Thursday, December 5, 2013
By ALAN SCULLEY
It would appear that one word guitarist Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top has learned when it comes to work on the band's long-awaited new CD, "La Futura," is patience.
ZZ Top: from left, Dusty Hill, Billy Gibbons and Frank Beard
The project has been under way for several years now, and plenty of fans are eager to hear what the "Li'l Ol' Band from Texas" has been up to in the studio all this time. They'll get that chance on Tuesday, when "La Futura" is released.
But Gibbons has been fully on board with the album's producer, Rick Rubin, and his exacting standards. Rubin, who has worked with everyone from Red Hot Chili Peppers and Beastie Boys to Johnny Cash and Neil Diamond, is one of the most sought-after producers in the industry, but also one of the most meticulous.
"Rick is in no hurry to allow any recorded work that he's associated with to hit the streets prematurely," Gibbons said is a recent phone interview. "I think that there have been a couple of artists that got a little too impatient and left the fold. They said 'Gee whiz, this takes too long.' What can't be overlooked is the intensity that hides behind Rick's casual appearance."
The opinion sharing and analyzing of the tracks recorded for the CD has come to a conclusion as ZZ Top heads out on its current headlining tour. On Friday, the band will co-headline a show with Lynyrd Skynyrd at Scarborough Downs.
ZZ Top will play plenty of fan favorites, as well as dust off a couple of older tunes that haven't been performed lately, including "Vincent Price Blues" off of the 1996 CD "Rhythmeen," and "Heaven, Hell or Houston," the ninth track on 1981's "El Loco."
The group, which also includes bassist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard (ZZ Top is one of the few bands that has consistently had the same lineup for more than 40 years), also plans to play at least one of the songs off its recent EP, "I Gotsta Get Paid" (also known by the earlier title of "25 Lighters"). The track debuted earlier this summer in a commercial for Jeremiah Weed malt beverages starring the band itself, and was released digitally on June 5 as part of a four-song EP "Texacali," which includes songs from "La Futura."
The process of making the new full-length CD began roughly four years ago when Rubin, engineer Dave Sardy and the band went into the studio for some initial recording. That session yielded about 20 rough song ideas.
Next, Rubin had Gibbons take the band into the studio and produce another session in which the song ideas were developed further and recorded with ZZ Top's longtime engineering team of Joe Hardy and G.L. Moon. Out of that session came 18 songs that went under the microscope this spring, with Rubin and Gibbons returning to the studio to really go over the tracks with a fine-toothed comb.
"The scariest part is when you completely tear a song down and are nearly starting it over," Gibbons said. "We had done some rewriting. A lot of the lyrics were massaged into place. Even some of the guitar tracks enjoyed getting a chance to try a different direction.
"So it's been a real labor of love with, and I like that word, a dedicated focus. It can be challenging to sit and listen to a song, the same song, for two hours and then you say, 'Gee whiz, let me sing that top to bottom. I want to go sing it again.' Then you do that, and then you say 'Gee whiz, would this word be better here? Let me sing it again.' After a full day, you're just toast."
Between touring and work on the new CD, Gibbons' services may also be required for further appearances on the Fox television series "Bones," in which he plays the very cool but intimidating father of Angela Montenegro.
"The creator, Hart Hanson, is a genuine music fan," Gibbons said. "He has managed to enjoy platforming his TV show with various cameo appearances on occasion. I think he thought it would be novel just to have me show up, shake a hand, and that was seven years ago, if you can believe that. And he says, 'Gee whiz, the guy can act. We've got to get this guy back.'
"So once a season, I'm the bad dad. But we've all gotten along famously, and everyone seems to enjoy the day when the bearded boy shows up. It's pretty funny."
Alan Sculley is a freelance writer.
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