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Drowning Witch question  
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wildfisherman
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Post 2007-10-29 15:02   [Quote] 
I'm feeling a little unsettled. Reading through the huge Mark Pinske interview that I linked to a while ago, I came across this section about the time Steve Vai was in the band.

Quote:
Frank said, "I'm flying Steve out here tomorrow." I thought, "What the heck would he fly another guitar player out?" the whole idea was, Frank decided--he'd lost a little confidence in his guitar playing. You knew about that, right?

Mix: No, I didn't.
Pinske: There's about a three-year period in there where he almost didn't play at all. And we did a lot of tours where he just sang, and Steve played guitar. Steve and Ray and Ike. Frank didn't do a lot of solos. And then later on, the fans got kind of picky about it. But his mind already, he was just trying to bring in another guitar player, and he was just going to do more ad-libbing and singing, and just kind of directing.


So my question is, Who is playing the bulk of the solos on Drowning Witches from this period. I'd always listened to them believing it was Frank. I think I'd be strangely upset if it wasn't. I mean, I'd still delight in the music just the same but I want it to be Frank! So can anyone enlighten me?

Another, lesser, question. The Witch on the album, SATLTSADW - where does the second solo come from? The first is from the Ritz 811117, right? With a little bit taken out around 3:30. But the second I can't place. And this myth (?) about there being 15 edits - how much truth is there in that? I can identify a few, like the start coming from somewhere else, and the wee bit missing, and the second solo, but the whole thing holds together so well and is so fluent that I find such a large number of edits hard to believe. Any information on that?
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pbuzby
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Post 2007-10-29 15:56   [Quote] 
Here's the edit list I came up with for this piece:

0:00 12-11-81E Santa Monica
0:38 11:27-81L Chicago
1:57? (or later) unknown date
3:13? (or earlier) 11-17-81 NYC
4:43 eleven bars edited out of the NYC solo
6:46 edit away from NYC to an unknown date (either
that or an edit to a few seconds later in the NYC
version, but I think it edits away)
6:57 11-27-81L Chicago
7:36 eight bars edited out of the Chicago solo
7:47 eight bars edited out of the Chicago solo
8:08 unknown date

FZ said in an interview from 1983 (which I can't find online at the moment) that the piece had 15 edits. There are probably other edits between 1:57-3:13 and after 8:08.

BTW, I've heard every 1981 version of Drowning Witch listed in FZShows, and have never found the source of the solo after 8:08. My guess is that it's from Salt Lake City, a show FZ seemed to like which has never circulated.
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pbuzby
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Post 2007-10-29 16:01   [Quote] 
As far as the Pinske interview, it is confusing, but I think that watching the Paris 80 and Palladium 81 interviews, and listening to the guitar albums, would disprove the idea that FZ wasn't soloing much in this period. It is true that he more or less stopped playing rhythm or composed parts, which he had done more often between 74 and winter 78.
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pbuzby
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Post 2007-10-29 16:06   [Quote] 
I found the interview (http://www.geocities.com/zerttrez/phase2/83gp.htm).

Here is the section about Drowning Witch:

What guitar did you use on "Drowning Witch"?

I think both solos are with the Hendrix Strat.

How did you get the feedback that pervades throughout?

It's live. Those were live tracks that were overdubbed. There are some equalizers in my guitar-- a parametric EQ with a little, narrow peak. And once you find the feedback range in the room, you can turn it up, and the guitar doesn't have to be loud to just feed back at that frequency.

Do you usually twiddle with it during a solo?

Yeah. First I set it during the sound check, and then if the acoustics of the room change due to the audience, I can just reach over and tweeze it while I'm playing.

How do you synchronize parts from different performances for final mixing into one song?

First of all, you start off with a band that is highly rehearsed, that maintains their tempo. They learn it at a certain tempo, then they'll play it the same way night after night. Do you know how many edits there are in "Drowning Witch"? Fifteen! That song is a basic track from 15 different cities. And some of the edits are like two bars long. And they're written parts -- all that fast stuff. It was very difficult for all the guys to play that correctly. Every once in a while somebody would hit the jackpot, but it's a very hard song to play. So there was no one perfect performance from any city. What I did was go through a whole tour's worth of tape and listen to every version of it and grab every section that was reasonably correct, put together a basic track, and then added the rest of the orchestration to it in the studio.

Besides switching up the rhythm, how did you deal with variations in pitch?

Do you hear any? There were no VSO [variable-speed oscillator, which controls the speed of the tape recorder] changes of the sections at all, because when we go out on the road, everything is tuned to a tune-up box every day. We have a standard: Everybody tunes to the vibes, because their tuning doesn't drift. We calibrate all our Peterson Strobe Tuners to them. That gives you consistency.
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joshjackson
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Post 2007-10-29 16:17   [Quote] 
What album are these solos found on
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tsotelo
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Post 2007-10-29 16:18   [Quote] 
Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch.

By the way,great info pbuzby,thanks.
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wildfisherman
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Post 2007-10-29 20:13   [Quote] 
Many thanks, pbuzby, for such a comprehensive answer to my questions. I feel a lot better now!

If that hadn't been Frank a whole section of my world would have been turned upside down - I sort of knew it was him, but sometimes things you "know" turn out to be wrong. That would have been a big one though.

It was just that Mark Pinske seemed to be as authoratitive a source as you could ask for. I'm glad there are interviews with the man himself - and I suppose video evidence and peoples' recollections as well - to put the record straight.

pbuzby wrote:
listening to the guitar albums, would disprove the idea that FZ wasn't soloing much in this period.


You're right - I should never have had a moment's confusion.
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czgibson
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Post 2007-11-03 15:13   [Quote] 
I've always thought this (1980-2) was one of FZ's out-and-out BEST periods for soloing. I've got Chicago 11/28/80 on now, and 'If Only She Woulda' is melting my mind.

Quote:
There's about a three-year period in there where he almost didn't play at all. And we did a lot of tours where he just sang, and Steve played guitar. Steve and Ray and Ike. Frank didn't do a lot of solos.


I know he didn't play much from 84-87, but what's this guy talking about?
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pbuzby
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Post 2007-11-03 15:43   [Quote] 
I think the short answer is that Pinske, like most people trying to discuss what they did with Zappa two or more decades ago, just doesn't have a completely accurate memory.
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Chunga's Revenge
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Post 2007-11-03 16:16   [Quote] 
wildfisherman wrote:

pbuzby wrote:
listening to the guitar albums, would disprove the idea that FZ wasn't soloing much in this period.

You're right - I should never have had a moment's confusion.

You never have again if you listen to all those DW solo's from the 1982 European Tour, specially the ones in Italy. Franks blows everything away, unbelievable!

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"And dream of guitar notes that would irritate."
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wildfisherman
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Post 2007-11-03 19:18   [Quote] 
czgibson wrote:
I've always thought this (1980-2) was one of FZ's out-and-out BEST periods for soloing.


Chunga's Revenge wrote:
listen to all those DW solo's from the 1982 European Tour, specially the ones in Italy. Franks blows everything away, unbelievable!


I agree, I agree, that's exactly how I've always felt. It's the stuff I listen to more than almost anything else. If you set your iPod on Track you can get one Drowning Witch after another and I've got 30 or 40. Have 'em on in the car. Or headphones when I'm doing stuff outside. If I had to explain to someone why I love Frank, that would be one way of doing it - play them one version after another, all massive, all different, but never one that misses.

That's why I really was disturbed by the quote I gave. liftup.sml

Quote:
There's about a three-year period in there where he almost didn't play at all. And we did a lot of tours where he just sang, and Steve played guitar. Steve and Ray and Ike. Frank didn't do a lot of solos.


Exactly the period in question, from someone who ought to know, but I'm very happy with pbuzby's common sense suggestion that his memory was simply letting him down.
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