AN INTERVIEW WITH PROJECT/OBJECT
April 2001 by Angela Hobbs
On A Tribute Tour To Their Mentor and Muse FRANK ZAPPA
Many years ago while traveling with the band David Peel and the Lower East Side, and on our way back to NYC from San Francisco, we stumbled across Salt Lake City, Utah, and some of the best musicians I have ever come to know in my entire life. When the car Harold Black and myself were traveling in began having trouble outside Salt Lake, and the repair shop said it would be 3 days, I decided within those 3 days, to stay in Salt Lake, where I first met The Fowler Brothers. They, and many other greats we know of today in music, were students of the University of Utah in Salt Lake, at that time known as one of the best schools for Jazz Theory in the country. This was in part, (if not in most part) due to the schools Professor of Music, Dr. William Fowler. Doc Fowler had 5 extremely talented sons, Tom, Walt, Bruce (all of which have played with Frank Zappa) Ed, and Steve. Also attending that University was Albert Wing, yet another Zappa alumnist.
In the following interview, which I hope to be part 1 of my conversations with Zappa Alumni, the conversations are with 4 of the members of Project/Object. Unfortunatly Ike Willis's responses did not make the interview in time, and the tour has already begun (August 3rd) and is currently making it's way toward Richmond Virginia where they will be doing a show at Alley Katz in Shockoe Bottom on August 22nd, 2000. I will be asking Ike some personal questions for the Part 2 interview at the time they arrive in Richmond.
The thing I liked best about these particular responses are the fact that these guys have not lost the spirit of the Zappa Zaniness that all of us who knew Frank or loved his music came to expect. Hope you can appreciate the Zest for the Zany here also.
NOTE: These responses are the complete unedited responses of the band.
INTERVIEW WITH PROJECT/OBJECT
April 2001 by Angela Hobbs
ANGELA: Who was responsible for naming the band and how did the band name Project/Object come about?
RICK: Me. It's all my doing. Hooray for me.
ANDRE': I actually borrowed the name from FZ himself - it's his term for his entire body of work -- every note, downbeat, raised eyebrow, word, melody, apostrophe just in one big lump - the Project Object. So I pompously thought - hey - we should go for that big of a bite. It wasn't a popular choice at first , but I'm glad we hung onto it - people love it.
ANGELA: Who is in the band and what instuments do they play? What previous bands has everyone been in?
RICK: I play bass, over the years I've been in, The Lost Bulgarians, The Yarn Farmers, E.M.B., Lunacy, Man Alive, Big 88, Houseboat, The Superfriends, My Friend Monkey, Drawn and Quartered, Cop Sucker, Chicks with Dicks, Kabuki 5000, Bad Lands Vocal Cotangent, The Guy with the Thing, Jazz Monkey, 2001 bass odyssey, Asstrance, Love Tester and P.I.C
SEAHAG: I play guitar. Many bands. IZ, Esme Montgomery, Wrong, Love Tester, Great Atomic Power, Flea Circus, Satanham Lincoln & the Seahag, Mangano-Passantino & Balls.
ANGELA: What is your most encouraging moment as a musician and why....
JORDON: Well I once made enough money to actually get a cab ride home... Really, it's got to be the time when I scored with three chicks after the big Project/Object show in Chicago....
SEAHAG: Having something to learn and practice is always great. Knowing that you can play something incredibly difficult just by putting the time in and practicing it, is quite the encouragement. Wanting to put in the work and making the time to do it is all you need.
RICK: When I write a song and only two out of five people who hear it say, "what is this crap?". That's encouraging.
ANDRE': ..for encouragement - I'd have to say it's the fans of all ages who come to the shows, often driving hours, and are ecstatic that they got to hear this music live - the older fans are nostalgic, and we bring back a certain element of what the experience was like - especially, of course, with Ike onstage. And for the younger fans, the teens, it's real exciting to them because they had written off any chance of EVER seeing this stuff live...so -- all of that is real encouraging
ANGELA: What is your most encouraging moment as a band and why....
RICK: To show up in a city we've never played, on an off night, and end up playing to a packed house bursting with enthusiasm, thats a great source of encouragement for the band. Also, free beer.
SEAHAG: Teamwork. A solution based of giving and taking. But nothing is greater then having a good time while playing. Whispering in the ear of a fellow musician like a big arena rockstar on stage is always an encouraging moment for me. It also helps when the dudes you play with are great guys with an amazing sense of humor and a complete love for rocking out.
ANDRE': I think a lot of the band would say: every time we get to new cities and realize - "whoao!! - there are a ton of Zappa freaks like ourselves and they simply love this music"!!
JORDON: When we all nail the third note of a septuplet subdivided over a quintuplet together... That gets the girls goin' real good!!
ANGELA: What brands of equipment do you favor? Do you have any secrets about how you set up your gear?
RICK: I like equipment that works. I have many secrets as to how I set up. I will reveal one to you now; When its time to lift the bass cabinet onto the stage, always hide in the basement or fake an injury.
ANDRE': My Guitar signal is a Gibson Les Paul or Ibanez Satch, into various effects incl. a Korg multi FX, Tech 21 XXL, some extra delay. Amp is a Rocktron 150w stereo rack, into Boogie speakers.
SEAHAG: I prefer tubes in my amps. I use a lot of pedals for tone because when first started playing with Project/Object, I was called in to take care of keyboard parts but on guitar. I didn't want to have a regular old guitar sound if I was going to play what the keyboards were supposed to handle. So I brought a lot of pedals on tour. A boss pitch-shifter/delay, a vox wah pedal, an Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi (distortion/sustainer), an Electro-Harmonix Small Stone (Phase Pedal), a no-name brand Chorus, a Metal Screamer Ibenez distortion pedal from the 80'sand a tuner. The Metal Screamer is my lighter dirty sound, the Big Muff is a secondary bassier distortion I use to increase volume and add on to the screamer distortion for solos and loud parts. One of the best pieces of machinery I've invested in is a power supply for these pedals made by Voodoo Labs called "Pedal Power". Our own bandmate and woodsmith Wes Paich and I designed a pedal board which has saved me about 20 minutes of set-up/tear-down time. I found a nice suitcase and Wes measured it and inspected it. Wes cut a nice straight piece of wood that fit the suitcase snuggly, and we covered it in strips of velcro. We velcroed all of the bottoms of my pedals and stuck them all onto the piece of wood. Stuck a little pillow in there and some female undergarments too for padding. It works like a charm.
JORDON: Brands that work. My big secret is to plug in, then turn all the knobs clockwise until they stop.... that makes it sound REAL good!
ANGELA: Do you have a secret method of ensuring you have the best show possible?
RICK: I have an exclusive five year contract with his lord and master Satan, ensuring not only the best shows possible but also the best deals on imitation perfumes and colognes.
JORDON: Hang out with Ike before the show.
SEAHAG: Yeah. Drugs and women and plenty of em.
ANDRE':..hmm - trying to relax and not going on stressed out - stretching pre-show.... and - being able to frigging hear your voice and guitar!.. and some Ginseng/Spirulina
ANGELA: Which do you feel is your best original song.... why?
SEAHAG: It's great to play everyone's tunes. We all write music and we're all willing to jam on someone's thang. Perhaps the best original music comes out when we jam live on stage, the more we've done that, the better we've become at it. But I'd say "Three Men in My Ass" is probably the best song because that's one that we all wrote together. I feel so gay (as in "happy")when I hear the song.
RICK: My best original tune would have to be 'Salisbury Steak', a song I wrote a long time ago about my girlfriend's ass, I called it my 'big meat loaf'. Peter Gabriel later stole it from me, made some minor lyric changes, and made it into a big hit single. Bastard. Oh, but that 'Steam' song was a triumph.
JORDON: The beastiality tune... I forget the name of it right now.
ANDRE': 'crisitunity'..!! A song by Rick BArtow - our bassist, that we do. if you mean Zappa, then from my perspective it's 'pick me I'm clean' or 'zomby woof'
ANGELA: How many albums have you released, and where are they for sale?
RICK: I recently signed to Tanktop records and released my first CD 'Asstravaganza' with them. It's actually the last in a three-part series with my next release, 'Essence of Mitch' being the second. 'Mitch' should be in stores in the Fall. Both are available at projectobject.com and in fine stores everywhere.
JORDON: I bet I could find one of my high school band's demos in my folk's garage. I won't even charge you for it..
ANDRE': a couple of the band member have some CDs out. I have my third one coming out in aug 2000. Rick and Seahag have a couple as well, they should all be available on tour. Jordan - our keyboards player - has a new CD with his band as well.
ANGELA: What other cd or music projects are in the works?
RICK: P/O is working on a disk but we can't release it until next year because that's when Wes's contract with Kansas ends. I also play bass in a hiphop-punk-funk-mambo-ska band called P.I.C. Check out picscape.com and set your elf free. Really, your elf.
JORDON: We got the big "Three Men in My Ass" opera comin' out soon. The other guys in the band know more details about this one than I do.
SEAHAG: I'm getting my archive of tunes together for a cd. I sing on it and it's pretty embarrassing, but that's cause I'm not a wanker, and I sing like one.
ANDRE': there will be a Project Object live CD in the coming months. stay tuned for details. Of course there's a lot of stuff to work out for such a big project. A couple of us are also working on new music and recording all the time.
ANGELA: What inspired this particular project and tour?
ANDRE':.. ..simply put....demand !!- there are clubs and promoters hearing about our shows and tours- and going crazy to get us out to these new areas of the country. And we love to play this music. Also we get email from al round the USA, indeed the world - asking - "when are you coming to _________"??
JORDON: The chicks, the money, and most of all: Ike Willis' free drugs...
SEAHAG: The Zappa fans who love Zappa as much as we do.
RICK: I would be lying if I told you Meredith Baxter Birny was not my inspiration for this project and tour.
ANGELA: Which Zappa cover do you feel you play or enjoy playing the best... why?
ANDRE': thats a tough one for me - but perhaps "Duke of Prunes" or "Brown Shoes don't make it" - Why - they are such huge, weird tunes - with a lot of strange chromaticism and key overlaps. "Inca Roads" has a special place.
RICK: Right now I enjoy playing Inca Roads the most because it is so diverse and there are two big solo sections. I also like playing 'Disco Boy' because you get to say 'doodie'.
SEAHAG: I think at the moment, I enjoy playing flower punk because it's from we're only in it for the money.
JORDON: Well, being that we never ever miss a note at all, we play every one equally
ANGELA: Who are the people you would like to reach with your music and/or with this tour that you are not reaching now?
RICK: I would like to reach the people I am not reaching now. I would especially like to reach the people in the cities we are reaching. Because if we can reach the cities, we can 'in theory' reach the people in the cities. I would personally like to reach the young female audience. Or any female in general, I'm a lonely, lonely man and so is Mumbo. Anyhow, when the new CD comes out it's gonna be marketed like the Back Street Boy's and next year were looking at a tour with Brittany Spears. (Even if the band doesn't tour with her I'm going to all the shows, Brittany Spears rules!)
SEAHAG: I want to reach Europeans and Hip-Hop Culture...but mostly, mainstream rock stars.
JORDON: I want to reach MORE CHICKS!!! MORE CHICKS!!! MORE CHICKS!!!
ANDRE': well.. mostly it's Frank's music.. but we perform it, but yes, we also bring along some of our own. For me, I'd like to just reach anyone with open ears!! that's rare enough that we just grab it whoever it is....but especially I guess rock fans who would dig the sound and style of what Zappa music is built on - but have never heard him due to the usual reasons. We need to keep reaching them as well as the 'jamband' crowd and the phish-heads etc. They have the ears for the improvisational side and the tricky sounding stuff.
ANGELA: What goals would you like to accomplish in the next year?
SEAHAG: With or without me, I want this band to travel. Atlanta is the farthest we've gone and I'm glad we're going to Atlanta because I like to partay. Last tour, we went to places that we've never hit before and the show attendence was amazing. I have never seen Frank Zappa live. When I first became aweful of Frank it was a soon 4 months later that he passed away and I was really upset. Hearing the music live and seeing the people he influenced greatly not only in musical language is something that is blissful for a lot of people that Zappa touched. Including me, before playing with this band, seeing P/O with Ike. So having the opportunity to give that to fellow zappa fanatics is something that I feel very good about.
JORDON: I want to finish learning the rest of Zappa's tunes, then move onto the REO Speedwagon catalog..
RICK: I'm going to have a series of reconstructive surgeries to make myself look whiter, more feminine, and eventually, like an alien.
ANDRE': reach many people by performing Zappa music, get a lot of this original music I have stockpiled out to the handful of people who would like it, and understand music better.
ANGELA: If you can't accomplish that, what accomplishment would at least satisfy you for now?
SEAHAG: I want a great tour this time around.
RICK: I just want to get rid of this rash and get on with my life.
JORDON: I want to go one full show without peeing my pants....
ANDRE': Staying in tune
ANGELA: Do you have any band philosophies or words of wisdom to share with aspiring musicians and artists?
RICK: If you don't love what you are doing don't bother doing it. ('what' can be replaced with 'who' and 'it' with 'them' for relationship theories)
JORDON: Drugs are the best when they're free. The chicks are the best when they're paid for.
SEAHAG: Do whatever feels wrong but by all means first try to learn how to do it right.
ANDRE': ALways make sure you're enjoying what you play, that and stay in tune. Take time to play alone and create in that vacuum.
ANGELA: Anything else that you would like to add or let people know.
RICK: Please buy my music so I don't have to get a job.
JORDON: Anyone know where I can find a midget for a roadie??
SEAHAG: I'm selling handcrafted rubberband penises for 25 bucks. see me after the show. Limited amounts. Throw your panties on stage, females only please.
ANDRE': Dig deep into the Zappa well - there's a ton of great musical ideas, especially in the live/bootleg area. But also use it as a starting point to check out Stravinsky, Varese, Johnny - guitar- Watson, Stockhausen, etc, --------------------