the ban(ne)d from utopia

 

The Band From Utopia was a group of about ten musicians who for many years performed and recorded with Frank Zappa.  They recorded and performed Zappa's music.

July 1994, the Jazz Open Festival was held in Stuttgart, Germany. The Band From Utopia headlined the festival.

The concert was recorded on 32 track mobile digital and also filmed for broadcast on german television. The entire band was quite excited about the idea of bringing Zappa's music live once again to the stage. Many hours of intense rehearsals were held in both Los Angeles and Stuttgart. This was the first time all of these musicians collectively had taken the same stage at the same time. Many of them began their work with zappa in the '70's and toured with the '88 band, which was Zappa's final live band.

The band has done several concerts (and a couple of recordings) since then.

 

 

discography

  the band from utopia: tribute to the music of frank zappa - live vol.1 & 2
: tribute to the music of frank zappa - live vol.1 & 2
    (1994, cd-pro, muffin records) - all compositions by frank zappa; feat.various zappa alumni
1 the band from utopia: the band from utopia
    (1995, cd, usa, muffin records productions)  - all compositions by frank zappa;  feat.various zappa alumni

2 the band from utopia: a tribute to the music of frank zappa
    (2001, dvd, ger, tdk dv-jtbfu) - all compositions by frank zappa
3 the banned from utopia: so yuh don't like modern art
    (2002, cd, usa, favored nations) - various compositions by frank zappa; feat.various zappa alumni

  the banned from utopia: zappanale 26
    (2015, dvdr, ger, arf society) - all compositions by frank zappa; feat. various zappa alumni
z26_bfu_dvdr.jpg (15211 bytes)
various artists: zappanale # 26
    (2016, 3cd, ger, arf society) - incl. various frank zappa compositions, feat. napoleon murphy brock, ike willis, denny walley, jeff hollie, craig twister steward, ed mann, robert martin, albert wing, ray white, tom fowler, robbie mangano, mats öberg, morgan agren

varart_zappanale26.jpg (27415 bytes)

     

 

concerts

the band from utopia (1st edition)

the band from utopia (2nd edition)

the band from utopia (1st edition)

the oregon symphony orchestra and the band from utopia plus  the persuasions


the band from utopia & the seattle symphony orchestra

the banned from utopia (1st edition)

the banned from utopia (2nd edition)

joel thome & the shalom bsal orchestra plus members of the banned from utopia

the banned from utopia (???)

the banned from utopia (3rd edition)

the banned from utopia (4th edition)

the banned from utopia (5th edition)  

 

 

zappanale 2013  

2013/11/07, OSLO/Norway, COSMOPOLITE

2013/11/09, COPENHAGEN/Denmark, AMAGER BIO

2013/11/10, BERLIN/Germany, KESSELHAUS

2013/11/11, MÜNSTER/Germany, JOVEL

2013/11/12, DUISBURG/Germany, GRAMMATIKOFF

2013/11/13, AACHEN/Germany, JAKOBSHOF

2013/11/14, FREIBURG/Germany, BÜRGERHAUS ZÄHRINGEN

2013/11/15, REGENSBURG/Germany, GLORIA

2013/11/16, FRANKFURT/Germany, DAS BETT

2013/11/17, BRNO/Czechia, METRO

2013/11/18, VIENNA/Austria, REIGEN

 

   
   

artwork by Wegé

 

   

a concert review  (patrick neve)

Hi, all!  I'm back from LA and the Key Club.  Duke, ya beat me to the review so I'll just post my version and comment on some stuff you said.  Nice meeting you, by the way.

First we went to Lumpy Gravy and who to our surprise was eating dinner but Ike Willis and company.  We must have made the "look, rock stars!" face because he didn't hesistate in waving us down and asking if we were going to the concert.  Well, of course.  But we didn't pester him like the geeky fanboys we are, we played it cool and ordered pints.

Then a guy came over and introduced himself as the "The Duke", whom I had tried to hook up with earlier that day.  Unfortunately Lumpy Gravy was closed earlier that day.. the help told us the hours are kinda random.  Also their phone message is advertising a Keneally appearance from about 10 months ago.  Anyways, the place is very nice and there are indeed Moon Zappa dolls on display and Rugrats stills, and some yummy looking food with Zappa titles attached.  Duke, how was the food?  Your stuff looked good.  I gotta admit that if I were running a Zappa restaurant there would be more along the lines of burnt weenie sandwiches and yellow snow cones, but hey.

So the Duke and I rapped awhile and generally attached faces to our previously cyber-acquaintence, when Ike came over and talked our ears off!  As Duke said, what a nice guy.  He talked about his new album, how he's just moved from Portland to Lancaster, and about how musical his kids are.  A few of us coughed up $20 for his new disc which he says he'll mail to us.  He seemed genuinely interested in who we were and how we got into Zappa and so on.  A relative young'n at 30, I admitted that one the first things that really me hooked was listening to Thing Fish on acid and this caused him to noticably shudder.  He talked for awhile about Thing Fish, and what a scary time that was for him.. apparantly he's still real close with Larry Flynt and at the time he was concerned for his well being due tot he subject matter of the album.  I forget the specifics but he said that the album was definitely about the AIDS virus, which hadn't been officially "discovered" yet.  He said that Zappa or someone in the crew had a direct connection to someone in a high government position who had actually invented the thing, and that Thing Fish was their way of telling people about it, but thinly couched under the guise of a twisted rock opera.  The whole thing sort of sounded like the X-Files to me, however if I remember correctly the dates to make it an interesting proposition.  Ike said the album was produced in '83 for an '84 release, and the best any of us could remember, AIDS wasn't announced until at least '85.  I wonder what the real scoop on all that is. Anyways Ike said he felt like they had just put big targets on their chests, and a close affiliation with Larry Flynt didn't help matters at all.

So, it seemed we coulda talked all night long, but he had to run off to go play some gig so we let him go.

On Wed, 30 Dec 1998 dukeoprunz@my-dejanews.com wrote:
> The Players:  Ikey, Tommy, Bobby, Eddie, Brucey, Tommy (the other Tommy), Chaddy, Walty, Alberty, Kurty, and Mikey (Miller).

The big surprise to me was Robert "Don't Call Me Bobby" Martin.  Apparantly it was a surprise to Ike, too.  At the bar Ike told us that Robert had showed up to a rehearsal about two days ago and was a most welcome last minute addition.  He didn't specifically it, but it seemed like he was recovering from the Cybill thing and this project was a good to do.  So after only one or two rehearsals he just jumped onstage, and friends, you'd never think he took any time off.   He just jumped right back into the thick of the arrangements, and did some of what he does best to songs like City Of Tiny Lites.  That one in particular was BIG.  I was sure they were gonna do Whipping Post, so when it came time for the encore, I crowded up front and yelled it in the best "Stage Vol. 2" voice I could, which caused a few to chuckle, and Robert to tease a line of it, but alas, no post that night.  I don't see why not.. it seemed like the inevitable encore.  No complaints, though, because Zomby Woof was huge.. they dug that one deep and it had a lot of "oomph."  But anyways...

> The Setlist:  Intermission, Andy, Inca Roads, some original of Kurt's, City of Tiny Lites, Sinister Footwear, Montana,  Be-Bop Tango (featuring the Articles of Impeachment), Lucille has Messed my Mind Up, Easy Meat, Bad Dog (an original of Mike's -- far better than Kurt's, to my ears), The Idiot Bastard Son (Ike accompanied by Tommy solo in a mock-Debussy arrangement), Dupree's Paradise, I'm a Beautiful Guy, Bamboozled by Love, Village of the Sun, Echidna's Arf, Don't You Ever Wash That Thing, Peaches III, Eat That Question (closing fanfare only, a la MAJNH), Sofa, encore:  Zomby Woof.  I  probably missed a few in there somewhere -- at the closing of, I think, Dupree's, I think they played a few bars of Kung Fu.

Here's how I wrote it:

> The Solos:  It's interesting to see how the band hands out the solo's in Frank's glaring absence.  A lot of the formerly guitar solos get handed out to different instruments entirely -- City featured Ed, That was a very nice solo.  What I especially like about this tune is that they didn't break it down to faux-reggae, they kept it funky.

Easy Meat (as far as I remembered) featured Tom, Lucille had nice short solos from Bobby and Walt.

> Tommy's treatment of Idiot Bastard Son basically counted as a solo, and was fantastic.

That was the high point of the night for me.  The stage darkened except for the dreaded spotlight, and Ike strolled up to a stool and almost apologetically told the crowd that he was going to get a little serious for just one moment, and as soon as I heard Tommy warming up the chords I knew it was going to be a really nice version of Bastard Son.  I'm sure most of you have heard Ike sing this one, so try and imagine it as a duo with just him and Tommy on a piano sound.  Ike's big bad tenor really shone on this one, this was where he got to prove he could really sing.  The thing I dug most about it was that the traditional accompaniment was right out the window.  As a sidenote, one itty bitty complaint I had with the set ont he whole was that it stuck almost too closely to the album arrangements, although it never compromised the feeling they parts were played with.  But this arrangment, I guess I'll have to take the Duke's word for it that it was mock-Debussy.  What I heard was just every extension and voicing Tommy could think of to color the harmony, I don't think there was one "straight" chord played the whole time.. it was implied, and besides, Ike was keeping the melody pretty straight.  It was a gorgeous version.. I can't wait to hear the tape.  (yes, Virginia...)

Mike Miller was a very competent guitarist who layed down some nice solos,

Yeah, I liked Mike.  He didn't blow me away but he had an original approach to guitar.  It wasn't Zappa-esque, so it was unfamiliar territory for me at first, to try and assimilate his original style into such a familiar setting.  Ike did the role of "Zappa-esque lead guitar" and did so with guts and panache.  He's only gotten better and better.  I've seen him play a few times over the last few years and he just digs deeper each time I see him play.  But Mike was cool, and I'd like to see him in a different group sometime.

which brings me to...

> The opening band:  Bunny Brunell, Brooks Wackerman on drums (Chad's brother...Brooks, that is, not the drums), a guitarist and a keyboardist whose names I can't remember.  The keyboardist had the dreaded Zavod volcano disease (I'd be interested to hear if anybody disagrees with me).

Noone durst.

The guitarist had a couple of nice solos, but otherwise was kind of bland.

> was an interesting bass player, and Brooks did some nice collateral damage to the rhythmic landscape.  Most of the pieces followed the same pattern of Head -> guitar solo -> keyboard solo -> bass solo -> reprise, which got so boring after a while that you were actually excited when it went -> keyboard->guitar->bass.  Okay, but didn't really float my particular boat.

They are all excellent musicians, but every tune was just a single riff repeated a few times, extended solos with lots and lots of fast little notes, and the riff once again.  I was wondering if they wre being paid by the note.  There were a few slower numbers.. the guy next to me said he felt like he was "on hold."  Another said that they were fantastic musicians and he's looking forward to when they write some songs.  I guess that was my only complaint, a lack of arrangement.  But I certainly can't knock their chops, or apparantly Bunny's experience.  I had not heard of him outside of the Muffin website, but they said he used to play with Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock, so that gives you an idea of what level of playing he was at.  Oh yeah, Bunny was the bass player.

One weird thing was:  Chad and Brooks used the same drum kit, a real nice DW, but they changed all the drum heads between sets.  Does anyone else realize what a hassle that is?  They had four techs up there turning and tuning the heads between sets.  It would have been far easier to swap drum kits.  Fucking musicians. : )

> The crisis:  Someone pulled the fire alarm right when BFU was about to start playing, then they had to pull the breaker to turn off the alarm, then we had to wait for 20 minutes to remedy this.        Hence, intermission was pushed beginning of the show.

Yeah, that was lame.  I was expecting someone to call out "Arthur Brown, Ladies & Gentlemen", but noone did.  Also, if the band were REALLY cool they would have done something with horns, percussion and drums.  No problem.. they are an electric band.

So, my general reactions to my first exposure to "The Banned" are as follows:

They mostly stuck to common arrangements of the tunes they picked, but they were delivered with exceptional tightness and feeling.  They were much tighter than my only other exposure to them, the CD.  I think they could have chosen some different numbers in addition to the standards.. it would have been nice to hear something other than the common 80's stuff.  For instance the album has more 60's representation.  It would have been wild to whip out an arrangement of Approximate, for example, or something unreleased, or I guess what I'm trying to say is there weren't any huge surprises, set-list wise.  Actually Sinister Footwear #2 was great to hear.. like Zomby Woof, this was played with maximum "oomph."  And the Sun Village trilogy was just scary..  you could close your eyes and it sounded EXACTLY like the Roxy version.  Then it almost sounds like Tom Fowler is playing the bass, and woah, there he is!  That was a great thing, hearing how Chad and Tom Fowler worked together, compared to the familiar Chad/Thunes duo.  I'll simply quote Keneally from a previous post when he said "TOM FOWLER = GOD".  I don't think they had quite enough of his bottom end in the mix, but good god, it was an 11 piece band, and was a very good mix overall.  I don't know if they had their own engineer or if it was the house, but whoever was at the board had a good sense of EQ separation and made some really cool stereo images out of the speaker stacks.. they were far apart from each other, so if you were in the center of the room you really got three mixes; left, right, and the stage sound.  It was small little room, there only a few hundred people.  A nice intimate setting, as they say.

So, all in all, this was my first exposure to many of these musicians, and it did fully blow my mind.  They're playing again in LA on the 2nd, but I won't be there.  I'll see them every chance I get, though, this has got to be hands down the most qualified group to perform Frank's music.   Can't wait to hear their new album, and Ike's new one as well.  Duke, I'm sorry we got split up at the club and wish we could have hung out some more.  Hope to hook with you again next time I'm in town.  Or look me up when you come north.

-Patrick


random notes

-From Muffin Records home page- (defunct)
http://pages.prodigy.com/muffin.records/banned.htm

Just in short : it was pretty good, and the audience screamed a lot, when they had to stop at 10pm. The band finally consisted of Bobby Martin, Tommy Mars, Ike Willis, Ed Mann, Bruce Fowler, Kurt McGettrick, Tom Fowler (On violin! most of the time, bass also), Arthur Barrow (5-string bass, e- and a-guitar), and a drummer named Jay.
Some of the songs included were: Illinois Enema Bandit, Pound for a brown, Outside Now, Easy Meat Tink walks amok (!!!, this was just great), some We're only in it-medley. and more. The musicians were enthusiastically welcomed one by one by the audience. It was just good to see these guys back on stage again.

Band From Utopia will go on tour, probably in the Spring 95

I've recently seen a tape of the German TV show that carried the concert. It is terrific. Most of their broadcast was actually the encore, with Chad on drums, rather than Jay Ditammo.
I'm sure Muffin has the whole show on tape. The performances are close to DHBIM (different lineup, of course), in quality, but Ike's up front directing rather than Frank. Bobby Martin can still sing like a muthafucka, and the whole band seems to be very into it (trying to do a good job for Frank). A very sincere show of respect, as demonstrated in their postgame interview (with German translation over the top). The show starts with the encore, where Ike announces that Chad will replace Jay on drums. By this time, we have:

  ---------

JayDittamo played drums during the initial set. Ike said that Jay had auditioned with the band back around 1980, but didn't make the tour.

I read last week that the BfU had played again, in Germany, with Chad on drums, but without Ike. This saddens me. I haven't seen him since Nov/Dec, and I'm afraid he may be sucked under by his expensive tastes. His phone was disconnected back then, and we've not been able to get a search party together.

---

Ike Willis is replacing Robert Martin at the Norway concerts of the Band from Utopia. Seems Robert had an offer of steady employment, composing for a weekly television serious.

----

Last evening (actually this morning) I saw the Banned from Utopia (NOT BAND as IKE pointed out several times jokingly). They played at the infamous Toad's Place in New Haven, CT and are scheduled to play their last show on this leg of the tour tonight in Boston (venue unknown).

Band Members:

The Banned played 3 plus hours of Zappa with 2 originals worked in, Black Coffee written by Chad, and then Jig written by Mike Miller. Their new disk is worth buying just for Black Coffee.
Song list included in order (although I may be missing one): Andy, Inca Roads, Pound for a Brown, Beautiful Guy, "No Head" as it was listed on the song list taped to Tommy's keys but I don't think this is the name of it, The Eric Dolphy Memorial BarBQ, Black Coffee, Lucille has Messed My Mind Up, instrumental from Tinsletown Rebellion I think (I'm reviewing disks this evening), BeeBop Tango, EZ Meat, then intermission. Uncle Meat, Jig, Yo Cats, Sinister Footware, The Idiot Bastard Son, Valley of the Sun, instrumental from Live at Roxy & Elsewhere, Peaches en Regalia (tremendous), Sofa, Outside Now, Zombie Woof, Oh No, The Black Page.

     From: OneBigDorkus@aol.com -      Date: Sun, 29 Aug 1999 04:45:18 EDT
i just got back from seeing banned from utopia at the baked potato on sunset.  it was absolutely amazing they played 2 shows 2 nights in a row. i went to the first ones on both days. ike wasnt there for some reason or another they didnt say. the final list of members was robert martin (keys and sax) walt fowler (trumpet and bugle) bruce fowler (trombone) ed mann (percusion) arthur barrow (5string bass) ralph humphrey (drums) kurt mcgettrick (bari-sax and piccollo) mike miller (guitar) and tommy mars (keys). i dont remember the set exactly, but they played zomby woof, peaches, sofa, filthy habits, nanook rubs it, enchnidas arf, why dont you ever wash that thing, city of tiny lights, the black page, aint got no heart, village of the sun, and a bunch of instrumentals that i couldnt place...

     Jay Dittamo sez:
Its great to see theres such a love for the music and for Frank Zappa As a fan since the age of eleven years of age I had found myself asking Frank if I could join his band on the Bill Boggs show in 1979 (I had gotten a Video copy Thanks Rob Samler) when I was19 years old at 22 I had the pleasure of flying myself out to L.A. to play for Frank. At that time  Frank wasn't in the best of moods (he was in a I hate Drummers mood) well as you can see I didn't get with Frank this was real sad for me, with all my heart I wanted to play the music of Frank Zappa.  I never thought 14 years years later I would be on stage with some of my favorite Zappa musicians.I can say as a fan it was exciting as a musician it was a complete thrill everyone gave there best at playing Franks music and the people of germany there and absolute pleasure to play for. The guys treated me as though I belonged there all along, in a very short time we became a real band and it was fun tohere all the different stories of the tours from the past. I miss playing with those guys and I feel fortunate to have played with the line up of such great  Musicians .............Frank would have been proud !
                    God Bless Him
                    Jay Dittamo

                    Drummer Percussionist
                    President/Ditto Discs Inc.

     Jay Dittamo continues...
I meant to say thanks for liking the Band from Utopia CD FYI I'm playing drums on the first twelve tunes and Chads  playing on tracks 13,14,15 if you are one of those I need everything Zappa persons you my be able to get ahold of a bootleg video from the  Köln Germany show. I had a blast at those  shows and its one of those things in life that will stay with you.

     From: Peter Mavropoulos (unclemeat@earthlink.net)
Along with performing the music of Frank Zappa, The band is writing and recording their own compositions and are preparing to release their second CD, "So You Don't Like Modern Art".  More information:
http://home.earthlink.net/~unclemeat/

     From: MariaGiannetta@aol.com
Just let you in on some great news Band from Utopia will be playing at Zappa Fest in Peoria Ill on sunday August 13 2000.The line up for this one is Arthur Barrow, Tommy Mars, Ed Mann, Mike Miller, Albert Wing, and Jay Dittamo.
This time around expect to hear lots of the more instrumental side of Franks music as well as some surprises.

 


 

 

additional info:
- Uwe Krueger


the others of invention

 a 

 b 

 c   d   e   f   g   h   i   j   k   l   m 
 n   o   p   q   r   s   t   u   v   w   x   y   z
soundtracks various artists