20 Years After 'White Pony', Deftones' Chino Moreno Is At His Most Vulnerable On 'Ohms'


Photo: Tamar Levine


20 Years After 'White Pony', Deftones' Chino Moreno Is At His Most Vulnerable On 'Ohms'

The renowned rock frontman talks to about opening up on Deftones' ninth studio album, how isolation is treating him, 20 years of 'White Pony' and more

GRAMMYs/Sep 23, 2020 - 04:28 am

The year 2000 feels like a lifetime ago for Chino Moreno, frontman of Deftones. The year that birthed the Sacramento alt-metal luminaries' most commercially successful album, White Pony, no doubt is a long time ago, but 2020's pandemic—combined with hurricanes, wildfires, racial reckonings, a heated presidential election (just to name a few)—makes the new millennium feel like more like a century ago. Looking back on the band's third album, Moreno is reflective regarding their sound's longevity. "It's a trip, man," he says on the phone from Portland, Oregon. "It seems like forever ago, and I guess it kind of was in a way, but it's awesome that that record still carries so much weight to it."

A band that formed in the late '80s, Deftones have developed a catalog that blends nu-metal, hard rock and synth sounds with anything else that tickles their fancy. They are experts at crafting a soundscape that introduces hard and heavy guitar and drums to softened undertones. It's all married by Moreno's vocals, which can go from croon to shriek. And they're still standing the test of time. This year, 20 years after White Pony's release, Deftones find themselves days away from releasing their ninth studio album, Ohms, out Sept. 25. 

At a time where every day takes us even more into the unknown, Ohms, packed with the familiar heaviness (in both sound and lyricism) will come as a comfort to fans. But this time, their music won't serve as escapism; it's more grounding than ever.

Despite the familiarity, Moreno finds himself in new territory. He is more open, more vulnerable than ever, he explains: "Usually, I steer away from [vulnerability] a little bit. I think it was just like the music itself. I connected with it in a way where it was calling for that."

Moreno recently spoke with about opening up on Ohms, going into isolation during the making of the album and how he feels about isolation now. He also covers painting with words via songwriting, connecting to his Latinx fans, taking a risk with White Pony and more

You're releasing your first album in four years. How are you feeling?

Pretty excited. I mean, obviously it's a little different than what we're used to, usually at this time we'd be on tour, out ready to support the record itself. Yeah, it's a little different, but actually it's been good for us to have something to focus on in these times of uncertainty. It makes you feel a little normal, just being able to put the finishing touches on it and put it out there and hopefully have people enjoy it. 

The album has a very familiar sound, but it hits different right now with everything going on. It makes you feel present instead of trying to escape reality. Do you mind that?

No, not really. Music has always kind of been about escape for me in a way, but I feel like lately, and probably, like you said, a little bit more with this record, it kind of feels a little more present. I sort of opened up a little bit more on the record. There's still some anonymity there. It's still doesn't feel like it's just this direct message. I let some more of my, I don't know, just my personal vibes into it. Usually, I steer away from that a little bit. I think it was just the music itself really. I just connected with it in a way where it was kind of calling for that. I think the songs kind of had this tension to them that brought that out of my lyrics and my vocal performances.

Is it freeing for you being able to do that on this album?

I don't know if it's freeing. It's still a little scary. Honestly, it's not the most comfortable thing. I always had a hard time writing lyrics and communicating and being direct. It's just with a lot of the records that I even like, too, I usually gravitate towards things that are a little bit more obscure. So when I'm making music, I tend to lean that way. But even with this, it still has that kind of obscurity to it, whatever. But I think certain things bleed through a little bit more. And it's weird because a lot of the record itself was actually written and recorded mostly before everything that's been going on in the last six months or so. But it's weird and ironic how it's very... it sort of mirrors kind of what's going on. Not the whole thing, obviously in general, but I feel like a lot of things that [are] reoccurring in the record are very bearing to current times.

"Ohms" means a unit of electrical resistance. After hearing you talk about how were able to open up a little bit more, I'm wondering if you're resisting something else on the album?

No. I think it's also about connection.

I think that really rears its head a lot in a lot of the words of the record. For me personally, I was dealing with a lot of feelings of isolation and working through all that stuff. And that was like a physical thing of me just sort of being away from everybody for a long time. I'd spent about five or six years living out in the country, away from all my friends and all the people that I've made music with. Before that, I was living in Los Angeles. I was always around music or my friends who make music and I was constantly always filling that creative void. When I went on my own, I was like, "Okay, well, I'm just going to sit here and I'm going to make a bunch of music and I didn't make any music." I literally just—I'd go out to the mountains by myself and I'd hang out, and I liked it at first. But there was no balance there. At some point, I started to long for connection and conversations and just being a part of society again.

And so a lot of that stuff made its way into the lyrical content of the record. And like I said, the songs themselves kind of had that feeling to them. So with the title, it's obviously hard to title, to have one thing [encompass it all] because the record is not a concept record in any way. So it's hard to just think of a name that's going to blanket the whole... There's no statement there, or anything like that. I just felt like it really made sense. I mean, there's obviously this resistance and creating energy amongst the five of us as well. We were all sort of polarized in the way that we work. Everybody comes from a different place and I think that's what makes Deftones. It's kind of a beautiful thing in a way because if we all came from the same place, I think our music would suffer from being too one-dimensional. As to where there's a lot of push and pull involved in the songs themselves, so I think that's kind of always been one of our strong points.

Your title track was inspired by the environment. Tell us how.

Basically the state of the environment now. It was kind of literal when it came out, but then I realized that whether the song could be adapted obviously to a relationship, or whatever, where you are today is pretty much because of all the choices you've made coming through. So like I said, the very first adolescent mind in me just said, oh, this is definitely—and I never really write songs specifically about one thing—I like to keep it open-ended like that. But when a lot of people were, you know, because everybody has a different—it means something different to them. So I left it open-ended enough as it is. 

But yeah, to answer the question, when they asked me like, "What did you write the song about?" That was, honestly, the first thing that clicked in my head. But then it very much opened up to a much broader spectrum.

I want to get into the lyrics a little bit. You write, "Through the haunted maze in your eyes, right through where I'll remain for all time." This could be in a poetry book. Are you inspired by any poets or writers at all?

You know what? When I was younger, like maybe a teenager, I think all teenagers get into this romantic phase. I used to try [to write poetry], but it used to always come out pretty hokey. My vocabulary is not that huge. I only have a high school education. But my favorite class that I did have in high school was creative writing, so I've always liked to kind of paint with words. And I feel like I've done that in a lot of our records, some more than others, but I don't really read books of poetry. I'm not really... I love music and I love when artists, when they paint pictures with their vocals. There's a vibe that's kind of given off and then the words fill in these gaps and it's not just like such a literal thing. Then, like I said earlier, you make your own interpretation of it and it kind of makes it special to you.

Your music puts together very heavy sounds with these subdued, rich undertones. Did you always set out to do that with your music?

I don't think it was something that was intentional or preconceived in any way. I think it was just what we grew up listening to individually and collectively. I've never felt comfortable with fitting in any one box, even from when I was young. In high school I hung out with everybody. I hung out with the goth kids. I was a skater, but I hung out with the preppy kids who listened to Pink Floyd and just everything. Some of the rap kids, everything. I listened to everything growing up and I never felt comfortable just having to pick a music that I was going to make, or at least that I was going to like even at that time. But especially when we're making music, We all continue on with that thought. I mean, yes, I think we are a rock band, you know what I mean? And the majority of it does have these heavy undertones, but to just box ourselves into that, I have never felt comfortable. So I feel like we've always drawn from influences from all the stuff that we grew up liking and loving.

Some of your fans like to really geek out on your synths on Reddit. How are you incorporating those sounds on this album?

I'm a big fan of a lot of synth music—from my childhood until now. When Frank [Delgado] first came into the fold, he didn't have any instruments and he didn't play any instruments, he was a DJ. So when he started using his turntable, we brought him in to bring in some kind of soundscape and more sample stuff. It wasn't about scratching or to add a hip-hop element at all to the music, he sort of blended. Our idea was to have him blend in where you almost don't know he's there. I feel like with now, even with the synths, although there are more, since he started getting more into instruments and bringing synthesizers into it, I still think that we try to keep that [idea of] mentality it not being [there]. If you hear the first song on the record "Genesis," there are synths present obviously on the intro, but throughout the song as well. Throughout the song when you hear them, they're there but I think we're very cautious of not making them overbearing as well because there's one thing that's important, that is as much as I love synth, they, along with guitar, don't blend well. They do, but if you turn the synth up too much, it takes away from the attack of the guitar. So then it can soften where a song should be heavy, it was written heavy, the synth can take that away from it. So the blend of it has to be right. And so that's kind of the task sometimes. We work hard on that because it's something that we love, but like anything you don't want to overdo it, you want to make it so it sounds organic and not like we shoved it in there just for the sake of doing it.

This is your ninth album. How reflective is it of where you are as a band? 

I feel like it's pretty damn reflective. All our records are sort of a snapshot of that time. And obviously some times are better than other times, as far as us and the way that we work together. We've been through some tough times here and there. And I think those records kind of mirror that as well. This record, to me, it sounds very solid to me. If I had to compare it to a lot of our other recordings, I feel like it's a very solid recording. I feel like we spent a good quality of time on it, so I feel like the quality in general is there. Us as a band and as friends, more than anything, we're very engaged and having a really fun time making it. Although it's not like a party record in any way, there were a lot of laughs and a lot of good times making it. I feel like that reflects definitely when you hear the record in its entirety and hear that it's a solid piece of work and not something that was just slapped together at all.

You worked with Terry Date on this and you hadn't worked with him for a minute. How did he help you bring your vision for this album to life?

He's a really great sixth member of the band. We have a very close working relationship with him since the mid '90s when we did our first record with him up through our fourth. And then our sixth record we started with him and we didn't finish it. That was when our bass player was in a car accident, so at that point, we cut the record. We weren't finished with it, but we stopped working on it. When we continued again, we sought out a different producer, not because we didn't want to work with Terry but just because we wanted to start something brand-new from scratch. We felt like that might be the way to go as far as getting us in a whole different city and in a different studio with a different person.

So we did a few records with Nick Raskulinecz, which were great. But I think during that time, we all missed working with Terry just because, like I said, our friendship and our working... what's a good word? The way that we work with him, basically, it's very comfortable in a good way, where it's almost like you can try anything and it's just like there's no getting to know each other and figuring things out. He really is open, he's patient, and gives us space to sort of find our own way through making our songs as opposed to like trying to dictate where things should go. He is the best person I think that brings everything out of... lets everybody be themselves, lets everybody shine, I guess, in the best way, and captures it.

I grew up in L.A. and I remember listening to Deftones on KROQ thinking like, damn, this is such awesome music. And then I found out your name was Chino Moreno, not knowing what you looked like at all, but thinking like, damn, that's dope. That's a name that sounds like mine. Do you ever think about how much something like that might mean to your Latinx fans?

Yeah, I see it. When we travel. I notice we have a big Latin following and it's awesome to see faces, familiar faces, that you don't know, but they look like my brothers and sisters, my cousins, it's awesome. There's this connection that's there, that's just sort of unspoken. But we can go, especially through Texas, it's wild. You can go through there and you see so many just familiar faces and people and you just see just the love that's just like, and the passion really. You know what I mean? From these fans, it's really, it's a beautiful thing.

You recently celebrated 20 years of White Pony. How is it looking back at that album all these years later?

It's a trip, man. It seems like forever ago, and I guess it kind of was in a way, but it's awesome that that record still carries so much weight to it. When we made it, we obviously were taking a chance doing something that was a little different from where contemporary music was, you know? What was being played on the radio or MTV at the time. In our minds, we didn't know that anybody would even like the record. But we definitely were really into what we were doing and we didn't look back. And when it came out, it was sort of a lukewarm response. I mean, a lot of our fans liked it, but a lot of our fans didn't like it. What was crazy is that because they were used to just Deftones [being] in your face 90% of the time, 10% trippy shit. But this was like kind of maybe 50% trippy shit, maybe 50% in your face. So I think they just wanted more aggression from us, and I think we were just in a different place. Some of our fans, I don't think... It grew on them. But some of them just like, yeah, they did not get it.

What was cool is that we gained a bunch of different new fans that just only knew us from that and liked us for [that]. It was their first introduction to us. It's probably our most commercially successful record, and we're very proud of it. I'm happy that it's stood the test of time and people still react to it and are moved by it.

Is there musically something that you haven't done but want to do? 

Nothing in particular. I definitely want to continue making music. Like I was saying earlier, I was, for a few years, maybe like six or seven years ago. I was really, really prolific. I was doing a lot of projects, like tons of side projects, along with Deftones, everything. And I was loving it. It was really, really fun, but it was when I lived in L.A. and I was surrounded by all my friends and musicians all the time. It was like it was just a natural thing. Then I stopped I stopped making music for awhile. I did one Deftones record, and that's about it really, in the last four years or so besides this Deftones record. So I'm looking forward to start doing more projects, collaborating with different people. That's really fun for me. And that's kind of one of the best ways I like making music is collaborating as opposed to just making music by myself. I love reacting to what someone else is playing and going back and forth, to me that's really, really fun. So I look forward to doing more of that. 

Earlier you mentioned during the process of making some of these songs, you went off to the country and you felt isolated. How have you been doing with the isolation the pandemic has brought?

It's tough. I have two older sons who are in their 20s who I haven't seen. They live in Sacramento. I live in Oregon right now, in Portland. I was with them maybe two weeks before the shutdown happened. I went down there and stayed for like a week. My mom and my dad both live down there too, so all my brothers and sisters. I was seeing my whole family. Since the shutdown, I haven't gone, I haven't been able to see them. I get in like these little—and I'm sure a lot of people deal with this so I'm not saying "poor me" because I know everybody's in the same boat now—but yeah, I miss them and I want to spend time with them. But everything's very delicate still, so it's a difficult thing to do, but I plan on, in the next couple of weeks, doing that. So I have something to look forward to. I just try to keep optimistic and positive about it.

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A Guide To Modern Funk For The Dance Floor: L'Imperatrice, Shiro Schwarz, Franc Moody, Say She She & Moniquea
Franc Moody

Photo: Rachel Kupfer 


A Guide To Modern Funk For The Dance Floor: L'Imperatrice, Shiro Schwarz, Franc Moody, Say She She & Moniquea

James Brown changed the sound of popular music when he found the power of the one and unleashed the funk with "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." Today, funk lives on in many forms, including these exciting bands from across the world.

GRAMMYs/Nov 25, 2022 - 04:23 pm

It's rare that a genre can be traced back to a single artist or group, but for funk, that was James Brown. The Godfather of Soul coined the phrase and style of playing known as "on the one," where the first downbeat is emphasized, instead of the typical second and fourth beats in pop, soul and other styles. As David Cheal eloquently explains, playing on the one "left space for phrases and riffs, often syncopated around the beat, creating an intricate, interlocking grid which could go on and on." You know a funky bassline when you hear it; its fat chords beg your body to get up and groove.

Brown's 1965 classic, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," became one of the first funk hits, and has been endlessly sampled and covered over the years, along with his other groovy tracks. Of course, many other funk acts followed in the '60s, and the genre thrived in the '70s and '80s as the disco craze came and went, and the originators of hip-hop and house music created new music from funk and disco's strong, flexible bones built for dancing.

Legendary funk bassist Bootsy Collins learned the power of the one from playing in Brown's band, and brought it to George Clinton, who created P-funk, an expansive, Afrofuturistic, psychedelic exploration of funk with his various bands and projects, including Parliament-Funkadelic. Both Collins and Clinton remain active and funkin', and have offered their timeless grooves to collabs with younger artists, including Kali Uchis, Silk Sonic, and Omar Apollo; and Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, and Thundercat, respectively.

In the 1980s, electro-funk was born when artists like Afrika Bambaataa, Man Parrish, and Egyptian Lover began making futuristic beats with the Roland TR-808 drum machine — often with robotic vocals distorted through a talk box. A key distinguishing factor of electro-funk is a de-emphasis on vocals, with more phrases than choruses and verses. The sound influenced contemporaneous hip-hop, funk and electronica, along with acts around the globe, while current acts like Chromeo, DJ Stingray, and even Egyptian Lover himself keep electro-funk alive and well.

Today, funk lives in many places, with its heavy bass and syncopated grooves finding way into many nooks and crannies of music. There's nu-disco and boogie funk, nodding back to disco bands with soaring vocals and dance floor-designed instrumentation. G-funk continues to influence Los Angeles hip-hop, with innovative artists like Dam-Funk and Channel Tres bringing the funk and G-funk, into electro territory. Funk and disco-centered '70s revival is definitely having a moment, with acts like Ghost Funk Orchestra and Parcels, while its sparkly sprinklings can be heard in pop from Dua Lipa, Doja Cat, and, in full "Soul Train" character, Silk Sonic. There are also acts making dreamy, atmospheric music with a solid dose of funk, such as Khruangbin’s global sonic collage.

There are many bands that play heavily with funk, creating lush grooves designed to get you moving. Read on for a taste of five current modern funk and nu-disco artists making band-led uptempo funk built for the dance floor. Be sure to press play on the Spotify playlist above, and check out's playlist on Apple Music, Amazon Music and Pandora.

Say She She

Aptly self-described as "discodelic soul," Brooklyn-based seven-piece Say She She make dreamy, operatic funk, led by singer-songwriters Nya Gazelle Brown, Piya Malik and Sabrina Mileo Cunningham. Their '70s girl group-inspired vocal harmonies echo, sooth and enchant as they cover poignant topics with feminist flair.

While they’ve been active in the New York scene for a few years, they’ve gained wider acclaim for the irresistible music they began releasing this year, including their debut album, Prism. Their 2022 debut single "Forget Me Not" is an ode to ground-breaking New York art collective Guerilla Girls, and "Norma" is their protest anthem in response to the news that Roe vs. Wade could be (and was) overturned. The band name is a nod to funk legend Nile Rodgers, from the "Le freak, c'est chi" exclamation in Chic's legendary tune "Le Freak."


Moniquea's unique voice oozes confidence, yet invites you in to dance with her to the super funky boogie rhythms. The Pasadena, California artist was raised on funk music; her mom was in a cover band that would play classics like Aretha Franklin’s "Get It Right" and Gladys Knight’s "Love Overboard." Moniquea released her first boogie funk track at 20 and, in 2011, met local producer XL Middelton — a bonafide purveyor of funk. She's been a star artist on his MoFunk Records ever since, and they've collabed on countless tracks, channeling West Coast energy with a heavy dose of G-funk, sunny lyrics and upbeat, roller disco-ready rhythms.

Her latest release is an upbeat nod to classic West Coast funk, produced by Middleton, and follows her February 2022 groovy, collab-filled album, On Repeat.

Shiro Schwarz

Shiro Schwarz is a Mexico City-based duo, consisting of Pammela Rojas and Rafael Marfil, who helped establish a modern funk scene in the richly creative Mexican metropolis. On "Electrify" — originally released in 2016 on Fat Beats Records and reissued in 2021 by MoFunk — Shiro Schwarz's vocals playfully contrast each other, floating over an insistent, upbeat bassline and an '80s throwback electro-funk rhythm with synth flourishes.

Their music manages to be both nostalgic and futuristic — and impossible to sit still to. 2021 single "Be Kind" is sweet, mellow and groovy, perfect chic lounge funk. Shiro Schwarz’s latest track, the joyfully nostalgic "Hey DJ," is a collab with funkstress Saucy Lady and U-Key.


L'Impératrice (the empress in French) are a six-piece Parisian group serving an infectiously joyful blend of French pop, nu-disco, funk and psychedelia. Flore Benguigui's vocals are light and dreamy, yet commanding of your attention, while lyrics have a feminist touch.

During their energetic live sets, L'Impératrice members Charles de Boisseguin and Hagni Gwon (keys), David Gaugué (bass), Achille Trocellier (guitar), and Tom Daveau (drums) deliver extended instrumental jam sessions to expand and connect their music. Gaugué emphasizes the thick funky bass, and Benguigui jumps around the stage while sounding like an angel. L’Impératrice’s latest album, 2021’s Tako Tsubo, is a sunny, playful French disco journey.

Franc Moody

Franc Moody's bio fittingly describes their music as "a soul funk and cosmic disco sound." The London outfit was birthed by friends Ned Franc and Jon Moody in the early 2010s, when they were living together and throwing parties in North London's warehouse scene. In 2017, the group grew to six members, including singer and multi-instrumentalist Amber-Simone.

Their music feels at home with other electro-pop bands like fellow Londoners Jungle and Aussie act Parcels. While much of it is upbeat and euphoric, Franc Moody also dips into the more chilled, dreamy realm, such as the vibey, sultry title track from their recently released Into the Ether.

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Living Legends: Billy Idol On Survival, Revival & Breaking Out Of The Cage
Billy Idol

Photo: Steven Sebring


Living Legends: Billy Idol On Survival, Revival & Breaking Out Of The Cage

"One foot in the past and one foot into the future," Billy Idol says, describing his decade-spanning career in rock. "We’ve got the best of all possible worlds because that has been the modus operandi of Billy Idol."

GRAMMYs/Nov 25, 2022 - 04:19 pm

Living Legends is a series that spotlights icons in music still going strong today. This week, spoke with Billy Idol about his latest EP,  Cage, and continuing to rock through decades of changing tastes.

Billy Idol is a true rock 'n' roll survivor who has persevered through cultural shifts and personal struggles. While some may think of Idol solely for "Rebel Yell" and "White Wedding," the singer's musical influences span genres and many of his tunes are less turbo-charged than his '80s hits would belie.  

Idol first made a splash in the latter half of the '70s with the British punk band Generation X. In the '80s, he went on to a solo career combining rock, pop, and punk into a distinct sound that transformed him and his musical partner, guitarist Steve Stevens, into icons. They have racked up multiple GRAMMY nominations, in addition to one gold, one double platinum, and four platinum albums thanks to hits like "Cradle Of Love," "Flesh For Fantasy," and "Eyes Without A Face." 

But, unlike many legacy artists, Idol is anything but a relic. Billy continues to produce vital Idol music by collaborating with producers and songwriters — including Miley Cyrus — who share his forward-thinking vision. He will play a five-show Vegas residency in November, and filmmaker Jonas Akerlund is working on a documentary about Idol’s life. 

His latest release is Cage, the second in a trilogy of annual four-song EPs. The title track is a classic Billy Idol banger expressing the desire to free himself from personal constraints and live a better life. Other tracks on Cage incorporate metallic riffing and funky R&B grooves. 

Idol continues to reckon with his demons — they both grappled with addiction during the '80s — and the singer is open about those struggles on the record and the page. (Idol's 2014 memoir Dancing With Myself, details a 1990 motorcycle accident that nearly claimed a leg, and how becoming a father steered him to reject hard drugs. "Bitter Taste," from his last EP, The Roadside, reflects on surviving the accident.)

Although Idol and Stevens split in the late '80s — the skilled guitarist fronted Steve Stevens & The Atomic Playboys, and collaborated with Michael Jackson, Rick Ocasek, Vince Neil, and Harold Faltermeyer (on the GRAMMY-winning "Top Gun Anthem") —  their common history and shared musical bond has been undeniable. The duo reunited in 2001 for an episode of "VH1 Storytellers" and have been back in the saddle for two decades. Their union remains one of the strongest collaborations in rock 'n roll history.

While there is recognizable personnel and a distinguishable sound throughout a lot of his work, Billy Idol has always pushed himself to try different things. Idol discusses his musical journey, his desire to constantly move forward, and the strong connection that he shares with Stevens. 

Steve has said that you like to mix up a variety of styles, yet everyone assumes you're the "Rebel Yell"/"White Wedding" guy. But if they really listen to your catalog, it's vastly different.

Yeah, that's right. With someone like Steve Stevens, and then back in the day Keith Forsey producing... [Before that] Generation X actually did move around inside punk rock. We didn't stay doing just the Ramones two-minute music. We actually did a seven-minute song. [Laughs]. We did always mix things up. 

Then when I got into my solo career, that was the fun of it. With someone like Steve, I knew what he could do. I could see whatever we needed to do, we could nail it. The world was my oyster musically. 

"Cage" is a classic-sounding Billy Idol rocker, then "Running From The Ghost" is almost metal, like what the Devil's Playground album was like back in the mid-2000s. "Miss Nobody" comes out of nowhere with this pop/R&B flavor. What inspired that?

We really hadn't done anything like that since something like "Flesh For Fantasy" [which] had a bit of an R&B thing about it. Back in the early days of Billy Idol, "Hot In The City" and "Mony Mony" had girls [singing] on the backgrounds. 

We always had a bit of R&B really, so it was actually fun to revisit that. We just hadn't done anything really quite like that for a long time. That was one of the reasons to work with someone like Sam Hollander [for the song "Rita Hayworth"] on The Roadside. We knew we could go [with him] into an R&B world, and he's a great songwriter and producer. That's the fun of music really, trying out these things and seeing if you can make them stick. 

I listen to new music by veteran artists and debate that with some people. I'm sure you have those fans that want their nostalgia, and then there are some people who will embrace the newer stuff. Do you find it’s a challenge to reach people with new songs?

Obviously, what we're looking for is, how do we somehow have one foot in the past and one foot into the future? We’ve got the best of all possible worlds because that has been the modus operandi of Billy Idol. 

You want to do things that are true to you, and you don't just want to try and do things that you're seeing there in the charts today. I think that we're achieving it with things like "Running From The Ghost" and "Cage" on this new EP. I think we’re managing to do both in a way. 

Obviously, "Running From The Ghost" is about addiction, all the stuff that you went through, and in "Cage" you’re talking about  freeing yourself from a lot of personal shackles. Was there any one moment in your life that made you really thought I have to not let this weigh me down anymore?

I mean, things like the motorcycle accident I had, that was a bit of a wake up call way back. It was 32 years ago. But there were things like that, years ago, that gradually made me think about what I was doing with my life. I didn't want to ruin it, really. I didn't want to throw it away, and it made [me] be less cavalier. 

I had to say to myself, about the drugs and stuff, that I've been there and I've done it. There’s no point in carrying on doing it. You couldn't get any higher. You didn't want to throw your life away casually, and I was close to doing that. It took me a bit of time, but then gradually I was able to get control of myself to a certain extent [with] drugs and everything. And I think Steve's done the same thing. We're on a similar path really, which has been great because we're in the same boat in terms of lyrics and stuff. 

So a lot of things like that were wake up calls. Even having grandchildren and just watching my daughter enlarging her family and everything; it just makes you really positive about things and want to show a positive side to how you're feeling, about where you're going. We've lived with the demons so long, we've found a way to live with them. We found a way to be at peace with our demons, in a way. Maybe not completely, but certainly to where we’re enjoying what we do and excited about it.

[When writing] "Running From The Ghost" it was easy to go, what was the ghost for us? At one point, we were very drug addicted in the '80s. And Steve in particular is super sober [now]. I mean, I still vape pot and stuff. I don’t know how he’s doing it, but it’s incredible. All I want to be able to do is have a couple of glasses of wine at a restaurant or something. I can do that now.

I think working with people that are super talented, you just feel confident. That is a big reason why you open up and express yourself more because you feel comfortable with what's around you.

Did you watch Danny Boyle's recent Sex Pistols mini-series?

I did, yes.

You had a couple of cameos; well, an actor who portrayed you did. How did you react to it? How accurate do you think it was in portraying that particular time period?

I love Jonesy’s book, I thought his book was incredible. It's probably one of the best bio books really. It was incredible and so open. I was looking forward to that a lot.

It was as if [the show] kind of stayed with Steve [Jones’ memoir] about halfway through, and then departed from it. [John] Lydon, for instance, was never someone I ever saw acting out; he's more like that today. I never saw him do something like jump up in the room and run around going crazy. The only time I saw him ever do that was when they signed the recording deal with Virgin in front of Buckingham Palace. Whereas Sid Vicious was always acting out; he was always doing something in a horrible way or shouting at someone. I don't remember John being like that. I remember him being much more introverted.

But then I watched interviews with some of the actors about coming to grips with the parts they were playing. And they were saying, we knew punk rock happened but just didn't know any of the details. So I thought well, there you go. If ["Pistol" is]  informing a lot of people who wouldn't know anything about punk rock, maybe that's what's good about it.

Maybe down the road John Lydon will get the chance to do John's version of the Pistols story. Maybe someone will go a lot deeper into it and it won't be so surface. But maybe you needed this just to get people back in the flow.

We had punk and metal over here in the States, but it feels like England it was legitimately more dangerous. British society was much more rigid.

It never went [as] mega in America. It went big in England. It exploded when the Pistols did that interview with [TV host Bill] Grundy, that lorry truck driver put his boot through his own TV, and all the national papers had "the filth and the fury" [headlines].

We went from being unknown to being known overnight. We waited a year, Generation X. We even told them [record labels] no for nine months to a year. Every record company wanted their own punk rock group. So it went really mega in England, and it affected the whole country – the style, the fashions, everything. I mean, the Ramones were massive in England. Devo had a No. 1 song [in England] with "Satisfaction" in '77. Actually, Devo was as big as or bigger than the Pistols.

You were ahead of the pop-punk thing that happened in the late '90s, and a lot of it became tongue-in-cheek by then. It didn't have the same sense of rebelliousness as the original movement. It was more pop.

It had become a style. There was a famous book in England called Revolt Into Style — and that's what had happened, a revolt that turned into style which then they were able to duplicate in their own way. Even recently, Billie Joe [Armstrong] did his own version of "Gimme Some Truth," the Lennon song we covered way back in 1977.

When we initially were making [punk] music, it hadn't become accepted yet. It was still dangerous and turned into a style that people were used to. We were still breaking barriers.

You have a band called Generation Sex with Steve Jones and Paul Cook. I assume you all have an easier time playing Pistols and Gen X songs together now and not worrying about getting spit on like back in the '70s?

Yeah, definitely. When I got to America I told the group I was putting it together, "No one spits at the audience."

We had five years of being spat on [in the UK], and it was revolting. And they spat at you if they liked you. If they didn't like it they smashed your gear up. One night, I remember I saw blood on my T-shirt, and I think Joe Strummer got meningitis when spit went in his mouth.

You had to go through a lot to become successful, it wasn't like you just kind of got up there and did a couple of gigs. I don't think some young rock bands really get that today.

With punk going so mega in England, we definitely got a leg up. We still had a lot of work to get where we got to, and rightly so because you find out that you need to do that. A lot of groups in the old days would be together three to five years before they ever made a record, and that time is really important. In a way, what was great about punk rock for me was it was very much a learning period. I really learned a lot [about] recording music and being in a group and even writing songs.

Then when I came to America, it was a flow, really. I also really started to know what I wanted Billy Idol to be. It took me a little bit, but I kind of knew what I wanted Billy Idol to be. And even that took a while to let it marinate.

You and Miley Cyrus have developed a good working relationship in the last several years. How do you think her fans have responded to you, and your fans have responded to her?

I think they're into it. It's more the record company that she had didn't really get "Night Crawling"— it was one of the best songs on Plastic Hearts, and I don't think they understood that. They wanted to go with Dua Lipa, they wanted to go with the modern, young acts, and I don't think they realized that that song was resonating with her fans. Which is a shame really because, with Andrew Watt producing, it's a hit song.

But at the same time, I enjoyed doing it. It came out really good and it's very Billy Idol. In fact, I think it’s more Billy Idol than Miley Cyrus. I think it shows you where Andrew Watt was. He was excited about doing a Billy Idol track. She's fun to work with. She’s a really great person and she works at her singing — I watched her rehearsing for the Super Bowl performance she gave. She rehearsed all Saturday morning, all Saturday afternoon, and Sunday morning and it was that afternoon. I have to admire her fortitude. She really cares.

I remember when you went on "Viva La Bamback in 2005 and decided to give Bam Margera’s Lamborghini a new sunroof by taking a power saw to it. Did he own that car? Was that a rental?

I think it was his car.

Did he get over it later on?

He loved it. [Laughs] He’s got a wacky sense of humor. He’s fantastic, actually. I’m really sorry to see what he's been going through just lately. He's going through a lot, and I wish him the best. He's a fantastic person, and it's a shame that he's struggling so much with his addictions. I know what it's like. It's not easy.

Musically, what is the synergy like with you guys during the past 10 years, doing Kings and Queens of the Underground and this new stuff? What is your working relationship like now in this more sober, older, mature version of you two as opposed to what it was like back in the '80s?

In lots of ways it’s not so different because we always wrote the songs together, we always talked about what we're going to do together. It was just that we were getting high at the same time.We're just not getting [that way now] but we're doing all the same things.

We're still talking about things, still [planning] things:What are we going to do next? How are we going to find new people to work with? We want to find new producers. Let's be a little bit more timely about putting stuff out.That part of our relationship is the same, you know what I mean? That never got affected. We just happened to be overloading in the '80s.

The relationship’s… matured and it's carrying on being fruitful, and I think that's pretty amazing. Really, most people don't get to this place. Usually, they hate each other by now. [Laughs] We also give each other space. We're not stopping each other doing things outside of what we’re working on together. All of that enables us to carry on working together. I love and admire him. I respect him. He's been fantastic. I mean, just standing there on stage with him is always a treat. And he’s got an immensely great sense of humor. I think that's another reason why we can hang together after all this time because we've got the sense of humor to enable us to go forward.

There's a lot of fan reaction videos online, and I noticed a lot of younger women like "Rebel Yell" because, unlike a lot of other '80s alpha male rock tunes, you're talking about satisfying your lover.

It was about my girlfriend at the time, Perri Lister. It was about how great I thought she was, how much I was in love with her, and how great women are, how powerful they are.

It was a bit of a feminist anthem in a weird way. It was all about how relationships can free you and add a lot to your life. It was a cry of love, nothing to do with the Civil War or anything like that. Perri was a big part of my life, a big part of being Billy Idol. I wanted to write about it. I'm glad that's the effect.

Is there something you hope people get out of the songs you've been doing over the last 10 years? Do you find yourself putting out a message that keeps repeating?

Well, I suppose, if anything, is that you can come to terms with your life, you can keep a hold of it. You can work your dreams into reality in a way and, look, a million years later, still be enjoying it.

The only reason I'm singing about getting out of the cage is because I kicked out of the cage years ago. I joined Generation X when I said to my parents, "I'm leaving university, and I'm joining a punk rock group." And they didn't even know what a punk rock group was. Years ago, I’d write things for myself that put me on this path, so that maybe in 2022 I could sing something like "Cage" and be owning this territory and really having a good time. This is the life I wanted.

The original UK punk movement challenged societal norms. Despite all the craziness going on throughout the world, it seems like a lot of modern rock bands are afraid to do what you guys were doing. Do you think we'll see a shift in that?

Yeah.  Art usually reacts to things, so I would think eventually there will be a massive reaction to the pop music that’s taken over — the middle of the road music, and then this kind of right wing politics. There will be a massive reaction if there's not already one. I don’t know where it will come from exactly. You never know who's gonna do [it].

Living Legends: Nancy Sinatra Reflects On Creating "Power And Magic" In Studio, Developing A Legacy Beyond "Boots" & The Pop Stars She Wants To Work With

Hear All Of The Best Country Solo Performance Nominees For The 2023 GRAMMY Awards
2023 GRAMMYs

Graphic: The Recording Academy


Hear All Of The Best Country Solo Performance Nominees For The 2023 GRAMMY Awards

The 2023 GRAMMY Award nominees for Best Country Solo Performance highlight country music's newcomers and veterans, featuring hits from Kelsea Ballerini, Zach Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris and Willie Nelson.

GRAMMYs/Nov 23, 2022 - 03:01 pm

Country music's evolution is well represented in the 2023 GRAMMY nominees for Best Country Solo Performance. From crossover pop hooks to red-dirt outlaw roots, the genre's most celebrated elements are on full display — thanks to rising stars, leading ladies and country icons.

Longtime hitmaker Miranda Lambert delivered a soulful performance on the rootsy ballad "In His Arms," an arrangement as sparing as the windswept west Texas highlands where she co-wrote the song. Viral newcomer Zach Bryan dug into similar organic territory on the Oklahoma side of the Red River for "Something in the Orange," his voice accompanied with little more than an acoustic guitar.

Two of country's 2010s breakout stars are clearly still shining, too, as Maren Morris and Kelsea Ballerini both received Best Country Solo Performance GRAMMY nods. Morris channeled the determination that drove her leap-of-faith move from Texas to Nashville for the playful clap-along "Circles Around This Town," while Ballerini brought poppy hooks with a country edge on the infectiously upbeat "HEARTFIRST."

Rounding out the category is the one and only Willie Nelson, who paid tribute to his late friend Billy Joe Shaver with a cover of "Live Forever" — a fitting sentiment for the 89-year-old legend, who is approaching his eighth decade in the business. 

As the excitement builds for the 2023 GRAMMYs on Feb. 5, 2023, let's take a closer look at this year's nominees for Best Country Solo Performance.

Kelsea Ballerini — "HEARTFIRST"

In the tradition of Shania Twain, Faith Hill and Carrie Underwood, Kelsea Ballerini represents Nashville's sunnier side — and her single "HEARTFIRST" is a slice of bright, uptempo, confectionary country-pop for the ages.

Ballerini sings about leaning into a carefree crush with her heart on her sleeve, pushing aside her reservations and taking a risk on love at first sight. The scene plays out in a bar room and a back seat, as she sweeps nimbly through the verses and into a shimmering chorus, when the narrator decides she's ready to "wake up in your T-shirt." 

There are enough steel guitar licks to let you know you're listening to a country song, but the story and melody are universal. "HEARTFIRST" is Ballerini's third GRAMMY nod, but first in the Best Country Solo Performance category.

Zach Bryan — "Something In The Orange"

Zach Bryan blew into Music City seemingly from nowhere in 2017, when his original song "Heading South" — recorded on an iPhone — went viral. Then an active officer in the U.S. Navy, the Oklahoma native chased his muse through music during his downtime, striking a chord with country music fans on stark songs led by his acoustic guitar and affecting vocals.

After his honorable discharge in 2021, Bryan began his music career in earnest, and in 2022 released "Something in the Orange," a haunting ballad that stakes a convincing claim to the territory between Tyler Childers and Jason Isbell in both sonics and songwriting. Slashing slide guitar drives home the song's heartbreak, as Bryan pines for a lover whose tail lights have long since vanished over the horizon. 

"Something In The Orange" marks Bryan's first-ever GRAMMY nomination.

Miranda Lambert — "In His Arms"

Miranda Lambert is the rare, chart-topping contemporary country artist who does more than pay lip service to the genre's rural American roots. "In His Arms" originally surfaced on 2021's The Marfa Tapes, a casual recording Lambert made with Jack Ingram and Jon Randall in Marfa, Texas — a tiny arts enclave in the middle of the west Texas high desert.

In this proper studio version — recorded for her 2022 album, Palomino — Lambert retains the structure and organic feel of the mostly acoustic song; light percussion and soothing atmospherics keep her emotive vocals front and center. A native Texan herself, Lambert sounds fully at home on "In His Arms."

Lambert is the only Best Country Solo Performance nominee who is nominated in all four Country Field categories in 2023. To date, Miranda Lambert has won 3 GRAMMYs and received 27 nominations overall. 

Maren Morris — "Circles Around This Town"

When Maren Morris found herself uninspired and dealing with writer's block, she went back to what inspired her to move to Nashville nearly a decade ago — and out came "Circles Around This Town," the lead single from her 2022 album Humble Quest.

Written in one of her first in-person songwriting sessions since the pandemic, Morris has called "Circles Around This Town" her "most autobiographical song" to date; she even recreated her own teenage bedroom for the song's video. As she looks back to her Texas beginnings and the life she left for Nashville, Morris' voice soars over anthemic, yet easygoing production. 

Morris last won a GRAMMY for Best Country Solo Performance in 2017, when her song "My Church" earned the singer her first GRAMMY. To date, Maren Morris has won one GRAMMY and received 17 nominations overall.

Willie Nelson — "Live Forever"

Country music icon Willie Nelson is no stranger to the GRAMMYs, and this year he aims to add to his collection of 10 gramophones. He earned another three nominations for 2023 — bringing his career total to 56 — including a Best Country Solo Performance nod for "Live Forever."

Nelson's performance of "Live Forever," the lead track of the 2022 tribute album Live Forever: A Tribute to Billy Joe Shaver, is a faithful rendition of Shaver's signature song. Still, Nelson puts his own twist on the tune, recruiting Lucinda Williams for backing vocals and echoing the melody with the inimitable tone of his nylon-string Martin guitar. 

Shaver, an outlaw country pioneer who passed in 2020 at 81 years old, never had any hits of his own during his lifetime. But plenty of his songs were still heard, thanks to stars like Elvis Presley, Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings. Nelson was a longtime friend and frequent collaborator of Shaver's — and now has a GRAMMY nom to show for it.

2023 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Complete Nominees List

Listen: All Of The Latin Music 2023 GRAMMY Nominees In One Playlist
The Recording Academy

Graphic: The Recording Academy


Listen: All Of The Latin Music 2023 GRAMMY Nominees In One Playlist

Ahead of Music's Biggest Night on Feb. 5, 2023, celebrate with this immersive playlist of every Latin Field nominee at the 2023 GRAMMYs.

GRAMMYs/Nov 22, 2022 - 11:48 pm

The Latin GRAMMYs may have just honored the genre's trailblazers in Las Vegas on Nov. 17, but the celebration will continue at the upcoming 65th GRAMMY Awards ceremony in February. There are five categories in the Latin Field of the 2023 GRAMMY nominations — and you can hear all of the nominees in one playlist.

In the Best Latin Pop Album category, are Christina Aguilera's Latin GRAMMY-winning AGUILERA will compete with Rubén Blades & Boca Livre's Pasieros, Camilo's De Adendro Pa Afuera, Fonseca's VIAJANTE, and Sebastián Yatra's Dharma+. Channeling their lively Latin roots while traversing pop landscapes, these albums all magnetically merge tradition and modernity.

Reggaeton, dancehall, hip hop, and funk coalesce in the nominated works for Best Música Urbana Album: Rauw Alejandro's Trap Cake, Vol. 2, Bad Bunny's Un Verano Sin Ti, Daddy Yankee's LEGENDADDY, Farruko's La 167, and Maluma's The Love & Sex Tape.

The genre-blending jubilation continues with the Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album category. This year's nominees are Cimafunk's El Alimento, Jorge Drexler's Tinta y Tiempo, Mon Laferte's 1940 Carmen, Gaby Moreno's Alegoría, Fito Paez's Los Años Salvajes, and Rosalía's MOTOMAMI.

For Best Regional Mexican Music Album (Including Tejano), 2021 winner Natalia Lafourcade's Un Canto por México - El Musical is up against Chiquis' Abeja Reina, Los Tigres Del Norte's La Reunión (Deluxe), Christian Nodal's EP #1 Forajido, and Marco Antonio Solís' ​​Qué Ganas de Verte (Deluxe)

As for Best Tropical Latin Album, Marc Anthony — a two-time winner in the category — returns as a nominee with Pa'lla Voy, alongside pioneers Tito Nieves (nominated for Legendario), La Santa Cecilia (Quiero Verte Feliz), Víctor Manuelle (Lado A Lado B), Spanish Harlem Orchestra (Imágenes Latinas), and Carlos Vives (Cumbiana II).

Listen to all of the above albums in this comprehensive, 338-song playlist of the Latin music GRAMMY nominees at the 2023 GRAMMYs.

​​Check it out on Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music — and we'll see you at Music's Biggest Night on Sunday, Feb. 5!

2023 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Complete Nominees List