The Old Masters Boxes

May, 1983—The Original Project

FZ, interviewed by Tom Mulhern, Guitar Player, February, 1983

Do you ever listen to your older material to pull things out for use as a catalyst for new pieces?

Well, I'll be listening to those things a whole lot because we plan to re-release the entire catalog of my albums next May. We're remixing everything. As a matter of fact, the board is set up to remix the The Mothers, Fillmore East-June 1971, and what we've been able to do to that album is science fiction. You can't even believe it/ It doesn't even resemble the original.

Will the albums hold basically the same material?

I'm going to add to it. The whole idea of this package is . . . I don't know whether we'll be able to pull it off in time, because there's an awful lot of work to be done to meet the deadline, but I'm hoping by Mother's Day to have five boxes with seven albums in each of them, covering the entire catalog. And we'll divide them up so that the first box is like all the early Mother's stuff plus one extra disc of material from the era that's never been released before. And the same goes for the rest of the boxes: Each will have one disc of things that were done during that time that never got released.

So they're not just the same records in a new package.

All the stuff is either going to be remastered, as is the case with the things that already have a good mix, or completely re-mixed. This includes 4-track, early 8-track, or early 16-track—or anything done when science wasn't there to make it sound right.


Box One

FZ, interviewed by Charles Amirkhanian, KPFA-FM, May 17, 1984

if you have the original albums it's a drastic improvement over the originals and a lot of people who have written in saying where can they get another copy of Freak Out!, mine's wearing out, well they'll be able to get a new copy of Freak Out!, Absolutely Free, Lumpy Gravy, We're Only In It For The Money and Ruben & The Jets, plus the Mystery Disc, that has little pieces of [...] stuff that was left out of those albums and other things that date from before Freak Out! included in that package—and that's set for release within the next couple of months.

[...] Nothing has been re-recorded [on Lumpy Gravy]—there've been two things added to the orchestral stuff—that is a brand new set of drums and a brand new electric bass playing the same parts that were originally written into the scores but not too legible on the original tapes. And . . . Basically it's the same piece, just we've improved the echo on it, we've improved the high frequency clarity and tried to suppress the tape noise where it was possible.

[...] On Freak Out! the only thing we did was take the original 2-track mixes, re-equalize 'em and change some of the echo that was on there. Same thing on Absolutely Free. On We're Only In It For The Money it was completely remix from the original 8-track masters, because the 2-track masters were pretty much destroyed by being stored badly. And in the case of that album all of the drumset parts and all of the electric bass parts were replaced. And the same was true on Ruben & The Jets—drums and bass replaced.

[...] Well, I don't know how they did it, but the condition of the tape was such that the oxide was falling off and you could see through the tape and when you played it you could tell that there used to be something on it but it sure didn't sound good. And there's no way to retrieve it, so you had to go back at great expense and great time and delay to re-record the rhythm tracks and do a complete remix on the original masters. And if you'd ever heard the We're Only In It For The Money album, that too is collaged together—there's lots of little bits and pieces, and they had to be located from the four corners of the world, re-spliced, re-sequenced, and that was a big job. And in the case of Ruben & The Jets there was one master that was completely gone. We couldn't find it. A little background here—because of some lawsuit that I was involved in, I now have the rights to all of these master recordings and that's one of the reasons why we're releasing them. But when the masters were returned to me, in the case of the Ruben & The Jets album, the song "Stuff Up The Cracks" was missing. Couldn't find it anywhere, so we had to just do a re-spiffing on a 2-track mix of that song. Everything else on that album has been really cleaned up though.

[...] The problem is that I know what they are and I know where they are roughly in this mountain of tape that I've got stored in this vault in my house. But to find it, to go through the hours and hours of tape to find those little pieces was unbelievable work. And just when you thought you had all the pieces that do a section you knew there was something else missing and you had to go diving back in there—because these little things are like two seconds long and they're not labeled on the box, it just doesn't say, "18th cut of 2 seconds duration in segment 9 from side 2," you have some other weird name on it or it's not named at all—you just happened to know that it might been the last note of some improvisation that was on some [...] reel of tape and you gotta go and find it—chopped it up.

Arthur Barrow (The Clonemeister), "Warning: Actual Zappa Content,", August 28, 1998

Let's see, where should I begin?

First, I didn't have much say in the matter. I did tell Frank that it seemed somehow sacreligious to me, because WOIIFT$ was one of my favorite albums when I was in high school. But you have to try to look at it from Frank's attitude. As an artist, one is seldom 100% satisfied with one's art. Frank talked about what a drag it was back in the 60's to make a record, that you only had a few hours to mix a whole album, etc. He was also never satisfied with musicans' performances, especially the old Mothers. At the time of adding the new bass and drums, he saw it as an oppurtunity to finally make it right with modern technology. He also had just gotten his studio together, and he did it becasue he could. I still go on record as being against the whole idea, though! Why did I do it? Because he told me to—I was only following orders . . . sorry, folks . . .

Also, I do not play upright acoustic bass! That is someone else on Ruben. I would also like to say that although I was against the new bass & drums concept, it was an awful lot of fun for me to do. I got a chance to hear the orignal tracks individually—very cool.

As for the funk style bass, Frank just seemed obsessed with that style at that time. And the My Sharona lick was throughn into a lot of songs around then because I knew the Knack drummer. By the way, do you guys know that Bozzio is now the drummmer for the Knack? It's a small world.



Research, compilation and maintenance by Román García Albertos
This page updated: 2019-08-02