Holograms? WWFD

Hello Everyone,

There still seems to be a lot of talk about the Frank Zappa hologram tour proposed by the ZFT. I've been inundated with questions about what my Dad would have thought about such a thing. Here are my thoughts on the topic.

In my Dad's book, "The Real Frank Zappa Book," he discusses an idea he had for a 3 dimensional delivery system. He specifically states, “This is not a holographic process." He called the idea D.S.S. (Depth Synthesis System). You can read all about it in chapter 18 of his book.

It describes the system as a means of moving content he referred to as "QCI," Quality Content Items. He spoke of the whole system more in terms of a hugely profitable technology system that could be used throughout all forms of media and beyond. In terms of today's uses, it could easily be imagined as a great way to experience filmed entertainment, sporting events and video games.


It’s very probable that pornography will become one of the biggest areas of consumer interest.


On the level of large scale commerce the idea held a good amount of appeal to my father and his description of how it could work and what could be done with it is fascinating.

In any case, there isn't any reference to my Dad having a desire to be turned into a hologram and put out on tour. My Dad does not state in the book that holograms could be any kind of substitute for live musicians. The idea was not presented as a re-animation device for deceased entertainers either.


In fact, the concept of "re-animating" a deceased individual in holographic form for profit was most specifically not discussed.


There is a veritable cornucopia of undetermined rights and clearance issues that would arise from the estates of said individuals, ranging from expired copyrights and trademarks, synchronization rights, to ownership of the "digital puppet asset" itself.

There is also a conundrum about this concept in general. Not unlike attempting to find a job without experience, this concept is unproven to music fans on many levels. Quality is and will continue to be a big issue. Many holographic projects have been attempted and failed. For example, Whitney Houston’s family sidelined a holographic version of her because they weren’t convinced that the quality was good enough. With all due respect, there must be a disturbing combination of emotions people feel when seeing something of poor quality especially when it’s a 3 dimensional representation of their own deceased loved one.


Another underlying question about re-animating entertainers/musicians in holographic form is whether or not the public will approve and be motivated to consume it. It has not been ascertained as to whether or not the public will find this concept to be disrespectful to the artists/entertainer/individuals and their families or if they are ready and willing to shell out hundreds of dollars per ticket to see such a spectacle.


What type of fans will accept these "digital puppets?”


So far, regarding my Dad, his fans have been outspoken in communicating that they do not favor the idea. It would be very difficult to make the leap to say that my Dad would favor the idea himself, given his propensity for exalting music as the very highest art form and live music in general as being the most exhilarating experience in which to display the art. He often talked about the uniqueness of each of his shows and explained that the interactions with audience and the improvisations with his guitar as well as other instruments, were one time events. They only took place in one exact space and time for each particular audience to witness. He put tremendous effort into his work and it shows. He respected his audience for choosing his music, which he referred to as the “World’s Finest Optional Entertainment.”


Just because there are companies chomping at the bit to make a profit with this type of technology doesn't mean they will convince all consumers to fork over their hard earned money.


In the end, it is a choice for the consumer to make. Do they want something real or do they want something fake?"

Let’s also remember, when my Dad was asked how he would like to be remembered he said, "I wouldn't."


He went to say that being remembered was for people like "Reagan.” He didn’t say, "I want to be a hologram so I can sing 'Bobby Brown' in perpetuity."



  • Steven Fletcher.

    The collection 'You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore', along with the repeated use of the legend 'No Overdubs' on later releases, underlined F Z's commitment to live music. I have read interviews in which he spoke of music videos as being anti-music; the focus on the visual sense detracts from the aural experience. I suspect he'd think the whole project really stupid.

  • Kevin H.

    Dweezil, if I may, I'd like to argue a few points.

    Frank made no references to hologramming him in future performances. As far as I know, he didn't talk about videos of him being used in guitar duets, as you did so successfully.

    It's not clear what the difference is, other than this being three dimensional. And, just because he didn't anticipate holograms, can we really say that he would specifically have opposed them? He was always trying new stuff. 

    Just to belabor the point, "My Dad does not state in the book that holograms could be any kind of substitute for live musicians." As I understand it, the hologram would be for use along with other acclaimed FZ alumni, not instead of them, as an enhancement not dissimilar to the video clips you played along with.

    "Let’s also remember, when my Dad was asked how he would like to be remembered he said, "I wouldn't."" OK, but that seems to undermine the entire premise of your many tours – to promote his music and memory. 

    I look at it this way. If it works, awesome – more Frank is more better. If it fails, it will go away we can all have a good laugh.

    I just don't understand the knee-jerk dismissals. They seem to be based on dislike for Ahmet, which has nothing to do with whether or not this new approach could be artistically successful.

    Thanks for listening. I may be wrong about all this and am certainly open to counter-arguments. And keep on rocking.

  • Phil C.

    I think everybody's going to be in on the gag.  A hologram is no different that Dweezil playing with his dad on the jumbo-tron.  Everybody's there to see the alumni (Ian Underwood, Steve Vai).  Travers has probably found "something" for the entertainment value.

    I don't think anybody's going to be confused thinking it's really FZ on stage.  The ZFT can put on a great theatrical, well rehearsed show or screw the entire thing up.  Screwing it up = trying to put on a concert stage show.  This will NOT be an FZ show.  It will be the broadway themed FZ show (my wish - have 4 or 5 Mammy Nuns dancing around the stage (with the magic of stagecraft of course)).

    What sucks is - if it falls flat you will have to keep doing what you're doing as if nothing happened - you win.  If it turns out to work - you win as well.  Not by direct $ but by the free FZ publicity.

  • Surf Digby

    The press release says that Frank will be playing the part of the Central Scrutinizer. To the best of my knowledge, there is no footage of Frank performing as the Central Scrutinzer which means that it'll be other footage or a CGI interpretation manipulated to make his mouth move in time to the words. In this context "hologram" is another word for puppet. It's a synthetic version of Frank brought to life to do the bidding of his master. Clearly having control over Frank Zappa the brand wasn't enough, and Ahmet also wants to show that he has control over Frank Zappa the man.

    With Frank in the role of the Central Scrutinizer, it means that he won't be playing the role of Joe, and so it won't be Frank playing that last, imaginary guitar solo. According to Gail herself on the (coincidentally no longer available) FAQ page on zappa.com "He did, does and will not want anyone to play Watermelon In Easter Hay, Zoot Allures or Black Napkins - other than Dweezil."

    By dishonouring the wishes of both his father and his mother, it's pretty clear that this isn't any form of tribute.

  • Stanley P.

    Only disagree with one point: while your Dad might have thought live was unique, he often reused solos from one performance dubbed into another. No complaints, they were always god choices.




    • Dweezil

      Hi Stan,

      Thanks for your comment. Zenochrony is the name process you are describing. My Dad used the studio as an instrument and this process was another extension of his creativity. By combining 2 audio unrelated live performances into one new singular performance he was able to compose something unique. He enjoyed that usin working that way (long before computers and "Mashups") and it did yield amazing results.