Been jonesing for live Zappa action since Frank’s departure? Here is your chance to at least partially relive the madness:
- PROJECT/OBJECT REUNITES FRANK ZAPPA’s TOP VOCALISTS ON ENCORE COAST-TO-COAST TOUR
Ike Willis, Napoleon Murphy Brock return to help band faithfully recreate the live Zappa experience
Zappa percussionist Ed Mann added to first four dates; Entire “One Size Fits All” LP to be performed in NYC and Philly only.
NEW YORK — PROJECT/OBJECT, the Mother of Frank Zappa reinvention, is answering frenzied fan demand by reuniting the maestro’s two most beloved vocalists for a fall encore — their second major tour this year with the dueling frontmen.
Ike Willis and Napoleon Murphy Brock will do it again this fall with an equally extensive coast-to-coast trek, furthering PROJECT/OBJECT’s ongoing mission to perpetuate the music of one of the most important and influential composers of the 20th century. On their first national tour together in 18 years, the two ex-Zappa vocalists helped PROJECT/OBJECT draw rabid audiences and numerous sell-out events this spring.
Special guest percussionist Ed Mann, the longest-running Zappa band member, has been a last-minute addition to join PROJECT/OBJECT for the first four dates of the six-week tour, which kicks off Sept. 17 in Northampton, MA. Altogether, PROJECT/OBJECT will hit some three dozen cities and re-conjure a rarely seen collaboration by the men whose vocals helped define the bulk of Zappa’s incredibly prolific career. Napoleon Murphy Brock is best known for his contributions to three of Zappa’s most notorious albums, the 1974 double LP “Roxy and Elsewhere” and its follow-up, “One Size Fits All,” plus “Bongo Fury” with Captain Beefheart. Other guest Zappa band alumni are expected to sit in with PROJECT/OBJECT along the way. Look for Zappa big band leader Ed Palermo to join Willis, Brock, Mann and the band in New York City.
Ike Willis (1978-88) is one of Zappa’s most durable and beloved sidemen, whose soulful vocal hysterics are best remembered as the voice of Joe on the “Joe’s Garage” rock opera trilogy. He toured the world six times with the
maestro and was the voice of his music for 14 years on countless recordings, many still unreleased. Napoleon (1974-84) preceded Ike as Zappa’s first front man vocalist-musician. Napoleon’s unmistakable voice and stage presence brought an energetic new theatricality to the band, helping to define the Zappa stage show. And both musicians played integral roles in Zappa’s “Thingfish” rock opera.
PROJECT/OBJECT will be playing many authentic renditions from “Roxy and Elsewhere,” “One Size Fits All” and “Joe’s Garage” at every stop, plus plenty of other classic Zappa material Ike and Napoleon made famous, specially rearranged to accommodate both of their vocals.
“Ike and Napoleon had a magical effect on the band and the audience last spring,” marvels PROJECT/OBJECT ringleader Andre Cholmondeley. “I can’t wait to see what will happen this fall.”
Thanks to the one-two punch supplied by Ike and Napoleon for the band’s European debut this summer, PROJECT/OBJECT has now become an international force as well.
Many other Zappa alumni have been similarly inspired to perform with PROJECT/OBJECT and more recently, so have other notable artists such as Phish’s Jon Fishman, Capt. Beefheart/Jeff Buckley guitarist Gary Lucas; and Chuck Garvey, Al Schnier and Jim Loughlin of moe.
Since its formation a decade ago, PROJECT/OBJECT has been rapidly gaining notoriety for its onstage dedication to its singular mission. The band continually introduces successive generations of improv-oriented music fans around the country to Zappa’s monumental legacy, performing music from every era of Zappa’s prolific career while acutely recreating the unique fun and excitement of the Frank Zappa concert experience.
Recreating the Live Frank Zappa Experience
The members of PROJECT/OBJECT feel that Frank Zappa is one of the 20th Century’s greatest and most important composers, and they are on a mission to bring his music to the masses by faithfully recreating the live Zappa experience.
PROJECT/OBJECT formed in the early ’90s as an offshoot from an annual Frank Zappa birthday celebration that took place in guitarist Andre Cholmondeley’s basement in New Jersey. As the event grew in size and popularity, PROJECT/OBJECT began performing Zappa’s music in larger and larger venues, with a growing set list from every era of Zappa’s 30-year recording career. The band strives to stay true to Frank’s vision of constantly challenging the musicians and the audiences.
During Zappa’s 1984 and 1988 tours, members of PROJECT/OBJECT became friendly with Ike Willis, the legendary 10-plus year Zappa vocalist and guitarist whose career with Frank began in the role of “Joe” on the classic Zappa album, Joe’s Garage. In 1995, the members of PROJECT/OBJECT sent a tape of a live show to Ike and he was impressed enough that he agreed to come out to the East Coast to join the band onstage for a few gigs in the New York area. After that tremendous first outing, Ike agreed to repeat this experience in the future.
Ike felt the members of PROJECT/OBJECT were able to recreate the fun and excitement that he felt with Frank Zappa on stage. Other Zappa alumni have also performed with the band, including Jimmy Carl Black, Denny Walley, Mike Keneally and even Al Malkin. Big band leader and “Zappologist” Ed Palermo and Capt. Beefheart guitarist Gary Lucas have frequently collaborated with the band as well.
Frank Zappa was extremely influential to many musicians, especially many jam bands, including Phish, moe., and Deep Banana Blackout. While many jam band fans are aware that Frank Zappa was very influential, many are unfamiliar with his music. Of those that are familiar, many were too young to have seen him in concert. PROJECT/OBJECT is the closest they will get to the live Zappa experience, and the band enjoys much support from this demographic.
In the last few years, PROJECT/OBJECT has been touring predominantly on the East Coast and Midwest, but as of the spring 2001 tour, began to reach cities from coast to coast. In every new market that they visit, they convert the curious into dedicated fans.
PROJECT/OBJECT wants to remind old Zappa fans of the way it used to be and let younger fans, who never experienced a Zappa show, see and hear the way it was. They intend to perpetuate his music and spirit for as long as they are
I can’t speak for any of this – haven’t seen the show – and a Zappa show without Zappa kind of reminds me of the post-Garcia Dead. However for the enthusiasts, how can the concert not spark a memory or two?
Here is a discussion of Zappa’s life and career by David John Farinella and me:
- At sometime during his incredibly prolific and polymath life as guitarist, songwriter, composer, conductor, satirist, producer, free speech activist, and all-around social gadfly, Frank Zappa said: “Without deviation (from the norm), ‘progress’ is not possible. In order for one to deviate successfully, one has to have at least a passing acquaintance with whatever norm one expects to deviate from.”
Throughout his career Zappa not only mastered musical genres as varied as jazz, modern classical, rock, doowop, R&B, and pop, he created whole new subsets of music as a solo artist and in various configurations of the Mothers of Invention. And if his goal hadn’t been to deviate from the norm, music would have been cheated of one of the richest bodies of work of the last 30 years, highlighted by popular favorites such as the gold Over-nite Sensation and Apostrophe (No. 10), One Size Fits All, Sheik Yerbouti, and the extremely soulful Hot Rats with Captain Beefheart, Jean-Luc Ponty and Sugar Cane Harris; but also by the difficult and challenging Orchestral Favorites, London Symphony Orchestra Vol. 1 & 2, and The Yellow Shark, as performed by the Ensemble Modern.
Beginning with the third Mothers album, We’re Only In It For the Money, Zappa produced dozens of albums of his own music, and still found time to produce artists as varied as Captain Beefheart, Lenny Bruce, Wild Man Fischer, The GTO’s, and Grand Funk.
Born December 21, 1940 in Baltimore, Maryland, Zappa’s family eventually settled down in the semi-desert of Southern California in ’50. His first interests in music were R&B, and throughout the early-60s Zappa played with a number of club R&B bands with names like the Masters, and the Soul Giants. After scoring a low budget film in 1963, he purchased the Pal Recording Studio in Cucamonga from Paul Buff, who had built his own recording console and a five track, half-inch tape recorder. Zappa changed the name to Studio Z and started what he’s called “the beginning of a life of obsessive overdubbage – nonstop 12 hours a day.”
While working in Studio Z and continuing to play guitar in local bands, Zappa was befriended by the singer Don Van Vliet, who eventually morphed into Captain Beefheart. Zappa and Van Vliet recorded songs such as “Metal Man Has Won His Wings,” “Cheryl’s Canon” and a cover of Little Richard’s “Slippin’ and Slidin'” under the name the Soots. Zappa took the tracks to Dot Records’ Milt Rogers, who flatly stated, “We can’t release these – the guitar is distorted.”
Though the Soots didn’t make it into the mainstream, Zappa and Beefheart stayed in touch and when Beefheart had the opportunity to record Trout Mask Replica in 1969, he turned to Zappa.
The original idea behind recording the album, Zappa admits in his autobiography (The Real Frank Zappa Book) was to do it as “an anthropological field recording” in Beefheart’s house in the San Fernando Valley of California. Along with engineer Dick Kunc, a Shure 8-channel mixer mounted in briefcase and a Uher portable tape recorder they set to record Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band’s seminal release. They got a couple songs into the sessions at the house when Van Vliet changed his mind on the sessions and wanted to move it to a proper studio in Glendale.
Of course, before, during and after his outside production work Zappa was consumed with his own band, the Mothers of Invention. From their debut, Freak Out! (produced by Tom Wilson) to his final solo releases, Zappa kept an active role in all parts of the recording process. What’s interesting to note is that Zappa was an artist/producer who had the ability and talent to move from old school recording dates where compressors and equalizers were stunning technological advances to his use of the Synclavier to compose orchestral works in the later days of his career.
Producer/engineer Joe Chiccarelli credits Zappa with changing his thinking about recording. “I went from the standard hi-fi model of getting everything to sound good, to pushing the limits in search of the unique. Good sound quality wasn’t enough for Zappa. He wanted his recordings to have character, to jump up and surprise you. He always had a vision of the way he wanted things, and he would go to any lengths musically, lyrically or with recording techniques to achieve that vision. Zappa opened my eyes and twisted me.”
Chiccarelli learned to experiment on such Zappa discs as Baby Snakes, Joe’s Garage, Live In New York, and Shut Up and Play Yer Guitar. From his experimentation within the studio and the live setting it seems clear that Zappa was comfortable with technology and used it to his creative advantage whenever possible. In fact, without much of a fanfare, Zappa’s work with the London Symphony Orchestra was an engineering feat. From altering microphone assignments to designing virtual isolation booths in the orchestra to using a Lexicon 224-X digital reverb processor during the mixing process, Zappa took what was destined to be a recording disaster and made it a masterpiece.
In addition to his work with the Mothers (and the various incarnations therein), Zappa produced a number of albums destined to deviate from the norm. Whether it was warped girl group the GTO’s, or savant naif Wild Man Fischer, or his early mentoring of Alice Cooper, Zappa attempted to push the artists into uncharted territory.
Though his outside production list is relatively slight, it can be argued that Zappa’s affect on modern music (a term he seemingly despised) came via his work as an artist. While Freak Out! introduced the world to Zappa’s vision, he was never content to stay rooted in one musical genre for very long. Throughout his life Zappa remained true to the notion that music is a gift, and it was his responsibility as an artist to manifest that gift wherever the muse led him.
Zappa, who eschewed drugs and alcohol, but who was a lifelong smoker, died of prostate cancer December 4, 1993. He is survived by his wife, Gail, and four children including the guitarist Dweezil, and actress Moon Unit (who performed vocals on Zappa’s only Top 40 hit, “Valley Girl”). Zappa was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in ’95.
Virtually all of Zappa’s music has been digitally remastered for CD and is available through Rykodisc, or through the official Zappa Family Trust website.
Below is a discussion of Zappa’s early career and his first records, produced by the great Tom Wilson:
- David Anderle was a young talent scout for MGM/Verve in Los Angeles in 1965. Frank Zappa and the Mothers performed a heady mixture of psychedelic blues rock, twisted doo wop, art noise, social commentary, and potty humor in a zone where irony twisted back on itself in an endless loop of inscrutable intentions. Anderle saw the Mothers at the Red Velvet club and was smitten. He was having a hard time getting anyone at the label to take Zappa seriously when Wilson was hired as head of East Coast A&R.
Anderle coaxed Wilson out from New York to see the band, and to Anderle’s amazement, Wilson “got them” right away and the band was signed, launching the careers of both Zappa and Anderle.
Zappa has declared his allegiance to Wilson. “Tom Wilson was a great guy. He had vision, you know? And he really stood by us…I remember the first thing that we recorded was ‘Any Way the Wind Blows,’ and that was okay. Then we did ‘Who Are the Brain Police?’ and I saw him through the glass and he was on the phone immediately to New York going, ‘I don’t know!’ Trying to break it to ’em easy, I guess.”
“I don’t know” or not, Wilson allowed the Mothers’ project to grow from a single into an album, and then from an album into an extravaganza that cost $21,000 at a time when the average rock album ran $5,000. Wilson funded a 22-piece orchestra. The editing was nightmarish. According to Zappa, “Wilson was sticking his neck out. He laid his job on the line by producing the album.”
After Freak Out sold surprisingly well, Wilson went even farther into the unknown with Zappa on Absolutely Free, which dispensed with token pop songs entirely in favor of jazzy meanderings, pseudo-operatic singing and exposition upon Zappa’s recurrent themes of cheese, shoes, the government and his abstemious attitude toward mind altering substances.
While working on Free, Wilson was simultaneously supervising the Velvet Underground’s first album, an album that reveled in the sensory-based hedonism that the puritanical Zappa railed against. Both “art” bands – the garish Mothers and the somber Velvets – shared a surface freakiness that masked the underlying gulf between them.
The fact that both bands performed in Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable at the Trip in Los Angeles is one of Warhol’s greatest ironies. It is not known how Wilson felt about this juxtaposition, but it is clear that his mind was large enough to encompass both points of view; perhaps the bands were even the personifications of his own internal contradictions.
PROJECT/OBJECT Concert Dates
Tue. Oct. 15
32 South Tejon
Colorado Springs, CO
Doors 7pm / Show 9:30pm
Tix $12 adv and dos
For tix and all info, check website
Wed. Oct. 16
Sherpa & Yeti’s
320 S. Main St.
Breckenridge, CO 80424
Venue Phone 970-547-9299
Doors 9pm / show 10 pm
Tix at 1-800-594-TIXX
Thurs. Oct. 17
214 Linden St.
Ft. Collins, CO 80524
Venue phone 970-482-9291
Doors 8pm / Show 9:30pm
Tix $15 adv and dos
Tickets at venue phone 970-214-3139
Fri. Oct. 18
Sat. Oct. 19
1135 13th St.
Boulder, CO 80302
Venue Phone 303-443-3399
Doors 8:30pm / Show 9 pm
Tix $13 adv / $15 dos
For Tix, call 303-443-3399 or ticketmaster
Mon. Oct. 21
3832 Main St.
Kansas City, MO
Venue Phone 816-531-7557
Doors 6pm / PO 8:30pm
Tix $10 Adv. / $12 dos
Tix at Ticketmaster or at club
Tue. Oct. 22
University City, MO
Venue Phone 314-862-5999
Doors 8pm / Show 9pm
Tix at www.musictoday.com and website
Wed. Oct. 23
51 Main St.
Venue Info: 217-359-4444
Doors 8pm / Show 9pm
Tix $12 adv / $14 day of show
Tix can be purchased at www.thehighdive.com
Thur. Oct. 24
15711 Waterloo Rd.
Venue Phone 216.383.1124
Doors 7:30pm / Show 8:30 pm
Tix $12 adv. / $14 dos
Tickets onsale at venue phone and website
Ages 18 +
Fri. Oct. 25 Without Napoleon Murphy Brock
1015 State St.
Doors 9pm / Show 10pm
Tix $10 adv / $12 dos
Tix are available at Grasshopper 816-454-9545; Dig -Dios Cd’s, Earthshine (Edinboro)
Sat. Oct. 26 Without Napoleon Murphy Brock
Club at Water Street Music Hall
204 Water St.
Venue Phone 716-325-5600
Tix $13 adv./ $15 dos Age 18+
For Tix, Aarons Alley (716) 244-5044, Record Archive (716) 473-3820; Record Archive, (716) 244-1210; Terrapin Station, 1172 Hertel Ave. Buffalo, NY
Mon. Oct. 28
1208 Rt. 146
Clifton Park, NY
Venue Phone: 518-371-0012
Doors 7:30 / Show 8:30pm
Tix $15 1-800-594-TIXX, www.northernlights-live.com, or www.musictoday.com
Thur. Oct. 31 – HALLOWEEN!!
214 Sullivan Street
New York, NY
Venue Phone: 212-477-2782
Doors 8pm / Show 9pm
Tix 15 adv / $20 dos
Tix at www.ticketweb.com or 866-468-7619
Fri. Nov. 1
601 Main St.
Asbury Park, NJ
Venue Phone: 732-775-9144
Doors 8:30pm / Show 9:30pm
Tix at Ticketmaster, The Saint Box Office, Vintage Vinyl(Fords), Now & Then Records(Hazlet), and Soundwaves Records (Manasquan)
Sat. Nov. 2
512 York Rd.
Venue phone 410-337-7178
Doors 8pm / Show 9 pm
Tix $15 adv. and dos
Tix at Ticketmaster and 410-481-SEAT
All ages show!
Sun. Nov. 3 Headlining: Les Claypool’s Frog Brigade
239 Westminster Street
Lupo’s Hotline: 401-272-5876 (272-LUPO)
Venue Phone: 401-831-4071
Doors 7pm / Show 8pm
Tix $17.50 adv / $20 dos
Tickets at Ticketmaster and Lupo’s Box office
All ages show!