FRANK ZAPPA NEVER had much respect for rock critics, and given the lack of press for Rykodisc's exhaustive Zappa reissue series, it seems critics have neither the time nor talent to re-view this man's music, either. One person who can properly put Zappa's work in perspective, however, is Earl Root, community-radio cult figure and owner of vintage vinyl shop The Root Cellar in St. Paul.
Root's personal Zappa collection measures eight feet long at the moment, and all-Zappa shows have been a semi-annual tradition of The Root of All Evil, his overnight meta-metal show on KFAI (90.3 and 106.7 FM). Two years after Zappa's death, it's time for another 11-hour extravaganza this weekend, from Saturday at 7 p.m. to Sunday at 6 a.m. The long show allows a deep survey of Zappa rarities and interviews, and it gives some prime-time exposure to the new and improved Root, which sounds better than ever heading into its second decade.
The show's full-spectrum glory may not be fully evident during Saturday's Zappa close-up, but any other week The Root revives the dying art of free-form radio at its finest. The crucial in-joke is that Root--an Edina-born humorist, musician, music historian, sound artist and British motor bike enthusiast--plays his heathen egomaniac persona for laughs. What's more, the ex-leader of legendary local band Disturbed is the only enduring voice of local metal.
Root has a love/hate relationship with the genre that lets him delight in and debunk the metal mentality. "I still like to skate the edge a little," Root confesses, "because I strongly believe in the right of free speech. This little metal subculture--or whatever you want to call it--has a voice. Rather than ignore it or condemn it, I think more enlightenment on metal would make these people feel less like a downtrodden minority. But I have to treat my audience like something stuck to my shoe or they wouldn't take me seriously."
Root credits producer/co-host Tim Honebrink with reinvigorating the show through various side-effects, comic interludes, and invaluable help with the show's spontaneous sound collages. The partnership gives Root more room to roam the phones, free-associate on the mike, and focus on the tunes and the turntables. Though Root won't deny us a guilty pleasure like Regurgitate's "Worm-Eaten Rectum," he's never been strictly metal; Root Cellar's vinyl jazz selection was amazing last time I looked, and more recently, Root's been revisiting classic prog rock and the associated ambient/techno continuum. In the wee hours, The Root of All Evil can sound like Metal Massacre meets Moonlight Meditations.
"I can't handle a half-hour of hhhurrrr anymore," admits Root, imitating the classic Cookie Monster metal grunt. "I try to play more of the newer metal like Fear Factory, and other bands that are trying to be creative and innovative, instead of a bunch of guys pretending they worship Satan better than you do."
It's no surprise, then, that Root holds a musi-comical genius like Zappa so highly. "The All-Zappa shows are a selfish pleasure of mine, but it's also an education to the metalheads out there, and a tribute to a guy who I think deserved much more airplay. I also admire his whole care-to-the-wind attitude of 'Look! This is the way it is. This is the way it should be, and this is the way I'm telling it to you so that you can see the truth, and then hopefully laugh at the truth and yourself, and not take it all too seriously.'"
FOR THE RECORDS: Another week, another seven release parties: Rap-rockers Legion of Boom, Wednesday at The Quest with Phull Surkle and Abstract Pack; The Light, Thursday at Mirage with Smokin' Js and Triple XXX; Cave Music, Friday at O'Garas with Judd Herrmann, Fancy Ray McCloney and SPMC. Standards singer Suzanne Bauer performs Sunday at the Thunderbird Motel; jazz vocalist Linda Peterson celebrates her new live album Monday at the New Artists' Quarter, the same night Debbie Duncan hosts a Christmas special at the Guthrie. Also Monday, pop eclecticists The Ultrasonics rock 7th Street Entry with Dylan Hicks, Ivory Library and Henry. And don't miss the Atomic Theory Records 10th Anniversary Celebration Saturday at Fine Line Music Cafe with Thea Ennen and the Algorhythms, Auto Body Experience, Judd Herrmann, and Larry Long with percussionist Anthony James Finlayson.
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