August 17, 2008

ZZ Top Hopes To Rock With The Black Keys

Though it's on the road until early November, ZZ Top is gearing up for its next album -- its first with producer Rick Rubin under a new deal with Rubin's Columbia-distributed American Recordings imprint. "All I can say at this point this a new venture between the two of us," guitarist Billy F. Gibbons tells "I've known Rick for 20 years and we've waited for this opportunity for a double decade. I've not sat down with him pointedly to get down to business just yet, but I feel very comfortable working within the framework that he envisions. He's got a good feel on the pulse, and I'm very interested in what he might have in mind." Gibbons says that Rubin has forwarded one idea -- hooking ZZ Top up with the Black Keys for some writing and possibly recording. "I'm such a big fan of those guys ... it makes total sense," says Gibbons, who first checked out the band during a fall 2005 show at New York's Irving Plaza. "And that's pretty down and dirty, which is good for ZZ Top." There is some new material around already, from a 15-day studio session Gibbons did in May with a couple of engineers, during which he says he "managed to squeeze out 15 tunes. "It was just me kickin' back and having a good time," Gibbons recalls. "We did everything from a black church gospel ballad to updated versions of 'Rollin' and Tumblin',' did some Jimmy Reed take-off things, just keeping that bluesy thread throughout. I think that as long as we maintain that blues tradition, the material takes on an identity that's easily digestible, at least in terms of what our fans have asked for."
Gibbons says he hopes ZZ Top hits the studio shortly after its tour cycle, which includes its current run of dates with Brooks & Dunn and then an In Your Face Tour headlining run that starts Sept. 26 in Wichita, Kan. "There's just a lot of enthusiasm between us now," Gibbons notes, "and I think that it's setting us up to go directly into the studio and keep that momentum that seems to be hitting." Meanwhile, ZZ Top will release an expanded 25th anniversary "Eliminator (Collector's Edition) on Aug. 26, and Gibbons has recorded a version of Chuck Berry's "Run, Rudolph, Run" with Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl and Motorhead's Lemmy Kilmister for the "Metal Christmas" compilation, due this fall.

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