andre speaks his mind !
in early '00 i recieved email contact with andre lewis!
he was most helpful, friendly, and forthright with talking about his
career, and especially his zappa experience.
if you have questions for him, his email address is: email@example.com
patrick neve (firstname.lastname@example.org)
i have so many questions, i'll try to keep them short. i realize you've done
a lot of projects and zappa was just one of them, but i wonder if you might take
a few minutes and help me out with some of these:
q. what was your experience prior to working with frank?
i've seen you credited with woody herman and carmen mcrae.
that sounds like a pretty good way to start a career to me!
q. how did you get the call to play with zappa? what were your impressions of him at that time?
q: what were the sessions like? (a general question, elaborate at will).
q: what was touring like? (again, answer as long or short as you like).
q. how familiar were you with his music when you joined? were you a mothers fan, was it just a paying gig when you joined, or somewhere inbetween?
q: what was your favorite zappa song to play? the least favorite?
q: what were your overall impressions of frank as an employer? does anything stand out in your mind about his methodology, work ethic, etc.?
q: what have you done since then, and what are you up to now? is my discography reasonably correct?
"m.a. lewis" (email@example.com)
as far as what i've done before working with frank, i will send you a small
resume and discography to help with that. as
to your last question, yours is reasonably correct but it does have a lot of
gaps. as far as playing with woody
herman and carmen mcrae, that might have been my father as he was a saxophne
player with duke ellington, count basie, and locally with preston love
orchestras. he also played with
paul williams, who backed up (and i had gone on tour with him) fats domino, the
sillouettes, the first isley brothers, chuck berry, and was bandleader with etta
james. but enough about him, i just
have memories of traveling on the bus with him when i was very young.
about me, my first experiences was when i was 13 and on the road with upsetters, and newbreed, backing the likes of sam cooke, the orlons and johnny taylor. but the info will fill in the gaps for you right now.
question: how did you get the call from zappa?
i had a group called "maxayn".
also during this period, i was recording johnny guitar watson's
recordings and we were very good friends as well.
i went to guitar center on sunset blvd one day to pick up some bass
strings. they had a promotion where
you buy one set and you get one free. and
somehow, i had to leave my number with the salesperson or they had it from my
account; anyway, evidently marty perillis, who was at that time franks road
manager (i'll have stories about him later) went to the guitar center and asked
if they had anyone they could recommend for
keyboardists, as frank was
holding auditions the next day. marty called me and asked if i would like to
audition. this might answer one of
your other questions; i knew of frank and had listened to some of his music but
i was not particulary a mothers fan so i was somewhere probably inbetween being
a fan and just playing a gig. i
agreed to auditon in a couple days.
when i went to the audition there were probably 5-6 other guys there that
frank listened to and i thought i had no chance because these guys could read
flyspecks! i was surprised tho when
frank found out that i was the keyboard player for johnny guitar watson and had
a memory and ear which subsidized not being able to read music that well.
he immediately took a liking to me and we were both sagistarians.
frank asked me if i sang, i sang "sunny" and after the
rehearshal/audition he asked me to
come back tomorrow. my impression
at the time was that he was a guy who knew what he wanted, like myself.
and if it was a little 'odd' or away from the norm or what everyone else
accepted or liked, it made him no difference.
he saw his picture and he was the painter.
the first gig was to be a 40-piece orchestra concert at royce hall before we
started the mothers tour. he was
rehearsing for this and forming the new band at the same time.
i didn't think i would be playing on this gig because the music was all
read and i was just starting to get adjusted.
but he asked me to play the gig anyway, my only duty on the gig was to
accompany him on the organ during his solos.
he would conduct the orchestra and when he reached for his guitar to
play, i would come from behind the curtain and accompany him on the b3.
i will elaborate more on these things later.
what was touring like? touring
with zappa was one of the neatest things i've ever done in my life!
it was like getting paid to go to school, learn music, and stage
production all at the same time plus being pampered!
to elaborate, i had been on a lot of tours before but at that time we had
the world's largest lighting truss, it had been used by pink floyd or one of
those english groups then modified for us.
sometimes i would just hang out with the lighting and sound guys just to
know how to hook up such a big production.
not to mention getting my ear expanded by the different type of music,
sounds, and chord structure that zappa employed.
as for the pampering, frank had two buses, one for the roadies and one
for the band. these buses are
comparable to what the ones they use for road rules on mtv,
with all the amenities available at the time.
they were killer! but in the
states, we rarely rode the bus because we were on the private plane; a viscount
prop jet that was initially done up inside for some corporate use.
it was really nice. when we
got off our flight, the stewardess would ask what we wanted the next morning;
when we got on the plane next morning our meals were ready at our seats.
when we went to japan, or any foreign country we were treated to the best
part of the culture and art that there was.
example, in japan, the geisha house and different quisine every day.
cobi, sumu, barbeque, etc. and the
meditation gardens. in europe,
always the best wine of the region, best food of the region, and there was
always someone to show us the culture of the area. as you know, frank did no
drugs, but was a heavy smoker and was a conniseur of wine.
he introduced me to espresso. he
also had a thing about coffee. he
would walk with a flask of what we called his mud.
it was like heinz catsup, it poured real slow!
it was turkish and really thick! there
are many more antedotes; as i think of them i will write you again.
as to what my favorite zappa song to play was.
it was black napkins. i had
no least favorite. the link that i
clicked on to of the setlist brought back memories, they will help me and tapes
of the tour will help me. i think
this guy named jon from another website will be sending me some music.
i don't have any right now myself.
as far as my overall impression of frank as an employer.
this too, i loved. frank was a workaholoic.
i also am one when i work. (he
also played the same way!!) when it came time to work, we had an 8-hour day just
like anyone else. we punched in the
timeclock. worked 12 noon til 8 pm
normally, with an hour for lunch. we
worked hard at music and at making our instruments sound correct as we were
always experimenting with different effects, etc. as far as scheduling, marty
perrilis was a genius. he had
everything we needed to know in our tourbook.
he didn't like questions but we would to try to find something not in the
book to ask about but it was never there! franks manager at the time, one of the
cohen brothers, was also very good.
for now, this is all i can say regarding your questions.
right now i am doing a lot of gospel music and am music director at a
local baptist church. once again, i
hope this will quench a little of the thirst - there is a lot more to drink!