'Zappa' Category

Frank Zappa Online

The Internet is a Great Place to be a Zappa Fan

I originally intended yesterday’s post to be a collection of a few Zappa web links, but instead ended up writing about Frank’s lifelong commitment to technology and great business practice. As promised, here’s the list I originally promised!

i: The Official Channels

zappa.com is the official source of Zappa news, new releases and home of the Barfko-Swill online store. The best part of the site is probably the ‘GZ Sez’ page, where Gail responds to fan questions, which are invariably of the ‘when is XYZ being released from the vault?’ variety.















Dweezil is right at the centre of the Zappaverse these days, leading as he does the incomparably brilliant Zappa Plays Zappa tour. His own website, Dweezil Zappa World, has a regularly updated blog and info about the Dweez’s various projects. He also uses it to give guitar lessons and sell old gear occasionally as well.











ii: Encyclopaedia Zappa

Frank’s fans are very dedicated and curious by nature, and there are many great resources online covering even the most excruciating minutiae – AKA the most interesting bits. Saint Alphonzo’s Pancake Homepage and Wiki/Jawaka are my favourite of the online Zappapedias.














iii: …the Paraphernalia of it All


If the nearly 100 official Zappa catalog releases aren’t enough to satisfy your appetite for FZ content, you’re not alone. The Zappa bootleg community was one of the most dedicated and comprehensive unofficial organisations during Frank’s touring years, and its embrace of the internet has made it even stronger and more accessible.

There is a massive collection (50+) of concert bootlegs available for download at QualityBootz, however my favourite Zappa file sharing community is definitely Zappateers, who’s members have made available some of the most unusual (mid-1980s Norwegian local press conference-unusual) material for download.

(If you join Zappateers, please seed, seed, seed – it’s a fantastic resource.)

iv: Instant Extraterrestrial Gratification

YouTube has a couple of great pages available dedicated to vintage/rare/hilarious/brilliant Zappa material. The ‘reldditmot‘ and ‘YourArf‘ channels are packed with good stuff, with all the convenience of YouTube and 0% skateboarding dog-content.

Frank Zappa: Technology, Business & the Web

During his lifetime, Frank Zappa was an inspirational free thinker, a compelling speaker and, often flying right in the face of the norm, held absolute conviction in his beliefs. For me, he was also the greatest and most inventive composer and guitar player to grace the planet.

Business Nous, Technology Vision

In addition to those bitchen’ factoids, Frank is also a business and technology hero of mine, and it’s maybe not so widely known how switched on to these fields he was throughout his career.

From the very earliest days of his career, Frank was determined to maintain creative and business control of his own product – by 1969, he headed a pair of record labels (Bizarre/Straight), releasing his own solo & Mothers of Invention material as well as other artists, including Alice Cooper, Tim Buckley and Captain Beefheart. In the mid-late 1970s, Frank demonstrated his absolute commitment to control, entering a legal spat with Warner Bros. records after they refused to distribute the ‘Läther’ four-LP box, instead chopping it into four separate album releases. He was vindicated in court, winning back the rights to all of his MGM & Warner Bros. recordings. All of his releases post-1979 appeared on his own Barking Pumpkin or Zappa Records labels.

After years of complacency, poor management, lack of innovation and an inability (or unwillingness) to explore new business models, many major record labels are on their knees today, a direct result of their ignorance of digital distribution – a concept invented by Frank way back in 1983. In fact, Frank’s idea to distribute music over a phone or cable connection was designed specifically to save money on distribution and curtail piracy. Yes, not only did Frank predict Napster, LimeWire et al, but he also came up with iTunes as a means to prevent the recording industry meltdown we’re now in the midst of.

Frank’s embrace of the latest technology began before the days of the Mothers of Invention – even in the early 60s he worked with a 5-track multitrack recording system, when such a setup was very high technology indeed and restricted to only the most expensive recording studios. In the 1980s, he began creating music using the New England Digital Synclavier digital audio workstation, largely obviating the human performers he had relied on for the rest of his career. As the Synclavier’s technology progressed, Frank stayed at the cutting edge – adding disk drives to store samples and more and more memory for multitracking. Compare the (Grammy award winning!) Jazz From Hell album with the final masterpiece, Civilization Phaze III, to hear the difference between the cutting edge FM voices of 1986 and the most sophisticated wavetable synthesis available in 1993. Frank’s Synclavier in its ultimate form was specced with 640MB of sample RAM. (In 1993, my desktop was running Windows 3.1 on a 486 with 4MB of RAM.)

FZ Online, 2011

Even in his absence, Frank’s following today is stronger than ever, thanks greatly to the dedicated community of fans using the web to share, enjoy and spread the word. Tomorrow, I’ll share my favourite Zappa-centric corners of the web, but for now, Easy Meat.

Royal Wedding iPhone 5 Birth Certificate


Sure fire way to increase traffic.

Welcome to Lumpy Gravy


Welcome to Lumpy Gravy indeed. The site appears no different today than yesterday, but behind the scenes it’s a whole different story.

After 6+ months of good service, Uncle Meat, the HP DL380 which has hosted this site since October of 2010, has been replaced. Running a system which was designed to (and formerly did) occupy a corporate datacenter in your home sadly proved impossibly noisy, and Uncle Meat was moved to the garden shed shortly after coming online.

This was actually a pretty decent (if hacky) solution – the shed was freezing cold all winter and noone went outside because of the unfriendly weather. However, things in Sussex have taken a turn for the lovely, and with temperatures outside approaching 30 degrees, Uncle Meat has met a couple of issues which have precluded its continued employment.

This DL380 sports a pair of 2.80GHz Xeons, which are great for number crunching but, because of their NetBurst architecture, kick out a phenomenal amount of heat. Because of this, running 24/7 in 30 degree plus heat (even with the window open) is not the most reliable environment, and a far cry from the air conditioned datacenter it formerly called home. The noise of the cooling array is what evicted it from the house originally, and with more time being spent in the garden it’s no longer an okay place for Uncle Meat to be.

It’s been great fun learning the ropes on this machine, but life must continue and this site now has a newer, quieter and faster home – introducing Lumpy Gravy.

Lumpy Gravy is a decent step up in specification despite coming into existence on a shoestring budget, and it’s been designed with practicality in mind from the outset. Specs are as follows:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 (2.40GHz, 4MB L2)
  • ASUS P5KPL-AM
  • 2GB Corsair XMS2 DDR2
  • 500GB Western Digital Caviar Green HDD
  • Ubuntu 10.10 64-bit

The Core 2 CPU is a decent amount quicker than the pair of Xeons it replaces, and has much better energy saving features. It’s running at a cool 30 degrees using only the stock Intel cooler, spinning at just 850rpm (= quiet!).

Even though this is definitely a system on a budget, I went for decent quality RAM – Corsair XMS is designed for overclockers and both DIMMs have heatsinks on either side. Because I’m not overclocking, this should be a really stable solution (it’s always very reassuring to be working with components well within their tolerances). I’ve been building with ASUS boards since the late 90s and they’ve never given me any reason to change allegiance. This one has really nice square VRMs which are designed to fit perfectly with the outer fins of the CPU cooler – a neat touch which helps with heat dissipation and should keep this rig stable. It’s running a G31 chipset, with a minimal 8MB RAM shared with the integrated GMA 3100.

Western Digital is another brand I’ve used almost exclusively for over a decade now, and their current range of Caviar drives is very well thought out, providing clear options depending on the system builder’s priorities. In this case, my priorities were minimal power consumption, quiet operation and long term reliability. The Caviar Green was the obvious choice for me – it spins at 5400RPM (quieter, longer life) but has 32MB of cache memory, ideal for a web server.

I’ve also taken this opportunity to upgrade Ubuntu to the latest and greatest – 10.10 in 64-bit. Yes, I’m only running 2GB RAM, but this gives the opportunity to upgrade past 4GB in the future, as well as the (occasionally noticeable) performance benefits of running 64-bit software.

So that’s Lumpy Gravy, the new home of zebpedersen.co.uk and my associated ‘cloudy’ bits and pieces. I’m currently working on a handy guide for anyone porting a WordPress site from one machine to another, and there’s some exciting new configurations I’m working on with Apache 2 which will be written about shortly as well.

 

Zappa for President

Zappa for President

Via flickr

Cry Baby

Cry Baby: The Pedal That Rocks The World from Joey Tosi on Vimeo.

An absolutely wonderful way to spend an hour. Paul Gilbert, Larry LaLonde and, of course, Dweezil Zappa are my highlights. My first effects pedal and just about the only thing other than a Telecaster which has stayed permanently in my rig.