Billy Idol: ‘I am William Broad and I’m still little Billy’

Billy Idol: ‘I am William Broad and I’m still little Billy’

In his latest ‘At Home With’ conversation on Apple Music 1, Zane Lowe is joined by Billy Idol who discusses his new ’The Roadside EP’, addiction and recovery, the origins and evolution of UK punk, maintaining his iconic persona, collaborating with Miley Cyrus, returning to the stage and more.

Billy Idol Tells Apple Music About His New EP ‘The Roadside ‘…

We were writing this EP and that sort of was May, June of 2020. Of course, it was right in the pandemic and we really didn’t know where it was going, we hoped it would be over by September, but that ended up not being the case. It was affecting people very differently as well. So it was kind of a confusing time, a painful time. We’re not quite sure what the future was, it changed our lives. I really thought about that and I thought, well, it’s so new, the pandemic, it’s difficult to write something so new. But I thought about, well, what can I write about in my own life that was kind of a painful, troubling, and confusing time. Well, I thought about my motorcycle accident that I had about 31 years ago, which I’ve been trying to forget because I thought I was losing my leg. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to perform in the way I had, I didn’t know quite what was going to happen. And so I thought about that time and I thought, well, maybe if I write about that, because it was time for that to come out. Maybe if I write about that, it would give some people things to identify with, not directly about the pandemic, but it does give you, yeah, has a feeling that you’re riding back into town. Yeah, you overcame the thing that you went out to solve.

Billy Idol Tells Apple Music About Collaborating With Miley Cyrus…

Yeah, she really works harder. We did a duet together of Rebel Yell and she was a good singer. But since that time, she’s worked these last 16, 17, 18, 19, 25 years, she’s a much better singer, more powerful. She’s really gone there. She’s worked, ever so harder. I watched her. We did a Super Bowl together where I watched her rehearse three days in a row, even the morning of the Super Bowl, she did a show, did her show and then she did it live. And so I watched her work really hard. And then yeah, we always said, when we did the Rebel Yell duet it’d be great we could do a song together and I’d met Andrew Watt, the producer. And he happened to be producing her album, Plastic Hearts. And she said to him, “Can we do something like a Billy Idol song?” And he said, “Well, look, I’ve just met Billy.”

Billy Idol Tells Apple Music About Addiction, Recovery, and Being Involved With MusiCares…

Well, for a long time, it was such a horrible time that I did want to just… And I was also facing up to the fact that I’d had the motorcycle accident because I was a drug addict and I had to cure that. And it took a long time to cure that really. I mean, I’m not a hundred percent. I stopped the hard stuff and I don’t drink much, things like that. I mean, I always cared about myself physically and everything. So yeah, I did have to think about where I was going. I had to solve this problem about myself with the drug addiction and that’s what was happening to me in the hospital bed. I was kind of realising I was going to face up to the thing that I hadn’t quite faced up that had been kind of ruling my life for about 10 years. And then yeah, over the next 10 years I was able to gradually, I don’t know, develop some kind of discipline. I mean, with AA, they tell you there’s no control and they’re right. But you can over time develop a kind of discipline. Like I don’t go searching, I don’t know people who sell hard drugs. And I think, actually imagine if I was a heroin addict, thank God I got away from it because yeah, I would probably be dead. I’d be dead right now or in prison. One of those, none of them is a good option. It’s just people working so hard to get where, and then life snuffed out just like that. I mean, yes, that’s right. If only we could do more, but well, drug addicts, we’re very clever. We’re not going to let you know, we’re going to hide it. We’re going to lie to you. We’re not going to tell you the truth. We’re going to lie, lie, lie, lie, lie. So that’s the problem with drug addiction, we’re not being honest about it. Hiding it and doing it in secret, trying to get away with it. And it was always a scary thing, but I think it must be more fearful than ever, that shooting up with something right now. You must never know if you’re going to get a hot shot. That’s got to be the most scariest thing. I think that’s what makes addiction such a horrendous relationship between the system that provides the drugs and the addict who needs them, because it’s not just the addicts keeping the secret, trust me.

I’m sorry but the pharmaceutical industry is 100% existing in secrecy right now. They know. And these documentaries are coming out now proving that they know that these pills that they’re creating are being used in this way. And yet they act as if they don’t and that in itself is secrecy causing damage. So it’s just one big unspoken conversation. And I guess my question out of that is do you find yourself in a position where you support others, given what you’ve been through and what you’ve experienced, have you found yourself on the other end of the conversation, trying to help others go through it because you’ve ridden back into town and you’ve survived it? We’re actually all aligned to this foundation music, which helps musicians who are drug addicted or have had a terrible calamity in their life. And it helps them to overcome, it gives them a support system, MusiCares. So very much involved in that. And hopefully that’s something that will help musicians that they can go to this foundation and ask for help if they really want to clean up music, it’s a great help for musicians and I hope there’s that for other people.

Billy Idol Tells Apple Music About His Iconic Persona…

I suppose the thing is that inside, I am William Broad and I’m still little Billy. Somewhere I’m still little Billy as a fan who got some sense of freedom out of the music. And then I found out, I mean there’s so many great singers in the world, but there’s a lot of the greatest, there’s a lot of them, they’re not recognisable. They can sing and you, they sound like any, but they all sound the same. One thing about me, you can recognise me, that’s literally my voice, you can recognise my voice. People can tell immediately it’s me. I don’t know quite why that is, but they can tell. So that’s an amazing thing. And then yeah, to have somehow forged a way of looking that’s had this kind of resonance with, that’s kind of a little bit, the branding, I suppose people call it today. There’s a certain branding I did, which I didn’t even know I was doing if you know what I mean. I mean, you really were just living by the seat of your pants from moment to moment, day to day and just living it really and going there. So a lot of it isn’t really thought out, it’s more, it’s just up over time, a bit like the British constitution. Stuff written down, it grew up over time. And so it’s something that just developed naturally and it was all out of love. It was all out of love for the thing you were into. And so I don’t think about it too much, but I do see that it does have a resonance and it has a staying power, which I could never have imagined. I could never have imagined that when I started out, we were just trying to have fun. We were kids trying to have fun.

Billy Idol Tells Apple Music About The Origins and Evolution of The Punk Scene in the UK and Never Thinking It Would Endure…

The punk rock music happening in the States, kind of was leading the way, The Velvet Underground, New York Dolls, and then CBGBs and everything. It was great looking at all that. And then kind of, we started our own punk scene in England and we never thought it was going to explode like it did, we were really doing it for the few couple of hundred, maybe a thousand people in England, and in Britain who were into it. There was hardly anybody really. There was a few people, you almost knew the few people in London who were into it. Because we gathered at certain gigs and at certain, most of the people in punk were at the Roxy Music in the early days or were at the Bowie gigs or, you know what I mean? But anyway, yeah, it was our time. And then the great thing was that we sort of dumbed down the playing field and made it a lot easier for people our age who are not necessarily the greatest musicians to get into it. And that’s what the Sex Pistols kind of said to us, get up on stage. Don’t have to be the greatest musician. It’s Led Zeppelin and people, they were session cats. They were all people whod been in the music business for years and they were the top musicians, how are you going to beat that? Well, let’s not beat it. Let’s do something different. Let’s change the rules, let’s change the playing field. And that’s what was great about punk. And then it enabled people like me to be in it. People who, we wanted to be in it, but we just weren’t the greatest musicians but it gave you a chance to, well, at first we didn’t even think it was going to go anywhere. It was all for the few people who were into it. We thought he was going to last six months, the year, two years. best records I’ve made in a long time now. And that’s exciting to me and it’s incredible. I couldn’t imagine that, 45 years ago, I couldn’t imagine still being here today talking about this to you and loving it still.

Billy Idol Tells Apple Music About Being Excited To Tour Again…

That’s very exciting. And it is rather like riding, even playing live, the band I’ve got, each song you’ve got incredible cut back. It’s like you’re riding this incredible wave of sound. So yeah, very much. And we really enjoyed making the EP, The Roadside, which we put out. And you’re still excited about what you do at this age and everything and really enjoying it. I’ve still got something to say and the music still sounds fresh. And then yeah, we’re excited to the play next year with The Go-Gos in the UK and throughout Europe as well.

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