FZ: Hello Boys and Girls, alright can you turn this up because I don't talk very loud, besides that we did a thing on stage the other night with a pillow, and we dismantled this pillow and large quantities of feathers were strewn about in the air and they remained in circulation for approximately two hours and a number of them have settled in my lung... so... I don't want you feel sorry for me, but I'm hurten folks... So Mr Krantz, where's the coffee?
Krantz: "It's coming in about two seconds, OK?"
FZ "Oh OK, Well I have this letter
here, I'll read to you the letter that I received about this event so you
can see where it's all at, OK? It says:
"I am in receipt of your letter of March 28th 1975 regarding Frank Zappa: Mr Zappa will be available to speak to the students from 12 noon to 2 PM Wednesday April 23 1975 in Gifford Auditorium; he'll be prepared to speak on the following subjects: his music and how he creates it; record producing, composing, arranging, his experiences filmmaking... "
I will underline the part "He will be prepared to speak on the following subjects... Now this... He will not really be prepared to speak on those subjects because he never does this kind of thing... but luckily I have the letter here which has the list which will remind me of the things that I am supposed to talk about.
begin with subject number one: His music and how He creates it....
When I first met Frank and he was working on his music...
It all started a long time ago... When I was little, my family was really poor, not only that, they didn't like music too much, see, so... I didn't really get into contact with anything that resembled musical expression until I was about 14 or 15 years old, which is when I got to hear some of it on the radio. I remember riding around in a car and by accident while somebody was turning the station, we came across some oddball station out in Chino, California that was playing a record called "I" by the Velvets.
Has anybody ever heard "I", by the Velvets? Of course you haven't! It was a long time ago!
They were playing "I" by the Velvets and I said "What was that?" And my father says: "No, turn it away! Don't listen to that!" And then that gave me the first inkling that there was something interesting about to happen in the world, then about a week later I heard, I went looking for that same radio station where the weird music was coming out of, and I mashed to hear another record called "Riot in Cellblock Number 9," by the Robins, then proceeded to go to a place that actually sold records, I'd never been to a record store before, I thought that was a good place to start and went in there, and in those days you could take a record into the little room and listen to it before you bought it, so I snatched up "Work with me Annie" and two or three other... A Joe Houston record, and I listened to it and I was hooked!
There was one problem, I didn't have a record player. It took me a year to convince my parents that they should purchase a record player. When they finally got one,it was... I'll describe it to you, it looked like this:... And it had little fake rod iron legs this big, I believe it was a Decca, and it had these little legs at the bottom, so it elevated it off the table about that much cause the speaker was in the bottom. It had one big needle, Osmium tip job... remember the Osium tip? It was capable of the playing of 78rpm records which they provided us with one free record with the record player, the name of the song was "The Little Shoemaker" and my mother used to play that while she was ironing, it was the only record that she liked. And they were very opposed to any involvement to music that I might be interested in you know, that stuff, it was not a good thing for an Italian sort of a person to be doing when you could probably make a better living if you went into science, or engineering or something intelligent. So when I wanted to listen to music I had to unplug the record player from near the ironing board and take it into the bedroom and listen to other things. Well, that got me working on music, and from listening to it for about two years, I decided I would start writing it, and I started writing when I was about 14, and I'm still writing today, I'm 34... And that takes care of Topic Number One.
producing, OK what is record producing?
Well folks, if you're an artist, that is the person who has signed a contract with the record company, chances are that, I would say 9 out of 10 times, you do not know how to operate the equipment that is in a recording studio. And what a producer ideally should do, is run the interference between you and the engineer, you being the person who's making the music, and the engineer being the person who pays strict attention to the operation of the machines involved. The producer's job is to make decisions like "How loud should the drums be in the mix?" "Should you put echo on the voice" and things like that. He's also the person who has to watch the budget of the recording session because he's the one who knows that if you're budgeted to spend $25000 on an album which is about an average figure they spend these days, that if you're spending more than 3 or 4 days on recording sessions, that you're gonna be in trouble by the time you start mixing. and he has to keep track of details like that. If he's a producer who's employed by a record company, he has to provide a financial report to that record company, do a bunch of grubby paperwork and so on and so forth , and he's also entrusted with the job of sort of babysitting a group. If you've got a group that is a brand new group, and are going to the studio for the first time, a lot of times they have mysterious ideas about what a record contract is, what a recording studio is, and what they're supposed to do once they get in there. And the producer's job is to keep them sane during the time that they're actually making the record, because, having produced some other first-time groups myself, it's very difficult, you have to, I mean it's worthy of a degree in psychology if you can get through with a session with a new group and the group is still together by the time they made their first record.
Another thing that a record producer will do, if he's an independent, he may be brought into completely package a group or work on a concept album with a group... say who's a guy that might do that right now... who's that guy that produces Carly Simon that has the big teeth? Yeah Richard Perry. He's one of that kind of guy. He gets a lot of money to go in and take an artist, probably an established artist, and work up a whole concept around that artist, and usually to do this he's given somewhat unlimited funds by a record company. So it's not too hard when you get to that (...) record production.
Composing and arranging, I don't know what to say about composing and arranging,
because I don't know whether I'm talking to music students or people
who just came down here to say hello, or, you know, because you're
getting into technical... Well I tell you What I'd rather do about composing
and arranging, is I'll accept questions on that and answer individual
things there. and move on to experience as a filmmaker and producer of
This is the story of producing 200 Motels. I'd been working on the music for this film for about 5 years, I've been writing it while we were travelling around, and I used to take bundles of music paper in my suitcase and when we get into a hotel after a concert I would go back and I would write music 'cause there was nothing to do. and those were the days. Well I collected about 2 or 300 pages of orchestra manuscript from that 5 year period. And I was looking for some sort of an event that would give me a chance to hear the music played and to visualise the story line that I thought was going along with the music, and so after some intense negotiations we convinced United Artists to put up the money to do the first feature length video tape motion picture. Total budget of the film was $679,000, nobody had ever made a feature length video production before. The process was unusual in that we were doing it in England and their video system is different than what we have in the United States. They use a 625 line system, I don't know whether that means anything to you. But it's a higher resolition system and the way in which the colour is printed onto the tape differs from the way that the colour is printed on the tape here. And this difference makes it possible to extract the three primary colours one at a time. And by coupling that with the old technicolor triple negative process to make a print from a video tape that has better colour than what you would get making a transfer off an American video tape. Get the picture? OK So after having them agree that they were going to invest this amount of money to put something on the screen that nobody had thought of trying before the next problem was keeping them out of the way while we worked on it. Because every time somebody has money invested in a film there's always the temptation that they want to come down there and watch you spend it. and we were very fortunate in having some people at United Artists who were smart enough to stay home while we were working on the movie so we didn't have too much interference. The only problems we had working on the film were these factors. There was an exact shooting schedule above which we could not *proceed* more than one minute. Because the costs of shooting with about 150 people on the stage is exorbitant, so the film we shot in exactly 7 8-hour days. that's to the minute including two tea-breaks per day. Because when you work in England, it is not funny. They do take tea-breaks. The world stops, and a lady with a green *smock* comes around with a wagon and there's... we were on stage A, which was the same stage where they shot the special effects for 2001, and we had 120 people in the orchestra, and about 30 other actors, and dancers, and assorted what-nots, and the minute tea-break came, all 150 people had to get tea, and you had 15 minutes to do it. So that meant that although the tea-break would commence at time, it was very difficult to get everybody back in their place at the end of 15 minutes. So that our little tea-breaks tended to drag over, and the accumulative effect of tea-breaks throughout the week probably cost us 4 to 5 hours of production time. So watch out for that if you ever work in England.
And the other thing is, because I was crazy, and continue to be crazy about certain things in production, I insisted that the orchestra actually be performing on screen instead of pretending to play on a pre-recorded track. This gave me the chance to get absolute synchronisation on film. I hate to see a film where the sync is funny. Where the mouth doesn't move exactly right, or where somebody's supposed to be playing an instrument and their fingers aren't doing what they're supposed to do. That bothers me, and so we had the orchestra actually playing. Now this is something that hasn't been done in a film since about 1930, in a musical, and I sure did find out why the hard way, so if you have a chance to do a musical, pre-record the tracks. See... what else can I tell you about film productions... OK then after we shut the thing, it was 110 hours, that's 11 ten-hour days, of video-tape edit, after which it was transferred to film, and then a total of 3 months in post-production, that includes dubbing in sound effects, shortening the total thing from 2 hours and 20 minutes to its eventual running time of about 108 and the final post-dubbing process where you combine all the music tracks the dialog tracks and the sound effect tracks, put it all together. Then your only problem if you're the person who's responsible for putting the film together, is going through all the *judgery* of trying to deal with the people at the film company who are going to promote it and how they're going to advertise it. We did have a lot of trouble in this regard with 200 Motels. You see right next-door to us, at the sound stage where we were working on 200 motels, they were filming Fiddler On The Roof. Now Fiddler On The Roof cost about 22 million dollars, so they wanted to get their money back in a hurry, and when our little cheap movie came out the same time as that, we were having a lot of difficulty getting them to pay attention to it, so they tried to rely on certain procedures that had been standard in the industry for about 30 years, they would send out *mimeo..graph* notices to newspapers saying that "Rock Star Frank Zappa will be arriving at the airport at such and such a time, we're sure you're going to want to go down there and meet him" and all
this kind of stuff, really old-time Hollywood swill you know, and we had a lot of trouble convincing them to make the right kind of commercials and put up the right kind of print advertising for the thing.
But the biggest problem that you're ever going to encounter if you work on a film is getting paid for it later. The danger there is that major film companies who are frequently willing to put up investment money for new film projects are never willing to give you an accurate accounting of what the film did when it's gone into distribution. They have so many ways of charging things against that film's account that it's absolutely amazing, you'll wind up spending the latter part of your life with accountants and lawyers trying to decipher what really happened when the thing went into the theatre. As far as 200 Motels
goes, we still have not received an accounting and the thing was done in 1971 I believe, still not received an accounting of whether it went into a profit situation or... anything, they just lose contact with you after the first 3 months that the film is in running, and anything you want to find out after that has all got to go through legal channels. And so, now that I've blabbed for about 15 minutes, let's have questions and answers, and then turn it over to Mr Krantz!
Zappa, could you explain the fight that went on between Verve and Capitol
Records for Lumpy Gravy?
FZ Sure. It works like this. And now, I got to explain to you how Lumpy Gravy was made in the first place. In 1966, a guy who was staff producer for Capitol Records named Nick Benay came to me, and he said: "How would you like to do some music with an orchestra?" and I said: "An Orchestra? Why that would be wonderful!" He says: "Yeah, 40 pieces!' I said 'Wow, what a wonderful large orchestra!' It just so happened, though, that time I was under contract to Verve, and so the question came up was I under contract as a composer and conductor? and I said: "No, I was signed as a rock n roll musician who is a singer in a group. And he presumed, and I thought that he would have checked it with his legal department, that it would be OK to go ahead and produce such a record not there wouldn't be any problems about it, so I went ahead and did it, and the next thing we knew there were problems about it, so they argued for 13 months, it took from the time that the album was done, to the time it came out was 13 months, they finally settled it by Verve purchasing it outright from Capitol.
I have a couple of questions dealing with the more technical aspects
of the music...
FZ: I can tell from your baret...
Q Thank you. The first one deals with doubling on instruments, that's something I tried to do with some success for several years, but eventually the technical problems involved just keeping up the contrasting techniques on all the instruments, forced me to choose one instrument you know to be my main thing, and I just pick up some of the others occasionally, and I know that you yourself have done some doubling, and you have worked with Ian Underwood who I was very inspired by for quite a while, and I was wondering how someone goes about doing that.
FZ Doing what?
Q Playing I'd say, 7 or 8 instruments with a fair degree of proficiency.
FZ What happens in Los Angeles studios is a lot of the woodwind players double an enormous quantity of instruments, you know, and they keep it going by practising all of them all the time and by being employed all the time and by being forced to use that skill. There are maybe 20 or 30 guys in the LA studio business that play more 10 instruments and play them well, and read good and anything.
Q It generally works then with wind players?
FZ Well there's some brass players who double, but mostly it's the wind players that double. George doubles a vast amount of keyboard instruments, but... usually find that... well There's a new breed of keyboard players coming up today that knows a lot about synthesizers... Sometimes it's hard for a person who has just straight classical piano chops to make the concept switch from a normal keyboard to operating knobs and dials and stuff. But usually you find that the doubling instruments are going to be people who play wind, people who play percussion and people who play keyboards.
Q So it's generally one class of instruments, rather than you know say playing one or two wind instruments, and a keyboard
instrument and something like that...
FZ I tell you about a guy I know that was working with blood, sweat and tears... I can't remember who he's working with now, who's that drummer? He's working with Billy Cobham now, His name was Tom Malone, and he was in my group at one time, he has the weirdest assortment of doubles I have ever heard of. Piccolo trumpet, tuba, tenor saxophone, alto flute, electric bass, and normal trumpet. So if you stop and think what you have to do embouchure-wise to switch from playing a tuba to an alto flute to a piccolo trumpet and he was good on all those instruments, he was just an absolute freak.
Q So it's not really done that often in other words...
FZ No it's not.
Q And my second question is about rehearsal techniques, putting a group together like... In the past, you've worked with
people who had limited amount of experience with the kind of music you were trying to do. I was wondering how you exposed
them to some of the complicated arrangements or rhythms you were working with, and any special ways you rehearsed the group.
FZ I'd say the normal procedure for rehearsal involves memory drill. You just keep doing it over and over again. If you don't understand it the first time, yu keep doing it just like a parrot until you learn it, and then sometimes you understand it, and sometimes you don't understand it but the net result is that you learn it.,you know. I stopped worrying long ago about whether or not the people who were in the band actually understand what they're playing. As a matter of fact there were times when I thought they did and I was absolutely wrong, so I guess it doesn't matter so long as they learn it.
could I have some specific examples about the problems you have in dealing
with producing a new group, like you
mentioned, psychological hassles or whatever?
FZ OK Here's what happened: you get a group in, and everybody in the group is... they're all hot to tropic because they just got a record contract and immediately they think: "Aha, stardom..." And they're already spending their royalties before they've even sold a record you know, and they're talking about what car they're going to get, where they're gonna move, and the clothes they're gonna get, wait till we go to England, you know, and all that kind of all that stuff, that sort of thing happening, it's like visions of sugar plums dancing in their head, and then they come into the studio, and the producer's gotta be the guy who says "OK the session has just started, now let's make a record", you know. And so Once they managed to lay down their first track and they listen to it back in the console room, and the drummer will say: "I can't hear enough drums!" And the singer will say "I can't hear my voice", and the guitar player says "Turn me up!" and the bass player says "Where's the bass?" you know, and they go on like that, and then you have to say "Well you know, it's just the play-back, it's not the final mix! Just go back out there!" and it's like that, you know. To the *inth* degree.
Q Does it seem to be a real bring-down when they find out they have maybe one tenth of the artistic control they thought they might have when they signed?
FZ What do you mean by Artistic Control?
Q Well you know, like they do all their songs, they think of their best songs, and they think they're really great, then you say "Well this isn't going to sell, or this song is too long, it's going to be cut two minutes, cause it don't make a good single, or... whatever the hell...
FZ Well the matter of artistic control is something that's usually specified in their contract you know, it just depends on what kind of deal they've made. There are some groups who do not generate any of their own material. There are some groups who can play good and sing good and wind up doing material that is brought to them either by the producer or by the publisher or something like that. And there are various degrees of artistic control, up to and including control over the artwork on the cover, it just depends on what their deal is at the time they sign. But George can expound on that, why don't you tell 'em about your record contract George?
George Duke: You don't want to hear about it...
FZ Tell em, really.
GD: Well, if you really want to hear about it, I'll tell you, it's a... My contract is with a small company and I have complete artistic control as far as the music goes, but that's it. As far as the contractual obligations with the company ** that's about as far as it goes. The worst they can do whatever they want with the cover, I have nothing to do, nothing to say about it, they can put whoever they want out, they can get any artist to do it. I don't even have to see it. They can put it out, nothing about it.
FZ How did that happen?
GD Wel it wasn't in the contract. You see when I went to Mutt... no it's just something that I over-looked I guess, I didn't think it was that important, and I guess my lawyer over-looked it too, because it wasn't in there.
I was wondering if you could, this concerns your music, if you could
just give a general summary of what inspired you
to create the music that you create, you know, how it differs...
FZ A general summary?!
Q: You know, what inspired to, you know... get into it...
FZ: Well if I had to bring it down to a general summary I would say that the music that I do is made from things that have either happened to me or that I have seen happening to other people that I think are worthy of commemoration... An example would be in the Fillmore East album the business about the girl who won't take her pants off unless the guy sings his hit single. That's a true story. In fact, a lot of the things are true stories. That actually happened to Howard, when he was in the Turtles, and when he first told me abuot it I thought it was pretty funny. and so I wrote this piece for Mark and Howard so they could re-live their past experience night after night for a larger audience.
There are other things that I've done, that relate to personal matters that are so obscure that couldn't even be deciphered. But they still provide the idea for a song.
Yeah I have a question for Captain Beefheart, are you there?
FZ What a silly question.
CB Take it with you when you're cold, man.
Q I was just wondering why in relation to your past albums, your latest one is so much more commercial.
FZ Tell 'em about your record contract, Don...
CB I signed with a *gatling* pin, with no conscience.
I went into Mercury Records, and I took the guy's shoe off, and pulled his sock off, and he didn't have little ways. But he was fast without them. So they took Winged Eel off the album, the drummer, anything, ran me out of town, said that they would do the album when I got back, and they had, but I hadn't gotten back.
FZ Any more questions?
This is a... Here I am...
FZ How's it going?
Q This is a question for you: is the music that you first put on record the music to which you were aspiring at the time, or would you have rather done a different kind of music like the orchestral stuff you did in 200 Motels like Varese kind of stuff?
FZ Well I have a wide range in musical interest, and I'm interested in all those things at the same time, but the music that comes on a record is usually the direct product of the people that are available to play in the band at that time. Like for instance, all the early albums would have sounded completely different even if I would have done the same song, the same vocals and everything else, if I would have had different people playing the instruments. Because what I was asking of them instrumentally was so weird for that day and age, that I don't think that it came off as good as it should have. But I would have been just happy writing for an orchestra and having it played, but nobody wanted to give me an orchestra until Lumpy Gravy, see, cause orchestras happen to cost a lot of money.
Q: OK Thank you.
we were talking about your orchestration, I noticed during your concerts
you lead your band, like an orchestra
leader would. you know. Why do you do that? How come you have such total
type control over your band?
FZ Well when I give a hand signal, the net result is to keep everybody together. I don't know how much experience you have on a stage, and know what the difference is in sound on the stage as opposed to what's in the audience, but there are times where you can't tell what is going on on stage, you can't hear the drums, which means you can't hear the beat. You can't hear the vocal, because the monitor is not as loud as the speakers that are going out over the front, and it's a combination of guess work and you know, radar that gets you through a show. And when I'm giving you a cue, you know a visual representation of "this is the down-beat", then it helps to keep everyone together under those circumstances. And there are other times, if you want to put an accellerando ritardando into a piece of music, the only way that you can keep the group together is by indicating how the rate at which the music is speeding up or slowing down, so that's why I conduct it. And then I have other hand signals which are used to make punctuation and sound effects. For instance if I go like this, it means "Get ready", and I go like that everybody goes "Grunt" and hits a low note, and that's a cut-off, which will stop the band and leaves a soloist playing by himself, or if I stick my hand out like that and reach around, that means: Get ready, and then I go like this, and I pull, that means: figure out any note that you like and play any note that you want, and increase the volume as I go like this. That result is different every time you do it, but it's a texture, you know it's a textural kind of a thing, you can see how that would contrast against a straight beat, the beat is going on like this and you suddenly go whoooOOoo like that, you know, just something to stick in there to make your eyebrows go up and down. Then there's this signal, I go like this, that means "Get Ready" then I go Phweet! like that and then everybody is supposed to play the highest note that they have on their instrument. and there's variations on that, there's one that goes Toot! a little one, then there's a big one, then there's one that goes Pweeeet Toot!
Q: I love
FZ You like my shirt? Why, because it looks like your shirt?
Q I understand that you score all of your music precisely... that's the lead in... Do you ever do any improvisation?
FZ Of course!
Q On stage?
FZ Yeah, on stage, yeah. See because you write something out or that you plan events doesn't mean that 100% of everything you do is plan. You can plan a structure, You can plan the front, the back, and one piece in the middle and leave all the rest of it to chance.
Eventually can you bring the microphone down here and get the girl who's squirming in the front?
Could you tell us what inspired you to do Camarillo Brillo, the
FZ Camarillo Brillo, well, There's a certain kind of girl in California they have em in some places in New York too... easy there... It's like cartoon here, that goes Hinnnnnn... like that, you know this kind of girls? Yeah well, I always thought that those kind of girls needed to be commemorated you know, there's a certain way... because the way pop culture is constructed, the way dress fads come and go, and hair styles come and go, and so forth... If you don't make a note of it while it's going by, then it will be lost to the ages. And a hundred years from now, somebody will get that record and say: Hmm... Camarillo Brillo, what does that mean? But you know, see.. Hey you got the microphone!
really love this, this is beautiful, but I wanna know your plans for the
FZ: Well you see this? That's one of my plans for the future.
Q No really.
FZ That's it. I'm gonna grow this... know what I mean?
FZ You don't?
FZ I'll tell you later.
FZ Yeah, so it's a deal.
have a lot of respect for all your albums, even including Over-Nite
Sensation and Apostrophe ('), but I'm kinda lost
at the Roxy, and was wondering what you think of Roxy.
FZ Well, I like it, or I wouldn't have put it out.
Q Do you think it's as good as some of the other stuff you did?
Q I have one more question: Who do you enjoy listen to most? What group?
FZ I don't listen to pop music.
you tell us if anything is going on in your life at the Roxy movie.
FZ I wish there was... The status of that film is this: I spent about 30 or 40000 dollars,trying to get the thing on film, and I got it on film, and there's some things that happened down there that are absolutely fabulous. However, they're too weird to show on television, and I don't really think there's really a market in the theatres for a straight concert film like that, you know, so right now, this thing on my shelf being an expensive piece of home movie... Maybe one day when TV looses up a little bit we'll be able to show the lovely Brenda, doing her... That a real nice piece of film, that Brenda.
Frank? Over here! I was wondering how you and Don got together to be in
the same band, that was a surprise.
FZ Why don't you ask Don?
Q Don, could you tell me how you got together with Frank in the Mothers last night... please?
Q Please, please...
FZ Oh come on, tell 'em Don...
CB Well, I just came down.
Q: Here or there?
CB Here AND there, and there and here, and here... Who asked me that question?
Hey Frank, it's about time, I wanna ask you a little different sort
of question, you ready?
FZ Yeah I'm ready.
Q It's about the press and stuff like that, like you're reading a lot of weird things about yourself, and stuff, but there was one article that came out in something like Circus or something, this really weird sorta guy interviewed you about what you wore, how did you handle that?
FZ Well you see, it's hard for me to assume the responsibility for the skill and interest of the people who write about me. You know, people come to me, and they say "I want to do an interview," and I say "Go ahead", you know. Then they ask me questions and I just take my chances with the questions that they ask me, and if they're stupid, that's my tough luck, and if they're intelligent, that's also my tough luck. Fortunately I don't run into that very often. Most of the people that I talk with from the world of the printed page, they're not too suave. First of all, they're not good writers. Second of all, they're not good interviewers. Third of all, they're doing it because it's a job. So, I'm not trying to make their lives miserable, it's their job. They come out and talk to me, and talk to somebody else, and it goes on and on and on. I do the best I can with what's asked.
Q: Do you still have any animosity towards David Walley and his biography?
FZ I wouldn't say that it's animosity, but I wouldn't say that it's too enthralling either, because I think that it's a bad piece of work, and I hate to see my name connected with it. I asked him not to write the book, because I didn't think that he could do a good job on it, and he said that he already had a contract to do the book and that he was going to go ahead on it whether I cooperated or not. And so it puts you in a position where somebody is going to write the story of your life, you don't think that they can do it and there's no way you can stop him from doing it. So you have a choice: you can either not talk to him anymore, or you can give him some interviews, and try to give him some information he can use. But what happened at the time Walley interviewed me, is he'd come over to my house, he'd ask me a question and I got to answer it, and then he'd start talking about his father. I mean I spent two or three nights listening him telling how his father sent him to military school, and him comparing me to his father, and I'm going "Jeeesus!"
And then he would do numbers like he'd bring his girlfriend over to my house, with licks like: Yeah, you know, I'm going up to interview Frank Zappa, you wanna come along?" And all that kind of shit, And I'd sit there like "Ngngng..." And then, when he had finally finished the book, he sent me the galley proofs, you know the galley proof is the book before it's a book, except that it wasn't. He sent me some printed pages, but there was already 10,000 finished books sitting in a warehouse some place, and there was no way that I could have corrected any of his errors. So it was just an unfortunate thing that happens to someone in show business. And when you're in showbusiness, and somebody comes up to you and says:
"Hey I'm gonna do a book about your life," you just tell him: "GO FUCK YOURSELF!"
you mentioned the aspects of chance in your music, how much if any do you
have looked at anything as far as John
Cage has been dealing with, or also have you had any experience with a
group of artists in New York called Fluxus?
FZ: I've heard of Fluxus, and I have listened to John Cage's albums, and I have attended a couple of John Cage lectures, and I did some research into that kind of aleatoric music, and studied other aleatoric composers during the late 50s when that was turning into something to be reckoned with, but there's very few of those people that I thought did anything that sounded musical, you know, it was interesting, but I wouldn't compare it to any lasting musical expression, you know it was just the sound of the times, and it was worthy as such, and if I listen to any of those records today, I just hear it as an indicator and not as a piece of music. Like the Bartok 2nd piano concerto is a piece of music, and John Cage's music for 2 prepared pianos and something or other is.. That doesn't register as music with me.
Q Do you find that to be the case with most aleatoric music?
FZ It depends on the piece, there have been some pieces that contain improvisations that I've enjoyed, a couple of Earl Brown pieces I like, and, what's that guy's name, Donald Erb... You know that record? Yeah I like that. But most of the earlier things in the aleatoric vein... were not to... I'll tell you part of the problem: Whenever a composer relinquishes part of his control to a musician and says: OK Just fill in the blanks here, I'll trust your judgment" he's putting a lot of faith into someone who may or may not be too interested in what his musical goals are. Whenever you're writing a piece of music and you say: "This space is for you to fill out with an improvisation, you're really taking a lot of chances, and because of the attitude of most symphony musicians, or most of the people who were playing those early aleatoric pieces, they hated what they were doing, and I think that comes through in the recordings of that music very strongly, that the people who were playing that stuff just couldn't stand it, didn't understand what the idea was behind improvisation and a lot of people who play in symphony orchestras have never been asked to improvise before, so they're very uncomfortable with it. And it's possible that some of that music might turn out to be better if it was recorded now with people who understand that kind of improvisation.
First I want to thank George for the peanuts because I haven't eaten
Frank I wanna know how much did it cost to put Apostrophe(') together and how long did it take?
FZ It took approximately two and a half years, on and off, because that's the span that the pieces cover in there, and the total budget was $65,000.
Ah Frank Are you the guitarist on George Duke's Feel album?
FZ No that's Obdewl'l X.
I wonder if you could enumerate on some of the recordings that you did
pre-Freak Out. I know there were some
singles under other names, and I wonder if you can go through some of those.
FZ Well, let's see, there was The Big Surfer, which I wrote and arranged and was performed by some other people, and then there was World's Greatest Sinner, which was my group with Ray Collins doing the lead vocals under the name of Baby Ray and the Ferns, there was Memories of El Monte, which Ray and I wrote and was performed by the Penguins, there was Grunion Run, which I played most of the tracks on, which was the flip side of a record called Tijuana Surf, and was also released by Original Sound, and There's about three or four others I can't remember. Well Big Leg Emma was not pre-Freak Out, that was done in 1966, that was done at the same time as the recording session of Absolutely Free.
Q I have
two questions for George Duke, I have you performing with Cannonball Adderly
on The Black Messiah, I have you
performing Gerald Wilson orchestra, I have Reflections and Feel. Now other than as member of the Mothers, what other LPs can I find you on?
GD Oh yeah, you want to know? I'm on a Billy Cobham album, what's the name of that thing? I forgot the name of it, it's the second album of his. Crosslines, yeah. I'm on that, and I'm on a Louis Gasca-album called Born Free or something, I don't know. I don't know the name of half of these records. If you... Flora Purim, I'm on a couple of her albums, Stories to Tell, Butterfly Dreams.. I could dig up a half *arb* of records I do with other people.
Q Last question is: could I get some brief history of George Duke? I mean what inspired you, your style of play?
GD Oooh.. Well when I was seven, my mother took me to see Duke Ellington, I guess I was about 5, and that inspired me, I said I can do that, I was crazy though at the moment. I sat down and my mother bought me a little piano and I started practising, and I used to walk up the hill, once a week to take lessons from this little lady who lived upon the hill, in the ghetto, and I did that for like 3 years. But who inspired me? Probably the first record that sent me somewhere else was, I heard a James Brown record, and the thing was flames, that really put me out, what was the name? Stink! You know that? Yeah that was some Ng! in there! Anyway, there was that, and then I heard a Miles Davis record, Kind of Blue, that put me somewhere else. I said I couldn't play like that, the only thing I could do was play... I don't mean to demean this guy, cause I love his *...*, I could get into that. But I wanted to play more in the style that Miles was doing at the time so I went into that sort of thing. I don't want to take too long with this, but I went to school, I studied all this classical music and you know, got my degrees and all that, but I wanted to play some music that involves some improvisation. And I love the blues.
read somewhere about 5 or 6 years ago that you were gonna make a film that
was 12 hours long, or 6 hours long, or
something like that, and I was wondering if first of all that was just
a put-on and whether you had something like that...
FZ Just remember don't believe anything you read in the papers.
Q Yeah I read it in the papers.
FZ That was in Random Notes in Rolling Stone. And it was a joke and I had nothing to do with it.
Q And secondly, when you made 200 Motels, when you cut that, did you transfer it to film and then cut it down on film?
FZ The first editing was done on the video tape stage, a lot of the opticals that you see in there were done in post-production. And then after it was the complete video tape, one real video tape was done, they transferred that to 35mm, and we got a black-and-wite work print, and then cut the work print down, and later put the sound effects against the work print.
like to ask 2 questions: What does the producer get and what does the artist
FZ It varies from group to group, company to company, every contract is individually negotiable.
Q It's not a regular form anymore? You can negotiate whatever you want?
FZ That's right, it's whatever you can get.
Q And what is the best route for a new artist to take, to find a producer, do his own demo, or just knock on doors?
FZ Well it always comes down to knocking on doors, whether you're looking for a producer or finding some money to make a
demo, it's always knocking on the door.
Q Is there a better route though? to take...
FZ Unfortunately there isn't you know, since the pop business became such a huge industry, and every time you turn around there's another band that wants to do something, and they're not all good, and they're not all worth recording, everyone of them believes they are entitled to his shot, and of course he is, and the problem that the record company has, is they can only record so many artists at one time, and after they recorded them, they have the big problem of getting those things into a store, like I'll give you an example: Warner Brothers their last album release, they do a mass release every 6 weeks, there was 44 LPs in their release alone, for that period of time, and every other record company has got a similar large amount of albums, so you know, there's tons of stuff coming out all the time, and a record store, especially in the current economic slump, is not going to take a chance as readily on a group that he's never heard before, that is not promoting in his town, not doing concerts or something like that, he's not enthusiastic about taking a bunch of these new albums from a new group from the distributor and putting them in his store, cause he has limited shelf space, you know, he's only got so many places on the wall where he can show albums, and he wants to show the albums that are going to bring him a profit in his store. So all this keeps reflecting back to the record company, the group comes to the company, and they say: We have some songs, you know, record us, they're really not enthusiastic about even listening so it's hard to just get them to pay attention to you. The best way, I think, is to get your group together, and play in an area, that has a number of clubs where you can get exposure, and build up a strong local following and then based on activity in a certain area playing in a club in this town, I don't know what the club situation is like here...
Q There are none.
FZ There are certain towns in the States where there is a lot of club action, you know, and that seems the way of seeing things to happen, like San Francisco. When San Francisco cut loose there are a lot of places for groups to play, and when there's places for clubs to play, there'll be a lot of groups. And there'll also be good groups just because the odds go up, you know, and so people get to play and develop their skills and good things happen. So you know, move to a place where there's a chance for you to play. Get in there and play, and when people notice you and like you, and follow your group from place to place, then you can believe that there are people from record companies who go into those areas and check it out, and see who's doing things. That's what happened recently in Austin, Texas, that's why it's turning into something down there. There's a lot of groups happening, and people started checking it out, and they got contracts.
Q Where are the Underwoods and what are they doing musically now?
FZ Well let's see, Ruth is at last... I got a letter from her about six weeks ago, she was living with her mother in Long Island, and Ian is working in Los Angeles in studios, playing synthesizer in a lot of film scores, they had some marital problems, I do not know how they're being resolved, and musically Ruth is not doing too much, and I already told you what Ian is doing.
GD Ian is on Freddie Hubbard's album too, by the way.
Q Is there
going to be a combined effort of Beefheart and Zappa, and is there another
Hot Rats in your system?
FZ Well my system is full of hot rats, at all times.
FZ And also some feathers, as he pointed out. There will probably be a combination FZ/CB album.
Q Are you at all interested in doing stuff for quadrophonic reproduction or is that at a total dead standstill right now?
FZ Well, let's see, Over-Nite Sensation, Apostrophe(') and Roxy are all available in quad. The new album, which we have coming out in June, is not going to be available in quad, 'cause I didn't have time to mix it in quad. But the two track mix of it is absolutely fab.
is directed to the captain:
Q: I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about your Trout Mask Replica album.
Q And also specifically what inspired the old fart at play.
CB An old fart. Not working. Where are you, man?
Q I'm right here.
CB Ah! It's a nice panning I couldn't see who was... moving?
Q Could you talk some about the album, what went into making it, it's pretty amazing.
CB Yeah. I have the notes. When I was knee-high to a grasshopper, this black juice came out on a hard-shelled chin, and that called that tobacco juice. I used to fiddle with my back feet, music for a black onyx my entire room absorbed every echo The music was thud-like. I usually played such things as rough-neck and thug, opaque melodies that would bug most people. The music was thudlike. Music from the other side of the fence, a black swan figuring lay on all colour lily pads, a little conglomeration table of pressed black felt with same colour shadows, and obscene knob-knees and what-nots, A long hallway rolled out into oddball odd , beside the fly-pecked black doorway, that looked close on a tar-lattice street,
Q Thank you.
like to ask Frank how you liked working with Jack Bruce and you think you'll
ever get back playing with him again.
FZ Well it was an interesting experience, and we probably will not work together anymore. What was wrong with it? Nothing! Nothing at all, you know, it's just that.. is he? He is? He's in jail? See what I know about this stuff? George says he's in jail all the time. So that makes it tough.
was wondering what's involved with guest artists on albums, like when they
have in the back of an album, like *..*
appears courtesy of Sleazy Records, does that mean he's really appearing
courtesy of Sleazy, or are they taking a cut of that album, or how
does that whole thing work with guest artists?
FZ They don't take a cut, and in fact up until recently, some record companies wouldn't allow their artists to be on other labels. Columbia had a policy for years, where... I tried for a number of years to do an album with Jeff Beck, we discussed it about 5 or 6 different times, but because he's signed with Epic, and that's part of Columbia, they would never let him do anything like that, and so it could just never come off. But the tendency in the business today is to let things like that, let it slide. They don't take a cut of the artist's share, they just make you put the record company name on the back of the jacket.
I'd like to know what it was like working with Wild Man Fisher and what's
he doing today?
FZ Well, it was hell, working with Wild Man Fisher, I spent three months, sorta working FOR Wild Man Fisher at the time I was putting his album together. And right now he is walking on the streets of Los Angeles with his album under his arm, still punching people.
Regarding the show last night, the war memorial... the panning effect
*..* I wonder was that being controlled by the
FZ The mixer
Q The mixing? Both on the guitar and on the drums?
FZ Yeah. The panning happens from the board.
just like to say something on the house, when I was a freshman in high
school, right, I see your albums on the rack
and I said: "Yeah who's this weird motherfucker" you know?
FZ I can hardly blame you! I said the same thing when I saw your albums out!
Q Suppose I got a little older and I started playing, you know... and suppose I became a musician, and I would like to say, after checking you out I really have a lot of respect for your head and your music, so I just want to say it.
FZ Thank you. Thank you very much.
Q And another thing on the cover of Roxy, man, who's that fine chick behind the stance man?
FZ Well you see that's Brenda...
Q I see... no you seem like you have a pretty good time.
FZ Oh that wasn't even the best of what I was having. That was just the album cover shot.
Q But thank you. And also, George, like: I don't know if you remember, but I caught you at Jackson State four years ago,
at cannonball, and you came off *...* and it was pretty nice, so thank you.
got three questions.The first question is: You seem very autonomous, which
I respect, which is one of your admirable
traits, you remind me a lot in that respect of Lennon. If you ever thought
of a, I don't know if that's bad or good,
FZ I didn't hear the first part of it...
Q John Lennon, you remind me a lot of him..
Q The second question is: What was your connection with Alice Cooper? Rumour has that you helped expose Alice Cooper...
FZ Well actually Alice Cooper hasn't been exposed yet, we helped the group get their first record contract. And above and beyond that: may the Lord have mercy on your soul.
Q And the third and final question was... Personally is there any other than your own, you know doing what you want to do for music. Anything, anyway, that you feel that you're helping prosperity, or anything that you want to do for prosperity by doing your music, that's a little complex, but I mean:
FZ Helping prosperity?
I would say that I am helping prosperity in these ways: I employ seven musicians in the band , and probably about ten on the road crew, and another 4 or 5 in the office, and I'm making my contribution to prosperity in that regard, also to the people who sell me the equipment that I have to drag around on the road, and the nice people who build the lights and the PA system, I've assisted their prosperity quite a bit over the past years, to say nothing about the trucking company and the guy who rents us the bus, and I'm just doing my part to keep it circulating.
you ever consider working with Lennon or have you tried?
FZ Well he jammed with us on stage at the Fillmore East at one time, but other than that, no.
GD Who's Leonard?
FZ You know, John Leonard from the Beatles...
GD Ah, Leonard!
You mentioned cover design before, and I wonder how much you would like
or how much control would you like to have of
the cover design, because I find myself... I don't know a group that well, I judge a record by the cover.
FZ Everybody does.
Q And I just wonder how much you feel that's important to influence the way the cover is designed.
FZ Well there's two ways to look at that, one: if you are person who has definite ideas about music and definite ideas about how you want that music to appear at first glance to the person who's going to listen to the record, you know what happens when you get an album: you can't see anything but the cover, you just look at the cover and you turn it over, and you read it you know, and that's it, the cover is part of the music. If you have a strong concept that you're doing, you want the cover to be integrated with the music. If you know what you're doing, that's good. If you don't, it will kill you. Because you might want to put something on the cover that would be absolutely repulsive to the person going into the store. Suppose your idea of what the music needed was a glossy 8 by 10 of the group looking like this on the front you know, and you really felt that that was important to what you were saying. Suppose the hip mod young person going to a record store, saw that and said: This looks like a Dave Clark Five record! Well then you would never get your music across to the public at all. Sometimes a new group when they do their first album have ideas about what the cover should look like. But these ideas are often not related to the realities of life, you know. They want to have gold stamping embossed, cut-outs, five colour reproduction on you know, some weird kind of stock, or else they just want to have some kind of illustration on it that is just going to be far too expensive. Now Warner Brothers has a new policy that anything above a minimum that they set for cover production has to be paid for by the artist. So I think that straightens a lot of them out right away.
been collecting a few questions here while I've been waiting, and I have
about 5 or so. The first two are How come?
questions. First of all, I've noticed that pre-Discreet when you
were in concert, the volume of the concert was substantially different
than how it is nowadays. Now it's to the point where discerning between
one instrument and the other becomes next to impossible, at times,
because it becomes so loud, that it's hard to tell what's what. And why
have you done that?
FZ Well, let's examine what you're saying. First of all, you're saying pre-Discreet that the volume was different, right?
Pre-Discreet I did not have this PA-system. Pre-Discreet I was not working in halls the size of the armery that we worked in last night. And when you go into a hall that's very large, I don't know where you're sitting in the hall.. If you're sitting right in front of the PA system you're in trouble, because it is going to be loud, you're playing in a hall that holds 10,000 people you got to turn it up so the guy in the back is going to be able to hear it. And the reason that we do things like pan the instruments and spread them out; we run a stereo PA, and it makes it easier for a person sitting like about the middle of a hall to pick out who's playing what and where it's coming from. A lot of people who come right down to the front of a stage can't hear anything, because right at ground level they're hearing all the amplifiers from the stage playing into their face, they can't hear any vocals because they're not in front of the PA stack itself, and they can't hear any of the panning because all they did was down there in the front to watch. Actually the best place to hear the show from is out where the mixer is, about in the middle of the hall.
Q Well I was located about that position, and listening to some of the newer material was, I couldn't understand any of the lyrics at all.
FZ Well this will happen no matter where you're playing, or where you're listening from, because here's what's happening psychologically when a person goes to a concert.
If we're advertising, it says Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention coming to town, go to the concert, everybody goes "Oh yeah, they'll play my favourite song of such and such, and the audience comes in with the expectation that the group is going to be a human jukebox for their older material. And it's been my experience that the minute you play something that everybody recognizes, and they've already heard the words on a record where it's easier to make it out, everybody thinks, "You know I know how it's supposed to go, " and so they get along with it that way. If you play new material, nobody has ever heard it before, nobody has got a chance to figure out the words, you know. There's just too much to fathom. Besides the words you got the music, you got the choreography, whatever else is going on, it's all distracting. If any of that material had been on a record before, it would have been easier to discern. We have to play new material in concert for two reasons: one, you get tired of playing the old stuff, if you go on the road a lot, two, you need to develop that material for future albums, and I would say that a concert is a good place to develop it, and I try to strike up a balance between the stuff that people recognize when we play concert, and new things that might surprise them. The other factor is that what we play on stage has little or nothing to do with what the mixer does, sitting out there in the hall. During the sound-check in the afternoon I set up a basic balance of the group for him, so that the equalisation of the instruments get the panning set up, but once the show starts, what the audience hears, is the result of what that mixer does. Now prior to this tour, we rehearsed for a month with a mixer named Stephan. And Stephan learned the songs, and the first concert Stephan got pneumonia, and that was about a week ago, and this guy has walked in with no rehearsal and he's mixing the show. I don't know what he's doing out there, and the only way that I can check it is by listening to cassettes that we make off the board each night, and if I hear he's doing something really wrong in terms of a blend, then I tell him about it, but it's hard to make music in a place that's designed for sports. And the PA is not designed to hurt you, it's just designed to fill the room, and make it available.
was wondering, a couple of questions, on your talks with Cheepniz and
*...* floor love, is that ad-libbed at all?
FZ They are 100% AdLib. AdLib is this *...* that we have here.
Q Did you really steal hubcaps by the Del Monte legion*...* stadium?
FZ No, I never stole hub-caps because I never had a car, and I couldn't see any reason to get down and get my hands dirty
with something made out of chrome. But *...* stadium, I played there, but the parking lot was not a fun place.
you get a tour together, say you say you tour a lot, is this your PA, or
do you run it? And how do you practice, do
you run out to a concert hall to practice, to get the mixing down?
FZ Well it's something that you do in gradual stages. First I bought a building. And then the building has a rehearsal hall in the back, that's 60 by 40 feet. And then we set up our PA system inside the building. We own the PA system and we practice with the PA. Not the whole thing, cause we can't set the whole thing up in there, we set up most of it. And we practice for about a month, roughly six hours a day, with the dinner break, for 5 days a week, prior to the starting of the tour.
Q Is there anything you can do about not playing in places that are built for sports, like playing in concert halls?
FZ Well we do. We play wherever we're booked in to play, and it's a wide variety of places, for instance when we go to Boston, we work in a theatre that holds about 3,000 people, and a lot of times when you go to college they stick you into a gym. The real problem is this, that if you're popular and a lot of people want to see what you do, and they all want to see you at the same time, there aren't any places that are big and have that acoustics. I can think of maybe 3 in the United States, just stretching it, that are really big and have reasonable acoustics. That's something that maybe you can write to your congressman about and have it legislated.
GD And a lot of times those places that are built like that are made for concert orchestras and not for electric bands and they still don't sound right.
do you choose the people who play on your label, on Discreet?
FZ Well, I haven't been choosing them. You know, from the time that Bizarre and Straight, which were the first two labels that I had, and the time that contract ran out, I sort of decided that I was going to spend my time working on just the Mothers stuff, rather than producing other acts. Because when you produce a record for somebody else, here's what happens. If it doesn't sell, they tell you it's your fault. If it does sell, it's your fault cause it didn't sell more. And so you can't win. And when you figure it takes anywhere from 2 to 3 months, to really do an album right, I don't have 2 to 3 months out of the year to produce somebody else. Last year, we toured 7 or 8 months, you know. And the rest of the time, I sorta like to relax, you know, and part of that time that I'm not on the road has to be devoted to working in the studio with the Mothers stuff. So I just have shyed away from outside production. Anything on Discreet has been Herb's choice.
political role do you see in music taking now?
FZ What political role? I would say that music is an alternative to a political role. When you consider that most politics in the United States is nothing more than a role in the sense that a person rolls a drunk.
like to know whatever happened to Roy Estrada and Ray Collins.
FZ Ray Collins is currently employed as a carpenter, living at Don Preston's house, he's trying to get a group together, he has been trying to get a group together for quite some time.
Roy Estrada is working some place in Orange County, I think he might be driving a truck or working in a warehouse.
come your Uncle Meat movie was never released?
FZ Because nobody believed in the point that they put up the money to finish it, and seeing I'm not a millionaire and I don't have the money to do it myself.
Q And lastly does Cal Schenkel still do your graphics in albums?
FZ Yes, as the matter of fact, the next album is probably Cal's best cover, I think. When you see it, you know, it's called One Size Fits All, and he really... it's real good.
like to address a question to any of the three gentlemen:
I'd like to hear your views on the occult and the social theory.
FZ Would you care to rephrase that, so that the captain can comprehend it?
Q Well, most music right now is either oriented on sex, occult or social theory, and that is sort of a new movement, would you like to talk on that one?
FZ I would say that's a gross over-simplification.
CB I'll get into it. The very same ass that carried men across the deserts of time also gave man the *...* hamburger.
FZ How many say a man to it?
like to ask one question about the album We're Only In It For The Money;
first of all, did
you have a lot of *...* from Capitol records because of the cover, and
secondly are there any weird stories in the making of it, and thirdly,
how's Moon Unit?
FZ Well, Moon Unit is fine, Dweezil is fine, Ahmet is fine, Gail is fine, everybody's fine.
And now the story of WOIIFTM. The house *...* the cover were not from Capitol Records, they were on the Beatles themselves, those cute little guys from England, remember the first time we went to England I got a phone call from Paul McCartney's: "Would you like to come over and have tea" and so forth and so I discussed this with a number of other people cause I was afraid he was going to slip me some acid. I was afraid I would wind up like that, and so after it I said. They just told me: Well if you go over there, don't drink anything, you'll be OK, don't eat nothing, don't drink anyhing, if somebody comes at you with a needle, run. So I was supposed to go over there but then I found out I had to go to Copenhagen the afternoon I was supposed to go over his house, so I gemember getting on the phone and talking to him and said: "Hello Paul, is that you Paul? Well listen, this is Frank, I can't make it over there today but I had something I want to discuss with you, you know we got an album that's got a cover that sorta looks like Sgt Pepper, and I wonder if there would be any problems you know, if you guys complain if we did this cover that was making fun of the Sgt Pepper-album." And at the end of the phone I could see the guy going... Finally he says: "You mean, you talk business?" And I said: "Well you know I figured it'd be better this way instead of calling up your lawyer. And he says: "Well, I think I have to discuss this with the other members of the group, but our attorney I'm sure would be able to blah blah blah..." And eleven months later, the album finally came out, after going through a bunch of shit with their attorneys, and so forth, and there you have it.
Q Was it worth it?
FZ Sure. That's a good cover. I'll tell you one other thing: the place where the cover is printed is called "Queen's Litho" just outside in NY, and there's this sheet, I wish I still had one of them, I don't know whether you understand about how they print things, but they don't do em one at a time, they gang em up on big sheets of paper, and then they cut em apart. Our covers were so similar, we're using the exact same color of ink and everything that they were using on their cover, to the point that they were running 'em on the same sheet, you know. Like there are these big sheets, like this, the half has got the real one on this side, and ours on that side, and they're really funny to look at, they make great wallpaper.
I was just wondering, how much damn longer are you going to be around?
I mean... you've been...
I was just a little disenchanted with this late stuff you've been coming
up with, I mean really figured that We're
Only In It For The Money was your masterpiece, maybe you should've quit
there. I'm not
trying to demean you, I think you're the greatest... But...
FZ No, a lot of people say the same thing to me every day, really...
Q I think maybe it works around a circle, maybe you come up with a masterpiece like that.
FZ Oh yeah? Yeah I hope so, I mean if there's one thing that I really wanna do is to make you happy with one of my records.
FZ But in answer to your question: I expect to be around for quite some time.
have a question for Mr Van Vliet: What are the Drazy Hoops?
FZ Yeah I wanted to know that too.
CB Little people with *...* caps... It's true!
Q I believe it.
CB So do I.
to all three of you: What do you feel about drugs?
Q I always heard those funny commercials about "Don't do speed" and Frank was making all sorts of fun of those things, I thought it was a funny interesting situation, how did you get into it?
GD I'm really into *Burrolo*...
Q Sounds good. How about you, Captain?
GD It's an Italian wine
CB I suck dope, I think that *..* is nice, and if you journey into it it isn't an *...* anymore.
Q Thank you.
FZ I don't like drugs, I don't use drugs, and if you want to use drugs, that's your business. I was asked to make some commercials to try and divert people from the habit of using methadine, or other chemicals that jag you up, if somebody came to me and asked me to make some commercials about steering people away from things that jacked you down, I would, all those commercials can do is just express my view about it, but it's your body, do whatever you want, I think it's unfortunate that people get arrested for using drugs, in a society that is so strenuous that it makes people wanna do that, I think that if you want to feel good, or if you want to feel nothing, there are other more efficient ways to do that, I mean for instance if you're dead, you'd really be just right out there like that, and to other people it's just a slower process of suicide. I don't want to recommend meditation or anything, because that's highly commercialized these days, but the human mind is a wonderful instrument and you can direct it anyway that you like, without the assistance of a guru, or any of those little attributes that are going to cost you money, and if you want to feel high all the time, just feel high all the time, you really don't need a chemical alteration to do it, that sounds like science fiction, but it really does work, and there you have it.
Q Thank you.
wonder why the back of the Mothermania album is all printed in German.
FZ It's a newspaper clipping from a concert that we did in Berlin in 1968. It tells about this riot that we had there once some, there were some communists in the audience that tried to start a bunch of trouble.
Q I was
under the impression that you had your leg broken by an irate fan once,
is that true?
FZ Well, It was an irate person, I don't know whether he qualifies as a fan. He was a crazy person who was in the audience at a concert in a place called the Rainbow Theatre, in England, 1970 or 71, can't remember, and we just finished playing our encore, half the band was already off the stage, and the next thing I knew I wake up at the bottom of an orchestra pit, with a concrete floor, a broken leg, a broken rib, a hole in my chin, a hole in the back of my head, my head all the way over on this shoulder. They thought I had a broken neck. About 3 or 4000 people sitting around going "Huh? What? What happened?" When I woke up, I didn't even know that I was on the road, you know, I just woke up and wondered where I was. And then I saw the guy, I wouldn't recognize him if he walked in this room right now, and I spent a month in the hospital in England, 9 months in a wheelchair, and a few more months with an orthopaedic brace on my leg. I was off the road for the better part of the year, during that period of time while I was in the wheelchair I produced 4 albums, the albums were Just Another Band From LA, Grand Wazoo, Waka/Jawaka, and Ruben and the Jets for real. I wrote a Broadway musical, I wrote about 6 orchestra pieces, and when my cast came off I scratched my leg until all of the werewolf hair disappeared.
mentioned you don't really like to listen to pop music. When you're by
yourself, what sort
of music do you listen to?
FZ Well usually what I listen to is road tapes by The Mothers, because I have to go through them. We record all of our concerts, and once they get back off the road I review that material and see if there's anything worth putting out on an album, and if I have any recreational listening time, I listen to rhythm and blues, or I listen to orchestra music.
And this hotel which is built out over the water, and advertises that you can fish from your window, and supplies equipment to do this in the lobby, a number of rock and roll groups have stayed there, and straight people as well, and they fished out the window and caught things like octopusses and mud sharks and so on and so forth, and these denizens of the deep were used for erotic procedures on willing participants in the hotel room, and that's what the legend of the mud shark is all about.
was the collaboration in music you made with Zuben Metha with the LA Philharmonic?
FZ Well, I had an opportunity to have some scores performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and they agreed to a minimal budget for rehearsals and we had a concert in a place called the Paulie Pavillion which is a 14, 15,000 capacity basketball arena, not exactly the place you want to listen to a symphony orchestra, but it was filled to capacity for the concert, and it helped a little bit. And as a matter of fact I saw Zuben just before we went on this tour, he was picking up some stuff at the airport. He says: "Oh yeah. I'll call you, we'll have lunch".
Q That was the last time you seen him...
FZ Yeah, that's right.
Q And eventually do you think that classical music in general, I mean what comes out the euphemistic phrase "classical music", on records could stand a better shot for better sales, if there was more exposure, or...
FZ Oh come on, spit it out Mr. Krantz!
Q How could... I'll try to rephrase, to restructure it... How do you think classical sales can be improved in this country?
Q Right now they're between 5 and 6 percent...
FZ Yeah they're terrible, and the only way that they could be improved is if more people liked that kind of music and bought it, but you have a problem there, in that as far as the older classics are concerned, everybody gets the chance to hear those one time or another, even on a radio station, by accident, you turn in and try to find the one you like, and you hear classical station, you hear a little TOOT TOOT Beethoven, and you turn by, or you might in a music appreciation class in school be confronted with some duck who wants to play you Peter and the Wolf and tell you this, that's what's happening. And I think that all that has the tendency to turn people away from orchestra music, and the concerts, if you're ever induced to see a concert of orchestral music, a young person might be turned away by the fact that he can hardly hear it, compared to a rock and roll concert. I've gone to see orchestras, and have sat in my seat straining to hear what's going on in the orchestra, even when they're playing loud it sounds so teeny-weenie up there, compared to rock and roll, and so you're dealing with a generation of people who are accustomed to a higher DB environment you know, their receptivity is based on whether the music affects their body as well as their ears, and when you can have orchestra music pummling your chest, and providing some sort of glanular stimulation, then the sales for those records are going to go up.
The other problem is that the newer serious pieces I think for the most part are dreadful, and a lot of the new electronic music
is even worse, it's just complete shock, it's guys who can programme a computer turning over their function to the computer.
and trying to convince the record buyer that these numbers that he has pumped into a machine are really worthwile for
listening purposes. I think that the situation in serious music is pretty dreadful, not just from the stand point of record sales alone, but from a creative stand point too. There's no sense of humour in it, there's no sex in it, and as you know, without sex
nothing is any fun, so there is no get-off in it. And you have an audience that is highly oriented toward gratification you know,
it's a hedonistic society, so to speak. If it can't make you come when we're with another, so why should you listen to it?
Q Well there's a tremendous wealth, particularly of orchestral literature, of orchestral pieces that a lot of people of this age are
just totally unfamiliar with, have never had an opportunity to hear it, it really would excite them if they had an opportunity to
FZ Well, maybe it would excite them and maybe it wouldn't excite them, that's the thing...
Q At least they would have an opportunity to make a decision.
FZ Well that's what lending libraries are for, I think that record libraries or book libraries that have a record division, are useful in that regard, if you want to go in and find out what he's talking about, in terms of some of these standing orchestral pieces, I think it would be worth your time, go listen to some of it, if you like it, go buy one and keep it for yourself at home, so that you can show your friends when they come over, that you're really far out and have an orchestral record, It's going to be a long time before the situation improves for orchestra music in the United States, this is an industrial society, the composer has no place in it, and the orchestra has a very tenuous position in it. Anything that resembles culture is sort of shunted off to the side like some poofter remnant of your being culture that was superimposed on us from a long time ago. It doesn't really fit, you know. The concept of a symphony orchestra up alongside of a K-Tell record ad on television is just too incongruous. I think that's really where we're at, it's K-Tell.
any of your orchestral scores published, or if anyone would want to perform
them, how would they go about doing it?
FZ They're not published, no.
Q So there won't be a way to get a hold of any?
FZ Orchestral materials can be rented, but the problem of making them available is, since you're dealing on a one-shot basis, the cost of making *oscillid* copies of a full score and cranking out parts for an orchestra that wants to play it is pretty exorbitant, you know, when a piece of music is published, it's a losing proposition for orchestra music, it's very time-consuming to prepare the materials, once it's an actual print, then the rental fees to orchestras are very small, but if somebody wanted to get a hold of an unpublished score, it's expensive to prepare it.
Q Do you plan to do anything again like you did with the LA Phil?
FZ We've had maybe 5 or 6 offers from all over the world since that time, but it always seems like the wrong thing to do because what they want, really, is to get the Mothers as a rock and roll band to come and play alongside of the orchestra, so that they can improve their concert attendance. And so they use us as bait to bring kids into the concert hall with little or no regard for my music as something for an orchestra to play, and just, you know it's a shock, and I felt that from what happened with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and have sort of avoided the orchestral experience ever since. Cause it's disheartening to spend a lot of time writing some music for an orchestra and know that they just don't give a shit when they get the music, it's just another thing for them to do.
Q One thing, I don't know if you want to talk about it...
FZ What's that?
Q It's just slick, there's something that you wrote that is really slick, I don't want to talk about it...
FZ Well some of you might have seen a performance that fell to form in 1972, when I was in there with a 20-piece group and we played a piece called The Adventures Of Greggery Peccary, played a couple of movements from that, and I finally have recorded that, like last December, went in and got a 20-piece group together, and laid that down, did a complete version of it, it's possible that that may be released in November.
Q Oh wow. And that's orchestral?
Mr Z, do you know a thing about poodle dogs, and where did you first find
your zircon encrusted tweezers?
FZ Well the thing about dogs is, it's happening on a very rarefied conceptual level, as you'll see there's references to dog throughout the work, and the reference to the dog has nothing to do with the dog, or the concept of a dog is just like, you can think of it as a, you know when Rembrandt did those paintings to make them all look the same he'd mix brown with every colour, you know, to get that thing, so I said: That's a funny idea, I'll stick a little piece of a dog in every record. And so on the next album, the concept of the dog has been brought down to the word "Arf" in two songs, and another song called Evelyn, the modified dog, which is included in there, and you know, it's just a little bit all the way along, and the zircon-encrusted tweezers I've had for quite some time, the zircons were removed from Terry *...* ring, because he thought Fats Domino had one.
Q I was
wondering what... I have two questions, first one is what you thought about
unions, and musical unions, whether
that was well summed up in Rudy
wants to buy yez a drink, or you know if they're really doing something
for the musicians.
And second of all: how and where is the cheese.
FZ OK First about unions: as you know, the concept of a union is a good idea, it's something that was originally thought up to help people who work stand a better chance of getting good pay and good working conditions, and it's a bargaining co-op, that is used for taking a collective group of people in a certain industry, so they can bargain with the people who run that industry. Somewhere along the line it got corrupted, and the unions, especially in regard to the musician's union, don't really do very much for the average guy in the union. The LA musician's union is a great example. There's 16 or 18,000 people in that union. Out of the 16 or 18,000, maybe there's a thousand who work all the time. And the business of the union is designed to keep those people at a good level of income, because they're the ones that are in the studio. It seems like the union is run by the string players who play the backup dates on all of those Bobby V. records and stuff.
It just got that whole kind of aura to it. And recently there was a scandal that ripped through the union, when they discovered that 2 million dollars had disappeared out of the treasury, and as a result to that disappearance, the union had to shut down two days a week. They couldn't even keep their doors open to cash people's cheques. It's that kind of a sleazy thing. So I personally don't have too much respect for the musician's union from the experience that I've had with local 47 and I think it doesn't do that much for the average guy who's playing in a group, except to make his life miserable, taking tax away from him, then making things inconvenient. It does not do very much to improve the lot of the person playing rock and roll music, unless you happen to be a violin player backing up one of those sessions.
And your question about the cheese is: she had three automobile accidents, mostly head injuries, and she's probably still
living in England.
Q Do you think the musician's unions *..* because they're just not as powerful as they say the *...* or do you just mostly feel
it's their own fault?
FZ I think that what happens when a musician's union is, there's some guys in there who are very interested in taking home a
good paycheck for themselves, as union officials, and they don't care anything about musicians and it's all a bunch of jive.
you tell me a little bit about Lord Buckley? If you have anything else
coming out on him or...
FZ No I don't. Those are masters that were made available for just one album.
I'd like to ask Frank if his new album is going to be basically an instrumental
album, or a vocal album, or a combination of both...
FZ There's only one instrumental piece on the album and it's 2 minutes 38 seconds long.
Frank I was curious to know whether or not you're pissed off last night?
FZ Pissed off?
Q Yeah, so to speak, it was a small crowd, the acoustics, everything in general seemed like you weren't into it, and then at the end you came out... I've seen you a few times, and I'm listening to your music like back since Ruben and the Jets, and last night like when you came to Willie the Pimp, you ran through it, then you just ran off-stage, and that was it. The lights were on, the show was over, I mean, Was the curfew 11 o'clock, and even so, were you pissed off?
FZ Well I'm sure the curfew was 11 o'clock, because there was a guy on the side of the stage giving me a 10-minute warning
signal, so I don't know what the exact moment is..
Q Yeah you finished at 10 to 11:
FZ At 10 to 11? Yeah OK so that got him in without having any over-time, so now the promotor likes me. As far as being
pissed off, I would say that from the moment that I went on stage last night, to the time I got off, I couldn't hear hardly anything that I was doing, if I was singing I couldn't hear my voice coming out of the monitors, couldn't hear any drums to find out where the beat was, and, you know, that's a very hard hall to work in. The physics of that hall have never been a fun place to work, and I think it's about the third time that I played there.
Q May I ask you another question?
FZ What's that?
Q Could you explain 200 Motels to me?
FZ Can I what?
Q Explain 200 Motels, yeah...
FZ What part of it?
Q I saw it and I was pretty high, I expected to get a lot out of it, I was pretty much...
FZ Well that's the problem...
Q I was lost so at Yellow Submarine I ducked out
FZ Well you know, that was a Beatles movie
Q Oh, yeah... No really
FZ Well really that's about what it comes down to, but as far as coming in being high and trying to get a lot out of 200 Motels, go and see it without being high, and try and figure out what's going on, and I think that you'll have a better
experience with it.
Q You can not go in try and explain that then...
FZ Well Ask me something specific, a detail about it...
Q something specific... Well what was the point of putting out 200 Motels?
FZ Well you see I had the story and a concept of doing a surreal documentary on a group, a surrealistic documentary is something that takes actual events, paraphrases those events, and codifies those events to shrink them down to a size and a shape that people are going to be able to comprehend. However, I failed miserably in your case, but the basic idea was to give a glimpse of what goes on inside of a band on the road in an abstract concept kind of term, so the events that are referred to in that film literally did happen, there's a lot of stuff in there that's so true that it would be too disgusting to even talk about
Frank, you did a concert out at Geneva college, last year, or *...*
college at Geneva, and you spent the whole time during
the concert cutting down college students, and even on some of your albums you talk about how ridiculous it is to go to college.
FZ First of all, I take exception to your claim that I spent the whole time cutting down college students...
Q OK... most of the time...
FZ No, I wouldn't even say that. First of all, I had better things to do than cut down college students, I don't know why you would presume that I'd do that. I will say this about school, though, and college in particular: that I'm not particularly fond of it. I went to one semester of junior college and I went there for the express reason of getting some pussy, and I got some and I got out of school, and I've never... Don wants to say something...
CB If you want to be a different fish, you have to jump out of the school.
FZ But as far as my view of the educational process: I would like it a lot if I felt for a moment, and I'm talking about my experience, you know it's been a long time since I was in a school, I felt that they weren't teaching me anything, they were
wasting my time, and I just resented it. And I was more than happy to get out.
Q You think that could be applied to schools as a whole? I mean, do you think that could be applied to all of us, too?
FZ Well I don't think that I'm qualified to say that 'cause I don't attend this school, and I don't know whether they do anything to teach you anything here, or what your motives are in going to this school, a lot depends on whether you want to learn something or you're going to go to school like I did, and go to college just to get some pussy. But I think that it is,... yeah... get some pussy yeah. But look, let's face it: if you want to get along in this world, you got to learn something. The only trouble is that what you need to survive is generally not presented in the school, you can get it easier out in the street. And that's where I got mine. And it was cheap, too!
were saying earlier about, before you started tour you practice for about
a month, and it's memory exercises. On a
show like last night, aside from the time given to individual musicians
to improvise, can you change the order of songs, like from when
you first came on, it was about an hour and a half before the music really
stopped at all.
FZ Mmhm you can change the order of songs.
Q You're not really restricted to the same show every night in the exact order..
Q It seemed like one tightened unit...
FZ You can change the order of the songs at will because there are ways of giving cues at the end of one song to indicate what
the next tune is going to be.
Q And one other thing: could you give me a hint at where Eric Clapton plays on on We're only in it for the money?
FZ He does not play, he only talks.
Q OK Thank you.
Yeah, you know, in a way I understand what you said about school, you
know, you're a self-made man, you know, in a lot of
ways, no bull-shit. Right now, I'm in a school of music and I'm taking composition, and I feel right now that it is trying to help me get my thing together, coz I don't think I could have done it by myself, you know, just by books, you know, I'm not that brilliant you know.
FZ Well when I talk about school you got to understand that where I went to school and when it was. See, I'm 34 years old. And I graduated from high school in 1958. And I'm sure that in that 20 years or whatever it's been, that there have been some improvements made in school, but when I wanted to find out about composition there wasn't anybody to tell me about it. And the best they could do was say: Well if you go to the library and get this book, and study from this book, I said I don't need this guy to tell me to go to the library, and that's where I got out. I just went into the library, and I learned off books and records. It just left a bad feeling with me about what school was all about, you know. So if the composition class is helping you here, you sure got lucky.
Q Yeah, it is kind of a... Another thing, you do like, obviously like I saw like your scores, like the one book you have out, And you know obviously like you know all part-writing rules and all this shit, you know, and you did learn it yourself, right?
Q All right, thank you.
GD Let me say one thing about school, this is kinda interesting, 'cause I went to a music school, San Fransisco conservatory
of music. And I used to play, you know, I used to like to practice right after I leave these harmony classes and all that. And I did learn something. But I used to play these seventh chords, you know. I don't want to get too technical, but I used to have these little teachers who used to come over and knock on the door saying: "You can't do that! Get out of here, you're playing that evil music! You know, get out!" And it was really weird, but know, right at that very same school, I taught a class there. So things have changed in a jazz class though, improvisation class, I think things are getting better.
FZ There's now a thing about music education, up until recently the process of live performance was de-emphasised in a music
curriculum. They figured that if you're going to study music, that they should go out it from a very academic point of view, I can't imagine a bigger mistake in teaching somebody and playing down live performance. If you can't play, unless you become
a teacher you have no way to earn livings. So I think of music class, if it's going to be well-rounded, has to not only teach you the technical skills that you need to make music, but it should make you aware of things like what a contract is supposed to say, and what happens to you if you sign the wrong kind of thing, what you're looking out for when you're doing business with a club owner, what to say if the guy says "well I'm sorry, we can't pay you tonight", and, you know, getting groups together where people have some experience in group performance, so that you're not a complete dummy when you get out of school, and the only thing you can do is become a teacher to crank up more dummies.
have a question for George, I was wondering, how much the synthesizer and
the use of it in both jazz and rock music has changed your attitudes and
where it used to be sort of unique a few years ago it's really sort of
everybody's got one, whether they can play it or not, and whether you think
that it's just becoming a normal part of the musician's repertoire as far
as the equipment
is concerned, or it's really still in a process where you can be inventive
with it and you can play around and do things that haven't been
GD Well yeah, I think you can do things, you know, whether they have been done before, it depends on who's playing it. and the musicians should be involved more than their intentions are. 'Cause some musicians just put it up there because it looks good, and they can only do one thing with it, 'cause they haven't delved into it. Actually you know what I mean, they say: "Well I got one sound and stay there and do nothing else with it." But Frank was the first person who said: "Hey man, you oughta start playing synthesizer ," I said: "Oh man," you know because all I'd heard was, you know I took a synthesizer class at school, and I said Nh-hum. But I got into it, and you know, I talked to Don Preston about it, and he says: "Yeah man, here's some things you can do with it," so I got into it, and I began to like it, and I began to humanize it for me, the whole point of playing synthesizer to me was to make it sound like it was coming from me. You know not like it was coming from somebody else, or a machine.
Frank, how about with a guitar synthesizer, or I was reading about some
kind of guitar where three strings could represent three different instruments,
and you know, use the rest as a guitar, something like that...
FZ Yes, I've played such a device.
Q Is that going to become popular, or...
FZ I'm sure it will one day, but there's a lot of technical things wrong with it. It's not my idea of a good time.
Q Would you rather play just a regular guitar with whatever effect, you know the so-called normal effects now, or would you
enjoy some satisfaction of adding on all the effects that a synthesizer would add to it...
FZ Well, if they didn't get in the way of my playing, you see, the problem with that device is that there is up to an 80 milisecond delay from the time that you hit the string to the time that the synthesized note comes out. That don't mean too much to most of you here, but if you're playing fast, and you got to wait 80 miliseconds for the note to come out that you just played, you're in trouble. And besides, when you start hearing something, if you've been playing guitar for a while, and you hear the string and you know what it's supposed to sound like, and what it's supposed to feel like, 'cause you feel it coming back through your body, you know, it's conducted through your hands back to your body when the string hits, you know, and you link up with the instrument. And suddenly you hit your string and a trumpet comes out, it feels really weird.
you ever had to go long periods of times for the inspiration to write or
compose music, or is it something that you could do constantly?
FZ Well actually, the way I'm working right now is, I only write a short period of time out of the year, I mean actually sit down at a desk and do it, you know. The rest of time I've learned to develop a process where I store impressions and get ideas for things, and hang onto them, until my schedule says "Right Frank," and then I just dump it out that time, and then the next part of the schedule is, I have to teach it to the other people who are going to play it, and the next part of the schedule is you record it, the next part of the schedule is you rehearse it all over again, and learn it for the road, and the next part of the schedule is you go out and play it you know, and it's a cycle like that.
My time is planned at least a year in advance, for how things are going to go, and what kind of time slots I'm going to be able to put things in to. And so as far as the inspiration for things to write, I'm picking a few up right now, see, so it doesn't stop, it's just when you actually put it down on paper, it could be a very short period of time, and I'll do a lot of it.
I have an English question I'd like you to answer, it goes: "The artist
is a responsible individual, responsible to himself
and to no-one else." It's a new concept. It's bible in English, it's
Shelley's defence of poetry. Now this is something I have to write,
I'd like to hear your thoughts on the artist...
FZ The artist responsible to no-one else other than himself? I think that's a little bit presumptuous in the era of mass media. Because these days, if a person is an artist, and if a lot of people like his work, then suddenly he opens his mouth and goes gaga. Somebody writes it down, and somebody else reads it, and that affects their life, and you can't really take such an isolation as viewpoint anymore, with information being transmitted so fast, and say: "I'm the only thing that matters," I have to be careful of what I say, because I don't want to by proxy and somebody to do something that I would feel harmful or counterproductive to our society in general, that's the way I look at it, and I take a responsibility for my activities, in my private life. That, and as far as what I do in writing music, I don't see, in terms of instrumental music, how what I'm going to write is going to hurt anybody, outside of maybe their mouth when they try to play it, so I just do whatever I want.
questions: first on what you said before: What do you say to a club owner
who says "We can't pay you tonight?"
FZ Tell him to step outside.
Q OK this is a more interesting one: There seems to be a problem when you play at a place like the War Memorial, right? The audience doesn't get off on you, you obviously can't get off on... like at the very end you said: I'm not talking acoustics here, at the very end you said: "Here's one you'll recognize", so you have to play that, I mean, obviously that's a bore.
FZ No, I wouldn't say that it's a bore, but it's a situation where, if we didn't play that song, most of the people in that audience would have been disappointed that we didn't play it. If we do play it, someone thinks that it's a bore 'cause we played it. I happened to enjoy playing it.
Q Shouldn't that be the responsibility of the artist then?
Q I mean, like to play in War Memorial, to attract people that are interested in your simpler side, I mean why are you interested in maintaining such an audience, is it for monetary gain, perhaps you just need that money for production, you know...
FZ No it's not like that at all, first of all, people come to see us for a number of different reasons, and many of those reasons have nothing to do with music, simple or otherwise. A lot of times, especially when we work a college, an isolated college, we have a situation where the person has bought the ticket at the beginning of the school year, as part of a student body contribution or something like that, and we could be anybody coming there, and they're coming to the concert because they already paid for it. So we are a social event that allows people to get together, a lot of people come, they don't even know who we are, what we play doesn't make any difference to them.
Q You should not have any responsibility to that, right?
FZ Fact of the matter is, I like to play music. And somewhere along the line, some people have supposed that everything I like to do has to be so ugly that only a very few people will want to listen to it, I happen to like playing Willie the Pimp, 'cause I like to play the guitar. And because of my limitations on that instrument and the fact that I'm not too jazz-enthused, with a lot of chord changes, I like a simple...
Q But why the War Memorial?
FZ The War Memorial? Somebody booked us in there! That's it,...
Q So why don't you say: "Well I don't want to play there!"
FZ You know, you don't always get your choice, you know,
GD there's no other hall around here anywhere.
FZ I don't even know whether there is another hall in this town, I don't know anything about Syracuse, I don't know anything about Albany, I live in California, I have a guy who books tours for me. He puts me into places where other groups play, you know, that's it.
Q But it's a much smaller event.
Q The event is much less important, like, I mean... when there is all this... Primarily the acoustics problem I guess, you know, I mean, you can't be really on...
FZ All I'm saying is simply this: You do not always get to choose where you get to play, and if people want to see you, you do the best you can, by playing wherever they stick you, you know. I've played... I'll tell you a bad hall, the Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln center. I think that's a terrible hall, you know, people would say: "That's a real nice one," it's as hard to hear on that stage as it is at the War Memorial. You can't even guess sometimes, I mean...
Q ... the acoustic problem:
they had problems with that hall ever since it was built...
FZ Why don't they do something about it?
Q Yeah, well, they suggested dynamite, you know...
FZ That's a nice idea...
GD I don't know of any hall today that is made for electric instruments though, they're designed specifically with that in mind... Most of the music halls are designed for acoustic instruments.
FZ Yeah the requirements are different. If you have an orchestra or a dance band of the old school that's playing in a hall, and they're not really going to use any amplification other than a little PA for the MC doing *...* of tunes, a hall like War Memorial will probably be OK, because it's resonant and it will make acoustic instruments sound out more, but the minute that you amplify something, and increase the velocity of that sound, whizzing through the air and get a room with that much concrete, and then it's just going to bounce all over the place. And at the time most of those halls were built, nobody even imagined large attendance rock n roll concerts, happening at 130 Db, and their place was originally built for a completely different purpose. And it's not just that hall, but 80% of the halls that you work at in the United States.
Q By the way, I read recently that Avery Fisher Hall is going to be closed down for about 6 months, either this year or next,
in order to completely re-do the interior.
FZ For the acoustics?
Q For the acoustics, yeah. They've already spend about 20 million dollars on the acoustics since 1963, and the building originally went up in the *...* itself. The building cost only 8 million to begin with.
I was wondering for your particular taste, what guitars and strings and
wah-wahs and amps do you like to use, and
also I was wondering how you got the tape effects for that song you did on Apostrophe(') called Montana, and I wanted to know if George would be able to go through some of the basic principles of oscillation and modulation and synthesizer.
Q I wanted to know what type of guitars, wah-wahs, strings and amps do you like to play out of...
FZ OK What I use on-stage now is a customized Gibson SG with a mixed set of strings: the top string is a 009 Ampec string, the B-string is a Gibson E-string, and the G-string is an Ernie Ball 15...
CB The music was thud-like...
FZ and the D-string is a Rickenbacher D-string. And the A-string is a Rickenbacher E-string, and the low E-string is a Gibson 340 A-string.
Q And I was wondering how you got the tape effects for Montana...
Q The tape effects, the voice, for Montana? That song on Apostrophe (')?
FZ There is no tape effect on Montana.
Q For the voices, the vocals?
FZ What about it? Montana didn't have any tape effects on the voice...
Q Well the vocals they seemed really freaked out...
FZ Oh you mean the ones that are speeded up!
FZ All you do is, the way you do that is you take the master tape, and you slow it down a minor 3rd, and the girls sing on it here, and then when you play it back in normal speed the track is normal speed and the voices are speeded up, they do it with a device called the VSO, the Variable Speed Oscillator.
Q Did you do that yourself or did someone else do it...
FZ I did it. I've even turned the knob on the oscillator myself.
I'd like to thank you, Mr Zappa, for coming today, very much
FZ All right Mr Krantz
Krantz: And... Along with you two gentlemen from the Mothers, OK, Thank you!
FZ If the guy with the broken leg will wait there, I'll sign his cast.
Krantz: Great! Thank you very much!