Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Fabulous Quotes of the Rev. Billy F. Gibbons

Always eloquent, Billy Gibbons is a master of the turn of the phrase.

Here for your perusal is a small sampling of quotes -- which happen to also include some great advice on musicianship, guitars and making hit records -- as put forth by the inimitable Rev. Willie G.

"I was not really taking any lessons -- just had to sit on that porch and make up what I could"

On reading music:
"I'm strictly by ear. I can do charts, but it's mostly get up there and turn it up to Patent Applied For or Patent Pending and go for it!"

On using unusual tunings:
"We got into a situation where two strings broke on a Strat. It threw the other four strings into some strange Martian mode that I've yet to figure out."

"I've been told that I play the action too high, and I've been told that I use too heavy of a string. I've got the Billy G-strings!"

"I like to hit the right note. You can definitely make someone wiggle in their seat a bit if you know where you're heading with it and end up there."

"And of course you can follow a chord structure, and you can follow a scale, and come up with a delightful and correct piece. However, I think today it's a game of getting out there and getting after it, and if it feels right, you'll know."

On the music the band enjoys playing outside of ZZ Top:
"We like the Nortena stuff -- that border music -- bajo sexto and accordion. A little country and western pops up backstage every now and then."

"If you're really looking for something in particular, it helps to take your time."

"We do tend to pay a lot of attention to tone. Even with music like ZZ Top, I think that obscene tones are quite acceptable."

On the band's ritual before going onstage:
"We just take a moment to get into it. You know, just looking each other in the eye and making sure it's going to get lowdown."

"What we wind up doing is probably three hours of blues before a show, and then that kind of gets us wound up in gear to do two hours of high carburetion."

On his guitar collection:
"They're in a big pile."

"The majority of my collection is completely stock. There's a corner that we've saved for some of the more exotic tortures that have been performed on a few instruments, but those are pretty much for laughs."

"American ingenuity doesn't stop with a paint job. I've got a guitar that was made out of parts off a Model T. It's pretty rustic. Primitivo!"

"They're tools that are a means to an end. I think ultimately it's what's inside of you that brings it out. I'm sure everybody has found themselves in unfamiliar surrounding, banging on an unfamiliar instrument, and yet the heart and soul and the art makes its statement."

"Certain instruments lend themselves to either technical dexterity or the execution of some sophisticated passages."

On future goals:
"If we can just keep getting low-down, keep getting funky and playing them blues, we'll always have a smile on our faces. I'd like to just keep spankin' the plank."

On ZZ Top's breakthrough album Eliminator and music videos:
"Certainly, pretty girls wouldn't have anything to do with it."

On recording and mixing:
"If it sounds good to you in the car, what more do you want?"

On the Afterburner sessions:
"We built a thing that was nicknamed the 'Amp Cabin'. This was a pile of Fenders and Marshalls that were stacked on top of each other, and then supported to provide a roof and four walls, and we just stuck a big microphone in the middle of it and turned them all up as loud as we could get them. It was a true test of microphone technology."

"There was a time when it was thought that the best way to make records was to hide everybody in private booths, and you would communicate by way of headphones. This was great for isolation but it did nothing for that camaraderie and that spontaneous moment where you can look at someone right in the eye, give a nod of the head, and say "Let's make a left turn here." It was a great bonus to get back to doing that."

On locking tremelos:
"It's made me stay in tune! I tend to lean toward the Hendrix school, when it was just balls-to-the-wall, smash it to the face of the instrument, and who cares? -- just do a little string-bending and you're back in pitch. But now it's even more fun because you can just turn steel to rubber, and it still pops right back on the calendar."

On pick harmonics:
Harmonics are the upper-registers and chorusing always enhances the higher end. So it's not a bad idea to try a little chorusing when attempting to harmonic-out the stratosphere there."


  1. Great stuff! I love listening to him say that kinda stuff in interviews. Billy riffs the way he speaks. He carefully flavors his phrases in conversation as on the fretboard.

    You've probably already seen his lesson video with the Gretsch Billy-Bo, but it proves the point.

    I just discovered a bunch of newer interview stuff at Youtube, and am anxious to check it out. Great entertainment! Billyisms are the best!

    This video of David Grissom (guitar intro.)-- turned my head back to seeing Billy Gibbons as a Bohdi.

  2. I agree.

    And both Dave and Billy reinforce the idea that it's okay to take one's time to breathe and phrase -- a simple idea but something that's become a lost art in this day and age.



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