Kings & Queens Of The Overproduced


I kind of wish i was Billy Idol.
The rebel yell & the lip curl, the looks, the attitude. And you know what, he’s pretty smart. Even sensitive. Regardless of the fact i like his music, i would really like to know him.billyidolfist

Someone i really do not enjoy listening to is Trevor Horn. Most of the time i don’t have to, the radio isn’t my thing and i don’t own any LPs by The Art of Noise and Frankie Goes To Hollywood was never my thing.
The odds are you do own a record he produced, though — I have Flowers In The Dirt by McCartney. Here is a list of albums he has produced…quite a tally there!

Horn produced Billy Idol’s recently released Kings & Queens of the Underground LP, Billy’s first since 2005’s Keith Forsey-produced Devil’s Playground. Forsey was producer of Idol’s milestone work.

Not that i don’t love Ringo, but the first 2 or 3 songs on the album sound like they come from one of Ringo Starr’s recent opuses. Steve Stevens is an ace guitarist, it would be amazing to have him play on any of my songs — he is creative, technically perfect, and must be amongst the 5 best guitarists of all time, along with Brian May, Django Reinhardt, and possibly George Harrison. But he might not be the best songwriter. With his connections, surely Billy can find a slightly higher tier tunesmith to collaborate with. Don’t get me wrong, i love many of the Idol-Stevens songs, just not this batch [see my update below]. And, just my opinion, production didn’t help when it actually should, or was it that production actually fitted the “character” of the songs ?

Kings And Queens Of The Underground - Billy Idol

billy_idol5Billy Idol’s albums haven’t all been up to Rebel Yell standards nor have the songs all been White Weddings. Charmed Life was remotely charming 2 songs of the way, and Whiplash Smile improved on that only by 1. When you think about it, even Rebel Yell and Billy’s eponymous debut album didn’t have a huge amount of rock-solid songs on them but some of them have withstood the test of 30+ years. White Wedding is still cool in my book, then again i’m no spring chicken.
The latest offering, however, doesn’t really strike me as something that will withstand the test of time, for two reasons : there are no gem songs on it, and production is trying so hard to be radio-friendly. I can understand why you’d want the ‘cinematic theatrical 1080 pixels high def wide screen soundtrack cinemascope’ sound Billy seems to idolize here, but does it work with Billy Idol ? There is no doubt Trevor Horn gave the client what he wanted, and i suppose that is a large part of his job. To me, however, this is too shiny & polished, too compressed even (hardly surprising these days), it lacks the grit & growl of Devil’s Playground and just sounds too radio-ready. What Idol calls intimate songs have lost all intimacy as production — read cheap thrills — stands in the way. Billy’s voice doesn’t even sound like Billy Idol anymore, it’s just too clean & polished. Had Scream been produced this way it would have been a complete contradiction in terms. What epitomizes Billy Idol better than Shock To The System, Scream or Speed ?

BILLY IDOL.JPG AI, as an occasional recorder of others, would really love to record Billy Idol. I am hoping to start the construction of my recording studio here in Mexico in a few months and although there is no chance in the world Billy would consider recording there, i cannot help delving into how it might feel to make a really intimate record with him. Even if it were just a record of demos, i would love to record him, and mostly him. Steve Stevens is awesome, so are his other band-mates, but i would like to hear Billy play & sing alone, i’d like to hear his voice cracking up from emotion, and maybe this will surprise you : i’d like to try adding a cello or two, and even doing versions of his best songs with local Mexican musicians. Nothing corny or cheesy, just some influenced atmosphere. No gimmicks, no million dollar production, no stereo chorus whammy effects on guitars, just an honest record of pure William Idol Broad in a sense.
We have churches, mines even, for reverb. We have a beautiful fortified gothic mine as our setting outside. We are far away from London or L.A. When you come here, you’re really leaving everything behind. Maybe Pure Idol could use some of that.


A few weeks in, I’ll admit the songs are growing on me. Maybe what stands between Postcards From The Past and a gem song such as Speed is just Trevor Horn. Postcards & Speed are made of the same cloth but one is all stitched up while the other is raw and Idol. Apart from the Whammy effect on Stevens’ solos, you could probably just grab the same takes and simply mix the track again, as far as possible from whoever mixed this version. Rock’n’roll does not need more than an amp for a guitar, anything applied on top of that should be really well considered before committing it to record. Unless you’re into Frankie Goes to Hollywood, that is.

What bugs me most with this record are the cheap synths, totally out of place on a track such as the opening Bitter Pill — and indeed it opened well : the first few bars impose an enticing rhythm and almost immediately a nicely distorted guitar solo does the rest to set the mood. And then those nasty synths, the sickeningly sweet prod and the cheezy background vocals all come in, while the great guitars remain way too far in the background. This really isn’t a Rock’n’roll production at all.
It really is easy to fall into clichés when you’re making pop. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that that is what Horn is all about, i personally think he is a very apt producer, and probably a great bass player, simply Idol’s choice was not exactly fitting this time around. Production often spoils records, and when you’re in the eye of the hurricane you won’t realize. Paul McCartney’s Memory Almost Full comes to mind, then again the songs on that LP were pretty weak too, in fact the song Gratitude makes me grateful no one is forcing me to listen to it…that must be his worst song since Helen Wheels in the early 70s. How Helen Wheels made it to be a single is beyond me, how 30 years later it still makes it onto the exquisite Band On The Run as a “bonus” track is utterly stunning.

If i had shitloads of money i’d get someone to steal the tapes and have them mixed in a more Idol-fitting manner. The songs aren’t bad, i’ve just been paying too much attention to the cheezy production. I just hope that Billy’s next album comes soon and is done with someone who likes raw guitars upfront, so i can rinse the sugar out of my ears.

Give me some raw Idol !

Seen ‘Limitless’ ? I just took that pill this morning.

If you haven’t seen the film ‘Limitless’ yet, i think i’ll take a chance and recommend it. I know it’s Hollywood, in a way it is just more bullshit. Money, murder, drugs, girls, huge fancy apartments in New York, and a dangerous crazy Russian mobster. It even has Robert DeNiro. Maybe he hasn’t aged too well and looks a little too much like a grandpa now, but he still lends credibility to any character he plays.
So, yes, it’s all exaggerated like crazy in the film, the pill that inspired it does not really make you like that and popping one will not instantly make you into a genius or a wealthy trader. Or at least 3 hours in i still feel just as dummy as ever. Maybe that’s just me. 😉

And, yes, it really is FDA approved. But so are aspartame and GMOs.

Ok, so here is the deal : we don’t know much about the pill, but it has been around since the 90’s i think, so if it had disastrous effects we might know by now. Although most folks keep quiet about it, some are honest enough to disclose the info openly. If you search around, you’ll see who i am referring to : a guy called Dave Asprey, who markets himself as ‘the bullet-proof executive’. I first heard of him because Bullet-Proof coffee sponsors and, as you will know if you read the ‘About’ section here, LondonReal is where this all started for me. So the guy has been taking it for 8 or 10 years, not every day, but he seems to be doing alright.
That is not enough for me, i needed first hand witnesses, ie people i actually know.
I was chatting with a guy i met at Ayahuasca n°3, let’s call him Peter, and the subject came up. Turns out he has been doing it for 3 years. Wow, that was fortunate. I bombarded him with questions and he very kindly told me about his experience with it. I was concerned about nasty side effects, of course, such as migraines or long term permanent negative changes…
Please note that i am not going to try to convince anyone to buy this stuff, i am merely going to relate my own experience with it. That’s what this blog is : a series of snapshots of my journey, a recorded trace for myself to look back upon from time to time & see how i was / how i have changed etc.
A word about Peter maybe : he seems to have tried a lot of things, used to grow his own mushrooms, is a webdesigner, had his own company, seems like a very reasonable guy to me overall and hardworking too. Freelance, you need to be. He pops a pill every 6 weeks or so, when he needs to do an ‘all-nighter’, ie work on an order all night. It keeps him awake. He told me that the more he took the less he felt the positive effects : so the ‘Limitless’ pill does have its limits. He used to get euphoric and very focused, now it mostly keeps him awake and makes it possible for him to work for extended periods of time, up to 20 hours.
He mentioned he never got any migraines or other of the known possible secondary effects. This post and its updates will tell you what it does to me.

I played it safe : i popped just half of a 200mg pill.

After about 10 mins i could feel a slight pressure inside my head, as if my brain had expanded a tiny bit. It wasn’t painful of unpleasant, but neither was it pleasant, merely a little strange. That either wore off quickly or i got used to it.

I couldn’t feel any special effects, no nausea, no headache, no euphoria, nothing. So i decided to pop the other half of the pill.

It is now 10.34am and i will try to describe it as best i can : i definitely feel different. I wouldn’t say euphoric but as you can see i feel like writing. I only had some tea and a banana so far and i feel very very hungry, more than usual. Maybe i have usually eaten more by this time in the morning. I have not had coffee yet, i don’t want to mix. I emailed Peter to see if i can mix them and until he replies i think i will skip the coffee. I feel somehow “more mentally active”, and i really cannot tell you if that’s a good thing yet. I am hoping this will help me be more focused on my work during today and that i will get a lot more done. So far i have been writing this and little else, but i will update the post with edits as i go along.
Definitely need to eat something, i am freakin starving. Drinking lots of water to compensate and because the note inside the box warns about people with kidney problems — not that i have any i know of, i suppose i am trying to “dilute” the pill a bit. Probably makes no sense !
I don’t know if this is just wishful thinking or influence from the film but i get the impression my vision is more tightly focused on what i am actually looking at. Nothing like the weird fish-eye vision you get a taste of in the film, just a weird feeling.

Started getting increasingly strong pain in what i think is my left kidney. Seemed to connect to my left testicle. Quickly drank 2 glasses of water, then had a third with some herbal drops (Taray, in Spanish — meant to help the kidneys) and about 10-15 mins later the pain has gone. Did a search in the nootropics section on Reddit and i am not the only one to have got these symptoms. It should be noted that 2 days ago i got a similar pain but less intense (and without the pain in the testicle). I will be drinking a lot of water today, and some more Taray drops.
Tomorrow i plan to either not take the pill or to take only half or less. But if i do, i will drink Taray and a lot of water before i pop the pill.

Can’t say i’m really feeling anything special. Kidney & testi pain seems gone.

Went running, did 9 laps instead of the 4.5 i usually do. I can’t really explain this or confirm it’s because of the pill but as soon as i started running i felt a conviction that i was going to run more than usual. A firm conviction i could do it. Physically i could have done this before, but there was a lack of motivation. Usually i get to 4 or 5 laps (600m each) and call it a day. I don’t really feel tired afterwards, my legs don’t hurt, but i’m relieved to just stop running at that point. So what i usually do is set a goal of 5-6 laps and do 4.5 or 5. This time i set a goal of 8 laps and when i got to 8 i just felt i could easily do more. By 9 it was getting dark and i was bored.
Got home & lifted some weights. I think i did 6 sets instead of the usual 4 or 5. And then i did a total of 100 abs, something i haven’t done at all since at least early August.
I have this feeling i won’t be sleeping too early tonight and might struggle to sleep at all. Problem is tomorrow morning i have an 8am meeting. So i’m thinking i am going to drink plenty of detoxing tea tonight, drink a LOT of water tomorrow around 7am, drink some more Taray drops in more water, and take half a pill. I want to see if half a pill has the same effect, as some people claim. I also want to avoid fucking up my kidneys or liver…deep down i don’t think these pills can be healthy. I wouldn’t be surprised if Dave Asprey is struck dead one day without apparent reason. I’m testing this because i want to be more focused on my work, mostly, and out of curiosity, plus i want to know what it does in case, like Peter, i need to do an all-nighter. They say, for example, that you shouldn’t drive whilst on this…i think i could drive without any problem, to be honest, but i would purposely drive slower and more carefully than usual just in case i was wrong. Drunk or stoned people also think they can drive.
So tonight i intend to get a lot of work done, because frankly, today i really haven’t been very focused on my work at all. I am pretty sure i can focus more & be more disciplined without this bloody pill and that i am just looking for a quick & easy fix, without the effort. If so then that’s pretty lame.
Since mt last update i have been drinking a lot of water. At one point i had a cup of coffee, which i had diluted compared to usual, just in case, and it was fine. I actually felt pretty good. By cup 2 i started feeling not so good, slight pressure in the head (still have it hours later, tho less), similar to what i felt this morning and i guess not far off what some antidepressants might incur. Tomorrow i will try to stick to one very light coffee if i do have any.

Just had my first yawn of the day. Starting to feel more normal again although not quite. And tired. Hopefully will sleep after all but i still feel like i won’t be able to for some reason.

Day 2, 10.12am
Today i was about to take half a pill but decided i was not going to risk it, i can still feel my left kidney a bit and that can’t be good. So i have looked up what else might be causing the issue and it turns out i have been eating a lot of things i shouldn’t : meat, dairy, coffee, and lately i tried a supposedly fat-burning drink in the mornings composed of sodium bicarbonate and lime juice. Salt can harm the kidneys, and i first got the pain a few days after starting on the baking soda drink. So for a while i am going to stop all coffee, meat, dairy and anything too salty, plus i am going to alternate my Taray kidney drops and my Boldo liver drops. Must eat a lot more vegetables.
I am not ruling out taking the pill again but if i do it will be in half dose for X amount of time and will try to not use at all if there is no need.

Conclusion for now
All in all, it keeps you awake for sure, but you feel weird. I was relieved when the effect started to wear off, to be honest — i still feel a little strange, actually. Sure, it seemed to help with the physical exercise but i think one can achieve similar results with a bit of meditation and focusing on a healthier more positive mindset.
Today i feel tired, naturally, since i stayed up way later than usual and got less sleep. That could easily turn into a vicious circle if you’re not careful, as for people who take sleeping pills and then need an opposite pill to wake up.
Exercise more, take short 10-15 minute naps during the day when needed and eat organic raw vegetables : that certainly seems more sensible to me than doing it all wrong and popping a pill. Can be handy, but i think it’s really best to stay off it.

Day 3, 11.28am
This morning i had an even earlier meeting, and yesterday was rough, felt rather dozy most of the time. So at 6.47am i popped half a pill. I was careful to drink lots of water before and after this time.
I can definitely feel a difference with yesterday.
I tried a small cup of coffee : the first sip went straight to my head. After the whole cup i wasn’t feeling great, however.
Yesterday, i did not exercise, today i must go & run. In my defense, my abs were a tad painful yesterday since the day before i had done my first set in a long time. But most of all i just had no motivation to go & run. Today i feel better, less weird than day 1. I can still feel that slight pressure in my head, but nothing like day 1.
One thing i have noticed, but cannot relate to the pill with any level of certainty : i have been feeling colder lately, especially my hands & feet. Yesterday i took my hour lunch break in the form of a nap huddled up under 4 blankets. Felt great under there, didn’t want to emerge but i knew i had to. Right now i am wrapped in a blanket, my feet are cold & my hands are freezing. I have no thermometer here so i cannot tell you what the ambient temp is.

January 6th, 2015
Over the past few weeks i have been taking half pills on & off, by no means every day. It takes a while to come through, 2 hours or so, but sure enough it stops the yawning. Does it make you more focused ? Not really. Does it come in handy when driving ? Hell yes. We had to leave from Chihuahua to El Paso, Texas, at 4am (that’s a 400km drive), and the next morning we did the same thing the other way. I popped half a pill before i needed to drive and i was absolutely fine whereas everyone else in the car was dozing off or sound asleep. Very convenient for that.
I never took a full pill after the first one because of the strange feelings you get and because of the pain in my kidney & testi, mostly, also because i just don’t think it’s healthy at all.

Yesterday morning i took one quarter of a pill and although i could have slept sooner i went to bed way past midnight. Result ? I had a hard time getting up this morning and popped another quarter. Tonight i really must just go to bed sooner and put an end to this cycle.

Modafinil vs Armodafinil
You may have read about the new Limitless pill, Armodafinil (often referred to as Nuvigil, i think), and i have found it very difficult to find Modafinil here in Mexico (sold as Modiodal). I cannot assure you of this but i saw on Reddit that the patent for Modafinil was running out, and that Armodafinil is just a very slightly modified Modafinil molecule. Some have said that the new version is twice as strong but the Reddit post claims otherwise. In theory they should be about the same, and maybe Modafinil is still better. Makes sense when you think about it : why release Modafinil first if Armodafinil was better ?
I have not tried the new version and will if i find some, but my point here is this : it’s probably not worth spending extra money on the new molecule, and when generic versions of the old one come out they should be your best option. Remember that these pills are very expensive. Here in Mexico i pay around 3 dollars per pill. That’s insane when you consider the manufacturing costs and how long the pill has been around for. I heard that some soldiers were on it for PTSD and were paying hundreds of dollars per box, ie tens of dollars per pill. That is mental. If you are going to take it regularly, order some from the Indian manufacturers directly, they are a few cents per pill. And if you have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), your best bet is not Big Pharma but Ayahuasca, Iboga or mushrooms.