Our very own Riley Winn interviewed guitarist Dweezil Zappa on Digital Trends Live. Zappa, son of the legendary musician Frank Zappa, is currently on tour and was able to chat with us on about his music, touring, and future projects. His year has been filled with playing music around the world.
“I have been doing a lot of the music touring that we traditionally do where I play my dad’s music. I have been making some of my own music. I have been working on some more orchestral music, which last year around this time we premiered some of it in Holland with a 100-piece orchestra. We have some stuff that I am working on for 2019 and some new music of my own, putting out some live albums and new music that I am currently writing.”
Playing with an orchestra was something that Zappa never imagined happening.
“I’ve always been interested in it, but I didn’t really ever see it as something that I was going to do, but an orchestra in Holland approached me about doing some music specifically for the orchestra so I said I guess now is a perfect time.”
Zappa has been on a monthlong Choice Cuts! tour around the United States, ending it in in Digital Trends’ home base, Portland, Oregon. We wondered what the most memorable moment of the tour was.
“Well this tour has been special because it’s my favorite version of the band, the people that are in the band are all the best musicians that I have been able to put together since I started 13 years ago … The songs are challenging in their own ways but because the band plays so well together, everything is like a musical conversation, we can kind of read each other’s minds a bit in terms of where things are going to go when improv stuff happens, so it’s been really fun on a musical level for that reason.”
Zappa has been playing music for a long time, so when we asked about his favorite piece he created, it’s surprisingly something that isn’t finished.
“Well I am still working on a piece that would fit that description, I started something back in the early ’90s that’s called What the Hell Was I Thinking. It’s a continuous piece of music that is best described as an audio movie. It changes scenes every few seconds really … and it has a bunch of different guitar parts on it. There are about 40 different well-known guitar players on it and I am still adding to it, but I have not finished that thing yet, I’ve been working on it since the ’90s. I think that will end up reaching the top slot when it’s all finished.”
While he has been on tour, Zappa has also been conducting classes for aspiring guitarists.
“I have a music camp that is called Dweezilla, so when I do a guitar camp kind of lesson on the road, these are the Dweezilla guitar classes. Really what I do is try to do is give a lot of advice on the fast track of learning the guitar neck … I have a simple setup and it usually is something that people can take what they already know and double, and triple, and quadruple what they already know overnight because there are some simple things that they can do.”
Since Zappa was in Portland, we wondered what his favorite part of Portland was.
“Well, I honestly don’t get out much when we are here, but I know the band and the crew have gone over to Voodoo Doughnut and they offer something called the bucket of doughnuts, it looks like a bucket of chum, so they come back with these buckets and it just looked revolting, but it’s memorable.”
Zappa said that he really isn’t a gadget guy unless it comes to guitar technology. He mentions that even in the guitar world the technology has changed quite a bit.
“As far as guitar equipment goes, it’s been simplified yet complicated at the same time … my dad actually always had a complicated system, he would use three amps and two di’s (Direct Inject), he was splitting his signal and running it through all of these different things and it was like mountains of gear onstage…but then it started to change a little bit and there are digital ways to do some of the analog stuff and that helped, so I am able to do a lot of the sophisticated things with less equipment but it still takes time to learn how to use it and program it.
When it comes to other technology, Zappa said he has an iPhone, but doesn’t actually like it.
“I particularly don’t like that you have the weird little connector things (the dongle), it’s just the worst.”
Going back to music, we wanted to know what advice Zappa would give to young musicians.
“The biggest challenge is finding the reason why you do what you do and staying true to that and in that finding your own voice … So I would say to really focus on finding the thing that keeps you inspired and the thing that makes you want to do it, that’s the thing that’s going to draw the people to listen to what you are doing.”
Digital Trends Live airs at 9 a.m. PT from Monday through Friday, with highlights available on demand after the stream ends. For more information, check out the DT Live homepage, and be sure to watch live for the chance to win occasional prizes.