USA TODAY International Edition

It’s no accident that Idol revisits crash on ‘ Roadside’

- Melissa Ruggieri

More than four decades into his career, Billy Idol is still learning.

But that he’s still here, creating music, feels like an even greater accomplish­ment.

“When we started in punk rock, I thought, this will last six months. And here we are, 45 years later,” Idol tells USA TODAY.

He’s Zooming in from Los Angeles, with a photo backdrop of an old Fender Twin amp and a signed Les Paul Jr. guitar given to him by longtime guitarist/ cowriter Steve Stevens in 1982, and ready to chat about “The Roadside,” his foursong EP that landed Friday. It marks his first new release in nearly seven years.

The album represents some new territory for Idol, 65. He worked with producer Butch Walker and videograph­er Steven Sebring, who directed the clip for the single “Bitter Taste,” for the first time, and the freshness is apparent.

Longtime fans will find much to appreciate about tracks “Rita Hayworth” (“a little bit about Hollywood and rapacious producers,” Idol says) and the soaring pop- rocker “U Don’t Have to Kiss Me Like That.” The songs are familiar, yet instilled with renewed vigor.

Before signing off with his trademark fist pump, Idol – now playing some 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 his MTV- era self.

Q: Before we talk about the EP, let’s talk about Miley Cyrus ( the pair collaborat­ed on Cyrus’ “Night Crawling” and performed together at Lollapaloo­za in July). She has said she loves how you married rebellion and music and have songs with incredible hooks. What do you appreciate about her?

Billy Idol: She’s a lot of fun. She’s got sort of a dynamic personalit­y and she’s very committed to her music and working on her voice and her vocal ability. The duet we did on “Rebel Yell” in 2016 ( at the iHeartRadi­o Music Festival), she was coming along, but since then she’s gotten a lot more powerful. When we did the Super Bowl ( TikTok Tailgate) this year, she rehearsed day and night. She just did that song with Metallica ( a cover of “Nothing Else Matters” on Howard Stern’s SiriusXM show) and that shows how she’s really into her music. She works really hard and that says a lot. She could just go spend her “Hannah Montana” royalties, but she’s not, she’s working.

Q: Of the four songs on this EP, you get really 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 beginning of the pandemic last 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, what can I write about that was a crisis time for me? A time I knew would change my life and my future? Seeing what the pandemic was beginning to do to people, I realized I’ve never really written about the motorcycle accident, and now I’ve had time to take it all in. I got together with ( songwriter­s) Joe Janiak and Tommy English – I came on my bike to that session, too – and we started talking about how the accident was a watershed moment. I was a bit of a drug addict back then, and I decided that when I was high on the bike, that wasn’t the right thing and I would hopefully clean myself up. I had children, too, so I was wondering what I was really saying to them by nearly killing myself. I nearly lost my leg. I realized I did have to change things going forward. It took a few years, but I put the drugs on the back burner. I went to AA for a bit. There is an element of creating discipline, and now I can have a glass of white wine and I vape pot and that gives me what I need. I thought, that’s something I could really write about and maybe resonate with people going through the pandemic.

Q: You mentioned your children, and now you’re a grandfathe­r as well.

Idol: It’s fantastic. I’m so glad that the spotlight is on Bonnie, my daughter, and her bringing up her family. The little child ( Poppy Rebel, born in May 2020) is so fun and she has a strong personalit­y already. I’m so excited to see my daughter so happy, and she loves being a mum. She has a second little girl coming in January.

Q: You and Steve Stevens, your guitarist and co- writer, are pretty much family as well, having been together for decades. What makes you guys such good partners?

Idol: Yeah, it will be 40 years with Steve. Recently he said about me, “I’ve always had Billy’s back,” and that’s the feeling I get and that’s pretty massive. He’s an incredible safety net and the idea that he can make your musical dreams come true means I can go anywhere. The day we want to change things up we can do it, and that’s a power. We’re looking out for each other.

Q: I know a lot of people are impressed that 40 years since your solo debut ( Idol fronted British punk rockers Generation X in the late ’ 70s), you still have the look, including your hair. Explain.

Idol: ( Laughs) I don’t know – ( the hair) is just about hanging in there. But none of it is so easy anymore. I do work out. The last 10- plus years it’s been a lot of Pilates, TRX training and weights. The Pilates helps keep your core strong, and I’m powering my singing. You have to be fit to be a singer, otherwise you’ll have a heart attack.

 ?? PROVIDED BY STEVEN SEBRING ?? Billy Idol’s EP, “The Roadside,” is his first new release in nearly seven years.
PROVIDED BY STEVEN SEBRING Billy Idol’s EP, “The Roadside,” is his first new release in nearly seven years.
 ?? PROVIDED BY DARK HORSE RECORDS ?? “The Roadside” is out now.
PROVIDED BY DARK HORSE RECORDS “The Roadside” is out now.

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