on the
streets of Los Angeles with his album under his arm, still punching people.
Regarding the show last night, the war memorial... the panning effect *..*
I wonder was that being controlled by the
FZ The mixer
Q The mixing? Both on the guitar and
on the drums?
FZ Yeah. The panning happens from the
I'd just like to say something on the house, when I was a freshman in high school,
right, I see your albums on the rack
and I said: "Yeah who's this weird motherfucker" you know?
FZ I can hardly blame you! I said the
same thing when I saw your albums out!
Q Suppose I got a little older and
I started playing, you know... and suppose I became a musician, and I would
like to say, after checking
you out I really have a lot of respect for your head and your music, so I just
want to say it.
FZ Thank you. Thank you very much.
Q And another thing on the cover of
Roxy, man, who's that fine chick behind the stance man?
FZ Well you see that's Brenda...
Q I see... no you seem like you have
a pretty good time.
FZ Oh that wasn't even the best of what
I was having. That was just the album cover shot.
Q But thank you. And also, George,
like: I don't know if you remember, but I caught you at Jackson State four years
at cannonball, and you came off *...*
and it was pretty nice, so thank you.
I got three questions.The first question is: You seem very autonomous, which
I respect, which is one of your admirable
traits, you remind me a lot in that respect of Lennon. If you ever thought
of a, I don't know if that's bad or good,
FZ I didn't hear the first part of it...
Q John Lennon, you remind me a lot
Q The second question is: What was
your connection with Alice Cooper? Rumour has that you helped expose Alice Cooper...
FZ Well actually Alice Cooper hasn't been
exposed yet, we helped the group get their first record contract. And above
and beyond that: may the Lord have mercy on your soul.
Q And the third and final question
was... Personally is there any other than your own, you know doing what you
want to do for music.
Anything, anyway, that you feel that you're helping prosperity, or anything
that you want to do for prosperity by doing your music, that's a little
complex, but I mean:
FZ Helping prosperity?
I would say that I am helping prosperity
in these ways: I employ seven musicians in the band , and probably about ten
on the road crew, and another 4 or 5 in the office, and I'm making my
contribution to prosperity in that regard, also to the people who sell
me the equipment that I have to drag around on the road, and the nice people
who build the lights and the PA system, I've assisted their prosperity
quite a bit over the past years, to say nothing about the trucking company and
the guy who rents us the bus, and I'm just doing my part to keep it circulating.
Did you ever consider working with Lennon or have you tried?
FZ Well he jammed with us on stage at
the Fillmore East at one time, but other than that, no.
GD Who's Leonard?
FZ You know, John Leonard from the Beatles...
GD Ah, Leonard!
You mentioned cover design before, and I wonder how much you would like or how
much control would you like to have of
the cover design, because I find myself...
I don't know a group that well, I judge a record by the cover.
FZ Everybody does.
Q And I just wonder how much you feel
that's important to influence the way the cover is designed.
FZ Well there's two ways to look at that,
one: if you are person who has definite ideas about music and definite ideas
about how you want that music to appear at first glance to the person who's
going to listen to the record, you know what happens when you get an
album: you can't see anything but the cover, you just look at the cover and
you turn it over, and you read it you know, and that's it, the cover
is part of the music. If you have a strong concept that you're doing, you
want the cover to be integrated with the music. If you know what you're doing,
that's good. If you don't, it will kill you. Because you might want to
put something on the cover that would be absolutely repulsive to the person
going into the store. Suppose your idea of what the music needed was
a glossy 8 by 10 of the group looking like this on the front you know, and
you really felt that that was important to what you were saying. Suppose
the hip mod young person going to a record store, saw that and said:
This looks like a Dave Clark Five record! Well then you would never get your
music across to the public at all. Sometimes a new group when they do
their first album have ideas about what the cover should look like. But these
ideas are often not related to the realities of life, you know. They want
to have gold stamping embossed, cut-outs, five colour reproduction on
you know, some weird kind of stock, or else they just want to have some kind
of illustration on it that is just going to be far too expensive. Now
Warner Brothers has a new policy that anything above a minimum that they
set for cover production has to be paid for by the artist. So I think that
straightens a lot of them out right away.
I've been collecting a few questions here while I've been waiting, and I
have about 5 or so. The first two are How come?
questions. First of all, I've noticed that pre-Discreet when you were
in concert, the volume of the concert was substantially different than
how it is nowadays. Now it's to the point where discerning between one instrument
and the other becomes next to impossible, at times, because it becomes
so loud, that it's hard to tell what's what. And why have you done that?
FZ Well, let's examine what you're saying.
First of all, you're saying pre-Discreet that the volume was different, right?
Pre-Discreet I did not have this PA-system.
Pre-Discreet I was not working in halls the size of the armery that we worked
in last night. And when you go into a hall that's very large, I don't know
where you're sitting in the hall.. If you're sitting right in front of
the PA system you're in trouble, because it is going to be loud, you're playing
in a hall that holds 10,000 people you got to turn it up so the guy in
the back is going to be able to hear it. And the reason that we do things
like pan the instruments and spread them out; we run a stereo PA, and it makes
it easier for a person sitting like about the middle of a hall to pick
out who's playing what and where it's coming from. A lot of people who come
right down to the front of a stage can't hear anything, because right
at ground level they're hearing all the amplifiers from the stage playing
into their face, they can't hear any vocals because they're not in front of
the PA stack itself, and they can't hear any of the panning because all
they did was down there in the front to watch. Actually the best place to
hear the show from is out where the mixer is, about in the middle of the
Q Well I was located about that position,
and listening to some of the newer material was, I couldn't understand any of
the lyrics at all.
FZ Well this will happen no matter where
you're playing, or where you're listening from, because here's what's happening
psychologically when a person goes to a concert.
If we're advertising, it says Frank Zappa
and the Mothers of Invention coming to town, go to the concert, everybody goes
"Oh yeah, they'll play my favourite song of such and such, and the audience
comes in with the expectation that the group is going to be a human jukebox
for their older material. And it's been my experience that the minute you play
something that everybody recognizes, and they've already heard the words
on a record where it's easier to make it out, everybody thinks, "You
know I know how it's supposed to go, " and so they get along with it that way.
If you play new material, nobody has ever heard it before, nobody has
got a chance to figure out the words, you know. There's just too much to
fathom. Besides the words you got the music, you got the choreography, whatever
else is going on, it's all distracting. If any of that material had been
on a record before, it would have been easier to discern. We have to play new
material in concert for two reasons: one, you get tired of playing the
old stuff, if you go on the road a lot, two, you need to develop that
material for future albums, and I would say that a concert is a good place to
develop it, and I try to strike up a balance between the stuff that people recognize
when we play concert, and new things that might surprise them. The other
factor is that what we play on stage has little or nothing to do with what the
mixer does, sitting out there in the hall. During the sound-check in
the afternoon I set up a basic balance of the group for him, so that the equalisation
of the instruments get the panning set up, but once the show starts,
what the audience hears, is the result of what that mixer does. Now prior
to this tour, we rehearsed for a month with a mixer named Stephan. And Stephan
learned the songs, and the first concert Stephan got pneumonia, and that
was about a week ago, and this guy has walked in with no rehearsal and he's
mixing the show. I don't know what he's doing out there, and the only way that
I can check it is by listening to cassettes that we make off the board
each night, and if I hear he's doing something really wrong in terms of a blend,
then I tell him about it, but it's hard to make music in a place that's
designed for sports. And the PA is not designed to hurt you, it's just
designed to fill the room, and make it available.
I was wondering, a couple of questions, on your talks with Cheepniz and
*...* floor love, is that ad-libbed at all?
FZ They are 100% AdLib. AdLib is this
*...* that we have here.
Q Did you really steal hubcaps by the
Del Monte legion*...* stadium?
FZ No, I never stole hub-caps because
I never had a car, and I couldn't see any reason to get down and get my hands
with something made out of chrome. But
*...* stadium, I played there, but the parking lot was not a fun place.
When you get a tour together, say you say you tour a lot, is this your PA,
or do you run it? And how do you practice, do
you run out to a concert hall to practice, to get the mixing down?
FZ Well it's something that you do in
gradual stages. First I bought a building. And then the building has a rehearsal
hall in the back, that's 60 by 40 feet. And then we set up our PA system
inside the building. We own the PA system and we practice with the PA.
Not the whole thing, cause we can't set the whole thing up in there, we set
up most of it. And we practice for about a month, roughly six hours a
day, with the dinner break, for 5 days a week, prior to the starting of
Q Is there anything you can do about
not playing in places that are built for sports, like playing in concert halls?
FZ Well we do. We play wherever we're
booked in to play, and it's a wide variety of places, for instance when we go
to Boston, we work in a theatre that holds about 3,000 people, and a
lot of times when you go to college they stick you into a gym. The real
problem is this, that if you're popular and a lot of people want to see what
you do, and they all want to see you at the same time, there aren't any
places that are big and have that acoustics. I can think of maybe 3 in the
United States, just stretching it, that are really big and have reasonable
acoustics. That's something that maybe you can write to your congressman
about and have it legislated.
GD And a lot of times those places that
are built like that are made for concert orchestras and not for electric bands
and they still don't sound right.
How do you choose the people who play on your label, on Discreet?
FZ Well, I haven't been choosing them.
You know, from the time that Bizarre and Straight, which were the first two
labels that I had, and the time that contract ran out, I sort of decided
that I was going to spend my time working on just the Mothers stuff,
rather than producing other acts. Because when you produce a record for somebody
else, here's what happens. If it doesn't sell, they tell you it's
your fault. If it does sell, it's your fault cause it didn't sell more. And
so you can't win. And when you figure it takes anywhere from 2 to 3 months,
to really do an album right, I don't have 2 to 3 months out of the year
to produce somebody else. Last year, we toured 7 or 8 months, you know. And
the rest of the time, I sorta like to relax, you know, and part of that
time that I'm not on the road has to be devoted to working in the studio
with the Mothers stuff. So I just have shyed away from outside production.
Anything on Discreet has been Herb's choice.
What political role do you see in music taking now?
FZ What political role? I would say that
music is an alternative to a political role. When you consider that most politics
in the United States is nothing more than a role in the sense that a person
rolls a drunk.
I'd like to know whatever happened to Roy Estrada and Ray Collins.
FZ Ray Collins is currently employed as
a carpenter, living at Don Preston's house, he's trying to get a group together,
he has been trying to get a group together for quite some time.
Roy Estrada is working some place in Orange
County, I think he might be driving a truck or working in a warehouse.
How come your Uncle Meat movie was never released?
FZ Because nobody believed in the point
that they put up the money to finish it, and seeing I'm not a millionaire and
I don't have the money to do it myself.
Q And lastly does Cal Schenkel still
do your graphics in albums?
FZ Yes, as the matter of fact, the next
album is probably Cal's best cover, I think. When you see it, you know,
it's called One Size Fits All, and he really... it's real good.
I'd like to address a question to any of the three gentlemen:
I'd like to hear your views on the occult and the social theory.
FZ Would you care to rephrase that, so
that the captain can comprehend it?
Q Well, most music right now is either
oriented on sex, occult or social theory, and that
is sort of a new movement, would you like to talk on that one?
FZ I would say that's a gross over-simplification.
CB I'll get into it. The very same ass
that carried men across the deserts of time also gave man the *...* hamburger.
FZ How many say a man to it?
I'd like to ask one question about the album We're Only In It For The Money;
first of all, did you
have a lot of *...* from Capitol records because of the cover, and secondly
are there any weird stories in the making of it, and thirdly, how's Moon
FZ Well, Moon Unit is fine, Dweezil is
fine, Ahmet is fine, Gail is fine, everybody's fine.
And now the story of WOIIFTM. The
house *...* the cover were not from Capitol Records,
they were on the Beatles themselves, those cute little guys from England,
remember the first time we went to England I got a phone call from Paul
McCartney's: "Would you like to come over and have tea" and so forth
and so I discussed this with a number of other people cause I was afraid
he was going to slip me some acid. I was afraid I would wind up like that,
and so after it I said. They just told me: Well if you go over there,
don't drink anything, you'll be OK, don't eat nothing, don't drink anyhing,
if somebody comes at you with a needle, run. So I was supposed to go
over there but then I found out I had to go to Copenhagen the afternoon
I was supposed to go over his house, so I gemember getting on the phone and
talking to him and said: "Hello Paul, is that you Paul? Well listen,
this is Frank, I can't make it over there today but I had something I
want to discuss with you, you know we got an album that's got a cover that
sorta looks like Sgt Pepper, and I wonder if there would be any problems
you know, if you guys complain if we did this cover that was making fun
of the Sgt Pepper-album." And at the end of the phone I could
see the guy going... Finally he says: "You mean, you talk business?" And I said:
"Well you know I figured it'd be better this way instead of calling up your
lawyer. And he says: "Well, I think I have to discuss this with the other
members of the group, but our attorney I'm sure would be able to blah
blah blah..." And eleven months later, the album finally came out, after
going through a bunch of shit with their attorneys, and so forth, and there
you have it.
Q Was it worth it?
FZ Sure. That's a good cover. I'll tell
you one other thing: the place where the cover is printed is called "Queen's
Litho" just outside in NY, and there's this sheet, I wish I still had
one of them, I don't know whether you understand about how they print things,
but they don't do em one at a time, they gang em up on big sheets of
paper, and then they cut em apart. Our covers were so similar, we're
using the exact same color of ink and everything that they were using
on their cover, to the point that they were running 'em on the same sheet, you
know. Like there are these big sheets, like this, the half has got the
real one on this side, and ours on that side, and they're really funny
to look at, they make great wallpaper.
Frank, I was just wondering, how much damn longer are you going to be around?
I mean... you've been...
I was just a little disenchanted with this late stuff you've been coming
up with, I mean really figured that We're
Only In It For The Money was your masterpiece, maybe you should've quit there.
I'm not trying to demean you, I think you're the greatest... But...
FZ No, a lot of people say the same thing
to me every day, really...
Q I think maybe it works around a circle,
maybe you come up with a masterpiece like that.
FZ Oh yeah? Yeah I hope so, I mean if
there's one thing that I really wanna do is to make you happy with one
of my records.
FZ But in answer to your question: I expect
to be around for quite some time.
I have a question for Mr Van Vliet: What are the Drazy Hoops?
FZ Yeah I wanted to know that too.
CB Little people with *...* caps... It's
Q I believe it.
CB So do I.
Directed to all three of you: What do you feel about drugs?
Q I always heard those funny commercials
about "Don't do speed" and Frank was making all sorts of
fun of those things, I thought it was a funny interesting situation, how
did you get into it?
GD I'm really into *Burrolo*...
Q Sounds good. How about you, Captain?
GD It's an Italian wine
CB I suck dope, I think that *..* is nice,
and if you journey into it it isn't an *...* anymore.
Q Thank you.
FZ I don't like drugs, I don't use drugs,
and if you want to use drugs, that's your business. I was asked to make
some commercials to try and divert people from the habit of using methadine,
or other chemicals that jag you up, if somebody came to me and asked me to
make some commercials about steering people away from things that jacked
you down, I would, all those commercials can do is just express my view
about it, but it's your body, do whatever you want, I think it's unfortunate
that people get arrested for using drugs, in a society that is so strenuous
that it makes people wanna do that, I think that if you want to feel good,
or if you want to feel nothing, there are other more efficient ways to
do that, I mean for instance if you're dead, you'd really be just right
out there like that, and to other people it's just a slower process of suicide.
I don't want to recommend meditation or anything, because that's highly commercialized
these days, but the human mind is a wonderful instrument and you can
direct it anyway that you like, without the assistance of a guru, or
any of those little attributes that are going to cost you money, and
if you want to feel high all the time, just feel high all the time, you really
don't need a chemical alteration to do it, that sounds like science fiction,
but it really does work, and there you have it.
Q Thank you.
I wonder why the back of the Mothermania album is all printed in German.
FZ It's a newspaper clipping from a concert
that we did in Berlin in 1968. It tells about this riot that we had there
once some, there were some communists in the audience that tried to start
a bunch of trouble.
I was under the impression that you had your leg broken by an irate fan once,
is that true?
FZ Well, It was an irate person, I don't
know whether he qualifies as a fan. He was a crazy person who was in
the audience at a concert in a place called the Rainbow Theatre, in England,
1970 or 71, can't remember, and we just finished playing our encore, half
the band was already off the stage, and the next thing I knew I wake
up at the bottom of an orchestra pit, with a concrete floor, a broken
leg, a broken rib, a hole in my chin, a hole in the back of my head, my head
all the way over on this shoulder. They thought I had a broken neck.
About 3 or 4000 people sitting around going "Huh? What? What happened?"
When I woke up, I didn't even know that I was on the road, you know, I
just woke up and wondered where I was. And then I saw the guy, I wouldn't recognize
him if he walked in this room right now, and I spent a month in the hospital
in England, 9 months in a wheelchair, and a few more months with an orthopaedic
brace on my leg. I was off the road for the better part of the year,
during that period of time while I was in the wheelchair I produced 4 albums,
the albums were Just Another Band From LA, Grand
Wazoo, Waka/Jawaka, and Ruben and the Jets for real. I
wrote a Broadway musical, I wrote about 6 orchestra pieces, and when my cast
came off I scratched my leg until all of the werewolf hair disappeared.
You mentioned you don't really like to listen to pop music. When you're by
yourself, what sort of
music do you listen to?
FZ Well usually what I listen to is road
tapes by The Mothers, because I have to go through them. We record all
of our concerts, and once they get back off the road I review that material
and see if there's anything worth putting out on an album, and if I have
any recreational listening time, I listen to rhythm and blues, or I listen
to orchestra music.
this hotel which is built out over the water, and advertises that you
can fish from your window, and supplies equipment to do this in the lobby, a
number of rock and roll groups have stayed there, and straight people as
well, and they fished out the window and caught things like octopusses
and mud sharks and so on and so forth, and these denizens of the deep
were used for erotic procedures on willing participants in the hotel
room, and that's what the legend of the mud shark is all about.
What was the collaboration in music you made with Zuben Metha with the LA
FZ Well, I had an opportunity to have
some scores performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and they agreed
to a minimal budget for rehearsals and we had a concert in a place called the
Paulie Pavillion which is a 14, 15,000 capacity basketball arena, not
exactly the place you want to listen to a symphony orchestra, but it was filled
to capacity for the concert, and it helped a little bit. And as a matter
of fact I saw Zuben just before we went on this tour, he was picking
up some stuff at the airport. He says: "Oh yeah. I'll call you, we'll have lunch".
Q That was the last time you seen him...
FZ Yeah, that's right.
Q And eventually do you think that
classical music in general, I mean what comes out the euphemistic phrase "classical
music", on records could stand a better shot for better sales, if there was
more exposure, or...
FZ Oh come on, spit it out Mr. Krantz!
Q How could... I'll try to rephrase,
to restructure it... How do you think classical sales can be improved in this
Q Right now they're between 5 and 6
FZ Yeah they're terrible, and the only
way that they could be improved is if more people liked that kind of music and
bought it, but you have a problem there, in that as far as the older classics
are concerned, everybody gets the chance to hear those one time or another,
even on a radio station, by accident, you turn in and try to find the one you
like, and you hear classical station, you hear a little TOOT TOOT Beethoven,
and you turn by, or you might in a music appreciation class in school
be confronted with some duck who wants to play you Peter and the Wolf and tell
you this, that's what's happening. And I think that all that has the
tendency to turn people away from orchestra music, and the concerts, if
you're ever induced to see a concert of orchestral music, a young person might
be turned away by the fact that he can hardly hear it, compared to a
rock and roll concert. I've gone to see orchestras, and have sat in my seat
straining to hear what's going on in the orchestra, even when they're
playing loud it sounds so teeny-weenie up there, compared to rock and
roll, and so you're dealing with a generation of people who are accustomed to
a higher DB environment you know, their receptivity is based on whether
the music affects their body as well as their ears, and when you can have orchestra
music pummling your chest, and providing some sort of glanular stimulation,
then the sales for those records are going to go up.
The other problem is that the newer serious
pieces I think for the most part are dreadful, and a lot of the new electronic
is even worse, it's just complete shock,
it's guys who can programme a computer turning over their function to the computer.
and trying to convince the record buyer
that these numbers that he has pumped into a machine are really worthwile for
listening purposes. I think that the situation
in serious music is pretty dreadful, not just from the stand point of record
sales alone, but from a creative stand point too. There's no sense of
humour in it, there's no sex in it, and as you know, without sex
nothing is any fun, so there is no get-off
in it. And you have an audience that is highly oriented toward gratification
it's a hedonistic society, so to speak.
If it can't make you come when we're with another, so why should you listen
Q Well there's a tremendous wealth,
particularly of orchestral literature, of orchestral pieces that a lot of people
of this age are
just totally unfamiliar with, have
never had an opportunity to hear it, it really would excite them if they had
an opportunity to
FZ Well, maybe it would excite them and
maybe it wouldn't excite them, that's the thing...
Q At least they would have an opportunity
to make a decision.
FZ Well that's what lending libraries
are for, I think that record libraries or book libraries that have a record
division, are useful in that regard, if you want to go in and find out
what he's talking about, in terms of some of these standing orchestral
pieces, I think it would be worth your time, go listen to some of it, if you
like it, go buy one and keep it for yourself at home, so that you can
show your friends when they come over, that you're really far out and have an
orchestral record, It's going to be a long time before the situation
improves for orchestra music in the United States, this is an industrial
society, the composer has no place in it, and the orchestra has a very tenuous
position in it. Anything that resembles culture is sort of shunted off
to the side like some poofter remnant of your being culture that was superimposed
on us from a long time ago. It doesn't really fit, you know. The concept
of a symphony orchestra up alongside of a K-Tell record ad on television
is just too incongruous. I think that's really where we're at, it's K-Tell.
Are any of your orchestral scores published, or if anyone would want to perform
them, how would they go about doing it?
FZ They're not published, no.
Q So there won't be a way to get a
hold of any?
FZ Orchestral materials can be rented,
but the problem of making them available is, since you're dealing on a one-shot
basis, the cost of making *oscillid* copies of a full score and cranking
out parts for an orchestra that wants to play it is pretty exorbitant,
you know, when a piece of music is published, it's a losing proposition for
orchestra music, it's very time-consuming to prepare the materials, once
it's an actual print, then the rental fees to orchestras are very small,
but if somebody wanted to get a hold of an unpublished score, it's expensive
to prepare it.
Q Do you plan to do anything again
like you did with the LA Phil?
FZ We've had maybe 5 or 6 offers from
all over the world since that time, but it always seems like the wrong thing
to do because what they want, really, is to get the Mothers as a rock
and roll band to come and play alongside of the orchestra, so that they
can improve their concert attendance. And so they use us as bait to bring kids
into the concert hall with little or no regard for my music as something
for an orchestra to play, and just, you know it's a shock, and I felt that
from what happened with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and have sort of avoided
the orchestral experience ever since. Cause it's disheartening to spend
a lot of time writing some music for an orchestra and know that they just don't
give a shit when they get the music, it's just another thing for them
Q One thing, I don't know if you want
to talk about it...
FZ What's that?
Q It's just slick, there's something
that you wrote that is really slick, I don't want to talk about it...
FZ Well some of you might have seen a
performance that fell to form in 1972, when I was in there with a 20-piece group
and we played a piece called The Adventures Of Greggery Peccary, played
a couple of movements from that, and I finally have recorded that, like
last December, went in and got a 20-piece group together, and laid that down,
did a complete version of it, it's possible that that may be released
Q Oh wow. And that's orchestral?
Mr Z, do you know a thing about poodle dogs, and where did you first find your
zircon encrusted tweezers?
FZ Well the thing about dogs is, it's
happening on a very rarefied conceptual level, as you'll see there's references
to dog throughout the work, and the reference to the dog has nothing to do
with the dog, or the concept of a dog is just like, you can think of
it as a, you know when Rembrandt did those paintings to make them all look the
same he'd mix brown with every colour, you know, to get that thing, so
I said: That's a funny idea, I'll stick a little piece of a dog in every
record. And so on the next album, the concept of the dog has been brought
down to the word "Arf" in two songs, and another song called Evelyn,
the modified dog, which is included in there, and you know, it's just a
little bit all the way along, and the zircon-encrusted tweezers I've
had for quite some time, the zircons were removed from Terry *...* ring, because
he thought Fats Domino had one.
I was wondering what... I have two questions, first one is what you thought
about unions, and musical unions, whether
that was well summed up in Rudy
wants to buy yez a drink, or you know if they're really doing something for
the musicians. And second
of all: how and where is the cheese.
FZ OK First about unions: as you know,
the concept of a union is a good idea, it's something that was originally thought
up to help people who work stand a better chance of getting good pay and
good working conditions, and it's a bargaining co-op, that is used for
taking a collective group of people in a certain industry, so they can bargain
with the people who run that industry. Somewhere along the line it got
corrupted, and the unions, especially in regard to the musician's union,
don't really do very much for the average guy in the union. The LA musician's
union is a great example. There's 16 or 18,000 people in that union.
Out of the 16 or 18,000, maybe there's a thousand who work all the time. And
the business of the union is designed to keep those people at a good
level of income, because they're the ones that are in the studio. It
seems like the union is run by the string players who play the backup dates
on all of those Bobby V. records and stuff.
It just got that whole kind of aura to
it. And recently there was a scandal that ripped through the union, when they
discovered that 2 million dollars had disappeared out of the treasury,
and as a result to that disappearance, the union had to shut down two
days a week. They couldn't even keep their doors open to cash people's cheques.
It's that kind of a sleazy thing. So I personally don't have too much
respect for the musician's union from the experience that I've had with local
47 and I think it doesn't do that much for the average guy who's playing
in a group, except to make his life miserable, taking tax away from him,
then making things inconvenient. It does not do very much to improve the lot
of the person playing rock and roll music, unless you happen to be a
violin player backing up one of those sessions.
And your question about the cheese is:
she had three automobile accidents, mostly head injuries, and she's probably
living in England.
Q Do you think the musician's unions
*..* because they're just not as powerful as they say the *...* or do you just
it's their own fault?
FZ I think that what happens when a musician's
union is, there's some guys in there who are very interested in taking home
good paycheck for themselves, as union
officials, and they don't care anything about musicians and it's all a bunch
Could you tell me a little bit about Lord Buckley? If you have anything else
coming out on him or...
FZ No I don't. Those are masters that
were made available for just one album.
I'd like to ask Frank if his new album is going to be basically an instrumental
album, or a vocal album, or a combination of both...
FZ There's only one instrumental piece
on the album and it's 2 minutes 38 seconds long.
Frank I was curious to know whether or not you're pissed off last night?
FZ Pissed off?
Q Yeah, so to speak, it was a small
crowd, the acoustics, everything in general seemed like you weren't into it,
and then at the end
you came out... I've seen you a few times, and I'm listening to your music like
back since Ruben and the
Jets, and last night
like when you came to Willie
the Pimp, you ran through it, then you just ran off-stage, and that was it.
The lights were on,
the show was over, I mean, Was the curfew 11 o'clock, and even so, were you
FZ Well I'm sure the curfew was 11 o'clock,
because there was a guy on the side of the stage giving me a 10-minute warning
signal, so I don't know what the exact
Q Yeah you finished at 10 to 11:
FZ At 10 to 11? Yeah OK so that got him
in without having any over-time, so now the promotor likes me. As far as being
pissed off, I would say that from the
moment that I went on stage last night, to the time I got off, I couldn't hear
hardly anything that I was doing, if I was singing I couldn't hear my
voice coming out of the monitors, couldn't hear any drums to find out where
the beat was, and, you know, that's a very hard hall to work in. The physics
of that hall have never been a fun place to work, and I think it's about
the third time that I played there.
I ask you another question?
FZ What's that?
Q Could you explain 200 Motels
FZ Can I what?
Q Explain 200 Motels, yeah...
FZ What part of it?
Q I saw it and I was pretty high, I
expected to get a lot out of it, I was pretty much...
FZ Well that's the problem...
Q I was lost so at Yellow Submarine
I ducked out
FZ Well you know, that was a Beatles movie
Q Oh, yeah... No really
FZ Well really that's about what it comes
down to, but as far as coming in being high and trying to get a lot out of
200 Motels, go and see it without being high, and try and figure out
what's going on, and I think that you'll have a better
experience with it.
Q You can not go in try and explain that
FZ Well Ask me something specific, a detail
Q something specific... Well what was
the point of putting out 200 Motels?
FZ Well you see I had the story and a
concept of doing a surreal documentary on a group, a surrealistic documentary
is something that takes actual events, paraphrases those events, and
codifies those events to shrink them down to a size and a shape that people
are going to be able to comprehend. However, I failed miserably in your case,
but the basic idea was to give a glimpse of what goes on inside of a
band on the road in an abstract concept kind of term, so the events that are
referred to in that film literally did happen, there's a lot of stuff
in there that's so true that it would be too disgusting to even talk about
Frank, you did a concert out at Geneva college, last year, or *...* college
at Geneva, and you spent the whole time during
the concert cutting down college students,
and even on some of your albums you talk about how ridiculous it is to go to
FZ First of all, I take exception to your
claim that I spent the whole time cutting down college students...
Q OK... most of the time...
FZ No, I wouldn't even say that. First
of all, I had better things to do than cut down college students, I don't know
why you would presume that I'd do that. I will say this about school,
though, and college in particular: that I'm not particularly fond of
it. I went to one semester of junior college and I went there for the express
reason of getting some pussy, and I got some and I got out of school,
and I've never... Don wants to say something...
CB If you want to be a different fish,
you have to jump out of the school.
FZ But as far as my view of the educational
process: I would like it a lot if I felt for a moment, and I'm talking about
my experience, you know it's been a long time since I was in a school,
I felt that they weren't teaching me anything, they were
wasting my time, and I just resented it.
And I was more than happy to get out.
Q You think that could be applied to
schools as a whole? I mean, do you think that could be applied to all of us,
FZ Well I don't think that I'm qualified
to say that 'cause I don't attend this school, and I don't know whether they
do anything to teach you anything here, or what your motives are in going
to this school, a lot depends on whether you want to learn something
or you're going to go to school like I did, and go to college just to get some
pussy. But I think that it is,... yeah... get some pussy yeah. But look,
let's face it: if you want to get along in this world, you got to learn
something. The only trouble is that what you need to survive is generally not
presented in the school, you can get it easier out in the street. And
that's where I got mine. And it was cheap, too!
You were saying earlier about, before you started tour you practice for about
a month, and it's memory exercises. On a
show like last night, aside from the time given to individual musicians to
improvise, can you change the order of songs, like from when you first
came on, it was about an hour and a half before the music really stopped at
FZ Mmhm you can change the order of songs.
Q You're not really restricted to the
same show every night in the exact order..
Q It seemed like one tightened unit...
FZ You can change the order of the songs
at will because there are ways of giving cues at the end of one song to indicate
the next tune is going to be.
one other thing: could you give me a hint at where Eric Clapton plays on on
We're only in it for the money?
FZ He does not play, he only talks.
Q OK Thank you.
Yeah, you know, in a way I understand what you said about school, you know,
you're a self-made man, you know, in a lot of
ways, no bull-shit. Right now, I'm
in a school of music and I'm taking composition, and I feel right now that it
is trying to help me get my thing together, coz I don't think I could
have done it by myself, you know, just by books, you know, I'm not that
brilliant you know.
FZ Well when I talk about school you got
to understand that where I went to school and when it was. See, I'm 34 years
old. And I graduated from high school in 1958. And I'm sure that in that
20 years or whatever it's been, that there have been some improvements
made in school, but when I wanted to find out about composition there wasn't
anybody to tell me about it. And the best they could do was say: Well
if you go to the library and get this book, and study from this book, I said
I don't need this guy to tell me to go to the library, and that's where
I got out. I just went into the library, and I learned off books and
records. It just left a bad feeling with me about what school was all about,
you know. So if the composition class is helping you here, you sure got
Q Yeah, it is kind of a... Another
thing, you do like, obviously like I saw like your scores, like the one book
you have out, And you
know obviously like you know all part-writing rules and all this shit, you know,
and you did learn it yourself, right?
Q All right, thank you.
GD Let me say one thing about school,
this is kinda interesting, 'cause I went to a music school, San Fransisco conservatory
of music. And I used to play, you know,
I used to like to practice right after I leave these harmony classes and all
that. And I did learn something. But I used to play these seventh chords,
you know. I don't want to get too technical, but I used to have these
little teachers who used to come over and knock on the door saying: "You can't
do that! Get out of here, you're playing that evil music! You know, get
out!" And it was really weird, but know, right at that very same school, I taught
a class there. So things have changed in a jazz class though, improvisation
class, I think things are getting better.
FZ There's now a thing about music education,
up until recently the process of live performance was de-emphasised in a music
curriculum. They figured that if you're
going to study music, that they should go out it from a very academic point
of view, I can't imagine a bigger mistake in teaching somebody and playing
down live performance. If you can't play, unless you become
a teacher you have no way to earn livings.
So I think of music class, if it's going to be well-rounded, has to not only
teach you the technical skills that you need to make music, but it should
make you aware of things like what a contract is supposed to say, and
what happens to you if you sign the wrong kind of thing, what you're looking
out for when you're doing business with a club owner, what to say if
the guy says "well I'm sorry, we can't pay you tonight", and, you know,
getting groups together where people have some experience in group performance,
so that you're not a complete dummy when you get out of school, and the
only thing you can do is become a teacher to crank up more dummies.
I have a question for George, I was wondering, how much the synthesizer and
the use of it in both jazz and rock music has changed your attitudes and where
it used to be sort of unique a few years ago it's really sort of everybody's
got one, whether they can play it or not, and whether you think that it's just
becoming a normal part of the musician's repertoire as far as the
equipment is concerned, or it's really still in a process where you can be
inventive with it and you can play around and do things that haven't
been done before.
GD Well yeah, I think you can do things,
you know, whether they have been done before, it depends on who's playing it.
and the musicians should be involved more than their intentions are. 'Cause
some musicians just put it up there because it looks good, and they can
only do one thing with it, 'cause they haven't delved into it. Actually
you know what I mean, they say: "Well I got one sound and stay there and do
nothing else with it." But Frank was the first person who said: "Hey man, you
oughta start playing synthesizer ," I said: "Oh man," you know because all I'd
heard was, you know I took a synthesizer class at school, and I said
Nh-hum. But I got into it, and you know, I talked to Don Preston about it, and
he says: "Yeah man, here's some things you can do with it," so I got into it,
and I began to like it, and I began to humanize it for me, the whole point of
playing synthesizer to me was to make it sound like it was coming from me.
You know not like it was coming from somebody else, or a machine.
Eh Frank, how about with a guitar synthesizer, or I was reading about some
kind of guitar where three strings could represent three different instruments,
and you know, use the rest as a guitar, something like that...
FZ Yes, I've played such a device.
Q Is that going to become popular, or...
FZ I'm sure it will one day, but there's
a lot of technical things wrong with it. It's not my idea of a good time.
Q Would you rather play just a regular
guitar with whatever effect, you know the so-called normal effects now, or would
enjoy some satisfaction of adding on
all the effects that a synthesizer would add to it...
FZ Well, if they didn't get in the way
of my playing, you see, the problem with that device is that there is up to
an 80 milisecond delay from the time that you hit the string to the time
that the synthesized note comes out. That don't mean too much to most of you
here, but if you're playing fast, and you got to wait 80 miliseconds for the
note to come out that you just played, you're in trouble. And besides, when
you start hearing something, if you've been playing guitar for a while, and
you hear the string and you know what it's supposed to sound like, and what
it's supposed to feel like, 'cause you feel it coming back through your
body, you know, it's conducted through your hands back to your body when the
string hits, you know, and you link up with the instrument. And suddenly
you hit your string and a trumpet comes out, it feels really weird.
Have you ever had to go long periods of times for the inspiration to write
or compose music, or is it something that you could do constantly?
FZ Well actually, the way I'm working
right now is, I only write a short period of time out of the year, I mean actually
sit down at a desk and do it, you know. The rest of time I've learned to
develop a process where I store impressions and get ideas for things,
and hang onto them, until my schedule says "Right Frank," and then I just dump
it out that time, and then the next part of the schedule is, I have to
teach it to the other people who are going to play it, and the next part of
the schedule is you record it, the next part of the schedule is you rehearse
it all over again, and learn it for the road, and the next part of the
schedule is you go out and play it you know, and it's a cycle like that.
My time is planned at least a year in
advance, for how things are going to go, and what kind of time slots I'm going
to be able to put things in to. And so as far as the inspiration for things
to write, I'm picking a few up right now, see, so it doesn't stop, it's just
when you actually put it down on paper, it could be a very short period of time,
and I'll do a lot of it.
I have an English question I'd like you to answer, it goes: "The artist is
a responsible individual, responsible to himself
and to no-one else." It's a new concept. It's bible in English, it's Shelley's
defence of poetry. Now this is something I have to write, I'd like to
hear your thoughts on the artist...
FZ The artist responsible to no-one else
other than himself? I think that's a little bit presumptuous in the era of mass
media. Because these days, if a person is an artist, and if a lot of people
like his work, then suddenly he opens his mouth and goes gaga. Somebody
writes it down, and somebody else reads it, and that affects their life, and
you can't really take such an isolation as viewpoint anymore, with information
being transmitted so fast, and say: "I'm the only thing that matters," I
have to be careful of what I say, because I don't want to by proxy and somebody
to do something that I would feel harmful or counterproductive to our
society in general, that's the way I look at it, and I take a responsibility
for my activities, in my private life. That, and as far as what I do
in writing music, I don't see, in terms of instrumental music, how what
I'm going to write is going to hurt anybody, outside of maybe their mouth
when they try to play it, so I just do whatever I want.
Two questions: first on what you said before: What do you say to a club owner
who says "We can't pay you tonight?"
FZ Tell him to step outside.
Q OK this is a more interesting one:
There seems to be a problem when you play at a place like the War Memorial,
right? The audience
doesn't get off on you, you obviously can't get off on... like at the very end
you said: I'm not talking acoustics here, at the very end you said: "Here's
one you'll recognize", so you have to play that, I mean, obviously that's
FZ No, I wouldn't say that it's a bore,
but it's a situation where, if we didn't play that song, most of the people
in that audience would have been disappointed that we didn't play it.
If we do play it, someone thinks that it's a bore 'cause we played it.
I happened to enjoy playing it.
Q Shouldn't that be the responsibility
of the artist then?
Q I mean, like to play in War Memorial,
to attract people that are interested in your simpler side, I mean why are you
interested in maintaining such an audience, is it for monetary gain, perhaps
you just need that money for production, you know...
FZ No it's not like that at all, first
of all, people come to see us for a number of different reasons, and many of
those reasons have nothing to do with music, simple or otherwise. A lot
of times, especially when we work a college, an isolated college, we
have a situation where the person has bought the ticket at the beginning of
the school year, as part of a student body contribution or something
like that, and we could be anybody coming there, and they're coming to the concert
because they already paid for it. So we are a social event that allows
people to get together, a lot of people come, they don't even know who
we are, what we play doesn't make any difference to them.
Q You should not have any responsibility
to that, right?
FZ Fact of the matter is, I like to play
music. And somewhere along the line, some people have supposed that everything
I like to do has to be so ugly that only a very few people will want
to listen to it, I happen to like playing Willie the Pimp, 'cause I like
to play the guitar. And because of my limitations on that instrument and the
fact that I'm not too jazz-enthused, with a lot of chord changes, I like
Q But why the War Memorial?
FZ The War Memorial? Somebody booked us
in there! That's it,...
Q So why don't you say: "Well I don't
want to play there!"
FZ You know, you don't always get your
choice, you know,
GD there's no other hall around
FZ I don't even know whether there is
another hall in this town, I don't know anything about Syracuse, I don't know
anything about Albany, I live in California, I have a guy who books tours
for me. He puts me into places where other groups play, you know, that's
Q But it's a much smaller event.
Q The event is much less important,
like, I mean... when there is all this... Primarily the acoustics problem I
guess, you know, I mean,
you can't be really on...
FZ All I'm saying is simply this: You
do not always get to choose where you get to play, and if people want to see
you, you do the best you can, by playing wherever they stick you, you
know. I've played... I'll tell you a bad hall, the Avery Fisher Hall
in Lincoln center. I think that's a terrible hall, you know, people would say:
"That's a real nice one," it's as hard to hear on that stage as it is
at the War Memorial. You can't even guess sometimes, I mean...
Q ... the acoustic
problem: they had problems with that hall ever since it was built...
FZ Why don't they do something about it?
Q Yeah, well, they suggested dynamite,
FZ That's a nice idea...
GD I don't know of any hall today that
is made for electric instruments though, they're designed specifically
with that in mind... Most of the music halls are designed for acoustic instruments.
FZ Yeah the requirements are different.
If you have an orchestra or a dance band of the old school that's playing in
a hall, and they're not really going to use any amplification other than
a little PA for the MC doing *...* of tunes, a hall like War Memorial
will probably be OK, because it's resonant and it will make acoustic instruments
sound out more, but the minute that you amplify something, and increase
the velocity of that sound, whizzing through the air and get a room with
that much concrete, and then it's just going to bounce all over the place.
And at the time most of those halls were built, nobody even imagined large
attendance rock n roll concerts, happening at 130 Db, and their place
was originally built for a completely different purpose. And it's not just that
hall, but 80% of the halls that you work at in the United States.
Q By the way, I read recently that
Avery Fisher Hall is going to be closed down for about 6 months, either this
year or next,
in order to completely re-do the interior.
FZ For the acoustics?
Q For the acoustics, yeah. They've
already spend about 20 million dollars on the acoustics since 1963, and the
went up in the *...* itself. The building cost only 8 million to begin with.
Frank, I was wondering for your particular taste, what guitars and strings
and wah-wahs and amps do you like to use, and
also I was wondering how you got the
tape effects for that song you did on Apostrophe(') called Montana,
and I wanted to know
if George would be able to go through some of the basic principles of oscillation
and modulation and synthesizer.
Q I wanted to know what type of guitars,
wah-wahs, strings and amps do you like to play out of...
FZ OK What I use on-stage now is a customized
Gibson SG with a mixed set of strings: the top string is a 009 Ampec string,
the B-string is a Gibson E-string, and the G-string is an Ernie Ball 15...
CB The music was thud-like...
FZ and the D-string is a Rickenbacher
D-string. And the A-string is a Rickenbacher E-string, and the low E-string
is a Gibson 340 A-string.
Q And I
was wondering how you got the tape effects for Montana...
Q The tape effects, the voice, for
Montana? That song on Apostrophe (')?
FZ There is no tape effect on Montana.
Q For the voices, the vocals?
FZ What about it? Montana didn't
have any tape effects on the voice...
Q Well the vocals they seemed really
FZ Oh you mean the ones that are speeded
FZ All you do is, the way you do that
is you take the master tape, and you slow it down a minor 3rd, and the girls
sing on it here, and then when you play it back in normal speed the track
is normal speed and the voices are speeded up, they do it with a device
called the VSO, the Variable Speed Oscillator.
Q Did you do that yourself or did someone
else do it...
FZ I did it. I've even turned the knob
on the oscillator myself.
I'd like to thank you, Mr Zappa, for coming today, very much
FZ All right Mr Krantz
Krantz: And... Along with you two gentlemen
from the Mothers, OK, Thank you!
FZ If the guy with the broken leg will
wait there, I'll sign his cast.
Krantz: Great! Thank you very much!