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Phish, Primus Men Pick Zappa

Two compilations highlight rock iconoclast’s work

When Frank Zappa died in 1993, he left behind one of the most
influential catalogs in popular music. It’s also one of the
largest; Zappa frequently released several albums per year, many of
which were double and triple sets. The sheer volume of work is
enough to intimidate the most determined record buyers.

But fear not: Rykodisc has called on the experts to assemble
their own Zappa compilations to guide newcomers through his
catalog. Today the label releases Zappa Picks — by Larry
LaLonde of Primus
and Zappa Picks — by Jon Fishman of
Phish
.

Both musicians discovered Zappa during their early teen years.
Fishman, already an accomplished drummer at thirteen, was drawn to
the virtuosity of the performances. For LaLonde, who hadn’t yet
picked up a guitar when he first heard “Dumb All Over,” there were
other charms. “The whole attraction was to the weird music,” he
says.

Both Zappa Picks albums draw liberally from Zappa’s
work in the Seventies and early Eighties, a time when his fusion of
jazz, rock and classical music was flirting with mainstream
acceptance. But compiling favorites from the thirty-plus albums
Zappa released during this period was daunting.

“I thought, ‘What a great opportunity!'” Fishman says. “Then I
thought, ‘Holy shit — how am I going to boil it down to seventy
minutes?'”

The answer came when Fishman scrapped his initial song list and
began reflecting on what Zappa meant to him. “I started reminiscing
about all these moments in my life that Zappa had been the
soundtrack for,” he says. “I decided that’s how I’d go about the
album; I’d just make it a very personal event for me.”

LaLonde took a similar approach, and their results reveal the
two musicians to have surprisingly similar tastes in Zappa music,
with the Just Another Band From L.A., Apostrophe
and Over-Nite Sensation albums being particular
favorites.

For Fishman, who frequently played along to Zappa records in his
parents’ basement when he was growing up, putting together his
album revealed other things as well. “I realized how much of [Zappa
drummer] Terry Bozzio’s vibe had snuck into my drumming,” he says.
“It’s still one of the few influences I wear on my sleeve.”

Ultimately, the exercise turned into a process of self-discovery
for both LaLonde and Fishman, both of whom make clear that Zappa
left a mark on them not just as musicians, but as people. “I’ve
always loved what he stood for,” Fishman says. “His art has been a
huge part of my life since deep into my childhood and had an effect
on my formation as an adult, as far as my way of looking at the
world. Until I sat down to do this project I didn’t realize the
extent of his influence on me.”

In This Article: Phish

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