Steve Vai: What Was Frank Zappa Really Like

"Frank had demands, and one of those demands was professionalism."

Ultimate Guitar
Steve Vai: What Was Frank Zappa Really Like

Mr. Steve Vai - who started out as a member of Frank Zappa's band - was asked by Clarin whether Frank was really a "demanding boss" as some say, to which he replied (via Google Translate):

"No. Frank had demands, and one of those demands was professionalism, since you can't play his music if you're stoned, because of the degree of complexity he has.

"On the other hand, he knew how to get the best out of people. In my case, I would test myself with things that seemed impossible to play, but which he knew I could do.

"In other words, he could get things from me that were unimaginable if he had not thought of them.

"And that gave me confidence, because I was not going to ask for something that I could not do well.

Asked whether getting a Grammy for playing Zappa's "Peaches En Regalia" track off 1969's "Hot Rats' with Frank's son Dweezil "closed the circle" for him in a way, Vai replied:

"Absolutely. I always enjoyed playing the music of Frank, and Zappa Plays Zappa is something that goes beyond the tribute.

"That's why I felt very honored when Dweezil invited me to join the group.

"What amazes me about Zappa's music is that I always find something new. Zappa Plays Zappa is something very serious, since Frank's music is 100% respected, and he was very strict.

"So I'm surprised to find things I had not seen before, even more if I consider the number of times I played or transcribed his compositions."

30 comments sorted by best / new / date

    It's a good thing Frank didn't allow his band members to play stoned, because then John Frusciante would have never passed him over for the Chili Peppers.
    Yabba Who
    So you're happy he chose a life as a drug addict instead of being sober? Ok.
    How does that even make sense
    John Frusciante was going to try out for Frank Zappa's band, but decided against it when he realized he wouldn't be able to do drugs and chase girls - at least that's what John said.
    It's a kind of weird thought that Frusciante was actually around long enough ago to have joined Zappa's band. Have you heard of Mats Oberg and Morgan Agren? They played with Frank for a show or two in 1988 and Frank took Morgan to the States for some gigs. Mats and Morgan have a band together, but Morgan is much better known to metalheads as the drummer who played on Meshuggah guitarist Fredrik Thordendal's solo album, "Sol Niger Within".  Not saying I believe in this whole "six degrees of separation" thing, but man, so many awesome connections in music I never would have imagined.
    Morgan Agren also played drums in Casualties of Cool! If I remember correct, Devin thought it'd be funny to have someone vastly overqualified playing the subtle and subdued percussion for the band.
    Holy shit that's some interesting trivia, I didn't know that!
    I don't get Frank Zappa
    Well there are lots of places to start...Zappa heavy guitar w/ Vai, Zappa modern classical, Zappa prog rock, Zappa silly classic 70's rock etc...just check some out on youtube and see if anything floats your boat   
    I usually suggest starting with "Apostrophe" if you're into cheesy comedy rock, since it's an excellent starting point. "One Size Fits All" if you're more into prog. "Hot Rats" if you're into jazz or just hate singing in general. 
    "Apostrophe" is good for those who would like the classic-rock-comedy stuff but I think someone in 2017 is likely to not find it amusing.  I think "Them or Us" is an excellent starting point for guitarists who've never heard any FZ they like yet.  It has Vai all over it (which most UG members 'should' like) and a mix of serious instrumentals, sarcasm & proggy stuff which is pretty representative of much of FZ's work.  Personally, I started with Studio Tan and loved "The Adventures of Greggary Peccary" the 1st time I heard it but I doubt that would work for most other people  
    "Them or Us" is great!  I started with "Shiek Yerbouti" because it was the one my dad had around. Not his best album it you want a whole spread of topics and musical styles, but definitely his most "mainstream-recognized" album.
    I'd love Zappa I'd it was all like that first track with Vai on it. I bought his most recent compilation, and it's all jokey. I thought Zappa was supposed to be this virtuosos, not the first coming of Primus.
    Are you saying that Les Claypool isnt a virtuoso?
    He has great technique, and he'd probably be great if he ever played in an actual band. He has the same problem Yngwie does, he needs constraints and boundaries.
    FlyinVJs30RR story bro
    MurphySanders7 · Jul 05, 2017 09:30 AM
    Frusciante auditioned or was invited to play with Zappa, but declined due to Zappa's sobriety requirement.
    Best fz album in my opinion is zoot allures I can listen to that all day