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Fear the Beards

ZZ Top meets Rick Rubin, and all fur breaks loose

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Billy Gibbons has learned one important word while working on ZZ Top's new album: patience.

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, but Gibbons is fully on board with the album's famed producer, Rick Rubin, and his exacting standards. "Rick is in no hurry to allow any recorded work that he's associated with to hit the streets prematurely," Gibbons says in 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.'"

After four decades as a band, ZZ Top, who play the Wells Fargo Center Aug. 15, know a little bit about things taking time.

"It's really [difficult] these days to find someone willing to stick it out," Gibbons says. "It is tempting to want to rush right out and show the world what you've got. But it's also a great value to have another opinion in the mix."

The process began four years ago, when the band went into the studio with Rubin for some initial recording. That session yielded about 20 rough song ideas, which over time were redeveloped by Gibbons and Rubin, best known for producing stark comeback albums from Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond and Donovan.

"The scariest part is when you completely tear a song down and are nearly starting it over," Gibbons says. "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 the Fox television series Bones, in which he plays the cool but intimidating father of Angela Montenegro.

"The creator, Hart Hanson, is a genuine music fan," Gibbons said. "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. Everyone seems to enjoy the day when the bearded boy shows up."

ZZ Top play with opening act Nashville Pussy on Wednesday, Aug. 15, at the Wells Fargo Center. 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. 8pm. $69–$129. 707.546.3600.

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