I met Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top in 2006 and the GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan in 2009, and they both ended up telling me to leave them alone. In each instance, I was too excited and possibly too prepared. See, Billy Gibbons has been my favorite guitarist since I was in junior high. And the GZA has been my favorite rapper since he released Liquid Swords. These dudes were on my top-five-people-to-meet list for as long as I can remember. Let's put it this way: Gibbons may have bumped Slimer off the list. I’d dream about meeting them both and planned exactly what I was going to say.
When I was a kid, I tended to script phone calls I was particularly nervous about. Let's say I was calling a girl. I would take a Post-It note and write out some talking points and joke options that I thought would keep the conversation moving. But it's difficult to truly predict the flow of an interaction, especially when you don't really know the person. If the conversation goes off script, you're fucked and catapulted into a K-hole of awkward silence that will make you look like a herb.
When I met Gibbons and the GZA, not only was I inebriated, I was working off a script that was more than ten years old.
I met Billy Gibbons at a midtown hotel-lobby party for some management company that my friend's dad was involved with. It was only about 10 or 11 PM, but I had been taking full advantage of the open bar. I was probably on my seventh drink when I saw Billy standing across the room wearing his signature weird-beard and African-Nipple hat. I started freaking out, poking everyone around me, letting them know that Gibbons was here.
My friend explained that she had known Billy Gibbons almost her whole life, and she asked if I would like to meet him.
"Fuck yes," I said.
I was drunk, hyped-up, and felt charming as the devil. She led me over to Billy's corner where he greeted her with a big hug and proceeded to blow my fucking mind. Check it out:
Billy: "Where's your daddy at?"
Girl: "Oh! He just left. You didn't get to see him?"
Billy: "I must have missed him, but I want you to tell your daddy something."
Girl: "What's that Billy?" (She was smirking as though she knew what was about to go down.)
Billy: "I want you to tell your daddy you met a boy. You love that boy, and you might marry that boy."
Billy: “And that boy has a beard down to his goddamn belly-button! You know what your daddy's gonna say?"
Girl: (Laughing) "What's that Billy?"
Billy: "Your daddy's gonna say, 'Sheeet, my daughter's gone runnin' off with one of them ZZ Top boys again. Ha!"
I was floored. It was like meeting Jim Carrey and him saying, "Alrighty then." I thought I was having a heart attack.
She introduced me to Billy as, "her friend who played guitar and was a huge fan of his." I could see his eyes drop with disappointment. It was almost like he was asking me, "Where are your tits?" I robotically launched into a lengthy spiel about how he was the true father of heavy metal and should have gotten more credit than Jimi Hendrix. He listened for a second than turned his gaze back towards my friend while my ramblings continued.
He briefly turned to me and asked, "What can I do to get you to leave us alone?"
"A photo?" I replied. He nodded, posed next to me for the snap, and I fucked off.
My interaction with the GZA was somehow less successful. I met him at a party in Austin on the last night of 2009's South by Southwest festival. I had been playing shows and partying all week so I was in a very dangerous state of inebriated confidence. I also knew ahead of time that GZA was going to be there, so I had been concocting my interaction for hours and was sure that my words would boggle the mind of the Genius.
By the time I arrived at the party, GZA was already there, talking to some industry folks in the far corner of the bar. I downed a drink, headed over, and introduced myself. I told him my name and what band I was in, hoping he might already know all about me. From his facial expression, I could tell that he didn't, so I hit him with the big guns right off the bat.
"Do you know that Liquid Swords is one of the best PSYCHEDELIC records of all time?" I said, raising an eyebrow and finger à la some Picard vs. Kirk dork off.
"I don't know about that," he replied, "It's hip-hop."
Perfect, I thought. All was going according to plan. We are now in a CONVERSATION.
I recited my pitch. Yes, Liquid Swords IS a hip-hop record but it is way, way more than that. The combination of GZA's lyrical style with RZA's beats and samples create the perfect psychedelic panorama. There are even tonal drones that persist and reoccur throughout the record. In terms of headiness, the album is up there with Pink Floyd’s The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.
He said nothing. The dudes he was talking to before were nowhere to be found. I had his full attention. But I wasn’t prepared to continue. I was hoping for a GZA rebuttal, but my provocation was met with silence. I nervously propelled into "Simon's History of Psychedelic Hip-Hop: From PM Dawn to MF Doom." GZA continued to stare blankly while I rattled on until suddenly, he shoved me. It wasn’t a violet push, but it had enough force to shut me up.
"Motherfucker!" he exclaimed, "I am just trying to enjoy myself. I don't want any bullshit."
He blew past me and into the party. I only then realized that I had, literally, physically trapped the Genius in a corner while verbally assaulting him with utter drivel that probably sounded like a Google translation of a French rap blog. I was bummed.
Not that Billy Gibbons or the Genius would ever remember our respective interactions, but if they did, they would probably think of me as some weird autistic kid who pooped all over them with my mouth. That's the thing; you can't curate a conversation. That's what assholes do. Though the goal is to impress, the result is conversational bullying. It doesn't matter if it's some girl in junior high, a member of ZZ Top, or the Wu-Tang Clan. You can force someone to listen to your hyperactive baloney blitz. You just can’t force them to like it. Being chill is the pill for the conversationally skilled. I know that now and hope for a second chance with them both.