The phone rings. “Billy F. Gibbons,” drawls the voice on the other end of the line. It belongs to ZZ Top’s singer-guitarist, 58, who is only too happy to bring us up to speed on his celebrated rock ’n’ roll trio from Texas. (By the way, the “F” stands for “Frederick.”)
Q. I’ve heard you’ll collaborate with the Black Keys on material for the new album that ZZ Top is recording with Rick Rubin.
A. Oh, yeah. In fact, I talked to Dan (Auerbach, Black Keys singer-guitarist) day before yesterday, and he’s pumped up.
I’m a big fan of what they did from Day One. David Lynch, the filmmaker, is the guy that brought my attention to them.
Ever since that first record came out, I’ve kept a keen interest.
I believe that with this reputation that ZZ Top maintains as having this raw and gritty edge, they certainly resonate on that level. Having this mutual admiration (for) what they do and what we do combined, it’ll be an interesting fit. At least we’ll see.
Q. The 25th-anniversary “collector’s edition” of “Eliminator” just came out. Why did the original album connect on such a grand scale?
A. Musically, they were interesting compositions. But I think the backbone was solid tempo.
We were focused on … making sounds that we liked, and making sure that we kept it in a groove.
We met what we referred to as Mr. Time. So it was the three band members and this mysterious, unflagging, unwavering, clocklike imaginary image that we named Mr. Time. Once we got intimate with the guy (laughs), we didn’t want to leave.
Q. A couple of years ago, I saw you feeding a parking meter on the Sunset Strip. I knew it was you because you were wearing your nudu cap. Do you ever take it off?
A. Uh, yes, as a matter of fact – you’re gonna dig this … we posed for a cover shoot (for) the Musician’s Friend Christmas catalog. The beautiful Gilligan (Gibbons’ wife) was present. To get in that festive mood, we slipped into Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus suits. I got to wear the red hat with the white snowball on top! So the nudu had to take a side seat for a moment.
It’s a funny thing, this imagery we’ve been tagged with. You know, the beards – what started out as a disguise has now turned into this kind of trademark. It’s not always easy to stroll down through the shopping mall. But you know, it’s kind of a recognizable aside to what we do.
What I have to think about is staying true to that musical thing. Of course, that’s an easy part of it, too, ’cause we still dig it. It’s what we really enjoy getting to go do.