Dweezil Zappa freaks out

April 28 | 7:30 p.m. | $43.11+
Harrah’s Lake Tahoe | Stateline, Nev.

Amidst a beguiling family feud to rival the likes in the movie “Grey Gardens,” Dweezil Zappa is set to bring his unique form of freak protest rock to the banks of Lake Tahoe. Following two letters of warning from his younger brother, Ahmet, who represents the Zappa Family Trust (ZFT), Dweezil decided to call this year’s outing, “50 Years of Frank: Dweezil Zappa Plays Whatever the F@%K He Wants: The Cease and Desist Tour.”

Posthumously, mother Gail cut her children from control of the trust after giving 30 percent shares each to younger siblings Ahmet and Diva and 20 percent shares each to Dweezil and his older sister, Moon Unit. As the lesser shareholders, Dweezil and Moon Unit are granted no access to trust funds and receive payment as beneficiaries only when the trust is making a profit, which has so far not been the case.

“It has different energy compared to some of the more complex music my dad wrote. There is nice balance to the material and feel of the show.”

–Dweezil Zappa

“It’s stuff that’s all really, as far as I can tell, created to be a nuisance,” Dweezil says of the legal actions. “But they are using the money of the family trust to do all this, spending it like it’s going out of style.”

Although the Trust’s cease and desist letters do not prevent Dweezil from playing his father’s music, they do bar him from selling anything associated with the name Frank Zappa and the trust has also filed for an exclusive trademark on the last name Zappa itself.

“If they were to be granted the rights in the way they’ve filed for them, they have the opportunity to block me from using my own last name,” says Dweezil. “But legally, they have no way of stopping me from playing the music.”

This tour is focused on celebrating the 50th anniversary of Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention’s avant-garde, satirical, psychedelic debut album, “Freak Out!,” which after Bob Dylan’s “Blonde on Blonde” was the second double-LP ever to be released.

“It’s been a fun tour because of the music we are playing,” says Dweezil. “It has different energy compared to some of the more complex music my dad wrote. There is nice balance to the material and feel of the show.”

Dweezil says he doesn’t know why his two younger siblings are choosing to create a rift at the expense of his father’s legacy, but hopes the family will find a way to cooperate.

Dweezil insists his mission is to carry on his father’s legacy for the benefit of both fans and kin.

“We’re gonna do what we can, but it’s so ridiculous because it’s ultimately just about playing music and allowing people to escape their normal everyday life for a couple hours, to give them the chance to experience the music live and be exposed to a larger amount of what Frank really stood for,” he says.

According to Dweezil, most people don’t understand the full scope and magnitude of his father’s art, which includes a catalog of more than 80 albums in genres ranging from rock and punk to opera and classical.

“This is a guy that could sit with a blank piece of paper on a flight from New York to Los Angeles, write an orchestral score and then hand it to some musicians when he got to New York where people could leap onto the page,” he says. “He had the ability to write for any instrument that way.”

As a self-taught musician, Frank never shied away from expressing himself and following his own muse to realms both beautiful and bizarre.

“He just liked the way it [musical notation] looked so he went to the library and learned it himself,” says Dweezil. “His music has no boundaries. In that sense, he was capable in every way. I guess you could call him an auteur. He was firing on every element.”

This year’s tour moniker echoes the anti-commercial satire his father mastered throughout his 30-year career with albums titles such as “We’re Only in It for the Money” and “Sheik Yerbouti.”

In a word, Dweezil believes his father’s legacy is all about integrity, something he learned early on that motivates him to continue his quest. In fact, when asked to state a religion on Dweezil’s birth certificate, Frank wrote “musician.”

“I think he was the kind of person who had strong beliefs in obviously the artistic sense, but politically and socially he was very much into simple communication and speaking the truth,” Dweezil says. “He did not hold back. He did not mince words. He would stand for whatever he believed. He made music that was wildly unpopular in many cases. Even in his fan base that loves his music there are records that people don’t like at all. There is a diversity in all of that, but the point is Frank made music he liked. If other people liked it, that was a bonus.”

For tickets, visit harrahstahoe.com.

Sean McAlindin
Sean McAlindin is a writer, musician and educator based in Truckee. When he's not drafting new story ideas, he can be found jamming with his Celtic bluegrass band, Lost Whiskey Engine, hiking for a local back-country powder stash or hanging out with his daughter, Penelope.