varse 1986 Conversation With FZ

Conversation With FZ

By Alain Chauvat

Mother People, #33, 1986

Alain Chauvat of France hosts a show on a small FM radio station in France. Back in February of this year, Alain talked by phone with FZ over an assortment of issues and questions. The interview opened with questions about Old Masters I, the Old Masters II, the CD's, the shortening of Baby Snakes, videos, the PMRC, FZ Meets The Mothers Of Prevention – much of what was covered in the last few issues and some things that have changed since then. We take up that interview from.....

Alain: About the classical scene, do you plan to work again with Pierre Boulez?

FZ: Well, he was just in Los Angeles doing a concert here and I couldn't go to it because I took a job on a television show called Miami Vice. You know what that is?

Alain: No.

FZ: It's a popular American television show and I played a villain on the show and I was in Miami at the time that he was here. So I heard that the concert was really great and I would like to get a chance to work with him again, especially in live situation.

Alain: In an Edgard Varèse tribute you conducted some various compositions, what were they? [1]

FZ: Ionization and Intégrales.

Alain: Do you plan to make a record of those sessions?

FZ: No. At the time that I did it, I thought that the performances were really good and the only thing that exists is a little cassette that was made in the audience. There wasn't any money, any source to pay for the musicians or recording to do it. But those musicians in San Francisco that played it were very, very good. It's too bad it wasn't recorded because they had the parts well learned, and the tone was good, the rhythm was good – it was a pleasure to conduct them.

Alain: I've noticed in the paper about the string quartet, Kronos. They performed some of your music. Was it original Frank Zappa music for string quartet or only arrangements?[2]

FZ: No. It was original music for string quartet.

Alain: What is that Kronos quartet?

FZ: It is a group in San Francisco that specializes in contemporary music. They have a repertoire of over 200 contemporary pieces. They tour all over the United States.

Alain: About the movies, will the movies Burnt Weeny Sandwitch and Uncle Meat be released?

FZ: Burnt Weeny Sandwitch is actually owned by an organization called the Dilexi Foundation in San Francisco and they have the original of it. I don't know what they're doing with it. Uncle Meat is incomplete. Fifty minutes of it are edited, but I don't have enough money to finish it.

Alain: A few years ago you broke with the Grandmothers – do you still have any relations with your ex-partners?

FZ: The only one that I talk to periodically is Roy Estrada. The rest of them I don't hang out with.

Alain: In an interview from Guitar Player you said you played with Jimi Hendrix. In what circumstances you did you play together?

FZ: It was twice. We (the MOI) used to work at a place called the Garrick Theater where we played 2 shows a night, 6 nights a week in a 300 seat theater. This was in 1967 and we were there for about four or five months. And, we used to have people come in and play with us on stage. And one night, working at a club right next door called the Cafe A-Go-Go, we invited him to come and play with us. So he went on stage and played at that event and also, a few moths later we were working together at a pop festival in Miami. I guess we were there for about a week and one night, after the daytime events, there was a jam session in a bar of a motel called Castaways. Those were the two times.

Alain: Can we expect some recordings from those sessions?

FZ: There are none.

Alain: Thing-Fish was supposed to be a live show in theaters, will it be?

FZ: Well, there's always the possibility, but I don't see that it's an imminent possibility. Most people are too afraid of it because of the language.

Alain: About your older productions. You had the GTO's, Tim Buckley, Captain Beefheart, Jeff Simmons and many others. Will you re-release some of this material?

FZ: I own the rights to the GTO's and the Wild Man Fischer, but I do not own the rights to the Captain Beefheart or Tim Buckley. And I may eventually put out the Wild Man Fischer and the GTO's, but not the others.

Alain: Lowell George is dead now, but did he play on Uncle Meat?

FZ: No, he played on Burnt Weeny Sandwich.

Alain: In a book I seen about a song with Lowell George called Lightning Rod Man. What is that song?

FZ: That was the first record that he made and I produced it. I did 2 or 3 songs for him. One was called 'Black Protruding Tongue' [3] and the other one was 'Lightning Rod Man.'

Alain: Have they been released on any recording?

FZ: No.

Alain: Will those be?

FZ: The problem is that I don't have a mix of those songs. The master tape was recorded on a machine which was a 10-track recorder; a one-of-a-kind machine which doesn't exist anymore and I can't remix the masters.

Alain: Do you still have any relations with Captain Beefheart?

FZ: No.

Alain: What was your contribution with the Animals LP, 'Animalism'?

FZ: I was hired to produce 2 songs for them by the guy who produced the original Mothers Of Invention, Tom Wilson. He was busy that day and he was also supposed to produce the Animals and he asked me to go in and do it for him, so I did. I arranged a couple of songs and I might have even played on it. I can't remember. But the session occurred on the 4th of July, I remember that, and since that's a holiday in the United States, the cost of the union musicians was triple and the session was very expensive. Eric Burdon showed up very late and everybody was quite upset because the band had learned the tracks and there was no Eric to come in and sing it.

Alain: From your so many ex-musicians, who are the ones you would like to go on tour with again?

FZ: Well, there's a difference between people who are good on record and good on tour. Some of the best musicians I have played with are not especially fun to tour with. The only one that I think that fits into both categories and comes off with good marks is George Duke. He's great in the studio and he's great on the road. But he's also busy with his own stuff, so I don't expect anything is going to happen with that.

Alain: Do you know what Roy Estrada is doing now?

FZ: He's just working as a truck driver.

Alain: He has no relation with the musical scene?

FZ: He put a little band together and he made some demos and he tried to get Warner Brothers interested, but they wouldn't touch it.

Alain: You published Them Or Us – The Book. At the same time as the disc, for some European public would you plan to add some translations with your disc?

FZ: The book? That would be awfully hard to translate. The problem with the book is, it's written as a screenplay. So some people have a hard time following it if they're not used to seeing what a screenplay looks like. It would be very difficult to translate.

Alain: Today, how could you resume your European tour in '84? (Did you enjoy the tour?)

FZ: Oh, some of it was fun. I think I probably had more laughs on that tour than I did on some of the earlier European tours because the band that I was with was so much fun.

Alain: When can we expect your next tour?

FZ: I actually made some inquiries through my agent about the possibility of coming back to Europe this year, but the music I'm doing now is very much involved with the computer and I wanted to take the computer on the road. They made some phone calls to European promoters and they weren't especially enthusiastic about me coming there with a computer. So I don't know if there's a market for live performances of the things that I'm doing now.

Alain: What did happen with Napoleon Murphy Brock?

FZ: I gave him chance to be back in the band and he failed. So I had to fire him in the middle of the tour.

Alain: With the help of your Synclavier, would you have some pleasure to write some jazz material as you did with the Grand Wazoo?

FZ: Big band type?

Alain: Yes.

FZ: I could, but most of the things I'm doing with it now are – they're using new types of sounds. The material on the Mothers Of Prevention album is very basic compared with to the material I'm doing now.

Alain: How do you feel about the books that are supposed to talk about Frank Zappa?

FZ: Well, usually I don't read them. I know that there's one out now in France that has a bunch of photographs in it. It looks nice, but I have no idea what it says.

Alain: Are you currently working on a new recording?

FZ: Yes.

Alain: Can we have an idea about it?

FZ: The next album is going to be called "G-Spot Tornado".[4]

Alain: Is it only rock material?

FZ: No, it's all done on the computer.

Alain: What is the lineup of your current band, if you have a current band?

FZ: My lineup is the computer.

Alain: So Frank, do you have anything to tell to the French audience?

FZ: Well, let me just say that I hope that this situation that we have in the United States now with this censorship business never occurs in your country because music has always been an important part of French life and apparently it is not so important to Americans or they wouldn't be treating musicians the way they are.

Alain: Thank you very much.

1. Varèse and Webern: One Hundredth Anniversary Celebration

2. Kronos Quartet 1984-1985 season brochure

3. The actual title is 'The Loved One' (C. Ulrich)

4. Probably a temporary or working title. The G-Spot, for those of you that never heard of this, is short for the 'Graffenberg Spot' or, as Dinah-Moe would explain it, 'got a spot that gets me hot!' (MP editor)

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