Alain: A few years ago you broke with the Grandmothers—do you still have any relations with your ex-partners?
FZ: The only one that I talk to periodically is Roy Estrada. The rest of them I don't hang out with.
Alain: Do you know what Roy Estrada is doing now?
FZ: He's just working as a truck driver.
Alain: He has no relation with the musical scene?
FZ: He put a little band together and he made some demos and he tried to get Warner Brothers interested, but they wouldn't touch it.
Alain: When can we expect your next tour?
FZ: I actually made some inquiries through my agent about the possibility of coming back to Europe this year, but the music I'm doing now is very much involved with the computer and I wanted to take the computer on the road. They made some phone calls to European promoters and they weren't especially enthusiastic about me coming there with a computer. So I don't know if there's a market for live performances of the things that I'm doing now.
Zappa's association with Ryko dates back to 1986, when Ryko chief Don Rose approached Zappa seeking a licensing deal to release Mothers and Zappa masters on CD. At the time, Zappa had a European deal with EMI, which gave that company the right to release his titles on CD. Ironically, EMI refused.
We finished off this deal with a company called Rykodisc, which is going to be a distributer of CDs. The basic release schedule we're talking about is eight CDs a year for the next two or three years. They want two from the Verve albums, two from a later period, two current and two wild cards. I've been working on the wild card assemblies and the digital tapes of the '82 and '84 tour.
[...] I've got another [guitar album] in the works right now. In assembling the wild card CDs for Rykodisc I found some real neat guitar solos. It hasn't been edited to a format yet, but I probably have enough for at least a CDs worth.
When the idea for Rykodisc was conceived on a café napkin at MIDEM in 1983. Frank Zappa was central to the CD-oriented label's goals. "He was high among the list of appropriate artists for early CD release—and one of my first ideas." recalls Don Rose, president of the Salem, Mass.-based manufacturer.
[...] Continues Rose, "We knew he had regained the rights to his entire body of recorded work, and therefore controlled his catalog personally—which is rare. So it made perfect sense for us to go after such a forward-thinking artist who controlled his own material and was already digital-friendly."
[...] "I hadn't even heard of them before," says Zappa. "Then here's this guy named Don Rose who knew something about my catalog and was interested. and it was like one cottage industry talking to another!"
It was also perfect timing. When Rose finally met with Zappa early in 1985 the major labels were doing little to promote the CD format.
Explains Rose, "Mass merchandisers were suspicious of a third format, and manufacturing capacity was overloaded worldwide. Artists who were perceived by the majors as fringe artists—like Frank—weren't represented on CD. He had a distribution deal with Capitol for his Barking Pumpkin label. but was unable to get CD manufacturing there. So there we were, seeing him as a premier acquisition target."
After spending an afternoon listening to digitally remixed excerpts at Zappa's studio, ironing out the Rykodisc deal proved relatively easy. Most of the material had already been transferred from analog to digital, though it had to be re-equalized and sequenced for CD.
[...] "It was probably the biggest back-catalog issue by a single artist on CD at the time," says Rose. "Frank insisted that they come out simultaneously for greater impact. We went along with him only to find out he was right."
What's [engineer] Bob Rice's role in the process?
Basically he trims samples, keeps track of the catalogs, and types in the XBL, the computer language data. For example, recently he typed in from the handwritten music, the clarinet solo from "Mo's Vacation," the original lead sheet of "Inca Roads," things like that that have been sitting around. He knows how to type Script and XBL and I don't.
To get the "particular sound" he's looking for now, Zappa, engineer Bob Stone, and Bob Rice spend hours recording samples of real instruments in the studio. These samples are then trimmed and stored in the Synclavier's memory, "like little specimens, a little pin stuck through each and placed in a jar." The samples are then linked together to build patches, lists of samples which "live" under selected notes on the Synclavier keyboard.
Research, compilation and maintenance by Román García Albertos