Frank Zappa’s memory and music live on
Three Rivers Commercial News | Kate Kulwicki, C-N Intern
THREE RIVERS – The Unique sound of Frank Zappa will be in Three River tonight, Friday, Aug. 11.
Beginning at 9 p.m., Uglly Radio Rebellion will be performing at the Riviera Theatre auditorium for the third time, with Isaac “Ike” Willis, a guitarist formerly in Zappa’s band.
Willis said he has admired Zappa’s music since an early age.
“I started playing guitar when I was eight-years-old. Two years later, when I was 10, I heard Frank Zappa’s album ‘Freak Out!'”, he said. “Ten years later, I was in his band where I [played] with him for almost 17 years. I ended up being in his band longer than anyone else was.”
Due to his connection to Zappa, Willis was assigned a special task.
“[Zappa] ended up asking me, in the week before he died, to help keep his music alive, which is what I am doing with bands, such as Ugly Radio Rebellion,” he said.
Willis has been a member of Ugly Radio Rebellion (established in 2002 by Scott Schroen) for 12 years, where he acts as the lead and rhythm guitar, lead and background vocals, and plays “just about anything else [he] can get [his] hands on, depending on what the circumstances are.”
“This is one of my favorite bands because we always have a ball and we travel all over the known universe,” he said.
While the band has its own original music, Willis said they will only be performing Zappa’s music on Friday, which has a sound that cannot be confined to just one genre.
“It is almost impossible [ to describe Zappa’s sound],” he said. “It is unique, let’s say. it is any style. It is jazz, rock, R&B, and blues; it is everything on the spectrum.”
Willis said he hopes the performance will remind the audience of Zappa’s humor and musical complexity.
“One of the main things that Zappa exhibited was an incredible sense of humor. Lots of his songs have a lot of humor in them, a lot of tongue in cheek, a lot of plays on words, and a lot of innuendos,” he said. “What also sticks out is the incredible musical ability that goes into every song.”
After dedicating a majority of his life to playing Zappa’s music, Willis said Zappa has too many songs for him to select his favorite songs to perform in front of an audience.
“When I first got hired by [Zappa], at 20-years-old, back in 1980, I had to learn close to 300 songs to get ready for my first tour, so that is a hard question to answer,” he said.
“There is no one particular favorite song. [When we perform] all our audience is essentially a Zappa crowd, so they all have their favorite songs, so they yell them out during the shows and ask for requests.”
All in all, Willis said he wants Zappa’s music and memory to live on through his performances.
“His work was so prolific. He wrote so many songs and albums and his creativity sticks out to me,” he said. “[Zappa] was the most creative and intelligent person I have ever met in my life.”
Willis has played all over the world and just recently returned from performing at Zappanale Festival, the annual Frank Zappa festival in Germany.