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article imageInterview with Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top Special

By Adrian Peel     Apr 15, 2013 in Entertainment
The 'Head Honcho' of 'That Little Ol' Band from Texas' spoke to Digital Journal about the group's latest album, the outstanding return to form that is "La Futura."
Formed in 1969 by guitarist/vocalist Billy Gibbons, bassist/vocalist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard (famously the only member of the esteemed three-piece not to have a beard), ZZ Top are as well known for their facial hair as they are for their suggestive lyrics, love of fast cars - and even faster women - and down 'n' dirty blues-and-southern-rock-infused groove.
In September 2012, the Houston-based trio, inducted into the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, released their 15th long-playing effort La Futura, via Rick Rubin's American Recordings label. With the famed producer himself at the helm (sharing production credits with Gibbons), the Top's first album of new material since 2003's Mescalero met with mainly positive reviews, with some critics hailing it as "their best album since Eliminator."
What does the Reverend Willy G. (a popular nickname for the star), recently returned from Australia, where ZZ Top played four shows - sharing the bill with Guns 'N' Roses on three of them - have to say about that?
"Well, we ain't gonna argue with implicit logic?" comes the wry reply. "It took a while - it was nine years between releases - but we think we and Rick got it right."
"Of course we knew folks would like it 'cause we certainly did," continues the highly skilled musician, number 32 on Rolling Stone magazine's countdown of the '100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time' in 2011. "It's working for us both, in and out of the studio.
"The playback made us think, ‘This is a record we’d like to listen to at least a few more times,’ and of course Rick Rubin was key in this project. Just when we were convinced we had nailed a track down, his intuition kicked in and he added, 'Good, could it be better?' We dutifully went back in and had another go (or five or six) and sure enough, it got better. He allowed us to become the best ZZ Top we could ever think of being."
And where did the title come from? "We enjoy what we’ve done in the past. However, we’re always looking forward and that’s 'La Futura.'"
It is certainly no surprise that the album has been so well received, as a number of the three-or-four-minute gems hark back to the band's stripped-down early days - before they experimented with synthesisers and drum machines - while still managing to sound current.
Tracks of note include: "I Gotsta Get Paid," "Consumption," "It's Too Easy Mañana" and "Threshold of a Breakdown," available as one of two bonus tracks on the Best Buy special edition.
“'I Gotsta Get Paid' is certainly a highlight," muses the guitarist openly admired by Jimi Hendrix, who recently reformed his psychedelic pre-ZZ Top outfit The Moving Sidewalks for a series of dates. "That one was many years in the making...
"When we first heard DJ DMD’s '25 Lighters,' on which it’s based, he was working in Houston at the studio where we’d hang out with some of Houston’s underground hip-hop crew. It seemed like a great song, but it took us time to figure out how to turn a hardcore rap piece into a guitar-driven rocker. Then there’s 'Chartreuse,' which is a colour, a liqueur and it rhymes with 'caboose'. Three for three!"
La Futura carries on the long-standing ZZ Top tradition of giving Mexican-sounding names to their records - Tres Hombres (1973), Tejas (1976), Deguello (1979) and El Loco (1981), as well as the aforementioned Mescalero, are five such examples. Why does Mexico and its culture continue to have such an influence?
"Need we remind? We’re from Texas and the border has long had its allure... Tex-Mex is both our favorite couplet and cuisine!"
Having waited nine years between albums last time around, fans of the charismatic threesome will no doubt be happy to learn that they may not have to wait quite as long for the next one, though there's the small matter of a World Tour to contend with first.
"We over-recorded when we did La Futura," reveals the hard-working 63 year old. "We have, easily, an album’s worth of songs that weren’t chosen, not because they weren’t up to snuff, but it was more a case of throw the titles in a hat and pick ‘em out. We could revisit the ones we didn’t use and tweak ‘em a bit and release that, but nothing's firm at the moment."
La Futura is out now.
ZZ Top's tour kicks off in Newkirk, Oklahoma on May 2nd.
More about Billy Gibbons, zz top, la futura, Rick Rubin, Rock music
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