meta-scriptShinedown Open Up About Upcoming Album 'Planet Zero,' 20 Years Of Road Warriordom & Why Rock Is A Tonic Against Global Toxicity |
Shinedown posing for a photo promoting their album 'Planet Zero'

Photo: Jimmy Fontaine


Shinedown Open Up About Upcoming Album 'Planet Zero,' 20 Years Of Road Warriordom & Why Rock Is A Tonic Against Global Toxicity

From cancel culture to Twitter addiction to divisive politics, Shinedown take shots at the forces that undermine our shared humanity on their new album 'Planet Zero'

GRAMMYs/Mar 3, 2022 - 03:39 pm

Can noise neutralize noise? For a rock band, this paradox makes sense. After two years of a politicized pandemic, ideological howling and torpedoing strangers' livelihoods by smartphone, Shinedown is ready to "throw down on the road" and "give people their confidence back." Hence, one type of racket — a joyful one — can supplant the din of daily existence.

The Florida rockers are about to go out with their upcoming album, Planet Zero — and in a way, its penultimate track tells the whole story. "Delete" consists of a computerized totalitarian demanding mass obedience, and the sound of the listener shutting her off. Then, what bandleader Brent Smith calls "the deep breath" at the end of the 20-song voyage: the contemplative, string-driven "What You Wanted." 

"It's the reflection of what you just went through," Smith tells, referring to the arc of Planet Zero. And from a parallel Zoom window, Shinedown bassist, producer and engineer Eric Bass agrees: "We're really talking to those forces that divide us — forces in government, forces in media, forces in Big Tech," he adds. "We're saying, 'Is this what you wanted? For us to be at each other's throats?'"

If this is the case — that all this animus toward our neighbors for their political affiliation or vaccination status is by design — then we're lucky to have Planet Zero as a warning flare. Releasing April 22, the album is their most strident statement yet. From cancel culture to Twitter addiction to divisive politics, Shinedown take shots at the forces that undermine our shared humanity. 

Crystallizing that message is its titular single, which just got its official video today (March 3). "Better pray for the soul of the citizen/ Better pray that you're not erased," Smith howls therein. Clearly, the dispatch resonated: "Planet Zero" hit No. 1 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Airplay Chart, where it remains at press time.

To mark the release of the "Planet Zero" video, sat down with Smith and Bass to discuss their brotherhood in Shinedown, why nuance is imbued in all things, and why — with a world tour kicking off April 1 — it'll be a relief to rejoin the land of the living.

 This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Your debut Leave A Whisper is nearing its 20th anniversary. How does that feel?

Smith: I'm very grateful for the fact that it was the beginning of the band's career. There's a lot of that record that I look back on very fondly and a lot that I look back on where I go "Whew! I'm glad I'm not dealing with that anymore!" 

It's all in how you look at it. I'm very proud of the record, but I'm extremely proud of Planet Zero.

When you listen back, what comes to mind? What were you dealing with?

Smith: I had a really good friend of mine once tell me that you'll get your whole life to do your first album, and if that album is successful, you'll get six months to do your second one. And that was exactly what happened. 

So, I have to look at the great things that Leave a Whisper and the second one, Us and Them, gave me in regard to our career and allowing us to continue to move forward, but I also have to look back at it and learn what not to do anymore in the future. I was super young, and it was just like what they said — you have your whole life to do your first record.

I think back on it very fondly in a lot of circumstances, but at the same time, there were a lot of struggles that were occurring at that time. I think, more than anything, those two albums taught me that I was truly built to be a touring musician — that I was meant to be on the road. 

I didn't realize until now that [producer, musician and YouTuber] Rick Beato was a co-producer on the first record.

Smith: He had a couple of tracks on Leave a Whisper — "Lost in the Crowd," "All I Ever Wanted" and "In Memory," if I remember correctly.

Bass: Rick and I were [already] friends. He was a record producer and songwriter, of course, for a long time before he became Rick Beato, the YouTube sensation. He was one of the first people I called when Steve Robertson, Shinedown's A&R, called me about writing with Brent.

We were talking about working together, and then the possibility of joining the band [arose]. Rick was one of the people I called, before I met Brent. I was like, "What do you think of this cat?" He goes, "Brent is a different person, man. He's a different breed of human being."

I didn't exactly know what he meant until I met Brent and realized that was very true. Brent Smith is not built like everybody else. But it's funny you bring Rick up, because he was literally the first person I called, because I knew he had worked with the band before.

It's interesting that Rick is now doing what he's doing — and he's a brilliant guy, man. Super brilliant, super knowledgeable about music. I spent time with him as a producing mentor, and also as someone who was producing bands I was in at the time. He doesn't let all of that knowledge out in the studio. It's amazing how much he knows that you don't know that he knows.

Eric, what else do you remember about joining the band around the Sound of Madness era? 

Bass: Steve Robertson and I had a history together with me being a record producer and writer. I worked with a lot of baby bands that he ended up liking a lot. Some of those bands went on to do other things; some didn't. But he always liked what I did creatively in the recording studio. 

I had stopped playing music in bands for quite some time. For a few years, I decided to take on the studio and do that instead of touring in vans anymore, and sleeping in Walmart parking lots and doing that whole thing. I was going to ask my now-wife to marry me, and I thought I needed to find a more solid career than carpentry and playing in dive bars. 

So, I moved on to the recording studio end of things, and Steve and I had a relationship from that. When Brent was writing for The Sound of Madness, he asked if I'd like to work with him on songwriting. He also simultaneously mentioned that the band might be looking for a bass player.

At the time, that didn't appeal to me because of where I was in my career. I had just opened a recording studio and my wife and I had taken out a second mortgage on the house to make that happen. I wasn't sure I wanted to jump back into being in a band, but it ended up being the right move for sure. [Laughs.]

Brent and I hit it off for sure, right out of the gate. There was a kinship and brotherhood there from the beginning. Fast forward to six months later or something, I did an audition for the band, it worked out, and here we are.

Have you guys always dovetailed in your sociopolitical beliefs?

Bass: We never talked about it, to be honest with you. At least in the beginning, we never talked about it. At that time — and now, to a large extent — it was unimportant to me with the people in my life. I don't have to align with people on any sort of political thing to be friends with them or family or whatever. We didn't talk about it! 

It's like being in a marriage. If it's going to work out, you coalesce into a set of beliefs. My beliefs change on a quasi-daily basis, depending on what I read and educate myself with. I don't know — Brent, what do you think? 

Smith: I think from day one, we all looked at it as a marriage, and I mean that wholeheartedly. No one goes to bed angry. We're with each other so much, and we're known as a band that goes on the road quite heavily.

And there's a purpose why we're on the road as much as we are. As we write and record these records and put this art out there, we want to bring it to the people. We've never been afraid of hard work, and we've never been afraid of the dynamic of [the fact that] there's a different quality to the live experience.

Taking into consideration that familial mind-meld, do you remember any point where you guys realized the discourse was changing in an ugly way?

Bass: Speaking for myself, when I was younger, I had more rigid viewpoints. Everything was black and white and rigid. I would listen to other people's viewpoints, of course, but I wasn't as open to considering them as I have when I've gotten older. I have grown so much from other people's perspectives and viewpoints.

I guess I would describe it as steelmanning my perspective. I might hold a viewpoint, but I immediately go like, "What does this mean from the other person's perspective? What would their argument be toward me about my viewpoint?" And it will break down so many walls and poke so many holes in what you think when you do that. 

I think our entire band looks at things like that. There's nuance everywhere. There are no absolutes. It's the opposite of the Siths, right? "Only a Sith deals in absolutes." 

Smith: We have a saying in the band: "It's not about the painter. It's about the painting." You have to look at the big picture.

Especially during the pandemic, it almost became a sport to take down public figures — oftentimes, it seemed, out of boredom. How did you react to that paradigm?

Bass: People are worth so much more than their worst moment. I love thinking that way. When people are casting stones at someone because they said something they don't agree with — and maybe it was something that shouldn't have been said by someone in the public eye — they're certainly not laying their dirty laundry out on the table. Every single person on this planet has said or done something that would get them canceled.

Smith: When you're bored, you could potentially be threatening someone's life. And that's where — me, personally — I draw the line. You need to really look at what you're saying, because your words could become bullets. It gets bigger than just you, because you're bored.

Bass: Taking it back to the message of Planet Zero, this is a potential future that we saw in our minds. We're so intolerant of each other's differing opinions. We're not even having conversations, just having shouting matches about "I'm right and you're wrong," and shutting each other down under the guise of "hate speech" or "You're a racist" or "You're a misogynist" or whatever pejorative I can sling at you at the time to shut you up.

If we keep going in that direction, we end up in a place like Planet Zero, I believe. Where no one has a voice, at that point, except for the people in charge.

Smith: We'll zero everything out. 

Bass: If I shut everybody down that I disagreed with and lived in my echo chamber, I would be beyond ignorant. I want to live in the real world, and I want to live in a place where I know as much about what's actually going on as I can.

That type of enlightenment or gaining a new foundation only happens when we have real conversations with each other — but conversations, not yelling matches.

How did Planet Zero take form from that raw conceptual framework?

Smith: Sonically, something that Eric really focused on — and I'm bringing Eric up specifically because he was the producer, engineer and mixer of Planet Zero — was that he wanted to push everything to the front.

We know how to make these cinematic records. We know how to layer with stereo and all those tricks of the trade, if you will. But this was more about being aggressive and a bit primal. Even though there's a lot of intensity and passion on the record, there's also a lot of triumph and humility as well.

But what Eric wanted to do sonically was cut through any minutia. So, it wasn't about layering everything; it wasn't about stacking everything and making this gigantic wall. It was more about "How do we cut to the chase and get to the point of the song?" We did that lyrically; we did that sonically.

One thing Eric wanted us to focus on — and why the album sounds different than the other records — was to play through. Meaning: we weren't cutting and pasting perfect choruses. He was more focused on playing the song from the beginning to middle to end. If we messed up, we had to start over.

With the vocals, he put me way up front. No verbs, no delays, for the most part. For 80 percent of the record, the vocals are dry. That helped the record cut a lot better and get to the point where you can hear what I was saying. I'm the mouthpiece for the band, and Eric wanted it to be really clear what we were saying.

And the title track is a pure distillation of that. 

Smith: That song is a reflection. I've heard the songs on the record over a thousand times, but when I listen to that song, it still makes me think. There is a lot to unpack in this album, and this is a record that was made for the people, by the people.

Do you see the world moving out of moral hysteria a little bit?

Smith: I hope so, because it's exhausting. I'm looking forward to throwing down on the road with this record and pumping people up and giving them back their confidence. I hope we are part of that movement of getting us all back together again. 

Bass: I would like to think that we will wake up and realize that we have so much more to offer as human beings when we're not trying to tear each other down all the time.

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Inaugural GRAMMY Hall Of Fame Gala

Image courtesy of the Recording Academy


GRAMMY Hall Of Fame Gala 2024 Performers Announced: Andra Day, The War And Treaty, Ravyn Lenae, Shinedown And More Confirmed

The Recording Academy and GRAMMY Museum's inaugural GRAMMY Hall Of Fame Gala will take place Tuesday, May 21, at the Novo Theater in Los Angeles. Atlantic Records will be the first label honoree. Tickets go on sale Saturday, April 27 at noon PT/3 p.m. ET.

GRAMMYs/Apr 25, 2024 - 02:00 pm

The inaugural GRAMMY Hall Of Fame Gala is just ahead — and now, we know which musicians will grace the stage. Andra Day, Ravyn Lenae, Shinedown, and the War and Treaty will perform at the Recording Academy and GRAMMY Museum's gala, with more performers to be announced at a later date.

The Gala will take place on May 21, 2024, at the Novo Theater in Downtown Los Angeles and will be hosted by veteran CBS broadcast journalist Anthony Mason. The annual Gala will also honor a label, with the first being Atlantic Records.

Tickets go on sale to the general public on Saturday, April 27, 2024 at 12 p.m. PT at this link. More information about the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame Gala is available here.

The inaugural Hall Of Fame Gala will honor the 2024 GRAMMY Hall Of Fame inducted recordings on its 50th Anniversary, including De La Soul's 3 Feet High And Rising, Guns N' Roses' Appetite For Destruction, Buena Vista Social Club's Buena Vista Social Club, and Lauryn Hill's The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill, as well as recordings by Donna Summer, Charley Pride, Wanda Jackson, Kid Ory's Creole Orchestra, the Doobie Brothers, and William Bell.

The Gala will also pay tribute to iconic record label Atlantic Records, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary, and has over 38 recordings already inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame. 

"We're honored that the Recording Academy and GRAMMY Museum have chosen Atlantic to be the first label celebrated at what promises to be an exciting annual event," said Atlantic Music Group Chairman & CEO Julie Greenwald and Atlantic Records Chairman & CEO Craig Kallman. "The GRAMMY Hall Of Fame includes many of the most groundbreaking recordings in our company's 75-year history, and it will be great to hear some of our outstanding current artists bring their unique voices to these timeless songs."

"We are thrilled to be able to recognize Atlantic Records' incomparable contribution to recorded music, including numerous Hall Of Fame inducted recordings, as our first Hall Of Fame Gala label honoree. We're looking forward to celebrating them along with this year's inducted recordings during an unforgettable evening of performances by some of today's most talented artists," says Michael Sticka, President/CEO of the GRAMMY Museum.

The evening will include a red carpet and VIP reception on the Ray Charles Terrace at the GRAMMY Museum followed by a one-of-a-kind concert at the Novo Theater. This year's show will be produced by longtime Executive Producer of the GRAMMY Awards, Ken Ehrlich, along with Chantel Sausedo and Ron Basile. Musical Direction by globally renowned producer and keyboardist Greg Phillinganes. The Gala is presented by City National Bank.

The GRAMMY Hall Of Fame was established by the Recording Academy's National Trustees in 1973. The inducted recordings are selected annually by a special member committee of eminent and knowledgeable professionals from all branches of the recording arts with final 

ratification by the Recording Academy's National Board of Trustees.

With 10 new titles, the Hall currently totals 1,152 inducted recordings in the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame. Recipients will receive an official certificate from the Recording Academy and GRAMMY Museum.

The full list of past inducted recordings can be viewed here. For sponsorship opportunities, reach out to And keep checking for more info about the GRAMMY Hall of Fame gala, and beyond!

Shinedown Open Up About Upcoming Album Planet Zero, 20 Years Of Road Warriordom & Why Rock Is A Tonic Against Global Toxicity

Kendrick Lamar GRAMMY Rewind Hero
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."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Franc Moody
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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billy idol living legend
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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