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Thread: Ed Mann interview about starting his career with Zappa....

  1. #1
    Member Guitarplyrjvb's Avatar
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    Ed Mann interview about starting his career with Zappa....

    I found this article to be fascinating and entertaining and thought it might be of interest to those here. Enjoy!

    https://gonzotoday.com/2021/07/29/hi...WTliDwJbvJ-Mus

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    Member Zeuhlmate's Avatar
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    Certainly interesting!

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    Member Guitarplyrjvb's Avatar
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    Gail Zappa certainly had to submit to some humiliation at the hands of Zappa. Maybe explains some of her prickly business side.

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    Member Top Cat's Avatar
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    Never been a big fan of Zappa, but I do recognize his brilliance.
    The thing in the restaurant with his wife Gail and the fork is rather disturbing.
    I kept waiting for there to be a reason explained for his behavior towards her, but there doesn't seem to be one.

    I agree, an interesting read.
    Soundcloud page: Richard Hermans, musical meanderings https://soundcloud.com/precipice Bandcamp: https://richardhermans.bandcamp.comYouTube: https://youtu.be/F34jl6fQVmA

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    Member Guitarplyrjvb's Avatar
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    ^^ She was also well aware of his penchant for groupies during their marriage. Zappa never hid it from her.

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    Member FrippWire's Avatar
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    Ed is a really bright guy. I'm connected to him on social media and his insights are enlightening. Even if I don't agree with him, he makes me think.

  7. #7
    Definitely interesting. I can't tell how much of that story is literally true and how much is distorted by time and Ed Mann's perspective. It really sounded like a love/hate relationship with Zappa but Mann went out of his way to suggest that he hated Zappa personally. I remember the stories of the 1988 band breaking up partially because some of the musicians wanted Scott Thunes out of the band. I wouldn't be surprised if Ed Mann was the leader behind that given what I just read. Does anyone know if thats true? (from what I recall, and this may be wrong, Bobby Martin and Mike Keneally were the only ones who didn't want to get rid of Thunes)

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    Member chalkpie's Avatar
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    "Having spent a large part of my career in music working for Frank Zappa, I should say: I’m not a fan, but he’s always impressed me."

    Right out of the gate I was scratching my head...what? I have never heard any ex-FZ member say something to that affect in describing their tenure with the band. How are you not a fan of music that you have spent years and years under a microscope, and was your professional career for over 10 years? Maybe I'm reading too much into that, but its an oddball statement to read from an outsider/fan's perspective. Otherwise some very interesting anecdotes - especially being stoned and driving to the FZ house at 12:30 AM

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    Member StarThrower's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chalkpie View Post
    "Having spent a large part of my career in music working for Frank Zappa, I should say: I’m not a fan, but he’s always impressed me."

    Right out of the gate I was scratching my head...what? I have never heard any ex-FZ member say something to that affect in describing their tenure with the band. How are you not a fan of music that you have spent years and years under a microscope, and was your professional career for over 10 years?
    He did say he was a fan of the instrumental and compositional aspect. And the earlier sociopolitical lyrics of the Mothers albums. But it's pretty well established that there was a schism among Zappa fans from 1973 and onward.

  10. #10
    Some of FZ's other band members have said they didn't like all of the music he had them play. Scott Thunes said that he thought two of the albums he played on were Zappa's two worst albums. Arthur Barrow has said he was a Zappa fan before getting in the band and continued to be afterwards, but he didn't like some of the songs like "Torture Never Stops" that he needed to play.

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    Jazzbo manqué Mister Triscuits's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by flowerking View Post
    I remember the stories of the 1988 band breaking up partially because some of the musicians wanted Scott Thunes out of the band. I wouldn't be surprised if Ed Mann was the leader behind that given what I just read. Does anyone know if thats true?
    Uncle Frank: "It was a 12-piece band, and an argument broke out between Scott Thunes and just about everyone else in the band apart from me and Mike Keneally. The others all decided that they hated Scott's guts; it was very weird. Basically the ringleader of the whole thing was Ed Mann, and he and Chad Wackerman decided that Scott had to go, and they brought about most of the discontent in the band."

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    Member Zeuhlmate's Avatar
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    Ed Mann joined when 'Mothers' wasn't really a band, they were all hired - and the musicians contributions to compositions, sound and flavour were minimal. They played the written notes more or less perfect, and that was it.

    I'm just as flabbergasted as Chalkpie is. Something is missing in the picture. But I am not a fan of Zappas 'band'-albums after sheik yerbouti.

    Mike Keneally?
    Well, I can understand if he doesn't want to comment on this apparent wasp nest.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Zeuhlmate View Post
    Ed Mann joined when 'Mothers' wasn't really a band, they were all hired - and the musicians contributions to compositions, sound and flavour were minimal. They played the written notes more or less perfect, and that was it.
    However, Ed's description of Zappa's remarks to him at the audition makes it sound like Zappa gave him more freedom than I would have expected.

    “If I wanted Ruth I’d call her. I want you to just be yourself. You can hear the music. Learn the lines, but experiment. Reharmonize, orchestrate, add parts, subtract parts, if you get a weird idea don’t look to me for approval, just do it. If I don’t like it I’ll tell you, but I want you to learn my compositional vocabulary and then experiment with it. I want you to play some but not all sections exactly as I write them, and I want you to solo. If I point to you, just solo. I don’t care if it’s good or bad, just do it. Most of all, take an experimental approach. Consider it to be part of the job description.”

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Mister Triscuits View Post
    Uncle Frank: "It was a 12-piece band, and an argument broke out between Scott Thunes and just about everyone else in the band apart from me and Mike Keneally. The others all decided that they hated Scott's guts; it was very weird. Basically the ringleader of the whole thing was Ed Mann, and he and Chad Wackerman decided that Scott had to go, and they brought about most of the discontent in the band."
    Thanks. I thought one other band member was not on the "get rid of Thunes" lynch mob. My fuzzy memory told me it was Bobby Martin, but I could be wrong in thinking that.

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    Ed certainly seems to have seen FZ at his worst.

    Scott Thunes confirmed in an interview that Ed was the guy who really didn't like him, not one little bit. Of course, Scott doesn't seem to have been too easy to get along with himself - the interviews I've read with him, some of Mike Keneally's descriptions, and his own writing in the 200 Motels liner notes suggest that he's a fair ways out the autism spectrum, and has a typically difficult personality, to put it mildly.

    I can see FZ's point in hiring Ed after working with Ruth - she could read and play anything, but had to have every note written out and couldn't improvise. Ed was more a rock and jazz guy, he could improvise, and he could create his own parts.
    Last edited by Baribrotzer; 07-31-2021 at 10:57 PM.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by flowerking View Post
    Thanks. I thought one other band member was not on the "get rid of Thunes" lynch mob. My fuzzy memory told me it was Bobby Martin, but I could be wrong in thinking that.
    I think Martin has said he gets along with Thunes okay (and they are playing together again in the "Zappa Band" this summer, as was Ed Mann when that project started, but Ed dropped out a couple years ago) but may have also thought Thunes's personality was causing too much trouble in '88. Ed Mann has said on FB that he may do more Zappa memoir articles like this one so maybe we'll get his version of the '88 story eventually.

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    Member Lebofsky's Avatar
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    This was an absolutely refreshing read. I'm pretty sure I'd have a similar feeling being in Zappa's band, i.e. I'd love the worth ethic and collaborating with so many talented musicians, and I'd even genuinely adore some of the material, but I'm not a huuuuge fan, and I'd have trouble being around (and unwittingly aligned) with that kind of boorishness.

    Basically great gigs doesn't necessarily always mean fun, camaraderie, and 100% shared artistic vision. Sometimes the the money, the travel, the opportunity to hone your chops, etc. are the best (and perfectly worthwhile) aspects of being in a band.

    - Matt

  18. #18
    A very interesting read. And yes, I can imagine someone not being a fan, but still admiring some of Zappa's skills, without taking him hook, line and sinker, wanting to play with him. It might be a great learning opportunity.

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    Member Steve F.'s Avatar
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    That was a fabulous, awesome and awful read. Thank you.
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    Member chalkpie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve F. View Post
    That was a fabulous, awesome and awful read. Thank you.
    agreed.

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    Arthur Barrow's had an interesting story about his tenure as clonemeister (Zappa-speak for assistant musical director).

    Frank hired a band, appointed Arthur to his job, gave him a list of about a hundred songs, and then didn't bother with attending rehearsals himself for a month or two. This was standard operating procedure for FZ during his later career. So Arthur picked out the good tunes, the ones the band loved to play, and left the funny-once-if-even-that stuff in the pile. Eventually, Frank showed up. He called a tune, say, "City of Tiny Lites", the band killed it, and he said, "That's a keeper". Then he'd call another, say, "Jewish Princess", and they'd lurch and stumble through something they hadn't played in months, if that, and he'd say "OK, we can drop that one." And so forth.

    Arthur wasn't sure if Frank ever caught on to what he'd done.
    Last edited by Baribrotzer; 08-01-2021 at 06:35 PM.

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by pb2015 View Post
    Scott Thunes said that he thought two of the albums he played on were Zappa's two worst albums.
    I wonder which two.
    Quote Originally Posted by Baribotzer
    Scott Thunes confirmed in an interview that Ed was the guy who really didn't like him, not one little bit. Of course, Scott doesn't seem to have been too easy to get along with himself - the interviews I've read with him, some of Mike Keneally's descriptions, and his own writing in the 200 Motels liner notes suggest that he's a fair ways out the autism spectrum, and has a typically difficult personality, to put it mildly.
    I believe I read on Scott's MySpace page (yeah, it was that long ago), about how Ed would repeat things that Scott said during rehearsals, mockingly, during his percussion solos during the shows. I think there was one in particular he mentioned, where I guess during the intermission in a show, Scott said there was one particular song that he wanted to sound really good in teh second set, and I gather someone had messed up their part the night before, and Scott said something like that "Just in case you've forgotten how it goes". So Ed spat that phrase out during his solo.

    BTW, I also remember Scott making an interesting comment on the initial rehearsals, before the tour started. He said that Ed, Chad, Mike, and Bobby all had used MIDI equipment in their rigs. So they'd show up for rehearsal, like an hour or two early, to get their equipment ready for work. So right when rehearsals were scheduled to start, like at 9:00am or whatever, right on the dot, the horn section shows up, all of them carrying the horn in one hand, and a cappucino or whatever in the other. They then proceed to spent 20 minutes just bullshitting around, as they get ready to play. I get the impression that was one thing that annoyed Scott, that half the band was ready to play at 9:00, and the other half were still futzing around. So I can see how he might have become difficult to deal with due to that, plus maybe Ed sort of mocking him onstage and so forth.

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by Baribrotzer View Post
    Arthur Barrow's story about his tenure as clonemeister (Zappa-speak for assistant musical director) is interesting.

    Frank hired a band, appointed Arthur to his job, gave him a list of about a hundred songs, and then didn't bother with attending rehearsals himself for a month or two. This was standard operating procedure for FZ during his later career. So Arthur picked out the good tunes, the ones the band loved to play, and left the funny-once-if-even-that stuff in the pile. Eventually, Frank showed up. He called a tune, say, "City of Tiny Lites", the band killed it, and he said, "That's a keeper". Then he'd call another, say, "Jewish Princess", and they'd lurch and stumble through something they hadn't played in months, if that, and he'd say "OK, we can drop that one." And so forth.

    Arthur wasn't sure if Frank ever caught on to what he'd done.
    Yeah, I think Arthur said that he knew there was no way they'd be able to learn all the songs in the time frame Frank gave him, so Arthur drilled the band on the songs he himself liked. And as you said, they'd get to something that they hadn't worked on, and Frank would say "Man, that sounds like shit! Cross that one off! We're not doing it!" So there was this one tour where the setlist consisted entirely of Arthur's favourite songs.

    ANother story, I'm pretty sure this is from Arthur also, was that one day, Frank called a band meeting in his hotel room. Frank says, "OK, you guys are playing this music entirely too perfectly! Starting tomorrow we're doing a whole new setlist".

    Frank seems like a strange guy. He'd have this tightly written music, and have a band totally drilled on the music, I mean rehearsing intensely for a couple months. Then, when it came time to put out a live album, he'd put out stuff that had last minute changes, or versions where he can't deliver the lyrics because he's laughing so much...or appears to lose his train of thought.

    Oh, and another story I liked that Arthur told about rehearsing was when Steve Vai first joined the band. He said he had to keep asking Steve to turn his amp down. He said he'd say, "Steve, turn it down", and he would but then over the course of the next 10 minutes, Steve's volume would inch back up louder and louder, and then Arthur would have to repeat the command. He said he threatened to make a tape loop of of himself saying, "Steve! Turn it down!" that would repeat every five minutes.

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    ^Thing Fish has got to be one of the albums mentioned by Scott.

  25. #25
    That was an interesting read. And yeah, it does seem like he went out of his way more than once to express his disdain for Frank.

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