Interview conducted on Aug 18th, 2005
by Celtic Bob
How is the tour going so far?
Well we been on about a 2 week break and fortunately I got to go to Hawaii for a week. We resume, start back up on Wednesday. It?s been great, really amazing actually.
I am traveling halfway across Canada (1700 miles) to see the Toronto gig next week.
Oh Shit!! We?d better not suck then? (Laughs)
What can I expect to see and hear at my first Idol show?
Obviously we do a fair number of songs that are our older hits. We do about 7 songs from the new record. I mean it?s just a really cohesive amazing band. We?ve had this band together for like 4 years now. It?s the first time in my experience with Billy that its felt like such a band effort.
Is it the same Line-up as the Storytellers DVD a few years back?
With the exception of the drummer and keyboard player, same bass player, but other than that different members, yeah.
Is there much difference touring with Billy now compared to the 80?s?
It?s allot healthier.
The excesses are gone?
Ya, ya know by enlarge we put all the energy into the music now and it means allot more when you?re up there with somebody that your working relationship has outlasted most peoples marriages. It takes on a life of it?s own. You can?t buy this feeling, we respect each other musically and we maintained a friendship throughout the years. It?s something pretty special.
Is the old chemistry still there between you two?
Ya, it?s absolutely better! I?m not just saying that just for the sake of saying it. It?s absolutely better.
What took so long for a new Billy Idol album?
Chrysalis Records (Billy?s Label) folded and we ended up over at Capitol. It was just the usual record company bullshit. It was really a matter of finding the right people that were going to allow us to do the kind of record we wanted to do.
What brought you & Billy back together again after leaving before CHARMED LIFE in 1990?
Right, Yea! Like I said Billy and I moved on to explore projects and stuff but maintained a friendship. I had done a record with Vince Neil of motley Crue and we had a listening party and Billy came to that. I think the seeds of Billy and I reuniting were set then. Just kind of said ?Hey, You know we?re gonna work together?. It was just a matter of time really.
Being a big Motley fan I really hoped for more albums like that.
That was at a period of time at the height of excess for all of us. I kinda got burnt out on allot of different things. At that point it was time for me to chill and regroup.
The new album is almost like going back to Rebel Yell.
A lot have said that. It?s a much sparser record than something like REBEL YELL. We wanted to put things back and make an honest record and utilize allot of technology. There?s not a lot of keyboards on the record and some of the things we used back in the 80?s
Are you happy that the new album is guitar orientated and much more a hard rock album than all the releases after Rebel Yell?
Exactly! Exactly! A lot of that has to do with having a real band. Also our drummer Brian Tichy was an integral part of this record and he?s a rocker.
Have you ever felt held back with playing on Billy’s albums or were you given total freedom to play what you wanted?
I think I?m pretty good at being economic on my own. You have to take into account that it?s a Billy Idol record and by enlarge the songs are 3 minutes 45 seconds and that?s not what a Billy Idol record is about. It?s not a shred record ya know. (laughs) The emphasis is definitely on the rythmn guitar and its always been that way. I approach each project as it?s own and I would never say to Billy ?Hold me back?.
Will there be more releases with Billy or is this a one time tour and album?
Yeah we?re gonna do another record and there?s some talk about a live DVD next year. We?re gonna stay active man. I can tell you it?s not going to be another 12 years for a Billy Idol record.
Will there be another solo cd in the future?
Possibly next year if time allows. I?ve done one solely acoustic flamenco guitar record. I think if I were to do another solo record it would be half acoustic and half electric.
Any plans to work with Bozzio and Levin again?
Not really. We were kind of lucky to do a second one. We?re all pretty busy and those records every penny spent is allowcated to those records. You don?t make allot of money with those type of records. They were a labour of love. For me personally they were tough because you write in the studio and a fair amount of pressure. I really enjoyed doing them, they?re just not easy to do.
Any plans to record with the guys in The Atomic Playboys?
Oh no, no. Absolutly not.
So that?s long gone?
Yeah. It was a record I had to get out of my system. It was all about the guitar on that record. I came to realize that when we went out to tour and I looked over and Billy wasn?t fronting the band and I was like ?Oh Shit!! What do I do now??.
You needed that certain drive?
Yeah, exactly. I need a strong frontman to bounce off of. That?s such a crucial and important thing.
How did you get into flamenco guitar style?
I started playing guitar when I was 7 and a half and didn?t get an electric guitar until I was 13. So all that time was spent playing acoustic folk and one summer I went to a music camp. The teacher there was a flamenco guitarist who escaped the nazi?s in the 2nd world war, he was a Romanian gypsy. As a kid to see someone with that much passion although I didn?t really know anything about flamenco or this style of playing, you couldn?t help but be enthralled by it. The fact that this music saved his life and it meant everything to him, so I kind of doved into flamenco and learned what it was all about. After I done the Vince Neil record and toured with VanHalen I mean what do you do after that? You?re opening up for the greatest guitar player since Jimi Hendrix. I kinda just went ?What do I do that?s uniqueto what can I bring to the table to listeners??. Really the one thing that?s unique about me as a player is my flamenco background. That?s what brought me to do a flamenco record.
It was quite a different album.
It?s one of the records I?m most proud of. There I go being a self indulging guitar player.
What are you currently listening to? Any newer bands you find interesting or inspiring?
It?s tough for me, there?s so many things released, re-mastered and re-released. Whenever I find myself going into record stores I?ll see a new remastered version of a Hendrix record or something. I?m in this phase of total 70?s blues, English blues guitar player mode. Of the new stuff I like the Velvet Revolver record and Audioslave as far as modern guitar playing. As far as new bands go?I?m at a loss just like everyone is. Whatever I see I guess is through MTV or whatever, I?m not gonna go out and buy it.
There don?t seem to be a lot of great stuff coming out.
Yeah I know. I just love great guitar playing. It?s got to have strong guitar playing for me so I?d rather listen to Zakk Wylde or something. There?s not a lot of great new guitar players out there. It?s just not the emphasis.
What do you think of the whole Michael Jackson media circus of late, since you recorded with him back in the 80s on ?Dirty Diana.?
I think he?s just a lost soul; it was so obvious when I worked with him. The person who contacted me was Quincy Jones. I was a Quincy Jones fan before knowing anything about Michael Jackson. It was obvious that Quincy Jones was like a father figure to him, and without that influence I think Michael really kinda lost his way. It?s really sad. What more do you say?
How did you get involved in the Peter Criss solo album back in ?82?
That was the very first record I recorded on. Before I joined Billy I was in a band called the Flying Malibu?s and we recorded for Island Records. Unfortunatly our record was never released and we were managed by Bill Aucoin who managed Kiss and eventually managed Billy Idol. Peter Criss had heard our album which wasn?t released and a song on there called ?First Day In The Rain?, he wanted to use it for his record. I thought ?Well no one else is going to get to hear it. My record?s not going to be released?, so I agreed to play on it.
?The Top Gun Anthem? from TOP GUN soundtrack is one of the coolest instrumentals ever. Does you enjoy going all-out on tracks like this?
You treat everything as its own entity. The thing about the Top Gun anthem was that it was done as part of the sessions for WHIPLASH SMILE. All because Harold Faltheimer who scored Top Gun came in to play keyboards on WHIPLASH SMILE and he asked me to stay late one day and said I?m working on this film: Tom Cruise Top Gun film. He showed me some footage and played me the track. It took maybe an hour and a half to do, and lo and behold we won a grammy for it. Ya never knowm just never know. (Laughs) I?m a firm believer that some songs you write are things you can?t remember writing. You?re just a channel for them. They just get in your head and all you gotta do is not fuck up that communication.
During your time playing with Vince Neil, were you learning Crue songs to play live or was Vince focusing on his solo stuff exclusively?
Obviously when we were rehearsing to record the record we weren?t doing and Crue stuff. When we went into rehearsals for the tour we did a fair amount of Motley Crue stuff. It was a hell of a lot of fun. My biggest frustration was that Vince wanted to have a 2 guitar band because he didn?t want it to be compared to Motley Crue. I don?t work well in 2 guitar bands. (Laughs) It?s not my style, people just end up stepping on me?I just don?t dig it. (Laughs)
You?ve played with a vast number of artists over the years. Outside of the Billy stuff which stands out the most?
For me I?d look at it as what experience was really enjoyable. I?d have to say working with Robert Palmer was amazing. Robert was the first rockstar that I ever met. I met him when I was recording with my band before Billy Idol. We were down in the Bahamas and Robert lived across the street from the studio and came in and gave me some good advice and really good careear guidance and stayed in touch with me. When the opportunity came to do his record he was living in Milan, Italy. You can imagine what it?s like being in the fashion capitol of the world with Robert Palmer.
That must?ve been a trip in itself?
It was. He was an amazing host: it was like the best food, he took me to get an Armani suit?it was just the best. It was an incredible experience. I love working with people that have that experience of being on the scene during that initial british rock guitar thing. He was there doing gigs with Jimi Hendrix. He had some amazing stories. Robert was just the coolest guy. It was really sad to see him pass away. He was just a cool guy. He was a singer that could communicate to other musicians on their level. He had such a knowledge of music.
Thanks for your time and see you on the 30th.