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Interview:
Dweezil Zappa's on a mission to keep his father's music alive
 

by GARY GRAFF
@graffonmusic, Facebook.com/Gary Graff on Music

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After nearly eight years, Dweezil Zappa's mission for his Zappa Plays Zappa -- a group dedicated to the music of his father, the late Frank Zappa -- has remained largely unchanged.

"We're trying to focus on the things that really display his compositional prowess and give people more of a broad and better-educated view of Frank's music," explains Zappa, 44. "We need to re-educate the audience to give them a better overall understanding of what he did.

"I think your casual fans' perception equate him with Weird Al Yankovic; 'Oh, he's the guy that writes the funny songs.' They only know 'St. Alphonso's Pancake Breakfast' or 'Don't Eat the Yellow Snow,' 'Dancin' Fool' and all that stuff. That's certainly part of Frank's repertoire, but it's a much smaller part than the more sophisticated music that exists throughout.

"That's really what we want them to walk away with after they see us."

Zappa and company -- and occasionally alumni from Frank Zappa's bands -- have cut a broad swatch through the elder Zappa's catalog during the 500-plus shows they've done since 2006, handling more than 275 of his songs. This year the troupe is playing the critically lauded 1974 live album "Roxy & Elsewhere" in its entirety, some of which have not yet been played by Zappa Does Zappa. It's complex material, but Zappa doesn't feel that any of it is inaccessible.

"It always has sounded like music," he says. "I think the fact that people are able to see it in a live setting is really the key factor that makes it work, because sometimes when you're listening to something and you're distracted by 10 million things in your home, you might not be getting the full ramifications of what is happening and it might not sink in in the right way.

"But in a live situation you're confronted with the complexity of these piece of music and it's like, 'How are these people actually playing this?' That's what I always felt when I saw Frank's shows; 'I don't know how they're doing it, but they're doing it -- AND they're making it look easy.'

"I don't know how easy we make it look, but I think when people see it they're going to come away with a feeling that you have to respect the dedication it takes to play and execute it. This is not stuff you can say, 'Oh, I just learned this in five minutes...' "

Zappa Plays Zappa performs Friday, Oct. 18, at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $32-$75. Call 248-399-2980 or visit www.royaloakmusictheatre.com. Dweezil Zappa will also present a Guitar Master Class earlier in the day; for information visit www.dweezilzappaworld.com/events.

Web Site: www.royaloakmusictheatre.com

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