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Posted: 4:16 am
August 26, 2008

MORE than 20 years after a spiky-haired Brit named William Broad - a k a Billy Idol - bombarded these shores with his sexy snarl, the punk rocker is still every bit as cool as he was back then.

Currently on tour, he's at the Hammerstein Ballroom tonight to support his recently released "The Very Best of Billy Idol: Idolize Yourself" album. The 52-year-old told The Post about his past, present and future plans, all while claiming to be sitting in his underpants (and, OK, a T-shirt).

What's the story behind the two new songs on your "Idolize Yourself" album?

We were working on songs for a new album when [the record label] said they wanted to refresh the greatest hits package, so they're a little bit of a stepping stone to a new album.

I enjoy singing [new track] "John Wayne" because I always think about some of the characters he played that had to rise above their own limitations, so it's fun to take a little bit of that magic for yourself. "New Future Weapon" is about the [F22] Raptor . . . because the plane is so stealth.

Why continue to put out new music, instead of cashing in on your old hits forever?

The world goes on, you go on and you change. You want to show the fans those changes and you want to be able to verbalize them.

Everything about you, from your voice to your style and stage moves, is so iconic. Do you ever feel the need to reinvent yourself?

Not completely, no. I found, years ago, that I could really rely quite a lot on what makes me tick and what abilities I have. The hard part is going in and mining that theme [appropriately]. You want to draw all the strands together. It's like a great cake: You take all the best ingredients, and then you bake it right.

Does this mean you won't be rapping on future tracks, like you did in the 2001 Ikea ad?

I'm really a singer, so I love songs and I love singing. I like rap music, but I didn't grow up freestyling.

[However,] when I moved to New York in 1981, the first thing I saw was kids break dancing in the streets, so I've grown up with rap too now, just like everybody else. The thing is, I've got a very recognizable voice, even when I speak, so you never know what I might do.

How have you avoided becoming just another retro act on a nostalgia tour?

I kept hold of my punk-rock attitude and my rock 'n' roll roots, and I think that helped me make records that transcended the '80s and avoid some of those mistakes of being caught up in the time that we were in, having elements in the music - synthesizers and drum machines and that yelp in your voice - that become annoying now, because they're so stuck in the past. Like Oingo Boingo or Erasure or something like that: You hear it and go, "Bloody hell, people were listening to that?" and then pretend that you never listened to that.