BILLY IDOL: “It Was Very Dark And My Future Was Uncertain But All Those Years Later I Was Able To Write About It”

Poster Billy Idol, Killing Joke, Toyah 2022 Tour

It’s been a while since his last UK tour but King Rocker, Billy Idol is back with his biggest tour in years and with The Cage EP due out ahead of the tour, hot on the heels of last years The Roadside EP there’s plenty of new songs to play with the Idol classics. Mick Burgess called him up to talk about the tour, new music and a cryptic teaser for plans for next year.

The last couple of years have been a strange time for everyone. How has it been for you?

It’s been difficult for a lot of people. I wasn’t able to go to my mother’s funeral because of the Coronavirus. That was really, really hard for me. We also were unable to come over and play in the UK but we were able to release The Roadside EP, my first new music in almost 8-years so something positive came out of those times. We now have The Cage EP coming out very soon, so we have a load of new music to play now so that’s really exciting. Now, we really need to play.

Have you been able to play any live shows since the lockdown was lifted?

Back in late August to November last year we did a few American dates, with the band but also an acoustic with just me and Steve Stevens, so it was good to get out and play again. We just felt as we had new music that it’d be great to be out there playing it.

On 13th October you start your latest UK Tour. Are you looking forward to playing here again?

I’m so excited. The band is all played in now so all we have to do is learn some of the new stuff and we’re off. It’s been a while since I was last here so I’m really looking forward to it. I have a big connection with the UK and have missed playing there.

You are playing 6 arena shows on this tour which is probably your most extensive tour for a fair few years. Is it important to you to get out and play to as many people in as many places as possible?

Definitely, especially after this break and with new music to play. The fact that we can play more shows than just Brixton is really exciting for me and to visit further up North is great. We have a really strong bill too with Killing Joke and Toyah joining me on the tour. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

Have you had any thoughts as to the setlist yet?

I should think that we’ll be doing several of the new songs. They’ll be mixed with the Idol classics so you should get it all. It’ll be a great mixture.

Will there be a Generation X song or two as well?

We usually play a different Generation X song on each tour. We did “Your Generation” recently so might do that but we are pretty well played in on most Generation X songs so could throw anything in. A lot of people know the Valley Of The Dolls album so could do anything from that like “King Rocker”.

You have a catalogue packed with classic crowd pleasers such as “Rebel Yell” and “White Wedding”. Do you still get a buzz out of playing those after so many years?

Yeah, I do. I have a killer band who have been together now for over seven years with Erik Eldenius on drums, Billy Morrison on rhythm and lead, Steve McGrath on bass, Paul Trudeau on keyboards and of course Steve Stevens on lead guitar. We are like a real band, not just a collection of musicians. We are all really played in together and sound really tight. We’re all ready to go and we love to see the reaction of the crowd when we play those songs.

You also did a great cover of “Mony Mony” which is one of those rare cases where you make the song absolutely your own. Why did you choose that song to cover?

When I first got to America, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I knew who Generation X were but I didn’t know who Billy Idol was. I went into a club called Hurrah’s on the West Side in New York and the bar was packed and I couldn’t get a drink. The DJ put this song on and the bar suddenly emptied and everyone was running lickety split to the tiny dancefloor, knocking tables and chairs flying. I thought it was fantastic as I could get a drink. As I was drinking it, I wondered what the song was and it was “Dancing With Myself” and I knew then that I didn’t need to change anything as it was already happening. I knew the music I was doing was the right thing and the producer I was working with, Keith Forsey was the right man. I just had to follow up “Dancing With Myself” as there was this underground New Wave happening. I needed something people could dance to and thought about “Mony Mony” as I’d remembered being in a club years before being on the dance floor to that song. I suggested doing it to Keith and he thought it was a great idea so we met up and recorded it and wrote a couple of things like “Hot In The City” and “Baby Talk”. A few years later I put out the Vital Idol compilation and we needed a single so we put out a live version of “Mony Mony” and it went to Number One so it was a good choice.

Your touring band includes Steve Stevens with you on guitar who has been with you for over 40 years now. What is it about Steve that makes you work so well together?

I think that it’s whatever I imagine, he can do. If I want to do a really weird song and describe what I’m after in vague terms, he can do it. I know I can take these stupid ideas to him and he can realise them. He can go to places musically that I couldn’t go myself. Steve likes a lot of music that I grew up with like Yes. He likes a lot of Prog Rock and Blues music like John Mayall, Cream and Jimi Hendrix. I loved all of that too and then segued into Bowie, Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground and The Stooges. Putting those two worlds together you get a whole different thing. I wanted a wide, open field with no boundaries and Steve allows me to be able to do that. We could do very different things from “Rebel Yell” to “Dead Next Door”. We have a lot of fun when we go all over the map.

You also have Toyah on the bill too?

Yes, she’s going to be joining me on the tour. I love Toyah, we’ve known each other for years. She’s great! [Note: Killing Joke have also been recently added to the bill].

Your latest release The Roadside came out last year. Were you pleased with the reaction it received?

It’s been really fantastic and now with our upcoming The Cage EP we’ve taken the songwriting team who did “Bitter Taste”, Tommy English and Joe Janiak, along with me and Steve and have done three more songs with them for the new EP.

“Bitter Taste” is dark, sombre and very melancholic and may well be the best song you’ve ever written. You have such a storyteller’s voice on this one where you tell of your motorbike crash from 1990. Why did you decide to put this experience into a song at this point?

I thought about my motorcycle accident many years ago. I was lying there in a hospital bed where I didn’t know if I’d lose my leg, I didn’t know what my future was going to be like. I’ve had 32 years to think about it. I never really wanted to write about it for so long as I’d put it in the rear-view mirror as the further I got away from it, the happier I was. The motorcycle accident was a horrible time for me. It was very dark and my future was uncertain but all those years later I was able to write about it.

In September you’ll release The Cage EP. How do you feel ahead of its release?

Very excited and this is part of the impetus behind us coming to the UK. Finally, we get to show people what we’ve been doing. We’ve got some new Idol classics to play for everyone. We’re looking forward to share the excitement. “Cage” is something of a pandemic anthem. With the last one, we wrote that at the beginning of the pandemic but couldn’t write about the pandemic at that time because it was all so new and we didn’t know what was going to happen. With “Cage” we wanted to write about the painful times where we didn’t know what the future was going to be. We’d all lived through the pandemic and had experiences through it and felt that now we could write about that. I’ve been locked up with my demons for so long that they’ve become my friends. It’ a song that can also be about any time that you feel that society is holding you in and not letting you be who you want to be. We’ve done a great video with Steven Sebring for it too.

That’s two EPs in the space of a few months. Did you feel that you wanted to put something out at these points in time rather than wait longer to do a whole album?

With the EPs we’ve been able to be more timely with the releases. It’s also a case of being focussed on just doing four songs instead of trying to do 12 or more. I think when you listen to it, it just makes you want more. The song “The Cage” is 2:50 and there’s something about that, that makes you want to play it again. It’s very contained so I think these small increments aren’t such a bad idea. We are planning on doing a third EP and then we’ll put them all together on an album.

Will these be release on vinyl?


Soundwise, it’s unmistakably Billy Idol with “Cage” and “Rebel Like You” being classic head-down Rockers? When you started writing the songs was it the plan to capture that essence of what everyone thinks a Billy Idol song is like or does it just come out like that when you all get together?

We always did a Doors song like “L.A Woman” where me and Steve traded off each other but we never had our own song like that so “Rebel Like You” is one where I sing then Steve plays this Blues lick so now, we have that song where Steve answers me. It’s actually a song about my granddaughter Poppy Rebel. She’s only a year and a half old but she came to my show in Vegas and was dressed up like me in my “Dancing With Myself” video with pleather trousers, Dr. Martens and spiky hair. She looked just like me so funnily enough “Rebel Like You” is actually about my little granddaughter. She came to the show to see what her grandad did for a living and she loved it. We gave her a little microphone so now she’s always picking it up and singing into it. That’s a nice song for me as it has a personal meaning but it could be for any fan in the that comes to a gig dressed like me.

Looking ahead, what do you have planned when you finish your UK shows and what have you lined up for next year?

Once we finish the UK tour, I have some shows booked in Vegas in November. We’ll also start work on the next EP so there’s plenty going on. I hope to have an announcement to make very soon about a really exciting project for next year, which I think my fans will love, so watch out for that.

Interview By Mick Burgess

The Roadside EP and The Cage EP are out now.

Billy Idol’s UK Tour with Killing Joke and Toyah in support starts in Manchester on 13th October.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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