Project/Object is returning to Zappanale !! In a couple of weeks, the band will be giving their fourth concert in Bad Doberan.
Here's a short chat with André Cholmondely, guitar player, vocalist and the man behind Project/Object.
UniMuta : Hi André, how are you doing? It seems like you've been pretty busy lately, touring the world. Can you share some of it with us?
André Cholmondeley : Thanks Peter, yes, a slow couple months , but since the spring I've been very busy with projects.
In April I did a tour with the historic "UK Reunion" of Eddie Jobson and John Wetton, with Marco Minnemann & Alex Machacek. Zappa fans know Eddie well from the Zappa in New York and recently, Philly 1976 albums. Some of them know Alex from his band with Bozzio, and Marco from his CDs with Mike Keneally. So -- lots of Zappa connection there -- and both Marco & Alex will be with Eddie at Zappanale. They did material from their legendary UK and DANGER MONEY albums, we toured NY, Boston , San Francisco and three gigs in Japan, shortly after the tsunami. It was a fantastic tour to be a part of -- I did guitar & bass tech for John Wetton, and some of the advance planning for the shows. Great stuff, Wetton is my favorite prog vocalist, he's still towering in what he does, as is Eddie. At this moment I am finishing up a month-long tour with YES and STYX, working for Steve Howe...we're just winding down a month of crisscrossing the USA, pretty much every region. A fantastic time as it always is working with the heroes of my youth. Such a learning experience on all levels, and Steve is just astounding, so on top of his game on the guitar. Yes in general has been doing some great shows, and working with the Styx band & crew has been a total pleasure as well. Super people.
UniMuta : And how is Project/Object doing? You did another short tour earlier this year with special guests Ike Willis and Ray White. Are you getting accustomed to sharing the stage with these monuments?
André Cholmondeley : It's really great, I mean I grew up looking up to those guys of course, and the 1984 tour was the first one I saw, so they really had an effect on the 19 year old Andre´. Getting to meet them on that tour was unimaginably cool. Yes, I'm accustomed now to working with them, we're close friends offstage for ages. It's still amazing when I think about it, though. Again -- I learn so much from those guys - on so many levels, performance, Zappa history, guitar skills & ideas. The stories we've heard from them , and from the many other alumni, priceless. It's also been great just seeing the fans enjoy seeing the actual guys from their favorite 70s and 80s albums. It's one of my favorite periods of Frank, and clearly a fave of many people actually.
UniMuta : In the years that you've been touring and performing the music of Frank Zappa, have you seen an evolution in the public, in the appreciation? I guess that it's never been easy to find gigs performing the music of Frank Zappa. Has it been getting easier throughout the years, or is it getting more difficult instead?
André Cholmondeley : That's a great question actually. I'd say BOTH things are true..... In the many years since I added this insane task to my life, I've seen a great evolution, countless people who still write in and say "I never 'got' Zappa until I saw the music live" and now they are big fans and have tons of the records. I'm not sitting here taking credit for that, either -- I hear this from our colleagues the Muffin Men, Bogus Pomp, Ed Palermo Big Band, Zappatistas and all the great bands who play Zappanale. Every time I'm there in Germany I meet people who are novices amongst the total hardcore freaks....and on our own tours I meet people all the time who say "I had two or three Zappa albums when my friend brought me to see you guys.... now I've seen you 6 times and I have 35 albums ! Thanks for bringing the guys back every year...." So that feels great.
Having said that - - and to the other side of the coin, it's tougher for EVERYONE in the music biz these recent few years, the economy worldwide affects attendance, and other factors like the shifting into a generation with a high percent of dance and DJ music fans. Also there are so many more Zappa-tribute bands, including the great tours put on by Dweezil, of course. Despite the many lawsuits and attacks directed from them towards my band , and towards the Zappanale & others, I heartily recommend that people see his ZPZ show, it's a great and honorable tribute to his dad's music. However, it's clear that each of us various and worldwide bands also brings a valid voice to celebrating Frank Zappa.
UniMuta : And Project/Object is coming to Zappanale again. For the fourth time. Are you looking forward to it?
André Cholmondeley : Very much so! First off I always love coming to Germany. Despite their reputation as gruff, humorless people, I find the Germans warm, friendly and fantastic. The food and beer are superb, people are always shocked that as a 27 year vegetarian I say that -- but it's true!! A very veg-friendly country, along with the cornucopia of pork sausages, they love their mushrooms, greens, dark bread and vegetables. I also love the old architecture and amazing green landscape on long drives. Fantastic place. I've now been there also on tour with Al Di Meola and Adrian Belew, as well as several cities with Project/Object in 2010. So those memories alway frame the Zappanale visits. So we do look forward to checking out a lot of bands, playing there twice (PO will also be the backing band for Chris Opperman as well).
It'll be great to see old friends, meet new ones, and a special part of the trip for me will be to remember & reflect on the grounds for my lost partner Cheri Jiosne, who attended with me three times, performing there once with Don Preston's Akashic. She is/was half-german and loved it there immensely as well.
UniMuta : I heard that you were trying to put together a small European tour before or after Zappanale. What's the status on that?
André Cholmondeley : It's very difficult to book gigs anywhere in Europe in August!! Why do I make myself crazy and keep trying to do it? But yes , after Zappanale we will play in London UK at Half Moon in Putney on 23 August, then two nights in Lithuania, 26th Vilnius LT and on the 27th Palanga LT.
UniMuta : Let's talk Zappanale some more. Who will you be bringing with you? What's the line-up going to be?
André Cholmondeley : We will continue the run we've been having reuniting Ike Willis & Ray White, it's just such a great combination of voices. Returning also are longtime keys player Eric Svalgard and bassist Dave Johnsen. New to the band since February is our fantastic drummer Ryan Berg, doing his first gigs in Europe. Our special guest on violin will be the lovely and talented Liz Cary, she's been playing shows with us in the US, between tours with her band Igor's Egg, and her place as touring violinist with Ritchie Blackmore's medieval/renaissance acoustic music group "Blackmore's Night".
UniMuta : Have you seen the Zappanale program? What's the band that everybody's got to see? (besides P/O, of course)
André Cholmondeley : Well I'm biased, and I've seen most of his return-to-live-music shows since 2009 since I work for him, but definitely the Eddie Jobson show. It's incredible that Eddie has decided to get back to live music after a quarter century, that's a whole interview right there. But also Gary Lucas, Essra Mohawk, fantastic!! Gary actually has played with us a few times, he's on our one CD from 2000. I'm very excited to finally meet and hear Co de Kloet, who has some fantastic synth based music out on iTunes, and has been a very supportive friend of the band for many years. Seeing legendary bands like Colosseum and Plastic People is also a very exciting prospect. Performing again with Robert Martin is sure to be a highlight as well.
UniMuta : It'll be fun. Thanks for the interview & see you soon.
Looking forward to the P/O concert.
Project/Object, featuring Ray White and Ike Willis, will be performing at the Zappanale festival on Friday, August 19, 2011.
Not to be missed.