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Living Legends: Jazz Titan Dee Dee Bridgewater On Fighting For Her Rights, Mentoring Young Women & Not Suffering Fools On The Bandstand
Dee Dee Bridgewater

Photo: Isaiah Trickey/Film Magic

interview

Living Legends: Jazz Titan Dee Dee Bridgewater On Fighting For Her Rights, Mentoring Young Women & Not Suffering Fools On The Bandstand

Living Legends is a series that spotlights icons in music still going strong today. This week, GRAMMY.com sat down with Dee Dee Bridgewater, a jazz-vocal titan headed into her sixth active decade with integrity, autonomy and a fighting spirit.

GRAMMYs/Feb 4, 2022 - 06:04 pm

Presented by GRAMMY.com, Living Legends is an editorial series that honors icons in music and celebrates their inimitable legacies and ongoing impact on culture. In the second edition, GRAMMY.com spoke with Dee Dee Bridgewater, a GRAMMY-winning jazz vocalist and NEA Jazz Master who has shattered stylistic boundaries across her five-decade career.

Dee Dee Bridgewater's life and career are defined by unshakeable values she holds paramount: personal integrity, professional autonomy and artistic borderlessness. But in a music world full of schmoozing and sycophantism, this can be a double-edged sword.

"Mine is a lonely road. I don't have a lot of friends in the business. People are standoffish with me because I say what I feel," she tells GRAMMY.com. "I just don't have a lot to say to people unless we're going to have an intimate conversation between two individuals."

It's this quality that makes her an impactful mentor to young women in the jazz business, particularly through her Woodshed Network program. It also makes her a hell of an interview — furious, poignant, always in the pursuit of equality and justice.

Bridgewater is currently approaching the sixth decade of her career, and she's just about seen it all. Not only has the two-time GRAMMY winner worked with pioneers from Sonny Rollins to Dizzy Gillespie to Thad Jones: she's set the standard for how a jazz singer can be self-sufficient and unbeholden to genre constraints.

And as a Black woman in a space frequently dominated by white men, Bridgewater has seen it all at this point. But rather than let it embitter or stall her, she's resolved to teach young women how to stand tall and proud in the face of discrimination, humiliation and any other adversities they may face.

GRAMMY.com had an in-depth conversation with Bridgewater about her most recent album, 2017's Memphis… Yes, I'm Ready; how she learned to deal with critics; and the hard-won lessons she imparts to her mentees.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

I've found that music steeped in the blues tends to have longevity. I wonder why music with those roots becomes sort of bulletproof.

That's an interesting question. I don't know that that's totally true, but you can find the blues in a lot of different musical forms — and it's not just jazz or hip-hop. You can find it in rock music and country music. Country music, to me, is blues.

In my music, I don't really consider it to have a lot of blues in it. My most recent album, Memphis… Yes, I'm Ready, was dealing with songs from Memphis, and a lot of those songs were blues-based. But in my repertoire of recorded music, maybe I will throw in a blues, but my music doesn't necessarily have blues-tinged form.

The blues is just very accessible music. When you get into blues lyrics, it's dealing with everyday problems that people have. I think that's what makes the music really identifiable. That, and the combination of the fact that the music is simple, so it's easier to access, I think.

I was just having a conversation about jazz and where jazz music has gone, and how it's become this more elitist music. My conversation was with another woman who's Black, like myself — or African-American.

I was saying to her that one of the reasons that I did Memphis… Yes, I'm Ready is that I wanted to see more people like me in the audience. I wanted to see a reflection of myself instead of seeing a predominantly white audience with a sprinkling of Black people.

I think jazz has categorized itself out of the mainstream like classical music has. A lot of the younger jazz musicians and vocalists alike — I consider us all musicians — have opted to do music that has more accessibility by putting in hip-hop, electronic music or all these other forms that can allow the music to reach a broader audience.

But when you think about jazz music today, unfortunately, you do not think about seeing Black people. Which is really unfortunate.

I find it also interesting that no matter what kind of music one does as an artist, if one has established oneself in a particular category of genre of music, then all the music that artist does becomes immediately whatever that genre is.

So, my Memphis… Yes, I'm Ready album was not able to fall into a category because in the jazz category, they said it was most definitely not jazz. But in the R&B category, they said "It's old-school R&B, so we can't really fit in." Of course, it wouldn't compete with who the new R&B artists. It wasn't American traditional, so it wasn't straight blues.

A lot of people that came to those concerts in the first couple of years were very upset. You could see they were visually upset. They'd be crossing their arms with scowls on their faces. And by the end, everyone would be standing and dancing. Now, that repertoire is my most in-demand repertoire for jazz festivals. Go figure!

My question about playing the blues wasn't necessarily because I think you play blues music, but that some old-school artists consider them one and the same. Lou Donaldson once told me, "Playing jazz is about playing the blues."

I've always been interested in more musical exploration. I haven't really concerned myself with categories and genres. I've just tried to do things that interest me and please me, because I feel that if they do, then they'll please the public that comes to see me. As I produce myself and have my own label, I have the [opportunity] to do so.

I haven't felt inspired, though! I haven't felt one iota of inspiration. Mm-mm. I've been very blown away by the political environment in our country. I spent the first four or five months appreciating being at home, and I didn't realize how exhausted I was because I constantly toured.

I'm just now starting to have some creative juices flowing. It's very interesting — I've started, when I go out, writing poems. I haven't written poetry since I was in college! But I've written four pretty good poems. I'm just starting to get into trying to do anything musically.

I'm probably going to have to do a new album of Memphis music, because I have been getting a lot of requests for that repertoire. And I'm going to want to do new stuff, because I'm tired of it. And probably, in February, we'll start rehearsing new songs that I want to put in.

It seems like no matter which musical context you find yourself in, you don't want to be defined or confined by anything.

I received a lot of criticism early on in my career — in the late '80s, in particular, when I started to go back into the jazz world. I was living in France at the time, and the French did not like that I would change repertoires and genres with each album I'd do. I was heavily criticized until they said, "Oh, this is just how she is."

I've been one of the rare singers who's been able to go all over the place. People are always saying, "We don't know what she's going to do next, but it'll be interesting, because her stuff is always interesting."

Then, I established myself as a good live performer, so I have a lot of people coming to my shows saying, "I've never listened to her music, but my friends tell me, 'Oh my goodness, go see her. She's a great performer — whatever she's doing, you're going to love it.'"

And I like that. I'd say I'm probably in a rarer position than my vocal counterparts. And having lived in France for 24 years, I was able to establish myself in a way that other American musicians had not been able to.

To me, the job of a music critic is to guide listeners to something they'd enjoy. At a certain point — especially as it concerns genres — it can devolve into a destructive function.

Yeah, that's been an issue. I used to write critics when they would give me a negative review. I'm well-known for my letters. [Laughs.]

But now, I don't care. I can read something and say, "Well, they're all up in their feelings," as we say now. They weren't really interested in what they heard or saw. They were more interested in expounding on whatever's inside their heads and trying to promote themselves as writers.

I don't really deal with critics anymore. With my work, you know — I started professionally 50, 60 years ago. I just do whatever it is that I feel like doing, and I know that I have a strong enough fanbase — if you want to call it a fanbase — and a strong enough reputation as a musician and performer that people want to come and see me anyway.

I'm interested more right now in mentoring, so I'm doing more of that. I've got a mentoring program with my daughter who does my management, Tulani Bridgewater-Kowalski. It's called the Woodshed Network, and we're going into our third year [in Feb. 2022]. Up until this year, we didn't speak so much about it because we wanted to see if it was going to really have legs and stand on its own. It's something that seems to be working, and we're really happy with that.

It's for women or female-identifying individuals. It's going well, and it's not about the music. It's about the business of music and establishing one's career and understanding all the various aspects of having a career — how to go about getting a career started and maintaining it. We're trying to create a community where women can network with each other and, so far, it's been really, really nice.

I'm sure you're getting opportunities to tell younger musicians things you wish you would have known when you were younger. Who were your mentors in the music business?

When I was starting out in the music industry, all my mentors were men. Thad Jones, of course. Dizzy Gillespie. Clark Terry. Dexter [Gordon]. Sonny Rollins.

Females — not so much mentoring as kind of shepherding me and allowing me to express myself on their stages. In that way, I had people like Nancy Wilson invite me up on their stage. Carmen McRae. Sarah Vaughan.

I did spend some time with Ella Fitzgerald after she had been decorated in France by the Minister of Culture. I went to the American embassy and we spoke at length about her career and the things she had suggested for me to do.

There was another woman who was very supportive of me and helped me out a lot personally, and helped me get gigs when I was trying to establish myself. That was Rita DaCosta.

And Betty Carter was a mentor. I was Betty Carter's puppy dog when I first moved to New York. Betty told me a lot of things to do and not to do, and any dates she had in New York or Brooklyn — anywhere — I'd always go, sit at a table, pay my way, and study her. I worked with Danny Mixon, because they were married and I wanted to get as close to Betty as I could.

I'd say that probably all I am as an artist and performer came from watching Betty. She told me I needed to have ownership of my music and produce my own stuff. I did.

Betty was someone who gestured a lot and moved a lot on stage, and for a jazz singer, you shouldn't do that. But I just loved her physical movement and how she could get so involved and twist and turn her body and do all these facial gesticulations when she sang. I don't know — I was just mesmerized by her.

Betty taught me to be fearless, you know? And not to worry about what people had to say about me and just go on and be myself.

It seems that you were attracted to being an entertainer — not obfuscating that part of what you do.

Well, I would say that I consider myself to be an artist, so I'm always trying to explore and go in new directions. I liked to say for many years that I wanted to model myself after Miles Davis. You never knew what Miles was going to do next, and I never understood why a singer would be expected to stay in one particular lane.

And I still don't like that. It's a choice of yours if you want to explore this one particular avenue and that's what you want to do. I respect that. But for me, I'm more interested in musical inspiration. I'm a Gemini, so I liken myself to — Miles Davis was a Gemini. Prince was a Gemini. I like my Geminis.

I hope that I will be exploring things until I don't have the voice, or until my body gives out, or until they both give out, or until I just leave this earth. And that's it.

I'm really about trying to lift the image of women in jazz, but not in a way that I'm going to hit people over the head. I'm just trying to push forward with myself without making a lot of noise. I'm just trying to do the things I do — the things I believe in — and I'm really trying to champion women. They need championing. I think I'm at a place in my career where no matter who I work with, I always want to provide a platform for any musicians that work with me.

In which ways do we still have a long road ahead as far as elevating women's profiles in this music?

First and foremost, a lot of women need to have equal footing. I still see a tendency with jazz magazines — when they do musical reviews on a female singer's albums — they compare that singer to another singer.

When I see a critique by a jazz journalist — generally men — and they critique an instrumental album, they get all into how that individual, that group is doing this, that and the other. And they don't do comparisons.

I hate that there's still this kind of macho notion that women cannot coexist with each other. We can't have singers with very different voices and be allowed to do the thing we want to do. Paying more attention to that than we do musicians [is important], but we just don't get the same respect.

It's better, you know? There seems to be a more conscious effort to allow a female musician to coexist in the same way as her male counterpart. And we are beginning to see bands that are more integrated with men and women. But we've got more to do in those areas.

But let me say this: I'm very excited that Jazzmeia Horn is nominated for Best [Large Jazz Ensemble] Album, and that she wrote all her arrangements — because people kind of see her as a singer. That's one of my babies. She's got her own label now. She's producing herself.

She's making some wonderful strides, and I think she's going to break some glass ceilings and people are going to start paying attention to her. They are already — because she's uncompromising. She's doing the thing she believes in. She's fighting for herself. She's standing tall — regal — and just doing her thing, and I love that.

The whole thing, I think, as an artist, is being an individual. Being unafraid to stand up and be who you are. I don't want to be like anybody else! And I don't want somebody to be like me, or try to be like me! I'm really a supporter of people finding their own, unique voice and emphasizing their uniqueness. That's what makes it interesting.

It's incumbent on my fellow music writers to not pigeonhole or marginalize women artists, but allow each one to have a limitless capacity for self-expression.

Yeah, just like our male counterparts. This goes into the whole societal thing — look, it's a bunch of men trying to do away with us having our abortion rights. Really? You motherf<em></em>*ers! And I will say that. Who the heck are these people? I just don't understand.

This country has to get away from the s<em></em><em> it was founded on. There's so much that this country has refused to deal with, and it permeates the arts. It permeates every aspect of our lives. So, when you get into jazz — and you've got to throw away all of this elitist bulls</em><em></em>.

Jazz music has become international music. It is music that is played around the world. And there are great musicians wherever you go. And it doesn't matter what the sex is!

It seems that since this last administration was in, they've been able to roll right back to where it's all about the white man being in control. I feel it's out of fear, because they know they're losing their grip. Because our world is turning into a beige world.

I feel like in the jazz world, there’s desperation because the music and the people involved in the music are no longer this old guard. Why do we keep giving awards to people who are dead? Really? Really? Have you noticed that?

I think it's all about change and fear by those who have been in control — that they're going to lose control — and doing everything they can do to maintain that control. But! It cannot continue. And it won't continue.

You mentioned elitism in jazz. From your vantage point, when did it tip over from being music for normal people — to enjoy, to dance to, to socialize to — into something locked in an ivory tower?

I can't speak to that. I'm not a jazz historian. I don't know when it happened. I just know that it's happened. I'm not that person who can discuss those kinds of things. I'm not that person who can discuss albums and who played on those albums and how they played on all of that.

I am that person who concerns myself with what I'm doing based on the relationships I've had with other individuals, and the people who have helped to shape me based on my appreciation of those artists. I'm the person who's tried to make a way for themselves no matter where the direction is going, with whatever it was I was doing. That's always been my concern. How am I going to keep pushing my artistry, keep my integrity, but at the same time, also do it to the best of my ability?

I say to young people when I do masterclasses: "Whatever you do, you want to be proud of that thing. If that thing's going down with a sinking ship, you'd better be proud that you built that ship, you sailed that ship — even though it hit rough waters." Being as uncompromising as you can possibly be.

You've got to be unafraid to be alone. Mine is a lonely road. I don't have a lot of friends in the business. People are standoffish with me because I say what I feel. I try to be honest. I just don't have a lot to say to people unless we're going to have an intimate conversation.

It's unfair that we allow someone like Miles Davis to be the mysterious lone wolf marching to the beat of his own drum without letting women occupy that role. I admire that you're a no-BS person with no interest in hobnobbing or glitz or whatever.

I mean, I'm trying now to hobnob a little where it concerns the mentoring program I'm doing [in case] I meet someone who's interesting.

All the mentors that are involved in our program are also all females. Because it's important to see yourself in the room. It's important to see people like you. It's important when you're aspiring to do something — even for you — to surround yourself with successful individuals that have similar interests to yours.

That's also something that isn't very prevalent. As my own producer, when I go in to have conversations with whatever label is distributing me — because that's another thing! I have a label called DDB Records. Whenever my albums come out, they're on my label, distributed by whatever label does my distribution.

But I own all my masters. It's my label; I've had other people sign to my label. But when a journalist gets ready to critique, they say, "Oh, here's Dee Dee's album out now on Sony Records." They totally disregard that I produced it. So, I still have to fight for that! I still have to write in and they make the correction later. But the damage is done!

There's also the disrespect of the musicians you hire to deal with. I'm not going to go out with some half-a<em></em>ed individuals, no matter who I'm playing with. I have been known to fire somebody on the stage if they don't have their stuff together. I have docked musicians who have played with me and didn't think they had to learn my stuff.

They think, "Oh, I'm just going to play with this singer." I send them arrangements and give them live recordings, but they don't pay attention. They think they can come on stage and just wing it? I'm about precision. So, yeah, I'll fire people. I will call you out if you don't know what you're doing.

I don't have time. I've worked too hard to get where I am and have the reputation that I have. I've built this reputation over many, many, many, many, many years. I'm not going to have some lazy-a<em></em> punk come on stage and not do their job.

Was it a long process to develop your integrity and sense of self?

Heck yeah! Of course. I went through many, many years when I was starting out where I could read a review and just boo-hoo. And then I would think I wasn't worth it.

Then, it dawned on me: you can let them know what they've done to you.

Living Legends: The Kinks' Dave Davies On 21st-Century Breakdown, Mellowing Out In His Seventies & Stirring The Pot On Twitter

Press Play On GRAMMY U Mixtape: New Year, It’s Poppin'! Monthly Member Playlist

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Press Play On GRAMMY U Mixtape: New Year, It’s Poppin'! Monthly Member Playlist

The GRAMMY U Mixtape is a monthly, genre-spanning playlist to quench your thirst for new tunes, all from student members. GRAMMY U celebrates new beginnings with fresh pop tunes that will kickstart 2023.

GRAMMYs/Jan 6, 2023 - 12:17 am

Did you know that among all of the students in GRAMMY U, songwriting and performance is one of the most sought after fields of study? We want to create a space to hear what these students are creating today!

The GRAMMY U Mixtape, now available for your listening pleasure, highlights the creations and fresh ideas that students are bringing to this industry directly on the Recording Academy's Spotify and Apple Music pages. Our goal is to celebrate GRAMMY U members, as well as the time and effort they put into making original music — from the songwriting process to the final production of the track.

Each month, we accept submissions and feature 20 to 25 songs that match that month’s theme. This month we're ringing in 2023 with our New Year, It's Poppin'! playlist, which features fresh pop songs that bring new year, new you vibes. Showcasing talented members from our various chapters, we felt these songs represented the positivity and hopefulness that GRAMMY U members embody as they tackle this upcoming year of exciting possibilities.

So, what’s stopping you? Press play on GRAMMY U’s Mixtape and listen now on Spotify below and Apple Music.

Want to be featured on the next playlist? Submit your songs today! We are currently accepting submissions for songs of all genres for consideration for our February playlist. Whether you write pop, rock, hip hop, jazz, or classical, we want to hear from you. Music must be written and/or produced by the student member (an original song) and you must be able to submit a Spotify and/or Apple Music link to the song. Students must be a GRAMMY U member to submit.

About GRAMMY U:

GRAMMY U is a program that connects college students with the industry's brightest and most talented minds and provides those aspiring professionals with the tools and opportunities necessary to start a career in music.     

Throughout each semester, events and special programs touch on all facets of the industry, including the business, technology, and the creative process.

As part of the Recording Academy's mission to ensure the recorded arts remain a thriving part of our shared cultural heritage, GRAMMY U establishes the necessary foundation for music’s next generation to flourish.

Not a member, but want to submit to our playlist? Apply for GRAMMY U Membership here.

Living Legends: Electronic Music Pioneer Jean-Michel Jarre's 50-Year Odyssey Of Audio Experimentation
Jean-Michel Jarre

Photo: Francois Rousseau

interview

Living Legends: Electronic Music Pioneer Jean-Michel Jarre's 50-Year Odyssey Of Audio Experimentation

"I don't think that you decide to be out of the box. It’s just a part of your personality or your character," the French musician says of his decades-long desire to democratize sound.

GRAMMYs/Dec 8, 2022 - 03:30 pm

Presented by GRAMMY.com, Living Legends is an editorial series that honors icons in music and celebrates their inimitable legacies and ongoing impact on culture. GRAMMY.com recently caught up with Jean-Michel Jarre, whose work has greatly influenced the scope of electronic music and broken multiple records.

Jean-Michel Jarre is living proof that age is a construct.

The 74-year-old electronic music legend is just as curious and excited about music as artists in their 20s heading out on their debut album tour. For 50 years, Jarre's resume has overflowed with a spirit of ingenuity.

Jarre first sparked international attention with his 1976 album Oxygéne, which was one of the first to solely utilize synthesizers in the creation of three-to-four-minute pop songs. The LP’s second single, "Oxygene, Pt. 4," merged then-unheard bubbly synth sounds with a clear sense of melody and song form — launching both the technology and electronic music to new heights.

In the decades that followed, the global music community took note of Jarre's innovation and the artist became a sought-after collaborator. He’s worked with classical composers including Hans Zimmer, dance music stalwarts such as Detroit techno icon Jeff Mills and trance legend Armin Van Buuren, collaborated with Moby, and partnered with burgeoning talents like the anonymous music project, Deathpact

But the reach of Jean-Michel Jarre extends beyond his discography; he continually redefines what electronic music can be in both the listening space and the live space.

He’s invented hybrid instruments like the laser harp. He’s broken records with his performances, playing for audiences of over a million people on multiple occasions. Jarre has also broken geographic and cultural boundaries with his performances; in 1981 he became the first Western artist to perform in China in the post-Mao Zedong era. On Nov. 25, Jarre celebrated the 40th anniversary of these historic performances with The China Concerts, a remastered edition of the live recordings from those five concerts.

But Jarre is doing more this year than looking back into his extraordinary past. His 22nd album, Oxymore, came out in October and is billed as the "first commercial release of this scale" to fully utilize multichannel and binaural sound in the production, composition, recording and mixing processes. This spatial 3D audio allows listeners to feel as if they are physically inside the music — a concept Jarre has wanted to bring to life since he first saw Chet Baker play trumpet in Paris when at age 10. The album was developed in the "Innovation" studios of Radio France and is a homage to the late composer Pierre Henry, Jarre's mentor and a pioneer of electronic music.

Jarre created an Oxymore-based VR world, Oxyville, and has hosted several performances in the metaverse. During a digital meet and greet with fans and avatars, "one girl was very excited. Asking lots of questions and moving and bouncing everywhere," Jarre says from his home in Paris. "I discovered by talking to her that she was quadriplegic and it was her first time she attended a concert and danced all evening."

Such an interaction is what keeps Jarre excited about what’s coming next in his career. It’s not technology. It’s the magic he can generate by sharing creative, physical experiences with other human beings. 

"Who cares about the technology? When you are in a restaurant you don’t care so much about the kitchen and how it’s done. You just enjoy the food or not, and it’s the same with music or art," Jarre says. "I think mystery is key. I have a son who is a great magician and the last thing I want to know is how he is doing his trick. It’s a magic killer."

Jarre is still finding that magic. He spoke with GRAMMY.com about his two new albums, his continuing relationship with experimentation, and how the role of art and culture in the world has changed (or stayed the same) over the last five decades.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

I read that you started your musical experimentation as young as age 11 with a secondhand tape recorder. Have your feelings towards musical experimentation changed or stayed the same over that time?

When I started at the age of 11-12 with this second-hand tape recorder that my grandfather gave me I became obsessed with the machine. I was basically recording everything all day and sometimes at night, but I had no idea that it could be a link to any future linked with music.

One day, I played the tape backward and I had the feeling that some aliens were talking to me, and from that moment I started to record. I was starting to play in some local rock bands with friends, and so I was recording some of my guitar and organ and playing [the recordings] backward, changing the speed, just doing experiments with sounds but with no preconceived ideas. 

And then when I discovered [Groupe de Recherches Musicales] in Paris, one of the origins of French electro-acoustic music, I discovered that some people were considering music in a different way. Thinking about integrating noise and sounds into music, and it became very obvious that it was really a revolution — a revolution in music. 

I was listening to American rock bands or British rock bands, and it was a revolution globally around the world, but I felt that something else could be explored. These days were right in the middle of the student revolution where it was cool to rebel against basically any kind of establishment and, in a sense, electronic music was a way to rebel against the establishment of rock. We tried to find a different voice in a different way, and at that moment I was experimenting with very limited technology…. doing field recordings and processing sounds, or stealing some oscillators from radio stations to create the first DIY type of synthesizer. 

Today whatever you do — hip-hop or rock or pop or techno — we’re all integrating sound effects into our music. We all became sound designers as well as music producers. Today, the emergence of immersive technology and immersive worlds are two other disruptive moments very potent in my career.

Does that drive to revolutionize music still play a role in how you move forward as an artist?

I don't think that you decide to be out of the box. It’s just a part of your personality or your character. I’ve always been interested in new ideas or new tools. I’ve always considered that technology is dictating styles and not the reverse. 

It’s because we invented the violin that Vivaldi made music with it. It’s because we had 78s in Elvis Presley’s time that you could only cut three minutes on the 78 and it was the only way to put a record in a jukebox. The pop single as a format started to be played on the radio and not the reverse. This link between tech and culture has been always something quite essential in music production. 

I’ve always been curious about new techniques because the beauty of lots of music productions is the idea of hijacking technology — to take technology which has not been devised or designed for us, but stealing from them. We are all robbers. 

It brings us back to the idea that great art goes against what’s come before.

[Electronic music is] probably the most popular music in the world, but it still has its underground feel, its underground image. 

Every emerging movement in music has been rejected by the previous one. The first jazz was quite rejected by classical musicians. Then the first rock musicians were rejected by jazz. 

When I started with electronic music it was really against the establishment of rock. Lots of rock artists [were saying] "What’s all these machines with knobs? They are not real instruments," and a few decades later these instruments are still called machines.

All these signs are showing that electronic music is still underground. It’s still truly something linked with a kind of rebellious approach about sound production and music production. 

Considering the "machine-instrument" relationship, you built the laser harp, which no one can deny is a machine, but no one can deny is an instrument either.

Exactly. It’s all a cultural thing. What is an instrument? A saxophone is a fantastic piece of technology. A clarinet is a fantastic piece of technology. It’s quite sophisticated. And then it’s a machine. It’s an acoustic machine. It’s a manual machine. It’s not electric but it’s a machine also.

For Oxymore you were the first person to conceive and compose an album from beginning to end using 360-degree audio. What’s it like for you to use different forms of technology in your music today?

[I don’t consider] myself a geek. I’m not really interested in technology for the sake of it. The same way you don’t ask a pianist to fix a piano. It’s the same thing, but I’ve always been interested by the relationship between my music and space. Even in times of Oxygéne, I was  …finding delays or reverb to try to enlarge, widen the soundscape in a sense. 

We have, culturally, this kind of frontal relationship with music. When you compose for a symphonic orchestra you visualize the orchestra in front of you. When you’re producing music in a studio you have two speakers in front of you. When you are in the festival or concert hall you still have the PA system in front of you. 

So our relationship is more a kind of representation of music than an immersion into music. Stereo doesn’t exist in nature. When I’m talking to you I’m in mono. When a bird is singing it’s singing in mono. It’s the environment around us and our ears which are creating the perspective in audio. 

And then modern technology is allowing us to go back to a very natural way of experimenting and experiencing sounds, and for the first time, we can be inside the music. This is a total disrupting moment. 

At the moment, lots of spatial audio is conceived and composed in stereo but then spatialized later on. I conceived and composed the music [for Oxymore] in space. Putting every element of my arrangement in speakers that go all around me is a totally different approach. It’s like going from painting to sculpture.

How did you conceive of and compose this record in spatial audio?

I started in my own studio in 5.1 [speaker setup] because only 5.1 was allowing me to put the sound in space. Then I went to Radio France Internationale, the French BBC, and they have a very sophisticated studio with 36 speakers where you can really adjust sounds by degree. 

Then you could say "that’s interesting, but who can listen to that?" And the answer is important. 

Binaural — the multichannel audio version translated for headphones —  was not devised for music at the beginning, but more for movies. We had to twist the system to get a convincing binaural version [that would sound] very close to the experience you could have with real speakers around you. 

The binaural version, for me, is essential because it’s the real democratization of immersive sound. With just your standard headphones and any kind of smartphone or laptop, you can have access to the immersive experience. With the development of the metaverse and VR, with the development of electric cars that are more equipped with immersive sounds, we know that this technology is going to be the next step. 

I’m actually convinced that in maybe in five years’ or six years' time, we’ll probably consider stereo with the same nostalgia that we are considering the gramophone of our grandparents.

I’m also convinced that new styles and new artists in hip-hop, punk, and the pop of tomorrow will depend on this new technology. As all the previous genres of music have been depending on the tools we were using as music producers.

Read more: What Is Immersive Audio?: How Engineers, Artists & Industry Are Changing The State Of Sound

You’ve said your first physical experience with music came when Chet Baker played his trumpet for you at the age of 10. Fast forward to today and you are performing in VR worlds with 360 audio where people are literally surrounded by the music. How does that physical experience of VR and spatial audio compare to your experience with Chet Baker?

In a sense, it’s very similar. I always consider our relationship with any kind of art form to be organic and based on emotions and feelings, physically. When I think about what happened with Chet Baker and this physical feeling I got with the air of the instrument on my chest, it was absolutely purely physical and the feeling was from an organic process. 

It’s the same thing with VR. The first VR object is a book; you are projecting yourself and you imagine the face of the characters and you become inside the fantasy world as a watcher or as an actor. VR is one step further where you are sending your digital twin into a VR world. But it’s still emotional; it’s still very organic.

When I was playing in VR I have my instruments in the physical world, but if I’m in front of an audience made of avatars, these avatars are digital twins of real human beings, a real audience. So after five minutes, I’m sweating. I’m nervous or I’m enjoying it in the same way. It’s even strange to think that after five minutes you forget you are in a virtual world because you are still feeling, physically, emotions.

There is a social dimension that we forget when we’re talking about the metaverse because lots of people these days are mixing the metaverse and cryptocurrencies and saying the metaverse is linked only to business. 

Actually, there is a fantastic creative potential, poetic potential, a kind of Romanesque approach to creating your own world even from your living room. For the last 20-30 years you can produce, compose and distribute your music from your living room with a laptop. The same thing is going to happen with VR. A young artist could create his own fantasy world with some tools from his home.

This month you will celebrate 40 years of your performances in China, which remain an astounding testament to how music can generate unity. In today’s world, we are seeing so much division and turmoil. What do you think your role is as a musician with a huge audience to address that?

I was raised by an extraordinary woman. My mom used to be a great figure in the French resistance and after the war. When I was a child, she told me about this idea that we shouldn’t mix ideology and people.

I think we have to go everywhere where people don’t have the same freedom of speech and freedom of expression as we have. And I think that more than ever culture should be considered as a trojan horse. 

The beauty of VR is tomorrow you can have people from Iran or from North Korea — if they have a headset or even a laptop — and they can have access to the concert we can do in New York or in Paris or in London.

When I look back, I think that China concerts are very special to me because it was like playing on the moon for both sides. At that time people had absolutely no idea about what was going on in the West.  I went there with a stage project that was even revolutionary from the Western point of view —with electronic music, with lasers, things that were totally new. But you can imagine from the Chinese point of view, in those days, it was a real shock.

That your career has lasted so long to allow for a 40th anniversary album is kind of unbelievable. When you think back on your decades as an artist, what are your key takeaways?

What I learned is the importance of curiosity. Every time you start a project is to touch reset. I’m starting again as a beginner. I’m not really interested in what I’ve done before. It doesn’t really belong to me anymore. I’m more interested by what’s next  —  not to try to beat records, but as a kind of excitement. As long as this excitement exists, I think you go on. 

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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 

list

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.

The Rise Of Underground House: How Artists Like Fisher & Acraze Have Taken Tech House, Other Electronic Genres From Indie To EDC

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