As a guitarist, Dweezil Zappa is no novice. Long ago, he reached expert level, having learned the instrument at the foot of a master like Steve Vai, who was given the task of teaching a young Dweezil the guitar by none other than Dweezil's father, Frank.
Anybody who's ever seen Dweezil play can plainly see that he knows the fret like the back of his hand, and that he moves smoothly across it, deftly running through the oddest, most complex figures with ease and shredding like a demon when the opportunity presents itself. But, even with the bloodlines of a musical genius, navigating the intricate, incredibly imaginative compositional passages of Frank Zappa is no picnic. And when he decided to recreate the music of his dad with an elaborate touring project called "Zappa Plays Zappa," Dweezil had to up his game.
"It required a massive overhaul of my technical abilities," says Dweezil.
Making it come alive onstage with a group of musicians — as talented and dedicated as they were — who was not familiar with Frank's music was even more daunting. "It was overwhelming, and that's putting it mildly," explains Dweezil. "It was a Sisyphusian task. We were pushing that rock thinking that we'd never get it up the hill."
Prior to setting out on tour, in 2006 and 2007, the band rehearsed five to six hours a day for five, and sometimes six, days a week. And Dweezil provided them home work as well.
The result was a triumphant series of shows that captured the satirical splendor and wildly creative blend of jazz, rock and classical music that made Frank's music so compelling on an intellectual level. A new DVD set, due for release April 29, titled, appropriately enough, "Zappa Plays Zappa," puts you right in the front row for the experience, and the musicianship is incredible. Guests like Vai, drummer Terry Bozio and Napolean Murphy Brock, who all played in Frank Zappa's Mothers Of Invention, make it seem like a real, live Frank Zappa show.
Visit www.zappaplayszappa.com for more information, and keep an eye out for an interview with Dweezil in a future issue of Goldmine.