Do you have any favorite new recording gadgets?
I like the Synclavier polyphonic sampling system, which I’m using extensively. It let’s you take a short sample and extend it indefinitely. Now a single trumpet “boop” can be played for longer than anyone could hold a breath. It enables you to create new sounds that were impossible before.
What is your strongest characteristic as a human being?
Have you ever witnessed a miracle?
Well, I think I heard my band play this certain bar in “The Black Page” correctly one time.
If you hadn’t become a musician, what would you be doing now?
I would probably be a chemist, or a physicist.
Who has musically affected you the most?
Probably Varese — and also Webern and Stravinsky.
Is there any period in history where you would have been more comfortable?
Not really, because I’m an “electronic kind of guy.” An earlier era might have offered more in terms of aesthetics, but so much of what I do involves electronic devices that I don’t think I would be happy without them.
Are you as successful as you would like to be?
I would say that the basic characteristic of my life is failure. If there is one thing that I excel at, it’s failure — I manage to fail at 100 percent of the things that I do. Since most of the things that I set out to do are theoretically impossible, it’s very easy to fail. I’ve learned to live with it. In terms of machinery and personnel, there never seems to be enough to get things done exactly right.
If you were to star in a film, what would your dream role be?
I never liked the idea of acting. I have trouble identifying with things that are “make believe,” where people pretend.
Do you have any idiosyncrasies?
I smoke a lot of cigarettes, drink a lot of coffee, and do a lot of work.
Why do people have pets?
That varies from person to person. I have pets because I like them better than humans. Some people have pets because they think they’re furniture.
B: Are you related to the 18th Century composer named Zappa?
Z: Probably not, but I researched the music and got some scores from the U.C. Berkeley library, the Library of Congress, and from a library in Holland. The material was entered into the Synclavier. An album of the material is available — Francesco Zappa, His First Digital Recording in Over 200 Years.
How would you like to be remembered in the distant future?
I would rather not. I’d rather just skip it. I think that people who build an aspect of remembrance into their work habits, like “If I don’t do this, then how will I be remembered?” — that’s really bad. You should just plan for The Big Blotch.
Was there anything wrong with this interview?
No, it was perfect.