Talking Your Tech: Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top
Posted May 28, 2012
Billy Gibbons is the longtime guitarist and lead singer for ZZ Top, the Texas blues and boogie trio that's been at it for 43 years. The band just released its first new song in nine years, I Got to Get Paid, as a video commercial for whiskey manufacturer Jeremiah Weed on YouTube. A four-song collection, including Paid, will follow on iTunes in June.
We caught up with the musician, via a Google+ Hangout, in a Manchester, N.H., hotel room, as ZZ Top was starting its 2012 summer tour. Friday, the band will be in Winston-Salem, N.C., at the Lawrence Joel Coliseum.
Launching music on YouTube
"ZZ Top would be the last guess for the most Internet-savvy band. However, I think we're just in the initial stages of a very fast-moving platform. Sooner rather than later, any other form other than digital media will be a thing of the past. It won't vanish, but let's face it, this is seemingly the way of the future."
"There are so many destinations where you can go. We're in the middle of probably the most prolific access to music. There's not a single genre that is hard to find or hard to get. You may know what you want, but there are so many different targets where it may be lurking. It's not that there's a shortage of musical expressions. It's, 'Where do you go to find it?' "
A Billy Gibbons playlist
He pulls out his iPhone during the Hangout to demonstrate what he's listening to. "In the world of millions and millions of tracks available, we always come back to" classic blues from 1949-1959, from the likes of Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters, Albert King, B.B. King, Albert Collins, Freddie King, T-Bone Walker and Howlin' Wolf. "That seems to be a good place to really sink your teeth into the bluesy substance that propelled ZZ Top to do what we do."
Making movies with his iPhone
For the tour, he's been shooting videos on his iPhone to play on a screen behind the band during concerts. "Song by song, we're attempting to create a thread that will tether the entire evening's performance into a cinematic expression as well. The scenes are of Texas, California, the desert, sand, cactus trees, rocks, a lot of fast cars and fast women."
It's guitar, bass and drums for the band, with a few digital accessories for Gibbons, who switches between Gibson, Fender and Gretsch guitars during the show. He likes Blackstone Appliances' $225 guitar distortion box that plugs into his guitar and the old Boss SE-70 effects processor (no longer in production) that he says gives him the sound of "10 devices all into one."
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