Bogus Pomp / Jerry Outlaw Interview – 1998

This article was originally published by INK19 in December 1998.

by Ed Furniture

Jerry Outlaw used to play guitar with the Genitortures. Now he doesn’t. He still has tattoos, though. And a big-ass Zappa-repertoire band called Bogus Pomp.

Q: When was Bogus Pomp started, whose idea was it?

A: I started getting together with Rick Olson and jamming on some Zappa songs in the late summer of 1994. We started learning “Zoot Allures” and “Pygmy Twylyte,” as well as some Hendrix tunes and other stuff. After a good practice one night, I felt really inspired and had this great idea. I said to Rick, “Hey, we should try and learn a bunch of Zappa songs and just play them for ourselves because we love them so much.” Rick looked at me like I was crazy and said, “Do you think we could really do this stuff?” I said, “let’s try… we’ll call our project Bogus Pomp.” I chose that name because it made me laugh out loud when I first read it. We just wanted to play some music that we loved and that made us happy to play. We didn’t care if we just played it for ourselves and nobody else; we just wanted to play it! My good friend Shana Smith was working for JAM magazine at the time, and she put a mention in JAM magazine that I had started a project to play Zappa’s music. A week after that, Alex Pasut read the mention and called the office at JAM. He asked Shana about us, and she gave him my phone number. He called me, and we got together at Rick’s and played. After that, we knew there was some sort of very good chemistry between us. We then decided to find a drummer. I called our friend, Tom McCowan, and he was more than happy to come and play with us. This was the first incarnation of Bogus Pomp.

Q: How often do you have to practice for a show of that magnitude?

A: We try to rehearse a few times a week when we are getting ready to play a show, especially when we prepare for Zappaween. It is a very, very tough job trying to get all these players, who all have different schedules, to find time to rehearse this really difficult music. We all share a common love and respect for this music, so I am extremely fortunate to have found these wonderful musicians who are interested in doing this very challenging project.

Q: How did you go about getting permission to put on a Zappa-repertoire show? Do you have to pay royalties? What are the legalities involved?

A: We really don’t need permission to play Zappa’s music, I just thought it would be polite to ask Gail Zappa if we could use the name “Zappaween” for our Halloween concerts. She said we could the name as long as we put “Zappa name used by special permission of the Zappa Family Trust” on any advertisement or shirts that commemorate the event. That’s all.

Q: How old were you when you started playing music?

A: I was 15 years old when I started playing guitar.

Q: How many people are involved in the whole production, and what do they do?

A: At this point there are 11 people who work at different times with Bogus Pomp. The current line up is Jerry Outlaw (guitars, vocals), Alex Pasut (bass), Rick Olson (keyboards, vocals), David Manson (trombone), David Pate (saxophones, flute), Keith Hedger (trumpet), Craig Benson (drums), John Citrone (drums, vocals), George Bernardo (mallets, percussion, drums), David Coash (mallets, percussion), and Pat Buffo (vocals). Other wonderful musicians who have played with Bogus Pomp in the past are Ross Jobson (keyboards), Mike MacArthur (saxophone), Tom McCowan (drums), John Lombard (trumpet), Vince Warren (vocals), April Wharton (vocals), and Greg Graves (mallets, percussion).

Q: Talk a bit about the Florida Orchestra show. What’s that gonna be like?

A: The event with the Florida Orchestra will be the “Holy Grail” of all of our Bogus Pomp performances. It happens on January 16th, 1999, at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg. The evening will happen like this: First, the Florida Orchestra will perform orchestral works from The Yellow Shark, and other orchestral favorites for about half an hour. Bogus Pomp will then join the orchestra for the last two compositions in the first set. The first set will be about 45 minutes. There will be an intermission of about 15 minutes. The second set will consist of Bogus Pomp with special guest Ike Willis, performing Zappa compositions ranging from ’68 to ’88 in a non-orchestral, electric rock band format. The second set will be louder in overall volume than the first set, and will last for about an hour and a half. Also, on the night before the orchestra concert, January 15th, 1999, at the Dali Museum in downtown St. Petersburg, a symposium on Zappa’s music will be held. After the symposium, Bogus Pomp, with special guest Ike Willis, will perform a short set at the former Club Detroit, now known as Bertoni’s.

Q: Who are some interesting celebrities you have met over the years?

A: I have had the great pleasure to meet some of my favorite musicians, such as Mike Keneally, Steve Morse, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Eric Johnson, Ike Willis, Victor Wooten, Bela Fleck, Tommy Mars, Ralph Humphrey, Walt, Bruce, and Tom Fowler, Jimmy Herring, Jonas Hellborg, Jerry Goodman, Oteil Burbridge, Tony Levin, Bill Bruford, Stu Hamm, Sam Rivers, and I’m sure there’s a couple more I just can’t think of at the moment. I also have a favorite local musician, Kacy Ross. God, he was great!

Q: What are some of the difficulties of having a band that huge?

A: Mainly trying to get everyone to be able to rehearse together. That very rarely happens. Also trying to find the right dates to book shows around everyone’s schedule, since I have all professional musicians and music teachers in my band.

Q: Have you considered playing outside this region?

A: Oh yes, all the time! But it is very difficult to get an out of town club owner to take me seriously, because they usually don’t have a clue as to what this music is all about, and they have a very, very difficult time trying to even understand that we’re not a “cover band” or a “tribute band” by any normal standard. Unless people have seen us, they usually don’t understand what we are trying to do, and usually they don’t have a good impression of Zappa’s music because they are not at all familiar with it. We would really love to play in New York and Europe, too! Maybe someday we will have the chance to play other states. We would really love the chance to do that!

Q: What’s your favorite Zappa song?

A: That is the most difficult question you have asked me yet! My favorite album is One Size Fits All, but as far as a favorite song, there are really too many that I truly love to pick just one song. Two of my all time favorite guitar solos are on the songs “Yo Mama” and “The Ocean is the Ultimate Solution.”

Q: What do you think is the most amazing thing about Frank Zappa and his music?

A: The amazing things to me about the way Zappa wrote and arranged music are the use of very structured and extremely intricate poly-rhythms and counter-melodies. He was always using odd time signatures. Sometimes in the studio he would even put a bass guitar track from one session over a drum track from another session, and all kinds of cool random interplay would happen between the two different tracks to make something very unique. Also, the way Frank constructed guitar solos was different and more daring than most any other guitarists that I’m familiar with. Just the way he laid his hands on the instrument was different than other guitarists. He spoke a different language with his guitar. His more structured solos were incredible, and his spontaneous improvisations were brilliant. He was in my opinion, the first guitarist to transcend beyond the mindset that note-perfect execution and perfect technique are what every guitarist must have to be expressive and musical. He was brave enough to play what he really felt. Sometimes it was melodic, beautiful, and very articulate. Sometimes it was dissonant, ugly, and very sloppy. He was always willing to go one step further just to see what would happen. He is an eternal inspiration! He was also the most prolific writer in modern electric music. His catalog of music is so huge that you could listen for days and never hear the same song twice. He crossed over more musical styles together than any other musician or artist of the Twentieth Century. He always managed to find the absolute best musicians to interpret his music.

Q: Ultimately, what do you want Bogus Pomp to develop into?

A: Bogus Pomp was started strictly for the purpose of making myself happy. I do understand that all good things must come to an end, and I fully realize the temporary nature of such a truly wonderful thing, and every time I can rehearse with these guys I am very, very grateful and full of appreciation. I always make a point of thanking them every time we can rehearse. I really don’t know what will happen in the future with Bogus Pomp, but as long as I am happy and the situation allows, then Bogus Pomp will play this music for a few more years.

Q: Have you ever considered forming a Danny Elfman repertoire band on the side?

A: Well, no, but I love his work too.

Q: How about John Williams?

A: No, him either, but I love his work also.

Q: Who ARE your favorite composers and favorite music to listen to?

A: My favorites are Zappa, Vivaldi, and Stravinski for composers. I really love King Crimson, Ozric Tentacles, Medeski Martin & Wood, and Zappa for electric music.

Q: What do you think of the current state of rock music and MTV?

A: I don’t watch MTV because I’m not a big fan of contemporary love-rap swill and mindless mechanical drumbeats with stolen samples of older songs. I really see very, very clearly the fact that none of the bands that are coming out these days are going to have long careers. All the new sounds and fashions are based on fads and passing trends. There are no more bands that have that timeless classic feel anymore. The vast majority of the new stuff that’s out there sounds so similar and so very uninspired. I don’t like the new bands that think they are so heavy because they tune down until their strings are floppy, yet they are far more concerned with their new Adidas endorsement than they are with writing good music or getting better on their instruments. I hope the anti-chops trend in popular music dies out soon too. It really sucks to see someone who is very obviously not a good musician doing well and making lots of money in popular music. I really don’t like the state of new popular music, because it allows people who are not good musicians or even talented at all to be considered talented musicians. Hopefully all this new garbage will fade away as it usually does, and all the real good stuff will remain as it always has. Music has become far, far too contrived and corporate in the mainstream. This is only my opinion, and I’m sure lots of young people would disagree, but I think you should have to practice your instrument and really get good before you could enjoy any popularity or be considered a musician. That’s what I think about most new music and MTV. Like I said, it’s only my opinion.