ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons Worked with David Guetta on New Music
"They said, 'Y'know, the only thing missing in dance music is a good guitar player,'" Gibbons explains.
ZZ Top is celebrating its 45th year as a band this year, commemorating it with the new compilation The Very Baddest of ZZ Top. But guitarist Billy Gibbons tells Billboard that plenty of new music is on the horizon, too.
First up is something of a surprise: during a recent visit to Ibiza after the Texas trio's recent European tour, Gibbons met up with EDM producer David Guetta for a productive exchange. "I wanted to know how they did certain things, and of course they were badgering me to bring the guitar to the forefront," Gibbons recalls. "They said, 'Y'know, the only thing missing in dance music is a good guitar player.' I said, 'Let's see if we can bring the two together and make it shake.'" That resulted in "eight or 10 cuts that, by and large, I would consider completed," which Gibbons expects to surface in same shape for form in the near future.
"It's a far cry from what people might expect -- 'Gibbons and electronic stuff?'" he notes. "But a lot of people have overlooked the fact that one of the things that made (ZZ Top's) Eliminator so interesting was the opportunity to go into that experimental side of things and fool around with the coolest new toys that could be found in the recording studio. I'm always fascinated by that, so my time in Spain was very fruitful."
ZZ Top's next album is also in Gibbons' crosshairs, with plans to return to work with producer Rick Rubin to complete some unfinished material the group worked on for 2012's La Futura, its first new album in nine years. "There were 11 tracks released on La Futura that were pulled from a total of 22 -- actually we did 27 tracks and out of those 27 it got boiled down to a favorite 22, which was a big pile of stuff," Gibbons says. "So there's probably another CD's worth of pretty righteous stuff. It's very tasty. There's some juicy cuts waiting to be heard. I'm just waiting on a call from Rick that he's ready -- that could be today, that could be 100 days from today. He's in no hurry and he doesn't expect the artist to get hasty, and I can only respect that willingness to allow a project to germinate and unfold in a logical manner."
Gibbons and mates Dusty Hill and Frank Beard are hardly sitting around waiting for that call, however. ZZ Top hits the road with Jeff Beck on Aug. 8 for one of the most anticipated double bills of the summer, after canceling the first six shows due to Hill's kidney stone surgery. Gibbons and Beck have been friends since the original Jeff Beck Group came to America in 1968, and he says the two bond over more than music -- sometimes to the chagrin of those around them.
"We like to talk about things loud -- not guitars and amps, but cars, and hot rod cars at that," Gibbons says. "We don't really have to talk too much about guitars and amps. Jeff's as big a car nut as the next one of us. Our friendship has found so much ongoing energy through the years talking mainly about hot rods and what makes them tick, kind of a cool diversion about what people would expect."
ZZ Top and Beck will play 27 shows through mid-September, and Gibbons says it didn't take long in rehearsals before the two acts hit on the idea of playing something together during the shows. "As we diverted from cars to more musical things, (Beck) was grinning and I was kind of looking down at the notebooks and the notepad," Gibbons recalls. "I pulled it out of my pocket. I was scratching my head, trying to think, 'I said, 'Jeff, you got a smile on your face about something, and I don't know.' He said...'Are you familiar with this unusual posting on YouTube.' I said, 'What might that be?' He said, 'It's you and I playing '16 Tons,' the hit from the 50s that was made famous by Tennessee Ernie Ford. '16 Tons.' I said, 'Yeah man, let's go for it.' So there's a bunch of crazy fuel for the fire brewing."
ZZ Top will stay on the road after the tour with Beck ends, with shows booked into early November so far.