meta-scriptAlbert Hammond Jr., Beirut & Bob Mould Among First To Join Noise Pop 2019 Lineup |
Albert Hammond Jr., Beirut & Bob Mould Among First To Join Noise Pop 2019 Lineup

Albert Hammond Jr.

Photo: Andrew Benge


Albert Hammond Jr., Beirut & Bob Mould Among First To Join Noise Pop 2019 Lineup

San Francisco's annual indie music and arts festival returns for its 26th year in February with another exciting lineup of established greats and up-and-comers

GRAMMYs/Oct 26, 2018 - 04:16 am

The Noise Pop Festival has kept the spirit of indie music and arts alive in the San Francisco Bay Area for 25 years, and as its 26th year approaches, has announced the initial lineup of the weeklong festivities that will continue to feature a mix of up-and-coming indie artists as well as established ones on Feb. 25.

Noise Pop is at its heart an indie festival, celebrating indie musicians and artists of all varieties. The Noise Pop 2019 Phase One lineup already boasts several established, fan-favorite artists including indie rock/folk darlings Beirut, The Stroke's guitarist Albert Hammond Jr., Bob Mould of '80s alt-rock group Hüsker Dü and Scottish alt-rock group Teenage Fanclub, who've been making music since 1990.

The festival also prides itself on bringing "early exposure to many emerging artists," plenty of which have gone on to become big names. The list includes GRAMMY-winners White Stripes and The Flaming Lips, GRAMMY-nominees Death Cab for Cutie and Modest Mouse and indie-rock classics The Shins and Bright Eyes.

This year, the initial lineup has already plenty of artists to watch out for, including L.A-based electro/dream-pop artist Baths, NYC-based indie-pop singer/songwriter Caroline Rose, Aussie electro-R&B duo Kllo, L.A.-based singer/songwriter Current Joys and more. 

The festival will come to life through a variety of venues across San Francisco and Oakland, along with art shows, film screenings and happy hours to keep music lovers busy all week. Passes are available for access to all of the events, as well as individual tickets for shows. More information is available on Noise Pop's website.

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Beirut's Zach Condon Lost His Sense Of Self — Then Found It Within A Church Organ
Zach Condon of Beirut

Photo: Lina Gaisser


Beirut's Zach Condon Lost His Sense Of Self — Then Found It Within A Church Organ

The Beirut star who captivated the hipster set with tunes like "Postcards from Italy" is a bottomless musical thinker. He explains how he found his way back from the hell of 2019, and crafted an enveloping new album, 'Hadsel.'

GRAMMYs/Nov 14, 2023 - 03:23 pm

Since the release of his first album as Beirut, in 2006, Zach Condon has both enjoyed numberless enviable successes and been through the wringer. Divorce, mental illness — which clobbered his body and grounded him as a touring act — the whole nine yards.

"I canceled everything, and I just told the band, 'Sorry, guys, it's not working,'" Condon tells from his home in Berlin, of a third tour that had fallen through due to respiratory maladies. "Clearly, these physical issues were clearly caused by some mental issue.

"I think my body was just like, We've tried everything," elaborates the walking definition of an uneasy tourer. He takes on the voice of his physiology: "Oh, if you take the voice out, he just goes home."

The experience left Condon demoralized and "shattered." But there was a silver lining. In an effort to lick his wounds — and regroup from the mental maladies that had made him turn to substances, and sober up in 2018 — Condon absconded to the arctic Norwegian island of Hadsel. On a colossal organ in a 19th century church, began to throw ideas at the wall.

The result is the magisterial, borderline liturgical Hadsel, which finds the tenacious Pitchfork-era indie darling of yore completing a circle.

"It enabled me to work on my own again; I think I had come more and more to rely on the and and even in the studio," he says. "Doing this one completely alone reminded me of how I started, which was just as a bedroom kind of four track guy.

"It is very liberating to be like, oh, you know what? I'm actually more capable of this than I thought," he continues. "And it's not like I've just creatively worn out and burnt out. It's like there's really a fire burning underneath — if I don't kill myself going on tour."

Read on for an interview with the erudite, incisive Condon, where he elaborates on Hadsel from all directions.

The first thing I thought of while listening to Hadsel was the timbral multitudes of the church organ. The entire record seems to exude from it. What speaks to you about the pure sound of the instrument?

So, there's the pump organ and the church organ. And the pump organ, which is on most of the record, feels like a warm blanket of an embrace, sonically. It's just like the warmest roundest tone and it's just breathing and wheezing in this really nice way and it's kind of droning.

So for me, that was the fireplace at the center of the album — the warmth and the shelter and all that stuff. And then I was getting really into these modular synth things.

[Looks over Zach's shoulder] I noticed.

And when you say timbral, I'm often thinking of that kind of stuff — because there you're teasing out all these frequencies and overtones. And the better you get at it, the more you can get these really interesting tonalities.

But [the organ] is much more chaotic and woozy. And I kind of considered that to be almost like the outside forces, or almost like the weather patterns outside rather than the kind of warm focus in the center.

I liked mixing those too. It wasn't conscious; It's not like I went there and I was like, Oh, you know what's going to be great, is modular synth and pump organ. I just happened to be really interested in both, and that's what happened.

Where do the two connect for you?

What's funny to me is, the church organ feels like the first modular instrument to me. This is all about sound manipulation and tone manipulation. And then the church organ is basically the insane, gothic version of that where it's like, I'm going to make an orchestra of flutes that you can play by hand, but then you can change them into trumpets and mix it with both of them and you can get exactly the sound you're looking for.

So it's that kind of insanity that only humans have. That's one of the reasons I love that instrument so much.

There are so many lineages and pantheons of the organ. Which one are you most interested or steeped in?

I've been learning a lot about the church organs, because it's just so fascinating. But my bread and butter is certainly with the reed organs because they make the most sense to me and they're the most versatile in some ways.

The funniest thing I've stumbled upon is they still have [church] organs in places like Spain and Italy that are so old that they use the system they had before they had electric air pumps. Literally, one monk would just sit there with the giant bellows trying not to push too hard or too slow in order to keep the tone steady, while another monk would sit there and play. Which is quite funny to watch, actually.

That rickety, unwieldy inhalation and exhalation — I'm sure that affected what you were writing, as far as pulse is concerned.

Yeah, it does, too. Usually, they have a kind of bellow — like a reservoir that you fill, and it [emits] one constant amount all the time. It never changes.

But the way I've been using it is not like that. It's like the moment you press down, it'll swell and then go back. And so there really is a kind of expressiveness, even though it drones. And I feel like that's the best way it sounds is when it drones, there is some room for expression.

You lay out the story of Hadsel rather well in the press release. But what place of the heart did the album spring from?

I was quite shattered in 2019. That's a big part of the story. I don't even know if I wrote that down in that part.

But 2018 was the year that I had sobered up, and I was like, 2019, I'm going to take over the world. As in, I'm going to do this world tour, and I'm going to pay my band really well, and it's going to be this triumphant return to form. And the moment I got on the road — I went through three tours. The first one I spent the whole time on steroids and antibiotics because I was sick the entire time.


The second one, I was sick again. Within one week. I got a horrible upper respiratory infection, and I was on antibiotics and steroids, and it got so bad I still had to cancel that tour.

And, then I went on a third tour in Europe. And again, one week into the road, I got terribly sick. And I went to a doctor and was like, "Just give me the drugs." And he was like, "If you keep doing this, you're not going to sing anymore and your body's going to fall apart." It was like, Why would you do this to yourself?

So I canceled everything. I still had all these European dates. I had Brazil, and Mexico, and much more, even. And I canceled everything. And I just told the band, "Sorry, guys, it's not working." Clearly, these physical issues were clearly caused by some mental issue.

And so, when I went up to Hadsel, I was kind of fleeing from all that. I had had these difficult dealings with insurance companies. I had just told the band that we probably wouldn't be touring ever again, which is still true.

I was in a really, really low place. I was fleeing things and all these things that I had pushed aside since I was quite young, 15, 16 years old. Covering everything up with alcohol, and with all sorts of things.

It was all just hitting me at the same time while I was making this record, I didn't think, it's not like I went up there with this perfect plan. I actually was more like, I'm going to go up there and relax.

But then, I saw that they had this organ. So, I brought equipment with me, and I thought it would just kind of be hobby style — just get lost in the music, or whatever. So it wasn't until I came back from Berlin that I actually was like, I can make this mess an album if I try.

To bring it back to the music, how did the other necessary musical ingredients announce themselves — from that warm, foggy, musty bed of the organ?

Well, usually the bed actually started with the frame of the drums. So because I'm not really a percussionist, actually, that's one of the reasons I was bringing this along is I was like, "This will be my drum machine."

I'm super obsessed with old analog drum machines. [Gestures] I have the old Rolands over there, for example. And I would mix the two. And then I started using the modular almost entirely as a drum machine, which originally wasn't why I started using it, but I realized it made these very interesting, bongo-like electroacoustic sounds.

Then, I would just spend hours deep in that sound-making without thinking about melody or harmony or anything at all. That would just get you in this weird, repetitious, kind of train-like state.

Eventually, I would stand back and let the machine just go and go and go, and then I would start playing the organ over it. It just seemed like the natural next step. And then that would lead [elsewhere]; I mean, if you listen, most of the songs are pretty much built around that.

And then, I would throw some melodic elements on and some hand drums, for example. Then, maybe a trumpet line or some French horn. And eventually, I got the baritone ukulele, and I realized that it had the same warmth as the organ somehow.

Overall, what was your approach to harmony on Hadsel?

I was listening to a lot of choir music at the time, but I don't know if I learned anything from it or if I was just impressed by it.

My way of harmony is weird — because when I work with other people, I realize they do it super differently. I have a couple well-schooled brass guys that play live in the band, and they think about it beforehand.

I'll sing one part, and then mute that part, and then I'll sing another part that just sounds nice to me. And then I'll mute that one, and I'll sing a third part that sounds nice to me. And then I'll just unmute and be like, Does that work? Flying blind is kind of the way I go.

I had no idea you were into modular synths, or even theory. Have you always been an under-the-hood kind of guy?

The only instrument I was trained in was trumpet. And then, my teacher spent a whole year [with me] when I was in high school. He sat me down with music theory, and I was so furious with him. In hindsight, I'm like, "That's quite helpful."

I just know the very basics. With this stuff, this is normally not what I'm interested in. I'm normally a crash-and-burn, throw a microphone in the general direction of the instrument. I've never played it before, but this sounds good to me.

And I feel like with production, I got a little more hands-on with this record, obviously. So all of a sudden I was using compressors and all that stuff for the first time in my life.

If it's related to music, I can get into it, basically.

Zach Condon

Zach Condon of Beirut. Photo: Lina Gaißer

All of this recontextualizes the use of the ukulele, which has been integral to Beirut's music for a long time. Back in 2007, that might have been slotted into the "twee" milieu. But arrangement-wise, it's a counterweight to the gigantism of the organ.

I spend almost all my time on organs and pianos in the same two octaves, which are down towards the bottom. They're under middle C or something like that. I never go above that, because that's the room for those other instruments.

I can get why people would've thought of my music as twee. But for me, that was never what the purpose or intent of it was at all.

In the music industry, I've witnessed firsthand how artist friends of mine have been sloppily tagged and shoved through the system. Was there any resentment, any getting over the indignity of being in the machine?

Oh, absolutely. I would be lying if I was like, "Oh, it never affected me." I hated it. And I spent some years attempting to crawl out of it.

Notably, during [2011's] The Rip Tide and the record after that [2015's No No No], if things were coming to me and I thought they could be misperceived in that way, I would be like, "All right, maybe we skip to a different song," or something like that.

Which is a horrible way to work. I felt very handicapped. I felt like I always had one hand tied behind my back. I felt like I had to prove something to the world, and I was building up this kind of facade. And it's exhausting to do that.

So with the last two records, and definitely with this one, I really just stripped all of that off. I really was like, "I'm old enough now to know I don't come from that generation of cynicism." That's my older brother's voice, practically.

And it's not like he's just this asshole that's always cynical of what I do; he's super supportive. But his friends in those groups — it's like I saw the way that they would chew things up, they'd tear it apart. If it had any vulnerabilities, they would tear it apart.

And with this record, I was like, The vulnerabilities are what made it interesting in the first place. So I'm leaving them. All of it. I don't care anymore.

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GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016
Kendrick Lamar

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic


GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016

Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.

GRAMMYs/Oct 13, 2023 - 06:01 pm

Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.

A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.

This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system. 

"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."

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He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.

"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.

"Hip-hop. Ice Cube. This is for hip-hop," he said. "This is for Snoop Dogg, Doggystyle. This is for Illmatic, this is for Nas. We will live forever. Believe that."

To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood." 

Lamar has since won Best Rap Album two more times, taking home the golden gramophone in 2018 for his blockbuster LP DAMN., and in 2023 for his bold fifth album, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.

Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes. 

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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].

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