SCENE: You haven't toured since 1984. What made you decide to tour at this point in time?
FZ: Oh, just a whole bunch of stuff. It seemed like the right thing to do, and I did want to get involved in the voter registration. It's one of the things I've been interested in since the 27th Amendment passed in 1971.
I just came up with the perfect title for this tour. I call it, "Broadway The Hard Way." What makes this tour so interesting is that we are making available for all those who see my concerts the opportunity to register to vote. That's right! We should increase registration by as much as 250,000 to 300,000 voters. This is a very effective way of getting our younger generation to take part in the vote to elect our politicians. We have the option to vote for members of our government, we have fought for hundreds of years for this right, while other countries do not have any rights at all, we should be grateful and use this opportunity to express our popular opinion. On this tour I'm also bringing my recording studio. I have a mobile truck that goes on the road with me. We're going to record every concert and it looks as though there should be a live album called, Broadway The Hard Way, later this year.
The following day, after months of painstaking rehearsal, Zappa would begin a series of concerts comprising an overview of his collected work—more than 50 albums' worth of some of the most challenging arrangements ever written for rock instrumentation, spanning nearly a quarter of a century.
It was Zappa's first tour in nearly three years, a major musical event, yet when asked why he was going on the road again, the outspoken musician explained, "It's an election year."
Frank Zappa on the campaign trail?
"Yeah, but in a twisted way," he said "I'm not running for anything. Let's just say I'm a booster for democracy."
THIS CAMPAIGN, organized by Zappa with the help of local members of the League of Women Voters and other citizen action groups, resulted in about 11,000 sign-ups, most of them first-time voters between the ages of 18 and 25.
[FZ] himself is a registered Democrat and a strong Dukakis supporter.
Basically what they're being asked to do is not to play chords, or harmony parts behind guitar solos. They play a little eight-bar figure that makes the transition between the body of the song and the guitar solo, that's not all that's required of them. The rest of the time they're playing really complicated parts that are challenging to them, so that keeps 'em on their toes. Other groups that go out with horn sections, their basic function is to play the little punches and pads and boop-boop-boops in between what the electric instruments are doing. That's not a very gratifying life for a horn player to just play a few notes and spend the rest of the night banging on Latin percussion instruments. We don't do that.
I almost joined the band in I think 1980, but it didn't quite happen. I went down and jammed with the band, but it never quite came about. Then we did 1988 and that was when he could justify having a full horn section, because just one trombone is strange orchestration-wise, you know? You really need to have at least three horns, maybe four even. And then in 1988 he went all the way and had five, which is the best. Five is really big-sounding and you can do those big chords he writes. It was ridiculous with just one or two in the brass section.
The 1988 tour was my favourite tour, by far. It was the most fun for me, for a number of reasons. It was the first time, or the only tour that I did, where we carried a full horn section, with great players, as all the players always were, but it was also the first time that I was the primary keyboard player. So that was a lot of fun for me and very challenging. I don't have the chops of a Tommy Mars—not many people do—but I'm no slash; you don't get into Frank's band if you can't really play. But my primary function as a keyboard player was that I have a feel, especially for the old RnB stuff that Frank loves so much. I can play all the technical and demanding parts; that was no problem. I could also play the Bartok. It was interesting because on the previous tours, being a multi-instrumentalist was really one of the reasons that Frank liked me in the band. I could do a lot of different things. I wasn't really ever the guy to rely on for this blazing keyboard solo, but among other things, I could play the keyboards. So it was a big challenge for me to be the primary keyboard player on that tour.
[...] That was one of the most wonderful things about that tour, that on any given night, whatever had happened that day on the news or the night before in the hotel or that day on the airplane could and probably would come out in the concert in some way. Frank would change some lyrics around and we would follow. Another aspect of that tour was Ike and I would always be trying to guess where Frank was going to go with the lyrics tonight and a lot of times, we all hit it together and guessed the same thing at the same time. There were a lot of laughs on stage, in the hotels, on the planes; we laughed a lot all the time. That was the last time I worked for Frank.
"I always liked Zappa since I was a kid. I guess his strange humor sort of struck me because I was a strange kid. On a musical level I loved the whole idea of concepts on albums, but Frank did it better than anybody—he seemed to refine it so well. I also loved the structure of his music. On my 10th birthday I got his Fillmore East album, which is when the PMBC would probably say that I was "corrupted." I've listened to his work ever since, over and over and over.
"In 1987, when I was living in San Diego, I heard that Frank was rehearsing a new band to do another tour, something he hadn't done since 1984. I called his office and told them that I sang, played keyboards and guitar, and knew he stuff; if he was interested he could give me a call. I get this call back from Frank himself who basically said, "I heard you know how to play everything I've ever done. I don't believe it, so get your ass up here and prove it."
"All the way up to L.A., I had my brother drive while I practiced songs like "Sinister Footwear 2" and "What's New in Baltimore?" in the back seat. I didn't exactly know how to play everything he'd done, but I'd heard it all so much that I could pretty much fake my way through it. His playing style and his methods were etched in my brain. I got to the audition and Frank told me to play, "Cheapness." I faked my way through it pretty well, and then he said he wanted me to play, "Strictly Genteel" on the piano. He put the sheet music in front of me and I started playing it from memory, since I can't sight read. Well, Frank can't sight read all that well either, and he's looking over my shoulder to see if I'm playing what's in front of me, but he can't really tell. Finally, he stops me and asks, "Are you sight reading this?" And I said, "No." He laughed and I got the job because he found someone who related to his music the way he did."
I mean obviously there were moments where I was hyperventilating with glee, but if you'd asked me a couple of years before that happened, "How would you react if you went from complete obscurity to playing in Frank Zappa's band?" I would have said, "I would just be screaming 24 hours a day!" There would be no other way to react. But once I was thrust into that position and there was so much work that had to be done, that had to take precedence. The only times that I would really just vibe on it and just completely get off on it beyond my wildest dreams was when we were on stage and Frank was taking a long solo that didn't require me to back him up and I would just be sitting there watching him play. And then I'd look out into the audience and I'd look up at the lights, and I would just suddenly reflect on the fact that this was really happening. And those moments, if I wasn't able to get a hold of myself, I could get a little out of control (laughs). It was the greatest thing in the world.
From the time that I was nine years old, Frank was my musical hero. I considered him my greatest influence. So for that to be my first professional gig and for it to be such a whirlwind experience from literally 24 hours from being an unknown musician playing in bars in San Diego to being in Frank Zappa's band, it was . . . the only downside was, "What do you do next?" and I spent a few years trying to figure that out, until I finally realized that the only logical thing for me to do is to place the majority of my heart and my musical attentions to my own music. It's the only other place to go after that. In the mean time I've managed to play with a lot of wonderful musicians who I respect greatly, but from the standpoint of my heart, once I did the Zappa thing there was no where else to go apart from just to try to create something new for myself to do. And that's what I'm doing with my music.
I did almost no reading with Frank. Except for the unreleased material, of course, I learned everything off the records (and CD's, when applicable). Occasionally, I would also use a chart when it proved to be especially needed, particularily in "Alien Orifice". But my reading is so slow that it always proved more efficient to learn things by ear Scott (Thunes, bassplayer and as "Clonemeister" in charge of teaching and rehearsing the band in '88 -aa) wrote me a chart for the piano accompaniment in the Bartok piece—a fairly simple part but it took me hours to learn it. It's actually fairly pathetic but I managed to get through it and, hopefully, do a good job.
All the equipment was borrowed from Frank. I used a Stratocaster and a Telecaster, modified by Midget Sloatman, and a Roland JC77 amp that Steve used in 1982. I used my own Cry Baby wah-wah and some Korg modification deviced which all fit in one Korg master module. The synthesizer was Frank's also—a Yamaha DX-5.
[Dave Dondorf] ended up with Frank Zappa by chance when a friend passed a rumor along that Frank needed a new technician for the '88 tour. "I got the call from the production manager, and I was gone," Dondorf recalls. "I was third peon from the bottom, making sure everyone's anything worked. It was very difficult, because things had deteriorated nastily. Frank's guitar rig was very old. The heart was a pedal board that had hundreds of little relays, quarter-inch jacks, and little circuit boards wrapped up in duct tape just piled in there, nothing labelled, nothing documented. If there was a hum or a buzz, there was no way to tell why. Here was one of the world's foremost guitarists, who people pay large amounts of money to go see, and he's playing through these little crappy boxes. Frank is so receptive to technical change, it's ridiculous. I can't believe this was anything other than inertia. " Even so, Dondorf managed to keep things running and after the end of the tour, Frank called to offer him full-time work.
"He says, 'Anyone who has a coat like that must know something,' and he hired me," laughs Harry Andronis, house mixer for Frank Zappa since the 1988 Broadway the Hard Way tour. [...]
[Marque] Coy and Andronis had worked together in the '70s for Chris De Burgh, a superstar in Europe (if barely an opening act in the U.S.). In 1987, while Andronis was working on a Shadowfax LP down the street from where Zappa was rehearsing, he convinced his old road buddy to sneak him in to watch. Emboldened on discovering that no house mixer had yet been hired, Harry told Coy to throw his name into the hat.
Q: I remember reading somewhere that your equipment on the 1988 tour was connected to the Synclavier. Could you give us an idea what that means?
E: Well, there was one program that I had and I knew when I would bring that program that I was tied into the Synclavier. And Frank would switch the Synclavier to whatever program it was, but I could play it from the silicon mallets. So we would use it during the improvisations or during 'Norwegian Wood'.
IB: The samples you played on the 88 tour—the dog barks and bubbles—did you create them?
EM: Yes. I did all that sound design. Walt Fowler vocalizes all the "Ooowww" stuff—and then I modulated it with a pitch wheel. Bruce did the "Ooouuueeeouuugggg", not to be confused with Walt's "Aaaahhhhhhhh" or "Bep-Bep-Bep". Those guys just make those sounds anyway—but when I heard it, I summoned them to "speak into the mic please". Ike did the Sam Kinnison Death Scream. Those samples kind of became the signature sounds of that tour. The Agony and the Ecstasy: we laughed, we cried—it is all there in those samples. Usually Frank liked it. Sometimes not, though. [...] The burps came from Frank's Synclavier, which was only used sporadically (rarely)—[some of] those samples were done by Eric Bogosian and Frank's nephew [Jade Teta] from North Carolina who could mega-burp in a controlled way on command.
In 1988, I went on Zappa's "Broadway the Hardway" tour and never asked for a penny for massaging Frank and the rest of his giant band. I made it clear, I wasn't "only in it for the money". I told Frank and co. that I would massage them for free and my payment would be the honor to see every sound check and show for free. [...] Me and about 4 other Zappa freaks got to sit in the empty hall during sound check and during their [March 15, 1988] Portland Maine sound check, I accidentally let out one of my MONSTER BURPS. When I drink Diet Coke, all hell breaks loose. AnyWHO, I let one rip and Frank (who had his back to the empty venue while he was conducting his band) turned around, leered at us, and said "which one of you did that?". Naturally the other Zappa fans who were somehow connected and lucky enough to be watching the masters sound check turned on me and all pointed at me. I turned NEON RED and raised my hand sheepishly and said with a, squeaky, cracking voice "it was me".
Frank motioned to me and said "come here, come up here" and pointed to the stairs on the side of the stage. I reluctantly went to him, like I was going to lay my neck down on a wooden block, waiting for the blade. The whole band was watching impatiently and Frank had me come right up to him and said "could you do that again into the sampler?". I exhaled so strongly I almost fainted. I thought for sure I was about to get my face ripped off and expelled from the Zappa sphere. But no, it was time to perform. I said "I need another Diet Coke though". Frank said to a stage hand "get her a Coke!". I said, "um, it has to be Diet Coke, more bubbles". "Ok, he said, get her a DIET Coke, and make it snappy". So finally my burps were recorded into a sampler and they used it for the rest of the tour to make fun of the TV Evangelists at the time, and now you can hear it on the Zappa live Album called "the Best band you've NEVER heard in your life" [...].
Frank affectionately crowned me "Dr. Dot". I was just DOT before, as Dot is short for Dorothy. My Granny was named Dorothy and most called her Dot. I was named after her and so most called me Dot. Frank would say "go get the Doctor" or "hi Doctor Dot" and so it stuck. I am honored.
In 1988, Scott Thunes put me on the guest list for every show, for every sound check and so during the [March 15, 1988] Portland Maine sound check, me and about 5 other special friends were in the front row (just like at every sound check—the whole concert hall was empty, like it is at most sound checks).
Anyways, I let out a HUGE burp. It was so loud, Frank heard it over the music and stopped the band, turned round to us and asked "which one of you did that?".
At first I was so afraid that he was mad, I just didn't answer, red face and all. The other special friends turned to me and then I had to answer "it was me Frank, sorry, won't happen again" with a guilty smile I sank into my seat.
He said "come up here" (rather sternly).
The whole band watching, waiting, I thought he wanted to rip my face off verbally but no, when I got up there, he said "Can you do that again into the sampler?".
After a huge, fast sigh of relief, I answered "I need another Diet Coke." He asked a stage hand to "go get her a Coke". I sheepishly added "Um, it's gotta be DIET Coke for it to work". "Ok, get her a DIET Coke!" he said, in an annoyed, sarcastic tone.
The band was not amused, this was a sound check that was already around the 2 hour mark, for some reason they kept going over Bolero repeatedly, but then again Frank was a perfectionist.
I guzzled down the Diet Coke, band, Frank and front row of amused Special guest (one of which was my girlfriend Jenny Jupiter) watched on, kind of impatiently.
My burps can not be rushed. They have to brew.
Sure enough I belted out 4 amazing burps, and a couple tiny useless ones and he took them into the sampler (key board looking thing?) I am not a technical wizard.
Anyhow, the band used my burps on the rest of the tour, making fun of the TV Evangelist, but interrupting their "speeches" and bullshit with my obnoxious burps.
You can hear these burps on the live album/cds The Best band you've never heard in your life. Best heard in the song "A few moments with Brother A. West".
That must be your BURP on the FZ recording. I had never heard the Best Band . . .' CD, but I listened last night. I know the 'nephew' burps from 1981 quite well as I was there for the recording; what I heard on the CD are not his. I do not think that Bogosian provided any burps, and he was the only other third party in FZ's sampler who made strange sounds that I am aware of . . . so . . . it has to be you, Dot!
Additional informant: Álvaro Gallegos
A major rock tour isn't the only New York activity to involve the peripatetic 47-year-old composer and performer. Last week [FZ] attended a performance by the Juilliard Chamber Orchestra of his composition, "The Perfect Stranger," which was composed for the 1984 album, "Boulez Conducts Zappa." And with Steve Allen, he served as co-host of a benefit at the nightclub 4D for the Fundamentalists Anonymous Legal Task Force, an organization devoted to assisting disenchanted members of Jim and Tammy Bakker's PTL Club to get back their money.
Daniel [Schorr] sat in with the band during the first part of the show. Daniel sat in on the "Huddle" before the show; the Huddle occurs before every concert, that's when the whole band gets in a room with Frank and he goes over the setlist and discusses the segues from one song into the next, and any special-type information that needs to be mentioned regarding the festivities to come. So Daniel Shorr was in on it, and we discussed tempos and cues with him, and found out what would be the best key for him "It Ain't Necessarily So" and "Summertime". And the show began with us playing the vamp from "It Ain't Necessarily So", which was in G minor and went "Dunnn, duh-dun Dunt Dunnn, Dunnn duh-dun Dunt Dunnn...". But then it got transposed to C minor because Daniel couldn't sing it in G. [...] And then Frank introduced Daniel Shorr and we went into about one and three- quarters bars of "Danny Boy" to accompany him walking onto the stage, which got a big laugh, and then Daniel made a voter registration pitch and then sang "It Ain't Necessarily So", and then left the stage while we played the bridge to "It Ain't Necessarily So" which I don't think was the real bridge, at which point we segued into "Summertime" and he came running back onto the stage to sing a few bars of "Summertime" and then he left.
Best Rock Instrumental Performance (Orchestra, Group Or Soloist)
Jazz From Hell
Best Instrumental Composition
Jazz From Hell (Track)
DS: OK, speaking about Towson, in that show something kind of peculiar happened havin' to do with Bob Rice giving somebody an enema. That kind of pissed you off.
FZ: Well, sure, because there was a female security guard who was hired to be part of the staff at the place and Bob Rice who was basically hired as a roadie decided to use this enema that was dangling on stage as a prop. Actually it was something that I didn't tell them to put on stage, but the alto sax player had it hanging off of his stand. Bob went up there, took this thing and he was trying to impress this girl security guard. And during the encore when the guards were lined up in front of the stage facing the audience, he sneaked down behind the barricade and jammed this nozzle up her ass. While right in the middle of this song, you know, and I think that is inexcusable and so I stopped the show and told him to apologize, and "Don't ever do it again."
DS: And then took on from there.
DS: There are some good little musical inclusions that resulted from that too. Lyric mutations and such.
In 1988 when Frank came to Stockholm with the Broadway the Hard Way tour, me and Mats got to meet and play with Zappa on his gig in Stockholm, as guests!
MG: Mats, how did you manage to play with Zappa's band?
MÖ: Morgan and I got in touch with the road manager. My uncle produced the 1973 Stockholm TV special that Zappa did, so he knew this guy. We got in touch with him and he said Frank will probably want to stay in his hotel room and compose and he doesn't want to talk to his fans very much but I'll do my best. Later he sent us into the soundcheck and said 'just sit and wait and I'll come back later and tell you what's going to happen'. And then after the soundcheck, he said 'Well, it's okay, Frank wants to meet you'.
MG: (jokingly) What happened then? Did you start shaking?
MÖ: (laughter) Ja, of course. I thought it was a dream actually. We were lead to his dressing-room and we started talking. We told Frank that we played 'T'Mershi Duween', which was not released at that time, just on bootleg, and then he got really interested and he just said they were going to play 'Big Swifty' where everything could happen, and that they were going to have some audience participation, and that he thought it was a good idea to send us up on stage during the jam.
MG: Did he hear you play before?
MÖ: No. We gave him a cassette but he didn't listen to it. He just felt that . . .
PÖ: If these guys are crazy enough . . .
MG: So it was like 'If you wanna do it, you can do it'?
MG: Wow, that's wild. I can just imagine me telling Frank 'Come on, man, let me sit in, I know how to play 'Muffin Man'.'(loud laughter)
MÖ: But the thing was that we didn't actually ask if we could play with him.
MG: Did you ever have dreams of playing with him?
MÖ: Ja, of course. At first when he asked us, I thought he was joking. Before the concert, I was so nervous my hands were shaking badly. But when the concert started, I felt this was cool and it was gonna go well. I knew what keyboards Bobby Martin used, so for me it was just a matter of telling Frank what sounds I wanted to play. So Bobby just said (impersonating Robert Martin) 'There is French horn on the DX5 and there is an acoustic piano sound on the Roland digital piano, and good luck'. And then he patted me on the shoulder. Before the show Morgan and I discussed what we would do and so we just decided to play the jam that they were doing, sneak into 'T'Mershi Duween' and then get off the stage.
MG: Can you remember some of the things you talked to Frank about before and after the show?
MÖ: Well, we talked for a long time actually. There were really so many things that we wanted to ask him about, but in fact it ended up being the other way around. He wanted to know about Zappsteetoot, and he asked us if we could play 'The Be-Bop Tango', 'Mo n Herb's Vacation' and 'Night School'. He asked how long we had played together and stuff like that. He said it would be fun to do the same thing again.
MG: He didn't say when though?
MÖ: No. (laughter)
I have since been told that Morgan, while on a trip to LA, met Frank who in turn put Morgan up for a few days in one of the guest rooms, and that, as a gift, Frank gave Mats Oberg a piece of equipment formerly employed by Tommy Mars. Good luck guys and all the best!
For those interested in such things, when Morgan sat in with Zappa in 1988, Chad left the drum chair in such a way that Morgan was able to continue the drum beat without interruption. When I asked him about this, he told me that the first stroke on the bass drum pedal was considerably louder than the volume Chad had been using. Upon checking this out, I've found it quite easy to discern where comes in, continuing with Chad's reggae beat before going off with Mats.
Q: I liked the Frank Sinatra thing in 'Big Swifty' in Barcelona, 'Strangers in the Night'. Do you remember that?
RM: That was for the monitor mixer, Marqueson. It was his birthday that night and we did some unusual things. In 'Whipping Post' that night, I changed the words around, something about Marqueson supposed to be having a hooker and it never happened, and he was all frustrated. I changed the words to reflect his frustration.
DS: Right. Alright I got one last [secret word] . . . which is from Graz which is "hairpiece."
FZ: Oh, did you ever see that Cheech and Chong movie where they play these two Arab brothers?
RS: Hairpiece, I need a new hairpiece.
FZ: Yeah. That's what it was, that's right.
DS: So I'll have to see the movie to understand that.
At first, I was enjoying playing the guitar again. Then, at the end of the tour, this war broke out between the bass player and the drummer. They hated each other's guts. And so I just spent the last six weeks of the tour trying to wend my way through this garbage that was going on onstage. On a good night, the ideas I had for guitar solos came out. On a bad night, it was me versus the band. The audience didn't really know, but it was another example of the kind of thing that made me want to put the guitar down in the first place. I haven't touched the guitar since we came off the road. If I'm sitting around the house, I don't play it. I don't even think about it.
The seeds of dissolution were sown during pre-tour rehearsals in L.A. When Frank was off in the early part of the day doing interviews or whatever, it would be [bassist Scott] Thunes' job to rehearse the band. Scott has a way of expressing dissatisfaction which is not particularly tactful. Simply put, if someone hadn't learned their part properly, Scott was a pain in the ass. But as I saw it, all he cared about was the band knowing their stuff, and he wasn't trying to make friends in the process, which I respected, and we became good friends during this phase.
Most of the other guys in the band (who were older than Scott, and jazz musicians to boot) didn't wish to have Scott in their face all the time, which I can respect in retrospect—Scott truly is a pain in the ass at times, which at least partly explains why he isn't in Z anymore (although that was more of a mutual decision—Scott wanted out as much anyone wanted him gone).
Ed Mann was the one who really had the problem with Scott at first, and during the course of the tour the other guys in the band started to see things his way. Somewhere in the East Coast there was a band meeting where everyone told Frank of the problems they were having with Scott. Scott himself was not warned beforehand—the first time he heard anything of the burgeoning anti- Scott movement was during this meeting. He resented the "ganging-up" taking place without anyone confronting him personally before calling a big old band meeting and bringing Frank into it.
Scott was pretty annoyed from that point on, and little acts of terrorism began to be perpetrated against him by anonymous disgruntled people—someone got his laminated pass and scratched his face off, and on a big cake that had been provided for us by some promoter, which featured the names of all the band members, someone destroyed Scott's little cake section. (That night on stage Frank referred to "Playground psychotics!" in connection to these futile acts of vandalism.)
Finally, during the European leg, Frank asked everyone in the band, separately, if they would consent to doing the remaining 10 or so weeks of the tour, which would have covered the West Coast and various points inward, if Scott was in the band. Everyone except me said no. Obviously they assumed that the result of this attempted hijack would be the hiring of a new bassist. Frank said fuck that and sacked everybody.
There is the magic story of the death of the best band you never heard in your life.
Q: Now a question that every fan would like to ask. What really happened in 1988? Could you tell us from your point of view something about the disaster . . .
Q: I mean in '88, the band collapsed in a way . . .
E: Collapsed?? It didn't really collapse. We played the US and Europe and then it was over. There was a spiritual gap in the band. It wasn't like the 1977 band or '78 or '79 band or even the 1982 band. There were parts of it that were real good, but there were also parts of it that weren't quite up to the normal Zappa standards. During the rehearsals, Frank wasn't that involved—I mean he was but he was busy with a lot of other stuff. So there was a lot of material that we could have learnt. For instance, 'RDNZL' that we never did. So anyway, I don't know . . . there were some problems with the bassplayer, people not getting along with the bassplayer.
Q: Could you give us some details about these problems?
E: It's not really anything that needs to be talked about. It's just a different way of looking at things. Scott was put in a difficult position because he was given the job of running the band; it's really difficult. I had that job in 1978. I tried it for one summer of rehearsals, and by the end of it . . . It's like this: there is the band and there is the guy who runs the band and then Frank. And the guy who runs the band teaches the rehearsals and all that stuff, and if it's not the right energy, it doesn't come across, it doesn't work somehow . . . but it makes a difficult position for the guy who has to run the band. So Scott, to his defence, was in that position. He took it very seriously and he was very 'pfff' (he imitates the noise of a whip) and anybody else didn't want to hear it so simple. (?)
In physical form the last time we spoke was June of 1988 in Italy. After 88, I felt that we knew each other and the truth beneath all of the difficulty, and so I let it go at that—and to fate regarding circumstance that may bring us together again. I was always there for him when it came to music or anything else, that had been a code-phrase that was communicated since I began working with Frank—I wrote him several letters to re-iterate that after 88, so he knew. And I did not expect a response, as it was not necessary.
Why did Zappa say the 1988 band "self-destructed?"
It wasn't the band it was Scott Thunes. He made himself so obnoxious that nobody wanted to be around him. He is wildly talented and intelligent. But he just got spoiled rotten and nobody wanted to play with him because of the way he acted. That was the finest band that I was involved in with Frank. It was the band we had been dreaming of. I lobbied to get the Fowler brothers back in the band. It was an incredible band and we had the right combination of people.
Since that band was so great, but the problems were only with Scott Thunes why didn't Frank fire him and continue with another bass player?
It was the timing of the thing. If it had been a different day and Frank was in a different mood I'm sure that would have happened. It just occurred when Frank was in a bad mood and woke up on the wrong side of the cave. He was just starting to get sick and he just said fuck it.
Just that, kind of like everybody was, it was kind of falling apart as far as personalities, I guess. I mean I didn't have any problem with anybody. I mean I straightened it out with everybody. There was a little friction in the band between certain members, I mean I was not without friction, but I resolved most of my stuff before I got on the road with who ever I had a problem with. I would just talk to him and see what was up. So like in the middle of the '88 tour, I mean, I understood everybody's side, you know, and I just let Frank know that whatever happens, I'm still ready. I still want to go on the road and play because I'm playing with him, you know what I mean? Whoever, whatever happens, you know, I'm on his side, totally. [...] And that's what I let him know. That's what I felt . . . because I wanted to play like . . . you know you wait that long to play with Frank, I just wanted to continue. I was just getting started on this gig and I was like the new kid on the block basically, or one of the new kids on the block. I just still had a lot of that energy . . . to be used, you know?
At the end of the tour, Frank decided he wasn't going to play anymore, because the rest of the band had told him they wouldn't go out with me again. When he told me that, I said, "I'll gladly quit." He said, "That's not the answer. I like you, and I like what you do—except for all the mistakes you've been making." Because every night onstage, I was surrounded by daggers and completely lost my concentration. For three months I was a wreck, and the music suffered because of my mistakes. Frank's only enjoyment was playing guitar solos, and those fell apart; he ended up not doing any. We also ended up not doing any more three-hour soundchecks. We'd play just two songs, and then he'd get out of there. He could not stand being in the same room with us. It was the worst possible combination of events for him.
Right after that, though, Frank decided he wanted to take some time off, so the band was sort of on hold. For the next few months, there was a thread of hope that we'd go back on tour, and everybody was kind of waiting for the next call. In the meantime, I spent all my time learning everything Frank had done on guitar. Before I joined Frank I was really more of a keyboard player, but I decided to work on my guitar playing, especially on his techniques and timings. Then Frank decided he wasn't going to tour at all, and there I was, knowing all his songs with nowhere to play them.
Research, compilation and maintenance by Román García Albertos