Being in Zappa´s Universe

The rehearsal time that we got for Zappa´s Universe was one week (5 days) in Joe´s Garage, L.A. with "The Rocking Teenage Combo" - which was Scott Thunes, Mike Keneally, me and Mats. Then in New York, we got another 5 days with the full Orchestra of Our Time, all the guests; Persuations, Denny Walley, Dale Bozzio a.o.
Here are a couple of things I particularily remember :
First day in Joe´s Garage me and Mats got there first. We set up our equipment and were ready to go maybe 30 min before the actual rehearsal, so we decided to go out and wait for the other ones to come. We bought something to drink and sat down on the sidewalk. A car went by, somebody stepped out, big guy with long hair, sideburns, sunglasses etc. He opened the trunk and picked out what looked like a bass, and I realized it was Scott Thunes !
I guess you all have heard a million stories about the man, about his personality, him breaking up the 88 tour etc. etc. I had never met Scott before. We had been on stage together May 1st 1988, when we guested Franks last tour, but we never met after the show. Anyhow, I guess we would soon know more about him. Scott locked his car and marched up to Mats and me. I told Mats that Scott was there, and Mats totally lightened up! ( Mats is blind, in case you didn’t know. )
When Scott was facing us, he says - " greetings ! ", and we shock hands. Mats says: - " nice to be here ! " Scott reply was:
- " well, I’m not sure about that, that we gonna find out later… It´s to hot outside, I got to go inside, see you…"
I looked at Mats with my mouth open, as we started to imagine the attitude of the next two weeks.
Mike arrived, and when they were ready to play, Mike says "first side on You are what you is " and the next second he counts 1,2,3,4 and
we´re off ! And it sounded GREAT ! We just ripped it , loud and intense.
I could see that Scott liked the way it sounded .
-" But if we wouldn´t have known how to execute all of the 45 songs on the list, wouldn´t have been nice to be there" as Mats said on the sidewalk I guess that was Scott´s point… But after the three songs Society Pages, I’m a Beautiful Guy & Beauty Knows No Pain in segue, Scott put down his bass on the floor, threw his pick up in the air and said: "GREAT, this is good,- now we won´t have to rehearse this shit for the whole week, we can go down to the beach and enjoy ourselfs instead !


Suddenly everything was just great, It WAS nice to be there, even for Scott! So, my first impression of Scott Thunes was him being an entertaining character, that turned very sweat to Mats and me. His mood did swings sometimes, but I liked him a lot, and we came along very well I have to say. I have not seen Scott since –93, but I actually sent him an e-mail recently, which he replied, and I wish I could see him soon again.
He was very funny too. One time when we rehearsed with the Orchestra Of Our Time in N.Y., Mats pedal to his electric grand piano broke and fell apart. Scott saw that, put down his bass and walked over to Mats and was standing on all four under the piano fixing the pedal. Conductor Joel Thome started to conduct as he noticed Scott was gone. And when Joel found Scott under Mats piano, fixing the pedal with some tape, he said: " what are you doing ?" And Scott said (in a loud voice) : " I´m taping Mats penis to his leg! "


The people in the orchestra started to laugh off course; the whole situation was really hillarious, with the proper dressed violinplayers and all ! It just wasn’t what most people expected to hear in that situation I think, but it was very funny. Very Scott .
He could say things when you expected it the least. Another time while rehearsing at Joe’s Garage, a pretty young girl walked in to listen to our rehearsal, and when Scott saw her, he just said (in a loud voice again)
" You can´t have him, he’s married !" Meaning ME ! (-was married at the time) I don´t even know if Scott knew the girl, not necessarily I guess.
I miss Scott, AND the girl… - just kidding !
Frank came down the second day!
We were just having a break, and I saw a car coming with Dweezil behind the wheel and… yes, Frank was sitting next to him. They both came in and Frank said hello, how are you etc. and continued with a big smile: "so let me see what you can do now…"
We went into the rehearsal room, Frank sat down on a couch, lightened a cigarette, legs crossed and said "can you play Marqueeson´s Chicken ? ", wich got me confused, because that song wasn’t on the list as far as I remember, but Frank wanted to hear it, so we’d better give it a try !
Next song Frank wanted to hear wasn’t on the list either… as well as the next and next and next.... He just wanted to see what we really knew from his repertoire. We did really fine though. Mats knows more material than anyone on the planet, believe me. Mike knows a lot too for sure, as well as Scott. So, we basically played everything he wanted. Then Frank said:
" What about Tink Walks Amok ?… lets hear it with just
Mats & Morgan ! " That one worked fine as well (Mats played the bassline on the keyboards). Everything went just great, lucky us !
Later the same day, when we went to Franks house. Me and Mats sat down on a couch, Frank came in and sat down too, and said: "This was one of the nicest afternoons I had in a long time ! " We were in Nirvana.
Later that night Mats completely amazed everyone even more. We went down in Franks studio and Mats got to play the Bösendorfer grand. Frank asked Mats to play another 10 songs, amongst others Sleep Dirt (which is mosty a guitar solo !) but Mats just played it, and Frank said: "well, I didn’t know you could do that that one." He was really impressed. Then Mats overdubbed a piece on the Synclavier. Frank loaded something that sounded like Civilization phase lll, and then he wanted Mats to improvise on top. Frank stored the improvisation in the Synclavier entitled Mats. After that Frank started to sing Evelyn as Mats backed him up on the Synclavier with a Gamelan Orchestra sound ! It was so nice, and Frank was in such a good mood, as well as we of course.
How we managed to destroy the Black Page
A less exciting thing happened when our conductor Joel Thoume showed up at the rehearsal with Frank. We tried a couple of things. Frank wanted to hear Black Page #1, but just before we started to play Frank said:
"play it with conducting ".
Now, Joel did not have the score, and didn´t really remember the song I think, because his stick went all over the place and it was just impossible to follow him, or for him to follow us. It sounded incredible horrible. We played it the day before and it sounded just fine, but now after finishing our horrible version the room went dead silence. Frank was not too impressed, believe me.
But the worst thing was that neither Mike or Scott said anything about it.
I mean we played it the day before, why didn’t they say something? It was just a conducting problem, but - just silence. I didn’t feel that I had the position to stand up behind the drums and bla bla bla, when Scott is not even talking. Scott had played the song with Frank for some ten years, and Mike on one tour so, it was obviously to me that me and Mats would take the rap for it.. I wasn´t gonna take that, so I just said: " It was because of the conducting !"
Another five seconds of silence, then Frank finally said: " okay, play it without conducting " So we did, and we nailed it, so that was a big relief ! A nice happening was when we played Ya Hozna. Frank had heard about Mats abillity to sing and talk backwards. Mats did the backwars parts and Frank laughed his ass off ! When the rehearsal was over Frank got to hear Mats imitate WildMan Fisher as well and Frank said to Mats:
- " you´re wasting your time in Sweden..."


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Morgan Ågren free drumsolo, France July 2010 (part 1)
Morgan Ågren free drumsolo, France July 2010 (part 2)