Somebody at Guitar Player Interviews Arthur Barrow - 1994


         %%%%%%% Transcribed 03.29.95 by evilbob@cpeq.com %%%%%%%

     This interview-ette is from the margins of "A  Definitive  Tribute  To
     Frank  Zappa"  (1994),  which was produced by the publishers of Guitar
     Player and Keyboard magazines.

                            THE CLONEMEISTER SPEAKS

     Frank Zappa's daily work  schedule  was  legendary,  consuming  nearly
     every waking moment.  Almost as grueling was the rehearsal schedule he
     set for his band,  which amounted to eight hours a day when they  were
     preparing  for  a tour.  After bassist Arthur Barrows' first tour with
     the band in 1978,  Zappa bestowed upon him the title of  Clonemeister,
     which carried with it the awesome responsibility of running rehearsals
     in Frank's abscence.  Here Barrows recounts some Mothers  stories  and
     reveals his, uh . . . advanced rehearsal techniques:

     "Frank would always show up for the last four hours of rehearsal,  and
     I would tape that part.  He'd say to various band members  'Okay,  now
     you do this here,  and you make that fart noise there, and you do that
     here.' So after the rehearsal I'd sit down with a notebook,  listen to
     the  tape  again,  and  make notes about who was supposed to make what
     fart noises and stuff. The next day, we'd start to rehearse that song,
     and of course everybody had forgotten where they were supposed to make
     the fart noises.  So I'd stop and say,  'Now don't  forget,  you  were
     supposed  to make that noise here,' and they'd say,  'Oh,  right.' You
     run it three or four times until  everybody  remembers  where  to  put
     their noises. It was like being a drill sergeant, kind of.

     "One  tour,  Frank  gave us this huge song list,  with some ridiculous
     number of songs, like 200 songs.  It was absurd,  and I knew there was
     no  chance  in  hell  that  we'd  ever learn them all.  Of course,  my
     assignment was to teach them all to the band. I knew Frank well enough
     by then to know that he'd come in, look at the song list, pick a song,
     and say,  'Let me hear THAT song.' We'd play it,  and  if  it  sounded
     crummy,  he'd say, 'Well, you can just take that one off the list!' So
     I rehearsed the band only on those songs that I liked.  The songs that
     I didn't care for were way down on my list, since I knew I couldn't do
     them all anyway.  Sure enough, he came in and asked for a tune that we
     hadn't rehearsed. It stank, and he said, 'Well, that sounds like shit.
     You can just take that off the list.' And I'd go, 'All right,  great!'
     So  we  ended  up with this tour of all my favorite Frank Zappa songs,
     like 'Florentine Pogen,' 'Inca Roads,' and a bunch of other real  cool
     music.

     "When  Frank  was there at the rehearsal and inspired,  he would write
     with the band the way someone else might write at the piano, or with a
     piece of score paper, or at a computer.  He would yell out stuff, like
     do this,  do that,  go to A minor.  After the band had  been  together
     awhile,  it  was like being able to talk to a computer and tell it how
     you want the song to go.  It was really amazing how quickly  he  could
     get  stuff  together,  and get really good players to interpret it and
     make it sound like Frank Zappa music.

     "He'd always keep us on our toes.  About a month into the tour,  you'd
     think,  'Okay,  I've got this down, I can do it in my sleep.' But just
     then,  'Band meeting in Frank's room!' Frank would tell us,  'You guys
     are getting too comfortable with this. We're going to change the whole
     show tonight.' So we'd do all this stuff that  we  hadn't  done  since
     rehearsals a month before, and suddenly put together a whole new show.

     "Frank's  just  about the only guy who did not compromise his music at
     all,  and still made a living at it.  That's pretty amazing.  Now that
     he's  gone,  I don't know if anyone else could do it.  I didn't always
     like what he did, but by God, he was doing it his way."


Ski back to Nanooks igloo