Loading...
 

A real mother for ya

Project/Object preserves the lascivious live behavior of Frank Zappa

Project/Object began as a simple annual get-together in the basement of band founder/guitarist Andre Cholmondeley and has since become an ever-evolving tribute to the huge multi-faceted back catalog and undeniable weirdness of the late Frank Zappa. Cholmondeley assembled the original Project/Object template with the help of longtime friend and ex-Zappa guitarist Ike Willis around 1995. Since then, permanent membership has not been one of the band's strong suits.

??
The P/O lineup is determined by what can be accomplished between the free spaces of various pressing schedules, side projects and family duties. Thus, Cholmondeley remains the band's constant. Over the years, he's integrated many an obliging Zappa sideman into the lineup including guitarist Mike Keneally and Mothers of Invention Billy Mundi and Jimmy Carl Black. Some stay for the long haul, others for just a few gigs. Each time the band's composition changes, so does the arrangement and presentation of Zappa's material.

??
The current incarnation of Project/Object (the core of which features Cholmondeley on guitar, Insidious Rays bassist Dave Johnsen, keyboardist Eric Svalgard and drummer Glenn Leonard) is an especially savory morsel for Zappa-philes as it reintroduces two of Frank's most recognizable partners to the fold in Ike Willis and Napoleon Murphy Brock.

??
Willis was one of the longest running members of Zappa's touring and recording band and one of its most recognizable voices. His suave pipes gave personification to the proprietor of "Joe's Garage" and the mysterious creature "Thing Fish." Sax player Brock blew on many of Zappa's mid-'70s and early '80s releases including the honking live Captain Beefheart collaboration Bongo Fury and the more abstract apostrophe. Since the rotating membership of the band influences what material makes the cut, having these two on board allows for a particularly wide swath of coverage.

??
"Project/Object really starts with Ike because he's played with us the most and I've known him the longest," says Cholmondeley. "Now, with both Ike and Napoleon along, we've been presenting a lot of Joe's Garage material, since that's probably the most famous record that Ike was on, and we're balancing that with stuff all the way back to the early Mothers catalog. We're also throwing some stuff in that these guys didn't play on originally. The bottom line is that, whatever form the band takes, we're all still working musicians. Nobody's lost that thing that all musicians have in just wanting to get together and jam."

??
Yes, Project/Object likes to jam and they aren't afraid to admit it. Over time, Zappa has become (some might argue through Project/Object's relentless touring schedule) an unlikely favorite with the jam band crowd. That's an odd turnabout seeing as he endlessly lampooned rock's hippie contingent in both song and print. Cholmondeley is quick to concur. He points out, though, as far as jam band connotations are concerned, the spectrum is far broader now than before.

??
"Zappa did often make fun of the whole Grateful Dead, hippie kind of lifestyle," says Cholmondeley. "I think, though, that the 'jam' community has really changed since he was around. Of course, I can't read his mind from the grave or anything but I think Zappa would've still been pretty critical of that whole scene, at least the sillier side of it. But, at the same time, he'd have probably been happy to be packing places even with a lot of hippies."

??
Twenty-first century hippies aren't the only group who've gained an appreciation in hindsight for Zappa's work. Teenagers might be his most unlikely, but most potentially vital, fanbase. Proof can be found in the recent indie documentary Rock School (which isn't affiliated with the Internet comic strip of the same name). The film focuses on a real-life School of Rock run by potentially unstable Philadelphian instructor Paul Green. Green takes his class to the annual Zappanale Festival, a celebration of "all things Zappa," held in Bad Doberon, Germany, where Project/Object gladly introduces them to some scary new possibilities.

??
No word on whether the kids have since learned to rock out on "Titties and Beer" or "Bobby Brown Goes Down" but, somehow, this remains a more intriguing proposition than VH1's alternative of allowing your child's outlook to be shaped/warped by Gene Simmons.

??
Music@creativeloafing.com