Frank Zappa’s hologram is coming soon to a city near you, whether you like it or not. The 1970s rock icon passed away in 1993 due to cancer at the age of 52, leaving behind an extensive musical career spanning over 30 years. Now, nearly 25 years after his death, Zappa is set to return in the form of a hologram put together by hologram production company Eyellusion and the Zappa Family Trust. The touring hologram was first announced late last year with the support of Frank Zappa’s son, Ahmet, the EVP of business development for Eyellusion and co-trustee of the Zappa Family trust.
Now, Eyellusion has revealed the lineup for the upcoming tour, with legendary Zappa players Ray White, Mike Keneally, Scott Thunes, Robert Martin and Joe “Vaultmeister” Travers making up the core. Special guests Steve Vai, Warren Cuccurullo, Ian Underwood, Vinnie Colaiuta, Napoleon Murphy Brock, Arthur Barrow, Ed Mann and more will be featured for select shows. The hologram is said to be taken from a 1974 performance of Zappa, previously locked away in the vaults for 44 years. The video, said to be of Zappa cranking out an amazing performance at a rehearsal space in Los Angeles, has been unreleased and will serve as the basis for “The Bizarre World of Frank Zappa” hologram.
Eyellusion CEO Jeff Pezzuti said in a statement regarding the upcoming performance:
When we debuted rock’s first live hologram experience in 2016 and saw the reactions of mesmerized fans in the crowd, we knew we tapped into something huge, we’ve been working tirelessly since then to create live music experiences that people could previously only dream of, drawing full capacity crowds along the way. Until now, it would have been unheard of for fans to imagine being treated to a lost Frank Zappa performance backed by more than a dozen of the iconic musicians that played with him throughout his career. But this is why Eyellusion was founded—to make the impossible come to life before the eyes of fans, and preserving the legacy of music’s most important artists so it can be passed down to future generations.
Former Zappa guitarist Adrian Belew got stuck amidst some Zappa family/fan drama due to the upcoming tour. When first approached by Ahmet asking him to consider playing for the holographic tour, Belew wrote in a Facebook post that he was considering it:
I think of Frank Zappa as my mentor. I realize I can never repay him for the opportunities he gave me. to be honest I played a very minor role in the Zappa universe and have always felt I get more credit than I deserve.
still, I jump at any chance I can to praise and honor Frank. so when one of his sons calls me to explain a possible concert series 18 months in the future, I am willing to listen.
in our brief conversation Ahmet explained the holographic concept and asked if it was something I might consider being part of. it didn’t occur to me that Frank’s fans might find it distasteful. admittedly I didn’t think that part through.
I told Ahmet if I felt strongly it would be a great way to celebrate Frank’s music, yes, I would consider being part of it. he asked permission to use my name in the announcement and I gave him permission.
In another post that same day, Belew confirmed once and for all that he would “respectively count himself out” of the roster, calling the tour “far too caustic and divisive.”
here are my final thoughts on the entire Zappa affair: respectfully count me out.
I will not be playing Zappa music in the foreseeable future in any situation.
this whole thing is far too caustic and divisive.
I will say I have always admired Dweezil for playing his father’s music and playing it so damn perfectly. I remember time spent with young Moon and how much I really liked her. recently I met Diva for the first time (she works on Billy Bob Thornton’s tour) and she was very nice to me. though I have yet to meet Ahmet in person, he too has been nice to me. earlier this year he asked me to write liner notes for the upcoming Zappa Halloween box set and he treated me respectfully.
I do know one thing: Frank loved his family.
I have many positive creative things to do. I hope you all will enjoy them. none of them will have anything to do with the current Zappa universe, but I will always revere and love Frank.
While some fans and ex-band members might not wholeheartedly approve of the Zappa hologram, Ahmet sees it as an extension of his father’s legacy. In a press statement released today, Ahmet reveals:
As a futurist, and hologram enthusiast, Frank fearlessly broke through boundary after boundary as an artist and in honoring his indomitable spirit we’re about to do it again, 25 years after his passing. This mind-melting show we’re putting together celebrates the music, often surreal imagery and humor synonymous with Frank. We will be pushing the limits of what anyone has seen holographically on stage before in a live venue. Circumstances, objects, places and subject matter from Frank’s songs and imagination will be brought to life for the first time on stage. We are anthropomorphizing Frank’s music, so his own hand drawn illustrations, classic imagery from his album artwork and characters from his songs can all interact and perform on stage. And let’s not forget, Frank himself will be rocking his fans, alongside his bandmates like nobody’s business. My father and I actively discussed 3D and ‘holography’ and it was a concept he actively engaged in. He actually devoted half a chapter of his The Real Frank Zappa Book (1990) to this subject. This is a love letter and a journey celebrating the genius artistry of Frank Zappa. On a personal note, I feel like I am finishing something my father started years ago.
Dates for “The Bizarre World Of Frank Zappa” tour will be announced in the coming months. Eyellusion recently wrapped the European leg of its “DIO Returns” tour, featuring a hologram of vocalist Ronnie James Dio backed by the DIO Band. Zappa will soon join DIO and other past artists like Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson and Tupac Shakur on the increasingly long list of musicians who’ve transcended death and have come back to perform as holograms.
Find the poster for “The Bizarre World of Frank Zappa” tour beneath a 1978 Zappa performance from the Paste Cloud. For more Zappa content, check out Paste’s “Five Zappa Songs For People Who Don’t Get Zappa” list right here.
“The Bizarre World of Frank Zappa” Tour Poster: