Tommy Mars on why Zappa was the greatest composer of the 20th century
Tommy, who's the, perhaps not the greatest composer, but who's the greater composer? Frank Zappa or Tommy Mars? Oh, undoubtedly Frank Zappa. Okay, we get a hierarchy here. That's a joke question. But this is the point, is that I think that Frank is the most incredible musician of at least the, I don't know if you can say the whole 20th century, but he's a culmination of what was developed in the first half of the 20th century, and he's the greatest amazing composer of the second half of the 20th century, over all forms of music.
Now, would you go that far? Well, I'd like to back up. Okay. Now that question bugs me, your primary question. Right.
Because I don't look at myself as a composer, but I do compose. Right. And I compose spontaneously. That is my, that's my fourth thing. Which Frank does.
Yes. And which we were all hired, well many of us were hired to do. But when it comes to the place in historical perspective, which we're talking about, I completely agree with you about, in not just American music, but music in general.
Music to me is like the quintessential, foremost perpetrator of the beyond. Yes. I mean, there was times, and this is what triggers me to talk about this, is that when you talk of composition, there are many times when certain musical institutions, devices if you will, compositional, what's the word, like signature or.
Genres, you don't mean genres? A genre if you will. But Frank was very proud many times to say that he never went to school. Right. You know what I mean? Yeah.
It was like a big thing to him. But he studied. Yeah.
I mean, he studied, he just never formalized that like many people have done. And when certain guys were in the band, me for instance, things of my training, my background, my personality, my signature, they rubbed off on him and he was the type of guy that it was like a dichotomy because he was so controlling and yet he wasn't a dummy. He would extract this stuff very subtly and he was the type of man to work with that he rarely complimented and it wasn't like you were there to get accolades from him.
It was just a thrill to be around that kind of a test tube man. And when he could hear something that he never heard before, a perfect example is a device of the 14th century by a man named Landini. He had a certain type of cadence that all of the music of the Mauschau, Landini, many of the examples of that period used this particular cadence. And I'm very familiar with early music like that and I would start throwing it in occasionally and I'll never forget one time he asked me, what is that? And I said, it's a Landini cadence.
And he started actually throwing it in. I think it's in that one song of Frogs with Dirty Little Lips. He would bastardize it though. That's the thing that always killed me.
He would drill the point home until it never, every album either has an electronic device on it that you can't stand it anymore. It's a variation of the mystery word or the mystery technology or the mystery riff. Is that the variation? That's the variation Bob.
You hit it on the head. And you could almost see that in every record. Frank was the kind of guy too that would take it to the max. He not only was in your face, he cut off your face.
You know what I mean? Just plowed through your face with something. And I like that. You know what I mean? People today I think really need to get that point. There's so much. How about Frank you mean? Yeah.
Absolutely. And so anyway, in terms of the first question you were asking, his compositional prowess came many times from just keeping the radar up. Knowing what to find. Exactly. Knowing what to find that was in tune with him, that he could really use. And a lot of people that are serious composers as he was are like chained to a particular tradition or a mindset.
And the glory of Frank was that freedom. He's America to death. It's just like every inch of him was an American. Which was a new, the second half century is a mixed media world. So I wanted to qualify that about being the best composer. Because he definitely took, synthesized, and excreted.
Now let me just supplement because I have all theories that I'm working on in my own writings and drama that build stands on the shoulders of Frank. I'm going to go to a quote in Ben's book in a minute. The fact that he was, my chart is the archetypes of American media in politics. Frank did that. Now the incredible thing about Frank is that he wasn't a musician. He wasn't a category.
He was a TV camera. Your idea of this radar. He was the central scrutinizer. You know what I mean? He was imitating the, whatever you want to call the secret governor or the big brother or the media monopoly of American culture. He was mirroring that back and eating anything that could come along. So he was imitating the central scrutinizer.
And it was a bizarre new phenomenon for the world to see. That's why the central scrutinizer is this weird automobile and UFO within the gypsy mutant vacuum cleaner. That apparatus. Now I haven't developed it but you want to respond to that point? That he was more than a musician.
That's why he's greater. I completely agree with you. That was only his forum. That was where he could, the fertile area that he could meld together.
I'd like to also expand upon what you're saying here. By when you see that mirror, the key to Frank was laughter. Does humor belong in music? That's archetypal question.
Yeah, but it's like a tongue in cheek. But the point I'm trying to make is that if in fact we can laugh at ourselves, no matter what's going on, we're healthier species before it. And that has always been... But you know what we were? People were music. That was the dominant medium of the 50s and 70s. So you had a guy who had a supreme understanding of generally all the variety of the psychopaedic view of music.
You needed that kind of guy who could zap everybody who was brainwashed in a new musical culture. So he had to go with the present medium which was music. And be detached from it and nail everybody on it. You know what I mean? That's what he was doing. That's what I mean when he's not a musician. Not a musician, man.
He was using the present ground. Like Finnegans Wake is a book. He redid Finnegans Wake. But Finnegans Wake does not apply to after World War II because people started not to read. And you had a new environment.
The new sugar that was... The food that was controlling him. And he was Uncle Meat. And he was doing the recooking the food to create perception to wake. People wake up. Figure it out.
Right. And if you dug that, I'd like to hear if you could give some personal way he would hint. Like, did he never said what I just said to you? Or did he? No. No. That was a given in the equation. But is that part of the test? It's like I have a little story about my audition with Frank.
When I first saw on a sheet of paper that was published. Bottom of the page says Munchkin. Ooh.
Yeah. No. Munchkin's get me hot. I have always loved the Wizard of Oz.
Yeah. And it was sort of a terrible joke that Frank would just keep on at me. That I said, did you like the Wizard of Oz? And Frank said... He wouldn't do that? No. No. Check it out.
I... You'd go there. He caught me one time on an airplane.
And I said, you like the Wizard of Oz, huh? And he said, I think I saw it once. And I couldn't take that. I just couldn't stand it. And he would keep drilling me on that.
You know what I mean? No. You asked him first. I asked him first. But I didn't want to believe that he...
And it was always this... I always wanted him to admit that he loved the Wizard of Oz. Why name your... The whole music world. Your publishing company massive prodigious amounts of music under the word Munchkin Music if you don't dig the Wizard of Oz. And he would never cop to it.
And it was always frustrating. I'd always... You tried to catch him.
I tried to change the question into different things. Allude to different things. And you know what you were doing? And he wouldn't... He always had his story straight. And to this day, I don't know if it's true or not. He kept that mystery going for him.
You were dealing with Rumpelstiltskin. Hello! And he wasn't going to fucking tell you his name. You know what I mean? At least in that forum. In that whole...
His roots. Now what's funny, he listed 184 sources on freakout. But that was a red herring. You know what I mean? Red herring, baby. Now he says, with Zubin Mehta, 1970, UCLA, when he conducted The Beginning of 200 Motels and not music. He had somebody saying, it was in the Time magazine.
I never heard it, but I saw the Time magazine cover. He had somebody yelling, Munchkin's getting me hot. And he wanted that in there. Now did he have Munchkin Music before... In 68, 69? Oh yeah. Zoom.
Yes. So he's got Munchkin's. Why did he always start putting in mu-mesons and physics terms and saying, he never said it, but Munchkin's getting me hot. In Civilization Phaze III, he talks about mu-mesons with halos. And you look at the booklet on Uncle Meat, he's got the young doll mumeisson foot voluptuizer.
Some kind of thing. Why did he ever talk to you about physics or these other non-musical technical points? That's what I'm interested in, what you picked up on that. Let's put it this way, the atmosphere of that was always present. And the specifics of that were rare. Were very rare.
But when you say present, he never said mu-mesons much, but you're saying there was something hinting at that. The laboratory motif? The laboratory motif. Always there. It's like, sometimes, like for instance, politically, it was easy to talk to Frank. I remember when I Don't Want to Get Drafted started.
Frank had such knowledge, such scads of information up there on everything. He knew something about everything. Because he scanned TV and everything all the time. Scanned everything.
That's how much... It was frightening. You come down to, literally, in terms of physics, very little. Off the top of my head, I can't remember any specific thing, although it might come to me later.
Right. Now this might be interesting in terms of, he's really getting the Synclavier between 84 and 88, and you're not working with him. So you've got this Bob Stone guy, and these guys working with him. Did you drop in and visit him? Well, yeah.
As a matter of fact, I used the Synclavier on Brown Moses. I did play the Synclavier. Oh, no. Yeah, I know. But that period we really got in, like, satellite starting at 85.
By that time, Frank had no need for a keyboard player. He was typing it all in. And he actually, maybe this is a little bit where I can approach this from. That instrument, for a particular period, provided him with the robot he never had. That's right. Which was all the metaphor.
You were robots up to that point. Well, we were robots and puppets. But the improvisation that goes on in American culture, which he celebrated, because they got to improvise bullshit news every day in the TV studio, right? Improvisation. It was a musical jazz environment.
People were living it. So he needed you guys to really mirror Tom. He had to have great musicians who could improvise and create, because every day was different. Absolutely. And so that's why you're not totally robots. You were a robot, but you were very creative, mirrors of the lively American culture over the last 30 years.
You know what I mean? And he had that. That's a side thing. You were saying that you were the robot.
When the Synclavier came into the picture, it was just like, I believe that he transcended something. When he got that, he realized what it could really do for him. And take for instance, he used to call this concept of programming machine a Pinto. In which case...
A machine called Pinto or the Concept? No, the Concept. Let me quickly explain this, because it's something that we had talked about with the CS80 I had mentioned. It would be so cool. I'm always looking for the humanness in a non-human environment.
That's why I loved in the early days synthesizing. Because I looked for the unnatural or the little different... The imperfection theme you talked about with U-Haul. The imperfection, yes. And I remember saying to Frank, you know what would be so cool? Is if in fact, you had like four or five sounds and intersperse them throughout the keyboard to be able to have a choir of sounds. But you would have to write the music so that the key would be playing.
If you wanted say, a clarinet section versus a bassoon versus a cello. You would have to do it so that it would be homogenous with it. In other words, the writing would be indicative of the particular keys that you would be playing.
But up to that point, you could never do anything like that. You know what I mean? And you said this in the early years. Yeah, when Frank was doing all the work on the CS80 for me.
Because that was the major cross between digital and analog. That instrument. And boy, did he spend a lot of money on that.
It came close, but when the Synclavier happened, this is when he was able to do that. And by Pinto, I mean exactly that. You have like maybe four or five different sounds and they're broken down into certain notes on the keyboard. So that when you're playing chromatically up, you're not hearing the same sound on every single note. But the fact is that when you hear it together, it sounds so human and so right.
Because that's how it is when we hear things like that. So when he was able to do things like that, suddenly the human musician wasn't really as important and that spurred him into unbelievable new realms, man. And this quote will do that.
Now, just before going into it, think of Reagan, the Teflon president. Supposedly in Lemuria, the king, he had no awareness of anybody outside of his own circle, the court, whatever the structure of Lemuria society was, which was similar in pre-Atlantis. When a bridge fell down or he saw a building fall down or something, he'd say, okay, we need a new building.
And after a while it would be rebuilt, but he couldn't literally see who built it. So he thought he was manifesting. Now this is Reaganism. It's a Teflon, the guy, the white has no access.
This is a zenochronous government, secret government that Frank talked about. Frank imitated that by saying, I'm going to run the whole world from the satellite position and I'm the Grand Mizzou programming the whole planet from the simpler view, which is this metaphor for the programming that the society was going through in the 80s. That's a good metaphor actually. So where, I'm going to go to this, but what about the word climate? You know this thing of notes and then creating something that sounds human.
Does his use of the word harmonic climates, does that phrase apply to what you were talking about? Absolutely. I'm curious on how he talked about that. His music is such a dense environment of humanness. I mean not just of humanness, but of organic life. But he understood that machines were human, that they were part of it.
Well truly, Frank had to be on the vanguard technologically. You talk to anybody for the past 30 or 40 years, he always mentioned Frank in the avant-garde realm of always seeing ahead, grabbing that instrument and making it work, and then stamping a legitimacy to this instrument and then other people would start using it. He was the human translator then of this supposedly new alien. Well not only translator, a seer.
You know what I mean? That to me was the greatest freaking gift. I'll never forget one time when we were in New York and I couldn't go to Manny's that day. I had an interview to do with somebody and Frank comes to the gig, I think it was Stonybrook, and he says I got you the greatest toy that you'll ever want to have. He bought the vocoder.
I had to fucking play the vocoder that night. I never even saw this instrument. He says you can do it. I said Frank, what are you talking about? You've waited all your life for this because he said we'll use the even tie digital delay to let you harmonize with yourself.
We always thought we'd have two or three of them, but this thing was already ready made baby. I said I can't do it Frank. He says Tommy.
Oh you didn't do it? No he said Tommy. I said well how long do we have between sound check and door? All right. We used it that night man.
I heard you telling us the story of U-Haul and you told it a little more emotionally in a sense. You had Frank, the little kid, itty Simone, suddenly you're Zappi. You're the type.
You're the one who can do this stuff. He said you've got to do it. He's like I want it.
Daddy, you've got to get me a fucking bicycle for Christmas. There's a big thing that built up with that. Yeah, the emotion was in your voice when you told him how he responded. It was like that with all the instruments. When I joined the band with his emu, he could only get a stupid pipe organ thing out of that.
It was wired the same way as my electrocomic. That's why I'm saying are you the great composer? You enhance the band's sound. Other people get very angry about it. I have to use the word synergy here because I truly believe in that. People meet people for a reason.
No matter how outside the meeting could be or from what left field. The universe works. It is working. It's supposed to hit when it's supposed to hit. Then this symbiosis just occurs. You were so perfect for him.
He needed you in 77. I needed him in 77. I couldn't keep a job playing in a hotel for more than two weeks. I couldn't put that mask on.
I'd be talking to you and telling you how fucked up you were. Where else do you get paid for doing that except Frank, man? I was saying why can't I keep a freaking solo piano job anymore? I wanted to be myself. The thing about Frank, the grace that he had in his life is that someone would always show up like Ian Underwood back in the car.
That would do what his dreams were trying to do because he needed as much complexity. He's his wacko in rock and roll. The other specialized classical musicians, they're not going to relate to a guy in the 60s in rock.
But he found somebody who could do it. It's the season of the Olympics now. I want to just say this. Frank was like the ultimate gladiator coach. You'd show up with him with your tools, your verve, your training.
Whatever you had, man. You were the young lion going in. That cat brought you from what you thought you were going to be to someone that you'd be afraid of because you were so hot.
Sometimes when I would finish Herculean takes, I would say, you know what, I know I can do with a better Frank. He would look at me like, what are you talking about? It wouldn't be like the money, it wouldn't be like going all the time. He would just say, really? I said, yeah, when I played that last one, I just thought of something.
He said, go ahead, work it out. Let's hear it. And that's not the way music is done. You do it, bam. You do it, bam. You do it, bam.
In essence, many of the records were like that. We would just go and go. Sometimes I didn't even feel like I was a human being anymore. I really felt like I was a machine operating for my coach. You know what I mean? But you were into the beyond.
It was a pleasurable experience, right? Absolutely, because it stretched my mind to be into... That's Gurdjieffian. You know, Gurdjieff, his philosophy was, we're all machines and you've got to get rid of your anthropomorphic assumptions for yourself and get in touch with your machines.
He always struck me as Gurdjieffian in that way. Gurdjieffian, well, I'm glad I did this interview if it was just for that. Gurdjieffian. I've never heard of him before.
Oh, check out his books at the Phoenix or something. You just see this whole philosophy. He was in the 20s and 30s. He was famous in the new age as a Rasputin. He's much like Frank, a mysterious character who influenced people. I mean, he wasn't in the court like Rasputin, but he came out of Russia and he knew all the secret sufi school stuff.
And I read him in the 60s and one of my first thoughts was to talk to Frank about that, but it never happened when I talked to him in 1970. I can't remember, but I eventually decided he was. But you're confirming it because that's right. You know, Colin Wilson wrote The Outsider? I just heard a lecture. He's Gurdjieffian and he says, we've got to deal with the robot in ourselves and also this other spat. The robot was your instinctive autonomous autonomic self.
And the other part was the thing that was trying to deal with it. And you had to get a separation and merging, but it included the idea of resist not evil. Become the machine, become something and then push yourself. I was Gurdjieffian and Colin Wilson, that's what I think you're saying. That if Frank pushed you, you became something that scared you.
See, that's the point. Absolutely. That you never knew that you could have this much power. You became evil.
And on the other hand, on the other hand, you know, like just speaking of the humanist, I can tell you two tales of one time an arc light fell down on me in rehearsal. First word on Finnegans Wake, first page arc light, very important. That was the beginning of electric theater years ago. Yeah, go ahead. And it's a hot beast, baby.
And my first thought was I saw the CS80 melting part of it and I brushed it off quickly, you know what I mean? And like we were in the middle of a song, but he heard it explode and then it stopped. And I didn't realize that one little piece of it had hit my head and my hair was burning and I didn't even care for my hands. I just didn't want that instrument. And I just brushed it. You know, sometimes you just go through something and you don't get touched by it.
But my head actually got burned and I realized, I said, holy fuck. I still have that scab back there. And you know, Frank said, like about one minute later, ready to play again? I just couldn't believe how me personally, I remember one time I got beat up in Po, France by these paratroopers.
Me and Peter Wolf went out one night and I got beat. And I don't think I'll go there with Peter for a second. But anyway, I get back to the hotel and the roadies are putting me out for bait so they can catch this bastard, this paratrooper. And Frank says, what's going on here? And I was limping because I had my ankle get crushed on a curb.
The one can't just stomp it. And there was like eight of them. All they wanted was to kill. You know what I mean? Just put out a little steam. Anyways, Frank says, what's with you? And I says, well, I just got beat up, man. He says, well, what was it like? I told him.
There's the anthropologist. I wouldn't go there. But the thing that he said to me to kill me was, next time carry a knife. I said, Frank, if they saw the glint of steel, I wouldn't be here. And he just smiled, this weird look at me.
He was working on you. He was working on me. Here's the thing.
Jerry brings up this quote that he's puzzled by or he likes it. Frank says, I don't believe in trying to have love. I take love as assumed, and I want to go beyond love. Maybe that's his data concept of marriage. But he wants to get into the beyond, become a machine. But it can be very anthropomorphic or human satisfaction, come getting beyond trying to.
In other words, don't take things personally, is what Frank's saying in the band. Don't take it personally. We're working our ass off here. You don't need my praise, he's saying.
But let me qualify this. Don't take it personally. But I'll tell you one thing. He would salivate when someone would take it personally for entertainment reasons. That's right. I mean, whenever there was the little sore thumb in the band, whether it was Arthur or Scott Tunis, you know what I mean? Well, that's how he'd be the mirror.
He would just put these pieces on the chess table, man. He'd test you. That's what I mean. And he would just love it. He would love it.
But that's what I mean. He was testing you to see how much you could take it personally and not freak out. And not be Jeff Simmons and leave the band. I would say this love has taken it for granted there. And then let's just leave that part of the equation there and see what's beyond us. That is such a deep thought, man.
Because our perception of things, as many of us believe, is an illusion. It's merely our perception of things versus what it really is. Yeah.
You know, I had this thought one night about five years ago. I'm out on the grass someplace in the valley. And it was a particularly clear night. And I look up, and I can see for LA a lot of stars. And the thought came to me, Bob, that when it's dark, actually, when it's light out. Oh, nighttime now? No, no, no.
Wednesday. In other words, I was seeing the stars. And I studied astronomy. I loved it. That's my real clock in the sky.
But in the daytime, when the sun is shining, and I can see those glasses, and I can see that that's white, and I see my view because of the way the sun is, I'm comfortable with that. And I think that this is my world. I think this is it. And the sun is illuminating everything and showing me that. But in the nighttime, when it's dark, and I can't see anything, then I get a chance to see what it really is. Because it's dark, and then I see, holy Christ, this is the moon.
You can't see the moon in the day unless it's ascended. You can't see the stars. Exactly. You've seen 100 stars. And it opened my mind up to my perception of things is really an illusion. It just hit me like that.
And what Frank was saying about love is a given. And then let's find out what this thing is. Get rid of the sun. Make the water turn black. The night. Bingo.
The night, then the long night of the Iron Sausage. You know what I mean? Yeah, right, man. And it turns you around to think that our perception of love, which is sort of a common denominator, to me, you can never love enough. But if you always love at one level, or you give it too much power, you never see what's beyond love. And I'm treading on treacherous ground here. But I like that.
I like being on the edge. That's a push of the envelope here. And Frank, you know, Frank, I would never say, was a loving person. Frank, even to himself, wasn't a loving person. But love manifested itself with him in his quest.
There was the knowing of the mystery was Frank's love. And knowing that the universe works, even though he seemed to destroy every system or some way of looking at it, he still had faith. That's the deeply religious kid that was in him, the real Catholic, you know what I mean? Who got insulted by the perversion of this mystical thing as a kid that the regular society of the Vatican, which was his enemy, really perverted. He said once in one of his books, it might have been once on being a Catholic, a pediatric grocery store, he talks about, he really gets pissed off that there are kids who have grown up in this world, and they have a mystical thing. And then when they, it doesn't jive with the adult world. And then that leads to schizophrenia and all kinds of things.
Any kind of pathological thing, sure. And he was able to keep his childlike innocence and mystery, and he had a faith. He was really describing God, updating God.
That's what he was doing. Folkanelli, you know, how come it was updating it for us? Now let's, okay, so you were, well, we'll get sidetracked. What were you, oh, you're looking at the dark, okay? And Frank always outworked him at night, generally, in the early years of the night.
So what would you develop on that? Do you wanna say more about your vision? No, but it was just, the main concept was just that what we see as our reality is many times limiting us because it's an illusion. Right, now that's a cliche of philosophy, you know. But the point is that the magician comes in with a new way to show you the illusion that you're not even aware of, that it's been further sophisticated by Rumpelstiltskin, you know what I mean? Let me just qualify that, that when I say this illusion that when the spoon feeding of sunlight and clarity that we see our perception of things, yes, to me, that is an illusion. It's a mindset of our planet. But to get beyond that and see that you have to like, be not afraid to have your eyes closed, man, and just go, go in the dark, because that is where it really is.
Then you can see what's important, go for the dark. Then the light that's in the, there is light in dark. Now this- Oh, that I'm getting dangerous here.
No, this is good. I'm getting dangerous. But you're quoting, let me tell you. Jerry. Let me tell you who you're quoting. Is that, it's exactly right, and Frank had that.
And so who in the 60s was the guy saying, go blind, his metaphor for going into the dark. Frank was operating, that's the big no concept or the concept of continuity. So he looked for it to manifest so he could use. So who shows up in the late 60s writing poetry saying, we should all be blind. We should make the water turn dark. Jim Morrison. Jim, baby.
And who does he want to put into Captain Beefheart versus the black people in the late 60s, is Grace Slick and Jim Morrison. He would take, you know, it's like, you know, he would take someone who was saying to him and he would then push it further than they realized. Yeah, yeah. You know what I mean? So that's what I'm, that's what you're getting, you're getting close to describing what we're talking, what Frank did, what he did. That's why he took all media.
You know, he took all sensory data. You know what, let's even quote, when you started like talking about, am I interrupting too much? No, no, no. Am I interrupting you too much? Yes. No.
You get dangerous. Let's make the kitchen dangerous. You say, you say that Frank loved to work in the dark. Yeah.
Okay. That's a great illusion. Yeah. It's an illusion.
It's a bad, but that many people have. Yes, he many times woke up. No, I-L. I-L, an illusion because it wasn't that way. Many times Frank would be working at seven in the morning. I know, I found out later.
He was, his biological clock kept going past the international date line so many times. It was all, in come, no, what's the word I'm, it was all, well, whatever. Sicklic, he writes in the Bob Marshall interview in 88, he talks about the whole importance of sicklic rates. Yeah. He lived the sicklic, he wouldn't let the society interrupt with his sicklic feelings. Right.
And it all hinged upon what he was working on. And he would just take his time to sleep. And when he was tired, he would just sleep.
And so he would be actually- He actually wasn't living in nature. See that's- Yeah, totally man. He wasn't living in nature. It was nature, but he- It was his nature. He took advantage of all the services that man had made at that point.
That's right. That he could not have to worry because a person in the medieval period had to go to sleep when it got dark. Yeah. There was no light and they had to get up.
So Frank was really living in the beyond in terms of the most advanced effects one could do as a yogi in the technological environment. That's totally right. Even in terms of lack of sleep for 36. Right. You go for a day and a half straight. 42 hours.
You know, like- You guys would be sleeping, right? And coming in and out. I can remember just sleeping on that couch in there. Oh, you'd stay there? Yeah, sometimes. Oh, you bet.
You betcha. And he'd still be working while you're sleeping. Like for a man that did no drugs, you know what I mean? And just, he was driven. He was driven, man.
I've never met anybody like that. I didn't know like- That there were driven people like that. I didn't know Beethoven. Yeah.
You met him though. You met him. You fucking met him.
That's my point is that he was the greatest good boy. He was the driven artist and he and Biefert knew that and they would describe their concepts. There was a great quote by Biefert or one of them saying, "'I don't believe that Mozart was this refined guy that the Academy teaches.'" He was, and Biefert described himself, he was a wild man. Total wild man. And he had that energy.
And the Counter Culture Magazine's about 969 miles, the British guy who would do these great interviews, the first great interviews with Zappa. He had a picture of Zappa, the profile, and he looked just like Beethoven. That's what really, I said, that's Beethoven.
Oh yeah. You know? And then you- But I go along with you with Mozart. Yeah, that was a wild man. Yeah.
But no, it's not that they were silly and irresponsible. No. They had a manic, they were in touch with- They were driven, man. Because they were in touch with the present and the implications of the present. I mean, it was a Beethoven celebrating Napoleon, then he found out that Napoleon fucked up.
He said, okay, fuck that. Because it's not that this is a precious piece of music. The news changed. Right.
You gotta change the music. He's not operating on some abstract principle. He's responding to the present, and it's political. Yeah, you know, like there's a sonata of Beethoven that it's called Les Edieux, and then slash Le Bevau. And- What does that mean? In other words, when Napoleon let go of the troops, it was dedicated to that, and Beethoven respected him, you know what I mean? But when he turned around- And that's Les Edieux, which means- Les Edieux, yeah, which means the goodbye.
Okay. But, like then he got really pissed off when Napoleon did the nasty, and he changes it to Le Bevau, which is like- That's German. Yeah, it means sort of like, later, you know what I mean? Get out of here, you know? Later, buddy. It means it's goodbye, but another tone of it, you know what I mean? It's like an unsentimental, a mean goodbye.
Mean goodbye. Get out of here, you motherfucker. So that's a yin yang, right there in the- Totally, totally.
So Les Edieux, that word is a German word. It's not like- Le Bevau, yeah. No, the first word. Les Edieux is French. Yeah, it's French, so French German.
Yeah, exactly. Then there's even the language metaphor. With a nationalistic kind of thing, yes. Now the- And it's a great sonata, too. Right, so that, so, okay, we're talking about this Beethoven energy, the present.
You never met a driven man. There was a thought I was going to do, I'm going to switch tracks. All right.
In light, I think we've done enough to do into this, what was he driven about, and the fact that he was operating in the invisible realm, the beyond realm, which was neither man or machine. You know, it was, whatever this situation, well, it was machine, but he had a detachment so he could use both senses and computer senses. Okay, so in, do we have the Bob Marshall thing, the Pauline of Oliver quote? No, I'll get it. Okay, get that, but I'm going to read this. With, look at this section.
This is Frank talking, look at this as symbolic. He's describing his work, his life, the piece, meaning his whole life composition. The piece was made from Synclavier Digital Dust, which is a technical term, but look at the dust. Remember beef art, the dust flows forward, the dust flows back.
It's hard to explain, but when you look at the G page, G spot tornado, but this is a technical term. Do you know about these terms? Is this after your time with the Synclavier? No, I'm not familiar with this. The G page on the Synclavier, you'll see note names and numbers, but that's not all that lives on a track into the beyond of your theme. Subterranean information, thank you very much.
There's subterranean information, which can only be viewed when you go out of the user-friendly, the love zone. You know, the secure, mommy nipple. Dave Coronado, he wasn't into taking risks to the first mothers, you know? Okay, you go out of the user-friendly part of the machine and the mysterious world of XPL programming, which is a technical thing, right? But he means the hidden subterranean. At that point, you can see these things that live on the track that are giving these secret instructions.
The hands- To the machine. Yeah, to the machine. You're not even part of it. You're not laying on the artery of that machine, man. Watch out for that blood.
Think of Frank the conductor giving his secret instructions to you guys. You're the machine. Yet he's talking from the perspective of the guy, the center schneutoneiser is watching this. And in the center, Joe's garage, the opening shows the little UFO object, but you can see the strings and the guy in the green shirt. That's right, the puppeteer.
Yeah, think of Frank as the puppeteer, not as the guy who's talking to you and telling you what to do, because he's watching- Because you know what? It's like when it says the subterranean area, when the machine, you're inside that. It's like that is the biggest risk to take when you think about it, because you have to get yourself into the mindset that you're in control, but you're not in control. You're looking for what can show up. What can you do that is gonna make this- The world talk back to you and then learn something, or experience something new.
That's a crucial point about us as part of the organic process, as musicians with Frank. The same difference, only now it was with a real machine. It's a metaphor. That's why it's not, Ben Morrison makes the point that with Duke Ellington, you couldn't tell who was contributing who not, and it's not important whether Frank was the creator and he was ripping you off. That whole argument that Don Preston and some of the old others made. Pardon me, but I don't go for that.
I'm not part of that certain philosophy. I never- That's what I'm saying. I knew up front, Frank told me up front, you won't be- No credit. You'll be lucky if you get any publishing working with me. You'll be lucky if you get any songwriting.
So don't expect that. I take care of you. I knew that up front. And I remember my first year in the band, Terry Bozio told me, Tommy, you don't have to give so much, man.
I couldn't damn help myself. He's actually warning you to hold back. Terry said, yeah. Terry told me to hold back. Don't give so much. This guy's a monster.
He'll get you. I didn't care because at that point, when I listen to the stuff that I'm on and that people have, they know my signature in the band, that's all I was looking for, man, at that point in my life. And you can tell these guys, they come up and they quote you, they know your signature stuff and the Simpson footwear and the other one. Sure. Yo Mama, is it? Yeah. They know you.
You are known for that. And you're surprised that that's all they know about you, is that. So you do have your signature. You know what I mean? That's right. And I don't feel ripped off.
I feel like it was a concern. But listen, I understand. The thing was that I was just thinking, they did a retrospective of modern art of the Guggenheim, Pop Art. And the question that the Rauschenberg and Warhol came in, they questioned originality. They didn't even concern about being original.
Warhol said, I want to be a machine. Don Preston is a previous World War II generation. He was, geez, he was way older than Frank. They still were interested in that ego, original modernist thing, not post-modernist. You being, you are the later Ben being post-modern.
Bang. Yeah, big bang. Big bang. You being the later bang, of the big no, were more post-modernist, instinctively grew up later, were more passive in a sense, not worried about the ego in creating that 19th century thing. You guys just wanted to dance and be part of the party, so to speak. That's right.
So what happens is, some people say that the 80s band, they're just a machine compared to the eccentric individual personalities of the grandmothers and the previous mothers. But the point is that the 80s band, as I tell Dave Wally, was the greatest bloody music that was ever made. And you never heard it, Wally.
You stopped going to the conscience in 78. And you can only get a glimpse of it on the albums, the bootlegs and those things that are great, because they show you what went on every night. And that reminds you something, that nobody knew about this band. This was incredible.
If Frank was the greatest musician, what was it? We know that the culture establishment had to stop it, but I find it very interesting that they had to suppress Frank. They did not want anybody to know, and luckily Frank was able to still continue in the decentralized society. He found the tributaries to paddle down. And he could keep doing it. And those who were lucky saw it. Every time I saw him, I said, this is a bloody UFO going on here.
This is unbelievable, this band. And everybody, even Coltrane, Coleman and anybody, they paled. And you're downbeat slogs on, talking about the latest jazz guys coming up and all this political and musically correct stuff. And Frank, and you were part of that. That's the great experience.
And that's why you didn't care about what credit you got. You wanted to be on the boat. That's right, man. That's right.
That was the privilege. Okay, let's go back to the side. Not only that, I wanted to be fighting those lions. You know, it's part of a soldier. You wanted to help.
I felt like I was a soldier with Frank in a new kind of game. Post-music music. Post-music game, maybe. Yeah. And the thing is that it still amazes me that people think of Frank in a musical realm. That's right.
He's so far beyond even like spirituality. It's like this, this myth. Well, he was a true, he was what an artist does.
An artist is a scapegoat. He was an alchemist for Christ's sake. He was Christ. He was the second coming. He was the scapegoat martyr acting out what the culture needs.
The purgative function. The Elo Noe anima bandit. The purgative. He gave us the purgative.
Purge me, baby. I'm grooming you. Yeah, purgative.
Yeah. And what's the phrase? I'm pluking. A what? Did he go, I'm pluking you? I'm grooving you.
Oh, grooving you. I'm not pluking. I wouldn't want to quote Frank on that realm. Now, Bob Marshall did the greatest interview.
As soon as, it went three and a half hours and after Frank says, I want to copy that. I'm going to put out as an album. This interview surprised him in October 8th. I don't know if you read it, but the point is the first question Bob Marshall asks is, and it's the perfect question.
It's the question that needs to be asked. What is music? In other words, you went back to square one because you had to say, you had to realize that Frank may not be necessarily a musician. Absolutely. Right. I triggered up.
I'm very proud of that question. What is- To start an interview like that took balls, man. Yeah, like what are you, it's like, it's like I'm looking at an alien or I'm an alien just talking to a human going, what is this thing you humans do? Right, what is this laughter thing? Yeah, yeah. What's that all about? Why do you guys go like this? Yeah.
And Frank would love it because that was the sensibility he was as a puppeteer. That's brilliant, man. It's totally brilliant. Okay, so we're back into this. One, okay, at that point, you can see these things that live on the track the things that live on the track is Frank, the conductor giving these secret instructions to Tommy Mars in the band, telling it what to do, right? Which was the whole rehearsal process and the training and then the adaption within every night with the different audiences. One classification of these secret instructions is something called G numbers in the computer, which would be derived from plugging in a guitar.
In other words, that was the effect of a technical gizmo you would do, you know what I mean? Yes, right. Which is the metaphor, I think it was the metaphor of Frank taking new technologies to alter the program. Kind of like a boob job. Right, that means what, a boob? Oh, you mean silicon, you know, yeah. Yes, exactly. I forgot about the humans.
Oh yeah, those guys, yeah. Yeah. You mean tits? Oh, I remember Frank was mentioning about some- Dollars of silicon. Somebody said something about tits, some woman to her, and he goes, well, you grew those things. Right. That's an alien, you grew them.
The girl never thought she grew them. Yeah. I know, it was so reasonable, they go, well, you grew them, what are you complaining about? As if you had a choice, I'm not gonna grow them. So, okay, it's like a boob job. You're saying it's the mutating of it, a new technology, and he's studying one classification of the secret structure is something called G numbers.
That's a particular effect from a techno innovation. They have this guitar unit that you can plug in besides recording the note that you play. He's always talking about the other effect. Besides recording the note that you play, it records a bunch of data in the form of G numbers. So we found a way to convert bunches of G numbers into note blanks, and G numbers occupy points in time.
Note, Frank, is all about what time is it? That's his main question. They indicate that something happened, they indicate, we're trying to read what this subterranean thing is, they indicate, it's like, I went into Freeco culture, LA, 65, and I'm trying to see what's happening to the- No, this is intense. They indicate that something happened on the guitar string at a certain point in time. It takes a little piece of eternity and slices it up. Which is Frank Fox.
What is music, what is life? What is the big note? It's all one composition. It's describing himself. And he's saying this computer is doing what he thinks he's doing, right? But he's watching the computer do it. It takes a, just to continue, it takes a little piece of eternity and slices it up, and if your finger moved, there's a G number. You give your hand signal.
That says what your finger did besides just playing the note. Isn't that incredible? So we convert this dust, this is all dust stuff, you know what I mean? Into something that I could then edit for pitch, and the dust indicated a rhythm. So what I did was take the rhythm of the dust, of the nothing nothing, and impose a pitch data on the dust, and thereby move the inaudible G number into the world of audibility with a pitch name on it. That's how magnesium dress was built. Now, with that in mind, that's 19, he's doing that in the middle 80s? When, yeah, that's the middle 80s, yeah. Okay, now in this interview Bob Marshall did, Bob Marshall asked him, where I get the idea part, I'm asking about his idea part, I remember you did an interview in the LA Free Press in the summer of 69, and you mentioned Pauline Olivero, are you familiar with her work? No. Okay.
She's, what would you say Jerry? Avant garde experimental composer. Of the 60s, like on the John Cage? Still. In the John Cage zone, right? Still, yes. Okay, and Frank mentions this interview in the interview in the LA Free Press, summer of 69. After saying, the first guy opens up, says, your music is like Zap Comics, you know, Art Kromm? Yeah, he agreed, told him, Zap Comics.
But now he brings up this other point. Frank says, Frank mentions Pauline Olivero's work with sound where Pauline worked with above the audible and below, creating a mass in the middle. And Frank, and Bob Marshall's saying, and you like that idea, Frank, and you expand on this Pauline Olivero idea. And he goes, not that it created a mass, it created something audible. It produces some indifference tone, which happened to be located within the audible frequency range. By combining something so high you couldn't hear it, and something so low you couldn't hear it, so low you, and something so low you couldn't hear it, it yielded something in the middle that you could hear.
Right. Pre-reference back to this. 20 years later almost. Whether or not you like what you hear in the middle is another question. The concept is brilliant, Pauline Olivero.
Just psychoacoustically it's brilliant, absolutely. Yeah, and a note, Frank already has his own intuitions. When he saw her, that gave him a signpost to direct what he was already intuiting. So it was useful to him.
And so I go, yeah, because it showed you how physical reality is, or the way it is, right? And Frank goes, it's one aspect of it. And I go, are there other aspects you could talk about? If you buy the idea that the vibrational rates, think of lumpy gravy, those early vibrational themes. If you buy the idea that vibrational rates translate into matter, and then if you understand the concept of vibrational rates above perception and below perception, combining to create a reality, that opens up the door to some pretty science fiction matter possibilities.
Remember, you always want to do a science fiction in a broadway of music. Think of the central scrutinizer, the image. If you can create an audible reality by a sine wave above the range of what your ear can hear, and another one from below, and you put them together, and suddenly it creates something that your ear can detect, is it not possible that solid matter or an unknown origin could manifest periodically because of frequencies of some unknown nature above and below, which for short durations manifest solid objects? It could explain a lot of strange things that people see. And then I go, or Bob Marshall says, UFOs come to mind immediately. Yeah.
Yeah. Now, that's the concept he's always working on in all his work. So what triggers off in your memory of conversations from me, the approximating this? This is what we want to evidence him. Well, one thing that comes to mind immediately is, I remember discussing a particular tour with Frank.
Now what's the time? We need a time. The time frame is... 82? I think around the early 80s, 81 or 82, I'm not certain. But around that first. You're off the road.
We're off the road, we're rehearsing. Yeah. And Bennett comes in, or whoever was giving the data for the tour itinerary, speaking, could have been Bennett Glatzer, it could have been Larry Griffith, whatever. And Frank says, ah, we're doing a lot of theaters. And I says, oh cool, sounds so great. Like the Fox Theater in Atlanta, or the Palladium, or whatever, you know, I particularly love theaters.
But you're discussing a tour coming up, not one that happened. No, one that's coming up. And I'm saying, well, we'll have to do two shows, you know, type thing. And yeah, I mean, we'll talk. Frank says, you know, though, I like playing those bigger, meanest, tummy. Yeah, we only have to do one show, right? And he says, no man, I like to move a lot of air.
And I said, oh, your guitar. And he said, yeah, those low notes. The air that moves with those low notes, it's like, it's like, ooh, you know. And I didn't, I just got that from a mere ego place, you know what I mean? Because it is powerful when you, When you can do that. When you, when you, you can actually, Feel the audience, feel the audience responding, right? It's not even just the audience. The environment, the climate.
The whole climate. Your weather modification, man. It's like, it's like kind of like doing, doing a test rocket and then doing like the real thing. Yeah, yeah.
You know, and the versus, that versus the, I don't quite know what I'm trying to say, but it's like the mass that's involved in that is so fulfilling. And so it stretches you, you know, because you're not part of just this environment of this concert. That's a psychic effect, isn't it? It's physical. We're talking about the inaudible above and below. It's totally a psycho acoustic effect, man. That's why this evokes that.
Now let me throw it, throw some. Another thing that is very, very apropos to this conversation is Zappa as an orchestrator. Yeah. You mean live conducting? No.
I mean, I mean an orchestrator. An orchestrator is one who takes the written piece of a composer and not necessarily arranges it, but in essence, it is an arrangement of the instruments that will be used in this particular idiom. And Tommy gets back on his way. You don't want the guys.
Let me work him back up. Let me say that, let me say beyond anything, Frank was probably one of the most brilliant poets of an orchestra. And I say orchestra in loose, the general large terms. He had visions. He was a satellite conductor. He was a satellite conductor.
He was right. That's right, yeah. That's what you're trying to say. Frank was like NASA at .9. Have you heard the Music Maker's Document? Let me finish this thought if you will.
The way Frank uses instruments, like for instance, a contrabass instrument, like say for instance, a contrabassoon. Yeah. You have this swamp, Hades kind of like fiery stenchful gunk of a bassoon down there.
Yeah. Way down. I mean, he made it like that or that's a given? This is a given. The instrument's vocabulary is there. With a piccolo up here, you know, I mean up to the practically register. And this is, I mean, in terms of just traditional instruments I'm speaking, not just, not what this is talking about in the mass grand scheme of things. But within the music.
But within the musical confines, he would do that. Or with my Taurus bass pedals. When he found out that I had a set of Taurus bass pedals, he never heard of those before. And I was trying to get a set of B3 pedals, voltage controlled at Manny's. And I walked in one day, and this was still when I was in Connecticut, and they had a set of bass pedals. It was only an octave, but I said, holy shit, I don't even have to do any modification.
I'll just buy these. I had the first set in the world, actually. And they had just come in. And then when I joined the band, I already had my bass pedals. I had been using them for a couple of years. He loved that low fucking C on that instrument.
He would just, and I would be so like wanting to, oh, this is bringing up another topic here too, that I would, he said, just hold that C, man. Just hold it. It's like an instrument before basses could go down to C's, only synthesis could do that. And it's just like, I could have been a paraplegic doing it with my dick, just stomping that fucking note down. And in an arena, not outside in a stadium, that's just more people, but in an arena, in a sports box, in a sports box, the biggest place you could possibly be that's still confined. That feeling, man, is it's like something else.
You feel that. It's not something you know about or can have an expectation about. It's something that just happens.
Who knows what occurs when these kind of frequency juxtapositions happen. We know in acoustics, Bob, that when a note, when two notes are simultaneously played together, we have a result in a combination tone that occurs. When there, in mass extremities like that, the potential for any kind of physical manifestation of that can be exponentially increased because of the distances. And I think that Frank, in a traditional sense of orchestration, used that, but in a farther sense of an experiential, just challenging our version of nature, he was on the verge of something, man. He was totally on the verge of something.
When he would tell the guys from Ensemble Moderene to have these priceless French horns, rub those bastards against the floor, they'd do it. And who knows, quite frankly, he knew, he valued instruments. I remember times when I would burn holes in the keyboard and he'd notice it three years later and said.
Yeah, I'd find you. Yeah, but the fact is is that he was doing that for a reason. Sure, the sonic value was there, but there was something else, and it wasn't a sadistic thing. He was searching for this thing.
He had gone into the electroph, I'd say, you know, we have sound and then you have recorded sound. That's a new way of sound. So he worked in the interval between natural sound and recorded sound plus the effects of doing them together in the architectural 20th century environment. Therefore, he was molding. Now, I wanna show you this. You're supporting what my thesis is.
Frank was a satellite conductor. That was the unconscious and unconscious, and you can see it as a motif all the way through. What is the first thing he builds in Studio Z? A rocket ship.
And you started saying things that totally, I'd have to re-listen the tape. You started sparking off references point, you know, accidentally. You go, Frank was like building a rocket ship, but it's like, you're not in the rocket ship, but you go out there.
You said that only you get out there on the moon. Well, that, if you read his description in the little Ontario Daily Report, which we were reading, he interviewed about this movie called Just Captain Beefheart at that point, and he's got the satellite, the studio's a satellite, Billy Sweeney wants to create a rocket and get to the moon. He wants to d