The Cutting Edge Frank Zappa Interview, June 1987


Originally airing in June of 1987, this is the complete and re-mastered interview with the legendary Frank Zappa. The interview took place at his Laurel Canyon home and studio in April of 1987 and was conducted by series producer/co-director Carlos Grasso. Recalling the interview Mr. Grasso says: “It was an unforgettable experience as I considered Zappa one of my inspirations and musical heroes. He was most gracious and polite to us and was very complimentary of our show, at one point wanting to distribute it on his own video label he admired it so much. I considered it a great compliment. We spoke for awhile as we toured his studio and what struck me was that his intelligence was so palpable. It radiated from him. My take away was that he was a person who valued creativity above all else and would not suffer the fools who populated the record business or in life. This interview is one of the highlights of my professional career.” The interview includes a film and music by Frank Zappa ‘G-Spot Tornado’ from the ‘Jazz From Hell’ video compilation he released in that same year.

The Cutting Edge was a one hour long new music show that aired once a month on MTV from 1983 -1989. It was funded and produced by I.R.S. Records (a first) and was at the time the only independent music show on the burgeoning music video network. It featured new bands, music, art, film, culture, performances and unique interviews from the punk/post/alt/hip-hop era around the world. Most had made their national American television debut on this show and many would become future stars. Artists from The Cramps to Husker Du to Public Enemy and everything in between and beyond made their way to the Cutting Edge. Many hip-hop and rap artists were first nationally exposed on the Cutting Edge including Public Enemy and Run DMC. Entire burgeoning music scenes in cities around the country were spotlighted (Austin, New Orleans, New York City, etc.). Not limited to the music movements of the time the show also featured artists from many genres and eras the creators felt were important and timeless (Roy Orbison, Willie Dixon, Frank Zappa, David Lynch, etc.). It arguably influenced and even educated MTV itself on the breadth of new music at the time.

The program was co-created by film directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine, Ruby Sparks, Battle of the Sexes) and producer Carlos Grasso (Asphalt Serenade), who was at the time the creative director for I.R.S. Records. I.R.S. Records founder and Chairman Copeland had tossed off the name and said, “MTV gave us an hour. Make a show.” None of the creators had ever made a television show before. The show’s unique aesthetic, everybody-can-be-an-artist ethos and stylized documentary format, conceived by Dayton/Faris, was a fresh look for a network still defining it’s identity. Tossing the bland generic interview format aside, the Cutting Edge conducted interviews and performances in unique locations created for each artist. Each show had a theme. After an initial host, artist Jeffrey Valance, lead singer of The Fleshtones Peter Zaremba became the permanent host offering an irreverent style defining the show even further. In 1987, after the departure of Dayton/Faris, the show was re-branded as ‘The Cutting Edge Happy Hour’ and taped live in the revolving restaurant atop the Holiday Inn in Hollywood, CA. The change in format and direction did not sit well with many fans and by 1988 the show was retired. That said, the live format arguably once again inspired MTV to launch their ‘Unplugged’ series.

At its height “I.R.S.’s The Cutting Edge” drew over one million viewers a month including dedicated fans who otherwise didn’t think much of MTV. It won global programming awards. The show’s theme song “Theme For Kinetic Ritual” was composed and performed by Klark Kent, the alter ego of Police drummer Stewart Copeland.

Creators: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris, Carlos Grasso, Jay Boberg
Directors (1983-1986) – Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Director (1987-1988) – C.D. Taylor
Writer – Adam Goldman (1985-1988)
Producer/Director/writer – Carlos Grasso
Production manager/Associate producer (1983-1986) – Jessica Cooper
Production manager/Associate producer (1987-1989) – Mark Leemkuil
Production Crew: Hunter Crowley, Lance E. McCloud
Videographers/DPs: Peter Smokler, Hunter Crowley
Talent Coordinator (1987-88) – Billy O’Connell
Executive producers – Jay Boberg and Miles Copeland
Publicity – Cary Baker, Betsy Alexander
Theme music – “Theme For Kinetic Ritual” by Klark Kent