meta-scriptBen Folds Adds Book Events To Tour To Share New Memoir, 'A Dream About Lightning Bugs' | GRAMMY.com
Ben Folds

Ben Folds

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Ben Folds Adds Book Events To Tour To Share New Memoir, 'A Dream About Lightning Bugs'

"I try to justify the role of the artist as being that person who can see a particular thing, and it's your responsibility to share it. Because life is just so short," the singer/songwriter said in a recent interview

GRAMMYs/Jul 16, 2019 - 04:48 am

Last month, long-time indie rock favorite Ben Folds announced he would be releasing a memoir about journey as a left-of-field creative, titled A Dream About Lightning Bugs, on July 30. The North Carolina-native will also be kicking off a North American Summer/Fall tour at the end of July and has recently added a handful of special events along the trek to talk discuss and sign the new book.

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On the first half of the tour, Folds co-headlines with '80s alt-rock outfit Violent Femmes. The jaunt kicks off on July 28 in Uncasville, Conn., with stops along the East Coast, including in Washington D.C. and New York, the latter of which is the first city slated for a book event. The two acts have their last show of the tour together on Aug. 16 in Kansas City, Mo., after which Folds will take things down under for four memoir chats in Australia.

He'll return stateside for a concert in Missoula, Mont. on Sept. 5, this time co-heading the remaining dates with your favorite funky '00s rockers, CAKE. The new tour squad will make their way to California a week later, stopping in Sacramento, San Francisco, Irvine and Los Angeles.

Folds will also be bringing the book experience to S.F. and L.A., on Sept. 12 and 16, respectively, with two more subsequent conversations scheduled for Dallas on Sept. 21 and D.C. on Oct. 1. That final talk will be held at the iconic Kennedy Center, where he is currently acting as the first-ever Artistic Advisor to the National Symphony Orchestra and helps curate special performances, according to a new press release.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Still slightly surreal that I have a book coming out. <a href="https://t.co/UsR9wwVZm1">https://t.co/UsR9wwVZm1</a></p>&mdash; benjamin folds (@BenFolds) <a href="https://twitter.com/BenFolds/status/1146860291331940353?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">July 4, 2019</a></blockquote><script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Last month, Folds spoke with Billboard about A Dream About Lightning Bugs, whose title comes from the joyful memory of chasing lighting bugs as a child growing up in the South. "I love albums, but boy are they a pain in the ass to make. They cost a lot of money, and I find them painful. I found it a lot less painful to write a book." He added that the underlying message is to find the ways to follow your heart:

"The point I try to make in the book is to really just follow the things that interest you. I try to justify the role of the artist as being that person who can see a particular thing, and it's your responsibility to share it. Because life is just so short. Once you've got clean water, a roof over your head, your kids are safe—just follow the things that glow."

Folds' most recent album is 2015's So There, a collaborative project with the yMusic Ensemble. You can find the complete schedule and ticketing info on his concert and book tour dates on his website. His memoir will be released in the U.S. on July 30; you can find more info and where to pre-order here.

Producer/Songwriter Oak Felder Wants The Music Industry To Support Creativity, Not Just Hits

Cigarettes After Sex press photo
Cigarettes After Sex

Photo: Ebru Yildiz

interview

X's Mark The Spot: How Cigarettes After Sex Turn Difficult Memories Into Dreamy Nostalgia

"We’re all in the same boat," Greg Gonzalez says of the band’s new album, ‘X’s.' The frontman speaks with GRAMMY.com about how channeling Madonna and Marvin Gaye helped him turn his memories of a relationship into sublime dream pop.

GRAMMYs/Jul 9, 2024 - 01:23 pm

When Greg Gonzalez sat down to start writing the next Cigarettes After Sex album, the dream pop frontman relied equally on memories of heartbreak and the ballads of the Material Girl. "‘90s Madonna was a big influence on this record," he tells GRAMMY.com with a soft smile. 

Though the end result won’t be mistaken for anything off of Ray of Light, that timeless, almost mystic cloud of emotionally resonant pop carries a distinct familiarity on Cigarettes After Sex's new album, X’s.

Cigarettes After Sex has championed that sweet and sour dreaminess since their 2017 debut. Two years after that self-titled record earned rave reviews and was certified gold, the El Paso, Texas-based outfit reached even deeper for Cry. And while those records cataloged Gonzalez's heartbreaks and intimacies in sensual detail, Gonzalez knew he could reach deeper on the band’s third LP: "These songs are just exactly as memory happened." 

Arriving July 12, X’s fuses Cigarettes After Sex's dream pop strengths with ‘90s pop warmth and ‘70s dance floor glow. Always one to bring listeners into the moment, Gonzalez imbues the record with a lyrical specificity that gives the taste of pink lemonade and the tension of a deteriorating relationship equal weight. On X’s, the listener can feel the immediate joy and lingering pain in equal measure.

"This is specific to me and what I'm going through, but then I go out and talk to people on tour, and they’re like, 'Oh, yeah, I went through the exact same thing,'" Gonzalez says.

Leading up to the release of X’s, Gonzalez spoke with GRAMMY.com about the appeal of ‘90s Madonna, finding a way to dance through tears, and his potential future in film scoring.

Tell me about the production process for this record. You've always been able to build nostalgic landscapes, but this record feels smoother than before. Were there any new touchpoints you were working with?

That was the thing: trying to make the grooves tighter. It was coming from more of a ‘70s Marvin Gaye kind of place, trying to make it groove like a ‘70s dance floor.

Which is an especially interesting place to be writing from when dealing with that line between love and lust.

Yeah. The stuff we've done before was really based on the late ‘50s, early ‘60s slow dance music. But it was always supposed to be dance music; I always wanted Cigarettes to be music you could dance to, even if it was a slow dance. 

When I think of pop music and I think of songs that really feel powerful, they usually make you want to groove in some way. I love a lot of music that doesn't do that: ambient music or classical or some jazz. But there's so much power to music that makes you want to move. And I found throughout the years that I could just never get enough of the music that makes you want to dance. So I thought, Okay, the music that I make should be really emotional. It should feel like music you could actually cry to, but in the end it should make you want to also move in that way.

It’s the physical necessity of the music, some forward motion to match the emotional journey. I’d imagine that is related in some sense to the fact that you’re writing in a somewhat autobiographical way. Is that a way of not getting stuck in the stories, in the feelings?

I'm writing it for myself. Of course, I can't help but picture the audience in some way. But it's never like I'm writing it for them.

There is an audience that I can visualize that would like the music. [Laughs]. There have been times where we’re recording and I close my eyes to visualize an arena or a stadium to picture the music in that setting. It’s a nice feeling. And that's just based on the music that I love that I thought had similarities. 

Is there any particular music that you love that fills that feeling?

There's so much music that I was obsessed with, but with Cigarettes I narrowed it down. Since I was a kid, I did every kind of style I could do. I was in power pop bands, new wave, electro, metal, really experimental bands. 

But when I finally sat down and said, "Let me make an identity for Cigarettes and make it special," I had to think about what my favorite music was and what music affected me the deepest. And it was stuff like "Blue Light" by Mazzy Star or "Harvest Moon" by Neil Young or "I Love How You Love Me" by the Paris Sisters. And I kind of put all that together and that became the sound of Cigarettes. And now I do that every time I make a record: I'll make a playlist of what I want it to feel like. I mentioned Marvin Gaye. I feel like ‘90s Madonna was a big influence on this record.

Madonna in the ‘90s? No one could touch that era. I don't know when the last time you listened to that music was, but… 

No, I grew up with Madonna and I used to watch the "Like A Prayer" video on repeat. It blew me away. But then I came back and I got into the ‘90s stuff, like "Take A Bow" and that record Something To Remember. It's all of the slower tunes. And that was a big influence, especially songs like "Rain."

You clearly have a diverse musical appetite, but you’ve also highlighted people with such identifiable voices — something that I think is true for Cigarettes as well. Your vocals are so front and center in the identity of the project.

That's great. The singer pretty much makes the song for me, whatever I’m listening to. The entire spirit comes down to the vocals. I'll hear a song like "Take A Bow" and be like, This feels so special. What if I made something that felt like this? If I told someone this [record] was based on Marvin Gaye and ‘90s Madonna, I don’t know if they would think it really sounded like that. It's more just trying to capture the spirit of what those records feel like.

That's what's cool about it too: You can remember those songs that were filling the air back in the ‘90s and what those feelings were, what you were up to, and draw a line between that and whatever's happening now that I wrote about. 

You don’t seem like the type of person to avoid negative feelings when you come up against them in that process either. The songs feel like you just embrace it, even if it's really painful.

I've always felt that's the best way for me to go through things, to face it head on. It's supposed to be painful. You have all these really great moments with somebody and all these great memories, and then when it ends, honestly, that's the way it goes, right? That's the trade off. 

Yeah, but not everybody goes through a breakup and then makes an album about it. Isn’t that like returning to the scene of the crime? How does it feel to deal with it in that way?

That's funny. The thing was, I was writing a lot of this stuff while I was still in a relationship. It took so long to finish it. 

Finish the album or finish the relationship? [Laughs.]

Actually both. But yeah, the record is mostly about that one relationship, but there are little diversions with some of the songs. A lot of the key images and songs are based on that romance and little memories that I took from it.

I like that I have all those moments kind of set in stone. It’s hard to listen to this record too because I'll just really see these moments, all these memories, and it can be a bit much to flash back to all that stuff and see it so vividly. But I love that I have it. Those memories meant so much and I’m glad that they're collected and displayed in this way.

And you were able to collect them when it was happening as opposed to having some time between, which could warp those memories. Writing and recording when you’re as raw as possible makes sense, so what you capture is really honest.

That's why I like to write these songs that are as honest as possible or as autobiographical as possible, with a lot of details. If I'm writing a song and someone heard it, they would know it was about them just based on all the imagery that's in that song. It's like a little letter to them. It could be like a secret little letter to someone. 

That makes me think of "Holding You, Holding Me," which is so lovely and feels as immediate as anything you’ve done. 

It was the pandemic, and then the other girlfriend I had at that time, we were living in downtown L.A. and just wanted to get out of the house and stay somewhere nicer for a while. And we went to this AirBnb that was in Beverly Hills with this beautiful backyard. The song was meant to be kind of Fleetwood Mac-ish, like "Gypsy" or "Sara", that nice ‘70s country pop feel.

Over the years I’ve noticed you frequently use taste as a sensory link in your songs, which really creates an evocative moment — I’m thinking about references to candy bars and lemonade on this album. What is it about that sense that sticks out to you?

If I'm going back to memory, then that's just what really happened. We went to the store to go buy wine and candy because that was the vibe that night. "Let’s watch movies and get red wine and some candy bars." And it was just a big memory that we walked outside and it started raining. I think too, what's nice about using objects is that it gives you so much mood in a song. You can tell what the feeling is of that moment when you put those things together.

And it can have an almost universal understanding. People will understand what it means to have a "candy bar night."

That's the craziest thing. It's almost like you're trained to write universally, meaning generically. Like, "Oh, this is a song that everyone can like and the lyrics can be really simple." But I’ve found that the songs that are really detailed and were more personal stories, a song like "K." from Cigarettes After Sex, those are the songs that everyone really loves, the ones that take up being really specific.

I suppose that's pop's way of being a doorway. When you're talking about your personal experiences, somebody is going to enter into it and feel like you're singing about theirs. 

You realize that we're all in the same boat. This is specific to me and what I'm going through, but then I go out and talk to people on tour, and they’re like, "Oh, yeah, I went through the exact same thing." I feel very lucky that most people I talk to that love [our] music are always saying that. It’s so special.

It makes me trust my instincts. That's the hard thing when you're writing. You're wondering, Is this too much to disclose? Is this too much information? [Laughs.] That instinct is really important to know, to trust it. That's the tough one. That's what's also therapeutic about it too. You want to share things that feel really personal because then you can process them. You can really start to unpack what those moments meant and what they can mean going forward. It gives me more confidence when I hear that kind of stuff from people.

What then is it like when you sing it for a crowd? You’re performing, but you can’t fully separate the emotion that inspired that song. 

That's tough because, ideally, if I did my job well enough writing the song, then it should be hard to sing live — especially if I really see those moments when I'm singing it. It could bring me to tears, honestly, because it should feel that intense. And it's even worse if I look in the crowd and someone's crying. I can't even look at them. And that happens very often. If I started crying, my voice will stop.

That brings a real cinematic feeling to your music too, which makes me think you’d be good at scoring a film. Is that something you’d tackle?

I'm definitely obsessed with film and have been since I was a kid. The idea that I keep saying — and I almost feel like I'm going to jinx it because I keep saying it too much — is that I really want to direct and write something. And I've written some ideas down for screenplays and things. It seems like it's hard to transition from musician to filmmaker and really make it stick. But that would be something I want to do in the next 10 years. I'm giving myself 10 years. [Laughs.]

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Kendrick Lamar GRAMMY Rewind Hero
Kendrick Lamar

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

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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

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."

Looking for more GRAMMYs news? The 2024 GRAMMY nominations are here!

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 GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes. 

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Franc Moody
Franc Moody

Photo: Rachel Kupfer 

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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 GRAMMY.com'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

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

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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billy idol living legend
Billy Idol

Photo: Steven Sebring

interview

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, GRAMMY.com 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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