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Dweezil Zappa is the true son of a father of invention
Catch Dweezil Zappa at any given moment and you'll find him working harder, and on more projects, than some of his peers might accomplish in an entire year.
So when he picks up the phone he's in the midst of "doing a bunch of return e.mails and talking about some crazy stuff" -- including an appearance on the Food Network's "Chopped" in addition to working on his first solo album in 10 years and handling some matters for Zappa Plays Zappa, which focuses on the heady repertoire of his father, the late Frank Zappa. That includes a live DVD from the group's recreation of the elder Zappa's "Apostrophe" album and preparing to play "One Size Fits All" in its entirety to celebrate its 40th anniversary.
"My dad had this sort of concept that everything was all part of a bigger conceptual continuity," explains Zappa, 45, who launched the Zappa Plays Zappa concept in 2006. "He took it as all being part of one big note. So the whole idea is that, yeah, there's a lot of separate things going on her, but they're all built out of some other things, so you do have some continuity.
"I always liked that idea, so it's the way I approach my work, too."
Playing "One Size Fits All" -- the final studio album Frank Zappa recorded with his Mothers of Invention band -- was an "obvious" choice this year, according to Zappa. "Something like 'Inca Roads' is one of the hallmark tunes in my dad's catalog; it shows this compositional and arrangement style that, for me, is so ingenious," Zappa explains. "The genius in the writing style is these songs, while they're familiar to people and they sound like a version they might know, you're still going to get something you never heard in those songs night after night.
"That's how Frank liked to write and record and perform stuff; repeat listening was possible because they'd change every time they were performed. That's why there's so many bootlegs of his concerts. It's like, 'Let's see what they do this time with it...' "
Zappa is certainly feeling his father's influenced, but implied and explicit, as he works on his own album, which he hopes to have finished and out later this year. Funding the project via PledgeMusic, he's recorded about 15 songs so far -- "Not one of them cut from the same cloth sonically or compositionally," he notes -- and has worked with a number of collaborators, including former Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick on orchestrations.
The set will also include a song called "Dragon Master," the sole collaboration between father and son from lyrics Frank Zappa wrote during the late 80s.
"That's probably the heaviest thing on the record," Zappa says. "He told me, 'I just wrote this hilarious and ridiculous heavy metal song; you should write the music to it. I said, 'OK.' " Zappa and his younger brother Ahmet played a version of the song live with their band, but he's now committed to a making a definitive recorded version of it.
"I'd always intended to do something with it, so this became the perfect opportunity to take it to the next level," Zappa says. "It's something that blends all of the things I currently do in my own playing I wanted to make sure that, yes, it still maintained its sense of humor but that the sense of humor was not going to be super obvious. Metal fans will appreciate this song as a pure, to the bone metal tune; it might as well be on an early Iron Maiden record, but with a hint to all these metal god signers like Ronnie James Dio and Rob Halford and Ozzy (Osbourne) and stuff like that.
"It's been a great adventure, that song."
Zappa Plays Zappa
Friday, April 3. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.
Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St.
Tickets are $35-$45.
Call 248-399-2980 or visit www.royaloakmusictheatre.com.
Note: Zappa also hosts a Guitar Masterclass at 3 p.m. Friday. Admission is $75.
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