Devin Townsend: The Issue I Have With Frank Zappa

Some call him the modern Zappa, yet Devy's not really into Frank that much...

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Devin Townsend: The Issue I Have With Frank Zappa
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Despite being called the modern-day Frank Zappa by a portion of music fans, Devin Townsend said he's actually not into Frank that much.

The musician said on Talk Is Jericho: "I liked [Zappa], but I always felt he was... This is actually a hard thing to put across because Zappa fans are really serious...

"I would never in a million years deny his brilliance - a thousand more than I'll ever be. I just felt like he used his intellect in a sense that sounded condescending to me. It was more like, *snobby voice* 'I'm really smart and I've got a bunch of smart people playing with a xylophone here and you're really dumb.'"

Devy continued: "But you know who I did love? Captain Beefheart. Because it was a very similar kind of creative trip, but he was oblivious to the fact that he was out of his mind.

"And I loved that, because Captain Beefheart was like, *crazy voice* 'I'm gonna write a pop record' and it's like *mimics crazy trumpet sounds* woodoopdodoopdoopdoodoodoodooo, and people were like, 'Sure dude...'



"I liked that."

59 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Yabba Who
    Frank was condescending because everyone was condescending towards him. People treated him like some dirty, drugged-out hippie. "Serious" musicians dismissed him despite him being able to write circles around them. Nearly every major media interview conducted with him was done with a mocking tone. Record companies screwed with his art and his royalties. Police hassled him because of how he looked. He was attacked by numerous special interest groups who didn't understand the material they were attacking him for.  I'd be pretty damn condescending, too.
    nathandavis87
    Never knew that. I really need to check him out sometime.
    meinsane
    Check him out! Outrageously prolific. Hot Rats is one of my favorite albums
    Yabba Who
    If you've got Netflix, they recently added a great documentary about him called "Eat That Question". Highly recommended.
    BassFishin
    Understandable - but still he was a fucking prick to everyone, including people who really probably didn't deserve it.  That being said, I still love his music.  One of my favorite things to do when playing a video games is to pop on a couple versions of Billy the Mountain in a row - great way to pass the time!
    dennis.1960
    Seems Devon is saying that FZ could seem condescending in a music compositional context, but I don't see that as a problem.  If you want to write xylophone runs in 15 over 8 then why not?  Or as FZ once said, "Hey, it's the 20th century, whatever you want to do to have a good time get on with it so long as it doesn't cause a murder".  As far as FZ being condescending in other ways like lyrics, his main targets were mindless hippies, televangelist thieves, and crooked politicians so good for him.  I really wish he had lived to see the events of the 21st century, I'm certain his commentary on 9/11, Dubya, Obama, and Trump would have been very amusing.  My fave FZ political lyric was true when he wrote it and will probably always be the case: "If you think you got a raw deal and your back's against the wall...  well let me tell you people you got no kind of deal at all...   'Cause what they do down in Washington... They just look out for number one... And number one ain't you... You ain't even number two" I love Beefheart too and agree with others that while FZ was very calculating and intellectual about his music and image, Beefheart was just batshit crazy!  We're lucky to have had them both!
    allahrackbar
    Huge Zappa fan, but I don't disagree with Dev. Frank was kind of a dick. A brilliant dick.
    BassFishin
    He was.  And Devy still views him as such, he is still a major influence. I don't think there is anything wrong with learning from his musical approach, but not from his personality.  
    diablo9333
    A lot of brilliant people are, or were. For example, Noel Gallagher, who I love. Both personality-wise, because I don't mind his dick-ish nature, and musically. 
    curiousjoe
    While that is true to some extent, nobody was saying and doing what Frank was. He was one of the first big names to tell the music industry to screw off and do everything himself. He was a little condescending maybe because he had to be. He is my favorite artist, but I didn't always agree with what he had to say. Devin did a good job though, to separate the man from the art. 
    ben_hall_x2
    Maybe tonally, however, Watch out where the huskies go, and don't you eat that yellow snow.
    FCZke
    I agree that Zappa was condescending to people who deserved to be looked down upon. 
    Lord_Snow
    Zappa was a truly amazing musician, but he was not a very nice guy.
    BassFishin
    Nope.  Quite frankly (not a pun),  an asshole.  You can justify it with as much musical genius as you want, but he was a prick to many. This includes his wife, whom he cheated on frequently and didn't give two shits about doing so.  He had very little respect for most people in life.  But at least he was one hell of a fucking musician.  
    GoToSleep
    Like others have said Zappa could seem like a douche because that's mostly how he was treated. Aside from his fans he was treated like a dog. People think he's crazy, but what they don't understand is that he just had his own way of expressing his art. And if someone is going to be disrespectful and ignorant to the fact that he was an amazing musician then screw them, and that was his attitude.
    LeakyFlask
    I definitely get what he's saying. I also prefer Captain Beefheart for similar reasons. Massively talented, but seemingly completely batshit,and not being smug or academic about it. 
    sambargun
    Without listening to Frank Zappa, I thought he was the high priest of rock snobs. Then I listened to "Hot Fuzz" and realized that he had every right to criticize everyone.... I thought Devin Townsend was over-rated. Then I listened to "City" especially "Oh My Fu****g God" and thought Thank God.....  
    Pastafarian96
    Beefheart was batshit crazy And he was actually in some respects an even bigger asshole than Zappa. Take the 1975 tour they did together (exemplified on Bongo Fury), Frank actually got so sick of Vliet's shit (which was mostly things like refusing to stay in the same hotel as the rest of the band, and otherwise being a disagreeable knob IIRC)that he didn't speak to him until he was dying. And the reason they were touring was to try and bail Vliet out of bankruptcy a little. Not only this but Vliet was accused of torturing and subduing his early band members so they were loyal to him (which honestly I don't believe, but people say it), annoyed his first and second guitarists so much they quit (Doug Moon apparently pointed a loaded crossbow at Vliet and Ry Cooder quit during a warm up performance at a festival scheduled just before Monterey where the Magic Band was scheduled to play).
    Himynameisben95
    Zappa comes off as one of those people who would tell any religious person they came across that God didn't real and would announce they were voting for Donald Trump "ironically"
    RnFnR95
    "God didn't real" aaaand there goes the legitimacy of your comment
    Himynameisben95
    Educate yourself, "god doesn't real" has been a meme for years
    Iommianity
    Is it really educating yourself when you end up dumber for it? 
    selkayann
    Is knowing more memes really educating yourself, that is the question.
    sol_afro_within
    You're telling me this isn't the work of someone who has read and dissected the collective works of the great philosophers?
    d.sharpe1095
    The fact that you educate yourself with memes says more about you than anything else possibly could.
    JorshWarsh
    That's right, shit on people for believing in God and voting for Trump.  That'll show 'em.
    nathandavis87
    It never ceases to amaze me that the anti-religion crowd always acts so childish. Hey buddy! Believe what you want! It is your life. Just don't make us live it, too! No point trying to push your view because while you think religion is fake, religious people think the same of your view of existence. Who is right? Who gives a care? You be you,I will be me, and that guy over their can be himself. It is not like my belief hurts you so just accept it as my opinion. Why can't people understand that?
    Tonganation
    "Who is right? Who gives a care?" People that give a shit about whether their beliefs are true and think that believing true things is better for individuals and society? I personally care about whether my opinions stand up to scrutiny. Simply stating something is "your opinion" is a vain attempt to shut down an argument and proclaim your mind can't be changed. It leads to insular thinking, and there's entirely too much of that in the world right now.
    nathandavis87
    It is people like you that give us all the conflict in the world. You need to realize that after a while you just need to agree to disagree as long as no one is going to come to harm as a result. I am not saying you can't have your beliefs, I am saying you do not need to fight constantly over who is right. If it comes to name calling or violence then it is not worth it. Learn to discuss it intelligently and if that fails then you need to just walk away. There is no reason to fight a brick wall. You will only bloody yourself up.
    Tonganation
    I'm not fighting, I'm discussing. I agree you have to walk away from an argument with someone when it stops being productive, but the "I have my beliefs and you have yours" mentality means a discussion never gets off the ground to begin with. This is too often the position people take when they don't want to be challenged, because they'd rather think they're right than ever risk being shown to be wrong. If no one bothers to discuss important issues or topics and take criticism of their views we're guaranteed to get nowhere. And some beliefs do have harmful consequences when people act on them. That's the reason I argue certain things vehemently.  
    Anjohl
    Good thing noone will remember anything "heavy devy" did in 50 years, but Zappa is forever.
    Jiimmyyy
    "This is actually a hard thing to put across because Zappa fans are really serious... " Looks like he was right.
    crimson_guitars
    That's "Hevy Devy"! I'll be listening to Devin in 50 years when I'm 87 saying: "Frank who?"
    Anjohl
    Incorrect. $5,000 says you aren't listening to his shitty numetal "music" when you're 87. Serious wager.
    crimson_guitars
    Wow! Really?!? You must not know a lot about Devin's music I see. While you call him "shitty numeral", that couldn't be farther from the truth. His musicianship and skill, plus his constantly changing style will keep me interested and listening to him for as long as I have hearing left. Have you ever heard his side project Casualties of Cool. Very mellow. Great for the nursing home. 😁
    jasperado
    Fz and Devin are not alike at all, its a stupid comparison!  Devin doesn't even like guitar solos and frank had albums that were nothing but guitar solos.  they're both weird and prolific but that's where their similarities end.  I love FZ and have tried to get into devin but i like guitar solos and not a fan of epic symphonic metal but i did like his ghost album a lot, its great on mushrooms
    TombOfHorror
    There is a comparison to be made. A lineage almost. Steve Vai got his start in professional music with Zappa, and Devin Townsend got his start with Vai. 
    jasperado
    sure and with that you could also say moon unit is similar because she came out of franks nut sack, but musically nothing alike.  that is interesting but i still keep my stance that their music is apples and oranges.  steve vai though i would say is much more similar to franks music compositionally than skullet boy
    crimson_guitars
    Devin doesn't solo??? I guess you aren't listening to enough Devin. 😁
    jasperado
    i said he doesn't like solos, he thinks they're stupid, he said so himself in some video i saw of him talking about his music.  he totally jokes about his solo on that EMG video he did also.  I think he is less concerned with improvising and more about the structure of the songs?
    Bassist4Him
    Funny, I see most people who are raving fans of Devin as condescending music snobs also.
    crystalexpectations
    I really couldn't care less about Devin's problems with Zappa, or Zappa or Beefheart bad behavior. It seems totally beside the point to the music they made. Can we focus on the music, please?
    Second Rate
    I find Devin's music monotonous and his fans more than a little pseudo-intellectual and cult-like. I was a casual fan of some of the SYL stuff back in my teens, but let's face it, the as heavy, loud, and obnoxious as possible shtick was a horse that was emaciated by the self-titled album's release, and had been flogged to death by "Alien." The material he releases under his own name, the pseudo-ambient wall of noise with plodding drums, is a shtick that has similarly worn thin. 
    troutman
    I think that the important thing to take away from all this is that Beefheart's drummer is clearly keeping his hair back with a pair of panties.
    BledGhostWhite
    Devin may be right, but I feel like that was part of Zappa's whole message. It WAS condescending, but it was (often) a commentary on the "American dream" mentality. Vliet > Zappa any day though
    Voodoochile711
    Zappa was always a bit of a tool, but I feel like Devin is projecting that onto Zappa's music. Just because he wrote some complex stuff doesn't mean he was doing it  to tell other people he was better than them.