Following in the footsteps of a famous parent is not always an easy task. It seems as though all too frequently, we see the offspring of famous kin fail to meet the often lofty expectations placed upon their shoulders by either themselves or those around them.
When it comes to musician Dweezil Zappa however, the term “famous parent” might be a bit of a misnomer.
His father, the legendary Frank Zappa, was a musician who dabbled in a little bit of every genre of music known to man, including jazz, progressive rock, hard-rock and classical music. There was no musical boundary that Frank Zappa was not willing to explore.
Throughout his entire career, the elder Zappa lived on the outer fringes of the mainstream on the best of days, and though he failed to achieve what some might consider true commercial success, he earned the respect of a large cult-like following that were attracted to his well-spoken demeanour in interviews and his relentless pursuit of his own musical destiny.
Before passing away at the untimely age of 52 in 1993, Frank Zappa had earned one Grammy Award and was awarded another posthumously in 1995. Earning a Grammy Award is generally seen as being one of the music industry’s highest honours. This recognition from on high has served Zappa’s legacy well, showing that if you stay true to your vision, people are bound to recognize and value your integrity as an artist.
By the time that Dweezil had unfortunately lost his father, he had lodged more than a few notches on his own belt, serving notice to the world that he was not relying upon his father or his family name to write his future.
As a guitarist inspired by the likes of Eddie Van Halen and Steve Vai, Zappa released his debut record “Havin’ A Bad Day” in 1986 and followed that up with “My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama” in 1988 and “Confessions” (1991).
In 1994, Zappa and his brother Ahmet released a record entitled “Shampoo Horn” under the band name Z. Two years later, Z would release their final effort, “Music For Pets” before Dweezil would return to a solo career and release two more records.
In addition to his time spent in the music business, Zappa has also had a prolific career in television and cinema. He had the opportunity to serve as a VJ on MTV and appeared in movies such as Pretty In Pink and The Running Man. He composed the theme song to shortly lived “Ben Stiller Show” while making appearances on various shows including Mad TV.
Dweezil Zappa will be bringing his critically acclaimed Dweezil Zappa Plays Zappa show to the Capitol Theatre on Main Street in Moncton on Monday July 5 for the concert’s only New Brunswick stop. The Dweezil Zappa Plays Zappa tour has a total of approximately 40 dates booked in 2010, performing his father’s music through countries all over the globe including the United States, Mexico, Canada, the United Kingdom and Israel.
The Zappa Plays Zappa concept was first devised by Dweezil in 2006 in attempt to introduce his father’s music to a younger audience while also paying tribute to the technically complicated catalogue of music left behind by his father.
Zappa’s most current release is the double-disc, 14 track “Return Of The Son Of…”, a live record culled from specific performances on his 2008-2009 tour. With more than two hours of music included in the package, the liner notes contained within the package tells listeners:
“It’s always a big challenge to capture the true essence of a live performance. Character, conviction, raw energy and musicality don’t always conspire in peaceful co-existence with sonic fidelity. On rare occasions you get lucky and all of the aforementioned details are present in a recording.”
“Return Of The Son Of…” isn’t the first time that Zappa has released a live effort of the Zappa Plays Zappa musical endeavor. In 2008, Zappa released the simply titled “Zappa Plays Zappa” CD and DVD which featured footage taken from December 2006 concerts in Portland and Seattle.
Frankly, Zappa and his band must be doing something right. In 2009, the Zappa Plays Zappa group were awarded the Best Rock Instrumental Performance at the Grammy Awards for their rendition of his father’s song Peaches En Regalia, as featured on the Zappa Plays Zappa release.
Not only is Zappa a seasoned performer in both the fields of music and television, he is keen to share his insight, knowledge and learnings with fans at a unique boot camp-like setting which he has dubbed Dweezilla.
On his website, Zappa says that the decision to create such an environment stemmed from his desire to give back to those who have supported his musical heritage. The camp is open to people of all musical skill levels with the hopes that those attending will be able to bring their skill to a whole new level of expertise.
In addition to the various workshops conducted over the 4 day, 5 night boot camp, attendees are treated to nightly concerts and frequent jam sessions where they can witness Zappa and his band laying down some tunes. During one of the camp’s many workshops, Zappa covers topics of discussion including various guitar techniques, concepts around guitar solos and strategies as well as inspiring budding guitarists to take risks and find innovative new ways to play.
Zappa’s website also states there are comprehensive question and answer sessions during Dweezilla where he answers questions on just about everything including the Zappa musical legacy in addition to general music business fodder.
If all of the above mentioned details on Dweezilla have you packing your bags preparing to attend the boot camp, I am sorry to report that the latest session wrapped up at the end of June. If you are interested in attending a future Dweezilla session however, there is a questionnaire for applicants to complete located on the aforementioned website.
Although he might never escape his father’s legacy, it is apparent that Dweezil Zappa is not looking to do so anytime soon. Fans of the late Frank Zappa will surely appreciate what the talented Dweezil Zappa and his band have to offer.
Article published in July 2, 2010 edition of the Times & Transcript