A Conversation With Mark G. Pinske

On January, 2003, an interview with Mark G. "Markman" Pinske, who worked as all-time sound engineer for FZ from December 1979 to 1986, was published on the Online Extras section of Mix, the magazine of "Professional Audio and Music Production." The interview was conducted by Chris Michie and it's available here: http://mixonline.com/ar/audio_complete_mark_pinski/index.htm

It was a great long interview with so much information and it prompted me to get in contact with Mr. Pinske to ask him still more questions in order to put in context some of the stuff he talked about in that interview. He was kind enough to answer and share some of his memories with us, and what comes next is the result of our conversation via e-mail, which took place between January and March, 2003.

Vinnie Colaiuta & Sinclair Lott

You did your audition on December, 1979, and you said FZ was just finishing the UMRK studio and preparing a tour. In late 1979 and/or early 1980 the rehearsing band was: FZ—guitar, vocals; Ike Willis—guitar, vocals; Ray White—guitar, vocals; Tommy Mars—keyboards; Arthur Barrow—bass; and Vinnie Colaiuta—drums. All of them were in the previous band from early 1979, except for Ray White, which had been in the band still earlier anyway. Then Vinnie Colaiuta quit around February before the tour began and supposedly was replaced by Sinclair Lott first and then by David Logeman. Do you remember it that way? Were there any other drummer rehearsing with the band those early days of 1980?

I Remember Dave Logeman doing one US tour and one Europe stretch with us, but that was all. He was hired to do the You Are What You Is record. If I remember correctly. Who is Sinclair Lott?? I never met him. Never even heard of him. If he was ever in the band if would have had to have been less than one day.

I didn't know that Vinnie had quit the first time (before I arrived) I thought that he and Frank had a falling out. When Vinnie quit later it was with Jeff Berlin at rehearsals over a money issue and that was when we brought Chad Wackerman into the group. (I think Frank said we tried out 31 drummers or something like that.) It sure seemed like that many. I couldn't tell you most of there names if my life depended on it.

As far as I know, Vinnie Colaiuta decided that he would earn more money doing studio work than going out on a tour, and he left early in the rehearsals. Then Sinclair Lott filled in but I think he was there for less than a week, before David Logeman were hired. There was enough time to take a picture of him with the band anyway: http://www.united-mutations.com/l/sinclair_lott.htm. Vinnie would return later to the band after the European tour, and that was the band with Bob Harris and Steve Vai.

I remember him now once I saw the picture. I don't think he was a part of the normal auditions. I think he was brought in by one of the band members (Artie I think) and had some problems with going out on tour too long or something like that. Frank always said it was a girl. "It's always a girl," that's one of Frank's famous quotes other than Vinnie "where is the one" Colaiuta. Then there is always the "money."

The Rehearsal Place

Do you know where those first rehearsals took place? You talked about the Zoetrope Studios where you did part of your audition, that was the rented rehearsal place for the band, right? They used that same facility to rehearse every tour up to the 1988 tour, is that right? I suppose Zoetrope Studios is the same facility as Hollywood Central Studios, at 1040 N Las Palmas Ave, am I right?

The rehearsals for that tour took place I think at Hollywood studios, but Frank rehearsed the band many times for most tours at Joe's Garage because that was free. We only went into the sound studios right before the tours when we were at the point of doing full dress rehearsals and wanted to set-up the full lights and sound systems. (That way we could emulate the whole show) Frank would usually buy a lighting system from LSD lighting and then hire three guys to do the tour and sell the system back to them after the tour. This was a lot cheaper than renting one for a whole tour.

And then as far as I know, Joe's Garage is a completely different place. But did the band rehearse there too? Or did you use different places to rehearse, to audition and to set up the live equipment? I can't seem to find proper information about those two facilities and their functions. I've got Joe's Garage address as 11848 Vose St, North Hollywood 91605, and I suppose it was there all the time, ain't that right?

Yes, it was there all the time. Still is.

Joe's Garage and the Drafted single

You said you were not involved in the Joe's Garage albums (in fact, Act I was released in September, and Acts II & III in November, 1979), but you said you worked with one of the tracks from the album. Was it for a different unreleased project?

Frank was cutting and pasting cuts from all over the place during that time and I had worked on a number of edits, etc. It wasn't something that was worth printing my credit over.

The only two tracks (apart from a guitar solo) from Joe's Garage which have been released in some other album are "Catholic Girls" in Have I Offended Someone? (April, 1997), and "Watermelon In Easter Hay" in FZ Plays FZ (October, 1996), but I think it was Spence Chrislu who was involved in the remix of those two albums. Or was it some guitar track that was used elsewhere?

One of the tracks we did was something left over that had a missing kick drum. Most of the guitar albums were done with recordings that I didn't do. Except the one called Guitar later. I did that one. I find it just easier to say that they weren't my albums even though I was working out to help. Because I'm not credited on them it makes sense. It's not a big deal. (I got plenty of them later).

There are two tracks from the Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar box, "While You Were Out" and "Stucco Homes," both part of the same recording session, which are listed as "Engineer: Steve Nye; Facility: UMRK" and "Recording Date Unknown." The tracks involve FZ & Warren Cuccurullo jamming in the studio over a drum track previously recorded by Vinnie Colaiuta for the Joe's Garage album and craftily edited by FZ. Probably they were recorded prior to your time with FZ, but anyway, do you know something about those sessions and when those two tracks would possibly have been recorded? Did you get to meet Steve Nye?

No, I never got to meet Steve Nye and I can't tell you a whole lot about most sessions before my time except for the stories that Frank told me. I did meet Joe C. and Davie Moire and got to be friends with Davie later. (I think Kerry McNab left some of the best reels behind) I always wanted to meet him.

While Vinnie was still in the above mentioned band in late 1979 or early 1980 they went to Ocean Way Recorders to cut the single "I Don't Wanna Get Drafted" with Terry and Dale Bozzio as guests. Were you involved in that session? Do you remember if they recorded anything else that day? The single went out in May 1980, and Vinnie quit earlier, so do you know the date of the session? If you were not involved, do you know who was the recording engineer of that?

I'm pretty sure that session happened before I was hired (12/1979). I did work with Alan Sides later on a number of projects. I didn't get to work with Terry until later as well, and then with Missing Persons I developed pickup's for his roto tom drum kit. (Terry would come up to the studio from time to time as would all of the musicians that played with Frank.) There was many tracks laid down that way when they would stop by to see what Frank & I were working on.

The Summer 1980 Tour

The Summer 1980 Tour began in March 1980 in the US and then it went to Europe in May 1980 and ended in July in Germany. As you said, this was your first European tour. The band at the time was: FZ—guitar, vocals; Ike Willis—guitar, vocals; Ray White—guitar, vocals; Tommy Mars—keyboards; Arthur Barrow—bass; and David Logeman—drums. Not a great amount of material from that tour has appeared in the official FZ discography. These are the songs, albums, dates and info we have: April 29, 1980, Tower Theater, Upper Darby, PA: "If Only She Woulda" from You Are What You Is (basic track; later overdubbed at UMRK) and "Easy Meat" from Tinsel Town Rebellion (1st part; later overdubbed at UMRK). May 5, 1980, Mudd Club, NYC, "Love Of My Life" from You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. 4, Facility: Nagra 2-track "near the cash register behind the bar." Recording engineer: Klaus Wiedemann.

Yes, that was a feed from this little mixer that I was using in the club and a couple of mics that we hung in front of this tiny stage. The whole mixer was behind the bar next to the cash register. Klaus & I were right next to each other and the place was real crowded.

July 3, 1980, Olympiahalle, Munich, Germany, "You Didn't Try To Call Me" from You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. 1. Facility: PCM 1600 2-track digital. Recording engineer: Mick Glossop.

That was a separate console that Mick & I setup in a room upstairs (Midas console) and we ran a snake with some feeds both direct split and sub mixes from my house console. I think the machine we rented for that show was a 1580, I don't remember for sure, but later came the 1600, the 1610 and we bought a 1630 which had better converters in it.

Any comments or details about these recordings? The Munich one is supposed to be one of the first live digital recordings, ain't that right?

Yes, that was the first digital recording Frank ever did. He did not like the sound quality on it and it almost kept us from going with digital later. Frank said that it was like getting 8 k darts in the middle of your forehead. And that it really hurt your ears.

There are probably more live recordings from this tour used as basic tracks for the You Are What You Is album, but we don't have them identified. I know it's hard to tell, but anyway, do you know any?

It depends on if your talking about the europe leg or USA. We used a 24 track when we got back to the states and most of the recordings we did overseas were on a SoundCraft 1 inch 8 track. Frank would pull anything at anytime from anywhere so there was no chronological order to this stuff. (He would drive me nuts, because I was suppose to make everything sound consistent on an album from all of these different sources.)

You Are What You Is Sessions

Then when you returned to the US you went to the UMRK studio to record some new material with the band. This material ended as part of the You Are What You Is album, which was released in September, 1981, but not before something happened along the way.

Most of You Are What You Is was our first "Studio album."

Now it's when this stuff gets interesting (at least for me). In October 19, 1980, FZ played in the KPFT radio station his brand new album (the last one had been Joe's Garage Acts II & III), soon to be released, which he had titled Crush All Boxes, and which was a single album with this songlist: Side One, 1. "Doreen," 2. "Fine Girl," 3. "Easy Meat," 4. "Goblin Girl," Side Two, 1. "Society Pages," 2. "I'm A Beautiful Guy," 3. "Beauty Knows No Pain," 4. "Charlie's Enormous Mouth," 5. "Any Downers?" 6. "Conehead." As you can see the first side is part of side one of You Are What You Is with the first two tracks from which became Tinsel Town Rebellion and the second side is side two of You Are What You Is. Legend is that once FZ played it on the radio the album was instantly bootlegged before he even had the opportunity of releasing it. Then he changed his mind and began working in a completely different album from live recordings, Tinsel Town Rebellion (of which we'll talk later). By the way, Calvin Schenkel has unveiled the fact that the cover for Tinsel Town Rebellion was indeed prepared originally for the aborted Crush All Boxes project, and that you can even see the words CRUSH ALL BOXES under the TINSEL TOWN REBELLION handwritten title.

You're right, I think that was written on the lacquers that were cut, but they were not all the same mixes that were released later. Frank changed the name after we did more work on it and wanted to save the Crush All Boxes title. (I think part of it had to do with the album cover concept).

Crush All Boxes

In the interview you talk about an unreleased double album called Crush All Boxes which turned into part of the single album Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch (released in May 1982), but then I think you're talking about a completely different project that has been labeled Chalk Pie, a double album taken mainly from recordings from the 1981 tour, that would have included a performance by Al DiMeola. We'll talk about that later, but as far as I know parts of that unreleased project have been released in a lot of different albums (from Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch to Guitar).

Crush All Boxes was a title that we had used a couple of times and was an album that we changed also a couple of times. The actual "Final" finished Crush All Boxes was mixed by me and Frank and we did the master tape on the Ampex 102 1/2 inch machine with Telefunken "C4-D" noise reduction. It actually had a "Truck Driver Divorce" mix on it that I did featuring the "Figet" Emu keyboard setup that was awesome and it had a "C Instruments" mix on it as well. It was never released or played on any radio show.

The Crush All Boxes that was played on the radio was an early collection of songs that we were working on at the time for Tinsel Town Rebellion & some of You Are What You Is. This was way before the actual final Crush All Boxes that we did later. Frank was trying to save the name for another double album. Which is what we finally did. Frank was not settled on some of the performances and we ended up doing studio over-dubs on a number of the vocal tracks and mixing most of those songs again after they were re-done. Not everything was re-done, but as you know Frank liked to edit one song right into another (usually right on the down beat) so we mixed and match final mixes until it played right for both of those albums. We would have as many as 5 or 6 different mixes of each song many times and sometimes the mixes would include a different vocal or guitar solo, etc., with edits from other cites. Frank liked to play with takes until he felt he had the best ones from certain tours, etc.

When we finally got the real Crush All Boxes done, Bennett Glotzer (Frank's manager) said the record company did not want a "double album" and that they only wanted a single album. So we put the final mix tape in the vault and started on the "Drowning Witch" album.

None of the actual finished takes from the (what I call real) Crush All Boxes album were ever put on any record while I was still working with Frank. (At least not until after 1986). Marqueson said to me much later that they never found the real master in the vault. It was just in two white boxes with my hand writing down one side that said "Crush All Boxes" and on the top of the cover I had written "C4-D". We later started doing everything digital and/or without and noise reduction so even the machines were no longer in the studio to transfer that set of master tapes.

None of the double Crush All Boxes album was used on Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch. Nor was it the Chalk Pie project. They were all different recordings that to the best of my knowledge are still to this day not released.

Who played in the "C Instruments" version you mentioned was included in the Crush All Boxes unreleased album? There was some discussion about the piece and David Ocker said it was a guitar solo transcribed by Steve Vai which he transcribed for other instruments (including him) and Art Jarvinen said it later came to be part of the unreleased "Sinister Footwear, 1st Movement."
As the original Crush All Boxes album (the one played by FZ on the radio in October 1980) was bootlegged right away some tapes of it are circulating and the first thing that surprises the listener is that the songs are played at a slower speed than the same songs in You Are What You Is.

I still do not like history calling that record Crush All Boxes because Frank never did release it with that name. We could not help the fact that a bootleg was named that. Frank himself never released Crush All Boxes like I said before he was saving that name for a "more complete" album, I think that was the way he put it anyway. And, dead or alive I still honor Frank's wishes.

As they are exactly the same versions it seems that the master for that songs in You Are What You Is was a little sped up (0.70 semitones up, approximately). Any memories about all these stuff?

We did do some speed adjustments for the "You Are What You Is" video that we did at the soundstage. But that was to match a more commercial length. As for the bootleg, the tape (or whoever made it) was probably not playing at the right speed. I never heard it so I couldn't tell you. I can tell you that Frank was real picky about what key the songs were in and that the tapes would all be exactly at the right pitch. So because of that, when we took edits from the end of a 14 inch reel or from the front of a 14" reel the speed might be a little different. Because of this it was not un-common for me to "VSO" the tape machines up or down XXX amount of semitones to match the tune to what Frank wanted.

Now let me be a little creative here: My own theory is that in the summer of 1980 you were working in two different albums, Crush All Boxes, with the songs listed above, and something that I would name "Original" You Are What You Is, which would be the second disc of the actual You Are What You Is, but that leave out the two songs that opened the album, i.e., "Teen-age Wind" and "Harder Than Your Husband." Well, they would have made a great single anyway!

Well you're right, you're being creative. What you're saying above was not at all out of the ordinary around Frank, but like I said before we would have many mixes from many different cities even of the same song and there were probably more mixes of songs that never made it on any album's than there were that did.

I don't understand the need to try to explain exactly which performance landed on which record because when it all boils down to it most of the live edited songs came from a multitude of different performances and the only thing that most of them had in common is that I recorded all of the multitracks that Frank razor blade edited together and I do know that he was amazed that the edits would work. He told me he had never has live recordings that were that good ever before I came along. This was all ok for the ego, except that it also meant that every musician was playing the same tempo and that every member of the crew did an incredible job of keeping the guitars, drums, etc., in perfect tune. That is why I choose to look at all of these recordings as an amazing combination of talent both on stage and behind the scenes that all came together to make them possible.

Bob Harris & Steve Vai & Over-dubs

As I got it, that summer in the studio was the time when Bob Harris entered the scene, and then around the same time Steve Vai (or maybe later) did his audition playing along a FZ solo recorded originally in Halloween, 1978, and called "Persona Non Grata," which Steve had transcribed before. Now, that recording of FZ & Steve Vai ended up on the You Are What You Is album as the basis of "Theme From The 3rd Movement Of Sinister Footwear," with David Ocker and Ed Mann overdubbing the melody line too.

That is right, that was Steve's audition. When I recorded him on that though, he was not hearing Frank's Guitar and was playing from memory.

Bob Harris (who I used to play with in Helix) came in and sang on the Tinsel Town Rebellion album which was the first thing out of the studio. His audition was "Fine Girl" the high falsetto ad libs through the song. Frank nicknamed him "Sky King".

I don't think I hear Ed Mann playing anywhere else in the album, and I'm not sure who plays the written guitar parts in songs like "I'm A Beautiful Guy" (I think it sounds like FZ himself) so did Steve Vai, Ed Mann and David Ocker overdub their stuff when the rest of the tracks was almost complete?

Well, if you want the details, Steve sat right next to me (on my left side) at the console with a Stratocaster and we overdubbed him at different points through out the whole album. (That was Steve on "Beautiful Guy.") We set up the "Blue Box for Bimbos" right in the control room and Frank and Steve tweezed sounds right there and Frank made up parts for Steve to play. We had a set of the Carvin/Marshall tops with a pair of Marshall speaker cabinets set up out in the studio that I miced up with a pair of AKG 414's and two D112's. We laid some parts on some songs that were not even used in the mixes. Frank liked to have more rather than less as I'm sure you already know.

As the album was finally released a year after the original sessions, probably there's a lot of overdubbage made later in 1981 anyway. Probably Ed Mann and Ocker recorded their parts early in 1981 while they were preparing the Holland Festival stuff (more of that later).

David over-dubbed on his own session. Ed we dubbed in on many different sessions. I think Ed held the over-all record not just on this album, but on many others as having the most overdubs of any musician.

Do you remember if Steve Vai played so much guitar on the You Are What You Is sessions, or was FZ who played most of the written lines on that one (I mean not the guitar solos, but the short melody lines as those from "I'm A Beautiful Guy" or "Beauty Knows No Pain")?

That was all Steve with Franks coaching.

Do you remember the sessions with Jimmy Carl Black, Denny Walley and Motorhead Sherwood? As far as I know JCB sung "Harder Than Your Husband" and did some voices here and there, Walley played slide guitar on a bunch of songs, and probably sung part of "Jumbo Go Away," but apart from a short sax madness on "Mudd Club," I can't tell where is Motorhead.

Motorhead came in from a plastering job that he was working on with plaster all over his pants. He said that he had not played his sax in over 3 years and when he took it out of the case he blew a few notes and noticed that he had a couple of broken valves. Then he said that it was ok and he would just play around them. He then whipped out this great little solo and that was about it. I used to keep a log of all of the over-dubs because I had to be responsible for who got paid for what. Somewhere I have some of the log sheets, but most of them stayed with the studio. Anyway it was all written down on the track sheets as well.

The 1980 Fall Tour

After the original recording sessions, Vinnie Colaiuta came back and Logeman was replaced, so a new band was created for the October-December, 1980, US Tour: FZ—guitar, vocals; Ike Willis—guitar, vocals; Ray White—guitar, vocals; Steve Vai—guitar; Tommy Mars—keyboards; Bob Harris—keyboards, trumpet, vocals; Arthur Barrow—bass; and Vinnie Colaiuta—drums. There are more recordings from this tour than from the former (if you want a complete list of songs and albums, I can send it to you). The recording facility is named on the album credits either as "UMRK Remote," "UMRK Portable Studio" or "24-analog in the dressing room." There are some recordings from these venues: October 16, 1980, Armadillo World Headquarters, Austin, Texas; October 17, 1980, Convention Center, Dallas, Texas; October 18, 1980, Brady Theater, Tulsa, Oklahoma; October 30, 1980, The Palladium, NYC; November 15, 1980, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois; November 16, 1980, Dane County Coliseum, Madison, Wisconsin; and December 3, 1980, Terrace Ballroom, Salt Lake City, Utah. I suppose those were recorded by George Douglas, but were they really 24-analog? I thought I read in the interview that you were recording those days with an 8-track machine. Any other recording engineer?

Klaus was helping early in 1980, but George did the rest of that and we had cased up the 24 track machine, because Frank was not real happy with the 8 tracks form Europe, etc., and we were trying to improve the live recordings all of the time. Some of them came out OK. It wasn't until we built the recording truck and I stopped mixing the house that we got the real good stuff because the truck allowed us to have more control over everything.

Then there's December 5, 1980, Berkeley Community Theater, Berkeley, California, which is where most of the Tinsel Town Rebellion album comes from, and which usually appears as recorded by Tommy Fly. Was it 24-track analog?

Yes, Tommy Fly was brought in because Frank wanted better recordings then we were getting out of George.

And December 11, 1980, Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, California, which appears as recorded by George Douglas on 24-track analog from the dressing room. Is that right?

Yes, that is right and Thom Ehle helped him on that one. We also did some better routing and had more time to set up the room which made for a better recording on that show.

To end with the 1980 fall tour, something that has impressed me reading the interview is FZ's reaction to John Lennon's death. Anyway (and let me be a little nit-picking here), you mention that you were at Berkeley, but Lennon's death was December 8, 1980, and the Zappa band (as far as the knowledge we have) played in Berkeley on December 5, 1980; then they played Arlington Theater, Santa Barbara on December 8, and Civic Theater, San Diego, on December 9, and Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on December 11. (There's an almost complete list of gigs in this site: http://members.shaw.ca/fz-pomd/giglist/1980.html ).

You are right again, I got some of the city order mixed up in my head because we were moving so fast. But yeah, we were working our way back down to L.A. so Berkeley would have been first and we were in Santa Barbara when that happened. All I remember mainly is Frank took it real hard and almost couldn't go on stage that night.

The early 1981 aborted band

Contrary to what was usual, this band didn't go to the studio when the tour ended. Or was some of the material which ended in You Are What You Is recorded these days? Anyway, after the tour Arthur Barrow quit from touring with the Zappa band (even if he stayed in touch helping with rehearsals and doing studio work), and a new band was formed in early 1981 to rehearse for the finally aborted Holland Festival orchestral project. FZ said in his book that it was a 9-piece band which included Jeff Berlin and Vinnie Colaiuta. This band never actually played live, but I've tried to make up who were the nine members: FZ—guitar, vocals; Ike Willis—guitar, vocals; Ray White—guitar, vocals; Steve Vai—guitar; Tommy Mars—keyboards; Bob Harris—keyboards, trumpet, vocals; Ed Mann—percussion; Jeff Berlin—bass; and Vinnie Colaiuta—drums. Is that right?

Yes, that is right. They were rehearsing at Joe's Garage.

Then after Berlin and Colaiuta asked for more money than the rest, everybody was fired and the European tour was cancelled, and then later the whole Holland Festival project was aborted. Anything to comment about the affair?

No, I just remember Frank being real let down about Vinnie and Jeff making such a big thing about the money.

Bob Stone

Along those days Barking Pumpkin Records was created and in spring 1981 Tinsel Town Rebellion and Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar were released. I suppose then that Bob Stone was hired early 1981 or late 1980, because those albums are the first in which he was credited as re-mix engineer. Is that right?

Here is how it went. Frank wanted to find someone I could tag team with because we had too much work to finish. First we tried out Alan Sides because Alan had done some of the live recordings from a remote truck before for Frank (1978 I think). Frank thought Alan was a little slow and he always wanted to do things in a different way then Frank did. Alan did lay a few overdub tracks that we used on You Are What You Is. Then we tried out Bob Stone and Frank didn't think he would work out because he didn't want to work long hours. Next we worked with Dave Jerdan who I thought was the best engineer out of all of them and Dave and I worked very well together. (Some of his work was used later on Man From Utopia). But, Dave got another gig and he was then out of the picture which brought us back to Bob Stone.

Also you said Alan Sides (or is it Allen?) helped in the studio recording some tracks for You Are What You Is and didn't get along with FZ and left. But, was it before Bob Stone was hired, or were the two of them around at the same time? Sides was the owner of the Ocean Way Recording studio, so he was probably the recording engineer for the "I Don't Wanna Get Drafted" single that I mentioned in the other message and that was recorded right before your time, ain't it right?

No, Alan was first they were not around at the same time. Again, I can't tell you anything about that version of "Drafted" because I wasn't there and we re-recorded it again later.


Some missing credits

Rykodisc is releasing too much compilations for my taste. There's a new pair of things that have just been released by some other artists compiling their favorite Zappa recordings. Probably you should be credited there too . . . I've seen you have listed The Lost Episodes among your albums with FZ, and as that release lacks much of the recording and engineering credits, I have to ask, what did you do for that album? Transferring the old tapes to digital?

You're right, they are just pulling stuff from anywhere and releasing it. I don't think there is anyone left at the studio who knows who did what. That is why the credits are so messed up. They wouldn't have had this album if I wouldn't have transferred all of the original Freak Out, Ruben and the Jets, etc., from the original masters for them to work with. Plus I over-dubbed on all of those digital multitracks with Frank. This is just more of some of the stuff that Gail took my name off of. It doesn't matter really, because I wasn't really a part of any of those original recordings, but I did spend months restoring them.

You said you worked on the reconstruction of the kick drum of You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. 2. The Helsinki Concert.

I worked for weeks on the original Helsinki tapes that Frank had the original "Whipping Post" lyrics to "Moving to Montana" on. He and I did mix a number of versions of masters from all of the original Helsinki tapes that I transferred, but I don't know what happened to them. They must of just ended up back in the vault as well.

The double CD You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. 2. The Helsinki Concert comes entirely from those tapes, and I think there is at least part of the "Florentine Pogen" version from the Vol. 4 that comes from there also.

Early 1981 UMRK Recordings

I'm interested in the mechanics of the work in the studio and on the road. I mean, after the recording of You Are What You Is and the release of Tinsel Town Rebellion and Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar, you started building the UMRK Mobile Truck in spring, 1981. Meanwhile, FZ started auditioning people for the new band at the studio. Is that right?

Yes, that is right, except most of the auditions took place at Joe's Garage. And then sometimes we brought them into the studio to finish with them. (If they were good.)

Scott Thunes says he auditioned in June, and as he recalls, recording the bass line of "Cocaine Decisions" over a drum machine track was part of his audition. So you were building the truck, auditioning musicians, and laying tracks for future albums all at the same time, right?

Sounds about right. We were always doing multiple things. We had to because we had deadlines for getting the records done in between tours. Sometimes we would go right up to the night before we left. I remember one time Frank picked me up in the Limo after I had pulled an all nighter cutting lacquers. I went how and decided which dirty clothes I was going to pack, threw them into a suitcase and met him downstairs.

Lisa Popeil and a bunch of drummers were auditioned those days, and then there's footage (from a short TV feature from 1981) of Roy Estrada singing "The Radio Is Broken" along with FZ in the studio. Do you remember that session with Roy Estrada? Was he auditioning for the band or just hanging around? It must have been a lot of fun working with him, did he come to the studio often?

Roy didn't come up too often, but when he did it was always fun. He and Bob Harris sang a lot of high falsetto parts into the walls at the back of the studio for that song and I recorded them with the right angle plexiglass PZM mics reflecting off of the walls. (When they did the aaaaahhhhh-oooooohhhh parts, etc.) Roy was never auditioning to get back into the band, Frank just liked his real nasally falsetto. Frank said he ate clothespins for breakfast. Ha! (That's like holding your nose with your thumb & finger.)

I think about those times (May 1981) Jimmy Carl Black was around the house too, working with FZ on a song called "Fallin' In Love Is A Stupid Habit," which he was going to use for his own band, the Grandmothers, do you remember anything about that?

I remember Jimmy quite well, I got to record him on a whole bunch of different tracks. It was good to see Frank & him work together again. I know they were doing some writing together, but I don't remember the name of the songs. As we talked about before Frank would often change the name of a song just after you started liking the one it had. I think he just got a big kick out of keeping us all guessing. Plus if something would happen that was a big deal he would somehow work it into a song. You know, most of his stuff is built around true stories. Like "Carol You Fool" around the girl that I met in Pittsburgh (Carrie Mellon), well I guess her real name was Carol, but she like me to call her Carrie.

Carol, You Fool

Now that you talk about that, and just for curiosity, did you meet Carol in Pittsburgh in November, 1980 (with Vinnie Colaiuta in the band) or in November, 1981 (with Chad Wackerman)?

What I remember is that Steve Vai and I were trying to hit on the same girl and nobody knew who he was then so I went back to the apartment with her and Frank and her girlfriend. (So whichever one he was it is it.)

Well, it doesn't matter anyway. Vai was on both tours! Probably it was in 1980, because by 1981 Vai probably had a little fame already. Talking about "Carol," do you think is there any relation between the fact that the song has so wonderful vocal harmonies and the fact that you actually liked so much the vocal harmonies that Ike & Ray did? I mean, knowing that you liked their harmonies so much and that the song was talking about you, it seems appropriate!

Well, there was an early version of it where Steve Vai and I sang vocals on that was done to the ARP track that we later used on "He's So Gay." Frank went back and forth on two mics that were on the far left and right on the mix. Saying "Markman, Markman, Markman, etc." It was really funny. Somewhere there is only a cassette of it. Then I think that Frank wanted to do a "doo-wop" version of it. I'm not sure why, unless he thought it might tell more of the story. So like almost everything else that was his idea not mine.

You mean the ARP synthesizer bass line that Arthur Barrow did? Now I notice (I've just heard both songs) that "Carol, You Fool" and "He's So Gay" share the same structure, so what you're saying is that you did "He's So Gay" over the track of the original lost version of "Carol, You Fool," is that right?

We did goof around with both of the tracks but, No it wasn't over the original track. We just used the same ARP synth bass track that Artie did and a few other instruments.

The 1981 Tour

Once the truck was built and the US Tour started in September, 1981, you went with the band to record every gig. Were there any exceptions? You mentioned one time in NYC when the union scales prevented you for recording the show, so you did the house mix. Did that happen often?

No that didn't happen very often. That was at Madison Square Garden and they wouldn't let us run the snakes from the truck. Frank called me into his dressing room and said, "Do you know what they said?" And I said no, then he told me that they said they wanted $5000 dollars for each show for get this: "The right to record your own material." Frank said, "Markman, we don't really need another night that bad, do we?" And I said, "No." Then Frank said, "Why don't you go and mix the house tonight?" I was happy about that because I sort of missed doing in and it was New York which I always loved the crowd at anyway. But no, that hardly ever happened. I think maybe one other time either in Cleveland or Chicago. But, that's it.

When you were on the road, what happened in the studio? Was it closed or was something happening there?

Sometimes Bob Stone would still piddle around with a few things, but usually it was empty, because we would steal a lot of the devices out of it for the tour.

After the US 1981 tour ended in December, did you go directly to the studio or was there some kind of a vacation before? (I mean, Christmas, New Year's Eve and such).

No, we went right back into the studio. (Vacation??? What is that???) Frank & I worked all of the time.

Crush All Boxes vs. Chalk Pie

I suppose it was after that tour (or maybe right before?) when you worked on the unreleased Crush All Boxes. You said it was going to be a double album, but the manager wanted one single album, so it was put away. But then, how does the one supposed to be named Chalk Pie fit into the scene? Because it was supposed to be a double album too. Maybe you worked on the double Crush All Boxes, then left it in the can, began working on the double Chalk Pie, and then this one turned into Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch after Al DiMeola denied permission to include his solo?

That was a mess about Al's solo. I don't know why he was being so picky. To tell you the truth, I think we had a lot of Chalk Pie as outtakes to other things we were doing all along. I do remember putting everything on hold to do Drowning Witch because Bennett was on our ass to get it done. It might have been Chalk Pie, but I seem to remember for sure that we stuck Crush All Boxes in the vault the same day we started on "No Not Now" for the DW album. Because I didn't take the Telefunken C4-D units off of the two track until then and CAB was the only masters we ever did on the 1/2 inch two track that had C4-D noise reduction. I remember Frank saying that we were going to start using it on everything and then we didn't because we went to the agfa 468 tape which let us bias higher and then we got much hotter levels on the half inch and stopped using any noise reduction at all. That was very close to when we started using digital masters after that anyway. Sometimes my mind ties it all together because as you know we were always moving very fast with Frank. Do you remember what the master tape format was for Chalk Pie? That would tell us the exact order.

Unfortunately I don't. It's said that the tapes were given to collectors and/or bootleggers by one of the guys in the band, but that's all I know.

Valley Girl

Anyway, let's get to the recording of "Valley Girl." FZ said in an interview that the basic track was just he and the drummer jamming at 3 o'clock in the morning (probably FZ & Chad Wackerman before the 1981 tour?), and then you recorded Moon over that and then FZ, Ike Willis and Ray White on the chorus. He also recalls that there was no bass on the song because the sound of the guitar filled that range, but the engineer (he mentioned Bob Stone) suggested to put a bass anyway, so they called Scott Thunes (who was rehearsing with the band for the 1982 European Tour) to record his part. A filler, and it was a hit!

FZ must have been losing his mind sooner than I thought. When we finished the DW album Frank got out his schnapps and we did a little toast to the finish of the album. (Frank and I only did this when an album was finished. At no other time did we ever drink anything with alcohol.) This was at about 2 o'clock in the morning. Frank just set down his little shot glass when he said, "Oh shit! I forgot I promised Moon she could sing something on this record, do you mind staying a little while longer?" I said, "Of course not!" He asked me to find some tape we could use for her to sing on, and I said, "Frank, we don't have much that we could use," except maybe some jamming that I had on a 14 inch reel from when we were testing out the studio. He said, "Go and get that." I went down to the vault and grabbed that reel and put it on. It was just him and I think Chad got "dogn dogn doo, dogn dogn doo, dogn dogn doo, da, da, da, da, da, da, dah" (Like a garage band). Frank said that will do and he went up to wake up Moon. (Now it was 3 o'clock in the morning.) I think that is where he got that from. Anyway she came down chewing some gum and said what do you want me to do. Frank said whatever comes to mind and I put her out in the vocal booth on a Neuman U47 FET condenser mic through a UREI 1176 compressor/limiter and started rolling the tape. She just started talking like a valley girl (because she hated all of the vals at her school). The rest is history. I could give you a blow by blow after that which has a lot of details. I Think Bob tracked Scott on it the next day.

As Thunes remembers it, that was just his second session in the studio (his third and last would come later in 1984, with "Be On My Video"). I think the studio bassist was mainly Arthur Barrow, even if he was no longer in the touring band, is that right?

Yes, we used Artie most of the time.

The 1982 European Tour

Then you went to Europe to the May-July 1982 Tour. Again everything was recorded with the truck, is that right? Some basic tracks for future songs were recorded at soundchecks.

Most of our album cuts were not taken from the same sources. As an example the intro to the "Mammy Nuns" song which is the very first thing on the Thing-Fish album was taken from the sound check at the Sportahalle in Vienna. Frank started out by saying to me in the recording truck to go ahead and roll some tape because he wanted to lay down an idea for later. He then did a guitar chord "dahnt da ta da da dahnt" on his guitar and clicked his footswitch for his "MXR" digital delay to loop. He then set his guitar on the stand and let it loop so I could record "with the PZM mics" the way it sounded going out into the room. I had the mics on stage pointing out toward the audience so you could hear the sound roll out from the stage into the room. Frank loved the sound of empty rooms when there were no people in them. He conducted the band at that point and I think Tommy Mars (my roommate) took the first solo on the comper. There is no artificial reverb on start of that track at all. That was the sound of the room. There were many edits on the cut like there were on most cuts that took us all around the world.

Another example is "What's New In Baltimore" that went from the theatre in the round in Baltimore to the Tower Theatre to the guitar solo from the Hammersmith Odeon to Hamburg, Germany, back to the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Most of our live songs went through many cities. Hardly ever just one live cut. We would dub something across the edit like a cymbal crash, etc., that would make the edit no noticeable to the average ear.

You mentioned the rhythm guitar for the "Prologue" from Thing-Fish was recorded in Vienna, and Thunes mentions that the basic rhythm guitar of "I Don't Even Care" was also recorded at a soundcheck, do you remember it?

I don't remember the venue, but yes, I do remember the song. We used a lot of the actual show tracks for Thing-Fish as well and just recorded over the vocals with different lyrics. (After I backed up the original master tapes of course.)

Another piece that probably came from a soundcheck was the infamous "Tengo Na Minchia Tanta," with Massimo Bassoli singing lead vocals. Do you remember how and when was that song recorded? It appears in the CD version of Uncle Meat (also in the movie, and in the Dub Room Special) but without any credit in it. I suppose the players are FZ, Thunes, Tommy Mars and Chad Wackerman, and that you were the recording engineer. That would mean you should be credited on that album too!

He was just singing to a track that we already had in the can for something else and Frank was in another creative roll. I think we got most of that on video?? If I remember right. If you look at the end of the Dub Room Special I'm credited for production and I also have a separate credit for recording engineer. All of the dub room stuff was just me and Frank for over 90% of it.

I think the vocal tracks of "Minchia" in the Dub Room Special and Uncle Meat are different takes, but yes, there are images of Bassoli singing it in the studio in Dub Room Special.

Dub Room Special & Baby Snakes

Then, when the European 1982 Tour ended in Italy, after the infamous riots in Sicily, did everybody returned to the US? I think I heard someplace that FZ stayed there some time. Anyway, after the tour I think FZ started working on a lot of different projects, mainly video editing and writing scripts. That's when you worked on the Baby Snakes video and soundtrack, do I got it right? Was the Dub Room Special assembled around that time also?

You got it real close to perfect, we only did the dub room stuff so we could do a "behind the scenes" special in the dubbing room which only cost us $90 an hour. I made a PZM headband out of an ampex 456 tape binder for Frank to wear on his head to kick it off. Truth is we were spending $430 per hour down in the main room for me to re-mix the Baby Snakes movie. I re-mixed 4 versions of that movie. One in stereo, one in Mono, one for the full theatre version and one version for video. We couldn't change the credits because they were all done for the original film. All we did id remix the audio for the 35mm Mag prints. I worked my ass off on that Picture record and the movie.

I hope they release Baby Snakes soon in DVD format! (And giving you the proper credit, of course). And regarding the PZM headband shots in DRS they are a lot of fun with that bizarre sound effects in the background.

There was a version before the sound effects were added. It never got a full release, but it also had a little more in it. I liked it because it played quite a different way without the egg drop sounds etc. that we overdubbed later.

You were always re-working and re-doing everything!

The Man From Utopia & The LSO

Also, around the autumn of 1982, FZ was supposedly busy writing screenplay after screenplay for unreleased projects like his old science-fiction movies, or the Valley Girl movie, or Thing-Fish. And also, the London Symphony Orchestra project in London was in perspective for the early days of 1983, so, was there anything happening at the UMRK studio on those days or was it closed? I don't think so, but I try to imagine how the work was done. Were you and Bob Stone making turns in the studio mixing and editing old material, or were you recording tracks? Were the old masters in Zappa's hands already?

When Frank was writing, that is when I would do the transfers and some of the restoration work of old shows. That was still all analog then before we went digital so I was mixing some old tapes then and I would be in the control room during most of that time and Frank would come in and see me when he took a break. Bob was pretty much off during that time.

The Man From Utopia was released in March, 1983, right after the LSO stuff were recorded in London, so I suppose it was recorded earlier, probably around the same time as Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch (summer 1981, early 1982), is that right?

Well we did record Man From Utopia before LSO, but it was in phases. The opening song "Cocaine Decisions" was an experiment of the "ultimate studio drum sound" that Chad, myself and John Good (from DW drums) were working on. I used EMT compressors on the toms and they sounded awesome. This was all after the 82 tour because we used a cover that was showing the mosquitoes and the riots from Italy on it. In the Dub Room Special there is live footage from Sicily when I kept all of the tapes rolling and recorded the whole riot on tape in the recording truck. They smashed out the windows in the bus next to my truck, but I kept the tapes rolling. I think 3 people got shot.

Then, when you returned from London, you said you finally switched to digital in the studio, so I suppose most of 1983 was spent restoring the old masters, transferring them to digital, overdubbing stuff over them, and also working on the Thing-Fish project, along with the Hunchentoot pieces, is that right? Or was Thing-Fish recorded in 1984, right before the 1984 Tour?

That sound right because we had wrapped up many of the other projects.

Thing-Fish sessions

During the Thing-Fish and Hunchentoot sessions a lot of guests went to the studio to record some of their parts. I'm curious to know if those were individual sessions, one-day-only appearances, or if some of them got to the studio often. I'm thinking of people like: Stand-up bassist Jay Anderson, who laid some tracks for Thing-Fish and the remix of Cruising With Ruben & The Jets.

I think we added a shot-gun mic on him.

What is that?

A shotgun mike is just that it is a long thin mike shaped like a long pencil that picks up at a distance in the direction you aim it.

Thanks! I know what it is now. Just didn't know how it was called.
Johnny Guitar Watson, who appears on Them Or Us, Thing-Fish and Frank Zappa Meets The Mothers Of Prevention.

He did "In France" and a number of other over-dubs.

But did he record all of them in one session?

No he didn't. He came up to the studio a number of different times. (He was a gas.) He also sat in on stage in L.A. when we kicked off one of the tours along with George Duke and a couple of other guys.

That was on the Palace Theater in L.A., July 22, 1984, with Aynsley Dunbar, Denny Walley and Bruce Fowler around there also. That seems to have been a great day for FZ, with all those old time friends! Now my question (you know, I'm always messing around with the chronology!) is, did Johnny Guitar Watson those recording sessions before that concert, around the same time, long time before?

You do a better job at the chronology than I ever would! I think it was a good while before, because we were all excited when he showed up.

Chuck Wild, from Missing Persons, who recorded 'broadway piano' on Thing-Fish.

That was a piano track recorder by Bob Stone. (You can tell because it is so "over compressed") He wasn't very good at tracking. That is when Frank told me he didn't want Bob laying anymore tracks.

Of course, Terry and Dale Bozzio, who did two of the main characters.

The original recording I did with them was when they were just trying out and I grabbed the high hat mic (A D 1000 E AKG) at the time for Dale. (Boy did I regret that because Frank wanted to keep the tracks and build on them for the other sessions.) It was tinny. That is when I knew you treated everything like it was the finished take.

And your old friends Bob and Thana Harris.

Yes though Thana came in at different times to do the Hunchentoot sessions. Lisa Popeil was on them before her. Frank liked Thana's voice better that Lisa.

Those were also the times when the Synclavier appeared in the studio, is that right? As you said, Steve De Furia went to the studio to make a demonstration of the Synclavier and he got hired along the machine by FZ right away. FZ said his first published work with the Synclavier was "Crab-Grass Baby" from Thing-Fish. How many time did you spend working on that album?

Steve was there just after I remixed and during some of my studio mixes of the Baby Snakes movie as well. We spent a huge amount of time on the Thing-Fish album. Also Francesco Zappa and other Synclavier stuff which Steve left and turned over to Dave Ocker later.

In short remember that we kept re-doing Thing-Fish and inserting more and more material, sort of updating it, as Frank might say. I thought we worked it too much into the ground. Because we did have a complete original format of it with less swearing, etc., that would have worked in a real onstage performance on Broadway. Remember the original idea was that "Harry & Rhonda" went to a New York Broadway play and somehow the play turned out to be about their life? It played better in the original format because we didn't have all of the re-hashed You Are What You Is songs with different lyrics in it. It ended up taking off in a different direction with the Mammy Nuns, etc., San Quinton stuff. (Which was funny in it's own right). But, as I said the original play could have actually worked on Broadway.

1984 & 1985 UMRK Recordings

The 1984 Tour began in August, then went to Europe, and ended in LA in December. That was all recorded on the UMRK Mobile Truck in 24-track digital tape, is that right? But before the tour there was the "Zappa Affair" with the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra in June, 1984. As FZ was not allowed to record it, I suppose you were not involved in that event, were you?

No I wasn't there for that one. I stayed in the studio.

Regarding recordings, the last one with actual musicians (i.e., not Synclavier) which I have notice of in the UMRK is the recording of "Be In My Video" from Them Or Us, with the whole touring band, including pianist Brad Cole, who was to be in the 1984 band prior to Allan Zavod. I haven't heard of any recording session taking place after the 1984 tour, so my assumption is that the UMRK studio was devoted since then just to remix old material and to record Synclavier stuff. Is that correct?

Yes, when 1985 came around it seemed like everything started moving to listening to the vaults of tapes, shows, etc., and just remixing a lot of old material.

Then there's "Yo Cats" from Frank Zappa Meets The Mothers Of Prevention, which as FZ said was all Synclavier except for the drumset and the voice of Ike Willis. Do you know when the drums and the vocals were recorded? Before or after the 1984 tour?

That is when we over-dubbed Chad Wackerman and recorded over the drum tracks that I worked so hard to restore from the original tracks. Frank wanted to put the newer drum sound on the tapes. I thought it was a stupid idea (I still do), because they didn't have anything to do with the original performances and I thought the fans would not like it. Plus I had worked so hard for so many hours previously on restoring all of those tracks. It was painful to erase all of the work. They really did sound pretty good, I was proud of them. I thought Frank was getting real carried away with studio processing after that point. Which is when I started losing interest in being there.

So there were no new recordings after the 1984 tour, is that right? Just mixing, processing, and Synclavier.

No, we did more recordings and a lot of overdubbing with various musicians. (A good bit of the over-dubbing was on older recordings.)

Let's see if I have understood this and if I got it straight. Them Or Us was released in October, 1984, and Thing-Fish in November, so both of them should have been overdubbed before the 1984 Tour (which lasted from July to December, non-stop). Then the Old Masters Box One was released in April, 1985, and it included the overdubbed We're Only In It For The Money and Cruising With Ruben & The Jets (and then there was an overdubbed version of Lumpy Gravy that wasn't finally released). Now, Jay Anderson, the stand-up bassist that did the overdubs on Cruising With Ruben & The Jets and Thing-Fish said he recorded all his stuff on one only session which lasted 12 hours. Just he, FZ and the recording engineer (I suppose it was you, is that right?), so that would also had been before the 1984 tour. (Maybe I'm being a little boring with all this stuff, but it's hard for me expressing myself in English and being entertaining at the same time!) Then, the next release was Frank Zappa Meets The Mothers Of Prevention on November, 1985. There was a lot of Synclavier work in that album (including the Senate Hearings voices), but let's go to the "rock band" songs, and tell me if I got it right: The basic track for "I Don't Even Care" was recorded in a soundcheck c. 1981-82, then Johnny's guitar, the vocals and the bass (by Arthur Barrow) and drums were overdubbed. Do you remember when? Probably around the same time as "In France," is that right? The basic track for "We're Turning Again" was recorded in Santa Monica, December 11, 1981 (the same day Lisa Popeil and Nicholas Slonimsky appeared onstage), and I don't know how many of the final release it's overdubbed. Probably the drums & vocals at least. But was that overdubbed in 1985 or between 1982 and 1984? The same goes for "Alien Orifice." Basic track recorded live on an unknown location, but does it have any overdubs? FZ said that "Yo Cats" was entirely Synclavier, except for the Ike Willis voice and Chad Wackerman drums. Do you remember that sessions and when did they happen? Were Chad Wackerman and Ike Willis around the studio in 1985? "What's New In Baltimore" was recorded in Baltimore (where else?) in November 15, 1981. Probably with little if any overdubs, is that right? Then, The Old Masters Box Two was released in November, 1986, but I don't think it has any overdub in it. Unless Hot Rats has any of them! Because the mix of that album is very different on the CD than on the original 1969 vinyl. The only other old album with recent overdubs in it was Sleep Dirt, but those vocal and drums overdubs probably were made around 1983, is that right? There were also drum overdubs made for "Revised Music For Guitar & Low Budget Orchestra," for The Man From Utopia album (the CD mix has new drum tracks compared to the original vinyl), and at least "Disco Boy" and "Goblin Girl" (for the new mixes that finally appeared in Have I Offended Someone?). And then there's the bass drum click added to the Helsinki 1974 tapes. That's all I have as far as overdubbing old material with new drums tracks goes. As what I'm trying to do is put some order in the chronology, any comment helping to put all this stuff in its place in time would be great!

Remixes

You said you quit in 1986 to go to work with Men At Work along with Chad Wackerman, so probably your last works with FZ would have been Frank Zappa Meets The Mothers Of Prevention and Does Humor Belong In Music?. Do you remember those two albums? The last one was released only in Europe, but the masters were delivered by FZ himself, is that right?

Yes, that is right. After that I started having less and less to do with any of the work coming out of there. My name was on most of the original recordings because I did them, but it shows how much they were starting to recycle the old material. Bob started remixing and remastering for the CD's and I think he ruined a lot of the good mixes we had before on the records.

Bob Dylan

There are still two questions I would like to ask you about. One is the stuff about Bob Dylan. I love his music and just imaging the two of them working together . . . Anyway, I've read the meeting occurred December 22, 1982, do you know if that date is right?

That sounds about right to me. I remember when we were doing the slates for the Dub Room Special, Frank had out a sharpie pen and was going to write the slate himself and he asked (while he was writing), "What day is it?" And one of the guys said the 22nd (or something like that) and Frank said, "Of what month?" And everyone started laughing. Truth is he really didn't remember what month it was. I can remember feeling the same way many times because we were working all of the time. Didn't matter which day of the week it was or which month it was. One time I had to beg Frank for a day off and he asked me how many days we did straight. I said 44 days without a break. That was the honest truth. There were no weekends.

Yeah, that's in the video tape! Those scenes around the studio trying to put all those technicians in front of the camera are a lot of fun. (August 26, 1982 is the date, by the way.) Do you appear in the movie? I've seen your picture in your page, but I don't how you looked back in 1982! I think I have identified Craig Latta, Tim Clark, Kim Thompson, Massimo Bassoli, Charles "Smitty" Schmidt (the guy who did stained glass) and Ron Menzies. Then there's a blonde guy with a moustache asking FZ if he feels guilty enjoying life as much as he enjoyed working, that I don't know who is. Is that a certain Kevin Buck, credited as "guy who doesn't like Zappa music"? By the way, talking about 1982, maybe you can help solve a little mystery: There's two tracks, "The Man From Utopia" and "Mary Lou," on YCDTOSA Vol. 4 recorded in Pistoia, Italy, on July 8, 1982, that have messed up lyrics which mention Francesco Sanavio (the Italian promoter), a certain "Tony," and a certain "Bernardo" or "Renato" (or even "Renata"), and something about taking a girl to Milan and locking her in the bathroom. Do you know what's behind that story, and who were all those people?
I've also read that FZ suggested him to hire Giorgio Moroder to do some synthesizer tracks and record Dylan voice and guitar over them. Arthur Barrow was working with both FZ & Moroder at that time, so that's where probably came the connection. Do you remember that?

Yes very clearly. I will be glad to give you details on that one when I got more time because that was a long story and there was just 3 people in the studio that night. Frank, Bob Dylan & myself. Needless to say I felt quite privileged. I will say this much, when I walked Bob down the steps to his car at about 3 AM in the morning he said that he hadn't had that much fun since 1969.

Anyway, any more details of that amazing meeting will be great!

The Piano People

The other thing that I'm interested in, is the "piano people sessions" you mentioned. It is known that FZ recorded some "people inside the piano" in NYC in the summer of 1967 for the Lumpy Gravy album, and then as late as 1991, when the Ensemble Modern was in Los Angeles rehearsing for The Yellow Shark they did some recordings "inside the piano" that ended in Civilization Phaze III, but I didn't know there were some recordings of "people inside the piano" in the eighties. As far as I know, there is no official release of it. Can you elaborate a little on that?

Yes, we did them many times in the 80's when certain people came over we put them out in the yard (our term for the far end of the studio) by the piano and I would fire up the mikes and we put packing blankets hanging down around the sides with the top propped up. We would tape down the damper pedal of the piano so the strings would resonate to the sound of whoever was talking and put two or three people in it at the same time to talk about whatever they wanted to. The basic theme is that they were in search of the "Big Note" and that people lived inside of this place. (It often sounded like a big cave.) So whenever somebody new would stop by and we had the time we would do this for fun. I usually ran this onto the 2 track ATR 102 tape machine like I did when we were tracking vocals and other stuff. Somewhere there is a big shelf full of "Studio out takes" that I did with sessions of what Frank said through the talkback and with the musicians live mics when we were tracking and the conversations that they all had creating parts, etc. I believe that they would be the most interesting tapes the fans could ever hear because I always ran that machine when the multi-track wasn't running. (Many erased vocal harmonies and parts, etc., would only be on those tapes.)

Who was among the people who talked inside the piano? In some advertisings from Barfko Swill from around 1986 there is a certain Lumpy Gravy Phase III listed in the "Coming Soon" section. Of course that album never happened, but do you know if there was a project to release those Piano People recordings from the 80's with music from that time? Maybe Synclavier music as what appeared in Jazz From Hell (which is not listed in that "Coming Soon" section, by the way).

 

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