Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage via Getty Images
Måneskin performing in 2021
Here's The Rundown On Måneskin, The Italian Glam-Pop Heroes Who Just Brought The 54-Year-Old Song "Beggin'" Back Into Vogue
If you've wondered why Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons' "Beggin'" is suddenly a TikTok phenomenon, thank Måneskin, a flashy, young Italian band that's unconventional in all the right ways
Editor's Note: The 2022 GRAMMYs Awards show, officially known as the 64th GRAMMY Awards, <a href="https://www.grammy.com/grammys/news/2022-grammys-awards-64th-new-air-show-date-location-las-vegas-april-3-announcement "https://www.grammy.com/grammys/news/2022-grammys-awards-64th-new-air-show-date-location-las-vegas-april-3-announcement"">has been rescheduled to Sunday, April 3, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The below article was updated on Tuesday, Jan. 18, to reflect the new show date and location.
After a long minute of trap hi-hats and autotune, are Måneskin (pronounced moan-AH-skin) bringing rock back? Possibly — with a couple of caveats. If your idea of rock's return is pentatonic scales and testosterone, singer Damiano David's studded codpiece alone might send you packing.
Plus, they pull influences not just from the obvious sources, but everywhere — two of David's cardinal influences are Chris Cornell and Steven Tyler. And at first blush, Måneskin might strike you more like a 2000s indie band like Franz Ferdinand or the Bravery than Soundgarden or Aerosmith.
"We're just doing music. If it's considered rock or pop or whatever, it's entirely not important to us," bassist Victoria De Angelis told Loudwire in 2021. "The main thing is I think people should just listen to the music and judge the music without having preconceived notions."
This fearless philosophy has vaulted the group to the big time: Måneskin now join BTS, Jon Batiste, H.E.R., Tayla Parx, Carly Pearce, Gayle King, Nate Bargatze, and special guests to help reveal the nominations for the 2022 GRAMMYs Awards show in the Recording Academy's second annual virtual livestream event, taking place Tuesday, Nov. 23, at 9 a.m. PT/noon ET and available to view on live.grammy.com.
Watch Now: Rewatch The 2022 GRAMMYs Nominations Livestream Here
As origin stories go, the Italian band with a Danish name meaning "moonlight" has the most genuine kind — busking on the busy streets of Rome. They hit the national stage in 2017 on the Italian "X Factor," where they performed a handful of covers that were awfully telling.
Naturally, they did Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out" and the Killers' "Somebody Told Me" — tunes awfully recognizable to anyone with a finger on the pulse of Y2K-era guitar music. But they also performed something arguably out of time: Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons' "Beggin'," which was released during the Summer of Love.
Måneskin wound up winning second place on "X Factor," but their story was just beginning. "Beggin'" picked up steam on their debut 2017 EP, Chosen, but it really took on meteoric velocity when the group won the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest. Since then, "Beggin'" has become a TikTok sensation, sweeping the charts worldwide.
And as unconventional as that story is — one where a Valli tune is in the heads of countless youngsters — the band's legacy isn't only hitched to that star. For more entryways into Måneskin's universe, check out the snotty "I Wanna Be Your Slave," which they (naturally) redid with Iggy Pop in 2021. To say nothing of the outrageously horny "Mammamia," which they just performed on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon."
So, are the flamboyant, gender-blurring Måneskin the ambassadors of rock in the year of our lord, 2021? Only if you mean the rivulet of rock that flows through 2000s dance-rock all the way back to rock's decidedly unmacho pioneers: Marc Bolan, David Bowie, Little Richard.
As De Angelis said, leave your discriminations at the door — you'll be treated to a hell of a time. Believe it, if for the sole reason that Iggy Pop hasn't led us astray thus far.
2022 GRAMMYs Awards Show: Complete Nominations List
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.
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."
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.
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."
Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes.
Photo: Tommaso Ottomano
Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Måneskin On Redefining Success, Staying Inspired & Honoring Italy
The Italian quartet first exploded onto the scene with a viral cover of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, but Måneskin have continued to exalt and evolve vintage rock thrills on their own terms — all on the way to their first GRAMMY nomination.
A dizzy smile spreads across Måneskin vocalist Damiano David’s face as he attempts to capture the group’s fervent energy in words.
"Going into a room where there's silence and going out with a song. Stepping on stage and then the crowd screams for you. Doing interviews where you can talk about how you think about music," he says. "It's such an open art language, such an open world."
While Måneskin’s inimitable swagger have led to a recent international meteoric rise, the Italian quartet have tapped the glitter and grime of rock’s glory days since forming as teens in 2016. Just a year later, the group made a massive leap, winning the Italian edition of reality competition show "X Factor." But it was Måneskin’s hard rock take on Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons’ "Beggin'" was inescapable following their 2021 Eurovision win — a smash success that led many eager new fans to dig into Måneskin’s catalog of chart-topping albums in their native Italy.
That prowess, ability to connect with the full spectrum of listeners, and a raucous live show netted Måneskin a GRAMMY nomination for Best New Artist at the 2023 GRAMMYs, which take place Sunday, Feb. 5, at the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles and will broadcast live on the CBS Television Network and stream live and on-demand on Paramount+ at 8-11:30 p.m. ET / 5-8:30 p.m. PT. They are also a living rebuke to those questioning rock’s staying power, whose grandiose energy and adventurous fashion begs for a yet wider audience.
"This combination is really magical. It gives us the opportunity to play something that doesn't exist so much in the charts," says guitarist Thomas Raggi. "We are rock, of course, in attitude, in the music, but we can reach really different people from different places and different ages."
Global success hasn't changed Måneskin much, as their new record, Rush!, teases. Due Jan. 20, the album only reinforces their bombast via singles like grimy party-starter "Mammamia" and the slinky and suave "Supermodel" — not to mention a guest appearance from Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello on the recently released "Gossip."
GRAMMY.com caught up with Måneskin — David, Raggi, bassist Victoria De Angelis, and drummer Ethan Torchio — to talk about the shock of their GRAMMY nomination, how they’ve evolved into their upcoming new album, and trying to find good espresso everywhere on tour.
This conversation has been edited for clarity.
I want to wish you congratulations on your first GRAMMY nomination. After winning "X Factor" and earning various accolades, has this sort of honor started to feel natural?
Victoria De Angelis: Not really natural, but very cool. It's the craziest thing you can possibly think of.
Damiano David: Of course, when we started, we only thought the biggest thing that could happen was being big in Italy. And then everything happened, so of course our dreams got bigger and of course we thought about it as a possibility in the remote future. Not, like, now. [Laughs.]
That's such a beautiful sentiment. The bigger doors start opening to places that you never could imagine. I can imagine that puts a whole new spin on what it is to be a band, what it is to be a musician.
De Angelis: It really does. Especially touring and everything, even six months makes so much difference. We look back at the things we did six months before and we say, "Okay, now we can add this, we can change this." It's constantly developing. So that's really inspiring and keeps us in a creative process all the time.
David: We've had so many crazy things happen these last two years. We played for the Stones. We played with Iggy Pop. We met like 50 percent of our childhood idols. At the end, wrapping it all up with the GRAMMY nomination, it's a pretty huge deal. The whole journey has been remarkable and we're gonna think about it for a long time.
It seems that you’ve remained remarkably close-knit as a band, which must be so important in the midst of that. How have you remained creatively inspired by one another and that you are constantly pushing yourselves as musicians through all the fame and success?
Ethan Torchio: Fame and success, it's just a coincidence. We don't really focus on that. It's part of our life, part of our journey. But it's an important point: We've always been friends with each other, and we've shared half of our lives together.
David: It's very important to us to be close because, otherwise, this project wouldn't be what it is now. We are four [individuals], and we are very human and curious about ideas. It's not just about what we are or we feel inside, it's also what we live outside. I truly think that [embracing] the new and something that has not been created before is part of our mindset.
De Angelis: As you said, being four, we actually inspire one another even more. We are very different personalities and also have very different taste. And being four, the amount of music we can discover, it happens every day. And also we love to go see shows, so maybe some of us go to one show and then we are like, "Hey, I got this idea from this show." Being four, it keeps us in this creative environment where everyday there is something new.
Touring constantly and being away from home can make you question your identity. How do you keep tied to your roots?
David: It's still pretty easy for us because even if we travel so much, we still live in Italy. When you move from your country and you live in another country for five, 10 years, then you start changing the way you live. But now we kind of bring this huge Italian suitcase with us. We're still asking for espresso everywhere. [Laughs.] With very bad results. How we interact between us and with people, our clothes, our style in general, it's always Italian in a certain way.
It's a difficult needle to thread, needing to mold to a comfortable stance wherever you are while also standing out. Being nominated for a GRAMMY must be an extraordinary test of that balance, so it's amazing to hear that you're still like keeping so true to yourselves.
De Angelis: I think that's always been kind of easy for us in some way, because we've always had such a strong and clear idea about our identity and what we like to do. Just look at this: [points to her shirt, which reads Italians Do It Better]. We've been lucky to never experience this kind of issue. On the other hand, what we experienced is that we had a very clear idea and then maybe it was hard to keep it safe and not let other people get into it or change it. But when it comes to what we stand for, we're always very sure about that.
Talk to me a little bit about that process, then. You all seem to find clever ways to reimagine classic genres and scenes while still honoring their essence.
David: We've been very, very lucky because our only rule has always been being true to what we like — even if we are very, very different one from each other. Vic [De Angelis] and Thomas Raggi especially have a very rock and roll classic background. I'm more into mainstream and low-tempo music. And Ethan [Torchio] actually listens to everything, from very mainstream music, classical music, to crazy experimental [music].
We've always tried to keep the balance between the four of us, and especially in the next album. We really wanted to embrace the difference between the four of us. It has created a personality for the group that also made the four of us very recognizable. People can feel represented from [each of the] four of us and from the group. Every achievement that we get, for us it's not, "Okay, we want this so we have to keep doing the same thing." It's more like, "Okay, we want this because this is our mindset. We have to keep this mindset, not because it makes you win awards but because it makes you recognizable and it gives you an identity and it puts you in a specific place in the market and in the industry.
I'm curious whether your writing and recording processes changed much on your new album, Rush! With first albums, sometimes a band will throw everything at the wall to see if it sticks. On the second one, they might shift things based on audience reaction, and then the third record can either attempt to capture a true self again or push to try even more new things.
De Angelis: It was 50-50, because some of the songs we actually wrote a while ago. There's a song we wrote three years ago, for example, on the record. The whole record was written in different moments. Some of the songs we wrote in the countryside in Italy; we went to this home studio and just jammed all together. And then others we wrote here in L.A., but then we also kept doing them in Japan and in Brazil while we were on tour.
So it's been really crazy. We can hear the moment we wrote the song and the emotion we had in the moment. And it portrays this whole journey we've been through. I think it's cool that we didn't only write it in one month, but it was through the years. It shows the different faces of our personalities and development.
I wanted to ask about the song "Kool Kids", which you recently debuted live. The lyrics have this self-aware edge, where you poke at the idea of whether rock is dead — I'm sure because you’ve been bombarded by that question nonstop.
David: We talk about rock and roll because it's a part of what we do, but I think that you can apply this kind of thought to every music genre. There's no music genre that is actually ever gonna die because trends are constantly changing. The music is developing and sometimes things become other things or change slightly because of the age where they're living. But I think that what we do [is] a new way to do rock and roll, but it's not the way to do it. There's many different ways to do it. You can be super classic, you can do rock and roll music even without analog instruments and go full electro while creating rock and roll structures.
Raggi: Nothing really ends. Nothing really starts. Everything changes.
De Angelis: It's always in development. The motion that rock music created and that pushes us to do it is just that sense of rebellion towards the norms, or when people try to put you in boxes or limit you. This kind of human feeling will always exist. And that's the reason why all these musicians through the past years have been making this kind of music — to oppose something and to talk about it.
Why was music the path you chose to express that perspective?
De Angelis: I think we all started as kids so we didn't even think it did that much. It was just something in us that we had to get out in some way, to express. It just came natural for us to do it as music. When we started playing together we were like 14 years old. We were struggling, all of us individually, to find other kids that were as passionate about it and wanted to invest all their time in this.
It was crazy that we were 13 years old and wanting to be, like, six hours in a rehearsal room every day instead of going out with friends or whatever. But for us it was such a fulfilling experience when we got in the rehearsal room that we just went full in and didn't care about anything else. It just took over us. It was just something so pure that we felt in that moment. The passion came out because we felt we were being ourselves and expressing what we had inside that couldn't come out in other ways. Since then, it has developed in so many ways that it's just who we are nowadays. We couldn't even imagine who we would be without the music.
Raggi: I remember also when I saw my first guitar outside of that guitar shop. No one in my family plays instruments or stuff like that. It was something that just called to me.
Another thing you are all known for is your sense of style. You always go big! Do you have plans for the GRAMMYs red carpet yet?
De Angelis: We're gonna surprise you. [Laughs.] We won't be boring. Promise.
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.
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'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 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'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.
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."
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 Bam" back 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].