This is a random and incomplete list of allegedly famous people who have declared some degree of fondness, influence or even just knowledge of FZ. Special thanks to Kjell Knudde, who provided most of the quotations. See also the Freak Out! List Of Contributors and the List Of Other People.
Jan Akkerman is a big fan. I met him a few months ago and of course I brought up the subject. The band made some jokes about his soloing on one chord and Jan told me he used some FZ guitar licks in Focus. He also told about his first FZ concert in 67 or 68 in the 'Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. I send him a copy of the '68 stage recording.
I like Zappa [as a guitarist] very much, but I admire him more as a composer. He's a genius and he makes very human, awakening music. Very pure so to speak.
Zappa was one of the leading avant-garde guitarists in the course of the sixties and the seventies, and his creation has run all through my life. Frank sometimes played only one chord, but he did it with such expressive delivery and unusual coloring that it just could not have been compared to anything. I also attempted to play in that manner, though with my own vision of music. As an example, "Hocus Pocus" was written under the influence of Zappa. Although I can't say he exerted much influence upon the formation of my own style of playing, I have always been greatly impressed at his mastery. Once I met him, in London in 1969. Frank came, and we jammed. All of his accompanying musicians were Europeans. Then Zappa said me: "You greatly play guitar and you have your own image as a musician. I would even invite you to play in my band."
Sophistication is something that happens to anybody who begins their career as a naive artist. Take Frank Zappa. Each of his albums has an identity of its own. You like some and you don't like some of the others, but each one is different. And thank Christ for Frank Zappa who is, for me, the only thing that's come out of America, apart from Captain Beefheart at his best or worst, that means a light to me.
It upset me more in the early '70s when Frank Zappa said he didn't like us. I was quite a fan of Zappa's music, I admired and revered him as a contemporary, and yeah, having him turn around and suddenly slap us down obviously hurt a little bit.
It made it that much more difficult a few years ago when I got a message from his son saying that Frank, who was terminally ill at the time, would really like me to call him and left me his home phone number. I sat and looked at this number, I even dialed it a few times and hung up, because I just didn't know what you would say to a dying man, especially one who was on record as not liking my work. But I wanted to speak to him, I just found it really difficult. Then I heard on the news one day that he'd died. I felt a profound sense of loss and deep regret that I had never made that call. I would have liked to have spoken to him, just for a minute.
I think the first song that changed me was a song on Revolver, the Beatle album, "Tomorrow Never Knows." It's one of the most extraordinary soundscape music on things, the lyrics are amazing—it wasn't a hit, but it was great, you know?
And that's why I would listen to Frank Zappa—he didn't have many hit records, but his music was great. And that's what Yes was about. You know, we didn't have many hit records, but our music was great.
Jon Anderson contends that progressive music began with Zappa. "It was a combination of things," the founding vocalist for the prog-rock group Yes contends.
"If you listen to Zappa, the Beatles, Vanilla Fudge, Buffalo Springfield, and Charles Mingus and Roland Kirk, there was such a plethora of interesting music around the mid '60s, and that all inspired me when Yes started to do long-form music. His music was really meticulously put together, and he was a comedian at the same time."
[...] "Oh, he'd go for the jugular," Anderson says. "A lot of time as a writer it's difficult to say exactly what you're thinking. I would use metaphors all the time, but Zappa didn't give a damn. He just said what he thought."
I was, like, the first blogger. I started blogging in 1996. I got the idea from my friend, Frank Zappa. He was very involved with the early internet, and I've been in love with it for a long, long time. [...]
I don't know if "awe" is the right word, but I've been inspired by a lot of people and I've been lucky enough to meet a lot of my heroes. I mean, Zappa to me was God. Just to be able to go and hang out with him, and to be there when he was dying. That guy might have been the smartest guy and the greatest mind there ever was. He toppled governments. Václav Havel listened to his music and it inspired him to topple Communism. Once people hear what free thought sounds like it energises their cells and they go to another level of being, kind of.
Ahmet, one of Zappa's sons, also played Roy, roommate of the character Mark in the sixth season of Roseanne. When Zappa passed away in 1993 the episode "Busted" was dedicated as an "in memoriam" to him. Roseanne and her husband Tom Arnold are also thanked in the liner notes of The Yellow Shark (1993).
Could you name four or five specific records that influenced you early on?
Yes. "Alley Oop" by the Hollywood Argyles—just a feeling that came from it. I'm afraid I'm not very technical on things like that and all I can say, at best, is that it was a feel that I had an empathy with. I don't know what it was whether it was the zaniness of the record or what.
Is that the one about the caveman?
Yes, and that was Kim Fowley as a matter of fact. He was the Hollywood Argyle that did it, and I loved parody because . . .
Yes, I admire Zappa, but there again I prefer Charlie Mingus. I like my parody to be a little softer because I'm a pacifist by nature and hostility in any form, even on a mental level, I find not endearing. I think Zappa may have a problem with feeling that he was not accepted on a Mingus level and he had to find himself an audience. I don't think he's ever forgotten that.
But "Pithecanthropus Erectus" is not quite the same as "Brown Shoes Don't Make It."
Well, that's the strength of my view on parody. I'm a softer person by nature. I'm not hostile. I don't believe I'm an aggressive performer, either. I like the situation that seems to develop with the audience which is generally on a very human level and they're quite friendly. It's neither screamy nor rebellious: it just has a good feeling to it. I love my audiences. I think I've not been to too many gigs, where the feeling is not nice. It's a very warm feeling I get from audiences.
The other great New York record of our times is "Summer In The City."
Yeah, I agree with that. I was a devoted fan of the [Lovin'] Spoonful. I loved them. Another record was the Mingus Oh Yeah album, particularly "Ecclesiastic," which I drew an enormous amount of pleasure from. I felt it was very 1990s—very 2001—that whole album. I was into that sort of jazz. Before Santana came, I was into the English scene and I was never able to relate to that stuff because of my earlier interest in Coltrane and Mingus as well. A lot of Zappa's things flatten me, actually.
Any of Zappa's stuff make it with you?
We're Only In It For The Money, because I mean I saw huge potential in that area for Zappa, but I don't understand Zappa and I'm not that intrigued by him to try to unwrap his problems or try to find out why.
In a Smash Hits Magazine interview from 1980 Bush named Frank Zappa's Over-Nite Sensation (1973) as her number one favorite album. She said that "Montana" was the first Zappa track she ever heard and "it's stuck as a firm favorite." Her number two album is Blow By Blow by A.L. Lloyd and Ewan MacColl whose "The Handsome Cabin Boy" she covered in 1991 on her album Back Sides. Zappa also covered this track on The Lost Episodes (1996).
Kate Bush: "I never challenged or asked for the serious interpretation and evaluation of my music. A sense of quality does not exclude humour."
Interviewer: "Do you have an ideal or predecessor for that?"
Kate Bush: "Frank Zappa was a very smart man. He said that, as an artist, you can live a free and untamed life, in case you have a solid family life. I love this idea."
Kate Bush: "I've never met Zappa, but people who have portray him as a very dear person, different from his image. I have always preferred my privacy over my public life, because I work best with a stable home base. The idea that the artist who suffers ist the best doesn't apply to me. I work better, when I'm fine."
What are Richard's memories of his encounter with Frank Zappa at the Billboard Forum in June 1975? I wish I'd been there to see my two musical heroes together!
Frank was a talented fellow. I really liked the way he played the guitar, and I liked his take on certain cultural and sociological issues; he had a marvelously sardonic sense of humor. We saw each other very briefly in the 'Green Room' before going out to answer a few questions.
[FZ] was a fellow who challenged himself and did what he needed to remain interested in making music and creating. I think that's very bold because when most people find their comfort zone, they stick with it. He's a shining example for guys like myself to take chances, and not be afraid to take those chances. His humor was amazing—"Dumb All Over" is still incredibly timely. It's almost scary. He knew how to hit the nail on the head and still have it tickle your funny bone or bring forth this odd imagery that would border on silly. But, he would never get ridiculous to the point of where it would undermine his stature.
Frank Zappa truly made a difference during his life. He was a brilliant innovator in the world of music, advancing and expanding his craft and leaving a powerful legacy that other performers will long admire and study. Frank also contributed a great deal to our country as a social critic, working tirelessly to protect artistic freedom. Your husband will always be remembered for his talent, his commitment, and his humorous sense of irony.
In 1988, before he became famous, [Kurt] Cobain made a tape recording where he compiled countless snippets from records, radio and TV transmissions and intercut them with stuff he recorded with the aid of a dictaphone. It could be described as an experimental track, though most of it is audibly done for laughs. Cobain named this project "Montage Of Heck" (not to be confused with the 2015 documentary of the same name). There are two versions available. A short one taking 8 minutes and a full-blown one going on for about 36 minutes. Among the various sound recordings heard on the tape we can identify several clips from Zappa songs. In chronological order:
* "Does This Kind Of Life Look Interesting To You?" (from "200 Motels" (1971))
* "King Kong" (from "Uncle Meat" (1968))
* "Invocation & Ritual Dance Of The Young Pumpkin" and "Call Any Vegetable" (from "Absolutely Free" (1967))
* "Help, I'm A Rock", "It Can't Happen Here" and "Who Are The Brain Police?" (from "Freak Out!" (1966))
The tape was never made available to the public, obviously due to copyright issues, but can be purchased on the bootleg album "The Chosen Rejects".
On January 7, 1994, Cobain performed at Seattle Center Arena in Seattle, Washington, where made the following announcement: "This song is dedicated to Frank Zappa, and River Phoenix, Fred Gwynne who played Herman Munster, Dixie Lee Ray, Thomas P, Tip O'Neil, and you, dumb ass, who just threw water on me."
The next record that changed things for me was Frank Zappa's 200 Motels. Here's where the marriage of orchestra and rock music took place for the first time. Orchestra had been used in pop music but only as a little sugar on top, except for Ode to Billy Joe—that was beautiful and mysterious. Leaving that aside, this was the introduction of orchestra and rock band. Where Zappa got those chops, I have no idea.
I've seen the film five times—on acid, on Ecstasy, although then it was called MDMA; I don't think I ever did the peyote film experience because that involved throwing up, and the timing is tricky. I think I saw it straight, but I can't remember. It was still great every time.
It turns out that the director of the Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream franchise is a Zappa fan. Life Magazine once published a letter by him in their July 19, 1968 edition in which he praised the magazine's coverage of contemporary rock music, especially Zappa:
"Never save in dreams would I hope to read Frank Zappa in Life. I mean it's too much. As a college instructor. I know the light in the student eye when rock is mentioned or played. These artists are too busy with truth to worry about being president of the student council. More of the same, baby."
It's also interesting to mention that in Craven's Nightmare On Elm Street 2 (1985) a poster of the Zappa album Them or Us (1984) can be seen hanging on a wall.
A self-taught pianist who doesn't read music, [Jamie] Cullum is a former heavy-metal buff who loved "ridiculously fast guitar solos" by Steve Vai and Joe Satriani. His fondness for Vai led him to Frank Zappa, Vai's former employer, and—at 13—Cullum became a Zappa fan.
"I was listening to Frank Zappa way before I got into any jazz," he said. "(Zappa's 1970 album) 'Hot Rats' is still in my Top 5. And I see the (contemporary classical Zappa opus) 'Yellow Shark' every time it's performed at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Zappa had 10 lifetimes of music to offer."
I saw [French politician Jacques Delors] on TV (TF 1 to be precise), he said he loved fz's music.
"I'm commissioning a rock mass to be given at Grace this Christmas." Scrutinizing me he said, "What is your opinion about Frank Zappa?"
I was at a loss for an answer.
"We would arrange for the actual service to be recorded," Tim continued. "So it could be released as an album. Captain Beefheart has also been recommended to me. And there were several other names offered. Where could I get a Frank Zappa album to listen to?"
"At a record store," Jeff said.
"Is Frank Zappa black?" Tim asked.
"I don't see that that matters," Kristen said. "To me, that is inverse prejudice."
Informant: Sean Parker.
When Walter [Becker] and I met, we had a constellation of enthusiasms, really—science fiction, jazz, black humor, novels by Thomas Berger, Terry Southern, Philip Roth, Vladimir Nabokov, Kurt Vonnegut especially. That certainly influenced the lyric writing. We also liked comic songwriting, like Tom Lehrer. He was a piano player and songwriter who wrote these grim, funny songs. And then we were both fans of Frank Zappa and The Fugs.
The only comic rock and roll I remember was Frank Zappa, really. The Fugs were comic also, but their music was so primitive. I remember The Fugs used to play free in Tompkins Square Park in the sixties, and at one point they were really the kings of the Lower East Side.
Frank Zappa was a fan of Monty Python's Flying Circus and once described Gilliam as: "The only comic genius to come out of America." In Robert Ross' Monty Python Encyclopaedia (1997), for which Gilliam wrote the foreword he dismisses this claim: "As for that quote from Frank Zappa about me being the only comic genius to come out of America that's nonsense. I mean, it's a great quote but it's all balls!"
Aren't you in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
The thing is if you don't accept an award, it creates a much bigger fuss than if you do accept. I'm in the Hall of Fame, but what does that mean? When I see who's in, the first thing I think is, Well, who isn't in?
You don't feel legitimized by these kinds of honors?
Some artists buy into it. They get their little award, and they're onstage crying, and I just think: Look at yourself. Get off the stage. To me it's disgusting. I don't understand how any self-respecting artist can recognize it as legitimate. If you want to look at the success of sales, look at McDonald's; they've sold a lot of their product. Imagine Frank Zappa crying because he got an award. Imagine Jimi Hendrix thanking everyone after he picked up his Grammy. It just wouldn't happen.
On the CBS morning show on Sunday they were doing a story on Chrissie and at the 3:08 mark she proudly wears a Freak Out album t-shirt.
My favourite album, Jeremy, is We're Only In It For The Money by The Mothers Of Invention.
Penn Jillette [...] has been a Zappa fan since his youth. He was a special guest during the Zappa's Universe concerts in 1991. [...]
In an interview with "Big Think" on July 8, 2010, Jillette claimed that when he became an atheist he was inspired by Martin Mull, Randy Newman and Frank Zappa, who were openly atheist. "And then with the help of Martin Mull, Randy Newman, Frank Zappa, the idea that these three men were out-of-the-closet atheists was so inspiring to me and so important to me. And reading interviews with somebody . . . And I remember being somebody in a religious—and not a religious community like wack jobs, but, you know, in a community where most everyone was Christian—having those people in interviews say the simple sentence 'There is no God' meant the world to me and gave me joy and gave me passion and gave me love and gave me confidence. And I think the first time I was interviewed, as presumptuous as this seems—and please forgive me—I remembered Frank Zappa's interviews. And I wanted to give a chance for someone else reading that to not feel they were alone."
On November 9, 2010, Jillette went deeper into his love for Zappa's music as part of a video called "Why do people love Mad Men?": "When I was a child I was very much into Frank Zappa. Always simple for me to understand Frank Zappa. The musical ideas were very clear and crisp. The literary ideas were very clear and crisp. The back of his record would tell you to read Franz Kafka's "In the Penal Colony". I would go to the library—before I listened to the record—I would get the library, get the book and read "In the Penal Colony" and then come back and understand Zappa's music."
A few hours later, we are sitting in his dressing room talking about Miley Cyrus.
"I mean who would have thought that she'd do a record with The Flaming Lips?" says Elton. "I love that kind of thing. That on the spur of the moment, out of leftfield stuff like that. And they're gonna perform the whole album nude. I'm booking my ticket now. It's like 'I wanna see this, this is interesting'." [...]
"I mean it's fucking brilliant. It feels like something that would have happened during the 60s, something someone like Frank Zappa would have done. Good for Miley." He gives a sassy hurumph. "Break the mould, girl."
When I first got into Primus, my dream was to be in a band that was sort of a cross between Frank Zappa and the Dead Kennedys. But my God, at this point, it's like I don't know what's going on. [...] My favorite guitar player ever is Frank Zappa. When I think of what makes a good guitar solo, Zappa's playing is the thing I think of. It's the ultimate example of how a guitar should sound.
I spent a fun day with the fabulous Gail Zappa recording a song from one of Frank Zappa's unproduced operas, "Hunchentoot." The song we did was "FLAMBAY." It's about the alien Queen who is in love with this big ol' spider, Hunchentoot (who has a harmonica over which he hunches and toots). She is lamenting that though he lets her fondle his privates, he is, nevertheless, holding out for a woman with eight arms. This unrequited love is driving her mad.
Gail came to my show at the Roxy and came backstage afterwards. She invited me to come record with some of the musicians from Dweezil's band who won Grammys the next night. She said I could sing any song I wanted, but she really felt "FLAMBAY" was something I should consider. I listened to it with Joe, her producer, who worked on a heap of Frank's stuff, and I thought, holy shit, that's waaay too hard and in too high a key. We chose "MAGIC FINGERS" instead and then at the end of the day we had half an hour left and I said, why don't you throw on "FLAMBAY" and we'll just see what happens. I had never sung the song out loud before, thnking that the key was too high, etc. But something crazy happened, something alchemical. I have never done anything that outrageous before, and you all know that's really saying something. You will all get to hear it in time, I guess.
We just did it in one take, but Gail and Joe were in tears afterwards. To get the original music online, they had had to open a reel of tape from 1979 (or was it '73?) and it brought back a lot of memories for them. They cracked a bottle of wine, and Gin for me, and we toasted what was a great week for the Zappa family. I love those guys.
Zappa frequently remarked during the frenzied 10 days shooting in Pinewood that he felt truly humbled to sit in the dining room surrounded by the photos and memories of the many great films that had been made in these studios. He's dead now, but I would want to suggest that he too made a small contribution to the pioneering spirit that has always been the hallmark of Pinewood. A few years later I met David Lean, a true Pinewood veteran. Whereas I wanted to ask him about Lawrence of Arabia and the rest, all he wanted to talk about was 200 Motels and how it had been done. Astonishing to me that he had seen it all; but that too was a truly humbling experience.
[June 14, 1989] The conversation is about various topics—WhyNot for awhile, and a bit of discussion about doing something connected with revitalizing the downtown L.A. area—at one point he turns to me and says, "do you realize there is NOTHING going on down there after 11PM!"—and the discussion continued. He politely barked an order to get Cheech Marin on the phone and they talked for awhile.
It's strange, but totally wonderful. There's a lifetime of study in there.
I like talking about Mr. Zappa. He's a very inspiring man, you know. Also I suppose there's more and more pressure as you get more and more famous and more public. If you make a mistake, it's in front of fifty million people, you know. And Frank said, "Mistakes?" He said, "What are mistakes?" He said, "Who's gonna tell you if you played it wrong? It's your song, it's your guitar, it's your show. You can play whatever you like!" Yes, I think that's good advice and I take that to heart.
It's a bit of a trap, because you compose things in your head and they get on the record and after that you're kind of expected to always play them the same way. That's an interesting subject. I remember talking to Frank Zappa about it. I regard him as one of the most daring improvisational guitar players ever, and I said to him, 'How do you manage to do that? You don't feel constrained by what people expect?' He said, 'No—do you?' And I said, 'Yes,and I also feel constrained by the fact that I might mess it up if I wandered too far away from the original'. He said: 'How can you say that? How can you make a mistake? It's your song, it's your riff, it's your performance, it's your moment on that night—there is no such thing as a mistake. Whatever you play is right.' A very good attitude. He was a genius.
I was fortunate enough to meet Frank Zappa, a truly great rock musician, and a very unorthodox and innovative creator. He was already very ill when I met him (I was working with his son in L.A.) I told him I admired his skill and courage in improvising so much in his music, live in front of large audiences. He said, "Courage?—What do you mean?!" I said that I was always very aware of the possibilities of making mistakes. He replied, "How can you make a mistake? It is your solo, your guitar, and you are playing a piece of your own music. Who could possibly tell you you are making a mistake?!!"
There are a few [guitar players] that I've heard recently who I think are real good. I like Brian May of Queen—I think he's really excellent.
At Kensington Market we'd get marijuana mixed with jasmine tea, and then take it in turns to separate the grass from the tea. One day Tupp took it home and hadn't got time to separate it. Now in those days Freddie wouldn't go near dope, but he didn't know that it was still all mixed up and made himself what he thought was a pot of jasmine tea. When we got home he was smashed out of his head! He had a Frank Zappa album We're Only In It For The Money, and one one track there's a noise like a stylus scraping across a record—but it's meant to sound like that. Well, Freddie was busy wheeling around the room, arms flapping, and he'd put on his Zappa LP. When it came to this bit he thought somebody had scratched his precious album and went flying across to the turntable, throwing himself on the LP to check it. He was clean out of his box that day!
We come from more or less the same background, the classical avant-garde, though in our work we expressed ourselves quite differently. As a composer, I felt a close comradeship to [FZ] amongst more rock orientated singer/songwriters. He is one of the geniuses of our time and will always have a place there. He will go on and on and on!
On the August 31st episode when [Jimmy] Fallon introduced his house band The Roots covered FZ's "Peaches En Regalia" which frontman Black Thought freestyled over. The next night The Roots tackled "Titties & Beer" following Jimmy's introduction.
[Robi Draco Rosa] drew a large and excitable crowd to the Bowery Ballroom. Chants of "Robi! Robi!" coaxed him onstage 10 minutes early. With his boyish good looks and muscular arms, Rosa played the Latino heartthrob, but also threw his audience a few curves. At one point he spoke of passion and love, then added, "On that note, long live Mr. Frank Zappa." The crowd hesitated—Frank who?—then cheered anyway.
Acerca de sus influencias, Rosa destaca al jazzista Miles Davis, quien "es muy importante para mí por muchas razones, en especial por su manera de trabajar la idea de la improvisación y la espontaneidad. Otros músicos como Frank Zappa son muy relevantes para mi carrera y los vocalistas que prefiero han sido tres: Sly Stone, Jim Morrison y el cantante flamenco Camarón de la Isla".
About [his] influences, Rosa emphasizes jazz musician Miles Davis, who "is very important to me for many reasons, especially for his way of working the idea of improvisation and spontaneity." Other musicians such as Frank Zappa are very relevant to my career and the vocalists I prefer have been three: Sly Stone, Jim Morrison and flamenco singer Camarón de la Isla. "
In a radio interview conducted in the 1990s and available here Rushdie talks about several topics, among which Zappa. Among the 9:00 mark of the 14:22 interview he mentioned that Weasels Ripped My Flesh [(1970)] is his favorite Zappa record.
Zappa is also briefly mentioned in Rushdie's novel The Ground Beneath Her Feet (1989) on page 267: "Now we're blasting the material at them round the clock, he says, Hendrix and Joplin and Zappa, making war on war."
Where did the idea for the Emotional Mugger video start?
Ty Segall: The music video, for us, started in 2006.
What was that exact moment?
Segall: We were stoned watching Easy Rider.
Matt Yoka: And then stoned watching Frank Zappa interact with the static on the TV.
Segall: Baby Snakes.
Yoka: Yellow Snow.
Segall: Oh yeah, right.
Yoka: Your roommate was in there at the same time, that's the hair that broke the camel's back for him. He's like, "I can't handle you guys," [laughs].
Segall: And he split. Where's he from?
Yoka: We just went back to your room and his stuff was gone.
Segall: He could not hang.
Yoka: But I remember Ty was like, "You gotta check out this Frank Zappa album," and I had never heard Frank Zappa before. So, we sat down in his room and he put on Don't Eat the Yellow Snow and then it just so happened that the TV was on and it was static. And then Ty turned it up loud and the noise frequency was penetrating the television static, and the static was rhythmically responding.
Segall: There must have been a ground issue in retrospect. Some electrical issue between the two devices, but because of that, the electronics of the television were connected to the stereo, and I don't even know why the TV was on.
Yoka: [Laughs] That's just how your room was. A TV and a lightbulb swinging at all times.
The whole industry—four chords. Unless you're Frank Zappa. Frank Zappa goes a bit fucking weird with it. Or Stevie Wonder. Stevie Wonder uses about eighteen chords.
Tom Power: What did you get from [FZ]?
Thundercat: Everything, man. Zappa was the one.
[Usher] has posted a video from his hospital bed as he is about to undergo foot surgery.
[...] "They're getting ready to roll me away. They say they're getting ready to take good care of me . . . I guess I gotta believe them right?" he says, sounding groggy. [...] Usher then proclaims "Man . . . wooo . . . I feel like Frank Zappa," before he throws up a peace sign and the video takes a trippy psychedelic turn, as Zappa himself can be heard singing "I wish I was an Eskimo," the opening lyrics to his song "Don't Eat Yellow Snow."
At the end of his very cool concert on Austin City Limits (with two different bands), Jack White said to the audience, "Goodnight Austin, Texas, wherever you are!"
Q: Who are the best musicians you've parodied over the years?
A: Oh boy. Um, well, I just did a Zappa-style tribute to him on the new album. We weren't duplicating specifically any Zappa licks. But . . . I was blown away by his musicianship and the musicianship of the people he played with. It was really a challenge to live up to that quality.
Q: When I heard that song, I thought: It must be tough to satirize Zappa's songs, because he was singing lines like, "Bend over and smell my anal vapors." Where do you go from there?
A: Right, right, right. I had to do a song that was a little less demented. (He laughs.)
While Frank is unquestionably a guitar virtuoso, I've never been a big fan of long solos. I've always been more of an admirer of his compositional acumen, which I had to study religiously when I did my Zappa homage, "Genius In France." I call songs like that "style parodies" where I dissect the style of one of my favorite artists and try to step in their shoes, hopefully creating a composition not unlike something they may have put out themselves. I felt extra pressure doing that with Frank Zappa, since he's one of my all-time heroes, and frankly, I didn't want to screw it up. That's one of the reasons why "Genius In France" is 9 minutes long—there are so many components to Frank's style that I felt I would be doing him a disservice if I tried to emulate it in 3 or 4 minutes. People may remember Frank as a guitar god or a defender of free speech, but of course, he'll always have a warm place in my heart for categorically proving to the unwashed masses once and for all that humor really does belong in music.
AVC: Do you have anybody's autograph?
WAY: I'm not a big autograph collector, but when I was working in the mailroom in the early '80s back at Westwood One, Dr. Demento would have special guests coming in every night. And one time, Frank Zappa came in, and he's one of my all-time heroes. So I brought up my tattered copy of Freak Out!, which I probably bought for 99 cents at a used record store. And it kind of blew my mind, because he was like, "Oh, you're the 'Another One Rides The Bus'  guy! My son Dweezil likes that song. Can I get an autograph for him?" Dweezil was like 13 years old at the time, but I couldn't even believe that Frank Zappa knew who I was, let alone asking for my autograph, so that was a huge deal for me. And that Freak Out! album, since, has gotten severely water damaged so I can't even bear to throw it away. So for the rest of my life, I will hold on to this slimy, moldy piece of cardboard with Frank Zappa's name on it.
AVC: Have you met Dweezil since?
WAY: Dweezil actually played on a song of mine called, "Genius In France," which is my homage to Frank Zappa. I figured if Dweezil played on it that would give it a little more credibility. He was amazing; he did this amazing guitar solo at the top of the song, so it was a thrill to work with Dweezil on that.
If you check out about 3:35 in this video, when the audience is applauding for Zappa's inauguration into the rock and roll hall of fame, Neil Young is among the first people to stand up and applaud.
Zappa was a very special person. He was really articulate; he really cared about politics. He had a lot of things going for him. I can't step in Zappa's shoes. I'm not politically aware. I don't read newspapers; I don't read magazines; I don't watch television. So I have no idea. Zappa was on top of everything, man. He was really amazing. I'm not really an articulate, politically minded, forward thinking person with goals that wants the world to be this way or that way. I'm not an interesting interview in that regard. I wish I was. I wish there was someone who could be there in Zappa's place. I'm not the guy.
JazzTimes: You know who you sound like now? Joe Zawinul. He would say the same thing, man. He'd always say, "My band, I put this band together for these guys to be killers!"
That's right. And there's a lot of other people that don't think that way. The band is about them. They're the leader, it's all about them; they don't want anyone to sound better than them. So they keep them under wraps, they push them down, they don't give them solo space. They don't let them express themselves. You need to have a certain rein on people so that the compositional integrity is kept intact. You know, there's a frame around a composition and there are things that belong in the frame and things that don't. And it's the bandleader-composer's job to make sure that everything fits. But the most important thing is to keep that balance, where everything belongs but the players are injecting themselves into the work and doing their best. Duke Ellington was a perfect example of that.
JazzTimes: And Frank Zappa.
Yes, though Zappa in the earlier years. Then it got a little different for him. He got more and more into control. For me, in his later years, his best record is Jazz From Hell, where it's all done on a Synclavier.
JazzTimes: Yeah, I think his comment at the time was, "At last, I've found my perfect band."
There you go! It's him playing everything. Well, I don't think that way. Because the lesson I learned from Zappa was that you treat your band members like royalty. You give them as much money as you can afford to give them on the road, the best situations in the hotels, treat them to meals, thank them for their work, appreciate their creativity and just thank your lucky stars that they're in your band working with you.
Research, compilation and maintenance by Román García Albertos