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‘I’m finishing what he started’: Ahmet Zappa on bringing Frank’s vision to life

Ahmet Zappa, son of Frank and co-trustee of the Zappa Family Trust (ZFT), has said the upcoming Bizarre World of Frank Zappa tour is a fulfilment of his “visionary” father’s dream to appear on stage as a hologram.

“If Frank was alive, he’d have been really into this technology, and I think he’d have used it himself,” says Zappa Jnr, speaking to IQ ahead of his appearance at ILMC alongside Jeff Pezzuti, CEO of Eyellusion, the production company behind the Frank Zappa hologram.

“The conversation started way before I met Jeff and we started working in earnest to do a show, when I was a young kid: Frank was a futurologist, and he would talk about having a hologram that could play shows around the world while he was at home working – a kind of world tour in a day…”

The Bizarre World of Frank Zappa – which promises guest appearances by long-time Zappa collaborators, as well as unseen footage and “circumstances, objects, places and subject matter” from the late singer’s music brought to life on stage – kicks off in the US on 19 April, at the 1,800-capacity Capitol Theater in Port Chester, New York, playing shows along the eastern seaboard before heading to Europe in May. The first European date is at the Playhouse (3,059-cap.) in Edinburgh, with shows in London, Manchester, Ostend and Amsterdam also planned.

Fans caught their first glimpse of the hologram, which follows Eyellusion’s recreation of metal icon Ronnie James Dio, last month, when ZFT released a video showing ‘Frank’ decrying the censorship (to remove a penguin’s buttocks, no less) of the tour artwork:

“The video we put out,” says Zappa, also EVP of business development for Eyellusion, is “really crazy. There’s no other way to describe it – I’m looking at my dad.”

On the choice to model the hologram on Apostrophe-era Frank Zappa, Pezzuti says Eyellusion’s philosophy is to recreate deceased performers based on how they are remembered by most fans. “We try to honour that – what we imagine to be the legacy, and how people immortalise them in their minds,” he explains.

With the show’s production, Zappa continues, “I don’t want to say we’re reinventing the wheel – but we kind of are. The live experience has been the same for a long time, and the fact we’re adding an artist who’s not physically present changes the dynamic. What’s cool about this is coming up with creative solutions to keep the audience engaged for a 90-minute show.”

“We’ve put so much love and energy into this”

“With Zappa we’re making it funny, with Dio it was very metal, and Glenn Gould will be very different again,” adds Pezzuti. (Dates for Eyellusion’s Glenn Gould tour will be announced later this year.)

Visuals are based on Frank’s lyrical content – the infamous bare-bottomed penguin is a nod to ‘Penguin in Bondage’, from Roxy & Elsewhere – as well as Zappa’s own memories of his father, he explains: “We’re visualising elements of the songs, and a lot of the conversations I’ve had with father have influenced how this show looks… it’s drawing on [Frank Zappa] touchpoints throughout history.”

“We’ve put so much love and energy into this,” says Zappa. “My father was an early adopter – of state-of-the-art recording equipment, digital, all kinds of technology” (“Machines don’t get loaded, drunk or evicted,” as Frank noted in 1989’s the Real Frank Zappa Book) – “and I feel, as his son, I’m completing something he started and didn’t get a chance to finish. That was a big part of my motivation here.”

He adds: “When you have this content we’ve made with his vocals, his guitars, his live band… Frank has passed, but this is the closest anyone’s ever going to get to see a Frank Zappa show.”

 


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Zappa hologram tour adds Steve Vai, Joe Travers and more

A who’s who of Zappa collaborators will support the upcoming Bizarre World of Frank Zappa tour, producer Eyellusion has announced, as more details emerge about the company’s second major hologram tour.

Longtime Zappa players Ray White, Mike Keneally, Scott Thunes, Robert Martin and Joe ‘Vaultmeister’ Travers are set to perform as the show’s touring line-up, with guests including Steve Vai, Warren Cuccurullo, Ian Underwood, Vinnie Colaiuta, Napoleon Murphy Brock, Arthur Barrow and Ed Mann set to join along the way. The Bizarre World follows Eyellusion’s successful Dio Returns tour tour, which features a hologram of the late Ronnie James Dio.

The tour line-up was announced at Pollstar Live! yesterday, with LA-based Eyellusion and the Zappa Family Trust also revealing the show will be based on hours of never-before-seen Frank Zappa footage filmed in his rehearsal studio in 1974.

“As a futurist, and hologram enthusiast, Frank fearlessly broke through boundary after boundary as an artist, and in honouring his indomitable spirit we’re about to do it again, 25 years after his passing,” comments Ahmet Zappa, Frank’s son and EVP of business development for Eyellusion. “This mind-melting show we’re putting together celebrates the music, often surreal imagery and humour synonymous with Frank. We will be pushing the limits of what anyone has seen holographically on stage before in a live venue.

“Circumstances, objects, places and subject matter from Frank’s songs and imagination will be brought to life for the first time on stage. We are anthropomorphising Frank’s music, so his own hand-drawn illustrations, classic imagery from his album artwork and characters from his songs can all interact and perform on stage. And let’s not forget, Frank himself will be rocking his fans, alongside his bandmates like nobody’s business.

“We will be pushing the limits of what anyone has seen holographically on stage before in a live venue”

“My father and I actively discussed 3D and holography, and it was a concept he actively engaged in. He actually devoted half a chapter of his The Real Frank Zappa Book to this subject. This is a love letter and a journey celebrating the genius artistry of Frank Zappa. On a personal note, I feel like I am finishing something my father started years ago.”

“When we debuted rock’s first live hologram experience in 2016 and saw the reactions of mesmerised fans in the crowd, we knew we tapped into something huge,” adds Jeff Pezzuti, CEO of Eyellusion. “We’ve been working tirelessly since then to create live music experiences that people could previously only dream of, drawing full capacity crowds along the way. Until now, it would have been unheard of for fans to imagine being treated to a lost Frank Zappa performance backed by more than a dozen of the iconic musicians that played with him throughout his career.

“But this is why Eyellusion was founded: to make the impossible come to life before the eyes of fans, and preserving the legacy of music’s most important artists so it can be passed down to future generations.”

Dates and venues for The Bizarre World of Frank Zappa shows will be announced in the coming months. A promo image for the tour is below:

The Bizarre World of Frank Zappa hologram tour poster

 


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“It’s not easy to be the first”: European success for reborn Dio

Eyellusion CEO Jeff Pezzuti has spoken of the “unforgettable experience” of taking its Ronnie James Dio hologram on the road, as the company wraps up a successful  first leg of its Dio Returns tour.

Dio Returns: The World Tourannounced last summer, kicked off in November and wrapped up at Trix (1,100-cap.) in Antwerp just before Christmas. The tour – produced in partnership with local promoters – is expected to visit the US this spring and play festivals globally through the summer.

The hologram, which is backed up by the late Dio’s former band, Dio Disciples, made its debut at Wacken Open Air in August 2016.

“Last month, we had the privilege of reuniting the late Ronnie James Dio’s fans in celebration of the timeless music he left behind,” says Pezzuti. “The incredible Dio band and our Ronnie James Dio hologram played seven countries and ten dates in 18 days. As the Dio Returns shows went on and word spread about this special experience, the crowds kept growing. By the final dates of the tour, thousands were coming out for an unforgettable experience.

“It’s not easy to be the first to do something in an industry that doesn’t change all that often. But we’re fans first”

“It’s not easy to be the first to do something in an industry that doesn’t change all that often. But we’re fans first. We had a vision that the music that has helped form the foundation of rock and roll should be passed down for generations and generations to enjoy. In the current business climate, that means live tours. After all, there’s nothing quite like leaving everything behind for just a night to join fellow fans for an unforgettable experience. It’s about the sound, the lights, the memories – just getting lost in the moment.

“A huge thank you to the extended Dio Family for their unflinching support as we set out together to make history. None of this would have been possible without Wendy Dio, the band, the crew and everyone else who believed in us. With a successful tour leg under our belt, we head to Pollstar Live! next month to meet again with the industry and start plotting the rest of the dates that will feature even more songs and a bigger stage show. Yes, we’re truly just getting started!”

In addition to Wendy Dio, Ronnie’s widow, LA-based Eyellusion is backed by veteran artist manager Todd Singerman and drummer Kenny Aronoff (John Cougar Mellencamp, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Meat Loaf, Smashing Pumpkins).

It recently secured to rights to produce a hologram of Frank Zappa, with dates for the Back on the Road tour due to be announced soon.

 


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