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[INTERVIEW] ZZ TOP

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“We may be the same three guys with the same three chords but things change whether we plan it or not!” speculates Billy F. Gibbons, guitarist and singer of the legendary Texan trio ZZ Top who are about to embark on a month long UK/European tour, culminating with a headline appearance in the UK at the Ramblin’ Man Fair festival on 30th July. Billy explains the band are excited to come back to Europe, but the fans shouldn’t expect anything new from the guys on this tour, because it’s still a case of the tried and tested, in his own words “same 3 guys, same 3 chords”! As we continue going forward, there’s always a possibility that elusive fourth chord will show up in time to see you.  We admit being somewhat predictable but bottom line is we’re geared up for a good time with lots of what we know you like and lots of what we think we like.”

ZZ Top have played their fair share of UK festivals over the years, from headlining Monsters of Rock in 1985 through to Download, High Voltage, and even Glastonbury Festival. Billy has many fond memories from over 30 years of appearing at UK festivals. I particularly remember the ‘Eliminator’ Hot Rod flying over the crowd at Castle Donington, underneath a helicopter, before their set. Something health and safety wouldn’t allow these days! “Oh, yeah, a flying car is always therein the memory bank. What a trip…!  We shared the bill with, if memory serves, Twisted Sister, Metallica and Marillion” (Although Twisted Sister didn’t appear that year, Marillion were special guests and Metallica were third on the bill!) “and I think we closed our set with ‘Jailhouse Rock’. At Glastonbury, we threw in the spectacular Jimi Hendrix specialty, ‘Foxy Lady’. And… Yes, we do take requests.”

After Europe, the Tonnage tour takes the band back to the States for the rest of 2017. Billy assured me that even though “we last ventured down Australia-way quite a while back yet it’s certainly an aim to get back quick. Surf’s up…!” So watch this space!

ZZ Top recently released ‘Cinco’, a box set of their first 5 albums, on 180-gram vinyl. From the ‘Eliminator’ album onwards, they have embraced modern technology, but, following this release, Billy explains why they regard vinyl as important nowadays as downloads/streaming etc? “We really dig the sound, look and, heck, even the aroma of vinyl. As the label sez, “It’s what in the groove that count”!   Contemporary formats are cool but putting a needle to the platter is that near-religious experience so, yeah, get into the grooves and groove.”

Apart from the box set, the band’s last release was their latest in a sizable list of live albums 2016’s ‘Live Greatest Hits From Around the World’. “We lay down and sample a few various versions of same songs captured at specific spots around the globe and go with tournament play to select the favorites that make the final release.  We play ‘juke box jones’ with our stuff to stumble upon the winners.”

It’s a well-known fact that Billy’s love for cars is a huge passion in his life. He starred in the Discovery Channel’s Rockin’ Roadsters alongside professional Hot Rod builder and longtime friend Jimmy Shine. So I wondered, if any, are there parallels when it comes to the creativity between building a car and writing music? “As the saying goes, “Anybody can copy a car… It takes a real man to cut one up!”… And, in essence, we get into something familiar and in turn, really start torturing…The right element combos make like a fine plate of barbecue… gotta bear down on the meat and ease off th’ potato salad.”

It’s been 5 long years since the release of ZZ Top’s last studio album, the excellent ‘La Futura’ in 2012. Billy assured me though that they continue to be creative “The juice in the pipeline is always on the flow.  The rarity of time between tour dates allow a strict return to our little studios back in Texas and California. Working on new, good sounding stuff is the reward. Then again, ain’t nothin’ finer than keeping it raw and raucous. That’s always a bonus.” And on that note I thanked Billy for his time and looked forward to seeing his band onstage during their UK tour. “We as well, amigo” he replied, “We’re ready to rock!”

ZZ Top European Tour Dates

Jul 6 Pause Guitare Festival Albi, France

Jul 7 American Tours Festival Tours, France
Jul 8 Sierre Blues Festival Sierre, Switzerland
Jul 9 Loreley Loreley, Germany
Jul 11 Zenith La Villette Paris, France
Jul 12 Sparkassen Park Monchengladbach, Germany
Jul 14 Rockhal Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Jul 15 Blues Peer Peer, Belgium
Jul 16 Arenes de Valenciennes Valenciennes, France
Jul 18 Zitadelle Berlin, Germany
Jul 19 Home Monitoring Arena Pilsen, Czech Republic
Jul 21 Stimmen Festival Lorrach, Germany
Jul 22 Somer Festival Rosenheim, Germany
Jul 23 Gerry Weber Stadion Halle (Westfalen), Germany
Jul 25 O2 Apollo Manchester, UK
Jul 26 Academy Glasgow, UK
Jul 28 3Arena Dublin, Ireland
Jul 30 Ramblin Man Maidstone, England

 

 

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