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Tori Amos Is Unrepentant On New Album
Tori Amos

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Tori Amos Is Unrepentant On New Album

GRAMMY-nominated singer/songwriter discusses recording her latest effort, Unrepentant Geraldines, and collaborating with her daughter

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

Set for release on May 13, Unrepentant Geraldines, Tori Amos' latest studio album, marks the GRAMMY-nominated singer/songwriter's return to the pop/rock idiom after five years of journeying into the realms of classical and orchestral music. Featuring 14 songs written by Amos, Unrepentant Geraldines is a well-crafted, stylish affair that, true to form, marries music and lyrics in often subversive ways. While writing the album, Amos was influenced by a host of themes such as personal empowerment, grief, mortality, and surveillance, as well as visual art by the likes of Daniel Maclise, Paul Cézanne and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

While the eclectic singer/songwriter has often pushed the creative envelope, Unrepentant Geraldines offers new sounds as well as a mixture of styles from throughout her career. Due to a hectic schedule while writing lyrics and music for the British musical "The Light Princess," Amos created the album solely with her longtime engineers and mixers, husband Mark Hawley (aka guitarist Mac Aladdin) and Marcel van Limbeek, at her home studio in Cornwall, United Kingdom.

Currently in the midst of an international tour, Amos participated in an exclusive GRAMMY.com interview and delved into the making of the album, collaborating with her daughter, the current state of the industry for singer/songwriters, and what not to wear onstage.

How did the various influences come into play during the making of Unrepentant Geraldines?
Each record comes at a time in your life. I'd been working a lot with orchestras and that kind of influence, and "The Light Princess" was orchestral as well. I wanted to do something different than that. I was driven to do something different because these [new] songs were being written while I was involved with other projects. We didn't have time to record it like we used to — fly musicians in, carve out all this time — so we had to figure out the arrangements and then go about recording it when we could. We just did everything by ourselves.

Your daughter Tash appeared on your 2011 classical album Night Of Hunters. She's also featured on "Promise" on this album. What has it been like bringing her into the fold?
She's very funny as a person. She's got the British humor and has been around the world many, many times. Even though she's 13, she's grown up backstage. She was on all the tours; there were tutors. At 11, she ditched us and went to boarding school. That was her idea. She says, "I love you guys, I've got to go live my life now." We kind of thought, "Wow? Really?" She said, "Yeah, you guys will be OK without me." [laughs] She is an only child, and I think we have a good relationship with her. We communicate with her.

I imagine she must do a great impression of you.
Oh, she does.

How do you feel when she does that?
You just have to laugh because it's funny.

Is there anything specifically that she does that comes to mind?
I don't know if I'd tell, but she just nails it. But the thing is we talk about [how] parents can be really critical. She's talked to me about that. She sees it a lot [at] school, and because she boards she has this other life and it's gotten her to be very observant. For instance, we were talking about the kids who are smoking way too much pot and how they might be missing really good opportunities because she's at a great school. She's at a performing arts school, and a lot of these kids work. We've talked about people throwing away their opportunities and how you can believe that this opportunity is going to come again. But it doesn't always come again.

I was watching your Oxygen channel performance from 12 years ago, and you wore a long, flowing outfit. I was curious if you had ever worn anything onstage that got in the way of your performance?
The difficult thing is when you get tangled up in your own stuff with the pedals and doing Rick Wakeman. So no capes. It doesn't work. You always have to make sure that the material isn't getting caught in the high heels, the stilettos, because you can really get caught. You have to be very aware of where the wires are, your in-ear monitors, or you can trip yourself. Because they're dangling everywhere. You just have to be aware when you're up there.

You've been releasing music for more than 25 years now. How do you view the place of female singer/songwriters such as yourself in the industry now as opposed to when you were starting out?
Two things: I think that there are a lot of entertainers out there [who] are getting a deal, an opportunity because of the [music competition] shows. My songwriter friends are quite happy because that side of the industry is somewhat healthy [and] they are able to then write the songs for the entertainer. And some of the producers are doing OK. But [for] songwriters who are performing their own songs, there are not as many of those contracts right now in 2014. Some of them [who] do get lucky make their luck. They put it out on YouTube, and maybe they are able to expand their audience and get picked up. But you've got to fund your tour. So when somebody says, "Why doesn't someone get on a bus [and tour]," a bus is 80 grand a week, OK? You have to be aware of what it is now, put a smile on your face, roll up your sleeves, and say, "I don't mind the challenge." That's OK. But for the new singer/songwriters [who] are coming up, it would be prudent if the record labels were able to develop some of them because not everybody is ready to just go from the living room to taking [the] stage at Radio City [Music Hall].

(Bryan Reesman is a New York-based freelance writer.)

6 Artists Influenced By Tracy Chapman: Luke Combs, Brandi Carlile, Tori Amos & More
Tracy Chapman

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6 Artists Influenced By Tracy Chapman: Luke Combs, Brandi Carlile, Tori Amos & More

Three decades after Tracy Chapman’s eponymous first LP hit the shelves, take a look at the artists who owe a debt of gratitude to the 13-time GRAMMY-nominee.

GRAMMYs/Jan 8, 2024 - 02:58 pm

Editor’s note: This story was updated on Monday, Jan. 8, to include mention of Luke Combs and his 2024 GRAMMY nomination.

Renowned for her stripped-back folky sound, social conscience and storytelling abilities, Tracy Chapman has never really fitted into the pop landscape. The singer/songwriter emerged in the late 1980s, a period when big-voiced power balladeers and exuberant teen princesses were all the rage. And throughout the following two decades, the Cleveland native continued to assemble an impressive body of work that remained utterly impervious to fleeting chart trends. 

Chapman's determination to carve out her own distinct path has undeniably reaped its rewards. Her self-titled debut album topped the Billboard 200 in 1988, sold 20 million copies and received six GRAMMY nominations; she won three (Best Contemporary Folk Album, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and the coveted Best New Artist). A mid-'90s career resurgence, meanwhile, helped to boost her awards tally, with biggest hit "Give Me A Reason" picking up Best Rock Song. 

And whether standing in for Stevie Wonder at Nelson Mandela's 70th Birthday Tribute Concert or performing "Talkin’ Bout a Revolution" on the eve of the 2020 presidential election, Chapman has used her earthy voice to soundtrack several key historical moments.   And the very traditional kind of artist even unwittingly became a viral sensation thanks to a powerful rendition of Ben E. King classic "Stand By Me" in aid of David Letterman's late-night retirement.  

Although Chapman hasn't released a studio album since 2008's Our Bright Future, her music has remained an ever-present. From Sam Smith and Justin Bieber, to Passenger and Luke Combs, it's probably quicker to list which contemporary acts haven't covered her defining single "Fast Car" in recent years; dance producer Jonas Blue even took it back into the Hot 100 In 2015. Kelly ClarksonBlack Pumas and Jamila Woods have all paid tribute by tackling different songs from Chapman's remarkably consistent oeuvre, too.

Of course, Chapman's modern-day cachet extends beyond the odd song. Here's a look at five artists who have credited the star as a formative influence on their entire careers.

Luke Combs

By now, an ocean of ink has been spilled about Luke Combs making Tracy Chapman’s "Fast Car" a hit once more — from its racial, sexual, class, gender, and genre dynamics, to whether whitewashing was at play. But with all due respect to the talking heads, the truth is arguably much simpler: when it comes to great singer/songwriters, game recognizes game.

"There was this one song that really stuck out to me. It was called 'Fast Car,'" Combs said onstage last year. “That song meant a lot to me since then — for my whole life. I always think about my dad when it comes on and us spending time together.” It’s awfully telling, too, that Combs didn’t flip the gender of the song — a token of respect. He, too, is a "checkout girl."

Decades after its creation, Combs' take on "Fast Car" made a U-turn to the top of the Billboard country charts; at the 2024 GRAMMYs, his version is nominated for Best Country Solo Performance.

"It has stayed with me since I have played it in my live show now for six-plus years and everyone — I mean everyone — across all these stadiums relates to this song and sings along," Combs later told Billboard. That’s the gift of a supernatural songwriter." Yes, “Fast Car" is deeply, incontrovertibly human, and earthbound. But Combs reminded us that it’s charged with magic, too. — Morgan Enos

Khalid 

Just like Chapman, Khalid racked up a glut of GRAMMY nominations with his debut album, American Teen. And while promoting the record on BBC Radio One's Live Lounge in 2018, the chart-topper doffed his cap to one of its major influences with an acoustic reworking of "Fast Car." An obvious choice, perhaps, but speaking to Forbes later that same year, Khalid insisted that he was far from just a fair-weather fan. 

"For me, Tracy Chapman was just someone who inspires me in terms of songwriting," the "Talk" hitmaker revealed. "When I think about songwriting just how she can make you feel like you're in that moment." Chapman was also the first name that came to mind when Khalid was asked about his biggest musical inspiration in our One Take series.  

Lisa Marie Presley 

The late Lisa Marie Presley took her time following in her father's footsteps, releasing her debut album, To Whom It May Concern, at the relatively late age of 35. But it was the music of singer/songwriters such as Linda Ronstadt, Shelby Lynne and, in particular, Tracy Chapman (rather than the rock and roll of Elvis) that informed her sound.  

In a 2012 chat to promote third LP Storm and Grace, Presley told Rolling Stone India, "I've never met Tracy, but she's always been a huge influence on me; I don't even know if she knows that. From her first album until everything, she's been such an influence on me as a singer-songwriter." 

Presley also referenced Chapman in an interview with the Huffington Post about her musical inspirations, adding, "I love women who sing, and they mean what they're saying, and they reach in and grab you. It moves you. You can feel the singer, and it's for real." And while appearing on BBC Radio 2’s Tracks of My Years in 2013, the star selected "Smoke and Ashes" from Chapman's 1995 LP New Beginning as one of her all-time favorites.  

Valerie June 

"The missing link between Memphis Minnie and Tracy Chapman" is how singer/songwriter Valerie June was once described. No doubt that Chapman, whose sound combines folk-pop with everything from soul and bluegrass to traditional Appalachian music, would have been on board with such comparisons.   

June became a die-hard Chapman fan while growing up in Jackson, Tennessee, as she explained to the Washington Post in 2014: "I wanted to perform from probably the age of four or five, but I never believed I could. I saw Tracy Chapman and Whitney Houston and wanted to be like them. But I thought, 'Yeah, no way. They didn't come from a little old place like this.'" 

Of course, June did manage to carve a niche for herself in the wider world. She even picked up a Best American Roots Song nod at the 2022 GRAMMYs for "Call Me A Fool," a collaboration with Stax legend Carla Thomas. And one of her proudest career moments was following in Chapman's footsteps by appearing on "Austin City Limits."  

Brandi Carlile 

Brandi Carlile has achieved several GRAMMY milestones throughout her glittering career. The Americana favorite was the most-nominated artist at the 2019 ceremony in which she took home three gongs. Then in 2022, she became the first-ever female songwriter to pick up two Song Of The Year nods simultaneously. And the music of Tracy Chapman helped set Carlile on her 24-time nominated path. 

Carlile has frequently acknowledged the influence that the "Fast Car" hitmaker has had on her career. While hosting "Somewhere Over the Radio," a SiriusXM show designed to celebrate "queer excellence," the star played one of her most cherished Chapman songs. And during her 2023 A Special Solo Performance tour, she brought out wife Catherine to perform a duet of New Beginning cut "The Promise." 

Carlile is such a fan that while responding to a fan on Twitter in the pandemic-hit 2020, she argued that one of the few ways the year could redeem itself was if Chapman dropped a new album.  

Tori Amos 

Eight-time GRAMMY nominee Tori Amos and Tracy Chapman began their careers in tandem: David Kershenbaum executive produced the eponymous first albums from both the former's short-lived synth-pop outfit Y Kant Tori Read and the latter singer-songwriter around the same time. And the flame-haired pianist was one of the first to recognize that her counterpart was something special. 

In a Pitchfork interview about her musical tastes, Amos revealed that Tracy Chapman essentially changed her entire outlook. "It woke me up and took me back to my 5-year-old self, who was creating from a pure place of intention of music being magic, as a place where we could walk into and feel many different things." 

Amos subsequently ditched the crop top, leather pants and copious amounts of hairspray and, like Chapman, followed her artistic instincts. When asked by Glamour magazine in 2012 which female artists its younger readers should explore, the "Cornflake Girl" hitmaker didn't hesitate in mentioning her fellow 1988 debutant.  

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

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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 GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes. 

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

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

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

GRAMMYs/Nov 25, 2022 - 04:23 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

Say She She

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

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

Moniquea

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

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

Shiro Schwarz

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

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

L'Impératrice

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

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

Franc Moody

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

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

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

Photo: Steven Sebring

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

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

GRAMMYs/Nov 25, 2022 - 04:19 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I did, yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think it was his car.

Did he get over it later on?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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