Interview: ZZ Top — "The excitement and mayhem onstage led Will Ferrell's wife to actually give birth just a few hours after wrapping the Conan O'Brien closing!"
Mon, 05 Apr 2010 07:31:21
Some guys don't need much more than a guitar to make an impact.
Legendary ZZ Top singer and axe-slinger Billy Gibbons is one of those fellas. Gibbons never stops churning out classic riffs, and the Texas icon's been doing it since well before ZZ Top's First Album hit in 1971. Gibbons has got the hands and voice behind "Legs," "Cheap Sunglasses" and "Sharp Dressed Man." He bends notes like his life depends on it, and he carries grooves like no other Southerner. Steeped in beer, broads and blues, ZZ Top's music is timeless American rock 'n' roll, and the trio still tear up every stage they set foot on.
As a tribute to their staying power, ZZ Top are headlining middle America's loudest rock fest—Rocklahoma. They'll top a bill featuring Godsmack, Stone Sour, Buckcherry, Sevendust and many more in Pryor, Oklahoma May 28-May 30. Even after all of the gigs that Gibbons has notched on his guitar strap, he's thrilled to be rocking Oklahoma .
ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino in this exclusive interview to discuss Rocklahoma, causing Will Ferrell's wife to give birth after playing with him on Conan O'Brien and working with Rick Rubin on new music.
ZZ Top has obviously played a myriad of festivals throughout the years, how have rock 'n' roll festivals changed since you started out?
Started the whole ZZ shebang fests with just a stage set in a field, and that was it. Now, thanks to contemporary technology, the fest experience caught up with the idea, and everyone can actually hear and see what's going on onstage. It's evolved to the best of both worlds…out in the open and getting a fill-tilt top flight concert production.
What do you think separates Rocklahoma from other big destination festivals?
Rocklahoma really reflects a musical ethos for the fans. And, Rocklahoma really places the "rock" back in "Rock Festivals."
Does rock music thrive more in the center of the country—places like Oklahoma as opposed to say Los Angeles?
Let's just say it's really appreciated in the so-called rockin’ part of the country, and that's always been the case. Fans on both coasts and overseas are most appreciative, and, to be sure, they kick it up quite a few notches in Rock country.
Do you plan on checking out Godsmack, Stone Sour, Buckcherry or any of the other bands on the lineup?
Absolutely. We like the idea of seeing all that great music in one location at one time. I can’t wait to check out what Keith Nelson’s got in his Buckcherry guitar stash [Laughs].
Will you tailor the live set at all to the primarily hard rock crowd at Rocklahoma?
As opposed to...[Laughs] It’s what ZZ continues playing since starting this madness for about 4 decades!
Do you have any survival tips for festivalgoers at a show like this?
Drink plenty of cold liquids. We like a particular kind with foam and branded with a Mexican label....
What's your favorite part about playing these big festivals and how's the catering typically?
Well, it's like a mega-Bar-B-Q definitely mucho mas fest-like. The best part is not only playing, it’s a rare roadshow moment to check a lot of music by some really likable bands. It's a whole community experience.
How is the new record coming along?
Making some fine studio progress, super-interesting, super-experimental hand-in-hand with our amigo Rick Rubin and having big freakout soundscaping in the process.
Was it fun playing with Conan O'Brien and Will Ferrell on Conan's show? Are they naturals?
Yes, it made for a great part of TV history and Conan can get down, dig in, and really play his guitar with a mean tone to boot! Oh, and the excitement and mayhem onstage led Will's wife to actually give birth just a few hours after wrapping the Conan closing! An amazing moment for an amazing lady!
Which of your guitars tend to be the most roadworthy?
Certainly, there’s now a few “always on” 6-string things, like the Gretsch “Billy-Bo” guitar, inspired by the late, great Bo Diddley, Gibson’s newest offering, the tribute to our ‘59 Les Paul ‘Burst, "Pearly Gates", and, of course, a host of superb Bolin Guitars specials. Bringin’ 'em all along because we believe in the eccentricity of electricity.
If there were a movie about ZZ Top, who would you want to direct and star in it?
Robert Zemeckis directed ZZ in the “Back To the Future” series and we think the world of his fine work. We'd certainly want Billy Bob Thornton aboard and our pal, Robert Duvall. We’re friends and big mutual-club fellow fans Not sure who would play who though [Laughs].
What's next for ZZ Top?
Most likely, even more of what we like getting to go for—performing, recording. We've got dates in South America and in England coming up that should be a lot of fresh and festive fierceness. Come on out and see us!
What's your favorite ZZ Top song? Does Billy have the best beard ever?
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