Ahmet Zappa Debunks Skeptics and Introduces “The Bizarre World of Frank Zappa”
As one of the executors of the Zappa Family Trust, Ahmet Zappa is at the helm of “The Bizarre World of Frank Zappa,” a 16-city tour that features a hologram of his late father performing alongside guitarists Ray White and Mike Keneally, bassist Scott Thunes, multi-instrumentalist Robert Martin, percussionist Ed Mann and drummer Joe “Vaultmeister” Travers, who also serves the Zappa vault archivist.
Certainly, it’s a bold concept. The show’s audio is culled from a batch of private, 1974 Frank Zappa rehearsals and paired with “mind-melting visuals” to create a fusion of reality and fantasy.
And with an April 19 debut at The Capitol Theatre looming on the horizon, the world eagerly awaits the first Frank Zappa hologram. Below, Ahmet Zappa takes a break from overseeing rehearsals to debunk skeptics and detail “one of the most spiritually, creatively, and emotionally fulfilling” projects of his life.
What can people expect from “The Bizarre World of Frank Zappa”?
First and foremost, it’s about the music. So, people can expect to hear one of the greatest bands in the world performing with Frank. People will be able to hear Frank sing and crush his guitar. On top of that, they’ll encounter never before seen, mind-melting visuals. I think fans will be left with a show that is a totally unforgettable experience…they will get to see Frank Zappa back on stage.
What advantages/creative freedoms does the hologram grant you?
The sky was the limit in being able to create the show. It was total creative freedom. It was challenging to figure out how to bring it all together and make it all work. I had my own experiences with my father in my corner, though, so all the things that people will see are from shared experiences I had with him. He inspired me so much. It was a Herculean task, but one of the most spiritually, creatively, and emotionally fulfilling things I have ever worked on.
It was very surprising and kind of hilarious to find out that Zappa work encountered an attempt at censorship – especially over a cartoon penguin’s naked rear end – and in 2019! I don’t know what it is about people wanting to censor art in America, and certainly my father. Have you seen the Zappa Warning / Guarantee sticker? If you haven’t, look it up. You’ll like it. Frank & Gail first created it in the 80’s as a parody of the Parental Advisory Warning sticker. We updated it and used its image to cover the penguin’s naked butt for a while. Then the butt reemerged when Ticketmaster retracted their initial reaction to the tour’s poster art.
How has the touring band acclimated to playing with the hologram Zappa?
From a musical standpoint, they sound amazing. Essentially, Joe [Travers, drummer] keeps time so it’s really not that difficult for the band to stay tight with everything else that’s happening on stage. I mean the music is difficult to play, but Joe is extraordinary – as are the others. So, Joe locks in on the groove, and it feels and sounds great. People are going to love it. This is the Zappa dream team, so how could it not be totally fucking awesome? Holographically, the guys can see Frank’s hologram so they are interactive. It’s fucking rad.
What would you say to those hardcore Zappa fans who are a bit skeptical of this performance?
I think word of mouth will change people’s minds. To the true skeptic I say this…it’s all about the music. It always was, and always will be. You can strip away all the visuals. If this was a show in the dark it would still be fascinating. The performances you will hear are brand new to fans. 90-95% of the music in the show has performances no one has ever heard of songs that they love. The rest is brand new FZ music that is world premiering for the first time.
It is a banana-fish show pushing the boundaries of what can be done, and playing with different media styles. That is honoring my father’s way. What we are doing is unprecedented. Believe me, unless you see the show, you cannot imagine what this night of music and magic is like. And if none of that is interesting to you, it’s ok, as here at Zappa we have long specialized in offering the world’s finest optional entertainment.
Looking ahead, what are your hopes for the tour? Does the Zappa Family Trust have any other aspirations you’re hoping to accomplish in the near future?
There are so many things going on in the world of Zappa. I am really looking forward to Alex Winter’s documentary on Frank. Alex is an amazing filmmaker and super creative. Love that guy. In terms of music releases, we got some real ear-melters lined up. I think fans have been digging what we’ve been doing, so we are going to do even more deep dives into the audio. I’m working on future Halloween boxes now. Those are a lot of fun. I’m also working on bringing Joe’s Garage back to the stage and hopefully getting some sleep.