Earlier this year, the Zappa family home at 7885 Woodrow Wilson Drive was put up for auction at eBay. With a minimum bid of around $9 million, the listing languished until the auction expired. In June, the 6,759 square foot, seven-bedroom residence resurfaced for sale through the Los Angeles-based Williams & Williams real estate agency. In September, the sprawling, Tudor-style mansion and its eclectic amenities were purchased by pop chanteuse, Lady Gaga, for approximately $5.5 million, says Variety magazine.
[Correction: The Zappa family home seen in the video above is not located in Laurel Canyon]
Originally constructed in 1939, the Zappa family home features vaulted ceilings, winding staircases, and Frank’s own Utility Muffin Research Kitchen in the basement. In addition to the lower level recording studio space, the home also features a rather worn tennis court, a rooftop swimming pool, a dragon mural in the dining room, and a two-story tall art gallery, according to LA Curbed. Frank Zappa and his wife, Gail Sloatman Zappa, bought the Hollywood Hills property in the early 1970s for a purported sum of $75,000. Prior to moving into the multi-level home, the Zappa family resided in Laurel Canyon.
Utility Muffin Research Kitchen
Fans of Frank and Dweezil Zappa revere the family home as the headquarters of the famed Utility Muffin Research Kitchen, also known as the UMRK. During his lifetime, Zappa recorded sixty-something albums, many of them in the UMRC. According to Audio Ease magazine, the UMRK was completed on September 1, 1979, and recording of You Are What You Is started immediately. In more recent years, the UMRK was used by Dweezil Zappa to record and mix his own album projects.
Among the amazing features of Zappa’s home studio is a tall, narrow, concrete echo chamber. Zappa described the chamber and its purpose to Audio Ease.
“One reason we use the echo chamber is that certain types of percussive sounds, when introduced into a digital reverb program that may be a long program, don’t sound right. That program may be good for everything else in the composition that is not so spiky. But the spiky stuff in there tends to sound bogus. So what we do is use live echo quite often for the percussion-type things, and use echo programs with more harmonic content on the strings or brass or things whose duration you want to increase.”
In February and March 2016, the UMRK was the site of a never-before-seen atmospheric art installation. Dubbed Someplace Else Right Now, the installation’s name was a nod to Frank Zappa’s No. 63 studio album, Civilization Phaze III. Featuring the works of Isabel Yellin, Larry Achiampong, Lisa Solberg, Kiluanji Kia Henda, Yael Kanarek, Keith Tyson, Daniel J. Wilson, and Tamara Kvesitadze. To create the unique installation, multi-media artists built art on-site and adapted previous pieces to fit Frank Zappa’s most creative space. Solberg, for instance, created paintings specifically to fit inside Zappa’s custom echo chamber.
“To put my artwork up here in his honor was so cool. I created the paintings for this show, and when you are working and inspired by such a legend, it seeps out into the work. It gave my paintings a very Frank Zappa-like feeling, like a tribute to the king.”
When asked how the installation came about, curator Ashley Sands told the Hollywood Reporter:
“I chose artists who similarly push the boundaries in their genres, and all the works in the show are loosely tied to the concept of place, because this was Frank’s only working space. I thought a lot about the concept of place, place as a departure point.”
The by-appointment-only art show closed on March 2, 2016. What Lady Gaga will do with the Utility Muffin Research Kitchen remains to be seen.
[Featured Photo by Pictorial Evidence | Creative Commons | CC By-SA 3.0]