From "Guitar Player" magazine, November 1982:
Absolutely Frank

   Few Guitarists are unaware of Frank Zappa, who for the past 16 years
   has produced dozens of albums featuring sharp satire, full-scale
   orchestrations, and powerful guitar solos. Last profiled as the cover
   subject of the Jan. '77 issue of Guitar Player, Zappa has since
   released several albums, including the three-record Shut Up 'N Play
   Yer Guitar series for his Barking-Pumpkin label: Shut Up 'N Play Yer
   Guitar [BPR 1111], Shut Up 'N Playe Yer Guitar Some More [BPR 1112],
   and Return Of The Son Of Shut Up 'N Play yer Guitar [BPR 1113].
   Although all of Frank's albums have a sizeable quantity of guitar
   work, this trio of LPs contains pieces that are specifically guitar-
   This Month, we welcome Frank as a regular columnist, presenting the
   first installment of a series in which he addresses specific questions
   regarding his creation of the Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar series. In
   this and subsequent columns, he will also discuss his views on music
   and solo techniques beyond the range of these three LPs.
   Transcriptions of Zappa's pieces are provided by Steve Vai, who has
   been one of Frank's guitarists for the past few years.
   Guitar Player Magazine:
   What made you decide to do the Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar series?
   Frank Zappa:
   There were a lot of requests from a certain group of fans that we have
   for an album that just had a lot of guitar solos on it. I mean, it's
   not that they delivered a specific order as to how it was going to be
   put together, but there was a demand for albums with a lot of guitar
   playing. Although I play maybe anywhere from five to eight extended
   solos during a concert, the basic style of the show that we take on
   the road is not guitar-spectacular oriented. There is SOME guitar
   playing, and some people really like that stuff. And so to accomodate
   them, I put it together.
   Guitar Player Magazine:
   Why did you choose material recorded over a four-year period, rather
   than taping new songs especially for this project?
   Frank Zappa:
   Well, there's a good reason for that. First of all, I find it very
   difficult to play in the studio; I don't think that I've ever played a
   good solo of any description in the recording studio. I just don't
   have the feeling for it. And up until the time that I got my own
   studio, I was working in commercial ones where you have to pay
   anywhere from a hundred to two hundred dollars an hour for the time.
   There you don't have the luxury of sitting and perfecting what it is
   that you're going to play, whereas if you have a collection of tapes
   made over the period of a few years - which I do - you can go through
   that stuff and find musical examples that acheive some aesthetic goal
   that you're interested in acheiving. Then you collect those together
   and make the best possible performance out of that.
   Guitar Player Magazine:
   How did you determine which songs you wanted? Was there a scheme?
   Frank Zappa:
   I tried to get different examples of different types of things that I
   play. I have one basic style, but inside of that style there are
   different things that I play. I wanted to have various examples of
   those things. And most of the selections were made on my own gut
   reaction to hearing the tapes and saying, "I like this solo" or "I
   don't like that one" - just trying to find things that would fit
   Guitar Player Magazine:
   Your music prominently features unusual rhythms and syncopations. A
   good example is "Five Five Five" [Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar]. What
   kind of metric scheme was used?
   Frank Zappa:
   It's in 5/8, 5/8, 5/4. You count it like this: One two one two three,
   one two one two three, one-and two-and three-and four-and five- and.

>   >       >   >         >   >   >   >   >
5 o o o o o | o o o o o | 5 o o o o o o o o o o |
8 |_| |_| |_  |_| |_| |_  4 |_| |_| |_| |_| |_|
1 2 1 2 3   1 2 1 2 3     1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 &

   Guitar Player Magazine:
   In a piece such as "Five Five Five", where you're in a meter that
   would generally be considered odd for mainstream roack or jazz, how
   would someone approach that without feeling as if they had two left
   Frank Zappa:
   It's a very guitar-oriented piece because of the way it uses the open
   string. So it's kind of an easy thing to pick up on the guitar, in
   spite of the odd rhythm. As long as the numbers involved tend to
   frighten you, though, then the odd rhythms are not your meat. Don't
   worry about the numbers - you just have to worry about what the FEEL
   is. When I wrote that particular song, I never even stopped to figure
   out what the time signature was. I don't worry about that if I'm
   playing it on the guitar. If I'm writing it for an orchestra, then I
   do. But I don't calculate how things that I make up on guitar are
   going to look on paper or how it's ultimately going to be. I just play
   it, and then figure out what it is later, after I've recorded it.
   In other words, my theory is that written music in no way assures the
   pedigree of the musical quality of what's being played. Just because
   it's on paper doesn't make it any better or any worse than any other
   kind of music. Music on paper is just a convenient way of showing
   musical ideas from one person to another without having to hum it to
   him. And when you get things that are complicated, it's really time-
   consuming to hum them.
   Guitar Player Magazine:
   So you view writing as a shortcut.
   Frank Zappa:
   It's a shortcut; it's a storage method. And in the case of the
   transcriptions that are coming from the guitar albums, they're no
   longer shortcuts because they don't need to shortcut it anymore -
   they're all done. [Ed. Note: Transcriptions from the Shut Up 'N Play
   Yer Guitar series are scheduled to be available in the next few
   months.] But it's the way to show people who are interested in that
   kind of rhythm what it looks like on paper and how it works. Also, in
   a couple of examples it gives you a kind of positive proff that ESP
   does exist: The guitar parts and the drum parts for some of the things
   are transcribed and notated together on two staves, and you can see
   that the drummer - in this case Vinnie Colaiuta - and myself were
   playing exactly the same thing in a number of places where it would
   have been impossible to guess what was going on. It's the frequent
   little turns that are exactly ON, and then coming out on the downbeat
   in the next bar, and over to the next bar after that.
   Guitar Player Magazine:
   On the inner sleeve of your Shut Up albums is music from "The Black
   Page." There are figures such as a triplet with groupings of three,
   five, and seven contained within. How do you count such an intricate
   Frank Zappa:
   Well, unbless you're really skilled at sight-reading that type of
   material, you have to start by reading it slowly. So I think you're
   referring to bar 15 of "The Black Page". And that's a tricky bar to
   play. But it CAN be played and it has been played over and over again
   by a lot of different musicians in and out of the band. And it's a
   good place to start if you want to come into a direct confrontation .
   . . . .
   Unfortunately, that's all I have of this interview. The article
   continued on to a later page which was not part of the 2-page
   photocopy I obtained. If there is anyone out there with the actual
   article containing the remainder of this interview (or even subsequent
   interviews from the same series of articles), please contact me, Evil
   Bob via:
   and you will receive MANY karmic brownie points to use in the unlikely
   event that life goes into extra innings.
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