I’ve done hundreds of interviews with famous rockers since I started writing for the Georgia Straight back in 1982, most of them over the phone–in advance of a Vancouver tour date–some of them in person.
It’s always been the policy at the Straight to turn down offers of e-mail interviews–where you send in questions and the answers are sent back–because good journalism is based on the one-on-one conversation.
I tend to agree with that policy, but when I heard that one of my fave guitarists of all time–Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top–was only doing e-mail interviews in advance of this Saturday’s show in Vancouver, I decided to make an exception.
So earlier this month I did a blog asking if anyone had any questions for Mr. Gibbons, and promising that I’d include the three best questions along with a few of mine. The winners were David Gogo, Craig Northey, and Carl Spackler.
Just the other day Gibbons replied with his answers, so without further adieu, here’s my first-ever e-mail interview, because it’s Billy freakin’ Gibbons, that’s why.
1) Nanaimo blues-rocker David Gogo said: “Ask Billy what he thinks Jimi Hendrix would be up to if he was still around…”
Jimi is still around! He’s ripping it up big time somewhere up there. If Jimi were back down here ZZ would seriously consider expanding to a four piece.
2) Craig Northey from the Odds said: “Q: Billy: desert island. 1 guitar with a tweed Fender Harvard. ’58 Esquire or ’58 Les Paul? (Yes there is power)
Does FedEx service the island…?…coz’ there’s a lot ‘o stuff out there…! Well, oddly, the message-in-a-bottle just happened to surf up onto the beach sand and lo-and-behold, the message read, “Check out the 3rd palm tree from the left ‘coz there’s a ’58 Esquire AND ’58 Sunburst Les Paul in original hardshell cases leaning just behind on the leeward side” Oh yeah, and, as everyone might already know, the fave is Pearly Gates, a ’59 Standard. Could she come along?
3) Carl Spackler of La Chinga asks: “Is Master of Sparks based on a true story?”
Yes, it’s a true story, set to music. We grew up with a guy who was a drummer we called “R&B Junior.” His family had a ranch and there was guy who worked there who was a talented welder. We asked him to construct a steel ball with a door in it and added a surplus pilot’s seat with a harness. We figured that chaining this ball up to the back of a pick-up would provide for a thrilling experience. And that it was, at 60 miles an hour with sparks flying as it bounced along striking rocks and debris. We had fun, we survived and that was that.
4) If you had to choose your favourite guitar solo from all the ZZ Top songs, which one would it be, and why?
Well, more than one might imagine…ain’t jes’ one…! “Rhythmeen”, “Mescalero”, “Waitin’ For The Bus”…all were one-take dreams…
5) Are you always trying out different guitars and amps in search of different tones, or are you pretty much happy with the tone you’ve already got?
* The new Magnatone “Super 59” is opening new tonal avenues and with true pitch-shifting vibrato. Killer…!
6) Is it true that you originally planned to call yourself ZZ King in tribute to B.B. King?
Yes.. or B.B. Top.
7) It’s been something like 44 years together with the same guys. What’s the secret to the band’s longevity?
The fine times rage on in doing so the logic is why put an end to a good time lettin’ the thrash ‘n bash rock on…! It’s chronic: same 3 guys, same 3 chords. That’s the magic formula in six famous words.
8) Having travelled all over the world, where would you say the most devoted blues-rock fans are located?
It’s everywhere for sure. We’ve found outrageous midnight audiences as far out as say, Macedonia…! And that’s loaded with high charges of energy just like it’s deep in the heart of Texas. We just turn up the Bar-B-Q grill, whip on the hot sauce and let ’em all bear down on the meat.
9) What was the last album you actually bought in a store, or downloaded?
* One of each. “Combination Boogie” by J.B. Hutto