transcriptions below are © to www.guitarworld.com 1991.
"The Son Also Rises"
Guitar World, May 1991, Vol. 12 #5
Interview by Bill Milkowski
by Nooger's Lumpy
calls him one of rock's best new talents. With the release of a
flashy new album, Dweezil Zappa proves that he is more than just
a lucky son-of-a-gun. Formerly renowned as Frank's precocious boy, Dweezil Zappa
declares his musical manhood with a fine new album, Confessions.
Frank broke into the business as a mere pup, recording his debut
single, "My Mother Is A Space Cadet,"
at the ripe old age of 13. Two years later he appeared on Papa's
album, Them or Us, frolicking on the
fretboard alongside not only his father, but his guitar hero/teacher,
debut album, Havin' A Bad Day, indicated much growth in his
playing. By the time his My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama was
released in 1988, it was clear that Dweezil Zappa was destined to become a force unto
himself, apart from his famous father.
A stint as
a guest VJ on MTV demonstrated that the devilishly witty and
acerbic Dweez was indeed a chip off the old
block. And in 1989, his mug was exposed to an even wider audience
via the CBS sitcom, "Normal
Life," which he co-starred with sister Moon Unit. Along the
way, there was a cameo appearance on
Winger's debut album, a Grammy Award nomination in 1988 for his
work with Herbie Hancock and Terry Bozzio
on a revved-up rendition of the Sixties' surf classic, "Wipe Out" (from the soundtrack to
Back to the Beach); a collaboration with The Fat Boys on a remake
of "Baby You're a Rich Man"
(from the Disorderlies soundtrack), and a spot on the soundtrack
from Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure
alongside the Nelsons (that's right, Ozzie & Harriet's
the help of co-producer Nuno Bettencourt of Extreme, the talented
21-year old has put together his strongest album to date. With its potent combination of pop hooks,
catchy harmony vocals and lots of killer guitar work, Confessions
may be the album that establishes Dweezil Zappa as an
artist to be reckoned with in the Nineties.
you and Nuno get together on this project?
I went into
a record store and saw an album with a picture of Nuno with a
homemade guitar, and I
thought, "This guy's probably good." I bought the record and he became my new favourite guitar player. I
had to track him down. I got hold of this Boston music paper which had an Extreme hotline listed. It
turned out to be the drummer's home phone number. I talked to him, and then a couple of months later,
when they came out to Los Angeles for a gig, we hung out and became friends. Once I knew that Nuno
was responsible for the background vocals on the Extreme records, I knew that it would be great to do
my record with him. So he's providing about 98% of all the background vocals himself. And he sings lead
on "The Kiss."
about "Stayin' Alive," on which six guitarists appeared?
That was an
idea I had a long time ago. I wanted to get a bunch of guitar
players together on one song,
but I didn't know what the song was going to be until the last minute.
the track go down?
showed up on different days. I recorded the tracks and did my
solo, which is the first one.
Then I just got different guys in and laid them down in order. Zakk Wylde was second, Steve Lukather
third, Warren DeMartini fourth, Nuno fifth, and Tim Pierce sixth. The idea was to have everybody be
themselves and appear back-to-back. I just think it's such a funny concept. The vocalist I'm trying to get -
and this hasn't exactly been confirmed yet - is Donny Osmond!
Fuckin' Donny Osmond. He's a really good singer, but for some
reason people don't want to let
him break free from the mold he's been in.
ever encountered that sort of thing, stereotyping?
time. People have no idea of what I actually do. They think I'm
some spoiled show-business kid or
something, which is a hideous stereotype that I have to break free from. Nothing could be further from
the truth. I mean, it's so difficult to be the son or daughter of a famous person and then try to accomplish
something on your own. You have to try ten times harder than the average person. If I had the same
ability but came from some place like Utah, I think I would probably have a lot more support from record
companies. The would think of me as a new talent. But since I already have a name that people know - a
name that doesn't necessarily bring smiles to most people's faces - it makes it tough. The experiences I've
had with record companies have been less than desirable. I mean, they're utterly pathetic, actually. This
record, with all the people that are on it, and all the good songs, was passed on by every label in the
world. Flat-out passed.
Not to me,
it isn't. It just goes along with the current state of music, and
has absolutely nothing to do with
talent. It has absolutely nothing to do with creativity. The biggest records in the world right now have
been manufactured and made for complete morons.
think that most of the record companies that passed on you assume
that your music is subversive
simply because of your name?
don't know. Maybe the problem is that most of the music doesn't
fit easily into a format. That's
been the problem with Nuno and Extreme. I don't see them on MTV, and I don't hear them on the radio.
It's only the real hardcore guitar audience that know about Nuno and Extreme - the people who are
searching for new guitar heroes. It's really weird. You would figure that a band that plays as well as they
some cool rhythm playing on your album. Is that something you've
had to work on over the
because I was a terrible rhythm guitar player all my life. I'm
still a pretty bad rhythm player,
but I cover it by creating rhythms that are comfortable for me to play, but usually not comfortable for
anyone else on the face of the earth. I have a really spastic sense of rhythm. I can't play 4/4 blues
progressions. It just doesn't work for me. Sometimes I play something that I think is in 4/4, and Scott
Thunes will tell me it's actually something very twisted and nowhere near 4/4. I don't know anything
about time signatures; I just know whatever feels right for whatever the song is. I guess that ultimately is
the most important thing, anyways.
your favourite solos on your new record?
The one on
"The Kiss," and the one on "Obviously Influenced
By The Devil," because they were both
such a strange departure for me. On the "Obviously Influenced" solo, I did a little Mark Knopfler-Stevie
Ray Vaughn thing. But then I added a little bit of Ravi Shankar at the end. I mean, it got really strange. I
also threw in a couple of little Albert Lee country bends on that tune. For "The Kiss," I just totally ripped
off Tim Pierce, who is a great guitar player not many people know about. I saw him play with Rick
Springfield a long time ago and remember being really impressed. He's one of those guys who can solo
endlessly, with just the best melodies and ideas pouring out. And I envy that so much because that's like
the weakest part of my playing. I don't come up with good melodies, per se, on the spot. I come up with
quirky little strange guitar licks, as opposed to playing notes that work really well in the context of the
ever pick up any quotes or signatures from your father's playing?
I tried to
do that on one song - in the second solo I play on "Obviously
Influenced By The Devil." At the
very end of it, I tried to rip off my Dad in a big way. But my Dad's playing is impossible to emulate,
because his technique is so bizarre. I've never seen anybody with a stranger technique. His fingerings, his
choice of open strings in very odd places. It's all really strange. It's not like he's got a stock thing going on.
I hear little things that I can sort of attempt to do. For the most part, he doesn't really do the same thing
playing much guitar these days?
picked up a guitar since he came home from the last tour. But he
just asked me to change
strings on one of his guitars, so that's a good sign.
plan on touring with this band after Confessions is released?
be a tour, but the band is somewhat far-removed from what's
happening on the record. We
have a second guitarist named Mike Keneally, who also played with my Dad. And for lead vocals we'll be
using my brother Ahmet, who is 16 and one of the funniest human beings alive. To tell you the truth, I
don't sing a lot live, because I can't do it and play guitar at the same time. I purposely constructed the
songs to have difficult guitar parts, never intending on playing them live when I made the record. We're
playing things that really aren't supposed to be played on guitar - very intricate things. And the way we
run our show is very much like the way my Dad ran a lot of his shows. We figured that we would like to
play music for the sake of music. I mean, with all this Milli Vanilli stuff going on, we thought we'd get
back to actual live performances. So our show is demanding. I don't think we speak to the audience
except for when I change guitars. Everything is tightly glued together, and it's solid music.
Yes, a Zappa tradition that will be carried on.