Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Billy Morrison Talks New Album, Dream Ice Cube Collaboration, And Craziest Travel Stories

London born multifaceted artist and guitarist Billy Morrison began his career with the alternative rock band The Cult and later went on to play guitar for bands like Camp Freddy and Circus Diablo. In 2010 he joined Billy Idol’s band all the while maintaining and growing his own solo career. Billy is a master at the guitar, even having his own Gibson Les Paul Signature named after himself and also a Knaggs signature model. 

Aside from his music career, Morrison is also known for his visual art, particularly his paintings. He has exhibited his artwork in galleries around the world. Additionally, he is involved in philanthropic efforts supporting addiction recovery and mental health awareness initiatives and has been an actor in various films and television shows.

In April of this year, Morrison released his third solo-album since 2015, The Morrison Project. The album features music legends Ozzy Osbourne, Billy Idol, Corey Taylor, DMC, Linda Perry, Al Jourgensen, Steve Vai, Steve Stevens, and John 5. The first single to be released from the album was the collaboration song “Crack Cocaine” with Osbourne and Stevens, a catchy and high-energy hard rock melody.

We had the chance to talk with Billy Morrison about his sizable guitar collection, his future dream collaboration, and his craziest travel stories. 

You have a new song with Ozzy Osbourne and Steve Stevens called “Crack Cocaine.” How did that collaboration come about?

Where do I begin? Look, none of the music on my album was thought out very much. I didn’t know I was making a record. The Ozzy track was the result of me and Steve just messing about with Ozzy Osbourne tuned guitars and coming up with what we thought was the ultimate Ozzy Osbourne riff. 

When we finished that, it was very clear that it was an Ozzy track. Ozzy is my best friend, so it was very easy to call Ozzy up and go, “Hey, can you come over to Steve’s house?” He came over and wrote the lyrics with us and he just sang it.

It was extremely organic. Even when the track was done, we didn’t know it was going to end up on my album. Once the album started taking shape, Sharon said, “This is an amazing Ozzy Osbourne song and you need to put it on your own solo album, and Ozzy will do a video.” The rest is history. I mean, we’re on the top five billboard. It’s crazy. 

You have a signature Gibson guitar. Do you have any other favorite guitars to play or one that you just have that’s your favorite?

Well, the signature Gibson was ten, twelve years ago. I now have a signature Knaggs. They are a bespoke hand-built guitar company, which Steve uses and a lot of guitar players use. They’ve just put out a Billy Morrison signature, which is based on the old junior style guitars with P90 pickups. It is absolutely my go-to guitar every day now.

Do you have any other prized guitars? Any historical ones?

You’re talking to a man that has over a 100 guitars. I actually don’t know what’s in the guitar warehouse. I know that I have a 72 deluxe Gibson original that is absolutely beautiful. That one never leaves the house. I have a bunch of guitars that are important to me. I’ve got a bunch of signature guitars from my friends Steve Jones, Steve Vai. I’m a man with a lot of guitars, so it’s very difficult to pick one or two. 

I just visited Gibson Garage recently and they took me in the vault and they have got some amazing stuff in there.

Oh, they’ve got some stuff. I was lucky enough, I did a video just a couple of weeks ago for Julien’s Auctions. They just sold the original Steve Jones Les Paul that he used on Never Mind the Bollocks. It sold for $400,000 but I got to spend a day with the guitar. That was probably one of my most special guitar moments; playing that thing all day.

Billy Morrison Talks New Album
Photo credit: Jane Stuart @JaneStuartPhotos

What’s inspiring your artwork right now?

It’s basically what’s in my head when I wake up. I have a couple of shows in New York later in the year, so I’m working on 24 new pieces, 12 for each show. One of the shows is Gods and Monsters which is a bunch of mythological Greek gods, Egyptian gods, monsters. One is with Mark Weiss, the rock and roll photographer. We are doing a collaboration where he’s allowing me to paint 12 of his most iconic rock photographs, so that should be a pretty cool show.

How did you choose the artists to collaborate with on The Morrison Project

Honestly, I did not choose them. The song chose them. Everyone on my album are in my phone. Text directly. Don’t go through managers or agents. I didn’t sit down and go, “How many famous people can I get on my record?” I really didn’t. I sang on all the songs that I thought I sounded good singing on, and that left me with a song that clearly Al Jurgensen needed to sing. 

That riff started life as a Ministry riff anyway. I wrote a bunch of songs for Ministry. That was one of the riffs that didn’t make the last couple of albums, and so clearly that was an Al Jurgensen riff. The ballad, no one in the world wants to hear me singing a piano ballad. But Linda Perry, you know, perfect. I was trying to serve the song and not my ego, and I did not want to sing all of the songs because clearly I had friends that could sing them better. 

Do you have any more dream collaborations out there with other artists?

There’s plenty. There are some songs that didn’t go on the album that will be coming out. I’m a huge hip hop fan so some of the collaborations involve the hip hop heavyweights. I would love to do a song with Ice Cube. I think he and I would get on great. That would be a dream collaboration. But there’s loads of people. Anyone that I respect and admire in the music business.

I didn’t know about The Madhouse Chronicles, the podcast you have with Ozzy until recently. Tell me about one of your favorite moments on the podcast.

It’s very difficult to pick a moment because we recorded all of those quite a while ago. Life is hectic and busy for me, and I’ve forgotten it all. As the episodes come out, I’m seeing them with fresh eyes and remembering how hilarious it is. Look, he’s my best friend so we don’t sit around and talk business. 

We talk about what we’re going to have for dinner and what do we think about what’s going on in England and all that sh*t. So, the idea of that podcast came from Ozzy and I. They give us a subject and they show us a few weird internet videos, and they just film what would naturally happen, me and Ozzy talking about it. 

There are more favorite moments in there than I could even remember. That guy makes me laugh and I make him laugh. The joy of that show is pure. It’s a fly on the wall at what Billy and Ozzy do when no one’s looking.

Billy Morrison Talks New Album
Photo credit: Jane Stuart @JaneStuartPhotos

You’ve traveled all over the world touring. Have you found any hidden gems you would tell people to visit?

I don’t know about hidden gems. I know one of my most favorite cities in the world is Prague. It has not been over tourist-fied, if that’s a word. Walking through the streets of Prague still feels like walking through a 19th century city. It’s absolutely gorgeous. I think Florence is up there for me. I’m a big lover of art. All the cities have fantastic architecture, great museums. I mean, every continent is different. I’ve been to six of the seven continents. 

If you talk about Australia, that’s a scuba diving Mecca. I’m a scuba diver. Under the water at the Great Barrier Reef is one of the most magical places on the planet to me. The Daintree Rainforest. Eric, our drummer and I spent a week driving through the oldest rainforest on the planet. It’s absolutely fantastic.

What does your perfect day in LA look like?

I don’t know about any of the days being perfect. When I’m in L.A., I work. I’m a workaholic. I get up at about 5:30 a.m., I go to bed at about 10:30 p.m. and every hour in that day is work. I own a house that has two art studios, a recording studio, and an office. I don’t have to leave my house. 

My perfect day is being left alone to get sh*t done. That’s my favorite thing in the world, is get sh*t done. I guess I would also have to say getting out of L.A., an hour away to my girlfriend’s place, where it is literally nature. It’s so beautiful. Those two things are my favorite things to do.

Well, since you never leave your house, what’s your favorite delivery food?

I’m very fortunate that there’s a restaurant here called Matsuhisa. It’s like Nobu Sushi. If you saw my Postmates order history, you would be disgusted because it’s every single day. Here’s a very interesting thing. It’s at the end of my street. It’s not cheap. Every night I sit down and go, “Okay, just get a burrito. Just order Baja Fresh.” But I go into Postmates and the lure of having fresh tempura and fresh rolls, it’s too much for me. They come down my street every day.

That’s amazing, I love it. What’s your craziest travel tour story?

I don’t know about the craziest, but one of the funniest is when we left our keyboard player behind somewhere bizarre in Eastern Europe. He got off the bus and didn’t tell anyone. The bus rolled on and went through customs into another country. He had to jump into some stranger’s car at 3:00 a.m. with no passport and try to contact us, which he did. He managed to wake one of us up, and the bus turned around and went and got him. The moral of that story is don’t get off a tour bus without telling the driver.

Here’s another one. I smoke and when I land anywhere, I’m the first off the plane, walking at a million miles an hour to get outside and smoke. We landed at Moscow International Airport and off I went at 100 miles an hour. I went through these doors, and I got outside and I lit a cigarette. Then I realized I couldn’t get back in and I had to call New York to tell our manager that Morrison was outside the airport and couldn’t get back in. That was a bit of a drama as well.

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Amy Harris
Amy Harris is a writer and photographer who has been traveling for 20 years and flown over 2 million miles to visit over 80 countries on 6 continents. She is a freelance photographer for Invision by Associated Press, AP Images and Rex/Shutterstock. Her work can be seen in various publications and websites including: Rolling Stone, AP Images, National Geographic Books, Fodor’s Travel Guides, Forbes.com, Lonely Planet Travel Guides, JetStar magazine, and Delta Sky Magazine.

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