The Stinkfoot orchestra
But it couldn’t be just any band…
There had to be horns.
There had to be a mallet player.
There had to be backup singers.
This had to be more than a band that was capable of playing “all the right notes” – it had to be a band that was capable of performing Frank’s music with accuracy and integrity.
The first two people he contacted were Victor Manning (a guitarist with whom Nick had played music with for well over 20 years) and Jon Hassan (a Baritone/Tenor Sax player and fellow member of the Houserockers) – who were both rabid fans of Frank’s music. With their buy-in, Nick quickly filled out the rhythm section with friends and fellow Zappaphiles Michael Palladino (drums) and Josh Baker (bass)(Later to be replaced by Joey Fabian, aka Joey Fabiano) . It took some time to fill the mallet player slot, but after scaring away multiple Bay Area orchestral percussionists, they found a musician willing to take on the enormous challenge of covering Ruth Underwood’s impossible lines in Shota Otaguro (tuned percussion). The 6-piece horn section came together by enlisting Mark “Dbone” DeSimone (Trombone), Kevin Kono (Trumpet, Flugel Horn), Jo Major (Tenor/Soprano Sax and Flute), Mike McWilliams (Trumpet), and Paul Degen (Tenor/Alto/Bari Sax and Flute). The ensemble was eventually rounded out with 3 dedicated vocalists – Lizie Skow, Lainey Leone, and Mike Boston .
A couple months into rhythm section rehearsals, the group was hit with an enormous loss when their guitarist, Victor Manning, passed away unexpectedly. After a month of grieving and waffling on whether to scrap the project altogether, Nick came to the conclusion that Victor “would have kicked my ass” if he did not see this project to fruition. After a significant search, the band found the perfect replacement in Tomek Sinclair (guitar) and they began the daunting task of learning some very difficult music.
Given the amount of work required to perform much of Zappa’s material, one might question what motivates this group of musicians to dedicate themselves to such a huge undertaking. Nick’s response is simple… “This music is historically important – and I feel it is the responsibility of those who ‘get it’ to help keep it alive and, hopefully, introduce more people to it. On any given night, I realize that we may serve as someone’s first exposure to Frank Zappa – and I don’t take that responsibility lightly.”
“It has been a tremendous amount of work, but I cannot even begin to list the ways in which it has been fulfilling for me as a musician”, Nick continues. “Yes, getting the lines under our fingers has been a challenge, but that merely scratches the surface of what it has taken to bring this project to the stage. Most of the horn charts were transcribed by ear from various (Zappa) ensembles by Dbone, Hassan and me – but I had never created a horn chart in my life – quite a way to cut one’s teeth…” he says. “Never mind the logistics involved with getting such a large group of working musicians together and dealing with all managerial aspects of the band. Yeah – it’s been a full-time job for me for the past couple years, but well worth the effort. I can’t wait for people to hear what we have put together. Perhaps I’m a bit biased, but I think people are going to be blown away by this project.”
KEYBOARDS & VOCALS & VISIONs & poodle grooming
Nick began studying piano at age 5, later picking up guitar at age 15. A California native, Nick moved to San Jose in 1984 to study music production, keyboard synthesis and performance at SJSU under Dan Wyman and Alan Strange. He has been playing professionally since age 17 with the majority of his time spent writing, playing and recording original music with such Bay Area bands as Swing Party, BlissNinnies, Elephino and Corduroy Jim.
Over the years, Nick has shared the stage with such acts as the String Cheese Incident, Leftover Salmon, Zero, the Kantner Balin Cassidy Band, Steve Kimmock, KVHW, JGB, the Radiators, Merle Saunders, Eddie Money, Starship, Firehose, Wang Chung and Jonathan Richman. For the past 15 years, Nick has been a vital part of the critically acclaimed South Bay band, the Houserockers, has backed the legendary Zigaboo Modeliste and at one point assembled a short-lived band playing Zappa music backing Ike Willis.
VOCALS & Painful Urination
It was while in college at Washington University, St. Louis that Ike Willis and Frank Zappa met. As a guitar player since the age of 8, Ike was studying political science. He volunteered to help with the concert committee just so he could get a “Back Stage Pass” to meet Frank Zappa. The rest as they say, is history.
First joining Zappa’s band for the fall 1978 tour and remaining in the band for several years. Ike did not tour with Zappa in 1981 and 1982 for personal reasons, but returned to touring with Zappa for his final two tours in 1984 (which Zappa intended at the time to be his final tour) and 1988.
Ike is most recognized as the iconic voice of Joe from Joe’s Garage, Ike also contributed on Tinsel Town Rebellion, You Are What You Is, The Man from Utopia, and played the title character and narrator in Zappa’s off-Broadway-styled conceptual musical Thing-Fish.
As the one of longest playing members of Frank Zappa’s bands, Ike is still upholding his promise to Frank to help keep his music alive. To this day Ike continues to fulfill Frank’s wish by playing with some of the best Zappa tribute bands from around the world.
Napoleon Murphy Brock
Vocals & Tenor Sax & Flute & style icon
Napoleon Murphy Brock, front man for Frank Zappa in the early seventies, was first discovered by Frank on a day off in Hawaii. Frank and his band stopped into a club where Brock was leading his band through a set of originals and contemporary funk, rock and blues hits. Zappa was immediately struck by Brock’s voice and sax playing, but was particularly taken by his commanding stage presence.
Brock soon hit the stage and studio with Zappa, first appearing on the breakthrough album, Apostrophe (‘). By 1974, Napoleon had learned and memorized the Zappa Song Book (including new material written specifically for Napoleon) and recordings from the 1973 concerts were soon released on what many consider to be Frank’s penultimate live album – Roxy and Elsewhere. To this day, the all-star “Roxy Band” is commonly considered one of the greatest bands that Frank ever assembled.
The release of One Size Fits All followed which, like Roxy, became hugely influential on not only Zappa fans, but fans of progressive rock, fusion, and bluesy jazz-rock in general. In 1975 Zappa released the iconic Bongo Fury, a live album which documented the collaborative tour that year with the last Mothers lineup (including old friend and co-conspirator, Captain Beefheart).
After the 1975 and 1976 Zappa tours, Brock went on to tour and record with fellow Zappa alum George Duke in his
hugely popular George Duke Band. He went on to make several albums with Duke including Master Of The Game,
Follow The Rainbow, Dukey Treats, and Don’t Let Go (which spawned Duke’s huge hit “Dukey Stick”).
At the end of the 1970’s, Frank again called on Napoleon to provide vocals on the recording of Sheik Yerbouti – which went on to become Zappa’s biggest selling album worldwide. The fact that Frank called on Napoleon to lay down vocal tracks (including the lead vocal on “Wild Love”) speaks volumes about Frank’s continued respect and trust in Napoleon’s vocal prowess.
Since 2001, Brock has worked with several Zappa tribute bands around the world including Project/Object, the longest continually touring alumni-based Zappa tribute band in the world. In 2007, Napoleon received a Grammy Award for his work with Dweezil Zappa on the live album release from the inaugural tour of Zappa Plays Zappa. He continues to perform, record and lecture around the world.
tuned Percussion & Air Bending
Shota Otaguro is a free-lance percussionist from San Jose, California. He got his bachelor degree in Music Performance from San Jose State University, studying under Galen Lemmon to learn classic, orchestral, and contemporary percussion. He has also been to several music festivals like PASIC and ZMF to study under renown artists like Nanae Mimura, Mike Truesdale, and Jack Van Geem. He is currently a member of the San Francisco Brass Band playing timpani.
As a competitor, Shota has most recently won first place at Fremont Symphony’s Young Artist Competition in the summer of 2019. In the past, he has been a part of California’s PAS competitive festival and has won 1st place for Collegiate solo marimba in 2018, won SJSU’s concerto competition in the spring of 2019, and was a semi-finalist at the Great Plains International Marimba competition.
As an educator, Shota currently presents masterclasses in the Pre University Percussion Group, directs percussion sectionals at San Jose Youth Symphony and coaches at Monta Vista High School Marching Band. In the past, Shota has taught and arranged front ensemble music at Homestead High School Marching Band and Winter Percussion for three years and was also the percussion director of the Fremont High School Concert Percussion.
Other than performing, teaching and arranging music, Shota also spends time recording concerts at the California Theater as the videographer.
Bass & Dangling Participles
Joey began his musical career in Atlanta, Georgia playing in several prominent bands that included members from The Atlanta Rhythm Section, Sea Level and The Glenn Phillips Band. Since his arrival in the SF Bay Area he has had the opportunity to perform almost every conceivable genre from Samba to Soukous, Rock to Reggae, Bossa to Blues, and Funk to Fusion.
Joey has studied bass with Atlanta bassist Rich Nanista and world-renowned bassists Kai Eckhardt and Dean Peer.
He has been honored to perform or record with The Drew Youngs Trio, HUGE., Bridgette DeMeyer, Rossbach Thomas Fabian, Hot Trivet, pop star Alana Davis, Terry Hiatt, BMA nominated singer Paula Harris, Will Ray of The Hellecasters, tours with James Armstrong and Cascada, and critically acclaimed fusion unit The Bartron Tyler Group. He also led his own R&B band “The After Dark Orchestra” and funk/fusion unit “The Joey Fabian Quartet” and performs at science/skeptical events as “The Skeptic’s Jukebox”.
Joey teaches bass and guitar through Gryphon Stringed Instruments, The Castro Valley School of Music and The Community School of Music and Arts.
He runs his own production studio called “The Tomato Farm” where he produces music, a couple of podcasts, a nationally syndicated radio show, audio editing work, sound design and scoring for a couple of short films.
Joey’s love for the music of Frank Zappa began in his teen years after a friend recommended he check out “Zoot Allures”. Since his 20’s, people that know him recognize his obsession with FZ as a dominant aspect of his personality. So, needless to say he is very pleased to join this rockin’ teenage combo.
Drums & Spankings
Michael has been drumming professionally in the greater Bay Area for over 25 years. He studied various rhythmic styles ranging from jazz to West African and afro-Cuban under the tutelage of San Jose State professors Dan Sabanovich and Royal Hartigan. His band credits include Soup, Sporadic Greetings, Mescalito, Corduroy Jim, Grampa’s Chili and Tricycle Side Project, for which he had the opportunity to perform with Ike Willis from Frank Zappa’s esteemed list of previous band members. He has performed at hundreds of venues up and down the entire West Coast bringing his unique style and energy to every performance he gives.
Saxophones & megaphones & stank
While the location of and reason for Jon’s birth are shrouded in mystery, it is known that Jon was raised by a pack of wild peccaries in the northern mountains of Ecuador. The realization that music was his raison d’être coincided with an unfortunate, yet fateful incident involving Jon’s (now infamously) elongated testicular sack and a near-sighted sow with glandular issues.
Now, one must keep in mind that this was long before Jon’s integration to human society. Save the occasional wide tie and white collar worn by that bold, new breed of peccary, it was not customary for peccaries or other piglets of a similarly diminutive proportion to wear anything at all, let alone pants.
Being raised by (and, thus, identifying as) a peccary himself, Jon was no different. Well, no different save for the calloused and stretched-out scrotum which constantly dragged 18 inches behind him reminiscent of a 4-year-old’s favorite rag doll…
One evening after a particularly satisfying meal, Hassan, engorged on tubers and berries, laid down for a nap. Unfortunately, he did not think to gather in his wayward testicles before falling asleep and a heavyset sow with poor vision who was happening by accidentally stepped squarely upon them. Jon awoke with an ear-piecing squeal that echoed across the snow-capped peaks of the Ecuadorian Andes. But this was no ordinary squeal – due to the cavernous nature of Jon’s mis-shaped nostrils and freakishly enlarged sinus cavity, the harmonic overtone structure of his squeal produced a unique tone that has since been compared to an amalgamation of Sun Ra, Pharaoh Sanders and Nina Hägen.
At the time of this incident, it just so happened that the world renowned philostopher (and lesser-known accomplished throat singer) Robert Quentin DeNameland was on an expedition to the peak of Mount Chimborazo. Legend has it that the piercing wail Jon put forth was like a siren song to DeNameland who, upon hearing it, immediately abandoned the expedition and set off on an obsessive quest to track down the source.
After weeks of searching, DeNameland finally found Jon and consequently took on the task of domesticating the wild swine-man. After first outfitting him with a shiny new jock strap and some pantalones, Robert took Jon under his wing and spent the next several years helping him develop his craft. Jon remained under DeNameland’s tutelage for several years.
Through Jon’s formative years with DeNameland, he learned to not only produce his now signature squeal on demand, but to tame and control it via testicular manipulation. Jon became a big draw in the world of throat singing – eventually mastering the ability to execute the necessary manipulations by contorting his thighs. But the stuff of legend was not truly born until Jon discovered the saxophone…
Upon first learning to play the saxophone, Jon was no different than any traditional sax player – shaping his tone via breath control and manipulation of the reed. But one day, while practicing a Terpsichorian Fugue for Baritone Saxophone and triangle, Jon went to sit down in a chair, inadvertantly sitting on his pendulous testicles in the process. He let out a squeal while still holding his lips to the mouthpiece of the saxophone and the instrument emitted a haunting squonk such as the world had never heard. Jon spent the next 38 years honing his craft – abusing and contorting his testes in pursuit of the signature tone he is known for today.
In his spare time, Jon is an avid collector of harlequin romance novels and he “lives to ride” (unicycles). Oddly enough, despite his peccary upbringing, Jon sustains himself on a strict diet of bacon and California IPAs.
Jon’s mustache has had a successful career of its own and is best known for his work as Cousin It’s cousin What in the final season of the Adams Family. While many consider his arrival as the point at which the show jumped the shark, he managed to escape the fallout – finding refuge for many years as a stunt double for Sam Elliot’s mustache and eventually landing a full-time gig as the stand-in for Carol Channing’s vagina.
Saxophones & Flute & punctuality
Trumpets & crumpets
Mike McWilliams started playing the trumpet back in 1974. In 1986, he began performing with cover bands and performing all over the SF Bay Area. He currently is a member of the Houserockers horn section, and teaches private lessons as well as public middle schools with the School Spirit band program.
Mike believes that there is no substitute for real horns, and his influences include Tower of Power, Earth Wind and Fire, Maynard Ferguson, and Doc Severnsen. Mike heard his first Zappa cassette tape in 1977 while on tour with the Santa Clara Vanguard and, many years later is enjoying playing this amazing music.
Trumpet & Fluglehorn & mastic adhesives
Kevin grew up in San Jose, CA and was told that he had to play an instrument (anything but drums) when he was a kid. So… he picked the trumpet because it had only three buttons to push. His lifelong attempt to play something musical on that hunk of brass with three buttons has given him the opportunity to play with many amazing musicians during this journey and become lifelong friends with so many great people.
Kevin currently plays lead trumpet with the Daddios Big Band, Nineteen Jazz Orchestra and is honored to be playing the trumpet book with Broadway San Jose for national tours of musicals that come thru the Center for the Performing Arts. He also toured with the Santa Clara Vanguard for three years and subs with other bands in the area (including the Houserockers and Touch of Brass) and is looking forward to playing the outstanding and challenging music of Frank Zappa.
Saxophones & Flute & hydrohypnotherapy
Paul Degen has been playing flute since Elementary School and saxophone since Middle School. In High School he entered the Gifted and Talented program with an emphasis on woodwind performance. In College, Paul studied Classical Flute (Charles DeLaney) and Jazz Saxophone (Bill Kennedy) at Florida State University, and by his senior year sat in the coveted lead alto chair in the top FSU Jazz Ensemble.
After College Paul moved to Los Angeles to begin his career as a progressive rock saxophonist and flutist. By the late 90’s Paul took a hiatus from playing music to concentrate on his career as a musical instrument repair technician and has been repairing full-time ever since. He was known in Los Angeles as “the repairman to the stars” or “the sax doctor,” doing tech work for such notables as Wayne Shorter, Wallace Roney, Edgar Winter, Big Jay McNeely, Wilton Felder, Red Holloway, Gerald Albright, Najee, and Jackiem Joyner. After moving to San Jose in 2016 Paul began performing music professionally again as a freelance musician. He is currently playing Lead Tenor in a Touch of Brass Big Band. He also a featured member in East Side Funk. More recently he began leading his own band, the Paul Degen Project. He is also the owner of Paul Degen Music, where he keeps busy teaching and repairing full-time in San Jose. Paul greatly enjoys getting back to his progressive Rock roots by playing the Zappa book with the Stinkfoot Orchestra.
Guitars & all things polish
Born and raised in Warsaw, Poland, Tomek cut his teeth performing and recording with experimental/post-rock bands such as Primitivo, avant-rock joke band Krolowie Zycia, and electronica artists Meoma in the 1990s. After moving to the U.S. in 2000, he joined several bands in Denver, including Beast with Two Backs, while continuing to gig with friends in Warsaw and Berlin and studying North Indian classical music with sitar maestro Roshan Jamal Bhartiya.
Tomek’s relocation to the Bay Area in 2011 didn’t prevent him from keeping things happening in Poland. In fact, he played venues ranging from Oakland’s grungy Night Light to the prestigious Littlefield Concert Hall at Mills College with artists such as Majaal (trip-hop), prog-pop quintet Anml Prty, singer-songwriter Cinnamon Lips, and vocal/guitar improv duo Mantra Plonsey while collaborating with electronic artist/composer Bartosz Weber and spoken-word/avant-garde project Śmierć i łzy.
Vocals & guttural utterances
Mike Boston sings, writes and performs with his band Grampa’s Chili (formerly known as Soup) which he founded in the 90’s with his childhood friend Michael Palladino. Mike has shared the stage with many great bands including his favorites Old Dead Bug and the BlissNinnies. In addition to performing with his band, Mike directs and produces musical theater productions through out the Bay Area as the Artistic Director for Starting Arts – an arts education provided and theater production company – over 60 productions last year alone.
Mark ‘D-Bone’ De Simone
Trombonisms & ever-changing facial hairs
Vocals & FRolicsome Freestyling
Lainey started singing when she was young and became involved with musical theater and choirs throughout school. While at Ohlone Community College in Fremont she performed with the Ohlone Chamber Singers, where she developed an interest in opera and took voice lessons with Janet Holmes. During this time she formed a band named Ruptured that was a fusion of punk, metal, and hip-hop. When that band broke up three years later, she became the operatic singer for the gothic hip-hop group, Kung Fu Vampire.
Her eclectic taste in music led her to graduate with a B.A. in World Music and Cultures at San Francisco State University in 2012 under the teaching of Hafez Modirzadeh. The choirs and projects she participated in while at SF State include: The SFSU Chamber Singers, Jazz Choir, Afro-Cuban Ensemble, Creative World Ensemble, Aava (Persian fusion), and UniverSoul (new-age, universal concept band). During her time at SFSU she also began studying Eastern European folk music with Lily Storm who is a singer for the Balkan women’s choir, Kitka.
After college Lainey taught voice, piano and guitar lessons for 8 years and was briefly in the indie band, The Red Fences. In 2017 she went back to school to become an interior designer and is happy to dive back into performing with the Stinkfoot Orchestra!
Vocals & Dwarf Tossing
Lizie Skow is a longtime San Francisco resident, writer, singer and aspiring curmudgeon. She has been a professional singer since the age of 16.
An accomplished background vocalist, Lizie sings with several Bay Area groups like The Mutants, Swindlefish and the Third Thursday Band.
Her goal is to sing as much as she can with the best musicians possible, so Stinkfoot Orchestra is a fantastic opportunity.