scott thunes

Scott Carter Thunes, aka "Nektor", aka "Throkton", was raised in San Anselmo, CA, and took up the bass at age ten, when "his mother and guitar playing older brother decided the family needed a bassist". In 1981, Thunes contacted Frank Zappa at the behest of his brother, who had himself tried unsuccessfully to audition for Zappa's group. 

Scott Thunes recorded and toured with Frank Zappa until the last concert of the Zappa band, June 1988.

The picture on the right was taken at the Zappa 1982/06/05 Schüttorf concert in Germany by Hanzo53.

Scott toured with Dweezil and Ahmet Zappa, and toured with Steve Vai.

He performed with The Lewinskys at the 13th Zappanale Festival in Bad Doberan, Germany.

Happily married, living in Marin after a hiatus of several years in LA, and working for a software firm, Scott has no imminent plans to return to professional music. Thunes: "The music business treated me fairly poorly, and after Frank died, it's just been one unappreciating employer after another, so they can all go hang".

March 7, 2009, Scott turned up / took the stage at the Zappa Plays Zappa concert in Santa Rosa and played the bass during 'Willie The Pimp'.

Saturday, November 6, and Sunday, November 7, 2010, Scott Thunes took part in a Q&A session at the "Frank Zappa At The Roundhouse" celebration of Frank Zappa’s music in London, UK. Later the same night, the Dweezil Zappa Played Zappa band performed at the same festival with special guests Ian Underwood, Jeff Simmons & Scott Thunes.

The January 2011 issue of Bass Guitar Magazine included an interview with Scott Thunes.

August 2012, The Mother Hips, featuring Scott Thunes, performed at the Zappanale festival in Bad Doberan, Germany.



35 frank zappa: ship arriving too late too save a drowning witch
   (1982, lp, usa, barking pumpkin)

36 frank zappa: the man from utopia
   (1983, lp, usa, barking pumpkin)


frank zappa: them or us
   (1984, 2lp, usa, barking pumpkin)


frank zappa: thing-fish
   (1984, 3lp, usa, barking pumpkin)


frank zappa: frank zappa meets the mothers of prevention
   (1985, lp, usa, barking pumpkin) – american version
   (1985, lp, eur, emi) – european version


frank zappa: does humour belong in music?
   (1986, cd, ger, emi)


frank zappa: jazz from hell
   (1986, lp, usa, barking pumpkin)

  dweezil zappa: havin' a bad day (1)
    (1986, lp, usa, barking pumpkin records st 74204) - feat. thunes, wackerman, moon & ahmet,  produced by fz

  frank zappa: the guitar world according to frank zappa
    (1987, mc, usa, ??)
  the mothers of invention: uncle meat (7)
   (-) - the 1987 reissue
  western vacation: western vacation
    (1987, lp, usa, akashik records) - feat.steve vai, tommy mars, bob & suzannah 'thana' harris, scott thunes

  dweezil zappa: my guitar wants to kill your mama (2)
    (1988, lp, aus, chrysalis 1 38922) - feat.scott thunes, terry bozzio, moon zappa, ahmet zappa, incl. 'my guitar wants to kill your mama' (frank zappa)


frank zappa: guitar
   (1988, 2cd, usa, ryko)

51 frank zappa: you can't do that on stage anymore vol.1
   (1988, 2cd, usa, ryko)


frank zappa: broadway the hard way
   (1988, 2lp, usa, barking pumpkin)

54 frank zappa: you can't do that on stage anymore vol.3
   (1989, 2cd, usa, ryko)
  1989 Gumby- Gumby    
  1990 Prieboy, Andy- Upon My Wicked Son  
  1991 Vandals- Fear of a Punk Planet  
55 frank zappa: the best band you never heard in your life
   (1991, 2cd, usa, barking pumpkin)

56 frank zappa: make a jazz noise here
   (1991, 2cd, usa, barking pumpkin)


frank zappa: you can't do that on stage anymore vol.4
   (1991, 2cd, usa, ryko)  
  dweezil zappa: confessions (3)
    (1991, cd, fr, food for thought cdgrub-19) -  feat.mike keneally, scott thunes, ahmet zappa, al malkin
  frank zappa: as an am
    (1991, cd, usa, rhino foo-eee records r2 70537)

fooeeerecordsr270537_c.jpg (133936 bytes)


frank zappa: you can't do that on stage anymore vol.5
   (1992, 2cd, usa, ryko)


mike keneally: hat (1)
    (1992, cd, usa, immune records) - feat.scott thunes

59 frank zappa: you can't do that on stage anymore vol.6
   (1992, 2cd, usa, ryko)
  1993 Waterboys- Dream Harder (Bass, Drums)    
1 z: shampoo horn
    (1993, cd, uk, food for thought cdgrub 25)  / european edition,= ahmet & dweezil zappa, feat. scott thunes, mike keneally, terry bozzio, morgan ĺgren
z_shampoo_horn.jpg (27902 bytes)
  various artists: zappa's universe
    (1993, cd, nl, verve 513575-2) - incl. various zappa band alumni performing frank zappa's compositions

  various artists: choice morsels
    (1993, cd, usa, verve/polygram) - incl. various zappa band alumni performing frank zappa's compositions

  z: shampoo horn
    (1994, cd, usa, barking pumpkin r2 71760)  / american edition, = ahmet & dweezil zappa, feat. mike keneally, joe travers, bryan beller, scott thunes, terry bozzio, morgan ĺgren
z_shampoo_horn.jpg (27902 bytes)
  1995 Fear- Have Another Beer With Fear    
  1996 Kramer, Wayne- Dangerous Madness  
  western vacation: songs from the album vibraudoblast
    (1996, cd, ger, muffin records productions cdmrp 033) - feat.scott thunes


frank zappa: have i offended someone?
   (1997, cd, usa, ryko)

  western vacation: vibraudoblast
    (1997, cd, ger, muffin records productions cdmrp 032) - feat.scott thunes
  1999 Anthony Hindson and Friends- It's A Curious Life (with Jack Bruce and Shankar)    
  dweezil zappa: automatic (6)
    (2000, cd, usa, favored nations entertainment) - feat.morgan ĺgren, terry bozzio, mike keneally, scott thunes, ahmet zappa
  various artists: eyeinhand sampler volume 1
    (2001, cd, spain, vaso music vm 032) - all zappa related artists

  various artists: zappanale 13
    (2003, 3cd, ger, arf society) – incl. various artists playing frank zappa compositions

  various artists: zappanale 13 - the lewinskys - grandmothers west
    (2003, dvd, ger, the arf society) - feat. various artists playing frank zappa compositions

  various artists: zappanale # 13
    (2003, cd, ger, arf society) – incl. various artists playing frank zappa compositions

  geoff wolf: in rememberance
    (????) – feat.scott thunes


frank zappa: trance-fusion
    (2006, cd, usa, zappa records)

  various artists: the frank zappa aaafnraa birthday bundle
    (2006, itunes, -) - feat. frank, moon, dweezil, ahmet & diva zappa

  mike keneally: hat
    (2007, cd+dvd, usa, exowax) - reissue with bonus disc ; feat.scott thunes


frank zappa: the dub room special
    (2007, cd, usa, zappa records)


frank zappa: one shot deal
    (2008, cd, usa, zappa records)

  various artists: the frank zappa aaafnraaa birthday bundle 21 dec 2008
    (2008, itunes, -) - feat. frank, dweezil, ahmet & diva zappa

aaafnraaa2008.jpg (24142 bytes)

  various artists: the frank zappa aaafnraaaa birthday bundle 21 dec 2010
    (2010, itunes, -) - feat. frank, dweezil, ahmet zappa

aaafnraaaa_2010.jpg (22223 bytes)

  the san francisco free jazz collective: november
    (2011, cdr / itunes, -) - feat. scott thunes
sffjc_november.jpg (14963 bytes)
  j21: beyond the holographic veil
    (2011, cd, uk, floating world records freem5033) - feat. scott thunes, ed mann, robert martin, don preston, andrew greenaway & marco minnemann
j21_veil.jpg (34064 bytes)
  dweezil zappa: f.o.h. III - out of obscurity
    (2012, cd, usa, fantom records) - all compositions by frank zappa / = zappa plays zappa, feat. scott thunes

dweezilzappa_foh3.jpg (21832 bytes)

  various artists: the frank zappa aaafnraa 2014 birthday bundle
    (2014, download, --, barfko-swill)
aaafnraa2014.jpg (34969 bytes)


los angeles philharmonic: frank zappa - 200 motels the suites
    (2015, 2cd, usa, zappa records zr0019)
zappa_200motels_thesuites.jpg (23174 bytes)


frank zappa: frank zappa for president
    (2016, cd, usa, zappa records zr 20021)
fz_fzforpresident.jpg (31217 bytes)


semi-official releases

  frank zappa: puttin' on the ritz
    (2014, 2cd, ??, goldfish records golf009)
fz_puttinontheritz.jpg (24918 bytes)
  frank zappa: puttin on the ritz
    (2014, 4lp, uk, moonunit records) = 1981/11/17 concert  //  vinyl reissue of the 2 cd set
fz_ritz_4lp.jpg (28740 bytes)
  frank zappa: teenage rockin' combo - dumb all over live 1981
    (2015, 2cd, uk, broadcasting radio records brr5011) = 1981/11/17 new york city concert
zappa_rbr5011.jpg (30898 bytes)
  frank zappa: puttin on the ritz - volume 1
    (2015, 2lp, uk, let them eat vinyl letv206lp) = 1981/11/17 concert  //  vinyl reissue of the 2 cd set
fz_lp_letv205lp.jpg (26062 bytes)
  frank zappa: puttin on the ritz - volume 2
    (2015, 2lp, uk, let them eat vinyl letv206lp) = 1981/11/17 concert  //  vinyl reissue of the 2 cd set
fz_lp_letv206lp.jpg (29227 bytes)
  frank zappa: teenage rockin' combo - dumb all over live 1981
    (2015, 3lp, uk, broadcasting radio records brr4011) = 1981/11/17 new york city concert  //  vinyl reissue of the 2 cd set
zappa_rbr5011.jpg (30898 bytes)




  • bass guitar magazine
        (2011/01, magazine, uk, ??)
    • includes an interview with Scott Thunes




* * * as part of the "rock group" in "zappa's universe" * * *

* * * as part of the lewinskys * * *


AKA: "Nektor", "Throkton"

Birthday: January 20th

random notes

     From: Pat Buzby (

There was an early '81 show (10/7/81, I think) where FZ intro'd him as "Throkton" or something like that.  Don't know what it meant but FZ seemed to think it was funny.  When Scott appeared on the group I e-mailed him a few questions, one of them being what "Nektor" meant.
He answered my other questions but not that one.

Has been seen playing with the Waterboys on British TV.

Also recently, I saw Steve Vai on MTV introducing his new band. He had Scott on bass. Scott also played in "Z". 

Just wanted you all to know that Scott Thunes just came through town (Boston, MA) as the bass player in the 1995 incarnation of FEAR, Lee Ving's LA-based punk band.

He's on the new record "have another beer with fear"

"FEAR?" Is this the "repackaged for the teeny-punk revival" version of Lee Ving's Army, his post-Fear band w/ no other members of fear?

It is indeed.  Band comprises: Lee Ving (guitar, vocals), Sean Cruse (guitar), Scott Thunes (bass) and Andrew Jaimez (drums).

     Tom Parker( sez:

Scott Thunes is indeed touring and recording with the latest version of Fear w/ Lee Ving, singer, guitarist, actor ("Streets of Fire") and Vietnam vet. (so I've heard).
Fear was well documented in "the Decline of Western Civilization" (1980) along with the Circle Jerks and Black Flag. They were
a recording outfit as early as 1978 (first single was "I love Living in the City") and released their first album in early 1982 (recorded in Dec. 1981) "The Record." Lee Ving - Vocals, guitar. Derf Scratch - Bass. Philo Cramer - Guitar. Spit Stix - Drums. Their second album "More Beer" was released in 1985. Anything since then has been ill-received at best, although the new line-up looks promising. (Maurice J. Kin) said:

I've read in Bass Player magazine that Scott is working as a door man somewhere in L.A. because he didn't find anymore occasion to express himself in the current music or band. He isn't interested to play some arranged notes unless he can express himself.

     From: Scott Thunes (

Hi. Don't mind what you put on the "whatever happened to..." site, just as long as it doesn't say that I was unemployed at all. Had the doorman job at the Paradise for 10 months (no typo. Saw somewhere that it was 2 months, and that's a fucking joke) and got my new job at the end of that. Dovetailed for two weeks, and gave notice. On my last night there had a perfect Thunes moment and got in a yell with one of the club hierarchy. Walked right out. Went directly into 32k/yr.

     From: Michael Martak (
     Date: Tue, 18 Nov 97 18:13:01 +0000 

This is for your "Whatever Happened To..." FAQ.  I have recently come into contact with Mr. Thunes through email (no I will not give out his address).  A friend of mine gave me a suitcase formerly owned by him (it's in terrible shape...I am currently using it to store my Zappa memorabilia).

Scott says:
You are indeed the proud owner of an extensively beat-up, totally
overused, internationally-travelled piece of incredibly inexpensive (to you, and the purchaser of the gift from Josh) rock memorabilia. If it had a handle, it'd still be mine, but only for the transportation of laundry from home to '-mat'. The main reason for the destruction of the suitcase was the transportation of large books and records, tapes, and CD's over the course of 4 world-tours, and numerous national ones. I have given up the bass, and only play the piano as a hobby. My article in the March issue of Bass Player magazine will probably give you a pretty good idea of what's going on with me now. Happily married, living in beautiful Marin after a hiatus of 6 1/2 years in LA, and working for a software firm. The music business treated me fairly poorly, and after Frank died, it's just been one unappreciating employer after another, so they can all go hang. Enjoy the suitcase, just don't use it for anything important. It will pop open like a fig.



I hope he doesn't mind my sending this to you.  This is purely in the interest in keeping your FAQ up to date.


Michael Martak

     From: "" (
     Subject: A long introduction to the group. Sorry about that...

Hi, kids.
This is Scott Thunes. Honestly.
And it looks like I have to finally get involved:
You guys wondering about my sexuality was one thing, but you have to draw the line somewhere, and I draw it at arguments about tone.
How do you discuss tone? You ask what the gear was. Who knows what the gear was? Hardly anybody anymore. I was THERE, and I don't remember.

So, no, it wasn't a Trace-Elliott back then, as I wasn't an endorser at that point. That was Chads setup for his midi-stuff. He'd owned that for quite a while, as I recall.

I, on the other hand, was lucky enough to use an onld BWG (I think) head that he'd had lying around for years, along with a 2x15 cabinet left over from his PA.

I didn't use a Trace-Elliott until I had met my first wife, who introduced me to the president of the company. You think I could have gotten an amp from them if I was just the bassist for Frank Zappa?

Yes, I used a flanger on stage. I was this cheezy little thing I got from Pia Vai, right after she was fired from Vixen (before they got big, but after a couple of years of touring military bases).

The house engineer (Harry Andronis) on the '88 tour had the most amazing hard-on for my bass tone. That's the only thing that really made the difference for me. He completely rules the airwaves.

Frank had lost most of his high-end hearing way back in the old days, and that's what you're hearing on my earlier tracks, combined with the tone of four different brand strings on an '81 Carvin with active electronics (Valley Girl is a perfect example). Everything pre '84 was the Carvin. Post '84 is the '63 P-bass. The only exception was Cocaine Decisions, which was my '65 Jazz Bass. The only time I played that, except for broken strings in '84.

I've never seen the Zappa's Universe tape, so I can't recall how horribly they screwed that up, but from what Mike K. says about that crap (I don't recall ever having anything to do with anything or anybody concerned with that business after the concert...)

Hope that clears that up.

So. Here I am in the land of
I didn't think I'd make it for a while, but this last bit about my
tone pushed me over the edge into coming in and saying hi.


I'd like to thank Lewis Saul for attempting to protect me for so long. I probably should have come in sooner, but as you'll see from my website (not finished yet, but I gotta let you in sometime...), I wasn't interested in becoming part of your discussions. Wanted you let you guys do your thing. That's what this thing is for, right? If we wanted to, us old members could put together our own damn newsgroup and talk amongst ourselves, right?

But I also realize that you're inventing future history right now, and some of that shit is about me. Seems a little guidance is in order. Hope you don't mind.

Anyway, my site has been up for a while, but it didn't seem that I would ever be ready to get all the info that you'd need up, unless I didn't read the newsgroups again.

So let me apologize if I'm butting in. I'll get out if anybody tells me to. No problem. Wouldn't want to inhibit your natural exuberances, correct? Not really interested in solving every problem on earth.

Let me, for the record, state here and now that I'm incredibly busy with my life the way it is, and I'm not bored enough to sit around all day and submit answers to all your questions. Just wanted to put that out there if there happened to be anybody desperate enough to hassle me about every last niggling (frivolous, petty, niggling; piddling, peddling; fribble, inane, ridiculous, farcical; finical, finikin; fiddle-faddle, fingle-fangle, namby-pamby, wishy-washy, milk and water.) item on their agenda.

I also don't want to have to come up here and check you out every day, just to find out what you said about me this week, so I'd like to at least let you know that i'd like you guys to go to my site, check out what's there, and give me input on what you want to see up there.

In other words, if you want some info from me, let's try and make it universal, so that others can benefit from it. I'll put it up on the site, and that will help the future from becoming wrong and stale.

I'm in the middle of letting this guy in Indiana (who's writing a book) get a bunch of stuff from me, information-wise, so there might be some things I'd like to stay away from for now. You'll know what they are on the site.

For the record, I'd like to thank all of you who appreciate what I've done, played, said, and created. You have changed my life for the better. Didn't even know it needed improving...

Too bad that doesn't include playing music. That seems to have shrunk to about an hour of piano a day. Doesn't bother me, though. Too busy living. Know what I mean?

Thanks for reading.


Here's the site:

I did it myself, so no getting mad at the webmaster, thank you very much.

     From: Ron Spiegelhalter (ron@mk.bfd.rules)

I found this on this morning...
In Cold Sweat: Interviews with Really Scary Musicians will be published by
Limelight Editions in March or April. It's a collection of uncut, fully annotated interviews with four scary musicians: Gene Simmons; Peter Hook of New Order; Jerry Casale of Devo; and Scott Thunes of Frank Zappa fame. Each interview has a detailed intro and exit, and the book will include about seventy black-and-white photos--most previously unpublished--and complete discographies. It'll be available in book stores and on

   From: Mike Hawk

Did you know Terry Bozzio and Scott Thunes went to the same high school and had the same band teacher?
Sir Francis Drake in San Anselmo, CA

I went to the same school and Scott is a good friend of mine. I was looking at your site and  thought that might be an interesting connection to make.
I remember seeing Bozzio's name on the wall in the band room as recipient of a music scholarship in 1969, I believe. I don't think Scott actually took school band for very long - he was far ahead of the crowd.  

-- Mike Hawk

Scott Thunes: Requiem for A Heavyweight
Bass Player Magazine: March 1997
by Thomas Wictor

    If you've never heard Scott Thunes play the bass, you can't appreciate how far the instrument can be taken. Thunes will dispute that notion, of course-he takes issue with the idea he's a great bassist. The former Frank Zappa sideman (whose surname is pronounced TOOness) is a contrarian of the highest order. He disagrees with almost any statement of a declarative nature, at least when it concerns his role in music and his approach to the bass. He' s of the opinion that much of the brilliant live work he recorded with Zappa is riddled with mistakes, each of which he's apt to point out in exacting detail.

    Raised in San Anselmo, California, Thunes took up the bass at age ten, when his mother and guitarplaying older brother decided the family needed a bassist. His burgeoning skills earned him an early admission to the College of Marin at age I5, where he studied jazz and discovered the works of classical composer Béla Bartók. Simultaneously, he was exposed to the new wave band Devo-a revelation that eventually knocked him free of his jazz-based moorings. Following a failed bid to enter the San Francisco Conservatory of Music as a conducting major, he parked cars and played in local rock and new wave bands, despite having decided that classical music was "the supreme expression of musical art."

    In 1981, Thunes contacted Frank Zappa at the behest of his brother, who had himself tried unsuccessfully to audition for Zappa's group. Scott recorded some tracks in Los Angeles and was summoned back for the formal audition a week later. This session included improvising to arrhythmic tracks played on a drum machine, as well as performing the same song with two other auditioning bassists, the three of them competing face-to-face.

    Once hired, Thunes toured and recorded with Zappa until 1988. During this period, he also recorded several albums with Frank's son Dweezil, forming a touring band with him in '89. In '93, Thunes left Dweezil's group, toured briefly with guitarist Steve Vai, and recorded and toured with the punk band Fear. In between construction jobs, temp work, and various local gigs in Los Angeles and the Bay Area, he also recorded with the Waterboys, Andy Prieboy, Wayne Kramer, Mike Keneally, and the Vandals, among others.

    At the time of this interview, Scott Thunes was working as a doorman at the Paradise Lounge in San Francisco. You see, his resume doesn't mention that his musical career could be seen as one endless melee, or that he's been fired from as many bands as he's quit. And Scott admits most of the people he has worked with will never call him again.

    Even so, from an artistic standpoint, Thunes would be quite a catch for any group. Few bassists have played with his sheer scope and energy. If you compare two of Frank Zappa's better live records, Does Humor Belong in Music? and Make a Jazz Noise Here, for example, it' s hard to believe the same person is playing the bass. Scott's greatest gift is probably his ability to combine music theory with a natural exuberance on the instrument, resulting in a melodic, improvisational, emotional, and absolutely free voice that's unique and impossible to duplicate-despite his claims to the contrary.

    Thunes reluctantly agreed to talk at his Marin County home, suggesting I come hang with him for an afternoon before the formal interview. Some of his former colleagues had warned me to beware of his abrasiveness, regaling me with mindboggling stories of his antics on and off the stage. Although opinions about Scott varied, one universal observation stood out: Thunes has an atavistic loathing of stupidity and smallmindedness, an attitude that could hardly have served him well in Los Angeles. At his house, we spent the first afternoon drinking coffee and chatting about films, music, art, and travel. We read aloud to each other from our favorite writers, went for a couple of walks, and listened to some CDs. The actual interview took place two days later. It was, sadly, without incident-although it was oddly thrilling to be called "Pookie," a name he gave me after we had been together a scant I5 minutes. As for the larger question, whether or not he's really through with the business...well, Frank Zappa himself also stopped touring in 1982. And in '84. And in '88.

BP: You've said you have a problem being called a bass player. Can you explain?

ST: Sure. When I learned how to play the bass, it was by default; I didn't really choose it for myself. When my mom brought one home, I was too young to appreciate any musicality about it-so I stopped playing within six months. I started up again because I saw my brother and his friends having so much fun, and playing the bass became a way to get into music-a way for my musicality to be expressed. Within a short time, I exhibited talent for the instrument. In college, I was in the jazz band, orchestra, and wind band; I was learning tons of stuff. But I never thought of myself as a bass player; I was a musician. The actual role of the bassist does not interest me, and I don't know how it could interest anybody else. It's the ultimate non-glory position. Singers, guitar players, drummers, bass players-that's how it goes, in order of importance. Though the function of the bass is very important in a rock band, I've never ever been able to perform that function without irony.

BP: But lots of people listen to your work and say to themselves, "Compared to him, I'm not a bass player."

ST: Well, I hate to call them fools, but they don't know anything about music. What does it matter if you're a bass player? Pick another instrument you can express yourself on. I express myself on the bass because I've been playing it for 25 years. Visualizing its fingerboard is simple for me. It's simpler than the guitar, which has that third between the G and B strings that throws me off. The joy of playing the bass is having my voice come out on an instrument; I don't understand how that makes me a bass player. I also can't understand how that makes me a chosen role model, because it's the voice that's important, not the instrument. Everyone's trying to make the bass the voice. Stu Hamm playing the "Moonlight Sonata?" It's an ugly sound-don't do it! Step away from the bass! If you think the sound of the bass is more important than your own personal voice, you've missed the point of music completely.

BP: Couldn't what you do on the bass be considered as having the same impact as Stu Hamm playing the "Moonlight Sonata" without the flashiness?

ST: That's got to be impossible, because I was not the first person to do what I do. I got it from somebody else. How come people don't listen to that person as well?

BP: So who is that person?

ST: John Paul Jones. He was my role model in the meshing of riffing with a personal melodic voice. When he was given a chance, he played melodies. And I know he's not the best bass player in the world, but neither am I. He wasn't supposed to be a great bassist. Most guitar players don't want a great bass player to play against, because they don't want the complicated dynamic interplay; they prefer more of an orchestrated interplay. That's what I performed: an orchestrated interplay with the other instruments. Most of the time guitar parts are fairly rigid, giving me tons of room to be fluid. And it's unfair I should be given even slight credit for something I don't feel pushed the boundaries of the instrument.

BP: Do you repudiate the idea that your playing is of any value, that young bassists might look to you as a role model?

ST: No. Yes. [Laughs.] I do not repudiate the idea that my playing has any value-just that I'm a role model. I can't be a bass player, I don't want to be a bass player, I have no interest in being a bass player; I don't want to fulfill that role. I want to be Scott Thunes, who has a voice. The music has always been my role model. And if there isn't anything juicy in it, I don't have anything to play against.

That's what John Paul Jones did: his voice was heard in conjunction with all the other voices. And that shouldn't have worked, because Jimmy Page, who's one of my favorite guitar players in the universe, is not a very good guitarist. But he's got great ideas, and he attempts to perform them.

BP: Even if you're not a role model, there are people who would kill to play on the records you've played on.

ST: Then kill! Go ahead and kill! [Laughs.]

BP: There are also a lot of people who think you're an idiot for throwing it all away.

ST: I didn't throw anything away! They threw me away. I didn't leave Los Angeles until I couldn't get a gig for two years. I did stay after I wasn't needed anymore, though, but I was with a girlfriend, I was in love, and I was having a good time. But you don't kill for a musical gig- it's not worth it! If you're going to school to learn how to be a musician, you're not learning how to be a rock star, and you're not learning how to be famous. You're learning to play music- that's it! It doesn't mean you get a band, it doesn't mean you hook up with friends ... it doesn't mean dick! You spent $5,000 on school? Great! That means you spent $5,000 on school. Now, get a job. And I don't mean in the musical world-I mean get a job.

BP: You referred to yourself a couple days ago as a "musical has-been." Since you're a doorman at a club now and you're looking for work in the computer fleld, can you see how some people might see that as a tragic waste?

ST: No, because it's their fault. It's the audiences fault for being party to rock bullshit-for accepting the false truths that leaders of rockbands present to the world so people will think they're cool. If they only knew what these people are really like ... nobody deserves anything, especially not these people. I mean, I don't deserve what I got from Frank. I truly understand for myself that it was an absolute fluke of timing and nature that Frank wanted what I had to offer at that point in time. I'm a good bass player, fine. I'm a great bass player, great. Think whatever you want. But I'm Scott Thunes first and foremost, and that's where most of my problems come from. I deserve the happiness I can get from my chosen life, but not musical glory. I do not deserve musical glory. No musicians do, unless they are golden. And I don't know anybody who's golden.

BP: What about if you have ability and an original approach? Don't you deserve to be heard just based on your skill?

ST: Where? Where are you going to find a group of people I could work with and express myself within the confines of happiness? All of these CDs you've listened to were born from almost total emotional degradation, and I'd rather not touch the bass again until I can be happy doing it. I would much rather make $8 an hour work- ing at a club than go out on the road playing Make a Jazz Noise Here-type music and being, away from my wife. Anyway, music doesn't pay. If I can make more money working at a computer company that's doing interesting stuff, and if I can be happy at home every night, and if I've already played with Frank Zappa, where else is there to go?

BP: If you won the lottery today and never had to work again, would you still be interested in music?

ST: Oh, absolutely-but not the bass. I'd orchestrate. I would write pieces for other people to play, and I would sit back and watch. And there would be no bass player in my music. If I had my druthers, I would never, ever write for a rock band. I have no interest in writing songs.

Being in a band isn't worth it. Most bands don't deserve to be together; they don't have enough songs to present to the world, and they don't deserve to have their music presented to the world. You are a lucky motherfucker to be able to stand onstage for even five seconds and have people stare at you. Ninety-eight percent of the bands out there do not deserve it for a sec- ond, let alone for an entire career.

BP: Wouldn't it be a shame if people didn't get a chance to hear what you have to offer?

ST: They have a chance. Those aIbums are out, and you can buy them. What else do they need to know? How many more recordings of my performances do they need to hear before they get it?

BP: As many as possible?

ST: No. If people hear more albums, will they learn more? Would they even understand it? Because all it is, really, is music theory. What I learned in music school was that in modern music, you can play any note against any chord and make it mean something. If you don't know how you're using it, or where it resolves, you're an idiot-you shouldn't be in music. I learned a couple of simple laws, and I utilized them. If you can't get that from two or three improvisatory bass lines of mine, you're not going to get it in two years of schooling. It's going to be shoved down your throat, and you're still not going to get it.

    Thunes talks about the notorious 1988 tour of the Zappa band, the demise of which he is reputed to have caused. It takes him almost half an hour to explain. He describes a secret world of "Clonemeisters," "Magic Words," and smoking and nonsmoking buses-an exotic milieu spoiled by unbelievable pettiness, mean-spiritedness, poor judgment, spite, and bruised egos. He has no problem naming names, although it's clear that despite his jocular tone he takes no pleasure in reliving the experience. The awful childishness of the Mutilating of the Laminate and the Cake lncident, for example, illustrates the inadvisability of working and touring with people for whom one feels nothing but personal animosity.

Ironically, many consider the '88 band to be one of Zappa's best, strictly in terms of pure musical prowess.

BP: Isn't the pleasure or release of playing in a great band enough to make someone strong enough to take anything, no matter how bad?

ST: Show me a good band, and I'11 tell you why there's tension in that band. And for the people who perform it, music very rarely releases tension; it almost always increases tension. And music does not help you to be a nice person. Why should a good musician be a nice person? There's no connection there. Tension increases; we all have our issues, and everybody's human.

Frank was a special case. He put up with a bunch of shit to allow the 1988 tour to work- but he wanted all the juice with none of the blood. All of those albums I played on have blood on every track; there's danger inherent in everything on them. Even during the standardized performances, there was danger lurking behind every single note. I dig tension in my music, because I know from modern classical music that tension can coexist with normalcy. Frank was a big fan of that.

Once in Barcelona, someone in the band came up to me and screamed, "Don't you know what a privilege it is to play with Frank? How can you ruin his music?" I play a lot of lines; I pick chunks out of the air, and instead of playing bass, I play Scott Thunes's part in the orchestration. And of course the whole idea of being a bass player is not to overplay: you "play the bass." But I've never done that-and if Frank isn't asking me to do that, don't you ask me. So at that particular moment I got out my headphones and put them on, and I started listening to classical music while this guy's mouth went, [flapping lower jaw] Beh- beh-beh-beh-beh. It was delicious.

At the end of the tour, Frank decided he wasn't going to play anymore, because the rest of the band had told him they wouldn't go out with me again. When he told me that, I said, "I'll gladly quit." He said, "That's not the answer. I like you, and I like what you do -except for all the mistakes you've been making." Because every night onstage, I was surrounded by daggers and completely lost my concentration. For three months I was a wreck, and the music suffered because of my mistakes. Frank's only enjoyment was playing guitar solos, and those fell apart; he ended up not doing any. We also ended up not doing any more three-hour soundchecks. We'd play just two songs, and then he'd get out of there. He could not stand being in the same room with us. It was the worst possible combination of events for him.

BP: If everyone had gotten along, would the music have been that much better?

ST: Yes. We would have been happily intercommunicating.

BP: How did you develop your ability to improvise?

ST: I was given jazz lessons at an early age. One of my bass teachers taught me how to listen to Ron Carter playing behind Sonny Rollins, and I later utilized a concept I learned -adding tone chords-in rock. Most of the time when I'm playing weird stuff against normal-sounding stuff, I'm adding a whole other chord. That's similar to polytonal or bitonal classical music, and jazz, because a lot of jazz chords are just one chord superimposed over a solo bass note or another chord. It's the simplest thing in the world. I just gave away $2,000 worth of lessons.

I know I should be playing way less. I shouldn't even have this knowledge. Bass players aren't supposed to have ideas; they're supposed to be functionaries. If you're a bass player in a rock band, you are by definition a moron- because you are doing nothing except what the song requires. With Frank, though, my job was to serve him. Frank had different needs at different times, and that's where the low-level functionaryism came in-and that's also where I was earning my money. The moments of improvisatory freedom are when I was able to do what nobody else was doing. The Scott Thunes Effect, baby.

BP: Is this approach the sort of thing that led people to say you're hard to get along with? Your insistence on going your own way onstage?

ST: No, it's definitely in my personal life. Onstage, stuff was turned into a negative only by people who didn't like that form of communication to begin with-who didn't want people to step out of their pre-determined roles. They didn't realize the unspoken bond Frank and I had in the string arena. But if I told someone to leave me alone, I was [in Betty Boop voice] "being abrasive." If you tell me what to do, I will get angry. If you say something stupid, I will get angry. If you attempt to drag my conversation down to a moronic level, I will get angry-and I will stomp out of the room. I need to hear beauty in verbiage and musicality. That's my requirement.

BP: You've said you had problems with drummers, but on lots of the live recordings you and the drummer are very right. There's an echoing of rolls that's so dead-on, it seems almost like telepathy.

ST: That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard! I'm listening and reacting to him-that's all you're hearing. As a matter of fact, I'm being led around by the nose. All I'm doing is saying to myself, "What is there to react to? I can listen to Frank, I can listen to the keyboards, but I know all the riffs. The only strange thing might be the drums." On the other hand, you might be hearing an orchestration we had worked out months in advance.

BP: So how did you end up with Fender basses?

ST: I heard Tom Fowler on Frank's album Roxy and Elsewhere [Barking Pumpkin]; he had a black P-Bass with a white pickguard, and he played with a pick. That sound intrigued me: it growled, and it was ugly. Yet he could play all of these complicated riffs, and it didn't sound overly technical the way he did it. It sounded ... really cool. In my first couple of years with Frank, I used Carvin instruments, but that wasn't my voice. The first year I used the P-Bass was 1984; around that time, Frank started letting me do anything I wanted, and what I did that wasn't rancid was good. And in '88, when he gave me complete and utter carte blanche, I shone in the ultimate ways a bass player can shine. I had the tone I wanted, I had the amplification I wanted, and I had the performer's arena.

BP: You told me earlier you don't view yourself as an artist but rather as a flawed craftsman.

ST: In the two days since we've discussed this, I've changed my mind. You're absolutely correct: I'm an artist. I'm a naive artist, like Howard Finster, who did the album cover for Talking Heads' Little Creatures. It's folk art-and from the way he paints, it looks like if he attempted to build a chair, it would be un-sit-in-able. My bass playing is un-sit-in-able.

It's not meant to functionalize the four legs of the bass-playing experience. It's folk art in the most extreme and financially remunerative fashion. Frank chose me as his local spoon player; all I did was rattle around on my strings, cross my fingers, and hope I didn't get fired the next week.

BP: What do you think of the idea that you saying, "I haven't done anything special on the bass," is really just an inverted way of saying, "I'm the best bassist in the world"?

ST: [Blows huge raspberry and laughs raucously.] What does that even mean?

BP: Well, it's hard to believe you honestly think you're not a creative force on the bass.

ST: I did not extend the realm of the bass. No way. If you're a good bass player, right now you could play everything I ever played, if it were written out and you practiced for a week. Great bass playing can take you to the top-but I'm not at the top.

My whole musical life has been one oddity after another. Everything I've tried to do hasn't worked, and when I try to do nothing, things come to me. There's no joy in being thwarted; there's no glory in the fight well fought and lost, especially in music. Music has found me unnecessary, but it has placed me here in happiness for the first time in years, so there's no sadness.

I have achieved something many musicians will never have: happiness. Everything else comes second. I don't want to come off like a hibernating Zen monk; it's not that I stepped down off the mountain. I spent ten years in Los Angeles thinking my $300 a week from Dweezil was the best I could get. I was depressed, but I did my job with as much aplomb as I could. And that's what most people want. Most people just want to be in a rock band. They want their musical ideas to be valid. I'd rather have my life be valid. My story isn't anywhere near as bad as people who have lost everything, because I never had anything to lose. I've always been searching for happiness, and I've found it. That's about all there is to say.





om hell

frank zappa  / musicians timeline

the others of invention



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