Frank Zappa will return to the stage once again with the help of his youngest son.
Ahmet Zappa announced in September 2017 that the Zappa Family Trust will work closely with Eyellusion, a live music hologram production company, to produce hologram performances of the late rock guitarist.
Rolling Stone reported at the time that “The Bizarre World of Frank Zappa Hologram Tour” recruited Zappa’s former bandmates to kick off the shows in December and will also highlight never-before-seen 1974 footage of Zappa in his Los Angeles rehearsal space, which he turned into a soundstage for an audience-less performance captured only by camera operators.
Zappa, a celebrated bandleader and composer, died in 1993 at age 52 from prostate cancer.
Ahmet told Fox News his father originally envisioned “holography” as part of his performances before his passing and even dedicated half a chapter on the subject in his 1990 memoir, “The Real Frank Zappa Book.”
“He was always really interested in... being able to put on holograph shows,” said the 44-year-old, who revealed Zappa dreamed of launching his own hologram company. “When he would speak to me about it, he really liked the idea that he could send that hologram and be home to work on his music. I feel like I’m accomplishing something that he set out to do and wasn’t able to see the fruition because cancer took his life.”
Ahmet said the tour aims to celebrate Zappa’s lasting impact in music history, which still resonates with listeners today. Zappa produced more than 60 albums throughout his lifetime that ranged from ‘50s doo-wop to heavy metal.
“We’re bringing to life characters from [his] songs,” said Ahmet. “I think what will be totally different is that, instead of having someone who looks like Frank photo-realistically on stage… we can play with size. So he can be twenty feet tall, he can look like a papier-mâché cut-out, he can be in the style of Japanese animation. I’m not telling you exactly what will happen. I want to leave that for the night of the show. I’m just trying to illuminate the fact that we’re going to take multiple aesthetics to bring his music to life.
“One of my favorite songs of my dad’s is called ‘Stink-Foot’ and he talks about his python boots… I can have my father’s snakeskin platform boots on stage, If I wanted to, I can have it float midair and make it look like it’s 700 pounds and that can sing the song… We [also] have hundreds of hours of footage of Frank, to where we want to be able to get the length of his arm right, his height right, his hair, his expressions, all those things.”
Ahmet said the decision to honor Zappa’s art, life and legacy on stage was a no-brainer. He described his father as a tireless workaholic who created music from the moment he woke up until he slept, only to it all over again the following day.
“When he was in his studio, you could barge in,” he described. “You could sit in and listen to what he was working on when he was recording with his band members… He just talked to me like I was an adult the entire time.
"He was always someone who was really engaging with all of my friends. He saw people for who they were. He was really interested in where people were coming from, and that really left a big impact on me. I think I’m as curious as he was in many aspects of my life. He definitely instilled that anything was possible with a hard work ethic, along with this massive blend of curiosity.”
Zappa encouraged his son to express his own individuality — even if it sometimes came with a price.
He recalled going through a phase while growing up when he wanted to change his first name to Rick and his parents agreed on the condition he truly commit to the change. Shortly after, Ahmet decided he wanted to ditch the name Rick and go back to his original name, but his parents did not let him off easy.
"They called me Rick for a year," he recalled.
Ahmet revealed that one thing he was never ashamed of was his father’s music or “the family business.”
“I felt that the times when he was the happiest… was where he was really expressing himself during these guitar solos,” he said. “My father would talk about his guitar solos as him building air sculptures… I also privy to rehearsals where he would make people, if they messed up, do it again.
"There was this kind of anxiety too, that I felt through the experiences… I could see the rehearsals and you just wanted the final product, that night’s music, to be awesome and to meet the standards that my father had. And the band wanted those same things, too… He was a real path master… He was really serious about his music.”
Today, Ahmet is determined to reintroduce his father’s passion to both longtime fans and curious newcomers alike, all while incorporating a type of technology Zappa eagerly wanted to explore before his death.
“I think the fun part was just… explaining to [my dad’s bandmates] what our goals are and how we can really have this dynamic visual smorgasbord of awesome take place,” said Ahmet. “It’s going to be the closest thing to having him up actually up there on stage.”