You never rather understand where Las Vegas transplant Billy Gibbons might appear. In the previous few years, he’s been found at Golden Knights games, sat in with the Jimmie Vaughn Band and, naturally, introduced a residency at the Venetian with his long-running band ZZ Top.
Previously this year, Gibbons (calling himself Billy F Gibbons) released a new solo album, The Huge Bad Blues. As the name indicates, it’s a gritty collection of blues originals and covers of tunes written by Muddy Waters (“Standing Around Sobbing,” “Rollin’ and Tumblin'”) and Bo Diddley (“Crackin’ Up”). Accordingly, Gibbons’ companion Big Bad Blues Trip finds him carrying out songs from the album and select ZZ Top tracks with a trio that includes guitar player Austin Hanks and ex-Guns N’ Roses drummer Matt Sorum.
With his usual mix of dry wit and musical information, Gibbons addressed some concerns by e-mail about The Huge Bad Blues, why he loves Las Vegas and ZZ Top’s future.
Your new album, The Big Bad Blues, is a rather smooth mix of originals and well-curated blues covers. How did the concept for this album happened? Our buddy John Burk at Concord Records wanted us to come up with an album to follow [2015’s] Perfectamundo, our trip into Afro-Cuban noises. He stated, “Why refrain from doing a blues album?” and our immediate response was, “Perfectamundo!” And the “Who’s on First?” conversation ensued. We immediately took him up on the deal, and back to the studio we went. You simply can’t state “no” to the blues!
Bo Diddley looms large on this album, between the cover of “Crackin’ Up” and your handle “Bring It To Jerome,” written by his maraca gamer Jerome Green. I know Bo also figures prominently in your individual history: You and ZZ Top helped induct him into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and you have a reproduction of a guitar he provided you. How has your relationship to Bo’s music changed over the years? Bo remains a substantial impact, insofar as he showed how to do more with a guitar than just strum the strings. Bo was the consummate innovator. Keenly inspiring from the start. As a sonic stylist and sheriff-of-the-old-West fashionista, he was an original. It’s been recommended Bo wasn’t actually from this world, and it might be the case that Macomb, Mississippi, is a Martian station.
I guess we’re more analytical about his work now, and have actually invested countless hours trying to deconstruct his method. That was certainly the case attempting to unwind Bo’s menacing recording of “Crackin’ Up”– that was a Rubik’s Cube times 10– however we believe we cracked the code to a certain degree. There’s never been anybody like Bo Diddley, which is why we celebrate him whenever and however possible.
Matt Sorum– who I understand you have actually played with in the past with Kings of Chaos– is playing drums with you on this present trip. The program is letting him show off a various side to his playing: He’s an expressive drummer who deals with a great deal of this blues-based material well, with his own flourishes. What makes him such a good drummer for this trip and the material you’re doing? Matt’s got both power and nuance, which is precisely what’s required. Technically, he’s at the top of his video game, and he manages the subtleties in a remarkable and soulful way. He constantly comes up with what’s proper while making it seem effortless. What can I say? He’s a total pro.
The band configuration in general for this trip is unique: There are 2 guitarist– yourself and Austin Hanks– and the 2 of you are compromising bass responsibilities in an intriguing fashion. As a technology lover, tell us about the advanced tech/instruments that you and Austin are utilizing to have the bass [sound]– without having a bass gamer. Utilizing the Little Thunder pickups, we can select the bottom strings to get a double octave drop, while keeping the normal guitar signal intact. Andy Alt is the developer, and his crack group of audio researchers from LA have developed a special variation just for this tour that has some innovative tech. It senses the lowest notes being played and drops ’em right into the bass guitar range. What the audience gets is double the bass, while experiencing the camaraderie straight with our left-handed guitarist, Austin Hanks. Then we include some amplified “dirt” with 4 stacks on either side of our mighty powerhouse drummer, Matt.
Joe Hardy, who you’ve been dealing with for over 3 years now, co-produced this brand-new record. Why do you work so well together? Joe has belonged to our Foam Box Recording group for twenty years now, and he’s just a really instinctive feline. When you think about something, Joe’s immediately on to it and how to achieve the “whatever,” in a sonic sense. He’s a truly simpatico service technician and artist– a rare mix that makes his efforts for this project all the more valued.
You’ve been refurbishing a house in Vegas– as I understand it, the location where Brigitte Bardot got wed in 1966– and plan on moving here full-time. What is it about the city that interest you/that you’re drawn to? Are you joking? I mean, “Vegas, infant” … and all that suggests. It’s a terrific location to have a really good time with practically no constraints, however also a fantastic location to live thanks to the diversity the city offers. If you can consider it, it remains in Las Vegas– and when you think of Billy F Gibbons, you know he’ll be there, too.
Musically, you’ve had many memorable Vegas minutes– from playing at Slash’s birthday party to being in with the Jimmie Vaughan Band to covering “Viva Las Vegas” with ZZ Top live. What makes Vegas such a lively, amazing music town? Why do you like playing/performing here? Yes, Vegas has been “the scene of the criminal activity” many times over, and we just love the ambiance. The majority of everyone appears to motivate enjoying due to the fact that when you remain in Las Vegas, an unique state of mind presents itself. The lingering question always comes around to, “Why not have a good time?” … and, invariably, there just isn’t any reason not to! Just go for it.
However, [it] may be an outcome of all that electrical power coming out of the Hoover Dam or, perhaps, some necromancy Howard Hughes (a fellow Houstonian, by the way) might have made a while back. Whatever it is, it’s great mojo!
You recorded a variation of “Viva Las Vegas” for ZZ Top’s Greatest Hits album in the ’90s. The video, of course, is over the top, but it looks like it was unforgettable and enjoyable. What do you keep in mind about the experience of working on that video? We rode around the Strip in a fire truck red ’53 Cadillac convertible and satisfied the ghost of Elvis. Isn’t that enough? We shot a great deal of it late in the evening, which actually makes no distinction in Las Vegas … the crowds were thick, and it was something of a public efficiency piece other than for the poolside scenes– the wedding chapel segment. Although the song was discussed 55 years ago, it still explains what’s going on today quite fittingly. Viva!
You have actually collaborated and had fun with numerous people over the decades. Any dream artists you have not had the ability to link up with yet you ‘d like to– and, if so, who and why? We’re huge fans of ZZ Ward for apparent factors, so that may be a worthwhile collaboration. We enjoy Mississippi blues experienced Bobby Rush whose long-ago soul struck “Chicken Heads” got our attention. He put the “onk” in fonky.
ZZ Top’s 50th anniversary remains in 2019, which is rather a turning point. Do you have any strategies in the works for anything yet– and, if not, would you like to do something? Our strategy is to keep keepin’ on. It’s worked for the past 49 years, so we have actually just got to presume it will work for the next 51.
BILLY F GIBBONS with Seth Loveless. November 16, 7:30 p.m., $39-$69, Brooklyn Bowl, 702-862-2695.