Let's jump to 2010, when Dweezil was running his Zappa Plays Zappa project, channelling his dad's music for live performances with his own band, including the occasional former Mothers musician or two. Dweezil made concert recordings available online, but his regular engineer who did that work became unavailable. Old friend (and now more studio-savvy) Craig offered to help.
Craig found himself up at the Utility Muffin Research Kitchen, or UMRK, the studio at the Zappa house in the Hollywood hills. "I'd go up there after I'd been at my studio all day with Pro Tools on a Mac, and now here I am on Nuendo on a PC and a Rupert," he recalls, referring to the resident Neve 5088 board. "At first I was like, 'I don't know how to use these.' So I had to learn. I'd worked consoles before—but Nuendo on a PC, that's a whole 'nother language. So I just said to Dweezil: 'No problem, I will show up every night here, and I will help you get this done.'"
A few days into the project, Gail Zappa walked into the UMRK control room. She was Frank's widow and the keeper of the flame. "She goes, 'Craig, what are you doing here?' I said 'Oh, I'm helping Dweezil do this project.' She had no idea I had my studio and all that. Then a week or two later, she comes back in and says, 'How would you feel about mixing something of Frank's?' It was like all the air went out of the room. I had never ever considered such a thing, never."
Yes, Craig said once he'd composed himself, he would love to mix something of Frank's. Shortly afterwards, a digital file was delivered to Craig of the multitrack for a piece called 'City Of Tiny Lites', recorded live in London in 1978, complete with a duelling-guitars feature for Frank and Adrian Belew.
"There was some slight damage on the recording, actually on Frank's vocal, and I had to do some very mild restoration work," Craig says. "They didn't give me any direction other than here, mix this. Wide open. I remember I did it in 13 hours. Then Gail calls me, and she says, 'Craig, this sounds fucking great!' I cannot tell you how elated I was. Later, I figured that was that—I carried on working on Dweezil's stuff at UMRK, and I carried on making records at my studio. They put out the Hammersmith Odeon album and used the track I did to promote it. So I thought wow, that's a feather in my cap. Amazing, but obviously a one-off . . . "
It wasn't. The phone rang again a few years later, and Craig says that starting in 2014 the Zappa floodgates had opened for him. "It's been non-stop for me ever since," he says with a smile.
|London, February 18, 1979 (early show)||London, February 19, 1979||The Frank Zappa AAA·FNRAA·AA Birthday Bundle (2010)|
|Jumbo Go Away|
Research, compilation and maintenance by Román García Albertos