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Role Model On Playing Lolla For The First Time, Omar Apollo & New Music And Tour Dates

Role Model

Photo by Daniel Mendoza / The Recording Academy

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Role Model On Playing Lolla For The First Time, Omar Apollo & New Music And Tour Dates

"I'm extremely happy with the music I've been making, and I just want it out, like, now," the singer-songwriter tells the Recording Academy

GRAMMYs/Aug 8, 2019 - 10:18 pm

Tucker Pillsbury, who is better known as singer-songwriter Role Model, is just getting started. He recently released his debut EP, Arizona In The Summer, but already he's playing enormous festivals, like Lollapalooza 2019. 

The 21-year-old performer stopped by to chat with the Recording Academy before his debut Lolla set, where he talked about his mentality going into playing to live audiences (he doesn't like to overthink things), feeling impatient to release new music and more.

"I'm not good at planning stuff ahead like that. I just can't overthink it," he said of his mindset going into playing live. "Me and my band members, we don't do any of the huddle stuff or anything. We just get on stage. We try not to plan too much. We just see how it goes."

But just because he's playing doesn't mean he hasn't had time to see some of his friends hit the Lolla stage. "I just saw my best friend Omar Apollo perform on the Bud Light stage, which was insane," Pillsbury tells us. "I had goosebumps the whole time. I [also] saw Maggie Rogers. She's amazing. Tierra Whack, love her. Big fan."

Finally, Pillsbury filled us in on what he's got coming up: "I have another single coming out soon. I'll be performing it today," he said. "And then a project and a tour that hasn't been announced. We're announcing the tour next week. And hopefully a project right before. 

"It's been stressful," he continued. "You've been sitting on these songs for a year and making songs that you think are much better. It's hard because you've been listening to them for so long that you're sick of it, but no one's heard it. So it's mad stressful. But I'm extremely happy with the music I've been making, and I just want it out, like, now. I just want to show people what I've been working on."

Meet Us Behind The Scenes At Lollapalooza 2019

Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Omar Apollo On “Evergreen,” Growth & The Art Of Longing
Omar Apollo

Photo: Gustavo Garcia Villa

interview

Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Omar Apollo On “Evergreen,” Growth & The Art Of Longing

Omar Apollo sings, raps and dances. No matter what the Best New Artist nominee does, he does it with soul.

GRAMMYs/Jan 13, 2023 - 04:00 pm

Omar Apollo’s career began with a stolen guitar. It almost ended with one, too.

The self-taught musician, then 14, had been playing for two or three years when robbers took his beloved instrument from the family car after a gig. With no money to replace it, Apollo took up dancing and worked various jobs while in high school. He had let his music-making days go — until one day he couldn’t anymore. 

"The feeling overwhelmed me," he tells GRAMMY.com. "Music had taken over the part in my brain that needed to be creative." He went to a pawn shop and bought another guitar.

Following that feeling served him well. Apollo uploaded his song "Ugotme" to Spotify in 2017 and it was quickly blew up after being placed on a Fresh Finds playlist. Over the next three years, he released two EPs and a mixtape — Stereo (2018), Friends (2019) and Apolonio (2020) — which showcased his wide range of sounds including funk, pop, disco, R&B and Spanish corridos. Apollo’s dreamy croons and wistful lyrics about love (or lack of it) were a raw new voice to the youth experience of putting words to yet-unplumbed feelings. The son of Mexican immigrants, he also became a relatable figure for fellow first-generation Latinos.

This past year has been especially momentous. In April 2022, Apollo released his debut album, Ivory, which features Kali Uchis ("Bad Life"), Daniel Caesar ("Invincible") and production by the Neptunes ("Tamagotchi"). Another single from the LP, "Evergreen," went viral on TikTok, earned him his first placement on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart and currently boasts over 118 million Spotify streams. It’s all culminated in a Best New Artist nomination for the 65th GRAMMY Awards. 

Of course, these achievements didn’t all come easily. Behind the scenes, he reckoned with scrapped albums, tight deadlines and the type of overthinking that can crumble any artist’s career. Yet these hurdles only helped Apollo sharpen his vision — and he’s just only getting started.

How did your parents react to your nomination?

My dad was like, "Congratulations." My dad’s thought every single award was a GRAMMY nomination. So like, I won an award recently and he's like, "I heard you got another GRAMMY, mijo." And I was like, it wasn’t a GRAMMY [laughs]. It was so fun. My mom instantly was like, "What are we wearing?"

Are you bringing them to the GRAMMYs?

Of course.

As a fellow child of immigrants, I think we're very aware of the sacrifices that our parents made to build the life that we have now. How does that impact you?

With my parents being from Mexico, then coming here so their kids could have a better life, there's that pressure of needing to be successful or wanting to be — not so much in a creative way; more like, no, you go to college and get a job, that kind of thing.

But honestly, the feeling to make music was far greater than the pressure. I didn't think of it as a career; it just kind of snowballed into one. It was tough for them at first to understand. If I was living in Mexico and crossed the border illegally so my kids could have a better life, and then my kid wakes up one day and is like, oh, I wanna be a singer, I would be stressed out too. So I never blamed them for it. Now I have a great relationship with them.

How do you feel about the general Best New Artist category?

I'm happy to be recognized as new [laughs]. I wake up every day and just think about the future, and wanting to keep making music and progressing. Some people are like, you've been touring for a while, but I honestly feel like I'm barely getting started. It's just wonderful to be recognized, and with other great talented artists that I've known about and really like their music, too.

Ivory almost didn't happen in its current state. Why did you scrap the first version of the album, and how did you know you were on the right track for this one?

I scrapped the first album because I hated it. I wasn't excited to perform it. Everything was post-rationalized; it didn't have any theme. It was just me linking up with a bunch of producers and then putting whatever happened in those two months all together. It didn't feel like me by any means. It wasn't made on my laptop while I've been making music; it was on everyone else's computers. It was just weird. 

I learned so much from working with other people that I don't regret that at all. It also led me to making an album that I was proud of. So after I realized that it was an album that I didn't like, I made a new one in like three months. I booked houses in Idyllwild and Greenpoint in New York and just isolated myself, just took everything I learned. Very few people were involved in that process. I didn't even play it for my manager or nobody until it was done. I think that boundary really made all those songs into what they are.

Three months to make a new album sounds incredibly stressful. Do you find that you thrive in periods of crunch time?

That was definitely my most stressful time with music for sure. It was very dark. I felt like I was gonna burn a bridge with my label. But I got so much done. I made a hundred songs in three months and cut it down. Now I don't think I need to do that. 

Now it's not so much discovery, it's more execution. Discovery can take years, you know? I think that the process of Ivory and me releasing it gave me so much to learn from next time I'm in the process of writing.

Like what?

Themes, tones, overall cohesiveness and making an album. I could be like, this album is about this as opposed to doing 10 different genres. At the heart of everything that I do, I feel like there's soul even when I'm rapping. I think that's when I realized it's the type of music that I wanna make and play forever.

Did you expect "Evergreen" to take off the way that it did?

I don't think any of us did. It's so funny 'cause I always hear people talk about, when the song goes big, they're like, "we never knew." But we genuinely never knew. We even had a conversation when we were doing the splits of the song. It was me, Manny [Barajas], and Teo [Halm], and something came up along the lines of like, yeah, this isn't gonna be like, the song [laughs]. It’s just funny that it was.

Why do you think it resonated with so many people?

There was a giant release on that song and it almost didn't happen. The bridge is the release, the thing that ties the whole song together. Otherwise, it would just be a very sad song. I think that the part where [I sing] "You didn't deserve me at all" — just the way that it was set up and done — people could relate to it.

 It's a feeling that we've all felt in a relationship where it's just like, you tell yourself things to get over it and move on. One of those things is like, you didn't deserve me and the love I had to give.

I personally love "En El Olvido." Have you thought about making an album entirely of corridos or an all Spanish language record?

I totally have. I don't know how I would do it though. Right now I'm focused on writing. I'm going to the studio every day; I'm probably gonna go after this. There's just things I have to get out first, but who knows, they might develop or change. I just try to honor the inspiration that I feel and get it out as much as I can.

What's inspiring you now?

I've become obsessed with synthesizers; I just got one that I've been making every song on. And analog, '70s stuff. The atmospheric tones from that era have been inspiring me. I've been listening to a lot of Brian Eno, a lot of ambient [music]. 

I made a playlist, it's four hours long, that I spent like eight hours making one day in the green room. I was doing a show and just made like a whole… all of my knowledge of ambient music and even new stuff, just altogether in one thing. I don't know why, I've just been really drawn to that ambient feeling. I want to be able to sing over it because I love how it makes me feel. I want to amplify that feeling, that atmosphere, that world. Just be engulfed in it.

Tell me more about that world.

It slows everything down for me. I feel like when you're on the road and you have to constantly be perceived, it gets kind of heavy and then you start overthinking every interaction. Even the ones that aren't being recorded. That music puts me to sleep at night and makes me feel like everything's okay. 

Longing has been a major theme in your work. What is longing to you and why is it so dominant in your music?

Living in a state of longing is probably some of the most intense moments that I've had and the ones that I remember. Always traveling and not being able to have a conventional relationship as much as I'd like to. I've accepted longing as a feeling and, instead of being sad about it, I just like to live in it, I like to bask in it. It’s like a Freudian slip. Whenever I talk about longing, it's just there, like a sadness that I love to carry. 

I feel that. When you talked about how Pedro Infante’s "Cien Años" was foundational to your understanding and love of corridos, as soon as I read that I had to listen to it. It's still stuck in my head.

It's so good, man. Especially when you're longing for somebody but you know you’ll see them again. The longing of someone unrequited is what sucks. That one I don't like [laughs]. But the longing of somebody's presence, wanting to see them, be around them, see how they react to the simplest things. You get joy from it. That's the part I miss.

You're big on manifestation. In the last few years you've manifested two "Tonight Show" appearances, a Coachella gig and possibly this Best New Artist win. So let's put it out there: What else do you want to manifest?

What I want to manifest ultimately is being able to say what I wanna say in the most poetic way. That's all I really think about, is just being able to put words to these feelings that I get, and make something that I'm proud of.

2023 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Complete Nominees List

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.

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

Photo: Rachel Kupfer 

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

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

GRAMMYs/Nov 25, 2022 - 04:23 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

Say She She

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

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

Moniquea

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

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

Shiro Schwarz

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

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

L'Impératrice

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

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

Franc Moody

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

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

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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