Billy Gibbons: 'We're available as the space shuttle's lounge band'
The ZZ Top guitarist talks about his solo ‘Hispanic-bionic boogie’ album, barbecue sauces, gossiping with Hendrix, deep space, and why he’d most like to be compared to Depeche Mode
ZZ Top have been compared to all sorts of unexpected bands, because of your presumed satirical quality and trash aesthetic: Kiss, Devo, the Cramps, B52s, Ramones. Which do you think is the most like you?
I know the one I’d most like to be compared with – Depeche Mode. I’m really fanatical about those cats. I had the pleasure of making their acquaintance in 85 and we’ve stayed pals ever since. I worked with them last year, actually. They had a record called Soothe My Soul [from 2013’s Delta Machine] and I got a phone call from Dave [Gahan] saying, “We’ve got to do an extended remix, and we need a little Texas mud sprinkled over it.” I said “I’m your guy!”
Did you hang out with Dave and Martin (Gore)?
Yeah. Martin is actually an underrated guitarist – he’s quite the six-string slinger.
Billy Gibbons, ZZ Top: “Believe it or not, I listened to all of Depeche Mode”:
A recent record that you liked?
- Believe it or not, I haven't stopped listening to Depeche Mode, going back to the early days, when it was nothing but pure synth-pop. And as you probably know, Martin Gore , who is a great synth player, is also a great guitarist. When they finally added a real drummer, Martin started playing more guitar. They started to sound like a pure rock band. And that opening riff of Personal Jesus [hums], it's awesome. Did you play it?
- Oh yes ! And then, maybe three years ago, I got a phone call from Martin and the singer, Dave Gahan… Over the years we had become friends, but I didn't expect that: “Hey man , we need some Texas mud! " And I played on a great song, Soothe My Soul .
News Depeche Mode 2021
27 Oct 2021, 21:16
Daniel Miller to receive Icon Award at the A&R Awards in London next month
Mute Records founder and electronic music pioneer/champion Daniel Miller is to be given the Icon Award at next month’s A&R Awards in London.
The UK-focused event, presented by Music Business Worldwide in association with Abbey Road Studios, takes place on the evening of Tuesday, November 9 in London.
The A&R Icon Award (supported this year by YouTube Music) is a highlight of the ceremony. It recognizes an individual who is considered a legend of music business A&R – and someone “whose professional feats will influence generations to come”.
Box well and truly ticked as far as Miller is concerned.
Miller achieved early cult success as an artist, recording as The Normal, particularly with the 1978 single T.V.O.D/Warm Leatherette – distributed by Rough Trade, but released on a label Miller had created specifically for the project: Mute Records
Portentously, the sleeve of the single had his address on it, and he was soon receiving demo tapes from like-minded artists, including Fad Gadget and DAF, both of whom signed to Mute.
In 1980 Miller made his first game-changing signing, Depeche Mode. The band would become Mute’s biggest success story, selling tens of millions of records around the world and topping the charts on both sides of the Atlantic.
Other artists to have benefited from Miller’s support and guidance over the years include Erasure, Nick Cave, Yazoo, New Order, Wire, Goldfrapp and Moby, while also investing in and revitalising important catalogs such as those from Can, Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire, becoming one of the UK’s most successful and iconic independent labels in the process.
Over 40 years on from Warm Leatherette, and just a week or so before he collects this year’s Icon Award at the A&R Awards, artists and peers pay tribute to Miller, starting with the man who wrote Mute’s first ever Top 10 single, Depeche Mode’s 1981 electro pop classic, Just Can’t Get Enough.
Vince Clarke, Depeche Mode/Yazoo/Erasure: “First and foremost, Daniel is a music fan. This is why, I think, he connects so well with the artists on the label. He’ll sign a band not for their earning potential but rather because he likes their music. This is what sets Mute apart from most other record companies.
“Daniel has always been a true hero to me and I am grateful for all his guidance and friendship over the past 40+ years.”
Laurence Bell, Domino Records founder: “Daniel Miller and his magical Mute label has long been an inspirational example of how to do it in this game.
“Daniel’s musical track record speaks for itself, from artist to producer to record label visionary, nurturing the musical careers of some of the world’s most trailblazing artists. He is also a complete gentleman, of course.”
Jonathan Kessler, Depeche Mode manager: “Daniel Miller has been an integral part of the Depeche Mode family and a driving creative force with the group since the very early days of the band.
“Through the band’s time with Daniel at Mute Records as well as after, he has always provided a guiding voice, trusted ear and thoughtful advice that has helped guide Depeche Mode’s image and sound, and has helped them authentically become the band that they are and maintain that authenticity and integrity throughout their storied career.
“On a human level, I consider Daniel a great person and friend, and as a manager, Daniel is and has always been a great creative ally.”
Emmanuel de Buretel, founder, Because Music: “I met Daniel when I was a student, at a Fad Gadget and NoN concert. He played me a young band he had just signed: Depeche Mode.
“A few years later, we worked together to develop his catalog in France through his distribution deal with Virgin France. Our collaboration was very proactive as we developed Moby, Depeche Mode, Goldfrapp and Nick Cave in France and then in Europe.
“Later, while I was running EMI Europe, Virgin EMI acquired Mute and I left the company, soon after. I felt like I was betraying the great values of one the most interesting and inspiring UK indie labels.
“Daniel taught me A&R and artist dialogue. He’s always been very dedicated to his artists who in return have been very loyal to him.
“Daniel is also a great artist, a fantastic DJ and a music bible, he is a symbol for all independent creators and music executives.”
Alison Goldfrapp: “We were huge fans of Daniel Miller all along – both for the innovative music he’d written and the bands he’d assembled for his super-cool label, Mute.
“Despite Goldfrapp’s desire to explore new directions, and so perhaps go against the grain of a more commercial template, Daniel has always been incredibly supportive of our creative process. He treats each one of his artists with a deep respect and commitment.
“Daniel is one in a million, a true icon and a wonderful human being – and we are so grateful to be part of the Mute family.”
Will Gregory (Goldfrapp): “Daniel is a unique combination of musician and record company. In a beautifully strange inversion, you know he always has a better idea for your song than you do, but won’t tell you unless you drag it out of him.
“Discrete wisdom is his stock in trade, and if you don’t ask for his opinion you will be missing out. Which other record company boss out there is universally loved by all his artists?”
Eric Harle, DEF Management: “Daniel Miller was a hero of mine before I knew him personally. His music (as the Normal), his artists (especially DAF, Depeche Mode, Fad Gadget, Diamanda Galas, Wire, Nick Cave and Yazoo) made me want to work for Mute as the best and most innovative label in the world at the time.
“When I met and got to know Daniel, I realised quickly that he was mainly interested in the music and the art surrounding the music. His commitment to the artist and his love for the music and the art are central and always guide his intentions.
“Working with Daniel on artists is a safe haven of creativity and unwavering belief. I learned so much from Daniel and am honoured to count him as a friend.”
Kenny Gates, CEO, [PIAS]: “’There isn’t such a thing as a (artist) priority at Mute. Everyone, every artist is a priority otherwise why would Mute have signed them?’. This is just one of the many amazing Daniel Miller quotes that resonated with and inspired me when I was a teenager, before my dream of being a Mute licensee became a reality some years later.
“Since then, I have learned so much from the man who I am proud to call one of my most important mentors and greatest friends.
“What is special – maybe unique – about Daniel is the fact that not only has he discovered, nurtured and broken some of the world’s most iconic and influential artists during the last four decades, but he has done it with style and generosity. His drive, passion, loyalty and total commitment to the artists he works with is truly inspiring.
“What elevates Daniel above so many of his peers is not only his undeniable talents as an A&R genius, but the uncompromising set of ethics that have accompanied him throughout his career.
“If you were to ask me to describe Daniel Miller in three words I would say: a true gentleman.”
The A&R Awards 2021 are now completely (and we mean completely!) sold out.
News Depeche Mode 2021
08 Nov 2021, 21:54
„Dream” Book – 8 years heading the Bong Mag – the Interview with Michaela Olexova
My limited edition book is on its way, and probably yours as well (if you ordered it). When I read the information about the release of the anniversary album for the first time, I thought that maybe it was worth asking Michaela Olexova a few questions and returning to those times for a moment. This book is the loveletter to the band from 1993-2001 period. But it is also a retrospection of Michaela’s work for the band. I invite you to read our conversation on 101dM.pl and to return to the times when each new BONG number was delighted and was awaited by fans thanks to the work of Michael and the team. Let’s start from the end, or rather from the present. What has happened to you and your life since the end of your adventure with Bong?
Throughout my life, I’ve been always into anything that has to do with creativity, design, production, marketing and visual media. Generally speaking, I love new challenges and creating things. So after BONG, I was lucky enough to bring all these elements together working in the music, publishing and film industry for several years. But I eventually grew tired of a 24/7 job so I went to India to train as a yoga teacher, then moved from Prague to London to set up a yoga business. However, after about 13 years teaching yoga, I started to miss creating and designing things, which is really what lights me up, so I set up a brand and website design studio to help women launch their dream business online and I find it extremely satisfying. OK. Now, let’s rewind a few years. How did you get to the Band’s Fan Club?
I used to co-manage a fan club in the Czech Republic in the early ’90s called depeche MODE Friends where I was in charge of producing the fan club magazine ‘Halo’. Then when I visited London in 1991, I just turned up at Mute Records to show them the magazine and tell them about our fan club. This information was passed on to depeche MODE’s Management, they got in touch and invited me to their London office a few months later. That’s when I met Lynn Wood (Newcombe) who was in charge of the Band’s Fan Club at the time. We became friends and I started coming over on regular basis. Eventually, I got asked to help with the BONG Magazine, conventions, etc. so you can say I was at the right place at the right time. How big access did you have to the band?
As much access as we needed to ensure the smooth operation of the fan club, magazine and conventions but there were also quite a few social occasions outside the work. Usually, I would come up with ideas for the BONG magazine and once the idea got approved it was just a question of working around the Band’s schedule.
BONG’s existence comes at a time of many turbulences in the band. Have you ever had any doubts about publishing something or writing something in BONG from the backstage of the band?
BONG magazine was running for a few years already before I took over and although each edition had to be approved, I always felt the band and the management were really open and supportive, making sure we get to share all the latest news with the fans as it happened. Do you regret that something was posted in fanzine, or do you know that you could, but did not do it?
Not that I can think of. What was your freedom to drive a zine? What you could not do during your time in BONG?
As a big depeche MODE fan myself, my vision for BONG was to create a magazine that brings an exciting mix of the official news (such as releases, tours, etc) as well as provide a sneak peek behind the scene that you couldn’t get elsewhere. We also wanted to make sure that the fans really felt it’s their magazine so dedicated a large section of BONG to content built around articles, reviews, stories and photos submitted by the fans from all around the world and it made it really special. That’s true, BONG zine is until now good source of informations from that period. OK, Michaela, you finished number 52 of BONG and that was the end. Did you do anything for the band after the Bong project was over?
No, it was time to move on for me after almost ten years with depeche MODE. The only other thing I got involved in was when Mute Records contacted me to use my photos of the Band from the recording session of ‘Ultra’ in the DVD documentary that was part of a Collector’s Edition in 2007.
Why was the decision made to close BONG and the band’s official fan club?
The Internet took over [the world], so it was the natural next step to move from a printed magazine to a website to communicate with the fans. Don’t you think it was a mistake to close the Fan Club and BONG as channels of communications with fans and profit? Looking at how fan programs/clubs aimed at Metallica or U2 fans work – limited editions for fans, preferential access to concert tickets, clothes, dedicated communication, an additional source of profit outside the tours.
I think it’s always nice to do special treats for fan club members but I don’t know how all the other fan clubs operate so I can’t really comment.
Years later, you release a book with your photos. What were your motivations for publishing the book?
Nostalgia, the desire to commemorate that time? I think the first time I started thinking about doing the book was when I did the depeche MODE Facebook takeover a few years ago. I was going through my photo archive and realised I’ve got over 1,000 photos of the band which have never been fully digitised as only a small percentage of the photos were published in BONG. Then when the Covid-19 hit and everything slowed down, I suddenly had a chance to organize the archive and it brought me an incredible sense of joy which I wanted to share with all the other fans. Moreover, it’s exactly 30 years since I showed up at Mute Records with an idea to publish a book about depeche MODE, so what a better way to celebrate their musical genius. How long have you worked on the book for a long time?
As I mentioned, the idea was there for a few years but the actual scanning, editing and book production took about 4-5 months. Which photo from your works is your favourite?
It’s so hard to choose as there are so many memories attached to them all but I’d have to say it’s the photos of Dave I took of him while he was rehearsing for the song ‘The Love Thieves’ during the ‘Ultra’ recording session at Rak Studios in St. John’s Wood, London in 1996. It was just him on the mic and me taking the photos inside the vocal studio and that was a pretty special moment.
Michaela, thank you for the conversation it was a pleasure to talk with you.
DREAM book you can order via michaelaolexova.com
News Depeche Mode 2021
08 Nov 2021, 21:59
“Organising the Depeche Mode archives brought me an incredible sense of joy” – MICHAELA OLEXOVA | INTERVIEW
This month sees the release of two peachy Depeche Mode-related items: As well as Imposter, singer Dave Gahan’s album with Soulsavers, there’s a rather good, nicely priced photo book: DREAM, the work of Mode fanatic turned band photographer Michaela Olexova . David Nobakht spoke to her about it.
In June 1988, Depeche Mode played to over 60,000 fans at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena: a show immortalised in a film titled 101 the following year by D.A. Pennebaker. Yet that same week, when the Essex synthpop stars’ new head of promotion Mick Paterson sat down to read through the band’s press cuttings, matters were less rosy.
Despite the Mode’s growing popularity worldwide: “The British press write-ups were all very snide and dismissive … there was no acknowledgement of what they were doing musically at all,” is what Paterson, a Mute Records employee, told writer Ian Gittins for the Depeche Mode: Faith And Devotion book. However, fans that wanted to bypass such write-ups” could subscribe to Bong magazine, which took its name from the catalogue prefixes that Mute gave Depeche Mode releases.
In that same year, Czech teenager Michaela Olexova got hooked on their Music For The Masses album. As Olexova recalls to Buzz, “I first heard of Depeche Mode from a friend at school at the beginning of 1988. She mentioned they were going to play in Prague in March, which was a huge deal as we were still living in the dark ages of communism and having a band from Western Europe was like a breath of fresh air. After my graduation in 1990, I decided to move to Prague, got an admin job and co-founded a Czech and Slovak DMcfan club called Depeche Mode Friends where I was in charge of producing the fan club magazine Halo.”
On a visit to London in 1991, Olexova knocked on Mute Records’ door, “to tell them about our fan club and magazine.” A few months later she received a letter from the Band’s management and got invited to DM’s London office.
“That’s when I met Lynn Wood (Newcombe) who was in charge of their official fan club at the time. We became friends and I started coming over to the office on regular basis, helping out with the admin or fan club stuff. Eventually, I was offered to join the team and help with the Bong magazine and conventions, because of my previous experience. It was a dream come true moment and something I’ve been visualising for months!”
Since the age of 10, Olexova had been taking and developing her own photos. “I was self-taught, but I learned a lot from my dad and stepdad as they were both into photography,” she recalls. With her impressive photography skills, it was not too long until she started taking photos of Depeche Mode for Bong. Moreover, she says, “I was actually producing the whole magazine in Prague in the end because it was still really hard to get a long-term visa to live in the UK at the time. Typically, we’d plan and develop content ideas throughout the year, then I’d prepare the magazine copy, photos and design of each issue in Prague and fax it to Lynn at the DM’s office for approval before sending off the final artwork to London for printing and distribution.
“I’d often come to London as and when needed or whenever there was an opportunity to interview or photograph the band. If you wanted to know what the band’s up to on and off the stage, you’d get it in Bong!” Olexova also went on tour with the band on numerous occasions, and her photos match the standard of photographic work that Anton Corbijn was also doing for the band both on and off stage at the time. “The most important thing in all my photographs was to capture the emotions or energy of the band because that speaks to people more than anything else,” Olexova says.
In 2002, Bong was wrapped up, the internet having become the place to find Depeche Mode-related info. Olexova, though, went on to snap the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nitzer Ebb, REM and many others for record labels and magazines. After a while, needing a change, she became a yoga teacher after moving to London from Prague. Starting to miss creating and designing things, she also “set up a brand and website design studio to help women launch their dream business online”.
In 2017, Olexova was asked to manage Mode’s Facebook page for a day, as had various stars and long-term DM devotees. “I was going through my photo archive and realised I’ve got over 1,000 photos of the band which have never been fully digitised – only a small percentage of the photos were published in Bong,” she says. “Then when COVID-19 hit and everything slowed down, I suddenly had a chance to organise the archive and it brought me an incredible sense of joy which I wanted to share with all the other fans. Moreover, it’s exactly 30 years since I showed up at Mute with an idea to publish a book about Depeche Mode, so what a better way to celebrate their music genius!” This is how Olexova’s book DREAM took shape: 300 photos from that thousand-strong archive were shortlisted, with 73 making the final cut for the book.
The photos are outstanding both on stage and off, many getting their first public airing. DREAM kicks off with up-close live photographs from the Exotic tour of 1994 and ends on the 2001 Exciter tour via the Singles tour of 98. Off-stage pics span from 1994 to 2001, among them shots of Martin Gore relaxing with his dogs.
“The photos were taken at Martin’s country house in May 1995. I was just preparing my exhibition of portraits in Prague and he kindly agreed to do a quick photo session with me. A few months later, the exhibition went on to receive an award for the best music exhibition of the year,” says Olexova. Also within DREAM are some behind the scene photos of the recording of 1997’s Ultra. “I took photos of Dave [Gahan] when he was rehearsing for the song The Love Thieves at Rak Studios in St. John’s Wood, London in 1996. It was just him on the mic and me taking the photos inside the vocal studio – a pretty special moment.”
Some proceeds from the sales of each copy of DREAM will go to the mental health charity Mind. Says Olexova: “I’ve always been socially conscious and believe that our purpose is to use our special gifts to serve and support others, so it was a natural decision to use my work and this book to help make a bigger impact.”
DREAM is published via The Baoli Ltd on Thurs 4 Nov. Price: £25. Info: