ZZ Top hopes to rock with the Black Keys
By Gary Graff
DETROIT (Billboard) - Texas rock band ZZ Top is gearing up for its next album -- its first with high-profile producer Rick Rubin.
"I've known Rick for 20 years and we've waited for this opportunity for a double decade," guitarist Billy F. Gibbons said of the band's new deal with Rubin's Columbia-distributed American Recordings imprint.
"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 told Billboard.com that Rubin -- whose many producing credits include records by Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond, the Dixie Chicks, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Green Day -- has forwarded one idea, that of hooking up ZZ Top with blues-rock duo the Black Keys for songwriting and possibly recording.
"I'm such a big fan of those guys ... It makes total sense," said Gibbons, who first checked out the Black Keys during a fall 2005 show at New York's Irving Plaza. "And that's pretty down and dirty, which is good for ZZ Top."
Gibbons does already have some new material, from a two-week studio session he did in May with a couple of engineers, during which he said he "managed to squeeze out 15 tunes.
"It was just me kickin' back and having a good time," Gibbons recalled. "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."
ZZ Top will release an expanded 25th anniversary "Eliminator (Collector's Edition) on Tuesday (August 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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