By Thomas S. Orwat Jr.
ZZ Top is one of the most recognizable and iconic bands in world. The dynamic Texan-trio has virtually remained the same since it’s inception in 1969, with Billy F. Gibbons- guitar/vocals, Dusty Hill- bass/vocals, and Frank Beard- drums. With countless sold-out world tours, and over 25 million total units of music sold in the USA alone, the band shows no signs of slowing down.
ZZ Top will be releasing their first official live album, ‘Greatest Hits Live,’ on August 12th, on Suretone Records. The band is will also be touring all summer long, including a date on August 23rd, at Darien Lake PAC, Darien, NY, with Gregg Allman opening.
What follows is an exclusive RMS interview with a guitarist with the nastiest tone in rock, Billy F. Gibbons! During this interview, Billy discusses his involvement with the Supersonic Blues Machine, his 2015 solo release, and his memories of opening for Jimi Hendrix with his pre- ZZ Top band, The Moving Sidewalks.
Rock Music Star: Hello Billy! You recently performed at the Holland Blues Festival with an amazing new band, Supersonic Blues Machine. How much fun did you have playing that gig?
Billy F. Gibbons: The combo of Lance, Fabio and Kenny is intense. Just as much as one would want a trio to be. They are totally accommodatingly, all-pro, and the result, as can be imagined, better than a good time. It was a great time, oh yeah!
RMS: You also have a killer track, “Running Whiskey” on the recent Supersonic Blues Machine release. How did you get involved with that project? Was “Running Whiskey” a newly written track for this project, or was it composed prior to your involvement with SBM?
BFG: I’ve known those three guys for a while and I was told they were putting a record together and when the invitation arrived, I was ready to go. And, a ’33 Ford three-window coupe that’s chopped, channeled, shaved and lookin’ raw, nicknamed the “Whiskey Runner,” immediately inspired the song. Supersonic Blues Machine was the right outfit to lay on it for a super session.
RMS: Last year you release your first solo record, ‘Perfectamundo,’ which had an “Afro-Cuban” flavor to it. What led to your decision to go in that musical direction? Do have have any future plans to release more music in that style?
BFG: That was a project brought on by a very particular circumstance. We had been invited to participate in the Havana Jazz Festival which led to developing a record appropriate to the Cuban flavor with an Afro-Cuban approach and sensibility. In short order, we were ready to dive in. We certainly enjoyed recording the album, creating The BFG’s roadshow and most of all, bringing the set to Cuba. A total blast.
RMS: ZZ Top has been together for almost 47 years. How gratifying is it that ZZ Top’s music is still popular, (timeless) and you can still play in front of thousands of people? What do you attribute this incredible accomplishment to? Can you see ZZ Top continuing on forever with new members?
BFG: We always say and it’s always true, “same three guys, same three chords.” That’s what works and we know it works, as we’re constantly having a good time out there, putting it down. ZZ is into 4+ decades at present. ZZ Top ain’t messin’ with what ain’t broke.
RMS: How would you describe your relationship with ZZ Top band mates, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard? Are you best friends, or like some bands, is it just a business relationship at this point?
BFG: Of course we’re friends. That a big part of how we’e gotten on for such an admirable long time. It’s a sound relationship and that’s the strongest thing we honor. We communicate via telepathy. Each of us knows what the other two might have in mind before thinking of it. It’s like outsourcing the creative imagination. Hey, what can I say?, it works!
RMS: ZZ Top has accomplished so much during it’s career. What are the top three achievements that you are the most proud of?
BFG: Induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by our great friend Kieth Richards has to top the list. Having been named Official Heroes of the State of Texas is another standout as was being given an RIAA Diamond Award at the inception of that program (over 10 million sold) for ‘Eliminator’ was something that looks good in the hacienda.
RMS: Is there anything that you would still like to accomplish?
BFG: We’d like to come out to Darien Lake on August 23 and turn it way up.
RMS: The first band your formed, The Moving Sidewalks had the honor of opening for the Jimi Hendrix Experience. What was that experience like? Did you have much interaction with him?
BFG: It was fantastic and very memorable. He was a great showman, very inspired on stage but shy and quite off. We got to know him and found him to be a warm guy who was happy to offer true friendship. We typically play one of his songs in our set every night because he made so much possible for so many.
RMS: When all is said and done, how would you like ZZ Top to be remembered?
BFGF: We’d like to be remembered as the band that’s going to come and rock your town in the near future and have that recollection repeated on a continuing basis.
For more on ZZ Top, visit www.zztop.com
To read our interview with Lance Lopez of the Supersonic Blues Machine, click here.
Special thanks to Bob Merlis for setting up this interview.