Interview With Dweezil

In The Oregonian, Saturday, November 17:

ED CONDRAN: Project Object takes exception to your work. This is what PO’s Andre Cholmondeley told me recently: “Our band is the closest to how (Frank) Zappa did it. We leave room for experimentation. Zappa Plays Zappa plays it by the book. There’s a gross misunderstanding there. Zappa kept it tight but he kept a window open for improv.” Thoughts?

Dweezil: To try to turn this into a competition is stupid. They’re trying to make a living off of material that’s not their own, and they’re doing a poor job.

46 thoughts on “Interview With Dweezil”

  1. PO’s Andre Cholmondeley’s comment is the height of audacity. It’s not about improvisation. I’ve heard PO’s performances (via download), and while passable as a coverband, they sound downright sloppy when compared side-by-side with ZPZ.

  2. I think for a long time Zappa fans had no other live outlet to hear live Zappa music and while Project Objects performances are in the ball park performances where fans can have a have a fun time and see e some alumni in an intimite setting the Project Object approach is just not up to Zappa standards. The pitching changes of recent times do show improvement but Andre’s commentary does not hold merrit. Being liberal with performance standards is not the key with upholding the composers intent.

    At first the general impression was that the ZFT was being over the top with commentary and legal action on others performing Franks music live but while I may have had faith since day 1 in ZPZ now over two years of touring ZPZ has set the bar on performance standards of Franks music.

    These bands such as Project Object have been playing for over a decade and if what a consumer wants is in-the-ball-park performances, generally at bar band stabdards well that has continued to be provided for consumption.

    If on the other hand a consumner wants to go to a professional show that has showed since day one it is evolving with the standards that Zappa’s music deserves so long as ZPZ continues to perform that is available. ZPZ shows in their performance why it is Authentic. Commentary of playing by the book or playing it safe shows a lack of resepct for the composer and the talented ZPZ band in what they achieve night in and night out. no one and I repeat no one has been able to achieve what ZPZ has.

    Dweezil makes very interesting comentary that helps articulate what ZPZ is about but the performances back it up. There are some improv moments at ZPZ concerts but the core concept and performance shows due diligence in following the composers intent. Next year I woudl expect another large selection of songs all played up to the same standards.

    The 2006 DVD project documented the unexpected perfection of the premeire outing of the ZPZ TDF. It is rumored that the Austin Texas 2007 show was filmed for a future production.

    I am not trying to contiue some war here but in time I am seeing more and more fans thinking like urbangraffito. Fans just are going to have to decide for themselves what is right for them.

  3. I think Dweezil’s comments were largely fuelled by the tone which Cholmondeley took about ZPZ- both bands are way above the mark, both their goals are admirable, it’s just the presentation- fans really dont have to choose one over the other. As for the comment about the P/O making “a living off of material that’s not their own”, I hope this is not a case of the pot calling the kettle black (they’re both cover bands and shouldnt break balls over originality). In general, it’s nice having Zappa’s music performed/listened to and it’s really cheap and sleazy for the Family to demand royalties over performances and to descend into petty bickering with fans.
    Who started it? Enough is enough!

  4. I’ve seen PO twice and thought that they were pretty sloppy both times, so I stopped going. However, it was fun to see Ike and Napi perform in a small setting.

    I don’t know all sides of the story, but Andre seems to be too much of an antagonist. Let the family go about it’s business, whether you like it or not. Maybe he should try to pave his own musical path. Low budget/fidelity emulation starts to look pretty damn pathetic after a while.

    In any event, that’s my 2 cents.

  5. I was a big supporter of P/O when there was nothing else around.
    ZPZ changed all of that. Sorry.

    I have mostly taken exception to Andre’s vilification of the ZFT through the use of useless and thoughtless personal insults that are the exclusive domain of classless crybabyism, and I have tried to remind him that when he eats and pays his rent, he is doing so on the legacy of Frank’s HARD WORK AND TIRELESS SPIRIT and he should be a little more grateful…or at least PRETEND to be so.


  6. I saw Prog Ob at a small club in North Carolina a couple of years ago
    I have no problem standing there six feet from Ike and Napoleon
    blowing hot air in my near vicinity
    Ike is such a great singer
    i could listen to him sing the phone book
    but thiese were no area codes he was bellowing about
    these were ZAPPA SONGS!!!

    I have also been surprised by a bar band i saw in california
    they played a medley of zappa and it was a thrill

    if the only way we can hear this music fill the room at 100 decibels is ZPZ or P/O
    then so be it
    it’s just gonna have to do for now
    and probably for always


  8. Sure do like a good pissing contest! Nothing like having a liitle competition to raise the bar. I never caught PO. I have seen Ed Palmero Big Band with Nappy last year in NYC. Great Show. I’d go again. Zappa music is the best. I support any musician willing to take on that challenge. But having seen Frank all through the 80’s tours, for me ZPZ has the feel the FZ shows had. Music is the best! You shouldn’t be penalized for performing the “best” music.
    Now if I can only fit the word “snarky” into my conversations. That would be grand (wazoo).

  9. I wouldn’t call ZPZ a coverband: the word extravaganza comes to mind, elaborate and lavish entertainment a la FZ (years in preparation). I don’t think PO’s Andre Cholmondeley can say the same thing, no matter how snarky.

  10. Technically, they (ZPZ) ARE a covers band. A fucking amazing one. So are P/O. They both do their thing, as do a whole bunch of other bands that have the nerve to play Z’s stuff, from the occasional cover by some pub band to some ensemble fom somewhere horrid. Good for them all. It needen’t be an either/or issue. I think the main problem is that P/O guy coming across as a bit of a dick.

  11. Urbangrafitto where you talk about Dweezil’s and ZPZ’s years of preperation and Project Object not being able to perform at the same level of Zappa lavish/eleaborate entertainment what is so ironic about this is that Andre Chumdeley and his band Project Object have been preparing for over a decade with one of the largest alumni quotients ever dispalyed in post 1988 toring of Zappa music and they are still by there own definition a bar band that occasionaly plays some theaters.

    Once again let’s take a look at one of Dweezil’s coments.

    Dweezil: “To try to turn this into a competition is stupid. They’re trying to make a living off of material that’s not their own, and they’re doing a poor job.”

    Dweezil in the past had also stated In-The-ball Park when talking about many of these bands and it is somewhat complimetary and deservedly criticial at the same time. These bands and musicians choose to be offended by their own self inflated evaluation of what they are doing. These bar band shows are fun for the fans but somehow just are not up to Zappa standards. People get too carried away and defensive.

    All this talk of cover bands is fine when talking about bar band standards for average Icon Rock & Roll Bands like Stones, Zeppelin , The Who, Teh Beatles. If Franks music was some Led Zeppelin Rock Icon type of music Bar band Standards may just be fine where talk of Cover Band analogies would fit the equation but with Zappa we are not simply talking about Rock & Roll.

    While Rock & Roll was the medium in which Frank had primarily performed his music FRank Zappa was an American Composer where performances of his music deserve the attention of such. Much as if an Orchestra were learning the material unbder the baton of Pierre Boulez.

    When any other American Composer or any of the great long depated composers of the last 300 years I never hear the term Cover Band used. I am thankfull that Dweeezil approaches Franks music giving respect to the compositions and documented arrangements.

    Once again the fans love many of these Cover bands that play Zappa music like it was Led Zeppelin but the music deserves to have proper representation and I am thankfull that ZPZ gives due diligence to that.

    It’s not a war, it’s a mattter of giving respect to Zappa’s music. Calling ZPZ a cover band shows litttle to no comprehention of Frank Zappa the American Composer. Bar Bands will be bar bands where for the last 50 plus years of Rock & Roll we can learn that America Drinks and goes home. If there are fans out there that drink or party too loudly at a ZPZ show I could see where they could possibly get lost in understanding the intricate details of the performances of these compositions but going to a Project Object show it’s just part of the fabric that by bar band standards everyone is having a great time wher some don’t give a shit about following the standards of an American Composer.

  12. The way I see it:

    Of course they’re a cover band. They play the FZ scores. And they might happen to be the best FZ cover band. Nothing wrong about that.

    – That’s what’s making me say that there are more parallel elements with Richard Wagner. Just have a look at the way both families are keeping the legacy alive. Both of them in a clever way.
    – Again: compare it with J S Bach. His sons composed their own music, different from their father’s. Way back then around the year 1700 they were all more successful than their father. The only one ( of the sons) I’m still listening to is the youngest, Johann Christian ( the ” Londoner”). He composed rococo music, the ultimate , pleasant (and bad) overloaded exageration of Baroque.

    I truly enjoyed the ZPZ concert I attended. It was great. Because there were good musicians on stage.

    Wiil somebodyever take the FZ music further? I don’ think so. It happened to be a brilliant mirror image of its time. Difficult to do better, working within that time framework.
    Some musicians might pick up one of the ideas in it and develop these further, within the new current day world.

  13. I can remember back in 1984 a good friend of mine asked me if I wanted to go see Frank Zappa at the Tower Theater in Philly? I said the guy who plays 20 min guitar solos? I don’t know. its not Heavy Metal, well it turned out to be a 4 hour show. the Best show I have ever saw. and Frank and the boys were up to alot of Improv that night (this is just my opinion) Im sure there was some sloppy playing that night but me not being a Musician nor Sound Engineer could not tell. So that started me on my obssesion with Frank. fast forward to 2000 I spot in the local paper Project/Object playing the music of Frank Zappa featuring Ike Willis I went and as soon as I heard the first few notes of the first song It took me right back to the tenth row of the Tower Theater 1984 watching Ike chase Frank around the stage with a pair of Voodoo Butter Panties from this enormous woman
    that rushed the stage and threw them at Frank. Meaning my experience was as good if not better because of the wait to hear his music live again. it happened again when I saw the Grandmothers then Mike Kenneally and the same with Zappa plays Zappa. I just want to hear it plain and simple. So if Project/Object want to play me “Evelyn A Modified Dog” they did in San Diego and maybe a wrong note might be played. In my eyes they get an A+ for effort.
    Its really all about me anyway. Im not that picky I will suport any Band trying to get the music of Frank Zappa out there. I always walk away with a smile.

  14. Jeez. I guess this means most symphony orchestras are cover bands. As for who owns the music, I think legally that Dweez is correct, being part of the Zappa Family Trust.

    The modern dead composer refuses to ride…

  15. “Jeez. I guess this means most symphony orchestras are cover bands…”

    Actually, I quite like that idea!

    At the end of the day, it is the notes (all the right notes?) that matter. How you describe the group of people that make them with their bits of wood or metal or stringy bits is pretty irrelevant.

  16. I guess this means most symphony orchestras are cover bands

    Heh, good one! The difference, I suppose, lies in the fact that FZ not only wrote the little black dots on paper — he also actually chose to play them, with a band of his very own choice. That line-up (and the composition for that matter) would then change according to what potential FZ saw in any of the band members.

    That’s a fundamental part of FZ’s musical stance; and it’s what sets him apart from other “serious” composers. Imagine Mozart getting his own band together. Then he picks up a [insert talented musician here] and decides: let’s incorporate this into the composition — at least for this evening’s concert.

    That is also why any cover band will never get close to the original. The eyebrows are somehow missing — with any of them. This is not to put down those cover bands — it is stating fact.

    Sadly, the eyebrows are missing. Luckily, the black notes are still there, waiting to be interpreted, messed with, and brought to life.

  17. Zzzzzz. This has been going on far too long.
    I think the Zappa’s make themselves look bad.
    I find it very hard to sympathize with the litigious.
    I’m a consumer, plain and simple, and will do whatever pleases me.
    I couldn’t catch ZpZ this year but I did manage to catch P/O,
    and so I am grateful for their efforts (absolutely stellar show btw).

  18. That is also why any cover band will never get close to the original.

    From time to time I go back and listen to the covers of Zomby Woof – I’ve made a kind of a “best of” CD from his best works -, and those are fantastic. Most of them are “only” good, but some (G-Spot Tornado, Republicans, Sleep Dirt, etc.) are sometime better than the original… It does not make the originals worse, but some of these covers give so much more to the tne itself: the exact notes, AND some huuuuge braveness in orchestration, or whatever. I love some cover bands (etc. LeBocal), but I adore Zomby Woof.

  19. “Imagine Mozart getting his own band together…”

    I don’t have to imagine that at all. I can read about it. Does it matter that I never heard Wolfie live? I don’t think so.

    As the cosmic utensil virgin Mary once said:


  20. ZPZ is the Best
    to see dweezil up there playing his dad’s music, unbelievable
    his fukkin father wrote this stuff!!!
    FZ was a phenomenon
    Dweezil keeps it alive

  21. You’re right, Barry.
    One remark. Actually Mozart was the first “independent ” composer in history. He did not depend on a church or a local prince. He wrote his own music, had to earn a living on his own ( way back then : unseen in history), travelled all over Europe, putting together and rehearsing bands- locally, unless the one who was paying him had put a band togeher. No phone, no internet, just a very slow post system ( Austrian , Turn & Taxis, all over Europe).That’s probably the reason why he died – exhausted – at the age of 35.

    Music is the best, I fully agree. Much better than other arts. Richer. Doesn’ matter how listeners like to pigeon hole it in various genres. The result of that is : genres back to back, & more narrow mindness. I dislike pigeon holing. That’s exactly why I really appreciate what you say: classical ensembles are cover bands. This is language crossing musical borders.
    And it ( = music) always relates to the conditions of its time. Jazz, Madrigals, Rock, Funk, Romantism, doesn’t matter.

    Just one more example that right now may sound very funny. As a youngster( 20 years old) J S Bach asked the authorities of Arnstadt ( who payed his salary) for a month’s leave to hear the celebrated organist Buxtehude in Lübeck, two hundred miles away. Bach made the ( unpaid ) journey, on foot, ans stayed listening & studying for five months. Yes, music is the best.

  22. Do I happen to be boring?

    Back to FZ & ” classical music”.
    The question is: does anybody know if FZ knew about Conlon Nancarrow? or or
    Do you know if he knew?

    The complexity of CNs music was similar to FZs.
    CN couldn’ afford having a band as nobody was interested in his music. It was just too complex. In Mexico, where he, as a politucal refugee from the US, lived till he died 1997 – there were no synclaviers. He just kept composing for … piano rolls, as no human hand could ever play his scores.

    In case you would be interested in arguments related to authority ( I’m not, however I know that are humble enough to admit having well trained musical ears):
    – Pierre Boulez had, still has, a very high esteem for FZ.
    – György Ligeti ( big Hungarian composer ) called CN ” possibly the greatest composer of the 20th century”.

  23. That’s truly great.
    How did he manage to know about obcsure Conlon Nancarrow?

    Bridging ” low ” & ” high” arts is nasty business.
    The way it goes:
    – The “low” say : phhh, haughty guy.
    – The ” high” say : absolute beginner, he didn’ even write a Ph D.

    Save yourself, SOS.

  24. Zappa mentions him on the Tinseltown Rebellion LP, introducing Warren Cucarillo as Colon Nancarrow during the end of Peaches 3, if memory serves. Which it quite frequently doesn’t…

  25. Respect for great musicians.
    On the transport side:
    -For Bach : on foot. For Mozart : horse & carriage.
    -For FZ, like most Great jazz musicians: trains & boats & planes.

    The same misery.

  26. Hey Barry,

    Actually, that’s exactly what happened in such times, especially in the opera world, where compositions would be rearranged, often on short notice, according to the talents of the local virtuoso.

    Moreover, in Mozart’s time, keyboard and violin virtuosi were expected to improvise on written works, a skill mostly lost today (but see Robert Levin!). Mozart write in some eyebrows, but every learned performer would supply some of their own.

    So what exactly is the difference?

  27. People don’t go to see and hear cover bands expecting the real thing. Variation is the expected norm at any such show. That’s why I refuse to call ZPZ a cover band, like one might call an orchestra a cover band. What Dweezil and Company have been doing over the past couple of years have been too intricate, too elaborate, too much of an extravaganza to be simply classified as a “tribute” to FZ. That being said, the fact that I have dozen upon dozens of so called cover band recordings of FZ’s music on my hard drive kind of makes the point that there’s a place for everything and everyone in Zappa’s universe.

  28. Maybe, just maybe musiznints should stop bitchin’ about each other and just be thankful that we live in a free world where we can still hear/play Frank’s excellent music, unlike some repressive states where music is illegal!

  29. Beepee,
    Strange discovery. In my humble opinion the 6th Book of Madrigals from Gesualdo ( 1561-1613), belongs to the 5 best musical scores ever written. Overlook the first five ( they’re very good) the 6th is brilliant excellence. Weird, bizarre music. Disturbing. He had killed his wife ( jealousy) and was living since many years all alone in his castle.
    Just listen to it. Or make your friends listen to it and ask them what kind of music it might be. I did the test with one of mine. He said: contemporary music from Finland.

    However I never made the link with FZ. That’s amazing. A discovery.

  30. Just listened to Peaches #3.

    That’s it : FZ, Conlon Nancarrow & Carlo Gesulado. What do they have in common? Great Italians ( anyway the Italian style).

  31. The whole feud is stupid. I’ve seen P/O a couple of times and enjoyed it, and would like to see ZPZ, because I will pay to hear anything that Frank Zappa produced, even if it was squirted out of his weenie. But Andre should have a little more respect for the effort that went into ZPZ, and Dweezil should take his head out of his ass regarding improvisational and orchestrational liberties taken with his father’s music. Because a) it’s not Mozart (and as Dan DiPaolo mentions above, classical musicians in Mozart’s time WERE expected to improvise), b) a lot of Zappa’s music is grounded in improvisational idioms, and c) FZ was all about novelty. So what the hell is wrong with rearranging his songs? If a reggae band wants to do Wagner, or a bluegrass band wants to cover 50 Cent, then why the fuck not? Remember when Ravel’s estate was so incensed at Zappa’s cover of Bolero? What would we be saying if Yoko Ono complained about FZ’s treatment of “I Am the Walrus”? It’s one thing for Dweezil to criticize P/O based on the disputes over royalties, or their allegedly sloppy playing, but it’s idiotic to knock them for sustaining the spirit of playfulness that drove Zappa’s music.

  32. I for one is glad that someone questions ZPZ. A bunch of fantastic musicians imitating old studio recordings is nothing but depressing. This great music should live and breathe.

  33. There is only one way to put an ensemble together to play FZ’s music, and Dweezil is the only man capable of doing it. The resources that are required; the time and commitment required; the attention to detail; it simply can’t be done by anyone els. There are thousands of aspects to the ZPZ show that are meticulously and perfectly executed. It takes a man like Dweezil to do it correctly. The ZPZ show is simply outstanding on every level. If something less entertains you, I suppose that’s fine, but ZPZ is the real thing.

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