meta-scriptEat, Drink & Rock And Roll |


Eat, Drink & Rock And Roll

When not onstage or in the studio, a group of musicians are taking to the kitchens and cellars

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

What frontier is left to conquer once you've sold millions of records, played massive concerts and won a few GRAMMY Awards? For some musicians, it can be delivering everything from burgers, hot sauce, wine, and tequila to the masses.

And it's becoming serious business.

Best New Artist GRAMMY winner Zac Brown has quite the culinary history. Before becoming a full-time musician, Brown ran Zac's Place with his father in Georgia, developing his hand as a cook. He recently released Southern Ground, a cookbook containing 27 of his favorite recipes including Southern Fried Chicken, Hearty Brunswick Stew, Farmer's Fried Green Tomatoes, and Revival Peach Cobbler. "The cooking part of my life has been happening as long as my music," he says.

Shock-rock legend Alice Cooper opened his family-friendly Alice Cooper'stown restaurant in Phoenix in 1998 and designed it to mix rock and roll and sports, with memorabilia and dishes inspired by both (try the Zappa Zukes, Nightmare Nachos or the Home Run Wings & Ribs).

Cooper credits his "foodie" manager Shep Gordon, who helped launch the careers of celebrity chefs such as Roger Verge and Wolfgang Puck, with getting him into the business. The singer feels his restaurant is homey and comfortable — employees wear his signature eye makeup and Cooper is approachable to customers.

"I walk into the restaurant, go over to a table and ask, 'What are you having?'" Cooper says. "If they're having barbecue, I'll stand there and take a piece of it and taste it and say, 'This is great.' When I am there I am very approachable. I take pictures with everybody. If it's somebody's birthday, I make sure to get something out of the merchandise [case] and take it over to them."

He says he likes the intimacy of his one location, as opposed to a large chain: "I would like to have one gem rather than a bunch of rhinestones out there."

Chickenfoot frontman Sammy Hagar serves up Mexican cuisine at his three Cabo Wabo Cantinas in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Lake Tahoe, Nev.; and Las Vegas. Hagar has also grown his Sammy's Beach Bar & Grill chain, with locations in Maui, St. Louis, Las Vegas, and soon New York and Los Angeles. The fare spans burgers and fries, hot dogs, quesadillas, and shrimp salads. It also stocks plenty of bandmate Michael Anthony's hot sauce. "It's really, really good," praises Hagar. "It's no gimmick. You put it on eggs, on pizza, on your burger, on your dog. It is slammin'."

Anthony admits he just fell into the hot sauce business. While on tour with his former band Van Halen in the '90s, fans learned about Anthony's love for spicy foods and hot sauces and would bring him homemade hot sauce and chilies. He was encouraged to make his own brand, and following careful research, he introduced his line of Mad Anthony's hot sauce.

For Anthony, it's been quite a learning experience. "I'm finding out [about] all the rules and regulations as far as even making a hot sauce," he says. "To get everything passed with the FDA, there's a long list of requirements that you have to go through to make this thing happen."

Anthony enjoys the challenge and is seeking to expand his brand and consumer base. He sells his products to specialty stores in the United States and Europe and through his Web site.

Two other rockers whipping up hot sauces are Aerosmith's Joe Perry, whose Rock Your World hot sauce offerings include Boneyard Brew and Mango Peach Tango, and Offspring frontman Dexter Holland, who is marketing his Gringo Bandito Mexican-style hot sauce.

Mouth watering yet? How about a refreshment?

In 1996, Hagar started bottling and selling his Cabo Wabo Tequila brand. Competition accolades and swelling sales soon followed, especially once he began selling it at his original Cabo Wabo Cantina and after a Napa Valley importer started distributing it in 1999. In order to gain worldwide distribution through Skyy Spirits (a subsidiary of Gruppo Campari, one of the largest spirits company in the world), Hagar sold 80 percent of his interest in the company in 2007 for a reported $80 million.

Journey's Jonathan Cain, Tool's Maynard James Keenan and Queensrÿche's Geoff Tate have taken to the wine business.

Cain, whose family has a history in the winemaking business, bottles his brands of Pinot Noir and Cabernet Savignon via his delaCain Vineyards. Keenan's Caduceus Cellars will be featured in a new documentary film detailing Northern Arizona's growing wine industry, Blood Into Wine, which will premiere in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Feb. 19.

A longtime wine connoisseur, Tate found himself expanding his palette through his travels and wanting to try making his own. He teamed up with Three Rivers Winery and developed his Insania brand — a sold-out 2007 red vintage released in 2008 and a 2008 white vintage due soon — that he plans on expanding in the near future. "This particular wine Insania, the red especially, is designed to be cellared for 10 years," explains Tate. "It's already really good, but in 10 years it's going to be just phenomenal."

For Tate, music and wine are similar to the senses. "You start with grapes, and they're somewhat like musical notes," the singer muses. "You blend them together to form a chord. You're trying to paint a picture, whether using audio or the sense of taste and smell. So you construct this thing that's hopefully very pleasing to the senses, and how people take that is so subjective and varied."

Others have learned new lessons through these non-musical endeavors.

"Tequila is one more thing that reassured me that quality and passion is the best combination you can have," reflects Hagar. "If you have a great idea and have passion for it, you can see it through. And quality is a special, special thing."

"Right off the bat, manufacturers told me I wouldn't become a millionaire by doing hot sauce unless I'm like a Paul Newman or someone like that," says Anthony. "I just love making it."

"I get to the restaurant here in Phoenix at least once a week when I'm home," reveals Cooper. "They never know when I'm coming in, which is kind of neat because I come in and check the ribs. I'm proud of our barbecue. That's what people revolve around, and for 13 years I've never been able to catch them when the ribs weren't exactly right. It's great. It's nice to know that we're consistent. I think what every restaurant wants is consistency."

Tate concurs on the point of consistency, something he strives for in all aspects of his life, and draws a parallel between winemaking and a successful career in the music industry. "You don't go from making your first vintage to hanging out with Robert Mondavi," he says.

"Just like anything, it doesn't happen overnight. It's a building process."

(Regular contributor Bryan Reesman was told by Alice Cooper that he has a new mission: Convince Meat Loaf to open up an exclusive meat loaf restaurant, not the chicken place he once thought of. It just makes sense, doesn't it?)

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

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic


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

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

GRAMMYs/Oct 13, 2023 - 06:01 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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10 Reasons Why 'Get A Grip' Is Aerosmith's Most Iconic Album
Steven Tyler, Joey Kramer and Brad Whitford of Aerosmith in 1993

Photo: Gie Knaeps/Getty Images


10 Reasons Why 'Get A Grip' Is Aerosmith's Most Iconic Album

In celebration of its 30th anniversary, revisits 'Get A Grip' — the album which gave Aerosmith their biggest commercial success nearly 25 years into their rollercoaster career.

GRAMMYs/Apr 20, 2023 - 01:45 pm

Having conquered the 1970s with the seminal stadium rock albums Toys in the Attic and Rocks, Aerosmith  appeared to fall apart in the 1980s with a string of disappointing albums and various interpersonal dramas. But by the end of the decade, Run-D.M.C. collaboration "Walk This Way" and pop metal blockbusters Pump and Permanent Vacation had helped the Boston outfit to reclaim their crown as America's biggest band. The big question was whether they could sustain their unexpected second wind into the 1990s? 

1993's Get A Grip answered that with a resounding yes. In fact, Aerosmith's 11th studio effort proved to be their commercial zenith, racking up a career-best 20 million sales worldwide, spawning four top 40 singles and winning Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal GRAMMY Award for two consecutive years.  

To celebrate its 30th anniversary, here are 10 ways  Steven Tyler, guitarists Joe Perry and Brad Whitford, bassist Tom Hamilton and drummer Joey Kramer managed to build on their down-and-dirty legacy through Get A Grip.  

It Recognized The Band's Unique Selling Point 

In the four years since Aerosmith's previous album, the playful excesses of the hair metal scene had given way to the grunge movement's super-serious quest for authenticity. While the likes of Mötley Crue and Skid Row unwisely tried to beat Nirvana and Pearl Jam at their own game, Tyler and co. recognized that there was still an audience for pure rock 'n' roll.  

Indeed, Get A Grip entirely ignores everything else that was dominating the charts of 1993 and instead plays confidently to the band's strengths. The lyrics here are optimistic and often mischievous (see "I'd rather be OD'ing on the crack of her ass" on drug recovery tale "Fever"), and the maximalist production is designed to raise the roof. If rock fans needed a party record in 1993, there was only one candidate. 

It Foreshadowed The Country Crossover

From Bon Jovi and Shawn Michaels to Darius Rucker and Aaron Lewis, it sometimes appears as though every rocker of the late 20th century has pivoted into country music at some point or other. But seven years after they proved that guitars and hip-hop needn't be mutually exclusive, Aerosmith once again led the way with yet another crossover.  

The harmonica solos and twangy guitar riffs of "Cryin'" and "Crazy" sound tailor made for the Grand Ole Opry — the former was actually co-penned by Nashville native Taylor Rhodes. Tyler would later score a No. 1 on the Top Country Albums chart with his 2016 solo debut, We're All Somebody from Somewhere

It Cemented Their Status As MTV Icons

Aerosmith became MTV favorites in the '80s thanks to eye-catching videos for "Dude Looks Like A Lady" and "Love In An Elevator." But would they still be as welcome in the '90s now that each member was well into their mid-40s? In a stroke of genius, the band acknowledged that they might need some younger faces to help sell their bombastic hard rock. Step forward the future star of seminal teen flick Clueless

A 16-year-old Alicia Silverstone appeared in three of Get A Grip's promos, first testing the limits of virtual reality in "Amazing," going on to play a bungee-jumping spurned lover in "Cryin'" and then teaming up with Tyler's daughter Liv in the Thelma and Louise-esque "Crazy." The concept paid dividends for all involved – Silverstone and the younger Tyler became instant pop culture icons, and Aerosmith continued to dominate MTV, even picking up Video of the Year at the network's annual VMAs.  

It Proved They Had A Social Conscience

You usually know what you're getting lyrically from an Aerosmith track –  they haven't earned a reputation as the masters of sleaze rock for nothing. But while Get A Grip still has plenty of sex, drugs (surprisingly of the anti-kind) and rock tales, it also showcased a more socially-conscious side to the former hellraisers.  

Inspired by the 1992 Los Angeles uprising following the death of Rodney King,, GRAMMY-winning first single "Livin' on the Edge" finds Tyler tackling everything from racism to religion as he pontificates over the state of the world. Admittedly, lines like "If Chicken Little tells you that the sky is falling/Even if it wasn't, would you still come crawling" weren’t exactly the height of insightful lyricism. But it reminded listeners the group could provide some substance to their hard-partying style.  

It Made Digital History 

While much has been made of David Bowie's pioneering use of the internet, he wasn't the only rock titan to embrace the online world early on. In 1994, Aerosmith once again proved that they could keep up with the times when they released the first digital download song by a major artist. 

Although "Head First" didn't appear on Get A Grip, it was recorded for the album and was first issued as a B-side to second single "Eat the Rich." Ten thousand CompuServe subscribers downloaded the four-megabyte WAV file within its first few days. With the world wide web still in infancy, it no doubt took a similar time frame to wait for its completion. 

It Elevated Their Power Ballad Credentials 

Aerosmith weren't exactly strangers to the power ballad when they released two of the early '90s' finest examples. Later sampled by Eminem, 1973's "Dream On" is considered by some to be the rock genre's first ever. And predecessors Permanent Vacation ("Angel") and Pump ("What It Takes") both spawned hits tailor-made for belting out in front of a mirror with hairbrush.  

But the double whammy of "Crazy" and "Cryin'" took the band's ability to pull at the heartstrings to another level. The former, of course, was also their first epic slowie to win a GRAMMY. And no doubt that Diane Warren was taking note; the GRAMMY winner later penned Aerosmith's only No. 1, Armageddon's suitably blockbuster love song "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing." 

It's Precision Tooled For Success 

Having previously experienced life in the rock wilderness, Aerosmith left nothing to chance for their first album in four years. Indeed, the majority of Get A Grip's 14 tracks feature a helping hand from a seasoned songwriter, from Jim Vallance (Bryan Adams) on the satirical "Eat the Rich" to Desmond Child (Bon Jovi) on the carnal rock of "Flesh" and Mark Hudson (Cher) on the funky "Gotta Love It." 

That's perhaps why the record spawned no fewer than seven singles, four of which made the top 40 ("Livin' on the Edge," "Cryin'," "Crazy," "Amazing") and why, with the exception of closing instrumental "Boogie Man" and brief "Walk This Way"-referencing "Intro," every other track was worthy of a release. 

Some Aerosmith purists may have balked at all the outside interference, but despite their blatant hit-chasing approach the band never lost sight of who they are. 

It Boasts Rock Royalty

As well as recruiting a who's who of professional songwriters to boost Get A Grip's hit-making potential, Aerosmith also invited two bona fide rock legends to give the record even more pizzazz. Listen closely to the backing vocals on the autobiographical stadium rock of "Amazing" and you'll hear the raspy tones of fellow '70s survivor Don Henley.  

Meanwhile, the ultra-cool Lenny Kravitz – then very much at his commercial peak – went one better. Not only did he lend his voice to the full-throttle blues-rock of "Line Up," he also helped Tyler and Perry write it. The "Are You Gonna Go My Way" singer later went on to support Aerosmith on their mid- '00s tour, Rockin' The Joint.  

It Contains Joe Perry's Best Lead Vocal 

With one of the most charismatic frontmen in rock history at their disposal, Aerosmith have wisely only allowed Perry to take center stage on a handful of occasions. The guitarist first grabbed the mic for himself on "Bright Light Fright," a track from 1977's Draw the Line but had to wait until Get A Grip to take the lead once again. 

Also penned solely by Perry, "Walk on Down" is the kind of driving back-to-basics rock that once saw the group hailed as the USA's answer to the Rolling Stones. But the vocals are far easier on the ear than whenever Keith Richards takes over from Mick Jagger.  

It Features The Group's Most Striking Cover

Aerosmith could never be accused of playing it safe with their cover art. Who can forget Nine Lives' controversial depiction of Lord Krishna throwing some shapes on the snake demon Kaliya's head? Or the slightly nightmarish caricatures of Draw the Line? But Get A Grip's close-up of a cow's pierced udder undoubtedly remains the band's most striking. 

Designed by metal favorite Hugh Syme (Iron Maiden's The X Factor, Def Leppard's Retro Active), the image divided audiences at the time, with music journalist Steven Hyden blasting it as the worst album cover ever, while various animal rights groups also took umbrage, too. According to the group, however, the offending image was entirely computer generated.  

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

Photo: Rachel Kupfer 


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

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

GRAMMYs/Nov 25, 2022 - 04:23 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

Say She She

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

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


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

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

Shiro Schwarz

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

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


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

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

Franc Moody

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

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

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

Photo: Steven Sebring


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

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

GRAMMYs/Nov 25, 2022 - 04:19 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I did, yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think it was his car.

Did he get over it later on?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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