Dweezil Zappa, son of the late Frank Zappa, started his career -- and his reputation as a total fox -- in the late '80s as an MTV VJ. Around the same time, he appeared in "Pretty In Pink" with Molly Ringwald and "The Running Man" with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
He went on to become a guitarist, spearheading a few bands and projects, but his latest endeavor, "Zappa Plays Zappa," is undeniably his opus. This show, which first toured in 2006 and is in its second run, comes to The Rave on Saturday, July 21.
"Zappa Plays Zappa" features Dweezil playing his father's material, and -- thanks to technology -- playing along with a cyber version of Frank. Zappa talked about the tour during a recent phone interview:
OnMilwaukee.com: Do you try to emulate your dad during the show?
Dweezil Zappa: No. It's not appropriate to pretend to be Frank. We have the same DNA, so we have similar mannerisms, but for me to try to reenact a Frank concert, that would be a mistake. I am careful not to try to be something that should be owned by Frank.
I made a great effort to put a band together with no former affiliations to Frank.
OMC: So, you call him Frank? Did you always, even as a kid?
DZ: Yes. We all call him Frank. I don't think he asked us to or anything; it just naturally happened that we called him Frank.
OMC: And didn't you name your daughter after him as well?
DZ: Yes. My (1 year-old) daughter's name is Zola Frank Zappa.
OMC: Has the band changed since your last tour?
DZ: No, it's the same musicians. Aaron Arntz on keyboards and trumpet; Scheila Gonzalez on sax and flute; Pete Griffin on bass; Jamie Kime on guitar; and Billy Hulting plays percussion. Occasionally, Ray White (of Frank Zappa's original band) is a special guest.
OMC: You also "jam" with your dad, right?
DZ: Yeah, Frank's onstage thanks to the magic of technology. It's very surreal.
OMC: Did you already know all of Frank's songs before deciding to do the "Zappa Plays Zappa" show or did you have to learn them?
DZ: I was well familiar with them having heard the music my whole life, but that doesn't mean I knew how to perform them. It took two years of cocooning myself to really learn them.
OMC: How did you decide which songs to include in the show?
DZ: It was quite a process. I listened to every record chronologically and made choices from there. I knew I wanted to focus on the songs that really set him a part from other musicians. I didn't want to do a nostalgia show, or just play the hits. So, I dove into the deep end of the pool and learned his more difficult work, the orchestral pieces he composed at the end of his life, which were, for the most part, savagely overlooked. A lot of Frank's stuff sounds contemporary even though it's 40 years old.
OMC: What are your favorite Frank Zappa songs?
DZ: It's almost impossible for me to choose, but "Black Page," "Dog Breath," "Peaches en regalia" and the whole "Uncle Meat" record are up there. I like that they are all wildly different.
OMC: How long will you be on tour, and then what's next for you?
DZ: I'll be touring off and on until December. Then, I'm going back to a project I was hoping to finish last year, after working on it for 14 years. It's a continuous piece of music that's also a 75-minute audio movie featuring 35 different guest guitar players. It's a "Guinness Book" sort of thing, I guess.
OMC: So, what's up with your sister, Moon Unit, these days? Do you see her a lot?
DZ: She's writing books, and we see each other a lot. We're both parents now.
OMC: What was it like growing up with the name "Dweezil?"
DZ: I never had a problem with it. Once, I remember I was about four and I was in a shoe store with my mom, and this kid asked me what my name was. I told him, and he said, "That's a stupid name." So then I asked him what his name was, and he said, "Buns." I thought to myself, "That's a more stupid name than mine," which has pretty much been my attitude ever since.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.