This is a random list of people somehow related to FZ and not included in the Freak Out! List Of Contributors. Some of them are included in the Special Thanks list on The Yellow Shark and the MOFO List Of Contributors
Well, who were your major influences? I'd like to go back to Freak Out.
Well, there's a list in the album. 156 names.
All these people have been . . .
. . . legitimate influences.
What about since that time?
There have been about three or four.
I expected you might say that. Would you mind naming them?
Krzystof Penderecki, Gyorgy Ligeti, Phillipe Koutev . . . and I can't think of another one. There must be only three.
Those are people I'm not familiar with.
Krzystof Penderecki is a composer. He's the head of all Polish music and writes in a certain kind of style. Gyorgy Ligeti is a composer best known for his "scary music" in 2001. But they just borrowed that from his straight compositions. Phillipe Koutev is the organizer of a folk music ensemble in Bulgaria; it's the hottest band in that area.
Are they available on European discs?
Yea, sure. And American discs. Nonesuch has got several albums of the folk music of Bulgaria, the Phillipe Koutev ensemble included. Gyorgy Ligeti is available on Columbia, and Penderecki is available on RCA.
Well, on the Freak Out! album there's a list of 160 names—both positive and negative influences, I'm, you know, I'm influenced just as easily by things I hate as by things that I like. And since that first list I don't think I would have added more than four names to it, 'cause at that time I don't believe I've heard Penderecki or Takemitsu, so I would add those two names to it.
While I was working for Frank a recording of the music of George Antheil performed by the Netherlands Wind Ensemble was released—making many people aware for the first time how insanely great his early works are. These include the Ballet Mechanique (for percussion, pianos, airplane propeller, various buzzers etc), a Jazz Symphony and several sonatas for violin and piano. Frank liked Antheil's music too. Once, in a discussion with Frank and someone else, I mentioned that I thought the Jazz Symphony was the best piece on the album. Frank disagreed and chose one of the violin sonatas as his favorite (I believe it was the one with the drum bit at the end). I was surprised by this but also pleased that he chose a small-scale chamber work instead of a large, colorful orchestra piece. (I've spent a lot of my life playing chamber music and regretted that Frank showed so little interest in small acoustic instrumental pieces. At that time he was writing many large, colorful orchestra pieces. I had assumed—wrongly—that he'd be more interested in Antheil's orchestra work.)
Another time: I was working on something at the house and Frank was nearby. I was whistling while I worked—as I often do—not really aware of what the tune was. Frank said "Oh, Antheil's greatest hits." and I realized that I was whistling the Ballet Mechanique theme.
[David Axelrod's] Blakean tone poems [Song Of Innocence (1968) and Songs Of Experience (1969)] found fans in Sly Stone and Frank Zappa.
[...] "Good times. I'm getting all these write-ups, I've been in time magazine. What could go wrong?"
Zappa knew. Self-taught musicians and voracious devourers of knowledge, Zappa and Axelrod would discuss everything from the mountain-climbing prowess of Aleister Crowley to the inestimable importance of press officers. "He said, 'You've got to get PR.' I figured I didn't need it. Things were going well. He said, 'You're making a great mistake.' Quincy [Jones] said the same thing."
Worried that Axelrod was getting carried away as an 'artist'—and would be less inclined to work as a producer—Capitol decided the best thing to do was kill him off by not promoting the solo albums. "Today I realise that [Zappa] was right and I was wrong," says Axelrod. "What can I tell you? But you can never undo things. I never dwell on it."
Frank [Zappa] was a dear friend and we used to compare notes on how we studied. A great deal of it was done in a public library.
I like most of Bartok too.
Also you ought to get Bartók's first, second and third piano concertos, which are all very groovy and good to dance to. I have the version on Westminster (18277) by Edith Farnadi with the Vienna State Opera Orchestra. I've never heard any other version of the second and third piano concertos so I don't know whether or not that's the best recording. It might not even be available. I heard another version of the first at Andy Kulberg's, of the Blues Project, who has an extensive collection of modern music.
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.
[Columbus, March 6, 1988] We got to rehearsal and ran through some stuff. Frank mentioned that Jimmy Page and Robert Plant might be popping up sometime to play "Stairway To Heaven," and he said it would be nice to do "Shapes Of Things" for Jeff Beck when he shows up in London. So Frank looked at me, and I figured out the chords and we did a reasonably good instrumental version of "Shapes Of Things" with Frank playing the vocal melody on the guitar.
You may or may not know this but Frank and Jeff [Beck] were friends and played together for fun on a few occasions. They discussed making a record together. I would have loved to have heard that.
Biafra stumbled upon a reproduction of a painting by European artist H.R. Giger titled "Landscape No. 20: Where We Are Coming From." The painting, which features dismembered, ugly genitals copulating in what looks like sludge, had been reproduced in many books and magazines over the years, and Biafra secured the rights to include it as part of the Frankenchrist package. About the painting, Biafra says "I began to realize, 'My god, we have met the enemy and it is us, this is what we do to each other every day in consumer-oriented society. Wait a minute, this is what we're talking about on a lot of the Frankenchrist songs.' I thought the Giger painting would be a great way to drive home the point, even if some people in high positions of power with no sense of humor didn't seem to understand."
Originally, the painting was meant to be the gatefold inner cover for Frankenchrist, but a member of DKs vehemently objected and it was instead inserted into the album as a poster. Although the poster was expected to raise some eyebrows, no one expected it to cause as much trouble as it did. A warning sticker, albeit a sarcastic one, was affixed to the cover, partially to parody the warning stickers that the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) was demanding at the time, partially to cover themselves in case there was difficulty. The sticker read : "WARNING : The inside fold out to this record cover is a work of art by H.R. Giger that some people may find shocking, repulsive or offensive. Life can sometimes be that way."
When a San Fernando Valley mother complained that her 13- year old daughter had purchased the record as a gift for her 11-year old brother (at a Wherehouse Records outlet in a large mall), the LA City Attorney's Office decided to prosecute the case. Deputy city attorney Michael Guarino, the prosecutor in the case, admitted they chose to prosecute the DKs because it would be a "cost-effective" way to send a message to other musicians, record companies and fans. Guarino had been considering prosecuting several other groups when this case came along, and he thought he could win this one.
The first Biafra heard of all this was when he was awakened from his sleep one morning by the sound of his window being broken and several police officers invading his house, supposedly to seize the "evidence." ( No one bothered to knock.) They took numerous personal effects, including his address book, as well as a few copies of Frankenchrist and the business ledgers of Alternative Tentacles, making it impossible to conduct business for a while.
Charged in the case were Biafra, and four others, including the 67-year old man whose company pressed the Frankenchrist disc. Conspicuously not charged were Wherehouse Records which sold the offending album. They had agreed to stop selling Frankenchrist and all other Dead Kennedys albums when the controversy first surfaced.
Biafra and the others decided to fight the charges of distributing harmful matter to minors, and set up the No More Censorship Defense Fund, which along with helping with the legal fees in the Frankenchrist case, makes available copies of articles dealing with censorship and plans to help others who are being harassed. Contributions came in mostly from fans of alternative music; envelopes of teenager's allowance and an encouraging note were common. Not so common were contributions from those popular figures who stood to suffer if Biafra lost the case. Three notable figures who did come to Biafra's aid were Frank Zappa, Little Steven Van Zandt and Paul Kantner.
Although Tipper Gore's PMRC did not claim credit for the case, they certainly approved of it, and it was their talk of rating records that led to the pro-censorship climate of the mid and late 1980's. ( Of course, they are very loath to call it censorship, even though several major record store chains had agreed to not to carry any record that contained a negative rating label.) The No More Censorship Defense Fund called for a boycott of Coors beer and other companies that financed the PMRC, and chronicled their activities in the newsletters inserted in DKs albums.
Finally, after months of delay, during which Biafra's time was taxed enough that he had no time to work on his music, the case went to trial. After a week-long trial in which witnesses such as Greil Marcus testified on the group's behalf, and a respected art teacher attempted to show how the poster was an integral part of the Frankenchrist package, the jury came out deadlocked (7-5 in favor of acquittal), and the judge dismissed the case.
Ironically, the painting which stirred up all the controversy had been printed in several books which could be found in libraries all across the U.S., all published without incident. Giger is a highly respected artist who had even won an academy award ( for his Alien set design), and found all the controversy very strange.
The famous obscenity trial for the DK's Frankenchrist album resulted in a precedent setting victory for free speech, but nearly bankrupted the label. Amazingly, despite the numerous famous artists under attack at that time, only Frank Zappa and a couple of others tried to help.
RIP: They're cracking down on rock 'n' roll in other ways too. Look at the lawsuit against Jello Biafra stemming from the poster inside of the Dead Kennedys' Frankenchrist album. Or the suit against Ozzy Osbourne because some father claims that it's Ozzy's fault that his kid committed suicide while one of Ozzy's records was playing. A spokesman from the L.A. District Attorney's office stated that he has a deskful of other possible rock 'n' roll prosecutions. Is this too going to become fashionable?
ZAPPA: It depends on the outcome of the Biafra case. Right now I'd take that folder on the other prosecutions and use it as evidence in the Biafra case to prove it's a conspiracy on the part of the judiciary and the law-enforcement officers in California, and that it's completely prejudicial and has nothing to do with anything in rock 'n' roll.
What I want to know is, how can a person in the San Fernando Valley who becomes irate at a rock 'n' roll poster in an album suddenly get a search warrant from the State Attorney General's office, requiring the service of six vice-squad officers plus three more flown up from Los Angeles, to search someone's house in San Francisco who's not presumed to be dangerous? That's nine guys, armed, going up to someone's house with a search warrant from the State Attorney General for the purpose of, as the warrant says, "To pick up three copies of the album." First of all, why not go to a record store and buy them? Then there's the slight matter of who's been indicted here, right down to the guy who pressed the albums. Notice it's not the Wherehouse record store that sold the records—a curious omission. And, they have to prove that by seeing this poster, someone has been irreparably damaged. It's an absurd case.
When the punk label Alternative Tentacles was attacked by the government for the artwork included with a Dead Kennedys album, Zappa put his money alongside his mouth. Despite his antipathy for punk, Zappa made a sizeable donation to the No More Censorship Defense Fund and called up label owner and Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra. Biafra recalls being advised to remember that he was the victim and to keep his dignity. In all, they had about seven or eight conversations, and Biafra was invited over to Zappa's house.
The two-week trial of former Dead Kennedys vocalist Jello Biafra ended on August 27th in a victory for the singer when a Los Angeles jury was unable to reach a verdict. Biafra and Michael Bonanno, the former manager of Biafra's record label, Alternative Tentacles, were charged with distributing harmful matter to a minor. It was apparently the first court case to scrutinize the contents of a rock album. The jurors deliberated a little more than a day before declaring themselves stalemated, causing the judge to declare a mistrial and throw out the case. [...] But the singer added that the victory didn't come cheaply. Since his arrest, the Dead Kennedys have disbanded, and Biafra's marriage has ended. "I've been wearing Lenny Bruce's shoes for over a year, and I don't think they fit very well," he said, referring to the late comic, whose career tailspinned after several obscenity arrests. Biafra's legal fees total more than $55,000. Few members of the music community came to Biafra's support; Frank Zappa, Steve Van Zandt and Paul Kantner were the only high-profile rock artists to contribute to his defense fund.
Meeting Frank Zappa was one of the few silver linings to come out of the trial. He got a hold of me and the helpers of the No More Censorship Defense Fund rather than us having to find him. He gave me some very valuable advice very early on; something that anybody subjected to that kind of harassment should remember: You are the victim. You have to constantly frame yourself that way in the mass media so you don't get branded some kind of outlaw simply because of your beliefs and the way you express your art. The outlaws are the police. I got to visit Frank two or three more times at his house in Los Angeles and those were very special times. He showed me a hilarious Christian aerobics video. The women were in their skintight leotards doing jumping jacks. "One-two, two-two, three-two, praise the Lord!" And of course the bustiest one was in a striped spandex suit dead ront center of the screen!
Eric himself is very interested in spreading peace through music, rather than violence. For this reason he isn't too fond of the Frank Zappa—Mothers of Invention approach. "He excites violence as a reaction from the audience. I think that it is easier to get the message across this way but it isn't my way. I think that Zappa is the Adolf Hitler of music.
"Mind you, if I'm on stage and I'm not getting across, in this difficulty I do a blues because with the sex and violence that you can use in a blues you can provoke a reaction. But, although I'm still in a blues bag, it isn't my way."
It comes as something of a surprise to meet the man of the infamous reputation to discover he is painfully introvert on meeting strangers, (He double bluffs this one by saying things like "I'm shy but I don't like to talk about it") hyper sensitive ("I have that clipping in which Eric Burdon called me the Adolph Hitler of rock and roll") and seldom raises his voice above a whisper.
Stockhausen isn't really an influence. That is, I have some of his records but I don't play them much. [John] Cage is a big influence. We've done a thing with voices, with talking, that is very like one of his pieces, except that of course in our piece the guys are talking about working in an airplane factory, or their cars.
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?
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.
The most recent record that I heard and impressed me was a "Double Concerto for Piano and Harpsichord and Two Chamber Orchestras" by Elliott Carter. I did a radio interview in Boston, about three or four days ago and I found this record. It's a Nonesuch album and it's really good, just go get it. Found this record sitting in their bin and I was going: "What is this album doing here, you know? Most have got shipped to the station by mistake." And so I snatched it out of the bin and the whole concept of what I was doing on the show was: the disc jockey told the audience that he was going down to city hall to hear some speeches about the Red Sox. And that he was turning the station over to this disc jockey and Frank Zappa and I was: "I just play what I like", but actually he was still sitting there running the turn tables and I was running my mouth. So I grabbed this thing and put it on. I said: "We are going to try to make this record a hit in Boston." And we kept playing it, and playing it and playing it, you know, and just saying: "All the calls are coming in and the record stores can't keep it in stock. And then we played the flip side which was a duo for violin and piano. Just gave it this horrible hype [...] But people were people calling the station asking where they could find it? And it's a great record, but it's not the kind of thing that anybody is going to play on the radio.
When I wanna relax a lot I listen to classical music usually. [...] The stuff that puts me into the most dream like state would be something like Anton Webern string quartets. Or maybe I listen to Elliott Carter string quartets.
He's dynamite. You know, I've never— You know, like I have a lot of respect for him as a musician but I was never so surprised since I sat down and talked with the cat. 'Cause he's really, you know, he's really into something. [...]
He's not exactly— He's not all blues. If you listen to what they're doing he's made an attempt to take his blues background and mold it into something, you know, more original. When you hear them in person, uh, lot of their improvisation would start off with a theme based upon, uh—like they'd start with the song "Spoonful" by the Howlin' Wolf and they'll sing the words to that but after that's over they just go completely berserk and they're into something else. It's not all blues. It does grow out of the blues. It's a completely different treatment of blues oriented material than you'd find a Chicago blues band playing.
Do People like Miles Davis know about you and your music?
Well, I met Miles Davis in 1962 in a jazz club in San Francisco called the Black Hawk. I really liked his music and I went up to him and introduced myself to him and he turned his back on me. And so I haven't had anything to do with him or his music since that time.
In 1962, though, you hadn't recorded anything.
That's okay. He had his chance. I don't treat people that way.
Zappa has reached the right medium in combining the seriousness of jazz with light-heartedness and laffs of rock and roll, and then again with the seriousness of classical music. [...] (An indication: he says he likes Miles Davis' Nefertiti, which was "good because it was free, but not crazed." Which, further, is a clue to Zappa. Free but not crazed. Weird ass, but in the proper structure.)
NT: It seems that you and McLaughlin and [Miles] Davis seem to be setting a similar trend . . . which I find especially interesting since you come from such different backgrounds.
FZ: Are you talking about the rhythmic aspect of it, or the melodic aspect or what?
NT: Well, both, and the way they bounce off of each other.
FZ: Well, I don't find too much in common melodically between what we do and what the Mahavishnu does; and the only thing in common with our group and Miles Davis is we got a trumpet in it.
Rhythmically there are some similarities, because we're playing eighth-note and sixteenth-note time signatures that are uneven and so forth, but we've been doing that for seven years.
I have recently finished reading Pictures of an Exhibitionist an autobiography by Keith Emerson. [...] Keith tells this story (according with the book it's around late 1970 and we know Frank was in UK in late November):
But before ELP took off, heading north on the M1, a call came through via Tony Stratton-Smith.
'Frank Zappa is in town and staying at the Kensington Hilton. He wants to meet with you.'
I found myself knocking on his hotel door.
Much to my surprise, after an hour of deep discussion about time signature, orchestras and avant-garde composers, he gave me a piano transcription written by an Ian Underwood.
'You should learn this,' he said.
Most gratified that our meeting had reached such a level of confidence as to entrust me with a rare manuscript, I hurried home and immediately stuck it on the music rack of the upright piano. It was a very demanding piece of piano writing, but I persisted, practicing it until I reached the last page where I hoped a conclusion would be offered. The piece sort of tailed out and Frank had written: 'More about this later.'
There is a connection with another book I have read recently: Emerson, Lake & Palmer—every album, every song by Mike Goode. In this book, Mike reviews Tarkus (released 1971) and while speaking about "Eruption" (the first movement of the "Tarkus" suite) he writes:
As well as Ginastera, Emerson also admitted to a Zappa influence when composing the music for Tarkus. 'I was a huge admirer of Frank Zappa and had met him on a few earlier occasions when he wanted my advice on how to cope with English orchestras. Frank was of the opinion that there shouldn't be time signatures. That's how I felt.'
When I was working on the piano reductions Frank asked about the possibility of doing one for "Mo 'N Herb's Vacation." [...] I felt I knew what Frank would consider a successful piano version of an orchestra piece, and didn't think that "Mo 'N Herb" would work out to his satisfaction. He made a comment like "How about if we slow it way down? It would be so weird, like a ballad from Mars." But that was not seriously considered. But then he said, "Why not do it for three pianos? Morton Feldman has a beautiful piece for three pianos." We never did it, but that comment revealed that Frank was familiar with at least some Feldman, and had liked what he heard.
Fraternity of Man busted
The L.A. based "Fraternity of Man" joined the ranks of rock groups busted for drugs last week. Chicago police raided their hotel rooms and arrested four members of the group.
Laurel Fisherman and Ingber Elliot were busted for possession of marijuana, stimulants and depressants; Warren Klein, for suspicion of possesion of stimulants; and Lawrence Wagner for suspicion of disorderly conduct.
The star of STORY #2 is a girl named Laurel Fishman. (We'll use her real name because she is, in fact, proud of her accomplishments.)
She had been a regular attendee at our concerts in Chicago and other Midwestern cities in the 1960s, and in 1970 she won a contest run by a radio station in Chicago. The contest was to tell in twenty-five words or less how the Mothers of Invention had saved your life.
Her entry said that, since hearing the song "Call Any Vegetable," she had gotten in touch with her friends in the vegetable kingdom and, as a result of this, her body functions had been more regular.
The contest winner was to receive a backstage pass to our concert at the Auditorium Theatre [May 21, 1971], with one guest. I didn't even know the radio station was having a contest. At the gig, the promoter told us about it, and introduced us to THE WINNER— Laurel Fishman.
She had screaming orange-red hair, and makeup out to here, and was a little bit on the pudgy side. She walked in with a guy who looked like Carl Franzoni from the early Freak Out! days.
She had brought with her a 'present' for the band. It was a piece of her own shit, which looked like it had been hand-molded into a perfect sphere, sitting in a mason jar. She claimed that was exactly how it had left her body. I couldn't imagine how that could be true—I thought I saw palm prints on it.
Jim Pons, the bass player at that time, was fascinated by it. After the show, he took it with him. We got to the motel, got out of the car and were walking to the elevator. Pons couldn't stand it anymore—he had to find out if it was real. He unscrewed the lid, took a big whiff, and went, "OOOhhhh my God!" It wound up in the trash can just outside the elevator in the motel.
When I was 14 years old I made the decision that I was going to find and purchase every Frank Zappa record. In 1984, this took some doing since all of his records from the '60s and '70s were out of print. I would take buses all over L.A. and the Valley for these records, every one of which had a huge, powerful effect on me. [...]
By the time I was 15 I owned all of the records and was spending about 70% of my musical life studying and learning his music. [...] I taught myself to read music by comparing the written notes in the Frank Zappa Guitar Book to the recordings of those songs. [...]
By the time I was 16 I knew how to play damn near everything in terms of his compositions. That learning process, as well as the dedication and devotion I had for his music was a hugely important step in my eventually having my own voice as a musician. Also, those potentially difficult years were mostly a lot of laughter in my head, as his sense of humor felt to me like a friend. Furthermore, his self-assured and confident attitude gave me the reassurance to believe in myself completely and not let anyone tell me shit.
By the time he was 16, John Frusciante had mastered all of Frank Zappa's guitar solos—some of the trickiest licks in rock—and had even auditioned for Zappa's band, a sobering experience that drew him up short. "I was sitting there thinking, do you want to be a rock star and write your own songs and draw all the girls," he told Mojo magazine, "or do you want to be in Frank Zappa's band, where you'll be told what to do all the time, not allowed to take drugs, and it's kind of a square band so there's not going to be a lot of girls at the shows?" It wasn't a tough call. When the Chili Peppers came calling the following year, he jumped at the chance.
Jamie Gangel: Did it make you feel better about [Tipper Gore] when it was revealed during the campaign that she was a drummer in an all-girl band, The Wildcats, [...]?
FZ: No, I didn't ever heard that one, but I can . . .
Jamie Gangel: You didn't know that?
Jamie Gangel: She's got a new set of drums for Christmas this year.
FZ: Pfff . . . Oh, ho ho ho, ha ha ha . . . That one day I wasn't watching the news . . . ha ha ha . . .
Jamie Gangel: Then does that give you a new feeling for her?
FZ: Yeah, I've got a respect on 'em now.
Jamie Gangel: Have you heard from them since that?
FZ: Well, when it was revealed that I was sick, I got a nice letter from the Gores.
"Frank is my Elvis," he emphasizes. "His example encouraged me, comforted me, made me feel it was okay to go my own way, to not do things the way the authorities told me to."
Pre-planning and chutzpah actually afforded Matt the chance to meet Frank once in those days of impoverishment. "When I drove down to Los Angeles in 1975 to see the big orchestra," he recalls, "I showed up a day early figuring they'd be rehearsing, and I was right. I walked in, and there was Frank Zappa directing the musicians. I asked if I could sit and listen, and he said fine. That was my first personal encounter.
"I moved to Los Angeles on a hot August night in 1977. My car broke down in the fast lane of the Hollywood Freeway right above Capitol Records at the same time I was listening to a disc jockey on the radio who'd just been fired, who was drunk and ranting about the station on his last show. That was my introduction to Los Angeles. Moving here is why Life in Hell originated."
Between 1979 and 1985, Groening supported himself as a music journalist writing a weekly column called "Sound (???)" for an underground music tabloid, The Los Angeles Reader, about his misadventures trying to get from club to club in a beat-up car. Long before he became Bart Simpson's creator, he intended to be Frank Zappa's biographer. He actually got down 500 pages of notes, supplemented by 1,500 pages of research material. Matt's success with his self-published Life in Hell series led to Bart's cameos on The Tracy Ullman Show in 1987, and then on December 17, 1989, the premiere of The Simpsons, which catapulted Groening into the stratosphere of commercial television. Of necessity, the Zappa project was placed on hold. But not his interest.
"Around 1988," he continues, "I was on KCRW, a local FM public station, playing an hour of Frank Zappa music as a guest on Roger Steffens' program about music of the '60s. In the middle of the show, Frank called in, gracious and grateful and surprised that someone was playing so much of his music on the radio at once. I was delighted. That was basically my real introduction. Then about a year ago, I did an interview for Interview magazine, and the guy who talked to me said that Frank Zappa had told him that he liked The Simpsons. Through him, Frank invited me to call. I did and we've become friends."
We approached Danny Elfman, whose career I'd been following since I saw him perform as the leader of The Mystic Knights Of The Oingo Boingo (best described as an avant-garde Cab Calloway-on-Mars vaudeville ensemble) at the Whisky-a-Go-Go on the Sunset Strip in the late '70s. Elfman had recently composed the soundtrack to Pee-wee's Big Adventure, and I knew he'd be perfect.
I gave Elfman what I called a "flavors" tape, featuring the kind of sound I wanted for The Simpsons theme. The tape included The Jetsons theme, selections from Nino Rota's Juliet Of The Spirits, a Remington electric shaver jingle by Frank Zappa, some easy listening music by Esquivel, and a teach-your-parrot-to-talk record.
Elfman gave it a listen and said, "I know exactly what you're looking for."
Rutger Hauer: "Zapppppppa o man he is/was/4ever will be. Love him/his stuff".
In June 2000 Rutger was at the 200 Motels & Suites event played by the 'Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest' in Carré Amsterdam. I read somewhere that Gail even asked Rutger to perform on that 200 Motels event. Instead of performing he was sitting one row in front of me enjoying the show. The Zappa's and Hauers were neighbors.
One of the most interesting guys on guitar on the planet is Allan Holdsworth. I really respect his playing.
CH: Did you know [FZ], at all?
AH: Yeah, I did! But he was really good to me—helped me out and he one time let me use his studio, you know, and there was no reason for him to do that, you know—he was just basically helping me out! But, you know, we were all, you know, really sad about what happened to him. You know, I just wish I could have seen a little bit more of him. Let him know what all of us thought about him.
I was trying to find a drummer and I crossed paths with Frank Zappa who told me, "Oh, you should check out this guy." So when I held some auditions, I invited Chad [Wackerman]. We just improvised, just me and the drummer, we didn't play any songs at all.
I know that people can learn to play certain music, you can learn anything, but I wanted a guy I could feel comfortable playing with. And with Chad, it was like, ok, you can stay. Even today, there's always surprises when we play together, which is great.
His approach to guitar was so unique and quite honestly baffling, especially to the 13 yeard old me who spent a summer trying to learn licks from his "Metal Fatigue" album. My dad was an admirer of Allan's playing as well. He talked about him in high regard in several interviews.
One day Allan came to our house to visit my dad. I don't recall the exact circumstances but it may have had something to do with Chad Wackerman who used to play drums with my dad and also played with Allan.
[...] I was lucky enough to know Allan after my dad had passed away. He was very kind and spoke fondly of the time he visited with my dad.
FZ: The only people I would add to it would be Penderecki and— that would be about it. I'd add Honegger too.
DR: Why Honegger?
FZ: I like his music, I like the way it sounds. I got about three albums by him, last year. I listened to them over and over again for about 4 months.
DR: What particular works?
FZ: The Liturgical Symphony, uh, Symphony for Strings and Two Trumpets, the Pastorale d'Ete, the Chant of Joy. I like that stuff.
The Stones are still the best sound in England. I've only just got hold of a copy of Beggar's Banquet, but my favourite album is Between The Buttons. I thought it was superior to the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper. Jagger has a mind that's in the right place. Other stars ride around in their Rolls Royces, but you can picture Jagger sitting in one taking his shoes off or picking his nose and wiping it on the upholstery.
There's nothing wrong with a good sound effect if you stick it in the right place. Spike Jones made a living out of it. Really one of the greats.
Another huge influence was the zany bandleader Spike Jones. Through Jones' weekly TV show, Zappa was given a tutorial in serious music turned into musical mayhem. Jones was the only here to whom Zappa would ever send a fan letter.
"I was a massive Spike Jones fan," [FZ] told Charles Amirkhanian, "and when I was six or seven years old, he had a hit record called 'All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth' and I sent him a fan letter because of that." [Society Pages, 6, "Ode To Gravity".]
"I used to love Spike Jones," said Zappa. "He had a lot of special instruments built to do all that stuff, like arrays of car-horns that you could honk that were in pitch. In the early sixties, when I moved to Los Angeles, they were having an auction of that equipment and I would have dearly loved to have bought it, but I had no money."
I've developed a 'formula' for what these timbres mean (to me, at least), so that when I create an arrangement—if I have access to the right instrumental resources—I can put sounds together that tell more than the story in the lyrics, especially to American listeners, raised on these subliminal cliches, shaping their audio reality from the cradle to the elevator.
We crack up during rehearsal because some of the stuff is so stupid. When building an arrangement, every time I have an opportunity to insert one of those modules I cram it in, and since rehearsal is a daily two-hour occurrence while we're on the road, the arrangements often change overnight, based on the daily news or some morsel of tour-bus folklore.
During the pretour rehearsals, the band members pencil these 'extras' in next to 'the real notes' so, when they finally have the show learned, they know not only the song-as-originally-written but also, superimposed on it, a flexible grid which will support a constantly mutating collage of low-rent Americana.
I owe this part of my musical existence to Spike Jones.
For starting, I used to really enjoy Spike Jones and Leiber & Stoller. America should give them an award for what they did to make rock 'n' roll happen.
I'm sick of reading things that say Paul is the musician and George is the philosopher. I wonder where I fit in, what was my contribution? I get hurt, you know, sick of it. I'd sooner be Zappa and say, "Listen, you fuckers, this is what I did, and I don't care whether you like my attitude saying it." That's what I am, you know, I'm a fucking artist, and I'm not a fucking P.R. Agent or the product of some other person's imagination. Whether you're the public or whatever, I'm standing by my work whereas before I would not stand by it.
Nobody says it, so you scream it: look at me, a genius, for fuck's sake! What do I have to do to prove to you son-of-a-bitches what I can do, and who I am? Don't dare, don't you dare fuckin' dare criticize my work like that. You, who don't know anything about it.
I know what Zappa is going through, and a half. I'm just coming out of it.
I admire Yoko's work.
I admire "Fluxus," a New York-based group of artists founded by George Macuinas. I really think what they do is beautiful and important.
I admire Andy Warhol's work, I admire Zappa a bit, but he's a fuckin' intellectual—I can't think of anybody else. I admire people from the past. I admire Fellini.
Two previously unheard tapes of John Lennon telling stories, nursery rhymes and improvising songs are expected to fetch £70,000 at auction.
The 80-minute tapes were recorded in 1969 and 1970 and display for the first time the bond between Lennon and Yoko Ono's daughter, Kyoko.
[...] Lennon is then heard accompanying Kyoko in an unlikely rendition of Frank Zappa's "Jelly Roll Gum Drop".
FZ: Speaking of that, I got a phone call from Conlon Nancarrow recently. I finally got a chance to talk to him.
DS: What's he have to say?
FZ: He's ill, right now. He's getting over a stroke, but it was nice talking to him.
DS: Do you think you'll ever be able to expose him to the Synclavier.
FZ: Well, I know somebody else has.
DS: Oh, really?
FZ: Yeah, I heard a rumor that Henry Kaiser had given him a whiff of it.
Why Don't You Do Me Right (Zappa)
Recorded by Genesis P. Orridge
Produced by Genesis P. Orridge, Alex Fergusson and Steve Brown
here is a small selection of Interviews and Lectures by Genesis P-Orridge made between 1975 (with COUM Transmissions) through out late 70's to 81 (as Throbbing Gristle with interviews by Frank Zappa, Boyd Rice, Red Ronnie, Simon Dwyer) and 1981 until 1984 (with Psychic TV and incl former TOPY members such as David Tibet of Current 93 or John Balance of Coil) for magazines like The Face, Subvert...
Additional informant: D.
FZ: The only people I would add to it would be Penderecki and— that would be about it. I'd add Honegger too.
DR: [...] What about Penderecki?
FZ: I like his instrumental music more than his choral music. The Violin Capriccioso I thought was a good piece.
DR: What's that violinist's name . . .
(FZ and DR in unison) Paul Zukofsky.
DR: The Threnody (for 52 String Instruments for the Victims of Hiroshima), have you heard that?
FZ: Yeah, I have two different versions of that.
DR: Yeah, the Victrola and the Phillips
FZ: I like the Victrola one better.
FZ: The sound is better.
The first time I heard "Freak Out" by the Mothers of Invention was on headphones, smoking an early joint in my drug career, at the house of SRC, a Michigan band of the 60's. That night I kind of knew they were asking (Stooges guitarist) Ron (Asheton) to leave our group and join up with them, so I was hanging around to see what was going to happen. Rather than waste my time, I saw a copy of "Freak Out" and listened to it on the phones.
I thought it was very, very funny. I particularly loved "Help, I'm a Rock," "America Drinks and Goes Home," "Who Are The Brain Police" and the cameo of Suzie Creamcheese. I had already seen the Fugs live on stage, with Tuli Kupferberg changing costumes out of a large bag in a humorous way, so I was somewhat prepared. I liked the Mothers' conceptualism and humor, although the music didn't really do much for me. My own experiments were more influenced by Bob Ashley, Harry Partch, and Berlioz.
[...] When the Stooges went to LA in 1970 to record "Fun House," we were staying at the Tropicana Motel. I walked up the hill to (legendary Hollywood coffee shop) Ben Franks to get something to eat, and there, sitting at the counter expressionless, with his hair and mustache and weird beard, was Frank Zappa. What a vision. I might as well have seen Aristotle. I was very impressed.
BD: Speaking of recordings, there seem to be rather few discs with your music.
DR: You know, I have very few records. I have been very dilatory about promoting myself, and the reason is not for any modesty at all, it's just that for the most part I have always done it very ineptly. You know, I get some idea and I think "This is just great," and "I think I oughtta do this," and then I don't do it well. It's not that I lack belief in what I do, it's just that I hate the whole thing. In fact, that RCA record you and I were talking about [David Raksin Conducts His Great Film Scores (RCA Red Seal ARL1-1490, 1976)], which is the one with Laura, [directed by Otto Preminger and released in 1944], The Bad and the Beautiful and Forever Amber [directed by Otto Preminger and released in 1947], if it hadn't been for Frank Zappa (1940-1993), that record would never have been made.
BD: Well, thank goodness for Frank Zappa, then. How did he get a hand in it?
DR: We had become friends. I brought him down to USC to talk to one of my classes—not one of my music classes, but a class I teach in the School of Public Administration. He was down there and we became friends. I find him a very remarkable and interesting, a wonderful man. Anyhow, I had been asked by a young record producer to do some stuff. He said, "You can have any orchestra you want, so get busy and write some stuff. I've been listening to your music and I think it's wonderful." Well, you know, there it was. So I sat down and started to write, and I was about two-thirds of the way through, when all of a sudden he was killed in a dreadful accident. It was really sad. So there I was. I kept writing. I said, "Well, I'll do this, that's what I'm here for." And then I said to myself, "I should really make some kind of an effort to do something that would not be out of my way of doing things. I'll tell a few friends." So the first guy I ran into was Benny Carter (1907-2003), the saxophonist and composer. He was a wonderful, wonderful, dear man. I told him about it and I said, "Benny, if you ever run across anybody who's interested in doing an album of this kind, just let me know." Well, the second guy was Frank who wanted me to come over. I can't remember what it was we were talkin' about, but he said, "What are you doin'?" So I told him about this thing, and I said, "You know, this guy has been killed." He said, "Yes, I heard. That's too bad. What're you gonna do about the album?" I said, "Well this is what I'm doing—I'm talking to you!" He said, "Well that isn't good enough," so he said, "I'll take care of it." And he called up a guy who was then president of RCA and told him about it, and this guy came out here and saw me. I didn't know who he was. I just went to see him, and the first thing he said to me was, "If you think you're gonna have to do any convincing, forget it. I was around when Percy Faith (1908-1976) made a recording of The Bad and the Beautiful, and I've never recovered. You've got it, carte blanche." Later I wondered if this guy could do it so I looked at his card and it said, "Kenneth D. Glancy, President, RCA Records." [Both laugh] So then I finished the thing and of course I'm mighty grateful to Frank for it. There were still many battles ahead which had to be taken care of.
Friday night Maragarita-driven get-togethers were a regular occurrence and I hung out at a bunch of them, but they were mainly social gatherings. The one documented on the Late Show program was different and special. Although one Friday, Gene Simmons came over and he and Frank talked about a bunch of stuff, including (CC alert) the group Angel who were on the same label as Kiss in the 70's. (Gene was talking about compiling and releasing an Angel box set—did that ever happen?)
NICOLAS SLONIMSKY SIGNED POSTER AND HANDWRITTEN MUSIC
A pair of Frank Zappa items relating to conductor, composer and pianist Nicolas Slonimsky. The first is a signed poster from a concert in New Haven, Connecticut, on May 24, 1973, where Slonimsky was a guest conductor. The poster is housed in a frame, and a note on the paper backing explains that this was given to Zappa during a recording session in 1993. The second is a single-page handwritten piece of music signed by Slonimsky and dated January 1988. Written on Slonimsky stationery, the page is marked "Molto zappo" and references the International Star Registry at the bottom of the page.
Larger, 23 1/4 by 16 inches, framed
Question: Who is your favorite classical composer?
Zappa: Varese, Stravinsky, Penderecki, and I like some of Takemitsu's compositions, and I have some scores by Mayuzumi.
Oh Takemitsu! I love "November Steps". If you see him in the future, you must send him this message: when I was in a hospital, I was just crazy about "November Steps", listening to it everyday. It's really excellent. Another good one is "Dorian Horizon".
I like other things in contemporary music, too, particularly Takemitsu. He's one of my favorites.
When I went to Billy [Bob Thornton]'s to meet him, I was immediately embraced by the star and shown his posters of the Mothers of Invention taken while I was in the band, as well as his collection of Turtles and Flo and Eddie records. Billy told me that when he was first making his way to California from Arkansas, he listened to our music exclusively.
I guess I must have heard them as early as '66, definitely by '67 I was listening to the Mothers (of Invention). I had their first two or three albums. My brother and I used to go in the record store [...]. I would go in there and I would look at records—I wouldn't even know anything about it! In my town, people didn't walk around the street talking about the Mothers of Invention or anything. I'd see a record and say "Wow, that looks strange. I'll take that one."
So my brother and I got real hooked on the Mothers of Invention as well as the Bonzo Dog Band out of England as they were kind of their version of the Mothers. The first record of Beefheart's I heard was Trout Mask Replica which I guess wouldn't have been 'til about '69. Got hooked on Beefheart too. So I was kind of musically a person with multiple personality disorder. I would listen to Hank Williams and Jim Reeves on the same day I would listen to Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart.
It quickly became clear that Zappa's ideas for changing society and those of the militants were two different things. "Society is trying to do away with dreamers," he said. "They want to straighten them out. A dreamer is dangerous if he has an angry dream up his sleeve because it becomes contagious. I am in favour of being comfortable, everyone wants to be comfortable, but everyone has a different idea of what that is. I work towards it in my way and other people do in their ways. There are a lot of Americans who like teenage fairs and Lawrence Welk, now why be a dirty guy and stop them?"
You used the word "obnoxious." A lot of people think that sometimes you actually fit that category.
Well, a lot of people could say the same thing about Lawrence Welk or they could say the same thing about any other music that they didn't like. But we do enjoy it and the people that have various negative opinions about it can use any adjective they want to describe it.
Research, compilation and maintenance by Román García Albertos