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Zappa Plays Zappa At The Aztec

Carl King
Dweezil Zappa, front and center, with his band

A familiar name heads to the Alamo City to play for the first time.  I spoke to DweezilZappa on the phone recently and he has a bit of his dad Frank's edgy sizzle. Here he speaks about contemporary rock stars who care more about status than becoming musicians.

“Most people when they get into music they’re looking at playing stuff that is relatively easy for them to pull off and they just get to go out there and pose on stage. They have more emphasis on dance and lighting than they do on music these days.”

Dweezil has come to town to perform what’s called Zappa Plays Zappa--the  son plays his father’s music.  

"That’s sort of what my job is—to interpret the things that I feel are the lesser-known elements of my dad’s music, and to give people a show that gives people a chance to hear music from throughout my dad’s career but focuses primarily on composition."

By "lesser-known" though he doesn’t mean obscure.

"On this tour we’re playing the Grand Wazoo and Sinister Footwear."

He and a five-piece band have been touring off and on since the late nineties playing different iterations of his dad’s music.

“That’s the universal message—that this music is timeless. It’s not just nostalgia music.”

His father was one of rock-n-roll’s most creative and successful iconoclasts. And his music was complex and isn’t easy to recreate live.

"We respect the music as its written. People have this expectation that when you’re playing other peoples’ music that you’re supposed to change it and make it your own.  Or modernize it or make it current. This is much more like classical music."

The elder Zappa was known for his wild stage shows, and in recording more than sixty albums, an unwillingness to compromise artistic vision. While he never garnered a massive audience, he was wildly popular with some, including many critics. Rolling Stone lists Frank as the 22nd greatest guitarist of all time.

“He created spontaneous compositions that were exciting and really, just unbelievable.  My dad described his guitar solos and the process of playing them as ‘air sculptures.’“

The son clearly has a respect for his father. And they had a close relationship to the end, although he didn't try to steer Dweezil's career.

“He never was really about giving advice. He listened to the music I did and was glad to see I was doing my own thing with guitar, and I got to play with him live on stage a few times, sit down around the house and play a few times, but he wasn’t really like trying to shape anything that I did. He just wanted me to be able to do my own thing.“

Probably not unlike a lot of you parents out there. Dweezil Zappa plays at the Aztec Theater on Thursday night April 30.

For more on the Aztec performance, go here

For more on Dweezil Zappa go here

Jack Morgan can be reached at jack@tpr.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii