This summer, Dweezil Zappa and his backing band will once again perform the music of his father Frank Zappa on a nationwide tour, but unlike the past decade, the guitarist will be playing under a different moniker. Instead of Zappa Plays Zappa, the touring unit will now be dubbed Dweezil Zappa Plays Frank Zappa, stemming in part from a bitter feud between Frank Zappa’s children over their father’s copyright, the New York Times reports.
In the wake of matriarch and longtime estate executrix Gail Zappa’s death in October, son Ahmet Zappa was tasked with handling the day-to-day operations of his father’s estate with help from youngest daughter Diva Zappa. Dweezil and Moon Unit Zappa are not trustees, but remain equal beneficiaries of their father’s estate with their other two siblings.
Earlier in April, Dweezil Zappa received legal notice from the Zappa Family Trust that continued use of the name Zappa Plays Zappa could result in copyright infringement damages of $150,000 per song performed. Gail Zappa had previously allowed Dweezil to use the Zappa Plays Zappa in exchange for an “exorbitant fee.”
“My last name is Zappa; my father was Frank Zappa,” Dweezil said. “But I am not allowed to use the name on its own. I’m not allowed to use a picture of him. I’m not allowed to use my own connection with him without some sort of deal to be struck.”
Dweezil added, “I just hope people will understand that the only thing I’m changing is the name.”
The Zappa Family Trust issues have created a rift between brothers: Dweezil and Ahmet released a pair of albums together in the Nineties; now, they only communicate through lawyers. The siblings have also split over the upcoming authorized Frank Zappa documentary.
Speaking to the New York Times, Ahmet Zappa said the trust’s stance against Zappa Plays Zappa isn’t personal and that they’re only preserving the integrity of their father’s legacy. “I am not standing in the way of Dweezil playing the music,” he said. “He would just have to be in accordance with the family trust.”