Say, “Hey!”, Mr. G…!
1) Please tell us in your own words what was the original vision with ZZ Top in mind? What did the band aim to be?
The original vision was steeped in that incongruous coupling between the American art form…”the blues”, and the Englishman’s interpretation of that special expressionism which seemingly brought blues back to the
The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream became an intriguing element of the trio idea. The notion of the 3-piece lineup appeared to be a streamlined way to create blues-based rock at its most elemental and most powerful. Once the gang of us locked in, the vision began to unfold and came about handily.
2) In the early 1970s, not many folks were talking about roots-rock. Can you tell us who were direct inspirations? In particular, who were the songwriters that held an allure toward song writing?
We were inspired by blues artists whose very secret and indirect approach often included some of that “saying it without saying it.” Take for instance, Muddy Waters’ “I’m A Business Man” — that has the famed line that states, “I’m a business man, I like good business when and where I can” or Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Help Me” which includes the subtle line “I’ll put on my nightshirt, you put on your morning gown, I’m not sleepy but I feel like lying down.” Poetry, pure and simple! We still admire many of the Brill Building teams like Pomus and Shuman writing for Elvis — when they came up with “Viva Las Vegas,” “Little Sister” and “Mess of Blues.” Great, great stuff!
3) You, Dusty, and Frank have been together over 4 decades. What do you account for that kind of longevity as a band? Has anything changed in the dynamic of the band over the years?
If anything, we’ve developed a kind of telepathy to convey our thoughts — if they can be called that. We each have a sense about what the other guys are going to do before it’s done so when it’s done, it’s not only anticipated, it’s accounted for. Almost spooky.
4) The album. “ELIMINATOR”, brought you guys a new level of attention. Did you know during the recording of the album that something special was going down?
We found our way into the various cutting rooms and began to mess around with new kinds of studio technology to answer the cause of the blues. It freshened things up and, maybe, made what we were doing more visible by an emerging generation. By the same token, there was no shortage of keeping an open mind to…”Change when ya’ feel like changing and, most importantly, those changes are appreciated”.
5) What is the shape of a modern ZZ Top show, a show from the past and a show from the future? Are there songs from the past that have a deeper meaning for the band at this point rather than when they were written?
The list of songs is always subject to change yet we’re presently more into a medley of “Waitin’ For The Bus” and “Jesus Just Left Chicago” than ever before. It really feels good to ride that one, well, make it “those two” these days. That pairing is an immediate touch to our “Tres Hombres” days. We’ve been, of course, performing “Sixteen Tons” which we introduced while beating the streets with Jeff Beck. “La Grange” does indeed, remain a favorite.
6). What do you feel you’re able to do now, musically, that you weren’t able to do 30 or 40 years ago?
Well, they say practice makes perfect although we’re not claiming even near perfection but I think the improvement with contemporary equipment is undeniable. We fell so hard with sE microphone from those ingenious designers from Austria that they created a signature model for use on stage . I believe I’ve manage to put a good handle with a personal spin on what call “the BFG one-drop”, accomplished by holding the guitar with the lower extremity of the neck and letting it slip down fingerboard while squeezing the notes right on out. Our batting average on that, when we started was about .250 but now I think we’re at about .750 so Cooperstown, here we come!
7) What makes you proudest of ZZ Top’s legacy?
They came, they plugged in, they turned it up, they rocked. That’s about it except for repeating the process thousands of times over the course of more than 4 decades.
Well, alright Billy G!
Keep on rockin’!
Much appreciated and we take those kind accolades to heart. We will, in fact, “keep on rockin’” as requested!