With nearly five decades of music under its belt, that ‘little ol’ band from Texas’ will get the Interlochen series started with a blues-rock bang. Read the Local Spins interview with ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons.
EDITOR’S NOTE: On Thursday, the Interlochen Summer Arts Festival opens its 2017 season with ZZ Top. The self-styled “little ol’ band from Texas” may not be the first performer one would associate with the world-famous arts training ground, but this is actually the second time the band has performed there. In fact, despite its reputation for educating “serious” musicians, dancers and the like, pop singers like Jewel and Chynna Phillips (Wilson Phillips) are alums, as are members of OK Go, who actually met at Interlochen. The arts center has long hosted performers from across the entertainment spectrum and this year’s schedule features everyone from Gershwin interpreter Michael Feinstein to Salt-N-Pepa, and from Danish String Quartet to the aforementioned OK Go. Which brings us back to season openers ZZ Top — bassist Dusty Hill, guitarist Billy Gibbons and drummer Frank Beard. Local Spins’ Ross Boissoneau conducted a Q&A with Gibbons via email.
LS: You’ve been together as a band since the 1970s. What is it about the “same three guys, same three chords” that keeps you going? How do you keep it fresh?
Gibbons: Each and every night … it’s new. We have a good time when we get together so it’s something we anticipate quite positively. The fact is, we like what we do, so we keep on keepin’ on. We have the strange notion we might be getting pretty good at it all.
LS: Do you listen to any contemporary music? If so, what interests you?
Gibbons: Sure do. We’re digging LA punkers Surprise Vacation and back to the basics with Depeche Mode.
LS: What musical worlds are left for you to conquer?
Gibbons: Well, being confined to just this solar system is just a reality we have to deal with. We do get “out there” more often than not, and the new studio sessions are way, way “out there.”
LS: I noticed on the All Music Guide that you are suggested as similar to Mark King (bassist/vocalist for British funk band Level 42) and Roger Powell (keyboardist for Utopia). Huh?
Gibbons: Hey, we just play, considering us as guides could be very treacherous.
LS: Speaking of huh, why the decision to make a solo record some 40 years into your career? Perfectamundo’s musical direction was similarly surprising – what made you go for Cuban rhythms? Does this portend other creative side steps outside ZZ Top?
Gibbons: We were invited to perform at the Havana Jazz Festival and decided to come up with something we thought would be compatible. The result of that quest was Perfectamundo, a new 6 piece band came together and we took on a journey bringing it all the way to Havana and received a high reception. We keep an open mind and, to paraphrase George Clinton, if you free your mind, your hind quarters will follow.
LS: How did you get the role of Angela’s dad on Bones? What was the experience like for you?
Gibbons: Hart Hanson, the developer of the series, was looking for a bearded guitar slinger and, for some reason, they picked me. This is the kind of type casting we can heartily endorse.
LS: Outside of music, acting, art and cars (Gibbons is an avid painter and collects rare African art and artifacts, and is even more well known as a car collector, including the 1933 Ford Coupe featured in the band’s smash videos), what are your other interests? Or is there any time left for other things?
Gibbons: Two words: Mexican food. Rock on!
ZZ Top with special guest Austin Hanks play Kresge Auditorium at Interlochen Center for the Arts at 8 p.m. Thursday.
Tickets ($48-$65) available online here.
VIDEO: ZZ Top, “Sharp Dressed Man”
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