It kills me to see you two brothers going at each other in the media. I could rattle off a list of entertainment families one would expect to find out only speak to one another through lawyers, but would never in a million years expect to see any Zappas among those listed.
That's because, from my vantage point anyway, if Frank did anything, it was instill within his children the freedom to be different.
Yeah, it's a fucking slogan for Apple now, but your father was the living embodiment of "marching to your own drum". More importantly, he also knew when to charge outrageous sums of money and when not to. There are maybe times he could have charged more, but he chose not to for reasons that were right to him, which, in the end, is all that matters.
That he managed to stay true to himself, work within a corrupt record company system, and emerge with a sizable fortune is a credit to his steely-eyed determination and savvy.
As someone who comes from a family where being different made you the black sheep, not to mention the target of every bully in a three-county radius, let me just tell you how envious I have been of what you Zappa kids had when Frank was alive.
This is embarrassing to admit, but back in the day, I used to imagine the Zappas lived in the Brady Bunch house and instead of Bobby and Peter and Cindy, you had Dweezil, Ahmet and Moon Unit.
In my vivid imagination, of course, I would wind up joining the cast as "Cousin All-Over" (get it?) in a last ditch attempt to improve the ratings. Why "Cousin All-Over", you ask? Because once inside, I would be "all over" Moon Unit, who I had quite the crush on during her "Valley Girl" days. Pretty cool that she's largely responsible for helping father Frank score his highest charting pop single.
Perhaps she should be the one carrying the torch of Frank's musical legacy, I remark half-kidding.
When I lived in L.A. from 1998-2008, I never drove down the Studio City side of Ventura Blvd. without taking a wistful glance at the Zappa Records/Barking Pumpkin building. Even though Frank was long gone, still seeing the venerable Zappa Records sign out front among the trendy, high-rent restaurants and boutique shops stood as the last reminder of one of the great thinkers of rock's golden age.
One day during a costly trip to my auto repair shop, which sat across the street from Zappa HQ, I ventured over to take a closer look and caught a glimpse of Dweezil chucking a Peavey amp into the back of a truck. I stood there watching for a brief moment before my inner child yelled out "Dweezil!" and blew my cover. Dweezil turned, gave me a thumbs up and I continued down the sidewalk, as if I had somewhere else to be.
I don't know Frank, never met the man, but I have spent many uncountable hours pouring over his words. While I find his music idiosyncratic and perversely inventive, he was even more of a genius when it came to distilling the complexities of the human condition down to a few basic truths. When he died, I imagine there was a huge Frank Zappa-shaped void in the Zappa family brain trust and none of the remaining family members were truly prepared to step in.
Gail was no Frank, no matter how admirably she tried, and it appears that, in her absence, at least one member of the family is trying to proceed carrying on business Gail's way when, in truth, the only way to truly proceed is to somehow get back to doing things Frank's way.
What is Frank's way, you ask?
I dunno, was Frank ever in a cover band?
By this, I'm saying that a Zappa kid is the last person I would expect to see trotting around the world playing his father's music. In that sense, Dweezil seems to have become a sort of Frank Sinatra Jr. for the rock set; a talented musician intimidated by his father's large shadow who throws up his arms in surrender when he realizes there's good money in doing so.
As a kid who flipped over Dweezil's first single, "My Mother Is A Space Cadet", produced by Eddie Van Halen and released when Dweezil was 13, I have not seen or heard much from Dweezil since that bristles with the same intensity and accessibility. Oh, the man can noodle on the plank, no doubt about that, yet he seems to have followed the well-worn path of the Satrianis and Vais who are little more than walking, talking guitar clinics when what the world truly needs more than anything is the out-of-the-box insanity and inventiveness that is part of Dweezil's DNA.
As for Ahmet, my hunch is that his true talent lies in storytelling, as proven by the wonderful film "The Odd Life Of Timothy Green", for which Ahmet created the story upion which the film was based. There are few films that are as familiar yet so original in voice that I'm truly astounded Ahmet has done so little in the film industry since it's 2012 release.
The world needs new cool shit. We're tired of having to find inspiration in 40 or 50 year-old rock albums due to the absence of so little inspiration in today's music or movies. I'm not saying it's your responsibility, Dweezil and Ahmet, but I know the ability is there and that if that is nurtured by the full force of the Zappa Family Trust, perhaps your children will be grow up to go into the family business of being different too and we'll all be the better for it.