Rebel yellin’ with
Preview: Billy Idol @ MTS
She sings, she dances, she acts,
she hosts radio shows…
Now Bif Naked has turned celebrity interviewer
by taking on the task of speaking with Billy
The former William Broad is the man from the
London, England, suburb of Bromley who was part
of the infamous ‘Bromley Contingent’ (which
also included Siouxsie Sioux and Steve Severin)
that followed the Sex Pistols around in the
earliest days of punk in 1975-’76. Young Mr.
Broad rechristened himself Billy Idol in the
fashion of the day, went on to front Generation
X (with whom he recorded two albums of post-punk
pop), then moved to America and reinvented
himself as a quasi-punk rocker and huge MTV star
in the 1980s.
Billy’s been through the wars over the years.
Heroin, cocaine, crack and alcohol abuse, a
horrific motorcycle accident and a terrible 1993
album called Cyberpunk all rattle around in his
closet. Now Billy’s back to form with an album
called Devil’s Playground and, at age 49, is
enjoying some of the best press of his career.
He spoke to Bif by phone before the pair
embarked on their cross-Canada ‘Naked Idol’
Here is her story:
My name is Bif Naked. I am NO journalist. I
don’t even own a computer, for crying out
loud! But on a fine August day I was told I was
going to interview the legendary Billy Idol. I
fainted! I was not worthy…
I can do a pornographically breathy version of
Eyes Without a Face in the shower, and I still
try to do my own version of his famous lip curl
in the taxi mirror. Plus, he is ripped
(qualifying him as dreamy on the “Biffy
But I was nervous! I was to embark on a tour
with Billy Idol in just three days, and I had
not yet met him. First impressions are only
available once, so I thought I’d better make
The following is an edited version of a
conversation I was privileged and delighted to
have with the superbeautiful Billy Idol:
Bif: Congratulations on everything, especially
on Devil’s Playground, your new CD. It’s
amazing… a really great record!
Billy: You’re magic. Thank you.
Bif: For someone like me, who was lip-synching
to Flesh for Fantasy in my parents’ basement
several years ago, this new record is sooo good.
My favourite song is Summer Running, maybe
because I am a just a hopeless girl… It’s
such a beautiful song. Do you like singing
lovey-dovey as opposed to screaming?
Billy: Lovey-dovey. Ha ha. Well I think that as
a singer — and I’m not just a singer — but
that side of me wants to communicate all the
emotions, so yeah, of course it’s brilliant to
do both. Lots of great people never had to
scream a day their life — like Frank Sinatra.
He never had to scream. But that’s not what
it’s like today. You have to scream. It’s
all about screaming.
Bif: You’ve got such a rich, thick,
Billy: You want to use it. That’s the point.
You want to try new places to go, new places to
sustain. Like Roger Daltrey, for instance. You
see Roger Daltrey pre-Tommy, and he’s such a
different singer post-Tommy. On Who’s Next
he’s huge after three years of singing Tommy
two hours a night. You have to work it. I had a
few years away from singing where I could work
my voice a bit. I hope that made it stronger.
Bif: You have such a loyal, dedicated audience
who are committed to you, and now it seems that
you’re recruiting a new-era, younger audience
again. How does it feel? It must be exciting.
Billy: Well yeah, it really is. For someone like
me, at my completely advanced age, it’s really
energizing because that’s where you really
need to see that people think the same as you,
at whatever age they are. Of course you’ve got
the loyal fans who have been there forever —
and thank God for them. But it’s great to see
the greatest hits album brought some new people,
and now Devil’s Playground brought some new
people. I think there is that element some
people can see that “Oh, he’s starting to
work for it,” which I think is an important
thing in rock ’n’ roll — the horrible part
of it… But sometimes you’ve really just got
to work for it. We all want it to be magical and
easy. We all want the reward without trying, but
sometimes you’ve got to sweat. It’s the only
way you’ll find out how to make the next
Bif: You’re a testament to someone who has
been able to just maintain and sustain. Has your
musical vision changed since your early Gen X
Billy: Writing for Generation X was writing for
a group, a band, a movement. You really thought
about it — Your Generation, it was really
boyish. “We’re going to kick that shit
down” — I still kept that attitude with
Billy Idol, but maybe the Irish side of Billy.
That guy is going to cry into his beer and
that’s not that bad a place to come from. I
tried to put those elements into Gen X. My voice
got deeper over the years. Then recently it got
higher. Maybe I was just lucky and didn’t burn
my voice out. But you know… you’re a singer.
Bif: Did you enjoy playing on Warped Tour?
Billy: Yeah, it was really great fun. It was
just magic, just playing a half-hour set. In
Generation X we sometimes only had 20 minutes of
music, so we played the set twice. It was kind
of like those days again. I really enjoyed
getting up there and just blasting out the best
Bif: You were in The Doors movie. Was the
character you played based on a real person?
Billy: It wasn’t really. We were kind of
compulsive people. The big guy, “Dog,” and
me, “Cat,” were kind of compulsive friends
of Jim Morrison. He had a few people who were
hangers-on/roadie-kind-of-bodyguard people, and
he had a few people hanging around doing a
documentary a lot of the time. A lot of stuff
that’s in Feast of Friends and bits and pieces
of films that you see of Jim Morrison... were
actually these three guys. I got so cut out of
the movie you only really see me on an aeroplane.
I’m just a general hanger-on, really. And
that’s kind of what Jim Morrison had around,
people who were drinking friends, who were kind
of actors, kind of in the film world. They were
all having a blast. You can imagine Jim Morrison
had aspirations of making films, so he was
hanging with film people.
Bif: You were in another airplane scene. Was
that The Wedding Singer?
Billy: That’s right. I’m going to get
Bif: In that scene you threw a punch didn’t
you? Are you into martial arts or anything?
Boxing? You seem like you’d be a really good
Billy: There are some natural things I do
onstage… I do punch the punching bag sometimes
at home. But I don’t really… I’m a runner.
I run away.
Bif: You are ripped — is that what your
workout entails? A punching bag and running?
Billy: A few different things, but I don’t do
it that much now. I did it a while ago. I change
up what I do. I do different things. I really
thought if I pulled my body together it would
help my voice.
Bif: You must eat a lot of protein. I’m a
fitness-crazy person. Looking at your delt
heads, you’ve gotta be on the most amazing
Billy: After doing a two-hour show, it’s so
aerobic you sweat off any water you had on you,
so it’s great for looking ripped. It takes a
week or so for me to lose all that water. When I
had my motorcycle accident I was really glad I
had a workout ethic. It helped me recover when I
nearly lost my leg. It was one of those things
that helped you mentally overcome the problem. I
think that’s what you’re always looking for:
“How can I overcome this problem? What advice
will help me overcome this problem?” The
motorcycle, although it hurt me, it did a lot to
help me get my head straight. That’s what
Summer Running was all about. It was all about
my motorcycle. It really helped me put my head
straight. That’s why I’m glad you liked that
Bif: Did you co-write that with Stevie?
Billy: Yeah, he did a great job.
Bif: When you weren’t playing together, did
you and Stevie still hang out?
Billy: When we did Summer Running, we were
writing nonstop. We saw each other every day
because we were working together. In the old
days we would have got high together, but we
replaced it by caring about the music. “Get
out of that rocking chair! Put down the pipe!
And go to rehearsal!”
Bif: You still have that great chemistry. That
chemistry is evolving.
Billy: He’s playing better than ever. That’s
what’s exciting about Steve Stevens. And Brian
Tichy, the drummer. I wrote a lot of the songs
with him. I think you’re going to see live
that he’s a lot more fun than you can tell on
Devil’s Playground. He’s a really great
drummer. The best drummer I’ve had since Tommy
Price… in the Rebel Yell days. It’s a really
good group. We’re all pulling together to help
each other. It feels like it’s more than just
me these days. That’s a fun feeling.
Bif: Critics have embraced your record and there
is nothing but good talk about your tours. Did
you just get back from Europe? Have you been
Billy: We just played England at Donington.
Monsters of Rock. We did the second stage. It
was brilliant. And there were a couple of gigs
in Germany with Velvet Revolver and Mudvayne;
and in Italy with Oasis; and Lollapalooza in
Chicago, and the Warped Tour; and in Baltimore
with Foo Fighters, Coldplay, Social S — kind
of like a who’s who. The New York Dolls even
played on it.
Bif: Are you chased by paparazzi in different
Billy: Not really anymore. Thank God the MTV
thing died off a bit. When you write songs, you
don’t always want that bright light on you.
When you wanna roll in the gutter, you don’t
want those bright lights on you. You just start
to roll and they shine a camera in your face and
you can’t do it anymore… I think sometimes
you get to a Charles Bukowski place and you have
to be left alone. It’s probably brilliant for
press and everything if you have those people
following you, but it must be murder. I watch
those people on television and I’m so glad and
it’s not me anymore.
Bif: Even your lifestyle compared to previously.
You were notorious... I guess you guys just did
have a really good time?
Billy: It just escalated and escalated. You
didn’t realize you upped the scale all the
time, and eventually you just had to contain it
or it would destroy you. It’s like a nuclear
explosion getting bigger and bigger. Of course
it was all over 20 years ago, so just give me a
bit of time to get control of myself and putting
this together again with people like Steve.
We’re trying to reintroduce ourselves to
people who are my son’s age. The new
generation doesn’t know about Billy Idol. I
think we’ve made a good record, and we have to
go out there and keep trying to get through to
people. And I’m really surprised what chances
people will give you when you finally get in
front of them and you’re good — “I don’t
give a shit how old they are, they’re good!”
They throw away their inhibitions and just
realize you’re rocking. That’s what you care