Billy Idol Revisits Motorcycle Crash On New Album, Talks About Miley Cyrus
More than four decades after the start of his career, Billy Idol continues to learn.
But that he’s still there, creating music, it’s like an even bigger accomplishment.
“When we started out in punk rock, I thought it was going to last six months. And here we are, 45 years later, ”Idol told USA TODAY.
It zooms in from Los Angeles, with a photo background an old Fender Twin amp and a Les Paul Jr. guitar signed by longtime guitarist / co-writer Steve Stevens in 1982, and ready to discuss “The Roadside,” his four-song EP which lands on Friday . This is his first new release in nearly seven years.
More music: Alanis Morissette launches new documentary
The album represents new territory for Idol, 65. He first worked with producer Butch Walker and videographer Steven Sebring, who directed the music video for the single “Bitter Taste,” and the freshness is apparent.
Longtime fans will find a lot to enjoy on the tracks “Rita Hayworth” (“a bit about Hollywood and the rapacious producers”, says Idol) and the pop-rocker “U Don’t Have to Kiss Me Like That”. The songs are familiar, but infused with renewed vigor.
Prior to signing with his trademark fist pump, Idol – now playing a few live dates with plans for an arena tour with Journey in the spring – talked about revisiting his near-fatal motorcycle crash in the song “Bitter Taste.” , his new role as a grandfather and how he still looks like himself in the MTV days.
Q: Before we talk about the EP, let’s talk about Miley Cyrus (the duo collaborated on Cyrus’ “Night Crawling” and performed together at Lollapalooza in July). She said she loved the way you marry rebellion and music and have songs with amazing hooks. What do you like about her?
Billy Idol: She is a lot of fun. She has a kind of dynamic personality and she is very attached to her music and works on her voice and vocal abilities. The duet that we did on “Rebel Yell” in 2016 (at the iHeartRadio Music Festival), it was coming, but since then it has become much more powerful. When we did the Super Bowl (TikTok Tailgate) this year, she rehearsed day and night. She just did this song with Metallica (a cover of “Nothing Else Matters” on Howard Stern’s SiriusXM show) and it shows how much she really loves her music. She works very hard and that says a lot. She could just go spend her “Hannah Montana” royalties, but she doesn’t, she works.
Q: On the four songs on this EP, you get very personal on “Bitter Taste”, about your motorcycle accident 31 years ago. Why did you decide to revisit it now?
Idol:We were writing the song at the start of the pandemic back in April and May, but we didn’t know how long it was going to last. I really thought, I don’t want to write about the pandemic immediately. I like to let things marinate and I thought to myself, what can I write about this time of crisis for myself? A moment that I knew would change my life and my future? Seeing what the pandemic was starting to do to people, I realized that I had never really written about the motorcycle crash, and now I had time to figure it all out. I got together with (the songwriters) Joe Janiak and Tommy English – I also rode my bike to this session – and we started talking about how the accident was a turning point. I was a little high on drugs at the time, and decided that when I was high on the bike it was not the right thing and I hope to clean myself up. I also had kids, so I wondered what I was really saying to them when I almost killed myself. I almost lost my leg. I realized that I had to change things in the future. It took a few years, but I put the drugs on the back burner. I went to AA a bit. There is an element of creating discipline, and now I can have a glass of white wine and vape from the pot and it gives me what I need. I thought this was something I could really write about and maybe resonate with people going through the pandemic.
Fleetwood Mac spat: Lindsey Buckingham still angry with dismissal
Q: You mentioned your children, and now you’re a grandfather too.
Idol:It’s fantastic. I’m so happy that the spotlight is on Bonnie, my daughter, and on raising her family. The little kid (Poppy Rebel, born May 2020) is so much fun and she already has a strong personality. I am so excited to see my daughter so happy and she loves being a mom. She has a second baby girl who is arriving in January.
Q: You and Steve Stevens, your guitarist and co-writer, are part of the family too, having been together for decades. What makes you such great partners?
Idol: Yeah, it’s gonna be 40 years with Steve. Recently he said about me, “I’ve always had Billy’s back,” and that’s the feeling I have and it’s pretty huge. It’s an amazing safety net and the idea that it can make your musical dreams come true means I can go anywhere. The day we want to change things, we can do it, and that’s a power. We watch over each other.
Q: I know a lot of people are in awe of the fact that 40 years after your solo debut (Idol led Gen X British punk rockers in the late ’70s) you still have the look, including your hair. To explain.
Idol: (Laughs) I don’t know – (the hair) it’s just to hang on. But none of this is easier. I’m exercising. Over the past 10+ years there has been a lot of Pilates, TRX training, and weights. Pilates helps keep your heart strong, and I fuel my singing. You have to be in good shape to be a singer or you will have a heart attack.