Zappa Talk with Les Claypool, Jake Cinninger, Jon Gutwillig, Chuck Garvey, Yoko Ono… (Relix Revisited)
As a guitarist, Zappa played very linear, kind of like Ravi Shankar, almost like modal blues sitar riffs, a lot of open strings. It’s like a hammer tapping idea, very legato. His speed and accuracy were amazing—-just how twisted his mind would go in places where you really wouldn’t tread on the guitar. As far for my own compositions, he’s the guy that showed me how to fit any random number of beats inside a bar of music. That’s sort of where math and science and music all come together. He’s also the guy that kind of opened up rock n’ roll, making something so “out” actually groove. I feel people are finally starting to scratch the surface and understand what Zappa was all about.
We come from more or less the same background, the classical avant-garde, though in our work we expressed ourselves quite differently. As a composer, I felt a close comradeship to him amongst more rock orientated singer/songwriters. He is one of the geniuses of our time and will always have a place there. He will go on and on and on!
His guitar and compositional style were—-are—-fearless. He loved to play the “ugly notes” during his solos, not always the high flying tweedley tweedley notes all the kids love. He had such a clear idea of where he wanted his music to go from day one today—-all his music tied together. He used everything that was made available to him, not just musicians. But he embraced the times, using new technology as it came along or said “fuck it” and created it himself. He also kept his music valid to the questions of the time, Church and State, Nixon, televangelists. He was simply brilliant, a word that gets over used these days. He gave a voice to people that no one wanted to hear from. Well, too fucking bad, it will reverberate forever.
Zappa was the rock guy who plastered classical, highbrow, blues, lowbrow, reggae and god knows what else into a style that was uniquely his own. Not only because of the juxtaposition of many diverse, seemingly unrelated styles, but also because of his strongly developed personal “signature” in compositions – rhythms and melodies that are heretofore unheard. And, they were typically performed at knuckle busting, blowtorch-to-the-head speed. His guitar tone and style are also immediately recognizable – honking, stinking, too-loud, delicate and flourishing, ornate, melodic, knuckle-dragging inspiration in every note. I believe his appeal ranges from the Academic highs, to the beer swillin’ lowbrows and everything in between. He also stood up to the PMRC, Tipper Gore and Right Wing Bullshit at large and was drug and alcohol free. Made everyone outside “Zappaworld” seem like an anachronistic afterthought with humor and talent out the wazoo.
Weird Al Yankovic
While Frank is unquestionably a guitar virtuoso, I’ve never been a big fan of long solos. I’ve always been more of an admirer of his compositional acumen, which I had to study religiously when I did my Zappa homage, “Genius In France.” I call songs like that “style parodies” where I dissect the style of one of my favorite artists and try to step in their shoes, hopefully creating a composition not unlike something they may have put out themselves. I felt extra pressure doing that with Frank Zappa, since he’s one of my all-time heroes, and frankly, I didn’t want to screw it up. That’s one of the reasons why “Genius In France” is 9 minutes long – there are so many components to Frank’s style that I felt I would be doing him a disservice if I tried to emulate it in 3 or 4 minutes. People may remember Frank as a guitar god or a defender of free speech, but of course, he’ll always have a warm place in my heart for categorically proving to the unwashed masses once and for all that humor really does belong in music.
Golden Bloom stopped by Relix to perform a tune from their latest EP No Day Like Today.
The Chapin Sisters share an tune from their new album A Date With the Everly Brothers.
Minneapolis-based Night Moves share a song from their record, Colored Emotions, live at Relix.
Cloud Cult share a song from their latest album live at Relix.
The Giving Tree Band enjoy a spring day on the Relix rooftop, while performing a classic Grateful Dead tune.
Canadian singer-songwriter Hayden performs a duet with his sister-in-law Lou Canon. The song appears on Us Alone his first record on Broken Social Scene’s Arts & Crafts Productions.
The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
Ron Sexsmith visits the Relix office to perform a tune from his latest record Forever Endeavor.
Crystal Bowersox stops by Relix to perform a song from her new album, All That For This.
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