Frank Zappa

By Steve Rosen

Guitar Player, January, 1977

Frank Zappa – guitarist, composer, producer, avid Roller Derby fan, and leader of The Mothers Of Invention – is at 36 probably the elder statesman of progressive rock and roll. Though most people first credit Zappa for his advanced, avant-garde songwriting, it takes his own exceptional and original guitar technique to put forth those ideas.

In addition to leading his ever-changing, ever-expanding Mothers – which has included such notables as French jazz violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, multi-keyboardist George Duke, drummer Aynsley Dunbar (now with Journey), and Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan (presently known as Flo and Eddie) – Zappa has continually served as one of the most articulate and controversial satirists on "pop music weirdness" (see his essay on "The Evolution Of The Guitar's Use In Pop Music" in this issue). Some of the Baltimore-born artist's side projects have included producing an album by Grand Funk Railroad, leading a Fifties rock revival put-on called Ruben & The Jets, and producing several films, such as 200 Motels.

Here then is the unexpurgated story of Frank Zappa – early influences, his guitar technique, his equipment changes through the years, and his approach to producing his own sound on record.

– GP


Q: When did you start playing guitar?

FZ: I began when I was 18, but I started on drums when I was 12. I didn't hear any guitarists until I was about 15 or so, because in those days the saxophone was the instrument that was happening on record. When you heard a guitar player it was always a treat – so I went out collecting R&B guitar records. The solos were never long enough – they only gave them one chorus, and I figured the only way I was going to get to hear enough of what I wanted to hear was to get an instrument and play it myself. So I got one for a buck-fifty in an auction – an arch-top, f-hole, cracked base, unknown-brand thing, because the whole finish had been sanded off. It looked like it had been sandblasted. The strings were about, oh, a good inch off the fingerboard (laughs), and I didn't know any chords, but I started playing lines right away. Then I started figuring out chords and finally got a Mickey Baker book and learned a bunch of chords off that.

Q: Who were some of your early guitar influences?

FZ: I used to like Johnny Guitar Watson, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Guitar Slim (Eddie Jones), Matt Murphy.

Q: Were there bands playing in your town that you could go and see live?

FZ: Yeah, sure. In San Diego when I was in high school down there, they had plenty of rhythm and blues bands. Most of them played instrumentals, only a few had singers.

Q: Were your parents musical at all?

FZ: My father played guitar when he was in college. He had an old one sitting around the house, but it didn't feel as good to me as the one for a buck-fifty. He played it about once every three years; he'd pick it up and go wank-wank-wank, but that was about all.

Q: How long did you keep playing drums?

FZ: I still play a little bit now. I had a few lessons. I went to a summer school once when I was in Monterey, and they had, like, basic training for kids who were going to be in the drum and bugle corps back in school. I remember the teacher's name was Keith McKillip, and he was the rudimental drummer of the area in Pacific Grove. And they had all these little kids about 11 or 12 years old lined up in this room. You didn't have drums, you had these boards – not pads, but a plank laid across some chairs – and everybody stood in front of this plank and went rattlety-tat on it. I didn't have an actual drum until I was 14 or 15, and all of my practicing had been done in my bedroom on the top of this bureau – which happened to be a nice piece of furniture at one time, but some perverted Italian had painted it green, and the top of it was all scabbed off from me beating it with the sticks. Finally my mother got me a drum and allowed me to practice out in the garage -just one snare drum. Then I entered my rock and roll career at 15 when I talked them into getting me a complete set, which was a kick drum, a rancid little hi-hat, a snare, one floor tom, and one 15" ride cymbal. The whole set cost 50 bucks. I played my first professional gig at a place called the Uptown Hall in San Diego, which was in the Hillcrest district at 40th and Mead. I remember it well, going to my first gig: I got over there, set up my drums, and noticed I had forgotten my only pair of sticks (laughs). And I lived way on the other side of town. I was really hurting for an instrument in those days. For band rehearsals we used this guy Stuart's house. His father was a preacher, and he didn't have any interest in having a drum set in the house, but they allowed me to beat on a pair of pots that I held between my legs. And I'm sitting there trying to play shuffles on these two pots between my legs!

Q: When did you buy your first electric guitar?

FZ: I didn't get my first one until I was 21, when I rented a Telecaster from a music store. Then I bought a Jazzmaster which I used for about a year and a half. I used to play, like, lounge jobs -you know, sit on the stool, strum four chords to a bar, "Anniversary Waltz," "Happy birthday," one twist number per night, don't turn it up. All that kind of crap. Nobody else in the band really knew what the chord changes were to these dumb songs; they were all trying to figure out what was going on. I played places like Tommy Sandy's Club Sahara in San Bernardino, some clubs around West Covina. Really boring, miserable places. I worked with a group called Joe Perrino and the Mellow Tones. Then I got a chance to write some music for a movie and actually earned something doing that. So with the money I got from the film job I bought a Gibson ES-S Switchmaster, which I used for about five years. I recorded the first three albums with that guitar.

Q: What movie was that?

FZ: It was called Run Home Slow. It was a western starring Mercedes McCambridge and was written by my high school English teacher. It's been on TV a few times. I've done music for four films. The first one was called The World's Greatest Sinner, starring Timothy Cary, about a guy who thinks he's God and then later on has doubts. Then Run Home Slow, and a short called Burnt Weeny Sandwich, 200 Motels.

Q: Were you involved in any serious music before the Mothers Of Invention?

FZ: I had a three-piece power trio called the Mothers, with Les Papp on drums and Paul Woods on bass, and we were working at a place called The Saints & Sinners in Ontario, California. It was, like, mostly Mexican laborers, a go-go bar, lots of beer, and a few waitresses who would jump on the tables – that type of thing.

Q: Did you begin singing around the same time you started playing?

FZ: Well, I used to have to sing with that trio at the Mexican place. But that was mostly blues-type songs. I did a little bit of singing on and off on the first few albums, but I never thought that I could really sing. The problem was, with the lyrics I was writing, it was hard to find anybody else who felt comfortable singing those words. They would never get it across right. So I figured if I was ever going to get the intention of the lyrics out I'd better do it myself. I still have a horrible time singing and playing at the same time -just ridiculous. I can barely strum a chord and say one word over it; that's hard coordination for me. I'd never make it in country and western music.

Q: Besides the Switchmaster guitar, what equipment did you use on Freak Out?

FZ: Just a Fender Deluxe amp, that's all. After the Switchmaster I got a Les Paul gold-top and used that for a couple of albums. And eventually I got a Gibson SG.

Q: Are you still using an SG?

FZ: I'm using a variety of things now; I've branched out quite a bit in the last couple of years. I've got a couple of Strats wired up funny ways. Both of them have preamps built into them, and one has a special tone control switch which lets you put each of the pickups out of phase and that kind of stuff. The other Strat has a Barcus-Berry located in the neck, which gives it a really interesting sound, because I do a lot of stuff with my left hand, and it helps the notes speak a lot faster. It's like the whole guitar is alive; you can touch it anyplace and hear where you touch the guitar, because the Barcus-Berry hears all of it.

Q: What specifically do you do with your left hand?

FZ: If I pick one note with my right hand, I'm playing five with my left. I don't pick everything that I play, and consequently the action is kept down pretty close on most of the guitars. I also do some stuff where I use the pick on the fingerboard, pressing down and hitting the string at the same time. It gets kind of a Bulgarian bagpipe sound. An example of that is on the end of the solo in "Inca Roads" and also on "Po-Jama People" (both from One Size Fits All).

Q: Are you still using the SG pictured on the cover of the "live" Roxy & Elsewhere album?

FZ: No, I have another SG that I'm using. The one that's on the Roxy cover has since been thoroughly injured by an airline company, they beat the hell out of it. They cracked the neck, and the most recent time it came back from Europe the binding was off the fretboard. I had the neck repaired, but it's never been the same; it flexes so much that it's hard to keep in tune, so I hardly use it anymore. But one time we were working down in Phoenix, and this guy came to the dressing room after the show with this guitar he'd built and wanted to sell. He had copied a Gibson (SG) except he'd added one more fret so it went up to an E, and it had an ebony fingerboard, humbucking pickups, and some inlay, and some real nice woodwork on it. He wanted $500 for it, and I thought it was a real nice guitar, so I bought it. I had (guitar maker) Rex Bogue do some stuff to it, add a preamp and snazz it up, and that's the one I'm using now. Another one of my Strats is the one Hendrix burned at the Miami Pop Festival; it was given to me by this guy who used to be his roadie. I had it hanging on the wall in my basement for years until last year when I gave it to Rex and said, "Put this sucker back together," because it was all tore up. The neck was cracked off, the body was all fired, and the pickups were blistered and bubbled. That's the one that's got the Barcus-Berry in the neck. A lot of people thought I had Hendrix's guitar from Monterey, but it was from Miami; the one at Monterey was white and this one is sunburst.

Q: Do you use the vibrato arm on the Stratocaster or the SG?

FZ: Well, I used to use it on the SG a little bit, but I took it off because it was too hard to keep the instrument in tune, specifically the one with the soft neck. But I use the vibrato arm quite a bit now on one of the Strats. I don't even have a vibrato arm on the Hendrix Strat. You can hear it on Zoot Allures.

Q: What type of wah-wah do you use?

FZ: I have a Mu-tron and the Oberheim VCF (voltage control filter). I've got an example of that on this new album (Zoot Allures). I'm starting to use some Echoplex now, which I've generally avoided in the past.

Q: You use the wah-wah a lot in its bass position where it acts as a sort of fuzz boost.

FZ: Yeah, I use it for a tone control. Very seldom do I just step on it on the beat like on the old Clapton records where he goes wacka-wacka-wacka, just to tap your foot on it. Usually what I do is shape the notes for phrasing with it, and the motion of the pedal itself is very slight. I try to find one center notch in the thing that's going to emphasize certain harmonics, and ride it right in that area. Because if you put it all the way to the top it's too squeaky, and if you put it all the way back it's too blurred.

Q: Had you heard Clapton or Hendrix using the wah-wah before you started?

FZ: As a matter of fact, I think I was one of the first people to use the wah-wah pedal. I'd never even heard of Jimi Hendrix at the time I bought mine; I didn't even know who he was. I had used wah-wah on the Clavinet, guitar, and saxophone when we were doing We're Only in It For The Money, and that was just before I met Hendrix. He came over and sat in with us at the Garrick Theater that night and was using all the stuff we had onstage. Seems like every time I went to Manny's there'd be some new gizmo that we'd try out, so we were always into the hardware of the rock and roll industry.

Q: How did Eric Clapton come to appear on We're Only in It for the Money?

FZ: I met him someplace in New York; I can't remember where, maybe at one of our concerts. He played with the Mothers once at the Shrine in Los Angeles and came over to my house, but I haven't been on speaking terms with him for some time now. He was just in New York one day hanging out, so I invited him over to the studio to do the rap that's on We're Only In It For The Money. People think he's playing on it, but he's not; the only thing he's doing on there is talking.

Q: Did the two of you ever sit down and trade ideas on guitar?

FZ: No, he wasn't that kind of musician as far as I could tell; he wasn't the jamming type. When I used to live in a log cabin I had some amps set up in my basement, and he came over one day and played during one of our rehearsals. But he didn't like the amp; we were using Acoustics then, and he didn't like them. And remember when he came onstage at the Shrine? Nobody knew who he was. He came out and played the set, and nobody paid any attention to him at all, until he walked off, and I told the audience that was Eric Clapton.

Q: What is an "Octave bass" (used on Hot Rats)?

FZ: It's a bass that's been speeded up an octave to put it up into guitar range. Speeding it up not only changes the rate that you play the notes, but it changes the envelope of the notes and gives a punchier attack. And you know how a bass will ring for a long time? It gives you a different kind of sustain; the sustain comes out an octave higher.

Q: Are there any devices which you've developed for the guitar?

FZ: There's one thing a guy named Bob Easton constructed for me called the Electro Wagnerian Emancipator. It's avery attractive little device that combines a frequency follower with a device that puts out harmony notes to what you're playing. You can have your choice of any 12 chromatic notes in four parts following your runs. You can't play chords with it, but linearly it'll follow you whether you bend or whatever. Its main drawback is that the tone that comes out of it is somewhat like a Farfisa organ.

Q: What kind of picks and strings do you use?

FZ: I use Fender Heavy picks, and I use a different set of strings for each guitar, and I have about 22 guitars. To give you an idea, I use either an .008 or .009 on top [E], an .011 or .012 on the B, a .016 or .017 on the G, a .024 on the D, anywhere from a.032 to a .038 on the A, and anywhere from a .046 to a .052 on the low E. So it's medium on the bottom strings, and they're mainly all Ernie Balls.

Q: What is your amp setup?

FZ: I have a Vox cabinet with four JBLs in it (12" each) and another Marshall cabinet with JBLs. I use a 100-watt Marshall and an Acoustic 270, but I'm going to redo all that stuff for the next tour. I'm trying to optimize the sound, trying to get more of the kind of sound I like onstage out into the audience, and you can't always do that just by putting a mike in front of the amp.

Q: Are there certain settings you use on the 27O equalizer in conjunction with the guitar to achieve certain sounds?

FZ: It depends on what kind of hall I'm playing in. I'm real fussy about equalization, and sometimes there's a compromise between the kind of sound I want to get onstage and what the mixer needs to hear out in the audience, and I'll change things around like that But I've used the 100-watt Marshall with the volume at about 4; I double the inputs into the bass channel (with a connecting cord), and the treble is on about 4, and the bass at about 3; midrange will be anywhere from 6 to 8; and the presence will vary from 6 to 10. This is the average – the bass could be as high as 10 or as low as 0 depending on how much bottom is needed. And on the 270 the volume will be on 4; treble all the way up; the bright switch is on; the midrange will be on about 75%; the bass will be about 80%; the graphic equalizer is all the way up at 80 cycles; about 80% at 160, all the way up at 320, just about flat at 640, and maybe a little bit of boost at 1250.

Q: Is this the same equipment you use for recording?

FZ: In the studio most of the stuff is played through a Pignose. I've done all kinds of things with a Pignose; I've taken it and put it in a "live" chamber and taken an (ElectroVoice) RE-20 and stuck it right in front of the Pignose, and that will get one kind of sound. It's actually the sound of an amp, but you can hear that it's in a room, and the room is resonant, so it's a realistic sound. On Zoot Allures about the only thing I used the Vox bottom and the Marshall top for was to get feedback on a song called "Filthy Habits." There's another song called "The Torture Never Stops" where it's just Pignose. Another thing I've done with the Pignose is just put it out in the middle of a dead studio, put two mikes on it, and mike it in stereo. It gets a good sound. Put one mike behind the other so there's a slight spread to it. I've also put the Pignose in an echo chamber and miked it, but not too close, because the echo chamber is real resonant. Since the amplifier isn't real loud, if you put the mike a foot away from the amp, you're going to get a sound that really approaches what you hear in a hockey rink. Anybody who's working in a studio and wants to try this, just tell the engineer to disconnect the speaker cables in the echo chamber and put a plug (phone jack) on the end of the echo send, and plug the echo send into your Pignose. Then you can sit in the control room, plug your guitar directly into the board, send it to the echo chamber on the echo send, and hear yourself coming back – and it sounds like you're in a hockey rink. You can even make it feed back by long distance. I've been using a Pignose for about the last three or four years. I think I started using it the most on Apostrophe, but there is some on Over-Nite Sensation, too.

Q: Do you feel more comfortable playing in a live situation as opposed to the studio?

FZ: Yes. I mean, I have had a few laughs in the studio, but the problem is that in a studio I'm my own producer, and I've got so many other electronic things to worry about that it distracts me from just getting in there and playing the instrument. You can go out on the road, and once the house lights go down, and the red light comes on, it's a different story. I usually play my best stuff on the road.

Q: Are your solos on record improvised first takes, or are they conceived beforehand?

FZ: It depends on what the song is; very rarely are they first-take things. But they aren't things where I'd sit down and work out the whole solo in advance before I played it. I can't do that, I can't remember it. Usually what I do if I get something going, I'll lay down 20 bars or so, and stop the tape, back it up, and punch in, and take up where I left off. I try to have the event that's going on the record make musical sense and fit in with what's going on; because a record is a fixed object, it doesn't change. It's not a song anymore, it's an object. If you're playing a song on the road it can change every night. It can be something, it comes alive each time you play it, and it has its own existence. But once you've committed it to wax, it never changes. So if you're going to leave your guitar solo on, you're stuck with that for the life of the record. I'm fairly fussy about it, but I'm sure I let a few go out on record that I could probably do better now. But I hope that's the way it's always going to be.

Q: Have there been songs in the past that you've written specifically as guitar vehicles?

FZ: Not really, no. There are a few now that I've designed that way. I figure that since I've been playing for about 20 years or so, I might as well start doing that.

Q: What scales do you work from?

FZ: My solos are speech-influenced rhythmically; and harmonically they're either pentatonic or poly-scale oriented. And there's the Mixolydian mode, which I also use a lot.

Q: You don't really play a lot of blues licks in your solos?

FZ: I can, I have. I started off that way. But I'm more interested in melodic things. I think the biggest challenge when you go to play a solo is trying to invent a melody on the spot. I also think that a guitar player can only be as good as the band that's accompanying him. If the people backing you up are sensitive to what you're playing, you'll sound great; if they're just note-mashers, then you'll always sound mundane.

Q: Are those the qualities you look for in a backing musician?

FZ: I've always had good rhythm section players, but I wouldn't say that they've always been too enthusiastic about what I was playing, or understood it very well, or really got into it. Because if a person's from the jazz world, they're going to play worlds of gnat-notes, clouds of pentatonic gnat-notes that really don't amount to shit. Or if they're from the blues world they want somebody who gets on three notes and goes squirm-squirm-squirm. It's hard to explain to guys just coming into the band, the rhythmic concept I have about playing, because it's based on ideas of metrical balance – long, sustained events versus groupettoes that are happening with a lot of notes on one beat. Like a lot of sextuplets, septuplets, and things like that. A lot of times I'll play 13 notes over a half note and try to space it evenly so it flows. This is sort of against the grain of rock and roll, which likes to have everything in exactly duple or triple, straight up and down, so you can constantly tap your foot to it But I prefer to have the rhythm section be aware of where the basic pulse of the time is and create a foundation that won't move, so I can flow over the top of it. It's hard to do, it's hard to get people to do that. And it's also hard to get them to leave some space for where the fast notes occur. Rhythm sections always have a tendency to copy: If they hear somebody else playing fast notes, they want to play fast notes too, and then you can't hear any fast notes any more. I've always had good rhythmic rapport with Aynsley Dunbar- I thought he was really good, drum-wise. And Terry Bozzio, the drummer in the group now, is excellent. He has a tendency to frenzy out a little bit, but I just figure that's because he's from San Francisco.

Q: What about playing with (bass guitarist) Jack Bruce on Apostrophe?

FZ: Well, that was just a jam thing that happened because he was a friend of (drummer) Jim Gordon. I found it very difficult to play with him; he's too busy. He doesn't really want to play the bass in terms of root functions; I think he has other things on his mind. But that's the way jam sessions go. On that solo on "Apostrophe" I'm using an SG with a Barcus-Berry on the bridge, and that's being sent to one of the channels, then the other side is coming out of a Pignose. And there's an attack differential between how fast the Barcus-Berry speaks and how fast the Pignose speaks. So you've got a sharp attack on one side and then the rest of the note following it on the other. And on "Stink-Foot" (Apostrophe) there's an interesting sound where I'm using an acoustic guitar with a magnetic pickup on it and a Barcus-Berry on the bridge. The Barcus-Berry is going into one channel, and the magnetic pickup is going to a Mu-tron and the other channel, so you have a sharp attack and an enveloped attack. It gives a lot of space.

Q: You don't play a lot of acoustic guitar?

FZ: No, but I like it. Since most of my life is oriented toward the road, rather than the studio, there's not much opportunity to play sensitively on your acoustic guitar except in a hotel room. The rest of what we do is high-volume stuff. I have a real nice Martin – I don't know what the model number is, but it has a classical-width neck that joins the body right at the 12th fret, in a jumbo shell. I also have an Ovation and a bouzouki with a Barcus on it. I've recorded some stuff with that, but it hasn't been released yet; I have some duets I did with (violinist) Jean-Luc Ponty that turned out real nice. I also have a Gibson round-hole acoustic with a pickup right next to the fingerboard – I don't know what model number it is either. I like that guitar, it's got a good neck on it. I just lucked out, because I don't think all the necks are good on Gibsons. In fact, they're usually a little too pudgy for my hand; I like to get them shaved down.

Q: Since you've used both Fender and Gibson guitars, do you have any preference for one over the other?

FZ: I use them for things that they're good for. The Strat has a drier sound – it has more of an acute, exact sound – and I use the Gibson for more of a sweat-hog type of sound.

Q: Is there any reason why you don't often work with other guitarists?

FZ: Well, I have. But double leads just never seemed appropriate to what I was doing. Sneaky Pete (Kleinow, pedal steel) was in the band for a while, but he couldn't stay; he had too many other appointments.

Q: Do you ever play slide guitar?

FZ: No, but I do have a fretless guitar, and I'm pretty good on that. At one time Acoustic manufactured a fretless guitar; they made a prototype and tried to interest people in it, but nobody wanted it. So the prototype ended up at Guitar Center [7402 W. Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90046]. I walked in there one day and asked them if they had anything new, and they said, "Have we got one for you!" And they brought out this thing, and it was really neat, so I bought it for $75. The only restriction was they had to take a chisel and some black paint and scratch off the word "Acoustic" on the headpiece, because Acoustic didn't want anybody to know that they had made such a grievous error as to make a fretless guitar. I've put a Barcus-Berry on that, too, and I send the magnetic pickup to the left and the Barcus on the right. The thing that sounds like a slide guitar on "The Torture Never Stops" is actually a fretless. It's also on "San Ber'dino" and "Can't Afford No Shoes" [both from One Size Fits All]. It's different than a regular guitar; you don't push the strings to bend them, you move them back and forth like violin-type vibrato, which is a funny movement to get used to. But you can play barre chords on it – it's fun.

Q: Are there guitar players you listen to?

FZ: There are a few that I've heard recently who I think are real good. I like Brian May of Queen-I think he's really excellent. And I always did like Wes Montgomery until they started smothering him with violins. I think his best album is one on Fantasy that just has him and his brothers playing "Lover Man" and "Monterey Blues" ( The Montgomery Brothers, Fantasy). I like the Johnny Guitar Watson records from the early '50s; they're really good. And I especially like Guitar Slim. His solo on "The Story of My Life" (The Things That I Used To Do, Specialty) is one of the best early distorted guitar solos; it really sounds like he's mad at somebody.

Q: What about the contemporary heavies, like Jeff Beck or John McLaughlin?

FZ: I like Jeff, yeah. I've listened to Wired ( Epic), and there are a couple of solos on there that I like. And I like some of his stuff on Rough and Ready (Epic). A person would be a moron not to appreciate McLaughlin's technique. The guy has certainly found out how to operate a guitar as if it were a machine gun. But I'm not always enthusiastic about the lines I hear or the ways in which they're used. I don't think you can fault him, though, for the amount of time and effort it must have taken to play an instrument that fast I think anybody who can play that fast is just wonderful. And I'm sure 90% of teenage America would agree, since the whole trend in the business has been "faster is better."

Q: You're pretty fast yourself?

FZ: Well, I'm not really a fast guitar player, because I'm not picking everything I play. I only play fast when I think it's appropriate to the line I'm doing.

Q: How do you see your role as a guitarist as different from that of a Beck or a McLaughlin?

FZ: I think that's a matter of advertising more than anything else. Once I get out onstage and turn my guitar on, it's a special thing to me -I love doing it. But I approach it more as a composer who happens to be able to operate an instrument called a guitar, rather than "Frank Zappa, Rock and Roll Guitar Hero."

Q: How does your playing differ in your current four-piece band as opposed to the larger orchestrated groups you've worked with in the past?

FZ: It differs quite a bit, because with a larger group you have to play less – there are a lot of people waking in line to play solos, That's one of the reasons I've got a smaller group now, because I happen to like to play solos, and I happen to think I'm in a specialized category from the stuff I play, and I don't think there's any reason why I should have to wait in line (laughs). I have some stuff to say, and I'm going to get out there and do it.

Q: Have you ever thought of using another producer, to allow your-self more time with the guitar?

FZ: I would if I thought I could find somebody who would produce things the way I want to hear them. But the details that I worry about when I go into a studio are how the board is laid out, what EQ is going to be on the stuff you're listening to in the headphones, what kind of echo you're going to be using, how long you should be taking to do such-and-such a thing because at $150 an hour you don't want to be wasting your time in there. It's hard once you've got all that stuff sat up to just walk in and play and forget about it. I'll spend anywhere from three to nine hours just getting the sound on the rest of the band right before I'll record. On this new album (Zoot Allures) it's different, because I did a lot of tracks just starting with a Rhythm Ace and building all the stuff up from there. What I usually do is, play the guitar from the control board while the band is playing, or else have the band lay down a track and then put mine on later.

Q: Are there songs where you've recorded more than just a rhythm and lead track?

FZ: Yes, "Po-Jama People" (One Size Fits All), and there are a couple on the new album that have anywhere from three to five guitar parts. "Filthy Habits" (Zoot Allures) has five guitar parts; and then there were also a few multiple-guitar-part things on We're Only in It for the Money and Uncle Meat.

Q: You've been playing for two decades now. what else do you plan to do with the guitar?

FZ: The hardest thing for me to do is play straight up and down, absolutely the hardest to do. Stuff that everybody else does naturally just seems as impossible as shit to me. I don't think in little groups of twos and fours and stuff- they just don't come out that way. I can sit around and play fives and sevens all day long with no sweat. But the minute I've got to go do-do-do-do, do-do-do-do it feels weird, it's like wearing tight shoes. So I'm going to keep practicing. It's like learning how to speak English if you've been speaking something else all the time. It's like trying to develop a convincing English accent.

Source: If you spot errors, let me know afka (at)