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Music

Why Dweezil Zappa doesn't own Frank Zappa's equipment

@TylerGolsen

Dweezil Zappa is dutifully carrying on his father’s legacy in the best way possible: by bringing his music to audiences all over the world. Through his Zappa Plays Zappa performances, Dweezil is able to emulate Frank’s signature playing style, tone, and unique sonic palate for a whole new generation of listeners, nearly thirty years after his father’s passing.

Much of the gear that Dweezil uses echoes the same equipment used by Frank. Favouring the Gibson SG, specifically a custom version called the “Roxy” guitar, Dweezil seeks to replicate Frank’s own predilections in tone through similar amps, pedals, and pickups. It’s so uncanny that the first natural assumption is that Frank must have handed down a fair amount of his favourite gear to his son.

But as it turns out, Dweezil has to guesstimate most of the time. He owns almost none of his legendary father’s guitars and equipment, and the reason why is connected to a family feud that spans nearly a decade. When asked how much of his father’s gear he owns, Zappa responds, “Well, the thing is, I don’t have a lot of it. That’s because of the way the Zappa Family Trust ended up dealing with things.”

The Zappa Family Trust is the organisation that handles the assets of Frank Zappa’s estate. His widow Gail ran it until her death in 2015 when it was passed on to their children. Interestingly, Zappa’s youngest children, Ahmet and Diva, were given 30% each of the Trust’s shares, while the oldest children, Moon Unit and Dweezil, were given only 20% each. Ahmet is the trustee, while Dweezil is only a benefactor, meaning Dweezil needs permission from Ahmet to profit off his father’s name.

The conflict between the Zappa children became ugly in the late 2010s, with lawsuits and ‘cease and desist’ letters being traded regularly. When Ahmet tried to prevent Dweezil from touring under the Zappa Plays Zappa moniker, Dweezil renamed the tour 50 Years of Frank: Dweezil Zappa Plays Whatever the [email protected]%k He Wants—the Cease and Desist Tour. As a result of Dweezil’s lack of access to his father’s estate, he also owns relatively few items of his father’s extensive collection of instruments and music equipment.

Luckily, Dweezil was able to recall and reproduce most of his father’s gear before the latter’s death in 1993. “The things that I learned over a period of time, what he used, how he used it, it’s more important to have the knowledge of the equipment and how to use it than to have the actual piece. So when it comes to reverse engineering sounds and things, I asked a lot of questions as a kid because that was my connection to him: music, guitar, and all this stuff. So I would be in the studio whenever I could to ask him questions.”

Check out the interview, plus an inside look into Dweezil’s own massive guitar collection down below.