meta-scriptSparks' Russell Mael Talks 24th LP, 'A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip,' Adam Driver & That Time They Showed Up On 'Gilmore Girls' |


Photo courtesy of Sparks' Facebook


Sparks' Russell Mael Talks 24th LP, 'A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip,' Adam Driver & That Time They Showed Up On 'Gilmore Girls'

The Sparks singer speaks to about the band's latest LP, their upcoming musical project 'Annette' and Edgar Wright's in-the-works band documentary

GRAMMYs/Jul 6, 2020 - 10:08 pm

Even the best rock bands follow a sad life cycle seemingly embedded in their DNA: As retirement age approaches, the desire to innovate—and be brazenly weird—often flickers and fades, like a lightbulb on its last legs. But Sparks are not a normal rock band—if they can even be described as "rock," or even a "band."

Since the group's formation in 1967, brothers Ron (keyboards) and Russell Mael (vocals) have followed a non-linear evolution through intricate glam-rock (1974's Kimono My House), electronic disco (1979's No. 1 in Heaven), power pop (1982's Angst in My Pants), house music (1994's Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins), Neo-classical (2002's Lil' Beethoven), operatic radio musical (2009's The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman) and indie-rock (2015's FFS, a collaboration with Franz Ferdinand). Russell is 71. Ron is 74. Sparks have no business being this interesting for this long.

And somehow the duo are deep into one of their most productive years of the last five decades. They just released their 24th LP, a batch of radiant art-pop called A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip; and Annette, an upcoming musical film they wrote and composed, recently wrapped post-production. (The movie was originally scheduled to premiere at the 2020 Cannes Festival—then the entertainment industry collapsed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.) Meanwhile, filmmaker Edgar Wright is currently finalizing the first authorized documentary about the band.

Russell spoke with about Sparks' sustained productivity amid lockdown, their slate of new projects and how to write a cinematic song about a lawnmower.

<style>.embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }</style><div class='embed-container'><iframe src='' frameborder='0' allowfullscreen></iframe></div>

This is a frightening time, and the music industry is in a tailspin. But you have several projects in the pipeline, so at least you're staying productive.

That's the main thing: staying productive. That's the one thing we're able to do. Ron is in his place, which is a 10-minute drive from me, and we're trying to keep our self-isolation between us in this immediate period. It hampers some of the workflow we're used to—we're constantly working, and we have a studio in my place. That's been limited during this period, but we're still being really active. We're doing a couple of videos now that we're able to do on our own. We're gonna be having a couple of isolation "live" performance videos that we're able to do with our band. Most of them are in L.A., but a couple are in other states. And Ron is always constantly writing. In a certain way, we're kind of lucky that we have a job that we can continue to do in a slightly altered capacity.

Do you imagine if this continues throughout the year and into next year that you might continue to write songs remotely, swapping files through email?

That's kind of how we're working now, so it's already started. We're working on a video for one of the songs from the album, so it forces you to be creative in different ways than you were before. We're each shooting ourselves for this video, and I'm compiling everything and editing at my place. We've already started that process you mentioned—you're forced to figure out new ways to cope with all this, being a musician. The other thing is what it all means for touring because we have a tour booked for all of Europe, and we're gonna be doing some dates in the States for October. But it's very, very, very questionable whether things are going to, on a live concert front, be able to happen that early. Everyone's making contingency plans if things have to get postponed.

The pandemic has also, sadly, affected your rollout for the Annette musical.

The good news is that it was all shot—the shooting ended at the end of last year. The final editing of it is able to be done remotely, and our musical polish that we've done for the project has been completed. It just remains to be seen what form the distribution of movies will take in the upcoming period too. The film was scheduled to be launched at the Cannes Film Festival this year, so that was a major disappointment for us. We were going to go with Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard, the two stars of the film, and the director, Leos Carax. It was going to be a big launch for it, but now Cannes has scrapped any idea of doing a traditional film festival, and they may be doing some kind of limited, online version. But we don't really want to launch the film under those circumstances, and I think the producers of the film agree, so everybody's gonna have to go step by step and see how everything progresses. It could also be launched at Toronto and the Venice Film Festival, but those are in September, so no one knows now if that's too soon. It's starts settling in, "God, is that too early?" The film is with Amazon in America, so everybody's having to do a waiting game. It's hard to even plan. The good news is that the film is done, and it's a pretty amazing project. We're just so fortunate that it turned out the way it did. It's something we've worked out for eight years now, and it finally got made.

Obviously film projects can take years to produce, but Annette had an especially long development period. Were you actively involved in trying to get it made this whole time, or did you just kind of move on from it and hope it might work out? 

We initially did this project and thought it was going to be Sparks' next album—a narrative album, which was really intriguing to us. We touched on doing another narrative project, like [the 2009 radio musical] The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman, which was commissioned by the Swedish National Radio. That inspired us. We wrote this story, Annette, eight years ago. We went to the Cannes Film Festival and were introduced to Leos, who had used one of Sparks' songs in his [2012] movie, Holy Motors. When we got back to L.A., we said, "We should send this to Leos," not even considering that it was going to be in the form of a movie. We did, and he really flipped out over it and said, "I think this is something I'd really like to direct. It's amazing." Over the eight-year period, we worked with Leos, he'd come to L.A. often, and we'd go to Paris and meet him. It was refining what we had done initially to become a movie as opposed to an album, but he was also really instrumental in putting together the financing side of it with various producers and distributors around the world. It took a long time to do that.

When did Adam Driver come onboard, and how did that change the trajectory of the project?

About four years ago or slightly longer now, it was proposed to Adam Driver to play the lead character. We were so happily surprised that he loved the project and wanted to do it. He'd also been a fan of Leos' films as well, and he was intrigued to do a musical. It's a really non-traditional musical—it's about 95 percent sung or delivered in a musical fashion, so it was a really challenging role for him and for Marion. We were fortunate they came onboard and that Adam's passion for the project was so strong that it withstood him going on to other projects, like [2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens]. He's been in a million movies since that time, so we're wondering, "Is he going to retain his interest for this project of ours?" And he did. He really threw his whole soul into this role. It's tricky acting in a great way but also conveying all your lines in a sung way. It's not traditional, like Broadway in the pejorative sense, like Annie. It's a lot edgier. We were so happy, and we'd love to work with him again. We've already talked about trying to work on something with him again, another musical project.

Was he a Sparks fan when he signed on for the role?

I think he became more versed in Sparks after the fact. We never really had that specific discussion, but my understanding is that he was introduced to us via this. I think he had a lot of friends that were fans of Sparks, so maybe he did his research and now he knows who we are in a cool way. In a certain way, it's even more satisfying that he responded just to the music he heard and the story, rather than it being attached to who we were or our history.

Did you immediately click on this non-traditional approach to a musical? Is that something he'd been wanting to do?

We did discuss, stylistically, how we imagined the singing. He was totally on the same wavelength as us: being more naturalistic singing. At a certain point in the movie, you kind of forget that the characters are all singing. You suspend any disbelief that it's artificial—you get sucked into the whole style of how they're transmitting the dialogue. He hadn't done a musical at all. In Marriage Story, he does one Stephen Sondheim song. But this is a completely different thing. This is a whole other area. [Laughs.]

<style>.embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }</style><div class='embed-container'><iframe src='' frameborder='0' allowfullscreen></iframe></div>

I assume you demoed these songs by singing them yourself. Was it hard to let go and allow someone else to take ownership of them? Did you get attached to your own performances?

Yeah, actually, if it hadn't been Adam Driver, it would have been more of an issue in that respect. It's true, we heard my voice for eight years as that character. It was all hypothetical until you actually heard what he was doing. You could say, "He's a great actor, but what will that sound like?" And it was such a relief: We couldn't have been happier with what we did. His character is very cool in this. It's a really strange thing: eight years of my voice, and sometimes even Ron playing some of the roles in the initial version we did, and then to hear him take over that character and go, "Wow, this is actually better than I thought it would be." We are very precious about what we do, and I didn't want to sit there and be a vocal coach in a taste sort of way. But he completely nailed it, and his singing technique is exactly what we hoped for. It's not a Broadway singer — it's a real guy who happens to be delivering lines in this stylized way.

Hopefully we'll see that project soon. In the meantime, let's talk about A Steady, Steady Drip, which includes some of the most vivid Sparks songs in years. "The Existential Threat" couldn't be a more timely song, given the assorted crises we're all dealing with right now, but it's also set to this bouncy melody.

When it was written, there were existential threats to everything in our world. But now it's taken on some extra resonance, sadly. This [character] in the song is just citing all the various things that are bombarding him. The song is so hyper in its nature, too, that we thought it was really fitting with the melody and the tempo and the urgency helping to emphasize that everything around us now is becoming more and more of an existential threat. There's going to be a video for it too, that we're really excited about, from a director and animator. It'll be coming out in early July. It's an English director named Cyriak—he's taken the song to another level as far as the fear and dread surrounding everybody in an animated [way].

<style>.embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }</style><div class='embed-container'><iframe src='' frameborder='0' allowfullscreen></iframe></div>

"Please Don't F**k Up My World" couldn't be a more appropriate song for our times. I love how it isn't preachy or grandiose in protesting environmental destruction—it's this sort of simple, human-to-human plea: "Please, stop screwing everything up. I love my planet."

That's a really nice comment. That's so much what we wanted the song to be. Just like you said: It's a fine line between making a statement like that but not being preachy about it—to even use the colloquial expressions, like, "Come on, don't f**k up my world." What you said is so spot-on—I'll mention it to Ron because he'd really appreciate it. Sometimes things get misinterpreted, like you're jumping on the ecological bandwagon. We kind of don't see it that way. There's a general statement to it. We didn't want it to be this heavy-handed thing: "Oh, isn't everything so screwed up?" That's what Ron's really conscious of too with the lyrics: He spends a lot of time and care with them, to do something that isn't preachy but just talking like a human being—"Please don't mess things up." There are obviously environmental specifics within the song, but you can also take it as a relationship song in a certain way—somebody telling his partner, "Please don't f**k up my world with our relationship. Thing are not going well. Can we work for that to not be the case?"

"Lawnmower" is another essential track on this album, a very quintessential Sparks song. I love the idea of writing a grand tribute to to this trivial element of everyday American life. You can picture the green grass and picket fences like out of a 1950s sitcom. The Beach Boys wrote about surf boards, but Sparks can find a cinematic angle into a lawnmower.

Your observations have cut right to the heart. We think of it too as an iconic American image. We know that lawnmowers exist around the world, but the image of an American out on their lawn, with their potbelly in their wife-beater shirt, mowing the lawn is such an iconic, suburban thing. This guy in the song is taking so much pride in his lawn, and specifically his lawnmower, that it's almost going to be a deal-breaker in his relationship with his partner, his woman. Like you said, [the amount of] detail elevates it into something bigger than would normally be justified—speaking in such glowing terms about what this object means to this guy in the song. Even The Beach Boys reference you mentioned is very fitting as well.

<style>.embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }</style><div class='embed-container'><iframe src='' frameborder='0' allowfullscreen></iframe></div>

Your songwriting collaboration with Ron has really evolved a lot over the years. In the beginning, you both wrote a lot—and often together—but Ron sort of took over as the primary writer for a long time. And then you returned to full co-writing for the bulk of the last few decades. Does that just come down to inspiration—who's feeling they have more material to contribute at a particular time?

He's doing the bulk of the songwriting now, and it varies as to what form that takes. Sometimes he'll have a really fully fleshed-out song that he'll bring over to my place in the studio. Then another way is that we'll start working here just in the studio, having no idea of what we're doing, and Ron will just start playing. My role in recent years has been engineering the albums, doing the recording with him playing. [Sometimes we don't have] any kind of goal in mind about what the specific song will be because there's nothing there. Maybe Ron will take away the track from that day and see if he can come up with some melody line on top of that. Or maybe there's a lyric idea, or a title, that gets imposed on that piece of music that hasn't been fully developed. Those are the basic ways that things get written.

Ron said you've been approached before about doing a Sparks documentary but weren't interested. Did those filmmakers just not have the right approach? Did they not seem like authentic fans?

It was a combination of things. When Edgar approached us after one of our shows in L.A. to propose this idea of doing a documentary on Sparks, [he had this] passion and enthusiasm for the band. It was like, "Wow, he's really well-versed in Sparks, and he's effervescent in his love for the band." There was that on one level, but even that's not enough if you're not also convinced the director is able to convey the spirit of Sparks visually and make it into a movie. In the past, we hadn't been convinced that some directors, even though they liked Sparks, were actually on the same wavelength as us—that the ultimate film would be a visual equivalent of what Sparks is musically, in the same spirit and tone. We were also concerned because people don't know much about us personally, and obviously you have to open up and give some of that information. But you [want it to] be done in a way that isn't exposing every little wart on you, that it would be done in a way that still guarded some of the mystique and mystery. Edgar was on the same wavelength. He said, "I promise you—if anything, you'll have more mystique after this film is out." At some point you just have to throw yourself into it.

Were you fans of his previous films?

That was a major, major thing. Anybody whose done The World's End and Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Baby Driver has a pop sensibility, and he usually incorporates some musical elements. He's so animated in his excitement when you're with him. He's so upbeat: "We're gonna do this, and it's gonna be amazing!" We thought, "We can't go wrong." He's finished a three-hour version fo the film, but he's trying to edit it down somewhat for other venues that need a shorter version. He said the film needs to be three hours to even begin to touch on the whole story of Sparks. He's done an amazing job. He followed us all around the world to Japan and Mexico City and London and L.A., just filming concerts and around the cities in various [situations] that have been close to us personally. And he's unearthed tons of archival stuff from all around the world, like TV performances from early on in our career. He also managed to gather together an amazing amount of musicians, actors, and authors to speak about their passion for Sparks. There will be some surprises of people you wouldn't necessarily expect to like Sparks—like, "Wow, that band likes Sparks? I never would have thought that in a million years." That was what Ron and I said when these people were enlisted by Edgar to take part. It was a nice outpouring of people in the documentary. We won't divulge the names, but I think people will be happily surprised to hear what they have to say.

For a band that has built such a compelling mystique, you're also very active on social media—that's a delicate balance to maintain: being accessible to fans and not stuffy but also filtering out the parts of your personal lives that aren't relevant to the artist-listener relationship.

That's really important, and what you said is really accurate. Our music speaks better for us than us speaking about us, and that's always first and foremost with us—we'd rather have people, if we had a choice, listen to our music and from that gather what you want about how we are personally. We're accessible in a certain way, but we do it on our own terms where we don't give away too much of who we are. I think the people who are really into Sparks also like not knowing every little bit of minutiae. You know more about us if you know we did a song called "Lawnmower"—that says a lot about our sensibility.

You've been maintaining that fan connection by posting these silly Facebook videos: you stretching at home, Ron showing off his collection of hand sanitizer. In one clip, a commenter wrote that your face mask has the Korean word for "laughing" on it. Is that accurate?

 Yeah, it is! I think it's literally "ha ha ha," the characters repeated.

I don't know if this is a stretch, but I find that idea sort of inspiring: Despite how awful things are, maybe we should put on a mask of playfulness and laugh through the surreality of this insane time.

I think that's accurate. I knew what the mask meant because I bought it in Korea around Christmastime. When I started to do the video, I didn't have the connection in mind, but I think it's really apt. In a general way, we're hoping those videos make people happier or interested to see how we're coping with this whole situation—but we also want to do things that are not heavy-handed and pompous in what they're conveying. Now the whole idea of a self-isolation video is becoming a cliche. It's amazing how fast something becomes a cliche. So you have to fight to do something within that genre that's fresh. Now it's like, "How many ways can I film my little living room? You only have so many angles." We also want to something in the spirit of what Sparks is.

This is totally unrelated, but what do you remember about appearing in an episode of Gilmore Girls? How did those two worlds converge?

We were approached by writer-director Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband, [executive producer] Dan Palladino. They'd used a few Sparks songs—oddly, to our mind, but happily—in a few episodes. We thought, "That's an interesting show, but we wonder what the connection is?" But nothing was pursued. Then one day we were asked to if we wanted to take part in an episode, and we did a stripped-down version of that song "Perfume" in some town square. We were really excited to do that. It was really interesting that they were even fans of Sparks. I'm telling you now, but the Palladinos are two of the spokespeople for Sparks in the documentary. That kind of makes the story full-circle.

<style>.embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }</style><div class='embed-container'><iframe src='' frameborder='0' allowfullscreen></iframe></div>

That just goes to show there are a lot of people out there with surprising taste. Were the Palladinos big fans of any particular Sparks era?

I think at the time they might have really been into the '80s stuff, the Angst in My Pants period. I think that was their initial entry point, and they now obviously fully-versed Sparks people. I believe the songs they used were part of the '80s period.

The benefit of being a band with a huge, varied catalog is that fans can worm their way into the catalog slowly—and then discover this enormous body of work.

Edgar Wright is English, but he wasn't there for the initial Kimono My House stuff. He picked up on Sparks starting with the No. 1 in Heaven album, which was huge for him growing up in England. It is funny how the entry place is always different. Now people can obviously pick up on all the eras—people will pick up on our latest stuff, and then there are a lot of young people who go back and are so shocked to [realize] it's a band with a 24-album history.

Blu & Exile Talk New Album 'Miles': "We're Hoping That This Music Heals People"

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. 

10 Essential Facts To Know About GRAMMY-Winning Rapper J. Cole

15 Must-Hear New Albums Out may 2023
(Top) Nick and Kevin Jonas, Summer Walker, Ed Sheeran (Center) Paul Simon, Lewis Capaldi, Sparks, Parker McCollum, Arlo Parks (Bottom) Juanes, Lola Young, Tinariwen, LP Giobbi

(Top) Jim Dyson/Getty Images, Astrida Valigorsky/WireImage, Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic (Center) Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy, Frank Hoensch/Redferns, Munachi Osegbu, Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images for CMT, Dave Benett/Getty Images (Bottom) Dave Benett/Getty Images for Givenchy Beauty, Jim Dyson/Getty Images, Scott Dudelson/Getty Images


15 Must-Hear Albums Out In May: Jonas Brothers, Summer Walker, Paul Simon & More

From Sparks' offbeat 'The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte' to the heartfelt storytelling on Lewis Capaldi's 'Broken by Desire to Be Heavenly Sent,' and growth set to R&B from Lola Young and Arlo Parks, check out 15 albums dropping this May.

GRAMMYs/May 1, 2023 - 01:07 pm

Spring is in full bloom, and with it comes a slew of inspiring records and unmissable tours. May brings upon us the return of giants and some promising newcomers, and whether you like the country music of Parker McCollum or the Mexican pop of AQUIHAYAQUIHAY, this month's releases offer something to please every taste.

This month, the Jonas Brothers finally make their awaited return with The Album, while Ed Sheeran completes his math symbols series with Subtract. Paul Simon will turn dreams into reality with Seven Psalms, and Tuareg collective Tinariwen will continue their desert blues exploration on Amatssou. Early aughts pop-punk outfit the Exploding Hearts will get a remastered, expanded reissue, and dance music maven LP Giobbi will make her studio album debut with Light Places.

Below is a guide with 15 must-hear albums dropping May 2023. Read on for known names that might reignite your passion, and budding acts who will make your curiosity flourish.

Ed Sheeran - Subtract 

Release date: May 5

Completing Ed Sheeran’s series of albums titled after mathematical symbols, Subtract (stylized as -), will feature 14 cuts that deal with the singer’s "fear, depression, and anxiety" throughout the hardships that shaped his past year, according to an Instagram post.

Sheeran added that his wife’s tumor diagnosis while pregnant, the death of his best friend Jamal Edwards, and a 2022 plagiarism trial "changed my life, my mental health, and ultimately the way I viewed music and art," prompting him to scrap "a decade’s worth of work with my deepest, darkest thoughts."

Produced by the National’s Aaron Dessner, Subtract is billed as an acoustic album, ranging from "pared back, folk-leaning textures to bolder, full-band/orchestral arrangements," which can be seen through pre-release "Boat" and lead single "Eyes Closed."

Jonas Brothers - The Album

Release date: May 12

The Jonas Brothers’ sixth studio album has been teased since 2020, but after several delays (including the COVID-19 pandemic), the The Album will be unleashed into the world. The trio told Variety that the follow-up to 2019’s Happiness Begins "features elements of classic ’70s pop and Americana with a modern edge," and was inspired by another sibling trio — the Bee Gees — as well as rock bands the Doobie Brothers and America.

Produced by Jon Bellion (who is also the album’s only featured artist), most of its tracks were performed at the Jonas Brothers’ fifth and final Broadway show on March 18, 2023. However, expectations remain high as the album release will be accompanied by a yet-to-be-announced tour.

Kaytraminé - Kaytraminé

Release date: May 12

Fusing the talents of top-rated producer/DJ Kaytranada and rapper Aminé might have been one of the most ambitious efforts of 2023. 

Although they have been frequent collaborators since 2013, including Kaytranada producing three songs out of Aminé's 2015 mixtape Calling Brio, this is the first time they unite forces for a whole record as Kaytraminé.

The project's first single, "4EVA," features the Neptunes' Pharrell Williams on vocals and co-production. Judging by its vibe, it seems like summer already has an official soundtrack.

Parker McCollum - Never Enough

Release date: May 12

2021’s Gold Chain Cowboy set Parker McCollum on the path to becoming a country music star. The major label debut followed two self-released albums — 2015’s The Limestone Kid and 2017’s Probably Wrong, and ended up winning New Male Artist of the Year at the American Country Music Awards — as well as a double-platinum single, "Pretty Heart," and a gold-certified single, "To Be Loved by You."

McCollum continues to look forward with Never Enough. Among its 15 tracks, there is the first time he ever said "beer" in a song, as well as singles "Handle on You," "Stoned," "I Ain’t Going Nowhere," and "Speed." The singer is also extending his tour through the summer, with the participation of fellow country artists like Larry Fleet, Randy Rogers Band, and Flatland Cavalry on some dates.

LP Giobbi - Light Places

Release date: May 12

Boundary-bender musician, producer and entrepreneur LP Giobbi believes in "letting yourself get lost and finding out it’s exactly where you were supposed to be." 

The statement, and title of her debut studio album Light Places, follows lyrics from the Grateful Dead’s "Scarlet Begonias": "Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places / if you look at it right." Giobbi, who is also a confessed Deadhead, said that the lyrics are one of her father’s favorites, "and almost a philosophy for the way he lives and taught my brother and me to live." 

Produced almost entirely during flights while she toured the world with her "one-woman jam band" DJ sets, Light Places expands Giobbi’s classical jazz training into buoyant dance rhythms, and features collaborations with DJ Tennis, SOFI TUKKER, Caroline Byrne, and more. As a preview, she recently released singles "Can’t Let You Go (feat. Little Jet)" and "All I Need."


Release date: May 12

The forerunners of M-pop (Mexican pop) and a self-professed "anti-boyband," AQUIHAYAQUIHAY are known for blending traditional Latin genres with R&B and hip-hop. The 20-something quintet are set to release a new album, NO ME BUSQUES DONDE MISMO.

Formed in 2016, AQUIHAYAQUIHAY released their debut album, DROPOUT in 2019 and signed with DJ/producer Steve Aoki’s Latin underground label, Dim Mak en Fuego. The group  dropped two EPs in 2021, titled :) and :(.  

Although the sounds and influences in NO ME BUSQUES have yet to be revealed, the band released two preview singles, "Duelo" and "B-day," a TikTok teaser, and announced a Mexican tour in June.

Summer Walker - Clear 2: Soft Life 

Release date: May 19

"Y’all ready for some new music?" Summer Walker asked the crowd during her set at April’s Dreamville Festival. The question was preceded by the announcement of her upcoming EP, Clear 2: Soft Life.

Clear 2 is a sequel to Walker’s first EP, 2019’s Clear, which was released just nine months before her breakout debut studio album, Over It. Debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart, the LP earned the biggest streaming week ever for an R&B album by a woman, and set the singer as a force to watch. Her 202 sophomore album, Still Over It, surpassed its predecessor and debuted at No. 1 on the same chart.

"This one — I want it to be a lot longer so I can really get that sound out," Walker recently told Billboard about her upcoming EP. "I make what I got to make for the radio, but I’m very excited for [Clear 2]. Hopefully, my budget will be permitted."

Lewis Capaldi - Broken By Desire To Be Heavenly Sent

Release date: May 19

"If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it" seems to be a saying that Lewis Capaldi currently lives by. The Scottish sensation said in a press release that he doesn’t want to "create a new sound for myself, or reinvent myself," and therefore his much-awaited second studio album, Broken by Desire to Be Heavenly Sent, will follow his usual emotionally-driven delivery.

The album was recorded with a minimal set-up, consisting of only a "small interface, laptop, speakers, and a Shure SM7B vocal mic," as well as the same team who worked on his first album, 2019’s best-seller Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent: TMS, Phil Plested, Nick Atkinson and Edd Holloway.

Preceded by singles "How I'm Feeling Now," "Forget Me," "Pointless," and "Wish You the Best" — of which the last three topped the UK Singles Chart — it looks like Capaldi’s right to bet on his tried and true formula, with enough skills to spark curiosity from the audience, over and over again.

Paul Simon - Seven Psalms

Release date: May 19

Seven Psalms is Paul Simon’s fifteenth album, and his first of new material since 2016’s Stranger to Stranger. According to the six-decade-spanning singer, the project came to him in a dream and was inspired by the Book of Psalms.

Including seven acoustic tracks that are meant to be listened to as one uninterrupted piece, the album also features British vocal group VOCES8 and a participation by Simon’s wife, singer/songwriter Edie Brickell.

Seven Psalms is said to be a departure from any of his previous work, which encompasses the illustrious Simon & Garfunkel albums Bridge Over Troubled Water, Sounds of Silence, and more. An accompanying documentary, In Restless Dreams, is also set for release.

Juanes - Vida Cotidiana

Release date: May 19

While Juanes found immense success in 2021 with his cover album Origen, winning Best Pop/Rock Album at the Latin Grammy Awards and Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album at the GRAMMY Awards, his latest original work dates back to 2019, with the LP Más futuro que pasado.

Considering the events the world went through, 2019 feels more like a century ago. Therefore, Vida Cotidiana (or "daily life," in Spanish) arrives as a testament to the Colombian star’s reflections and changes during this turbulent time.

The 11-track collection also marks Juanes’ return to rock and Latin American folk foundations, while examining "love, marriage, family, and his country," according to a press release. So far, he released three lovelorn advance singles off the album: "Amores Prohibidos," "Gris" and "Ojalá."

Tinariwen - Amatssou

Release date: May 19

Amatssou means "beyond the fear" in Tamashek, the native language of the Tuareg collective Tinariwen — which, in turn, means "deserts." Known for their sociopolitical resistance and commitment to portraying the struggles of Mali, Amatssou stands as a fitting title for the band's ninth studio album.

Recorded inside a makeshift studio tent in Algeria, the record was produced in L.A. by GRAMMY winner Daniel Lanois) and features country musicians Wes Corbett and Fats Kaplin, furthering the collective’s link to the musical style. In a press release, Tinariwen are said to "have always been a country band, albeit a North African take on that most North American of genres."

Tinariwen will embark on a U.S. and Europe tour starting on May 27 in Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music. They will also perform at festivals including Glastonbury and Roskilde. 

Arlo Parks - My Soft Machine

Release date: May 26

Contrasting with her delicate voice, British singer/songwriter Arlo Parks said in a statement that her sophomore album, My Soft Machine, is all about "the mid-20s anxiety, the substance abuse of friends around me, the viscera of being in love for the first time, navigating PTSD and grief and self-sabotage and joy." In summary, it’s a record about "what it’s like to be trapped in this particular body."

With an exceptional talent to transcribe raw emotions into contemplative, spacious music, Parks has given a taste of what to expect from this release through the singles "Blades," "Impurities," and "Weightless." She will also celebrate this moment by touring Europe and Asia in the following months, including performances at Spain and Portugal editions of Primavera Sound Festival

Lola Young - My Mind Wanders and Sometimes Leaves Completely

Release date: May 26

"And I like to think that I'm growing up and that I'm learnin'/But I've no idea what's underneath," reflects the south Londoner Lola Young on "Stream of Consciousness," the lead single for her upcoming album, My Mind Wanders and Sometimes Leaves Completely.

Following up on her 2021 EP After Midnight, the release is said to reflect Young’s "journey towards being a woman and figuring out who I am." Through her poignant lyrics, the 21-year-old gives a glimpse into the joys and pains of love in the 2020s. "I swear it don't hurt / You're looking at her / I'm looking at you," she muses in "Annabel’s House (From The Train)."  

Nominated for the Rising Star Award at the 2022 BRIT Awards, she also revealed in an interview for NME that the album will be "slightly different" from her previous work, featuring more retro, alt-rock, and indie influences with a "raw edge."

The Exploding Hearts - Guitar Romantic (Expanded & Remastered)

Release date: May 26

The short-lived but still impactful Exploding Hearts will get a brand new chance of reaching more fans this spring. Their 2003 album of power-pop classics, Guitar Romantic, is being reissued to celebrate its 20th anniversary.

Soon after the album release in 2003, three members of the band tragically passed away in a van accident while returning home from a gig in San Francisco. Surviving members King Louie Bankston (who passed away last year) and bassist Terry Six maintained their legacy through the duo Terry & Louie. Now, Six partnered with the band’s original producer, Pat Kearns, for the album reissue, and plans to play tribute shows in the upcoming months.

Guitar Romantic (Expanded & Remastered) will feature unreleased material, like conversations from the members, a King Louie Mix of "I’m A Pretender," and an unheard version of "So Bored."

Sparks - The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte

Release date: May 26

"So many people are crying in their latte" is the kind of musing about the contemporary world that only outlandish duo Sparks could have transformed into an engaging, nifty track. The lyrics come right off "The Girl is Crying In Her Latte," a preview single from their upcoming studio album of the same name.

Starring Cate Blanchett and her dandy dance moves in the music video, the track is proof that Sparks still have their finger on the pulse of culture, even after five decades of activity. "Veronica Lake," the second single off the project, keeps that same vein, bringing a modern spin to the narrative of actress Veronica Lake changing her hairstyle in order to protect factory workers during World War II.

The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte arrives after 2020’s A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip, and will be their first release under Island Records in 47 years. The pop rock pair is also scheduled to tour multiple cities in the U.S., Europe, and Japan in the summer.

Behind Shania Twain’s Hits: How A Hospital Stay, A Balmy Porch And A Hair Nightmare Inspired Her Biggest Hits & Videos

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.

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

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].

Living Legends: Nancy Sinatra Reflects On Creating "Power And Magic" In Studio, Developing A Legacy Beyond "Boots" & The Pop Stars She Wants To Work With