“The image of Frank won’t be onstage the entire time,” says guitarist Mike Keneally of the just-announced Frank Zappa Hologram Tour, featuring Keneally and other former Zappa band members. “The concept as Ahmet [Zappa, Frank’s son] has described it seems to involve Frank’s appearances throughout the night being used more judiciously than that, interspersed with holographic extensions of characters and situations from the song texts, and album artwork coming to life.”
The Zappa hologram is being created by Eyellusion, whose Ronnie James Dio projection is also slated to tour with his (its?) old backup players. “The only one I’ve seen is the Tupac hologram, which is the first one I ever heard about a few years ago. I was skeptical at first but, when I saw it, I found it haunting and surprisingly affecting, emotionally.”
Joe Travers, the drummer for Mike Keneally & Beer For Dolphins, also happens to serve as Vaultmeister for the Zappa Family Trust and had previously suggested a sanctioned sidemen tour to estate executor Ahmet. “Late last year, I walked into Joe’s place, and he told me, ‘Dude, the official Zappa band is going to happen.’ I said, ‘Cool,’ and he said ‘hologram tour.’ My eyebrows went up. I didn’t expect him to say that. But, we talked it out, and I started to get excited about the possibilities for doing something really surreal and creative with the technique, which was fortified when I talked on the phone to Ahmet a few weeks later.”
The Bizarre World of Frank Zappa Hologram Tour will feature a core band with Keneally and Travers, along with singer-guitarist Ray White, bassist Scott Thunes, and multi-instrumentalist Robert Martin. Various dates will include other Zappa-associated guests such as Steve Vai (currently on tour with Keneally), Napoleon Murphy Brock, Ian Underwood, and more.
“None of the holographic illusions for this upcoming tour have been created yet,” says Keneally. “I imagine we’ll be practically inventing the wheel, in terms of what the rehearsals will actually be like. It’s early to predict precisely how they’ll go, but I’d venture to guess that, once the repertoire is chosen, we’ll both be practicing the songs just as a band in a small rehearsal space in order to get reflexive and comfortable with it all, and then practice with all the tech in a larger space, as part of more elaborate production rehearsals.”
Keneally feels Zappa would at least be amused, if not enthusiastic, about holographic bandleaders. “It’s definitely not for me to imagine how he might have used the technology, but it’s very easy for me to imagine that he would have delighted in the possibilities.”