Project ‘Zappaesk’ Demystified
By Ravi V. Chhabra
All photos copyright: Andreas Rausch/Right Impact Media Inc.
The social media is an incredible universe to connect with likeminded people who somehow enter our world! Consequentially, an email chat happened with the highly talented artist-cum-music-mixer and inventor Andreas Rausch who enjoys his ‘multimedia’ work dedicated to modern music composer Frank Zappa like nobody else does.
Born in December 1963 in a small town in Lower-Franconia, Bavaria and brought up in a tiny village about 500 meters away from the before mentioned small town, I did my schooling in the classical/typical way right in that area, but didn’t like it much. Reading books was the big thing. Music was and still is the best for me. Comic-books delivered the most exciting combination of art and entertainment. Drawing remains the greatest possibility to express every idea that comes to my mind. I have been working as a professional potter for many years and have a good background-philosophy to the act of creating and I feel working with the 4 elements can leave an interesting impression on the soul.
After finishing my work with clay, I started a new life as an autodidact illustrator, or artist, as you might say and also worked for TV, cinema, postcards and comic-magazines and always had in my mind: The concept of ‘the big note’ (or whatever you might think is possibly bigger than you and the invisible) and the meaning of ‘conceptual continuity’, which I would also like to see as “the connection of the one size that takes itself out of measures like time and space”...yeah, I’m sure this all fits in every individual concept.
I´m heavily impressed by the great and mind-blowing composer Frank Zappa since the mid-70s - the man who was able to put a frame around all the stuff I thought about. His instrumental compositions such as 'Filthy Habits', 'Bogus Pomp', 'Blessed Relief', 'The Ocean Is The Ultimate Solution', the whole masterpiece 'Lumpy Gravy' and its next level 'Civilization Phaze III' (and many more for sure) that always seemed to tell a larger story than the ones with lyrics. In 1994, after Frank Zappa went on his last big tour and the before mentioned 'Civilization Phaze III' was released, I started to work on ‘Zappaesk’, the book. Seven years and billions of dots on paper later, the work was complete.
And did you learn art/drawing? Is your book on Zappa gone commercial? Have you ever tried to show your Zappesk to any of the Zappas?
No, I never saw an art-school from the inside; never had a teacher. I just wanted to draw. I can not join a discussion about different kinds of pens, pencils, brushes, paper and so on. I take what ever is on my desk and start. I can talk a lot about the meaning of the finished work. The book was published by one of the two biggest comic-book-publishers we have over here in the (haha) “Fatherland” (like Frank Zappa also called Germany).
It had little commercial potential which led to a strange experience that I titled “My Zappaesque and personal Warner Bror-like experience”. And yes, I sent my book to Gail Zappa. Right after its release, because it was important to me that the Zappa family knows that it exists. The first years she didn´t answer. When I decided to follow 'the technical flow' and bought my first complete computer-equipment for all in Euros 35 and started to work with it in 2011, I wrote an e-mail to Gail Zappa and asked if she had received my book.
She wrote back soon enough and told me that she has it and somehow hates me, “wishes for me that nobody will ever do such a terrible thing to the Andreas Rausch family” and wants to see every existing piece of paper, such as contracts, sales-numbers and so on before she starts thinking about sending a dozen of her attorneys after me. I felt honored to seem so important in her eyes and, of course, sent her everything and even more than she wanted, including a lovely and honestly written letter. That was it. End of that story.
But then a friend of mine went to a Dweezil Zappa show, knowing that he can meet Dweezil after the show and brought his signed copy of “Zappaesk” to this event. He told me later that he said to Dweezil that he have this comic-book but can't gift it to Dweezil because there's the dedication “Dieses Buch gehört Michael Krampe” and my signature inside but for sure the son of Frank Zappa should take a look at it. Dweezil then said that that is not a problem because they have it at home and that he thinks it's great art…my friend told him that he can't understand Gail's reaction about my work and Dweezil said something like “Yes, mama is difficult.”
How many music albums of FZ do you own and your favourites? What do you understand by ‘conceptual continuity’?
I have every official FZ album that he released one time on vinyl and one time on compact-disc because of the sometimes different mixes. I have all the ZFT-releases too and hundreds of unofficial recordings, so-called bootlegs. My all-time favourites are “Lumpy Gravy”, “Civilization Phaze III”, “LÄTHER”, “Uncle Meat”, “Lumpy Money” (because of the amazing 1984-Remix of Lumpy Gravy”), “Hot Rats”, “Burnt Weenie Sandwich”, “The Yellow Shark” and now also “The Hot Rats Sessions”, just to give minimum titles…
Truth is that my favourite album is everytime the album which is on my turntable or in the player and playing right that moment…better would be of course to say “That one big album” (all) is my favourite album, because there is only one (all). And that's a part of the answer to how I understand Zappa's 'conceptual continuity'. Personally, I feel that ´conceptual continuity' is the nature of non-artificial things, of things that are alive and organic, even if you do not recognize it. When I say concept I do not mean plan. To me, a concept goes beyond the ideas of human stuff. The moon is circling around the earth and the earth takes the moon for a circle around the sun.
Which equipment do you use for mixing Zappa music or is it simple software on computer?
Well, in fact I'm not mixing Zappa music. I see myself more like someone who illustrated the spirit of Frank Zappa's music for the deaf, another level of “music for the heads” for people who aren't able to hear. Frank Zappa is way more than his wonderful unique music. If you talk about the little videos on my not-so popular youtube channel, well, then I have to say: the most powerful possibility to make a part of these videos come true, here in my room is due to my wonderful partner-in-life, the highly talented Leila Hichri. She's a photographer and she grew up with computers. She calls me' the director', - that is indeed flattering to me and is helping me to turn my old “Zappaesk – the movie” videos into “gold”, but that shall take time.
Can you elaborate on this...
I made these “old” videos with a digital camera standing on four to five thick books in the right distance to my computer monitor and prepared and cut single panels from my book, like a digital flipbook, skipped this kind of dia-show with one finger using this, err, using this, err, computer-button (you know, the one with the tiny triangle showing to the right) while the audio came at the same time from a video on youtube which was fitting with the story I wanted to tell.
So it's possible that you see the illustrations for the chapter where “The big G.” finds “The SOFA (OSFA - ONE SIZE FITS ALL)” in the empty space of universe and James and from a scientific documentary about the Big Bang and from a spiritual explanation about the creation of the world - all at the same time.
I think my favourite no-budget-mini-movie-chapter is the complete part VI of the still unfinished series. Here it comes to Frank Zappa´s - Stink-Foot which is to me the real deal in metaphorical explanations about Conceptual Continuity. Fido is an exceptional forward-thinker, a wiz (which is extinct).
For the video I combined mini-samples of the songs - Stink-foot and stuff up the cracks. I take my material from every source that excites me and make sure that curiosity is more important than judgement in the first place. I judge nothing or everything at the same time.
Who do you admire most in the original FZ lineup and favourite music genre?
I admire every lineup that has Frank Zappa in the band, or at least Frank Zappa in the same room because of Frank Zappa. My favourite musical genre: It is hard to name. From the avant-garde, experimental, some punk, jazz, electronic music from the 1950s to the 1970s, some rock, some prog...outsider music...KRAUTROCK is great (I was born there).
Your views about world music and fusion music.
Another reason why I love Frank Zappa - his kind of world music - mongolian throat-singers with synclavier and orchestra-samples (Dance Me This or CPIII for example).
In fusion music, I just listen to Roxy and Hot Rats and the newly released sessions. Zappa loved for example Dolphy, Mingus, music from India and Arabic music. So do I.
Your plan to take the ‘Zappaesk’ ahead?
I'm still working on an English translation of the 240 pages but that's not easy. My English is quite pathetic. I mean if I talk with you it's good enough to give you the right idea of what I'm talking about and people are nice and do not correct me grammatically every time!