Guitarist Billy Gibbons’ and bassist Dusty Hill’s toys can be summed up by three Bs: bold, Bolin-made, and because they said so.
Billy Gibbons’ effects rack includes three loops for this tour: an MXR Octavio, an MXR Carbon Copy, and a Boss SE-70. The Octavio is for the solos on “Chartreuse,” “Foxy Lady,” and “Stages.” The Carbon Copy, set for a quick slapback, is used on several solos this year. “It's a big year for slap,” says tech Elwood Francis.
The Tech 21 Midi Mouse changes the settings on the DigiTech MEQ 28. All the MEQs are modded by David Ferringer. “He has them running smooth, as they're old units and aren't so road-friendly,” says Francis. “He keeps them freshly capped, secures and replaces the transformers—and who knows what else he does? He's like a wizard or something.”
Francis says the slap setting was recently moved to the SE-70, and a Rainger FX Dr. Freakenstein fuzz is now used for the “Chartreuse” solos. Gibbons is always looking for ways to expand the sound of the electric guitar. “Details are huge in Billy's world, and his ears are incredible,” says Francis. “He can tell you when the battery in the wireless drops a volt. I've tested him on it, he actually can hear this! I feel like I’m working for Bill Monroe at times. The good thing is his ability to communicate. He can tell you in detail what he wants, so it’s just a matter of getting it done. So when he comes to me saying he wants to string 13 Fuzz Faces together and see what it sounds like, I say, ‘Why just 13?’”
ZZ Top approaches gear like they approach facial hair: Go big or go home. Billy Gibbons’ tech Elwood Francis and Dusty Hill’s tech Ken “TJ” Gordon give us the behind-the-scenes rundown of the current touring setup.
Billy Gibbons’ Gear
Here’s a glimpse at what Billy’s been using live, but let it be known that it’s already changed. “We started the tour using the Les Pauls for the encores, but that gave way to whatever guitars we happened to pick up along the way,” said Billy Gibbons’ tech Elwood Francis from the road in mid-November. “Things change at the drop of a hat. In the past week, we've acquired four guitars and six fuzz boxes—and the tour only has three more gigs.”
Dusty Hill’s Gear
Tech Ken “TJ” Gordon describes Dusty Hill’s bass tone as, “Texas blues with a little nastiness and a lot whoooo!” Here he guides us through Hill’s gear, including a collection of basses that were custom-made to match the guitars of bandmate Billy Gibbons.