OK… I think we are at the end of the BWS saga. One more post when the thing gets released on CD. More or less. The mission: create an homage to Zappa’s Burnt Weeny Sandwich album in 5 minutes or less. My additional “special ops” task: create a 21st track form all 20 official tracks. A sort of megamix sample mashup.
At Zappanale 18 I was approached by Andrew Greenaway about this project. Usually Zappanale is, for all it’s charms, almost hostile to the older Zappa material. The Flo & Eddie band is almost entirely ignored. The original mothers are lauded, but their music is not heavily exposed. I was shocked to hear Andrew dare to speak of something that came before Roxy! The NERVE! Perhaps we should find a quiet spot so as not to be detected? I digress… But, he also hit on my soft spot for this album, and of the excellence of that version of the Mothers.
It’s no secret that I enjoyed working on this project. Burnt Weeny Sandwich (BWS) was a revelation to me when I first heard it some 30+ years ago. I always saw it in the shops and had formed some expectations that it would be like a more modern version of Freak Out or something… That was easy to do when access to the audio on the vinyl disc meant either knowing someone who owned it and would lend it, or coughing up the cash for your own copy. I had borrowed Apostrophe, and I had bought a used copy of Absolutely Free, and I had heard Freak Out at some parties in my neighborhood. The more modern, arena rock (if you will) sound of the albums from the Ralph Humphrey band onward was what I was hearing. It turned out that the later efforts of the Mothers was what I needed to be hearing. BWS is a wide ranging melange of chamber music and guitar solos, bracketed by doo-wop numbers. It has great compositions, above average recordings (maybe as good as it got for the original Mothers), and overall it has excellent symmetry.
One of the most beautiful things about the Zappa catalogue is the way you can hear Frank learn, improve, mature, push boundaries (his and ours), and consistently forge ahead, whether the audience (or sometimes himself, I believe) was ready. The mix of concert audio, chamber/orchestra, and studio material was almost unheard of. FZ pulled it off like it was de rigeur.
So yeah… I was in. He had me at “weeny”.
Some months ago, about 18 or so as I count it, I finished my contribution to the 21xBWS compilation, titled Radioveture. It is impressionistic, heavily influenced by the musique concrete techniques that I was introduced to by Zappa, and featuring some of my dearest friends’ musical input. I was one of the first to complete a submission, and I thought that we would be finished tracking in early spring of ’09, and seeing a CD in Summer ’09. I think Andrew Greenaway did as well. One year later we are back on schedule, and it has really been worth the wait.
About a month ago Andrew did something really cheeky to me. When he sent me the other 19 tracks for the “special ops” project he didn’t send me the names of the tracks! Just 19 numbered files and a small batch of “outtakes”. I played along. I gave the whole batch an audition in numerical order. I was, as I hear the kids say… gobsmacked. I heard the other contributors using some of same the textures I had used, some of the themes, some of the humor, some of the love… It was like BWS had transmitted a kind of intrinsic musical DNA that was leaking through the various projects. Of course it does, as all great music does. Still, it caught me by surprise.
On the megamix track I left some of the samples are out in plain view. As well, some are so mutated that they are reduced to subliminal textures. My guide star was the feel of Civilization Phaze III, but not in a direct way. I also received, at the 11th hours and 30 minutes, a bonus piece of spoken-word/sprechstimme from my bestest cosmic amigo Gamma. That was crucial because I wanted to have something to tie it all together and provide a layer of continuity. Thanks, Gamma. You came through in the nick!
The track is titled Weenyization Phaze 21 and I’ll put up a link when it goes live to the public (special bonus track to the official release is what I hear brewing).
I have a plan to use the techniques from the BWS and IBS projects as the foundation of a full length release, but more on that as/if it comes to fruition. So, that’s a ramble through some of the background and concepts that have been running through my cranium lo these 18+ months. Hope some of you get to dig it when it comes out.
Later, and Cheers.