It’s somehow appropriate that the son of a Mother of Invention offers up his voice for USA’s inventive, acerbic and animated “Duckman,” which begins its second season this week.
The show’s much-talked about irreverence provides a fitting setting for Dweezil Zappa, son of the late alternative rock pioneer Frank Zappa, iconoclastic founder of the Mothers of Invention and the original alternative musician more concerned with creativity than commercialism.
Dweezil Zappa, too, explores the unusual. “Duckman” executive producer Gabor Csupo, a Zappa family friend, “mentioned the project and asked if I wanted to come out and try a voice and it all worked out,” he explains in typical mellow fashion.
Based on the underground comic strip by Everett Peck, “Duckman” follows the title character’s (Jason Alexander) inept sleuthing and his dysfunctional family. Dweezil voices the character of Ajax, Duckman’s slow, but sweet, son.
Csupo was “familiar with the way me and my brother Amet goofed around,” Zappa says from the family home in Los Angeles where he still resides. “He’d heard us do the voice he wanted--one that was really stupid, because more than likely he heard us portraying something stupid. It was just one of those things.”
The 25-year-old Dweezil, 20-year-old Amet and their band, Z, leave in April for Europe for the release of their recently completed “Music for Pets” album. This, their fifth CD, is “the most dangerously close to radio-friendly,” Dweezil jokes. He expects it to be released in the United States in August.
Not surprisingly, the Zappa boys, along with their 27-year-old sister Moon Unit (now a VH1 veejay) and 15-year-old sister Diva, had a less than conventional upbringing.
Zappa can’t confirm if their nanny Pamela des Barres’ recollections of his childhood, from her “I’m With the Band” bio, are accurate. “I didn’t read the book,” he says. “In our house, you could do anything and say anything,” he recalls. “Everything was all right.” Zappa didn’t spend much time visiting friends: “They all wanted to come over to our house. Our house was fun.” And fun is the operative word for the musician.
He uses the word to describe what he’s done, what he’s doing, and what he’ll be doing. “I’m game,” he says, “for anything fun.” That’s what drew him to “Duckman” and why he became a musician.
Despite exposure to his father’s music, Dweezil didn’t think about becoming a musician himself until he heard the decidely more commercial and hard-rocking Van Halen at age 12. At 12 1/2 Dweezil began playing guitar. When Dweezil was 13, Eddie Van Halen produced his first single, “My Mother Is a Space Cadet” (backed with “Crunchy Water”). He still records in his father’s home studio, considered one of the finest around.
But first, Zappa wanted to be a marine biologist. “I couldn’t watch enough of Jacques Cousteau,” he recalls. “Then I saw ‘Jaws,’ and decided I wasn’t going into the water.” Later, he discovered baseball, but “then I learned you have to go to college.” He opted to take a high school proficiency exam, then pursued more music. He recorded “Havin’ a Bad Day” at 15, “My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama” at 17, “Confessions” at 20, and last year served up “Shampoohorn.”
A foray into acting--"Pretty in Pink” and the 1990 CBS series “Normal Life” with sister Moon--was short-lived because ... well, quoth Dweezil it just wasn’t fun. He doesn’t want to sound too judgmental about television, but notes that “some of the people I just don’t dig. There’s a certain desperation you’re exposed to that’s not in music.”
Dweezil’s a self-described hermit: He says he hasn’t dated in two years and sometimes doesn’t leave his house for two weeks at a time. His 1988 car has only 30,000 miles on it. “On the average, I don’t spend more than 15 minutes in the car--to go to the golf course or the gym. And that’s the only time I listen to the radio. I don’t care about a social life.”
As for the future, he’ll finish up his four-year project: a 75-minute continuous song featuring 35 guitar solos by his favorites and, as he puts it: “If there’s some work to be done that seems like it will be fun, I’ll do it. I don’t take anything seriously at all. Basically, that’s all there is. I like music best.”
“Duckman” airs Saturdays at 10:30 p.m. on USA.