PG Editorial Director Joe Coffey interviews Dweezil on camera as he chooses wood in PRS’ wood library at Experience PRS 2009. Go to premierguitar.com/video to watch the video.
Photo by Alexis Somers
It’s a rare musician who’s both uncompromising and completely adaptable. But that perfectly describes Dweezil Zappa. It’s a duality
that informed some of his father Frank’s most
irreverent, inspired, and famous work. It’s also
a musical mindset that equipped Dweezil to
tackle Zappa Plays Zappa—an ongoing tribute
project that finds Dweezil dissecting Frank’s
work at the subatomic level, while also infusing some of his own improvisational color.
Enormous in scope, musically demanding,
and subject to the scrutiny of fans that could
fairly be termed religious, Zappa Plays Zappa
is a project that would send most musicians
running for cover. But for the unflappably mellow Dweezil, it was a challenge of manifold
appeal. “I really liked the idea of giving fans
an authentic experience, to hear the music as
Frank intended,” he says. “And that meant I
had to really get into it and push myself, too.
I’ve had to expand my own abilities.”
Dweezil found the means to expand his playing vocabulary even further when he took
delivery of a custom PRS guitar built to his
specs early this year. With 24 frets, a semi-hol-low body, and 57/08 Narrowfield pickups set
up with an out-of-phase selector, it’s a guitar
packed with expressive potential. But it was
also conceived to help Dweezil reproduce the
incredibly varied tonal landscapes his father
created live and on record. And if Dweezil has
his way, he won’t be alone using this model to
create music in the years to come.
Premier Guitar talked to both Dweezil and
the director of PRS’ Private Stock program,
Paul Miles, to find out more about the design
philosophy, materials, and minor madness
behind this very special instrument.
Dweezil, were you compelled by any spe-
cific musical needs when you were design-
ing this guitar?
Zappa: Every guitar has a personality that’s
going to speak to you and dictate what you’re
going to do with it. And I like responding to
guitars that way. But in Zappa Plays Zappa,
I had to figure out how to deal with the fact
that Frank played a lot of guitars—SGs, Strats,
Les Pauls, and some earlier stuff like 335s and
Hagstroms. So I wanted a guitar that could get
a big range of flavors and be a blank slate as I
moved into other areas on my own. I’ve never
had a guitar with 24 frets. Having 24 frets and
the ability to get to them so easily and comfortably opens up a lot right there.