‘Hungry Freaks, Daddy’

By David J. Spatz
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Feb. 6, 2013

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Dweezil Zappa

When Dweezil Zappa decided it was time to introduce a new generation to his father’s music and call it “Zappa Plays Zappa,” he didn’t realize the project would be so labor intensive.

Guess he forgot that his father Frank Zappa’s career included more than 60 albums, each one seemingly more complicated than the last, and literally a thousand or more songs.

“Back before I started this project [in 2006], I noticed a lot of people my age didn’t know about Frank’s music, so that was a big reason to try and expand the audience base and keep his musical legacy alive,” Zappa said during a November interview with the British music Web site 

But it took a lot more than just learning a few songs like a cover band and going out and playing the music. Zappa, 43, said he needed to reexamine the music he’d grown up with in order to do justice to the compositions of his dad, who was considered a musical genius in some circles.

“I had to make some technical adjustments, and it took about two years of study before I thought I could play this challenging music,” he said. “In some ways I did have to change radically. It really had more to do with certain parts, most obviously the solos. I’d be playing the parts pretty much as they were written down, but when I came to focusing on the solos I aimed to put my own spin on them — to try and evoke Frank’s playing, but to do more than merely copy a solo.”

For decades, music theorists have discussed, dissected and analyzed Frank Zappa’s wide-ranging body of work that stretched from 1966, when he formed his first band, the Mothers of Invention, and released his debut (double) album Freak Out! (with opening track, “Hungry Freaks, Daddy”}, until 1993, when he died of prostate cancer at age 53, but not before releasing a modern classical album (The Yellow Shark). 

It’s been nearly seven years since Dweezil introduced “Zappa Plays Zappa,” and it’s turned out to be an ever-changing work in progress. Zappa wasn’t exaggerating when he said it can often take months for he and his band to learn one song and perform it just the way his dad did years earlier.

“With Frank’s music we have actually learned 250 pieces since 2006, but that doesn’t mean we could just play them at the drop of a hat,” he explained. “Generally we go into a tour with between 30 and 40 songs that we can play.”

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