He's A Human Being. He Has Emotions, Just Like Us.

By Den Simms and Rob Samler

Society Pages (US), #6, June, 1991

Professor Zappa granted SOCIETY PAGES a second interview [first interview was printed in April 1990], and Rob and Den once again met with Frank in the comfortable confines of his basement listening room. This conversation took place on January 12, 1991, four days before the conflict in the Middle East boiled over with the first allied bombing runs, and understandably, this first part of the interview begins with the events that were unfolding in the Persian Gulf area.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Den Simms: OK, I'm rollin' now. Um, lemme ask you this, and maybe you can mull this over while we're talkin' and then toward the end of this, you can perhaps help us out. A little while ago, we got a computer to do all the word processing and such for the magazine, and since one of your roles in life is to name things, we thought it might be appropriate to have our computer named. So, rather than put you on the spot, perhaps you could just ...

Frank Zappa: I think "Wanda" is a good name for just about anything.

DS: Wanda? (laughs)

FZ: Yeah.

DS: All right! The computer then is christened "Wanda." All right. That gets that out of the way quick.

FZ: Um-hm.

DS: Um, given the fact that Congress just voted to stand up with Bush [against Iraq] today, let's start off with current events. What do ya think? A year ago the Berlin wall was comin' down, as a matter of fact, the day that we came by, Ceaușescu had just gotten run out of office, Russia was warmin' up ...

FZ: Those were the days!

DS: Those were the days, huh? So what the fuck d'ya think happened?

FZ: Um, there's a certain group of people in this world that that like the cold war. They think the idea of war of any description is a good idea, 'cause that's how they make their money ...

DS: Sure.

FZ: ... and they like to see it keep going.

DS: Yeah.

FZ: And when all that good stuff started happening last year, they must have been pissing their pants! They were looking at their profit and loss statements, going, "Wait a minute!"

DS: Yeah.

FZ: So, they got their wish. I mean, let's look at a few of the background details here, just so people don't get the idea that this just sorta popped outa nowhere. For the last eight years or so, the United States government has paid to keep Saddam Hussein in business, because he was conducting a proxy war on our behalf against Iran.

DS: Sure.

FZ: So when you hear these people complain about his nuclear capability, his chemical weapons capability, and his biological capability, whatever capability he has, we're probably the ones who gave it to him. I know specifically, in the case of the biological capability, there was one of those little one shot news stories that reported that the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta had inadvertently shipped to Iraq some really unusual deadly virus.

DS: When was this?

FZ: Within the last few months.

DS: Hmm.

FZ: It was a "mistake," they said.

DS: Where did you hear about that from?

FZ: It was on CNN, ...

DS: Oh, I missed that one.

FZ: ... one of those "now ya hear it, now ya don't."

DS: Yeah, that's one I missed.

FZ: The other thing you have to bear in mind is Kuwait, throughout its history in the U.N., has been the nation which was the "singularly most poisonously"... I'm quoting Senator Moynihan now, from his speech, that "Kuwait was the singularly most poisonously anti-American and anti-Semitic member of the United Nations." It has always been our enemy.

DS: I saw [Senator] Riegel on C-SPAN last night sayin' essentially the same thing.

FZ: It's a fact, OK?

DS: Yeah. Always voting against us.

FS: Yeah, but also just in the most nasty way, always totally anti-Semitic. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the guy who was doing our fighting for us in the Middle East is not our buddy. The guy who was our enemy, we're sending half a million troops to protect him, and nobody is figuring out what the end result of all of this is gonna be.

DS: Yeah.

FZ: A couple of examples: If you keep the [U.N.] sanctions in place, and you think you can wait it out, you got one little problem that comes up in a few months, which is Ramadan. Now, have you looked to a map of Saudi Arabia recently?

DS: Mmm, well, I'm sure I have ...

FZ: Well, take a look at it. You notice that Mecca is behind our lines.

DS: Right.

FZ: How would you like to be sitting in the sand waiting for sanctions to bite, while millions upon millions ...

DS: (laughs)

FZ: ... of Islamic pilgrims flood into Mecca behind your lines?

DS: Yeah.

FZ: And if they go to war, and they don't mop it up before Ramadan, you're still gonna have millions upon millions of Moslems behind your lines.

DS: When is Ramadan?

FZ: I think it's March or April.

DS: One thought that crossed my mind is that I wonder if a deal has been worked out with Kuwait that, if we get their country back for them, it's gonna allow us to put in a permanent military base, such as the one we had in the Philippines for so long. I have no doubt that our military planners have been looking enviously at that corner of the world for quite some time, wishing we had a base there.

FZ: It's a possibility. It's easier to get it from the Kuwaitis than it would be to get it from the Saudis.

DS: Exactly. That's the point that I would make. Perhaps a deal was cut. I kind of envisioned it this way: Once the Iraqis started piling up all their troops and stuff on the [Kuwait] border, you know, if you can remember, there were a lot of comments made ...  you know, how did we and let them get that far without bein' alarmed about it, and all this kinda stuff. We didn't really seem to jump into the fray until after all of a sudden they had gotten into Kuwait and started menacing Saudi Arabia.

FZ: We sucked them into Kuwait! Remember the tape recording of the U.S. Ambassador [to Iraq] saying to Saddam Hussein, "We have no defense treaty with Kuwait."?

DS: Right.

FZ: That's like giving them the keys to the Chevy, y'know, [and sayin'], "Go ahead!"

DS: So, I wonder if it's like, they get into Kuwait and it seemed like they were menacing Saudi Arabia there too, when they were on the roll, goin' through Kuwait, and certainly, I don't think we are in a position to want them to [be able] to get control of that much oil, or to get control over Saudi Arabia, where Mecca is, and all that, so I wonder if at that point we stepped in and then cut a deal with Kuwait. "Look, if you want your country back, let us have a base there." We've got so many troops there, I don't think we're ... I don't think we're gonna leave.

FZ: Not anytime soon, and instead of rotation, you know about the "Love Boat"... [1]

DS: Yeah. Yeah.

FZ: Think about that. I mean, that's one of the most absurd things that I've ever heard.

DS: It's pretty dumb. (laughs)

FZ: Who's bringin' in the whores? My theory is they're gonna bring 'em in by submarine from all the little whorehouses around the military bases in the Philippines.

DS: Offshore whores!

FZ: Yeah.

DS: (laughs)

FZ: So, we'll have a Pimpmaster General (laughter) takin' care of the Love Boat. Here's another thing that people haven't thought a out: If the Soviet Union falls apart, all of those republics on the southern fringe of the Soviet Union that border on Iran, most of those republics are basically Islamic republics

DS: Exactly.

FZ: ... except for the Armenians. They're Christian. But just about everybody else is a Muslim.

DS: Um-hm.

FZ: Now, if Saddam Hussein remains as a strongman in the region, you won't have to worry about him building his own nuclear weapons, because if the Soviet Union falls apart, and he is the hot shot of the Islamic world, all those little republics that move away [from the Soviet Union] could just as easily gravitate toward the Iraqi orbit, and the launch capabilities for all those intercontinental ballistic missiles that are aimed at the United States, they're in those southern republics, fully stocked with hydrogen warheads. So, that's the real thing to worry about, not whether or not Hussein's gonna build this little thing out of chewing gum and Scotch tape and try and launch it toward Europe in the next year or two.

DS: Right.

FZ: If the Soviet Union falls apart, and if Hussein survives this, there's a strong chance that he will make a move in that direction instead of toward Saudi Arabia.

DS: What do you think the chances are of the Soviet Union fallin' apart?

FZ: Pretty good.

DS: They're certainly havin' a lot of trouble.

FZ: There's pretty good chances that it'll fall apart, and I hope it doesn't happen. I think that what they should do is consider a new method of organizing the Union, so the people get the type of autonomy they desire, while at the same time see, if they were a hundred percent autonomous, they would fall on evil days financially and economically, very fast.

DS: Sure.

FZ: It's just like when you give an African country its freedom, what happens? It's a disaster for the first decade, at least.

DS: Right. It would seem to me that those parts of the Union that have an abundance of natural resources would probably do OK, and those that didn't would starve.

FZ: That's true. And anybody that offers them aid, and certainly the oil-rich countries are equipped to do that ...

DS: Sure.

FZ: ... are going to get their pound of flesh in return, y' know. So, I'm concerned about that. That's really the only possibility I don't think that a Russian would launch a nuclear attack against the United States, but a Soviet Muslim might.

DS: Yep.

FZ: So, if Hussein is taken out of the picture, you're still left with [president of Syria] Hafez al Assad and the next Ayatollah. Take your pick. One way or another there's going to be one Islamic strongman who's going to rise up, and if you look at the statistics, the U.S. population is 250 million. There are over a billion Muslims.

DS: That's a lot of Muslims.

FZ: It sure is, and I don't think there's too many of 'em that think that Uncle Sam is a nice guy.

DS: No. That's one of the things that struck me as being the biggest liability of gettin' involved in this thing. If we think the Arabs hate us now, they're really gonna hate us if we go launchin' into Iraq.

FZ: Well, if Hussein shoots at Israel, and Israel enters the war, the Egyptians have already said that they were gonna rethink their involvement in the coalition. Now, let's say you're a U.S. serviceman. Hussein shoots at Israel. Israel shoots back. The Egyptians reconsider their position, and the guy next to you with a rifle is an Egyptian. You're in trouble.

DS: It's a fuckin' mess.

FZ: It's a fuckin' mess. Besides, the population explosion in Egypt is unbelievable. They add a million people every eight months, and I don't think the war's gonna stop 'em from fuckin'. (laughs) There's more Moslems that you can shake a stick at.

DS: That's right.

FZ: So, I think we have a real failure of foreign policy in this country. Everything's so shortsighted. It's infested with a cultural arrogance against Arabs, blacks, anybody else. I mean, there's total cultural arrogance

DS: Sure.

FZ: ... and that doesn't getcha anywhere, y'know. Unless you have some respect for what the other guy is and what he does.

DS: Of course.

FZ: You can't have peace. You can't have anything except war, and it's very arrogant to believe that because you have a technological society, that the machinery that you build that kills people will always be better than the other guys machinery that kills people. I don't think that's true

DS: Right. High tech isn't necessarily always gonna do it.

FZ: Well, the best example is the war in Afghanistan.

DS: A perfect example of it.

FZ: Smart weapons are useless against guys hiding in the hills, 'cause smart weapons are lookin' for tanks and obvious military targets, y'know. All you need is a few medium tech or low tech weapons and a good place to hide. The Afghans really gave those Russians a rough time.

DS: They did. They essentially kicked their butts.

FZ: Yeah.

DS: And the same thing happened to us in Viet Nam.

FZ: Yeah.

DS: It was the same deal.

FZ: A couple of guys in pajamas walkin' around in tunnels ...

DS: That's right. Strike and then disappear.

FZ: Well, the big difference there is that it's not just down to weapons. It's down to motivation, because basically, we have a mercenary army sitting in the Middle East against people who are fighting for their homeland.

DS: Right.

FZ: Who's got the best motivation?

DS: And fighting for Allah.

FZ: Yeah, the big reward.

DS: And we don't really have even a mercenary army. We have ...

FZ: An underpaid mercenary army.

DS: Yeah, an army that's mercenary to a point. They're certainly not mercenary like in some movie you'd see about some mercenaries in Africa. Mercenary to the point that they think they're gonna get the G.I. bill.

FZ: Well, when I say mercenary, they're there being financed by people other than the U.S. government. It's a bunch of hired guns.

DS: Yeah.

FZ: That is, if the coalition partners actually pay what they said they were gonna pay. So far they haven't. So that means you're gonna pay, you're gonna pay, I'm gonna pay ... for what?

Rob Samler: To keep the price of oil up.

FZ: Well, see, the war ain't gonna bring the price of oil down, that's for sure.

RS: Right.

FZ: As soon as they start shooting, you're looking at a minimum of fifty dollars a barrel of oil. That, versus a recession in this country? It's even gonna raise the price of CDs. (laughter) Anything made out of plastic, y'know.

DS: Yeah. So, what do ya think of Gorbachev and his, um ...

FZ: Here's a man in trouble. He's in trouble. I can also see it from his point of view. One of the things he's burdened with is a bureaucracy that he inherited, that he can't just dismantle overnight.

DS: Right.

FZ: There's not enough progressive Soviets to replace the Brezhnev leftovers. You couldn't just push the button and sweep 'em all out, because the problems exist to a large degree in the provinces, in the republics, out there in the sticks where there's a party boss, an old style party boss who does not wanna lose his big house, his black car, his special food, and his special privileges. These are the people who wanna make sure that there'll be no Perestroika. Until ya get rid of the guys at the local level, you can shuffle everybody around in the Kremlin as much as you want, but the problems of getting food to the market, getting services taken care off, controlling the pollution problems from ridiculously outmoded factories all that stuff is in the hands of the regional bosses. You can issue an order from Moscow 'til you're blue in the face, but the country's so big, and each one of these guys has his own little kingdom, it's very difficult for Gorbachev or anybody to make the wheel turn. And if the Baltic states succeed in breaking away, there's no way you're gonna be able to keep all the rest of 'em glued to the Soviet Union.

DS: Do you think they'll break away?

FZ: Well, the presidents of the Baltic States issued a little plea a few days ago, which didn't get much coverage in the news. I heard one mention of it, that they'd jointly said, "Please, the rest of the world, protect us from the Russians." Now, using Bush's own logic that aggression shouldn't be rewarded and territorial integrity should be maintained ...

DS: Yeah, for whatever that's worth, comin' from Bush ...

FZ: I mean, it creates a credibility gap, right away.

DS: Sure.

FZ: If you don't step in to help the Baltics, then don't give me this rhetoric about Kuwait.

DS: I'm not real anxious to agree with Saddam Hussein, but one of the things that he says that's fuckin' true is that there's double standards all over the place.

FZ: Well, there's no question about it, and one of the things that's been pissin' me off is every time they talk about Israel, they say it's the only democracy in the region. It is not a democracy.

DS: No, it's not. That's true. It's not a democracy.

FZ: It's a theocracy.

DS: Yes, it is.

FZ: It's just as much a theocracy as Iran or Saudi Arabia. It's government controlled by religion.

DS: That's right.

FZ: And so, how can you have a rational government when it's being controlled from a book that was written a few thousand years ago? It ain't gonna happen.

DS: It's a theocracy. Yeah. (thoughtful pause in the conversation) What a drag!

FZ: Yeah. Well, it helps the arms business. That's for sure.

DS: (laughs) Yeah, there's no doubt that the weapons makers are rubbing their hands gleefully, y'know. This is the next test laboratory. I guess the last one was the Falklands ...

FZ: Um-hm.

DS: ... and that arena wasn't all that big.

FZ: Sold a lot of Exocets, though.

DS: They got to test their Exocets and their Harrier jets, but ...

FZ: It moved the goods.

DS: Yeah. Yep. Well, let's see ...

RS: So Frank, didja have a good birthday?

FZ: Yeah, it was nice.

RS: That's good. Get a lot of nice gifts?

FZ: Well, I got one nice gift. I got a brand new Synclavier.

DS: No shit?

RS: Oh, didja? A brand new one?

FZ: Yeah.

DS: What kind of capabilities is it gonna give you beyond the one that it's replacing?

FZ: It's twice as big, in terms of storage, and it also has a direct to disc system, so it can do a lot more than the old one.

DS: All right. When are we gonna get to hear somethin' from it?

FZ: Hopefully later this year. The other belated birthday present that I think I'm gonna be receiving is a new mixing console for the studio.

DS: All right.

RS: Great.

FZ: Since that will make a big difference in the sound quality, I'm going to postpone the mixing on the Synclavier stuff until after we get the new console.

RS: What kind of stuff are you working on? What are some of the new releases or anything like that?

FZ: Well, you got THE BEST BAND YOU NEVER HEARD N YOUR LIFE coming out in the beginning of February ...

DS: And that's gonna be two discs?

FZ: That's two discs.

DS: And then another two disc set to accompany it?

FZ: Yeah, it's called ...



DS: Now, if I remember correctly, that phrase came from the Munich '88 show ...

FZ: That's right.

DS: ... with all the "Ayee, ayee, ayee" ...

FZ: That's right,

DS: ... and all that stuff ...

FZ: ... it's from Big Swifty.

DS: ... that we talked about last time we were here. Is my assumption correct that that set will have more instrumental stuff, and things that lean more towards jamming, and stuff like that?

FZ: Yeah. That's the reason I split 'em up, because THE BEST BAND leans more toward recognizable song titles, y'know, favorites from albums, mostly vocal material, or some of the more humorous stuff. I mean, we're still playing the solos and things in it.

DS: But it'll be more similar to BROADWAY THE HARD WAY ...

FZ: No, it's not.

DS: No?

FZ: No.

DS: How is it different? That album was quite vocal oriented, and ...

FZ: Well, [similar] only in that it's vocal oriented. There's not that much unreleased material on it ...

DS: Ahh. I see.

FZ: ... or new material.

DS: Gotcha.

FZ: Most of the titles are familiar. It includes Stairway To Heaven and Ravel's Bolero.

DS: Oh, great! Great! Um, I guess you had originally considered putting the entire thing out as a four-CD package ...

FZ: I thought that it would be too expensive, and also ...

DS: Hard to rack.

FZ: Well, we've put out multiple sets before. The other logic is there's some people who don't like instrumental music, and some people who don't like some of the weird types of things that are in MAKE A JAZZ NOISE HERE. I separated that from the more entertaining type material.

DS: Sure. That makes sense. Can you give us more details about what might be included in MAKE A JAZZ NOISE HERE?

FZ: Well, you start naming titles and I'll tell ya whether it's in there.

DS: Uh, Desiccated?

FZ: Uh, yes. It's now called When Yuppies Go To Hell.

DS: When Yuppies Go To Hell. (laughs)

RS: I would imagine stuff like King Kong, and Pound For A Brown ...

FZ: There's no Pound, but there is King Kong.

DS: How 'bout Goin' To Hell?

FZ: That's in When Yuppies Go To Hell. It s all inclusive in that.

DS: Gotcha. So that's been sort of the retitled Goin' To Hell with added thematic material from Desiccated? OK. So that's gone through a bit of evolution since the last time we talked with ya.

FZ: Um-hm.

DS: What about some of the other thin s? There's THE LOST EPISODES ...

FZ: It's done. The first volume of it is done, except all I have to do now is put together a timing sheet or it and get a cover made for it. That's gonna be a single CD, and we'll see how it sells, and if it moves, I'll probably put out another volume.

DS: And then you had done an interview some time last year with the International CD [Exchange] newsletter ...

FZ: Um-hm.

DS: ... in which you mentioned oh, the title escapes me now, but an album that you were thinkin' about doin' from the London show, the same show in which some video stuff appeared on UNCLE MEAT, y'know, with the play ...

FZ: Oh, yeah. I put it all together, but I don't know whether or not I wanna release that. It's uh ... what did I call that thing ... AHEAD OF THEIR TIME.


FZ: Yeah, it's done. It's, like, the complete 1968 Festival Hall show.

DS: There ya go.

FZ: But I'm not sure if I wanna release it.

DS: What's your hesitation?

FZ: Because of the lawsuit with the Mothers of Invention, which is all settled right now, but I'm not sure I wanna spend my life tryin' to make those guys any more famous than they already are.

DS: (sigh) Oh, boy ... yeah, I can hear the reaction from the people who are gonna read this, who are gonna say, "Wow! Should we suffer because of that? We wanna hear this stuff! It's fabulous music!"

FZ: Well, wait a minute! I was the one who had to pay the legal fees ...

DS: Of course.

FZ: ... and fight that thing, y'know. The other way to look at it is, "Wait a minute! He's a human being. He has emotions, just like us. (laughter) He gets pissed off."

DS: Well, that's nice I to have that said in a nice direct way like that. I'm sure people are gonna be able to read that and relate to it. That's cool.

RS: Can you tell us what happened with that, or would you rather not?

FZ: Uh I'd rather not. I just think that it was such a stupid thing to begin with, and even though it's all over, as far as I'm concerned, there's plenty of hard feelings on my side. I got a Christmas card from Jimmy Carl Black saying, "We'll always be friends," and all this kind of stuff, and I'm going, "What the fuck is this!?"

RS: (laughs)

FZ: And I got a phone call from Ray Collins. He wanted to come over and visit me, and I said, "Well, wait a minute! Why should I spend any time talking with you, y'know? You sued me."

RS: Right. That doesn't make for good friends.

DS: One of our readers ran into [Jimmy Carl Black]. He was doing a concert with his Grandmothers gig ... let's see if I can find this here ... (Den attempts to locate the item in a copy of SOCIETY PAGES) ... boy, I hate to paraphrase when I know it's in here somewhere and, I can just read it. [2] Well, rather than usin' up this time searching through this magazine, I think I'll just attempt to paraphrase it. Basically, the reader said that Jimmy Carl Black wasn't too anxious to talk about it, but he expressed something along the lines of "I think he's a fabulous guy, and a great composer, ... beautiful music," and ... you know ...

FZ: Yeah.

DS: And I guess he hoped that there wasn't hard feelings, and stuff like that.

FZ: Well, too bad.

DS: (laughs)

FZ: Y'know, why should I have any good feelings at all toward people who were involved in such a travesty of justice?

DS: Yeah.

RS: Have you gotten a distribution deal in the U.S. for your CDs?

FZ: Yeah, we're gonna be distributed through Capitol.

DS: So it's gonna be the same kind of format that, say, the BABY SNAKES CD was done with?

FZ: Yes.

DS: The Barking Pumpkin label, distributed through Capitol?

FZ: Yeah.

DS: And so essentially, when those things are gonna be released, they'll be released simultaneously that way here in the United States, and with Music For Nations ...

FZ: Music For Nations.

DS: ... in Europe?

FZ: Yeah.

DS: Some of the Eastern Europeans that we've managed to contact have expressed a little bit of concern about not being able to get things on vinyl, 'cause they don't have much access to CD technology. They wanna know ...

FZ: Music For Nations is releasing some of these titles on vinyl.

DS: That'll make them happy.

FZ: I don't know what their Eastern European distribution is going to be, but that's kind of like the last part of the world where we're doing any vinyl, 'cause making vinyl is getting more and more problematical ...

DS: Sure.

FZ: ... 'cause the factories are all closing clown.

DS: Right. There's just less of it happening.

FZ: Yeah.

DS: It's more of an unusual

FZ: So, I realize that about the people in Eastern Europe. I know they don't have CD players, so we've made vinyl masters for a lot of these titles, and I don't know how extensive Music For Nations' distribution plans are for that product, but they're also aware of the vinyl market in that part of the world. I just hope that those people get CD players real soon.

DS: Well, in one of the letters [3], I wrote back to them, and the point that I made was that technology is generally a pretty rapid thing. Improvements happen pretty quick, and it gets cheaper and cheaper and it happens pretty fast.

FZ: Yeah.

DS: The point that I made to this guy was, "Be patient. I think that CD technology will probably come along sooner than you think it will."

FZ: Yeah.

DS: A hundred bucks will buy you a CD player these days.

FZ: Yeah, but a hundred bucks in America ain't a hundred bucks in Czechoslovakia.

DS: That's true. That's very true.

FZ: You gotta jump through a hoop to get a hundred bucks in Czechoslovakia.

DS: I'm sure. We've actually managed to make contact with a few of these people. Not as many as we'd like. There still seems to be a little bit of an obstacle, a communications obstacle that we need to overcome to get in touch with some of those people.

FZ: Um-hm.

DS: (to Rob) What was the name of that guy who sent out that kind of lengthy form letter.

RS: I don't remember.

DS: Somebody that you had met.

FZ: Pabel?

DS: Pabel. That's him! [4]

FZ: Great guy.

DS: His letter was charming. Really nice to read that.

FZ: I made arrangements just a few days ago for the final permission to have The [Real Frank Zappa] Book translated into Czech and published there. Also, the book has already been translated into Russian, and is gonna be made available in the Soviet Union this year.

DS: Umm. Somethin' else that I just remembered too, another point that I'd made with this East German guy about his concerns with CDs, was it would seem to me also, that a lot of the stuff should be available on cassette.

FZ: All the titles from Music For Nations will be available on cassette.

DS: Yeah, and they should have access to cassette technology fairly easy, I would think.

FZ: Well, that's not generally true in some of these places, like for example, I received a letter from a broadcaster in the Baltic states. He has a radio station, a free radio station that's broadcasting rock and roll, and they don't have cassette. They have reel to reel, and he was pleading for access to any kind of material, like biographical material, or stuff that they could use, 'cause they put together these very serious minded shows respective of such and such. So I put him in touch with Co de Kloet, who had just finished producing a birthday special for me in the Netherlands.

DS: Yeah, we were just talkin' about that yesterday.

RS: Yeah, I got to hear it.

FZ: Was it good?

RS: Oh, yeah. It came out great.

FZ: Well, he supplied the guy. I believe he was from Latvia.

DS: That's right. I remember hearin' on the hot line that one of the countries listed as having an FZ birthday special was Latvia and making note of that, thin 'n' that was pretty cool.

FZ: I gotta tell ya about one of the best letters I ever got from the Soviet Union, from an officer in the Soviet Air Force.

DS: Oh! You told us this before! [5]

FZ: I wish I could lay my hands on that. I would love to publish that letter.

DS: You didn't save it or ...

FZ: Gail saves these things, but I don't know where the box is where she put it, this letter written on toilet paper with all the cartoons.

DS: Yeah! You told us about it. It really sounded fascinating. The way that you put it to us was how strange it might be that this guy could be, like, getting off on THE GRAND WAZOO and bombing Afghans at the same time. How peculiar. (laughs)

FZ: I know. It's just baffling. I would like to see some of these more unique letters published in your magazine.

DS: Yeah. We'd love to do it. Our readers are pretty fascinated with this whole thing. We're really anxious to be able to pull into the fold, so to speak, these Eastern Europeans. We've been makin' a little bit of headway with some East Germans. There is this group called the East German Arf Society ...

FZ: (laughs)

DS: and they have gotten together for a couple of annual meetings.

FZ: That's great!

DS: Actually, one of our friends took a trip to Europe, met with those people, went to one of their little meetings, and was really taken with the whole experience of it! [6]

FZ: That's amazing!

DS: Yeah, and certainly we know of this guy Pabel ... is that his name?

FZ: Um-hm.

DS: And you had told us about ...

FZ: Did I tell ya about the one I got from Siberia ...

DS: I think so ...

FZ: ... and that I got a rock and roll newspaper from Siberia?

DS: No, I don't think that you told us about that.

FZ: This guy sent us a pre-Perestroika, pre-Glasnost edition of their, at that time, forbidden underground Siberian rock and roll magazine

DS: Wow!

FZ: ... or little newspaper, actually, and then a post-Glasnost issue that had a photograph of me, my lawyer, and Dennis Berardi, at the Stas Namin Center being introduced to this Siberian blues musician.

DS: Oh, that's right! A Siberian rhythm and blues musician. You just briefly mentioned that. The guy has, like, all your albums, and stuff?

FZ: Yeah. See, at the time that we met him, I didn't have any business cards, and my lawyer gave him his card.

DS: That's right.

FZ: And so, this whole package showed up at my lawyers office about three months ago. It's amazing.

DS: Yep. The world's getting smaller.

FZ: Well, in some respects that's really good. In other respects, it's not.

DS: Sure.

RS: Well, Frank, what have you thought about the magazine so far?

DS: Yeah. Have you had a chance to check us out?

FZ: It's great. I like it.

RS: We haven't had any feedback, but we figured that was better news than we were doin' somethin' wrong.

FZ: No, no. I like it. I think it's really very nice.

DS: Well, let's see, why don't I get into this, which has to do with composing and music? That's the stuff that I like to hear you talk about the most. That's my main interest.


DS: In my own measly attempts at composition, found that the chief obstacle facing me was trying to comprehend how to express myself, yet remain reasonably within the confines of the limitations of particular instruments. A perfect example I can think of is that I wrote this piece for a jazz band in which one of the saxophones had a trill, and it turned out that the trill that he had to play involved opening and closing with all eight fingers, which was essentially impossible for him to do.

FZ: Uh-huh.

DS: So how do ya, particularly with an orchestra, where you're got that whole array of instruments, how do ya learn the idiosyncrasies of those instruments and the limitations that you have to work in without having to learn how to play each and every instrument particularly when you're self taught, like you?

FZ: Well, you talk to musicians. You show your part to a sax player, and he probably coulda told you that if you woulda written the trill an octave lower, it wouldn't have been the same problem.

DS: Mmm.

FZ: Or, there are books on orchestration that offer some clues, but if you're tryin' to do unusual instrumental technique, you're flyin' by the seat of your pants unless you play the instrument ...

DS: Right.

FZ: Y'know, like people who wish to write unusual sounding multiphonics, unless they are familiar with the mechanics of clarinets, flutes, saxophones, oboes, bassoons, English horns, the instruments that can do multiphonics, unless you really know what the fingerings are, and have devised a way to write that on the paper, then there's no way to know in advance what you're going to get.

DS: That was the problem that I faced. Given the confines of my situation, it was impossible to overcome.

FZ: Well, I would suggest that you try and get in touch with David Ocker, because I believe he made a chart one time of clarinet multiphonics. He came over to visit me about eight or nine months ago.

DS: What's he up to,  these days?

FZ: He's still working as music copyist and performing. He has a computer program that lets him do very, very neat music printing. Not Synclavier. It's another kind.

DS: Oh, I got one here! I gotta get this one out! This one's been haunting me fully for the time that this magazine's been going. One of our readers stimulated me with this question, which I had been pondering for years. There's a little riff, which I call "The Hippie Riff," which is that thing that ...

FZ: (FZ sings the riff) [7]

DS: Exactly! Now, in your book, you mention you had heard this "folk rock to death" thing that came from [the Searchers'] Needles And Pins ... [8]

FZ: Yeah.

DS: ... and I had noticed that that crops up in your work in a number of places, usually having to do ...

FZ: With hippies.

DS: ... with hippies.

FZ: It's the hippie noise.

DS: Right. So, can you explain exactly how that came about? Obviously, it's something that you find humorous.

FZ: Well, it's not just that it's humorous, it's so ... cheezy.

DS: (laughs)

FZ: Y'know, like, the Byrds used it all the time on their records.

DS: Sure.

FZ: All it is, you make a D Major chord

DS: Right.

FZ: ... and wiggle one finger.

DS: In my earliest times of learning how to play guitar, it was one of the first things that I went (said in a mock teenage voice), "Oooo! This is cool"

FZ: Yeah, right!

DS: "This is easy, and it sorta sounds cool," in a cheezy sorta way.

FZ: Well, that's what it is, something that sounds cool in a cheezy little way, and everybody did it too much.

DS: And it was something that was definitely related to things of a "hippie" nature?

FZ: Yes.

DS: All right.

RS: We were asking you about, like, who sang on Flambay and those songs?

DS: Ahh, yes.

FZ: Yeah.

RS: ... and Den came across ...

DS: I came across an interview

RS: ... Robert Klein ...

DS: ... that you did in September of '79 with Robert Klein [9], on his television program, and another guest on that program was a woman named Genya Raven, who used to sing with a band called Ten Wheel Drive.

FZ: Yeah, I know.

DS: Was that the woman who did those sessions? On that [show], she said something about doing some session work with and singing ... you had given her some charts

FZ: Yeah. She couldn't do 'em.

DS: That wasn't her?

FZ: No. It's Bob Harris' wife, Thana Harris.

DS: Is that the same person as a "Suzannah Harris"? [10]

FZ: Could be.

DS: Nickname, or different name, whatever. I guess the thing that made me think about Genya Raven is that she had talked about do you remember what she did with you? Something where you had brought her in the studio and did somethin'? She sang a few notes from Time Is Money [on the television show].

FZ: I don't recall any of this, but the final versions that are gonna be released have Mrs. Harris.

DS: Will you release those?

FZ: Yeah.

DS: Do you have any idea, datewise ...

FZ: Some time this year, 'cause we're trying to get all the remaining catalog on CD this year.

DS: Um-hm. Do you remember when the recording sessions when she did those vocals occurred? It's something that strikes me as being mid-seventies, like around the time of STUDIO TAN [11] ... or was it later at the time of THEM OR US?

FZ: The [SLEEP DIRT] masters existed as tracks, and she was brought in to overdub on those tracks after we got the first digital machine. '83? ...

DS: '83. Around the THEM OR US time.

FZ: Yeah.

DS: I noticed that there certainly was a connection between Hunchentoot and that group of songs, and I guess you had done some of those initial recordings around the time of those SLEEP DIRT, STUDIO TAN sessions ...

FZ: Yeah. See, I wrote Hunchentoot when I was in the wheelchair in '72

DS: Right.

FZ: ... and then some of the first attempts to play the tunes were done with that '73-'74 band. The tracks were cut at ... uh ... that place up in Colorado, Jim Guercio's studio ...

DS: Caribou.

FZ: Yeah. We did the tracks at Caribou.

DS: And then, l noticed that on THEM OR US, there's the song Planet Of My Dreams, which I knew was part of Hunchentoot.

FZ: Yeah. That's one of the Caribou tracks with a digital drum overdub. In fact, all these things that are gonna be released with vocals on them have the digital drum overdub.

** * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Tune in next issue when the conversation will drift into such topics as Pipco, the 1973 Roxy film footage, "Smell The Glove," Xenochrony, A Little Green Rosetta, "Rang-tang-ding-dong, I am the Japanese sandman," the unfinished sampled piano concerto, Sad Jane for rock band, harmony constructed from rhythms, the phone call from Conlon Nancarrow, motif transplanting, My Sharona, Theodore Bikel, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Mel Powell's problem, Dweezil's tour, Dragonmaster, Stayin' Alive, composing the soundtrack to OUTRAGE AT VALDEZ, the 1983 San Francisco Varèse/Webern concert, Varèse CD, the risk of audience participation, the 1975 concerts in Yugoslavia, Why Doesn't Get Him A Pepsi?, life and death, and peculiar FZ phrases. Don'tcha miss it, ya hear?

1.. Frank is referring to a government announcement that the United States was considering the rental of a ship from the Princess Cruise Lines for the purpose of having a 'Love Boat" which could be used for the rest and recuperation of U.S. troops. The plan was for the ship to be anchored outside of the territorial limits of Saudi Arabia, thereby not offending the Saudis religious sensitivities that pertain to sex and alcohol consumption. The plan was never enacted. (See issue 5, page 52, right column)

2. See issue 4, page 59, right column.

3.. See issue 2, page 8, left column.

4. Den was mistaken. The person that he was referring to is Pravo Tomek.

5.. See issue 2, page 38, right column.

6.. See issue 3. Page 31.

7. "The Hippie Riff" as sung by Frank Zappa.

8.. See The Real Frank Zappa Book, page 69.

9. September 30, 1979. The Robert Klein Hour.

10. Thana Harris and Suzannah Harris is, indeed, the same person. She is credited on Bob Harris' album THE GREAT NOSTALGIA as Suzannah Harris.

11. Actually, the album that is most closely associated with is SLEEP DIRT, which contained instrumental versions of Flambay, Spider Of Destiny, and Time Is Money, all of which are songs from Hunchentoot.

Read by OCR software. If you spot errors, let me know afka (at) afka.net