Veteran guitarist returns on new album with Billy Idol
IN THIS ERA of social media, where artists can communicate directly with fans via Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube video diaries, guitarist Steve Stevens calls himself ‘old school.’ He speaks to the media by telephone and in person because it’s what he’s used to.
“When I first started with Billy [Idol], I remember the first press junket,” he says. “We went to England, and Kerrang magazine was the first thing I did. The only way you could do things was to travel to another country. Then we went to Japan and did press, and in Japan they have you do twelve interviews a day. You couldn’t even think at the end of the day, but it makes an impression. Especially now, we have a new record coming out, so there’s something to talk about and we’re excited about it, so why not?”
That new album, Kings & Queens of the Underground, was only weeks away from release, on October 21, when Stevens spoke to Gearphoria. He and Idol were also preparing for an acoustic set at the CBGB Music & Film Festival, where Idol would be the keynote interview.
GEARPHORIA: Billy describes this album as introspective. You’re creating a soundtrack to someone’s life. As he relives personal moments, are you reliving them with him?
STEVE: That’s right. The other records we certainly didn’t approach this way. We knew that this one would be accompanied by his book [Idol’s autobiography, Dancing With Myself, was released on October 7], so that gave us a whole other angle to write the music for. It’s a big chapter of his life when he arrives in New York. We met soon after, and from that time on we were pretty much musical partners throughout the ’80s and took a break in the early ’90s.
I’ve known Billy for thirty-two years, so even the stuff concerning Generation X that I wasn’t there for I know about from late nights and conversations. Our other co-writing partner on it, Billy Morrison, who’s the rhythm guitar player in the band now, also grew up in Billy’s neighborhood, so there was a real sense that this stuff was very personal.
Always with the previous records, music would come first and we’d write lyrics afterward. With this record, most of the lyrics came first and we kind of fitted the music around the themes.