After Frank Zappa's passing in 1993, many fans figured they'd never hear any of the iconic rocker's selections performed live on stage again.
After Frank Zappa's passing in 1993, many fans figured they'd never hear any of the iconic rocker's selections performed live on stage again. But Zappa's two sons, singer Ahmet and guitarist Dweezil, are assembling what they call "the first official authorized presentation of Frank Zappa music by the Zappa Estate."
"One of the key motivating factors in terms of the timing right now is that in the world -- especially in the United States politically and musically -- there just needs to be a different perspective," Dweezil tells Billboard.com. "And Frank always provided in the past such a great alternate perspective of all of those things. And it would be great for a newer, younger audience to be exposed to Frank's music."
As of now, the Zappa Plays Zappa tour will play 19 dates in Europe beginning in October. As for U.S. dates, Dweezil says, "We would hope to be able to do those. We started in Europe because traditionally they've been a better audience for Frank. They seem to understand and appreciate the music a little bit more. In America, his music and his image have been filtered through the media in a way that doesn't really accurately represent him."
According to Dweezil, the idea of revisiting their father's music was a long time coming for the two sons. "It's something we've been talking about for a long time. But there were a lot of things that needed to happen before they could become a reality. First of all, the technical elements. Just for me to be able to play the music, I needed to do a lot more studying, in order to play Frank's music the way I would want to play it, as well as the way I know he would want it to be played.
"That took several years for me to develop the necessary tools to comprehend how to play this stuff, because I'm going to do some stuff on guitar that's not meant to be played on guitar," he continues. "But the emotional aspects of it were also a difficult thing. As a family, it's still difficult for us to hear Frank's music -- no doubt there will be an overwhelming emotional sense of things when the concerts happen. That's going to be a very challenging thing to deal with."
In addition to Ahmet and Dweezil, there will be a few special guests taking part in the shows. "We have only a few people that we're considering talking to and inviting, and we're still in the process of working out who's available when, because everybody's got some sort of a summer/fall tour," Dweezil says. "A couple of the people that we know for sure that we're going to be working with are Mark [Volman] and Howard [Kaylan], known as Flo and Eddie."
No two shows will sport the same set list, and as a result, many a forgotten gem -- some of which may never have been performed before -- will be spotlighted. "We're probably going to play a few things that might be from the 'We're Only in It for the Money' period -- I don't want to give away all the surprises," Dweezil says. "Certain things from the middle '60s/late '60s that didn't get played a lot, we're considering. A lot of the music that we are playing is stuff that Ahmet and I grew up listening to a lot anyway, because Frank's music was the only music that we heard growing up. I mean, I didn't hear any other music other than what Frank was working on or listening to at home until I was probably around 12, and then I heard Van Halen and Led Zeppelin.
He continues: "His music from the middle '70s was really pivotal, and that's going to play a really big role in what we're doing -- things from 'Apostrophe,' 'Over-Nite Sensation,' 'Sheik Yerbouti,' 'Joe's Garage.' But we want people to feel like they're getting a real well rounded experience. He had over 70 albums, so that's hundreds and hundreds of songs. It's only a two-hour show -- we'll be lucky to get 30 songs in there. But it's going to change on a nightly basis."
A live DVD of the tour is being discussed, and in addition to the shows, Dweezil is readying the release of a new solo album. "I have a record called 'Go with What You Know' that's going to come out in advance of the tour," he says. "It has some instrumental music as well as a couple of vocal tunes. I call it an 'audio movie.' It's something for you to see with your ears [laughs]. It's kind of like a crazy video game soundtrack, really."
Here are the Zappa Plays Zappa tour dates:
Oct. 25: Barcelona (Olympic Pavilion)
Oct. 27: Milan (Forum)
Oct. 28: Rome (Palalottomatica)
Oct. 31: Wolverhampton, England (Civic Hall)
Nov. 1: Brighton, England (Brighton Centre)
Nov. 2: London (Royal Albert Hall)
Nov. 5: Glasgow (Clyde Auditorium)
Nov. 7: Paris (Le Zenith)
Nov. 8: Zurich (Kongresshaus)
Nov. 10: Amsterdam (Heineken Music Hall)
Nov. 11: Brussels (Forest Nationale)
Nov. 13: Copenhagen (Falkoner Theatre)
Nov. 14: Oslo (Spektrum)
Nov. 15: Stockholm (Hovet)
Nov. 17: Berlin (Arena Treptow)
Nov. 18: Dusseldorf (Phillipshalle)
Nov. 20: Prague (T-Mobile Arena)
Nov. 22: Budapest (Sportarena)