When your father is Frank Zappa and he lists “musician” as your religion on your birth certificate, you’re destined to become successful in the industry. East Enders will soon hear why when Dweezil Zappa brings his musical talents to the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on Saturday, July 29.
“As a kid, I really only listened to my dad’s music,” Zappa says. With a career that spanned more than 30 years, Frank Zappa’s sound combined rock, jazz and orchestral arrangements. When Dweezil was about 12 years old, he was introduced to classic rock, like Queen and Van Halen. “I thought, where’s the rest of it? I was so used to all of the orchestral arrangements of my dad, that it seemed like so many things were missing.”
Dweezil received his first guitar when he was six years old, but didn’t take a serious interest in it until he was 12. The year was 1982, and he began to create his own sound, releasing his first single, “My Mother is a Space Cadet” produced by Eddie Van Halen. “My music is pretty eclectic,” he says. “It’s influenced by rock and ethnic music. It’s an exotic sound compared to other musicians.”
Earlier that year, Dweezil played his first show with his father—at the Hammersmith Odeon in London. “Since I could only really play lead in the key of A, Frank devised a hand signal for the band to modulate the song ‘Stevie’s Spanking’ down to A from it’s original key of B,” Dweezil once recalled. “After I finished my solo he gave the cue for the band to modulate back up. It was so cool how he has so much control over the music. It almost seemed like a magic trick to me. It made a big impression on me and has stuck with me my whole life.”
Dweezil went on to launch his own career, continuing to play music and taking on a number of Hollywood roles, including in the movies Pretty in Pink and The Running Man. In 1988, he released his second album, titled My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mother, after signing with Chrysalis Records. On his 1991 album, Confessions, Dweezil refined his sound, using elements of heavy rock with his father’s distinct composition skills.
Since his 2000 album, Automatic, was released, Dweezil has taken on a new focus—helping to spread his father’s music. His next solo album, Go with What You Know, featured Joe Travers, Aaron Arntz and Pete Griffin, who would become a part of his new band, which he called Zappa Plays Zappa. The band released its first CD and DVD in 2008, and Zappa scored his first Grammy for Best Instrumental Performance for his performance on his father’s song, “Peaches En Regalia.”
Dweezil’s goal is still to bring the music of his father, who died in 1993, to today’s fans, but the mission hasn’t been without its hiccups. After his mother Gail Zappa passed in 2015, Dweezil found himself at odds with his family, who “are seeking to stop me from using my own last name,” he says.
The Zappa Family Trust, run by two of Dweezil’s siblings, sent him a cease and desist letter telling him to stop using the name Zappa Plays Zappa. He renamed the band Dweezil Zappa Plays Frank Zappa, but received another cease and desist letter. The result was the “Dweezil Zappa Plays Whatever the F@%k He Wants” tour. Since then, Dweezil has set up a Pledge Music Campaign titled Dweezil Zappa and the Others of Intention, through which Frank Zappa fans can help Dweezil share his father’s music.
The WHBPAC show will be, “a celebration of the old,” says Dweezil. Frank Zappa’s first album with his band, The Mothers of Invention, was released in 1966 and this show will “chronicle three decades worth of music,” Dweezil says.
Dweezil Zappa plays WHBPAC, 76 Main Street, Westhampton Beach, Saturday, July 29. For tickets and other info visit whbpac.org or call 631-288-1500.