Photo by Michael Mesker.
I understand there’s another record with your band in the works.
It’ll be coming out in the early part of 2010. It’ll be called Return of the Son of. The main thing about that record is that all the stuff that we currently have in the marketplace from Zappa Plays Zappa is from the 2006 tour. This record bridges the gap from 2006 up to our current state of the band, so it’s definitely representative of what we sound like and what we will be doing all year.

It has some of my most adventurous guitar playing on it, in my opinion. There’s one particular solo on the song “Zomby Woof” where I… when I was playing it… the process that I decided was to ignore what key I was in and I was only going to create contours and shapes. Frank talked about when he was really in the zone of playing he was making air sculptures and he was thinking about making shapes and contours. For one of the only times when I’ve been present enough to be in that moment and decided to go for it and have a completely out-of-body experience, I was lucky enough to actually get a recording of it. The solo itself is like nothing I’ve ever played before and I have no idea what it is. It’s like, literally, I knew the solo was in A, but I was certainly anywhere but in A. But it works. [Click to download an mp3 of the Zomby Woof solo.]

That sounds crazy, like the whole modal jazz thing but without the patterns.
Completely. That’s what’s cool about it and that’s what’s cool about this project in general, is that you can take those kinds of chances and the band can support it and make it work. When I hear it, I’m like, “Man, I have no idea how I played that.” And I can never do it again. It was definitely one of those crazy, crazy moments, and there are a lot of those kinds of things on this record. I’m very happy with this guitar playing. I think it’s very representative of all the work that I’ve put in, in terms of transforming my playing. If somebody had never heard me play, this record would be the best example of what I can do at this point.

I understand the Roxy DVD is closer to being finished.
Another big thing for next year is another DVD, our Roxy concert that we did 35 years to the date that Frank last played at the Roxy. We’re also working hard to complete Frank’s Roxy film, so hopefully both of those can get released by the end of 2010.

Will these be packaged together or separate?
Most likely, they’ll be separate. The thing that’s really cool about it is that it’s one of my favorite records anyway. We got Frank’s version transferred to high-def from the film master, and that’s an important step. That’s going to be a major focus of 2010.

Tell me about the educational project that you’re working on.
At some point I want to create some kind of situation where we can share what we’ve learned over the past five years. It was like training for the Olympics or bootcamp, ya know; it was powerhouse musician type stuff. So, one of the things I want to do in 2010 is create a couple of events so I can do some teaching and share some ideas and get a community of people who are interested in becoming better players and experiencing some different types of music you know, particularly Frank’s music. This event would be the kind of thing where people could learn how to play some stuff, you could test some gear and it would just be the kind of thing that people would want to get involved with. It’s something that I think would be fun, like a summer camp kind of thing. [mocking the movie trailer voice…] Prepare to learn some crazy shit! [laughs] I just turned 40, so in some ways this is how I can have a more life-enriching experience. Why not share knowledge? It’s a good thing.



Fender Eric Johnson Signature Strat, Gibson SG, Gibson ES-336


Sound Sculpture Switchblade GL, Axess Electronics FX1 w/ Expansion Unit EFFECTS: Two Fractal Audio Systems Axe-FX Ultra Preamp/Effects Processors, Freekish Blues Bety Bdbst prototype (Fuzz/ Clean Boost), Dirty Boy Afro Fuzz, Way Huge Pork Loin Overdrive, Way Huge Fat Sandwich Distortion, Butler Tube Driver (modded with bias adjustment), Dunlop Wah, 4 Boss RV-500L pedals (two expression, two volume)

Modified from a lighting board case

Bullet Coiled Cables, Zzyzx Snapjack Connectors and Pedalboard Cables

Ernie Ball Hybrid Slinky Nickel Wound .009-.046; Extra Slinky Nickel Wound .008-.038 (for Strat) PICK: Red Bear Trading Company “Classic,” Extra Heavy gauge, with a right-handed speed bevel and grips