“I’m Hopelessly Inactive In Terms Of Promoting My Own Career”
Posted on Thursday, February 14, 2008 at 18:11:26 to bravewords.com
Special Report by Martin Popoff
BW&BK recently got in contact with singer, guitarist, and successful solo artist BILLY SQUIER for a little chat about happenings in the Squier camp. Capping off a long chat about PIPER’s Can’t Wait album for the upcoming fourth edition of the Ye Olde Metal series (Ye Olde Metal: 1977), Squier had this to say about reviving his career at a relaxed and controlled pace…
“I would say that career-wise, I’m not career-oriented at all. My career now kind of evolves around people coming to me with ideas, and I’ll do it if it’s something that sounds interesting to me. If I can enjoy it without being sucked back into the vortex of the music business, then I’m happy to do it. The most recent thing like that was playing with RINGO (Starr) a couple of years ago, in the ALL STAR BAND, which, I’m looking forward to doing this year too. Rumour has it (laughs), that we’re going to go again. So if you say that, you have to say rumour has it, because it’s not official yet. A lot of us would like to see that happen again, including Ringo. But that’s a fantastic gig, because you play with these great musicians and you do each other’s songs, and you end up having a great band. We did that two years ago and it was one of the best things I ever did; I really enjoyed that. But I’ve done some odd bits and pieces here and there. I did something for a blues history, a Delta blues history, which is going to come out any time now, which is just me playing acoustic guitar and singing, just like the guys back on the porch. But I really like that style and that kind of music. And I write the odd song once in a while. It’s usually just because I hear it and I want to do it. I’d really have to say that I’m hopelessly inactive in terms of promoting my own career (laughs).
There is also some reissue news, is there not?
“Yes, Capitol put together a new label called American Beat, and they’ve re-released Emotions In Motion and Signs Of Life, which is a start. Tale Of The Tape was re-released a couple years ago in England, on a label called Rock Candy, and that is a spectacular re-release. And it sounds amazing; John Astley remastered it and did an incredible job. I did the book along with those guys, and it’s one of the best pieces of Billy Squier that you can ever get. So I highly recommend that. Also, after years of having nothing to do with my website, I’ve got much more involved with my website. There are some great people who run it, but I came up with an idea to get more of my catalogue out. We’re getting more of my catalogue up, and right now we’re in the process of putting up everything I’ve ever done. We do it release by release, one at a time.”
Do you mean to sell via iTunes?
“Yes, you can buy any of the songs individually, or you could buy them as a package and get discounts, the usual stuff. But it’s not as much of a moneymaking venture, as it is… because Capitol put so much of my catalogue out of print, it’s basically… you go to a store, all you can get is Don’t Say No and Greatest Hits. And for me, whether people buy my catalogue or buy my music, it’s up to them. But I’d like to have people have a chance to buy it. We’re making it available so you can listen to it. And I also write liner notes for each one. I try to write stuff that you haven’t heard about before. It’s kind of an autobiographical chapter of what happened during the making of those records. So that’s something that… I mean, I promote it to Billy Squier fans. I think if you’re a Billy Squier fan, you should go to the website, because you’ll get a lot of stuff out of it. So yes, American Beat have re-released Emotions In Motion, and they’ve just released Signs Of Life, and hopefully they will do more. So at this point we kind of have my first four solo records out, and then we still have four more to go (laughs). But a lot of that stuff now, like I said, you can get, selectively or collectively, through Billy Squier.com.”
“There has been more and more talk about taking the band out again,” adds Billy, who’s got to know fans are starved for hearing that voice of his on stage again. “I think we’re getting close to that. I’m waiting to see how this year lines up - if Ringo wants to go, I want to go with him. Because it’s an experience that doesn’t come around that often, and I want to do that. And I would say after that, I would be seriously thinking about doing more shows. Whether or not that happens this year, it might not happen ‘til ‘09. But it’s definitely... enough people have thrown it my way. It’s definitely on my radar now. It feels like, yeah, it’s been a while, I should go out, it would be fun.”
Legendary KISS manager Bill Aucoin (also Piper, STARZ, and recently LORDI) has made it known that he’d love to be a part of reviving Squier’s career.
“I talk to him every once in awhile,” notes Billy. “I know if I wanted to make a record, he would love to make a record with me. He’s always been a real supportive fan, so I know that he would like to do that. I figured, I haven’t had a manager for years, because, you know, what do I need a manager for? I’m not working. I have my publisher and my agent. I mean, if I went out, I might need someone to help me out. Because handling managerial duties is not something that I really aspire to. I don’t know, a lot of it remains to be seen, going out, you know, who would be involved in it, because a lot of the old band members aren’t around. So we would get who we could, and then we would fill in some slots. So it’s still to be determined. But I think yes, I think it would be good to go and do maybe something like I’ve never really done. I’ve really been thinking a lot about doing an idea of A Night With Billy Squier. And really doing it for the fans, doing it in smaller venues and doing a long show - and doing the whole history. Not just going out and doing the ten songs that you want to hear. There is so much more that I would like to do. There is so much of my music... songs to me are like my children, I love all of them. There is so much of my stuff where I go, ‘Why don’t people listen to this?’ But I know the fans do. So I’d like to go and make the show not just a greatest hits revue, but do something where people go, ‘Wow, he did this, he did that, wow, he did an acoustic section!’ I’m always looking for something to keep it interesting for me. And that’s about the only thing I haven’t done, as a touring artist, is to do something really comprehensive.”
And the voice is good?
“Fine - better than it used to be. It seems to be. Whenever I go out to sing... and I think a lot of that is because I’m very relaxed. I’m comfortable in my skin. Because it’s been a long time, and you suddenly realize gee, I guess I don’t have anything to prove anymore. I guess people DO like me. I guess I am good, you know? (laughs). So when that happens, you feel a lot more at ease.”
For a Squier-penned history of Signs Of Life (the latest reissue), plus
the above discussed downloads, please visit www.billysquier.com
|Andy Warhol painted Billy Squier for the cover of his 1982 Emotions in Motion album. "I realized that my record company was going to want to have my face on my album cover," Squier says, "but I didn't want it to be just me with a guitar." The work now hangs in his apartment. (Globe Photo / Joe Tabacca)|
November 13, 2005
Rock icon Billy Squier's '80s anthems are still in heavy rotation.
Maybe that's why he has so much time for gardening.
By James Sullivan
Retiring rapper Jay-Z's farewell anthem, "99 Problems," booms with a big beat. In fact, it booms with "The Big Beat," the lead track from Tale of the Tape, Billy Squier's 1980 solo debut. The Wellesley-born rock icon's bombastic pop-metal songs, which went on to define the hard sound of the '80s, have been routinely sampled by rappers from Ice Cube and Big Daddy Kane to British newcomer Dizzee Rascal. "The Stroke," Squier's suggestive signature song, popped up in the movie The Longest Yard, and his "Everybody Wants You" was reworked for the television show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Now 55, Squier spoke with us about the excesses of the '80s and trading his ax for pruning shears.
been asked to appear on "Where-are-they-now" shows
but turned them down.
Without a second thought. I think those things are horrifying. These are desperate people. I'm not trying to cast aspersions, but I would like to hold onto whatever integrity I still have.
Your rock song "The Big Beat" just turned up on a new compilation called "Hip Hop Roots." What do you think of the reference?
It's the most sampled song in history - they said that on MTV, so even if I'm wrong, I'm not making it up. The intro of the song is me with my hands in a trap case, beating on the side of it. I just walked around the studio banging on stuff, looking for a sound. . . . People sometimes write that Billy is the king of hip-hop. I didn't even know what hip-hop was then.
How many times has "The Stroke" been remixed?
I think if I had one more version, I'd put out a Stroke Volume 1 album. I've got probably eight or nine, which are all really different. Actually, someone approached us about doing that with "The Big Beat," too. I wouldn't want to end up in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as the "Master of Hip-Hop Samples," but you take what you can get.
Have you done better financially than some of your peers from all these samples?
Well, I wouldn't lie. I'm the publisher of the songs and the writer. I do very well from that.
At the height of your popularity, you were one of the biggest rock stars around. You were hanging out with Def Leppard and Queen. How crazy was that?
I like to think that in my case it was relatively controlled, if decadence can be. I stepped up to the edge of the cliff a few times, but I never went over.
In hindsight, what was the worst thing about the '80s?
MTV! It completely changed the face of music. For me, music is this incredibly cerebral trip. You turn on the radio or put on a record, and it's your song, it's what you see. When MTV came along, you didn't have your story anymore.
Andy Warhol did the cover for 1982's Emotions in Motion. How did that happen?
Andy was at the height of his popularity. So I called him up, and he said, "Sure." He asked me what colors I didn't like.
You grew up in Wellesley Hills?
Yes. My father worked for Converse Rubber. He was a regional sales manager back in their glory days - the Celtics, Bill Russell, and all that.
The Psychedelic Supermarket was the first nightclub you played regularly in the '60s. What was that like?
It was just outside Kenmore Square, down an alley, no windows, not particularly high ceilings. Not a magic place like the [Boston] Tea Party, just a very industrial place. But I had a lot of great times there. We'd open for the Grateful Dead, the Moody Blues, Steve Miller. I spent six nights at [Eric] Clapton's feet when Cream came there.
Your Berklee experience was short?
I went there for a year. I'd gone to New York at an early age, and I got beat up a little bit, emotionally. So I thought I'd go home and go to music school. Berklee's a great school, but what Berklee teaches you is not what Billy Squier is about. I remember the last straw was when I did a recital for the head of the department. He said, "You played it fine, but you're not playing it the way we want you to."
Since dropping out of public view, you've immersed yourself in gardening and screenplays. Why?
Well, I got out of the business because I went from being the biggest artist on my record label to someone they didn't even want to have around. I woke up one day and said, "I don't need this." I was walking down the street, and I saw this advertisement for writing screenplays. The first one I wrote ended up being a Sundance finalist for writing. I got into it for a couple of years, and then I realized I was talking to the same people I'd been talking to in the music business. I'm a huge garden and landscape fanatic. That happened when I bought a house on Long Island, back in 1988. The house was nice, but the land was terrible. Now I take care of 20 acres of Central Park, right in front of my place [as a volunteer for the park's Conservancy]. I walk out to the park, and it's like my garden. I've come across other things which have enabled me to learn about myself and what it is to be alive. Which is certainly not all about fame.
When you're working in the park, unrecognized, does anyone ever say anything?
Yeah! When you're getting adulation from 10,000 or 20,000 people, it's pretty powerful. But getting thanked by one person is just as important.
James Sullivan's book on the history of blue jeans will be out in 2006. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.