Dweezil Zappa pays tribute to his dad in “50 Years of Frank.” (Courtesy Jeff Dean)

Facing family fray, Dweezil Zappa carries on tradition

The apple didn’t fall far from the family tree with guitarist Dweezil Zappa, who has not only carried on his late, legendary father Frank Zappa’s inventive techniques, but launched his own annual Dweezilla Boot Camp to teach them to earnest young students. He calls the three-day experience “total immersion,” where the only daily agenda is studying music and playing guitar. “The concept is learn to destroy,” he says. “You can learn all the rules and fundamentals, but it’s up to you to move past those and destroy those boundaries.” He hits The City this week on his “50 Years of Frank” tour, with a new song available on his website, “Dinosaur,” featuring an unearthed Frank solo, and benefiting his PledgeMusic campaign.

What lessons did your dad teach you?

Well, his integrity was very transparent. And I think the quality of his work ethic stood in stark contrast against the rest of the music industry. I mean, this is the guy that spent half a million dollars to record the London Symphony Orchestra playing his music. Just so he could hear it. That’s dedication.

Which makes it what you’re going through with your siblings and the Zappa Family Trust even more tragic.

The best scenario would be to have all four of us remaining family members working together for Frank Zappa’s musical legacy. But there were definitely some things that were instituted – or instigated – by my mother before she passed that set the stage for this to happen. For example, when I started playing Frank’s music as Zappa Plays Zappa, she secretly trademarked that name without me knowing.

But the trust saw it differently?

They say it can refer to any of us children. But none of them can play the music. And my mom had been taking 100 percent of my merchandise revenue, even though I had a contract with her saying I would get half. So when she passed, I brought that up to (brother and sister) Ahmet and Diva, who run the trust, and they said they didn’t care — they would continue to take 100%. So I changed the name to ‘Dweezil Zappa Plays the Music of Frank Zappa,’ but they sent me a cease and desist letter, saying I couldn’t use Frank’s name or his likeness.

And it got weirder?

Now they’re trying to file a federal trademark for the Zappa surname, which could possibly prevent me from using the name Zappa to identify myself. So I’ve got this PledgeMusic campaign called Dweezil Zappa and the Others of Intention, to help me raise money for the legal costs. Just to defend my right to my own name! It’s absurd.

IF YOU GO
Dweezil Zappa
Where: Warfield, 982 Market St., S.F.
When: 8:30 p.m. April 29
Tickets: $32.50 to $85
Contact: (415) 345-0900, www.axs.com

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