Dweezil Zappa's Birthright Is His Father's Music

Dweezil Zappa is the son of legendary rock composer Frank Zappa.
Dweezil Zappa is the son of legendary rock composer Frank Zappa. Photo by Jeff Dean
Dweezil Zappa spends most of his time either learning or performing the music of his late father, Frank Zappa. The writer of "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow" made more than 65 albums during his career before his death in 1993. So the Choice Cuts! Tour, which hits Fort Lauderdale's Culture Room on October 24, will focus on deeper cuts from the catalog specially curated and performed by Dweezil and his band.

Frank was known as a prolific composer with an avant-garde and freeform style in a mixture of genres such as rock, jazz, blues, and orchestral music. He also loved satirical lyrics. Dweezil, one of four siblings, decided to make sure the public knows what his father's music is all about. "The reason for doing it is to give people a better understanding of the things that my dad actually accomplished in the world of music,"  Dweezil says. "After he passed away, he was being described by people as a novelty act."

But of course, Frank was so much more than that. Learning his music is no easy feat. "In doing this, I learned so much about knowing my dad's music and how he works, which gave me the opportunity to continue my relationship with him," says Dweezil. "But it also gave me a musical education of my own." Throughout his 12 years of touring and performing his father's music, Dweezil has transformed into a prolific composer and musician himself. Although he doesn't have much time to focus on his own music, he recently wrote a hundred-piece work for the Noord Netherlands Orchestra. He believes he couldn't have done that if he hadn't had the experience of mastering his dad's music.

The Choice Cuts! lineup of musicians is different from previous tours, and Dweezil believes it's the best version yet. "They have the required skill set to cover any period of my dad's music," he says. When playing songs Frank released in the '60s, Dweezil wants to re-create sonic elements from that era. To do this, Dweezil uses equipment from those times and even replicates the sound of the console used in the recording. He loves to focus on the minute details.

Listening to Frank's music can be an adventure. "It's always interesting to hear when somebody listens to one of my dad's really obscure records and that's the one that gets them pumped," says Dweezil. "It sort of indicates what kind of person they are." With albums as weird as Burnt Weeny Sandwich and Sheik Yerbouti, the music can require patience. As "gateway" albums, Dweezil suggests Apostrophe and Over-Nite Sensation, which show off Frank's skills as a composer without getting too bizarre.

Dweezil tries not to change the songs and doesn't see them as covers. "This is a continued tradition of making this music available in a live situation by people who really care about it and want to commence it the way it was done originally," he says.

Dweezil Zappa 7 p.m. Wednesday, October 24, at the Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale; 954-564-1074; cost $30 via
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