After 45 years in the music industry, ZZ Top head back to Victoria, to the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre March 21. Frontman Billy Gibbons slows down just long enough to talk new inspirations, old motivations and an undying desire to “let it rock and never stop.”
Monday Magazine: This is a busy tour for you guys, including selected stops in Canada and the U.S., as well as Europe. How different do you find audiences in Europe as compared to those in North America?
Billy Gibbons: That whole myth about European or Canadian reserve is just that – a myth. When folks come to see us they tend to let loose and turn the ‘fun’ spigot on.
MM: 2014 marks the 45th year the three of you have been recording and touring together, almost in the realm of the Stones. What keeps you all going and motivated?
BG: It should come as no shock that we enjoy what we do so have never seen any reason to stop doing it. It’s the same three guys (and the same three chords) for all these years because when you’re having a good time you just want to keep the good times coming. We love the Stones and have shared bills with them over the years so can say we share some of the same motivations. We just want to let it rock and never stop.
MM: The band released an album of new material in late 2012 with La Futura, the first new release since Mescalero in 2003. It was lauded as being a collection of songs featuring the guitar-driven sound of early Top. For this tour, can we expect a stripped-down guitar-bluesy style, or a combination of songs that include your hugely popular, yet more produced, hits of the 80s such as Legs, Sharp Dressed Man and Gimme All Your Lovin’?
BG: We tend to offer a smorgasbord of our repertoire. We certainly do perform material from La Futura but we’d be remiss if we didn’t do stuff that goes all the way back. And we also tend to throw in something here and there that you might never have heard – even if you have all the records. It keeps it interesting for us and we think for the audience, as well.
MM: The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, in recognition of your major contribution to the genre over the decades. Do you see yourselves as continuing to evolve musically and if so, what styles are you exploring these days?
BG: Yes, we keep evolving but sometimes it’s more a case of devolution, too. The thing is we don’t want to get stuck in a rut so we’re open to new technology, new platforms, so to speak, as well as what we’ve done for all this while. Hip hop and electronic music certainly have a certain fascination for us so you may pick up elements of that but, of course, at the base of it all is the foundation on which it’s built: The Blues. We’ve said it before and we’re still sayin’ it: You can’t lose with the blues.
MM: If you had a chance to embark on your musical journey over again, how would it differ from the choices you’ve made? Knowing what you know now, can you say that you’re satisfied with the story of ZZ Top, or would you make any edits?
BG: That’s a tough one but merits a thoughtful answer. When we were out on our Worldwide Texas Tour with all kinds of wildlife, we wondered if we were in a band or a zoo. But the opportunity to tour with a bison, rattle snakes and a vulture only comes around so often, if at all. Satisfied? Well, we’ve come close but always keep the Stones’ Satisfaction in mind: You really can’t get no…
MM: It’s been nearly four years since you played Victoria. Is there anything about our little city that has stuck with you over the years?
BG: Aside from taking in its natural splendour, we’re looking forward to shambling down the causeway again. Maybe take up busking there if we can find an extension cord long enough.
MM: The three of you essentially qualify for social security given you all turned 64 last year. Is there any plan at some point to slow down and stop touring?
BG: Our plan to slow down is – no plan at all. We’ve got a lot of performing, writing and recording to do so no plan to slacken the pace. We’re just getting good at this.
MM: Finally, who could you see yourself collaborating with in one way or another? Which artists, if any, have caught your eye as of late?
BG: Keith Richards, Jeff Beck, Josh Homme, The Black Keys, North Mississippi Allstars, Robert Randolph, spring to mind. Of course, not all of them have caught our eye “as of late.” Some caught our eye as of early but we still dig ‘em.