Scheduled to play a February show at Murfreesboro’s 527 Main Street, Project/Object canceled it and several other shows on the southern end of their tour due to what they call a flagging economy.
’We had a really great offer for a great show in Murfreesboro, but I’m a little chilled by what’s been going on with the economy in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and these other places where we were going to play. Clubs are closing, or just closing for part of the week now, and some clubs are offering far fewer guarantees,’ Project/Object guitarist Andr’ Cholmondeley said.
Though the show has been cancelled, Cholmondeley said they hope to visit in the spring, with more shows in the South around April and May.
Adding to its problems, Project/Object has also had to deal with constant legal threats. A Frank Zappa tribute band made up of not only fans but also alumni of Zappa’s touring and recording lineups, the band is constantly at odds with Adelaide Gail Zappa, the artist’s second wife and widow.
’She is the executor of Frank’s will, and we respect that. Unfortunately, that role has been abused, I think, and so do most observers. We get a threat or lawsuit letter just about every year, every time we tour,’ Cholmondeley said.
At the heart of the dispute is the wording of U.S. copyright law and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) licensing agreement.
’She is the owner of the copyright, and if I were to release any music on a record, I’d have to pay royalties. I’m fine with that. . . . I think one of the problems is she tries to add more on to that. She sends us letters about getting permission to play the music, and there’s no such thing in U.S. law. You don’t need permission to do Beethoven, John Coltrane, Zeppelin or any of that. All you need to do is pay the ASCAP dues, and every major club has paid those dues,’ Cholmondeley said.
The ASCAP Web site’s wording of the licensing agreement backs up Cholmondeley’s argument. It states: ’ASCAP licenses the right to perform songs and musical works created and owned by songwriters, composers, lyricists and music publishers who are ASCAP members . . .’
Still, Gail Zappa has pursued bands like Project/Object for using and performing Frank Zappa’s music. Several blogs and Zappa fan sites say that a Boston club canceled a Project/Object show in the wake of her legal threats.
Regardless, Cholmondeley said that band has been together for roughly 15 years now, and her threats are often ’thrown out or ignored.’
The band grew out of a party Cholmondeley threw every year on Dec. 21, Frank Zappa’s birthday, in which he and his friends listened to Zappa’s music for 24 hours straight. Eventually, his band began learning Zappa songs to play at the party, growing still larger until they had to move it to a local venue in New Brunswick, NJ.
Project/Object as it is today is in large part a result of Cholmondeley’s connection to Zappa alum Ike Willis, who still plays with the band and helped connect the members to other fans and former band members.
Project/Object features a varying bill of guest members including ’around 20 of Zappa’s alumni and associates,’ Cholmondeley said. The current lineup includes himself, Dave Johnsen, Eric Svalg’rd, Eric Slick, Robbie Mangano, and, more often than not, Ike Willis.
’He really had a sixth sense when he picked up musicians . . . that’s what was amazing about Zappa, he found the best of the best,’ Cholmondeley said.
Despite the threats and despite the economy, the band has no plans to stop any time soon. For the members of Project/Object, their entire motivation can be linked to Zappa’s fabled final request’’Play my music.’
And so they will.