From Recording and Touring With BILLY IDOL, To Releasing His Own Album TODAY, BILLY MORRISON Has Plenty To Share!
Posted On 16 Oct 2015
Tag: All Access, All Access Music Group, Alone In A Crowd, Artist Interview, Baby Hurricane, Billy Idol, Billy Morrison, Chris Chaney, Dave Navarro, David Bowie, Donovan Leitch, Dorothy, Download Festival, Epic Records, Erik Eldenius, Ginger Wildheart, God Shaped Hole, Gods, Iggy, Jane's Addiction, Josh Freese, Kings & Queens Of The Underground, Mark McGrath, Methadonia, Morrison, Ordinary Girl, Ozzy Osbourne, Prince of Darkness, Royal Blood, Royal Machines, Sarm Studios, Sex Pistols, Steve Stevens, Stimulator, The Isle Of Wright, Trent Reznor, Trevor Horn
BILLY MORRISON is an incredible musician who currently plays guitar in Billy Idol’s band and co-wrote songs on Idol’s latest “KINGS & QUEENS OF THE UNDERGROUND” album.
On October 23rd, he will release his album, “GOD SHAPED HOLE” and he is joined on the collection by Idol band-mates Steve Stevens and Erik Eldenius, Jane’s Addiction’s Dave Navarro and rock legend Ozzy Osbourne (lead vocals on “Gods,” a Morrison/Osbourne co-write). The album features 10 tracks (five originals and five cover songs). The tracks “Baby Hurricane” and “Alone In A Crowd” were previously released.
Learn more about Morrison and his new album in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! How’s your summer been going?
My pleasure. The summer has been incredible and seems to be still going! I spent most of it on the road with Billy (Idol) – we kicked it off with a couple of weeks over on the East Coast, and from there we flew to Europe and spent over two months there, doing festivals and also our own shows. Of course, that wasn’t enough for me, so I threw in a 22 piece art show in Beverly Hills and a solo album that was conceived, written and recorded in the breaks between tours! Hahaha!
How have your summer shows been going? What have been some favorite venues and crowds?
It’s always such an honor to spend the summer months sharing a stage with Billy and Steve, and the rest of the Idol band, but this year has been extra special. We released “Kings And Queens Of The Underground” in October 2014, the new Billy Idol album that I co-wrote with Idol and Stevens, so we have been on the road since then in support of that record. So being able to play those new songs in the set and to see the fans singing along with every word……that’s been great. The Isle Of Wight festival that we did this year was a pretty spectacular vibe, as was Download Festival in the UK (that is always just such a great hang and with some of the most amazing fans – always rocking, despite the shitty English weather!!!).
When did you first decide that you wanted to be a musician? Was there ever a time when you thought of doing something else?
Well I probably THINK about doing something else most days of my life!!! That’s why I also act, paint, do radio shows…… I’m constantly trying to push my creative boundaries. But there has never been any question in my mind that the arts and creativity is where I want to spend my life. From the moment I saw the Sex Pistols on television in the UK when I was a kid – when I watched them single handedly scare a complete country into a state of paranoia and fear, JUST by making a noise and speaking their truth…… when you see that its possible to open your mouth and actually say something and that it’s not important how you learned or trained to say it……just that you have SOMETHING to say…… my life was forever changed. And I have put that punk rock ethos into everything I’ve done. Overcome the voices inside my head, ignored the fear (and the haters!! We all have them!) and just do it because you CAN…. I’ve been happily creating and performing ever since.
How is your forthcoming album, “God Shaped Hole” different then your first solo album? How is it similar?
“God Shaped Hole” is completely different to “Stimulator” on a number of levels. Stimulator was extremely angry and electronic. This record comes from a different part of my musical spirit. And this time, it’s five cover songs and five originals. The covers were relatively unknown bands or songs that were extremely personal and important to me when I was learning my craft. I wanted to re-record those five songs because they meant SO much to me and still do. For whatever reason, the covers I chose touched me on a deep level at a time when I was learning to write songs, to be in bands, when my dream was being created. It could have been the lyrics, or the vibe and image of the band, or simply the way the guitars sounded to me. But I felt that re-recording them as an EP would perhaps introduce those bands and songs to people who would otherwise never hear them. Of course, from that small idea grew the other five originals and it became a full album. As Erik (Eldenius – drummer in Billy Idol and my partner on this project) and I recorded the covers, our natural creativity took over and we wrote the other songs that appear on God Shaped Hole.
Can you talk about working with Jane’s Addiction’s Dave Navarro, Ozzy Osbourne and your other Idol bandmates for this new collection?
I had absolutely no intention of having any of my friends appear on this record! It was not meant to be an album filled with special guests!! I hadn’t told anyone I had decided to do a solo album and just kinda fell off the radar when I started recording. Ozzy texted me one day asking me where I’d disappeared to, and I responded telling him I was in the studio making a solo album. The next text back was something along the lines of…. “Well I wanna sing a song on your record”….. and when the Prince Of Darkness says that, you listen!! So I wrote the ballad that became ‘Gods’. Sharon and everyone in the Osbourne camp backed the song 100% and thanks to her and the nice people at Epic Records, I was able to put this brand new Ozzy Osbourne song, written by myself and Ozzy, on my own album. Obviously for such a special track, I wanted a special guitar solo, and you don’t get more special than Steve Stevens. Of course, Steve said yes. And lastly I wanted my long time brother-in-arms Dave Navarro to be on the record to complete the circle. He came over, threw down some cool harmonic stuff on ‘Methadonia’ and I called it a day. I kept it to the three guys in my life that I am close to – that I make music with – and I’m honored that all three of them contributed to this album.
Where did the inspiration for the songs on this album come from? Do you find that you are inspired by the same things?
Inspiration is a very unusual thing. For me, it can come from anywhere. Art is a huge inspiration for me – my place is covered with modern art, and my personal collection inspires me on a daily basis. But my somewhat dubious past also provides endless inspiration for songs and paintings. When you have lived under a piece of metal on a sidewalk for months, begging for quarters and shooting and smoking your life away, and then found your way out of that darkness into a life beyond your wildest imagination……. inspiration tends to come very easily! I also observe people and write songs about the human condition, not necessarily about something that has happened to me personally. The song “Ordinary Girl” will ring true for SO many people – it’s about meaningless sex, waking up next to people that you don’t really want to wake up next to! Don’t tell me we haven’t all experienced that at one time or another!! HAHAHAHA!
How are you balancing your solo work with playing in Billy Idol’s band?
My priority is, and has been for the last seven years, Billy Idol. The opportunity to be in that band, to work with those guys, to write and record music with them, and to perform every night is a privilege. I don’t take it lightly, and Billy and Steve have welcomed me into the fold and allowed me to express myself, both on stage and in the writing process. You don’t come across that very often in this business, so EVERYTHING else I do comes second. Luckily I am a workaholic, so I have plenty of time to paint, make solo albums, do shows with Royal Machines (my other project with Navarro, Chris Chaney, Josh Freese, Mark McGrath and Donovan Leitch) and pretty much satisfy all those urges. The balance happens naturally, but if Billy calls and says we’re out on the road again, then that’s what I’m doing.
What was it like working on Idol’s latest album “Kings And Queens Of The Underground”?
The whole experience, from conception to completion, was fantastic. Simply being in a room with Idol and Stevens and sharing the collective energy of a song being created was so stimulating and exciting. We worked together for a long time – probably over a two year period, getting together at Steve’s studio, writing, bouncing ideas, making the demos. And then going to London to record at Sarm Studios with Trevor Horn – watching him turn the songs into works of art….. his production of the record was, I think, perfect for Billy. The album came out sounding strong and modern, but at the same time, completely and utterly “Billy Idol” – it’s the album we all wanted to make when we started. And both Steve and Billy are the real deal…… there were times during the process when they would play a particular thing, or sing something just right, and the hairs on the back of your neck would stand up….. and you get that unique feeling that only happens when you know you’re witnessing something REALLY special happening.
I have to ask, what do you think has been the best memory so far since you started playing with him?
If I had to nail it down to one particular memory, I think it would have to be riding motorcycles together, from Bilbao to Madrid in Spain, while being on tour a few years ago. In the middle of a long European tour, we left the bus behind, grabbed some rental bikes, and just rode. Very freeing, a bonding experience, and something you don’t do every day. That, or walking onto the main stage at Donnington at the Download festival and having the heavens open up, the rain start to sheet down, and Idol looked at me as we walked on and said “F@*K it, lets DO this!!” ….. and playing one of the most punk rock, energized gigs we’ve ever played, soaked to the skin and loving every minute of it!
What artists have been inspiring you since you started performing?
Artists that actually DO it, as opposed to talk about doing it. Ginger Wildheart, from the UK, set the business on fire when he launched his first crowd funding project. He charted nationally, actually made money (something thats getting harder and harder to do in this business) and made a record with no one looking over his shoulder telling him what to do. Thats inspirational. Trent Reznor also makes music that way. There’s a bunch of newer bands coming through that inspire me sonically – Royal Blood are insanely good, as is the LA band Dorothy. And I am always inspired by the masters – David Bowie, Iggy, The Pistols…… music from the heart always gives me what I need.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope listeners take away from your songs?
If my music has a message, I think it would be just do it. Don’t overanalyze or get overwhelmed by fear, self-doubt or other peoples opinions. If you have something to say, or something you need to get out of you, do it. Your way. However you want to – punk rock was not a haircut, it was an attitude and a belief system, and that to me is the most important thing. So hopefully people who listen to my songs take away a feeling of truth. It may not be YOUR truth but it is MY truth. And sometimes those truths match up, and THATS when music touches other people.