Frank Talk ...
from Zappa whom Caroline Boucher visited at his Hollywood home
ANYBODY who is anybody in the Los Angeles rock world lives in Laurel Canyon. And that includes Frank Zappa.
He has a ﬁne house perched on the side of a hill surrounded by a large fence and electrically-operated gate, and a lot of noise from Moon Unit, Dweezil and the tape machine ricochet out of the windows.
Frank is in his famous basement with the huge picture of a burning car on the wall (a fan gave it to him at a concert once) and tapes stacked everywhere. Jean Luc Ponty the incredible French violinist for whom Frank composed and produced the "King Kong" album, is staying with the Zappas because he is part of the new band, which is hellish prestigious.
A tape, which will hopefully be included in the next album, is playing. It is Frank on lead guitar, Jack Bruce on bass and Jim Gordon on drums, and recorded at New York's Electric Ladyland. It is improvised and brilliant. To most people, Zappa is a risqué, controversial cult figure; to few he is a good guitarist. This should change that. He and Jack complement each other superbly well, the music is driving, exciting (every bit as exciting as early Cream) and inspired.
Frank, not surprisingly, is still anti-British; more so since his gig at the Oval last autumn – which he thought was an appalling venue with everybody lighting fires to keep warm when they should have been concentrating on him.
He was also disgusted at the "publicity stunt." which was staged when the girlfriend of the man who pushed him offstage at the Rainbow was produced in front of a barrage of cameras to give him some flowers and apologise. As a result, he has decided not to play England for at least another two years.
"For a place like England that has so many groups and so many people actively involved in making music, there should be some big place that's equipped to handle pop music. The Albert Hall would be great if they did a little more to the acoustics and installed a permanent sound system and if they'd get rid of that woman who banned us."
Frank has now got a new band together to tour America shortly. Old hands are George Duke and Ian and Ruth Underwood; new are Jean Luc, Ralph Humphrey on drums, Bruce Valla [Fowler] on trumpet [trombone] and Tom Fowler on bass. He also hopes to include a singer who has impressed him called Rick Lansiladi [Lancelotti].
"It pleases me to work with these musicians. They do a whole bunch of things I could never get close to; they're so talented. You can play a line, they hear it and play it."
He hopes to take that band on tour of the Iron Curtain countries where he has been requested to go. Provided they pay him enough, Frank says he'd love to go, and then follow on to Australia and New Zealand.
"I'd like to keep this band for a long time, but everybody is free to come and go as they please, and there's no way to make people do what they don't want. Jean Luc is trying to get citizenship here."
The eternal question with Frank is, what album to put out next? A Frank Zappa one, as opposed to a Mother's one, is scheduled, but when you have enough tapes of recorded stuff to play 24-hours-a-day for three months before it runs out, it is a little difficult to choose. Frank has 2,000 reels of tape stored at the Beacon Store centre alone, and he has a lot more in his own home. 90 per cent of it all is good, he says. He recorded most of the "live" concerts that the Grand Wazoo line-up did (that was the band that played the Oval an did the last tour of Europe and America).
In the same way as he has a lot of tape in the can, so Zappa has a lot of film stored away. Since early Mother's days he's filmed this-and-that, including a film of the filming of himself when the group were banned from the Albert Hall. He's also got film of a dramatic play they did at the Festival Hall in 1968 – and would like to use it all. He'd like to do a science fiction movie if somebody financed him.
Frank now has his own offices on Sunset Strip with a soundstage at the back which is just being finished.
"I just finished producing Ruben and the Jets – an eight piece band, mainly Chicanos from east LA, and the singer really is called Ruben. That'll go out through Mercury."
He's also signed up a group from Georgia called the Hampton Grease Band, and a group from Germany, but is trying to limit his producing.
A busy man is Zappa, but it's unlikely he'll stay away from here for two years, I hope not anyway.
Read by OCR software. If you spot errors, let me know afka (at) afka.net