How to save money abroad and at home – free Miles, free food, super cheap Taxis, etc

Read this to the end for the ultimate free Miles hack.

15% commissions at ATMs, really??
30% commissions at cash exchanges??

Are you tired of these levels of extortion? I am!
So here are a few tips i have come across out of sheer necessity! Yesterday i needed to get some cash out with a foreign card and the ATM wanted 15%. That was was going to add up to an abusive 45€ for 300€, ie you spend 300€ and receive only 255 € in cash! I said **** that & went home to figure out a better way. And i found it! Here it is.

If you are planning to go abroad, or are already abroad, find online banks that work on your mobile and that support bank accounts in various currencies. Two examples of that in the Czech Republic are Revolut and Air Bank. Beware Air Bank’s app is only in Czech, and also it seems that conversion rates with Revolut are WAY better than they are on Air Bank (EUR to CZK or vice versa).
Installing these takes a few minutes, is free, and will get you a free bank account. Air Bank will require a visit to the branch. So i highly recommend Revolut. Full disclosure, the link is an affiliate link, ie if you sign up & use their services i might receive something, however i wouldn’t recommend them if i wasn’t using them myself and if i wasn’t honestly convinced it was a good option. There may be better options out there, i’m just sharing my experience. Same goes for any other links here.

So yesterday, here in Prague, Czech Republic, i gave up on my cash withdrawal from my French card when i saw the immensity of the fees. Instead, i went into Revolut, where i have a CZK account AND a EUR account (and i have one in USD and i could instantly add one in any other currency, for free). So i went into my EUR Revolut account and asked to top it up from a card (it’s amazing you can do that). Simply add a card, in this case a French VISA from a EUR account, and the amount you specify gets credited instantly to your account. 300 € left my FR account and 300 € arrived on my Revolut account, within a few seconds. No fees whatsoever.

In order to withdraw, go into the EUR account and choose ‘exchange’, and convert the EUR into CZK. The commission? 3 € ! 1% instead of 15% at the ATM !
I was then able to transfer the CZK for free to my landlord’s Czech account, or i could have withdrawn cash at the ATM for free, and deposited it to her CZ account.

If you go outside of the EU, simply create an account in the currency you require. USD, GBP, JPY, etc.

If you want to save money whilst traveling, here is something i do : i use an Air France / KLM American Express. This Gold card isn’t cheap, it’s around 170 € per year, however, they have brought out a Blue card that is FREE FOR LIFE, and gives you 50 € back shortly after joining, plus a cashback on everything you spend. You also get 22000 Miles for free, which is pretty good, and the first year for FREE! In other words, you can get free Miles, free 3 month payments, 170€ off, and other advantages, for 1 year, and then just cancel if you like.

The advantages of the Gold card have really saved my a** sometimes : you pay 1 month later, and you can spread the cost of plane tickets over 3 months at 0% interest. That has really saved me many times when i needed to travel for work but couldn’t afford it. I never paid a single cent in fees or interest, AND the best thing is that every spent € is a free Mile, sometimes you even get more than that. Finally, the cherry on the cake is that this card gives you 30 free XP with the best airline loyalty program on the planet, Flying Blue. You only need 100 XP to get to the first level (free suitcase on every flight), and you can make 20 XP on a cheap short EU flight. So reaching 100 XP is very easy, especially if you fly once across the Atlantic.
The result is that i quickly reached Gold (level 2 of 3), which gives me 1 free suitcase per flight, a massive advantage, saving me up to 150 € per flight. I also get priority check-in, priority boarding, and free access to the Business lounge at every connection, meaning free drinks & free food, and sometimes the opportunity for a shower. None of this would have been attained without my Air France / KLM Amex card.

Note that you can use other airlines, you just need to buy the ticket on the Air France / KLM websites. That covers quite a few airlines, such as Czech Airlines, Aero Mexico, Delta, and many others.

Every month i accumulate free Miles thanks to my Amex card. And it also works with PayPal & other services, such as food delivery apps like Wolt, so i make Miles on the food i order, and on the online PayPal purchases too.

Another way to save a lot abroad is to install 2 or 3 competing taxi service apps, and to compare trip fares. I use Bolt and Uber, here in Prague, and what happens is that because you use them less often, they give you promo codes to encourage you to use the app more often. The result is that i often get discounts, sometimes big ones, like 40% off, and i can compare prices, sometimes saving me up to 50%.

Finally, if you want free food, register for all the food delivery services, such as Uber Eats, Wolt, Bolt Food, and wait. Don’t use the service, just wait. Sure enough, you will receive the most outrageous promotional offers. Check this out : Uber Eats in France sent me promos for 2x 12 € off, i didn’t use it, so they kept adding more on. The most they sent me was 10×10€ off ! Imagine, 100 € of free food!

If you know of other tips, please write a comment so we can all benefit.

Thank you

P.S. Oh, that ‘ultimate free Miles hack’, i almost forgot. You are not going to believe this. I invented this one myself, it works, and it’s free. It gives you FREE MILES without buying anything, instantly.

Here is what you need :

  • An Air France Amex
  • A PayPal account
  • 2 people, or two cards and two PayPal accounts.
  • No funds required, everything is advanced to you by American Express at no charge to you.

    Follow these steps :
  • When you get an Air France / KLM Amex, you can link it to your PayPal, as i mentioned above. This money will be charged to you up to 1 month later.
  • Your friend with an Air France Amex card also sets it up to use his PayPal account.
  • You send money to your friend via PayPal, for free, instantly.
  • This generates FREE MILES for you.
  • Your friend sends you back the same amount.
  • This generates FREE MILES for your friend.
  • Everything you send comes back to your bank account, at no cost.
  • At the end of the month, everything you ping-ponged back has generated Miles for you, AND for your friend.
  • Basically you are generated 2x the Miles of the amount that you send to your friend.
  • It’s a win-win for you and your friend, and, yes, it really works.

Enjoy ! 🙂

Documentary review – Bufo Alvarius, The Underground Secret


A few days ago, i was fortunate enough to attend a public screening of Bufo Alvarius, The Underground Secret, in a great little cinema in Prague called Kino Pilotu, where i sat down with director Filip Zaruba, for a quick chat. It was nice to see it on a proper screen (i had seen it before on a laptop, and it just wasn’t the same at all), the production quality is flawless, but the reason i went there was actually to meet with Filip. If you have the opportunity to see it in a cinema, i really recommend you take it.


Filip Zaruba is the director of the documentary Bufo Alvarius The Underground Secret


The documentary is structured into the five following parts :


Part 1 kicks off with a very credible figure in psychedelics & psychology, none other than Stanislav Grof himself :

Grof inevitably brings weight & credibility to the movie. He’s old, he’s respected, he’s written countless books. He’s reassuring. 😉

Part 2, on the other hand, gives us Dr Octavio Rettig, the Bufo ‘shaman’ featured prominently throughout most of the movie. Like many people who are familiar with this substance, and with the actual profession of being a Bufo facilitator, i was a bit miffed to see that the documentary featured only ONE facilitator, when there are so many facilitators out there.

Of course, i don’t expect to be asked to be in a documentary, i’m not famous enough for that (plus i would not do that unless i could remain anonymous), but there are tons of guys out there doing this. Why are we shown only ‘Octavio’, as he is known, and not at least 2 or 3 more? For over a year i wondered if the movie was not merely some sort of paid advertisement for Octavio. And this is where i am really grateful to have been able to chat with the director, Filip Zaruba. While i cannot share 100% of what he has told me, having spoken at length with him, i am convinced of his sincerity and best intentions. As the FAQ on the movie’s website mentions, the aim was not to advertise Octavio but rather to advertise Bufo. And the person who financed the movie, one of the Czech Republic’s wealthiest men, really doesn’t need to make any more cash, neither does he need Octavio to make any more cash. 😉

Crazy frog? Wise toad!

So, no, despite what various people have suggested, the movie’s ‘bias’ isn’t bias at all: no one else wanted to be in the movie.
The only other facilitator who would have been ok to appear was ‘Dr Gerry’ (Geraldo Sandoval), an alleged rapist, fraud, liar and full-on psycho. Unfortunately for famous Dr Gerry, who just served Mike Tyson (Mike, you could have done some research, maybe?), the director was already aware by then of some of the allegations against Gerry, and did not want him in the movie.
What the director was apparently not aware of, however, were the allegations against Dr Octavio Rettig. Allegations of death, comas, traumatised people, electroshocks, waterboarding and i’m only just getting warmed up here. But more on that later.

Two people who have a very misled understanding of how the Bufo medicine works. Misled by Octavio Rettig’s oversized ego. 😉

Truth be told, Octavio is such a prominent figure, so well marketed & advertised, that it is very difficult to figure out he is such a nutcase. Just earlier today, a guy in Spain asking me for advice on Bufo & Ayahuasca brought up Octavio’s name and was shell-shocked when i told him what i knew. He was absolutely clueless about the deaths, or any of the other issues, for that matter. He is not the only one, and unless you are really bathing in this Bufo ‘culture’, it is very difficult to come across all of this information. Hence why i am coming out with the information i have received, at least the elements i am able to share with you (that’ll be in a second article, coming up very soon, about this famous Octavio character).

Doing research about someone as prominent is not easy, because you are inevitably going to be flooded with a lot of the stuff that is intended to be seen by you.

Octavio Rettig, on the left.

Today, in February 2019, things are different however, and even the director of the documentary is distancing himself from Octavio Rettig, now that more and more information is coming out, notably about the recent death of ‘Chely’ in Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico, on October 5th 2018. I know, because i am the one who broke the news to the Bufo world in detail, being the only fluent speaker of English to actually know her personally, as well as the organisers of the event, and the widowed husband, plus at least one person who was there and testified with the police. I had served her 3 or 4 times myself, without issue. She presented no health contra-indications i am aware of, and seemed like a healthy 40 year old to me. Having served an 89 year old with heart problems without any issues, i am very surprised that Chely would die during Bufo. But of course with Octavio it is only rarely just Bufo, it’s also strong râpé, given to you in circumstances where you should definitely not be taking it.
But more on all that in my article on Octavio, coming soon. It is time people know, and time that those who do, speak up. Octavio is a menace and should either change his ways or just plain stop.

The big change recently is that, even amongst close friends of Octavio’s, people and organisers are speaking up against his methods. The World Bufo Alvarius Congress (WBAC) recently published a press release condemning Rettig’s ways. Then Dean Jefferys, of the closed Facebook group ‘Toad & 5-meo-forum & support’, also a friend of Octavio’s, came out with a similar statement, and relayed the WBAC’s own release. Both organisations bear friends of Octavio’s :  this had never been seen before, usually his friends would defend him no matter what. The wind has started to turn against Octavio, who can no longer even work in the Czech Republic, despite the massive publicity afforded to him by this documentary. He is also banned from Slovakia and Italy, i have been told.

A screenshot of one of the many fancy 3D animations in the movie

Anyway, back to the movie.

Now that we know why only Octavio is featured in there, there is really only a couple of things i’d say i didn’t like about the movie :

1) Dr Octavio Rettig is by no means a ‘shaman’, contrary to what is mentioned, he is just a showman with a messiah complex.
Moreover, i wouldn’t even really call him a ‘facilitator’ in that he doesn’t necessarily facilitate the experience at all. Yes, i know, i’m being picky here, but to me facilitating the experience is not compatible with electrocuting them or making them vomit for hours on râpé when all they wanted was to enjoy coming down from the Bufo experience.

2) None of Octavio’s “crazy ways” are shown in the movie. This, as i understand it now, is because the team simply didn’t know about them at the time of making the film. Unfortunately, it does show Octavio in a much more reasonable light than any documentary should, and so a volume 2 to this film might be a good idea.
Filip Zaruba mentioned to me that he would actually like to make a second movie, showing the scientific data, the risks, the good ways to facilitate, and so on. It sounds like he isn’t too comfortable with leaving this film as it is, without clarifying a few things in light of the recent statements on Rettig. And this is why i feel like Zaruba can be trusted : he is empathic towards the victims, and seems to feel uncomfortable drawing the masses towards such a dangerous facilitator as Octavio Rettig. My view of Zaruba is that he cares a whole lot more for the people, all people, than Octavio does. Rettig seems to care only about himself, and his recent statement, a reply to that of the WBAC, seems to confirm this: he never expresses any remorse, only blames the victims, boasts about what a great job he has done, and refuses to change his ways. Heck, he doesn’t even mention the victims, really. Octavio seems driven by pure ego.


As already mentioned, the movie is very well made, the quality of the filming and of the picture, the sound, the editing, everything is just flawless, if maybe a tad stereotypical of these ‘new age’ documentaries at times, but i’m really splitting hairs here.

I trust the director and the producer had nothing but the purest intentions when they set out to make this movie, and i do not believe they wished to promote Octavio as a facilitator. In fact, i’d like to bring your attention to their FAQ, which, if you read between the lines, may give you some wise tips. 😉

Hint: check the last line or two of their responses. IMO they are trying to tell you in a very very discreet way to avoid Octavio and ask yourself if he is humble and questioning himself or if he is better avoided. But that’s just my own interpretation, nothing more. Wink wink nudge nudge.


+ Well structured movie
+ Technically very good
+ Although no movie can possibly give anyone any idea what Bufo is like, this one does a good job at trying.
+ The movie seems motivated only by making this “sacred medicine” known, not by advertising anyone.

– Shows only one facilitator
– Octavio Rettig is misleadingly nice and reasonable in the movie, and none of his crazy ways are depicted
– He is presented as a ‘shaman’ when really he is just an egomaniac showman

So, overall, despite the minor gripes mentioned above, i would recommend you see the movie if you’re interested in knowing about Bufo, especially in a cinema. Just bear in mind that this particular facilitator, despite appearances, really is not a wise option and is much better avoided altogether. If you’d like me to recommend safer & better options, feel free to contact me privately.
Also, beware that screenings are very rapidly sold out, you’ll need to buy tickets well in advance. If you have no access to a cinema showing this, you can download it here.

If you liked this article, please subscribe to my blog, and you might enjoy my YouTube channel here. I cover several different “medicines” in 3 different languages.

Filip Zaruba has also asked me to include the following music video, so here it is :

Special thanks : Filip Zaruba, for taking the time to talk with me, and for permission to use all the images in this article.


My review of 2 pre-workout products : Muscletech Neurocore and Nano Sport Technologies (NST) PRE WOD.

I’ve been doing crossfit for about 5 months now and i’ve lost a LOT of fat, put on some muscle, and lost a small amount of weight. I did that without using any pre-workout products. When i started to need more exercise a couple of weeks ago, i looked for things to give me that extra boost and up my performance a bit.
I asked around, and i tested these two products. They are the same in just about every way.
Do they work?
Are they healthy?
What results can you expect? Are there better alternatives? I give a good free tip that absolutely works for me, here in the video. And guess what, it’s free and non-toxic.


How to find a good Ayahuasca retreat

Iquitos? An industry. Malaria. Crazy high prices.

Online testimonials can be forged, you know that.

Here i offer some alternatives and a suggestion. Certainly one of the best experiences of my life.

If you are interested in a great, safe and cheap retreat in Peru then sign up for more information here or in the pop-up if you see it. I already have 3 or 4 people so we just need a few more to make this happen! 🙂


Review of the Fender FC-100 guitar

It’s cheap, it’s made in Indonesia, it has nylon strings, a narrow neck and it’s easy to play. But is it worth it?

Coming soon : audio recordings with studio mics, and a conversion of this guitar into an electro-acoustic using a quality piezo pickup and high-end preamplifers.


How to meditate in 3 easy tips

I used to struggle but i found out why. In this brief video i explain the 3 simple tricks i use to succeed every time. I hope this helps you.

May you be well !

P.S. I use Kelly Howell’s Brainsync meditation tracks, which have helpful music & sounds as well as, sometimes, guided word and/or breathing exercises.
I use ‘Awakening Kundalini’ in the mornings and at night whilst going to sleep i use either ‘The Secret To Attracting Wealth’ (track 3) or ‘The Secret Universal Mind Meditation Vol.2’. All of the latter are amazingly good.
And other options are available out there, so if those don’t work for you just try something different. I found the Meditainment tracks to be very light and not convincing. Tara Brach, on the other hand, i liked. It was music-free and very very effective — also highly recommended.

[Update 2017-11-08: because i have been using Kelly Howell’s guided MP3 meditation tracks so much, and because i recommend them wholeheartedly, i have decided to register on her Brainsync website for an affiliate link to share with you. I never share anything “monetised” unless i use it myself, and this is in fact the first time i use any form of monetisation on this blog or on my YouTube channel. It won’t cost you anything, it just means that the blog receives a % on what you purchase if you are a new customer to Kelly — i hope you don’t mind. I do not see any harm in this, i hope you shall not either. Thank you).
By using the following link to purchase these great meditation tracks you may help this blog : Brainsync Meditation MP3s by Kelly Howell.]

Why i left London Real Academy…against my will

I have often mentioned London Real here, and am glad i found that site because with it i found a wealth of wisdom in people such as Peter Sage.
About a month ago i registered with the London Real Academy for the full year (just under 300 USD). The idea is to upgrade your peer group, have accountability buddies and get access to exclusive webinars & ‘success secrets’ that have been removed from the regular free London Real content.

I requested my accountability buddy and filled in all the forms etc but after 3 weeks i had heard nothing back, despite trying all channels of communication available to me : email, the LRA site’s messenger, the private Facebook group, etc. But one day i found a broken link so i reported it via the support form on the LRA site: to my surprise i got a message back from Julian, one of the managers, within 24 hours. So i tried that for my accountability buddy. No luck.

Yesterday someone posted on the FB group that they were looking for the link to cancel…and that’s when things started getting strange.

Here is a brief account of my brief stay at the London Real Academy. Not quite in line with the rosey nice façade you get from Brian Rose before you join. They go to great lengths to get you to join but once you’ve joined things don’t quite follow the official story line…

Update (2016-07-30) : you will find updates on YouTube in the comment section of the video below. In a nutshell, i have now joined a group i prefer, closed but free, and which is populated with various people who left the LRA and/or felt ripped off by the lack of service/replies. I was almost certain i would rejoin the LRA but i am now convinced that is not a good idea. Again, my experience is my experience, yours could be better, i don’t know. Good luck if you choose to join.

Bufo Alvarius : Day 4 – The 2 minute update

From now on, i will try to make a detailed daily update, mostly for me, for the record (that’s what this blog is), and a 2 minute update for anyone interested in the essence but not in wasting more time.
These longer versions are at the bottom of this post.

In summary, i feel GREAT, i feel IN CONTROL of my mind (whereas it was in control of me before), i haven’t touched a drop of alcohol since and i somehow would be very disappointed with myself if i ever did (!!!), i feel way more determined to do things i know i need to do and way more determined to NOT do things i know i shouldn’t do, and that feels just GREAT.

Meditation has taken on a whole new dimension, with feelings reminiscent of the Bufo Alvarius Experience, and i got some absolutely amazing feelings of well-being this morning before i woke up, with a deep inner conviction that i could do anything i wanted and was limitless (HAHAHAAA how fucking cool is that, eh ?! HAHAAAA I’M LOVIN THIS !!!).

At moments during the day when i have positive thoughts of love, of who i miss (mostly my brother & mother), basically when i feel in flow with who I Really Am, then i just start to feel amazing. I had this beacon in me before too, but i wasn’t listening to it. My mind would convince me that the beeps were something else. And so i would sabotage with alcohol (blurs away your consciousness and should be absolutely avoided at all times, no excuses!) and nasty foods to “satisfy” “cravings”, only to feel less satisfied and more miserable. I don’t do that now, at least i haven’t over these 4 days, and somehow i have this CONVICTION in my CORE that i never will again. I cannot even begin to tell you how LIBERATING that is. It’s marvellous.

I cannot wait to see what will happen this afternoon, tomorrow, next week, next month.

How i want my loved ones to feel as good and as liberated of their non-truths as i do of my own lies now. There definitely was a me before and Me Now. And I am NEVER going back to that frustrated miserable me. I am Alive and it’s the best thing that has ever happened to me.

Love Yourself, Love Life.
It is just one breath away.


The 2 minute update :

The “short” version :

The long version :
[being uploaded, check again in a few hours]

Sinicuichi 2 : my second experience with Heimia salicifolia, at a much higher dose !

For my first experience with the legal plant sometimes called an “entheogen”, please see this post.

This time i am going to document my experience with it live.


For dosage & further info, i would recommend the usual, ie Erowid, here and here.

I brewed it (7g of dried leaves) in a cup of hot water for at least 15 mins, then decided to bung it all in a small pan to heat it up a bit (5-10 mins). Definitely made the juice greener, and the leaves then sank to the bottom.

Finally finished gulping down the bitter mess. Had forgotten to tear the leaves into very small pieces. Was left with a big almost spaghetti-like mix to literally eat from a spoon.


Feeling an extremely slight quasi-nausea maybe…


Feel like my eyes are having a hard time focusing. Feeling a little more relaxed possibly…or is that just me expecting to feel more relaxed ? Last time after about 20 minutes i starting feeling great, if i remember correctly.

While we wait for more effects to kick in, i will briefly relate my previous experience.
Great feeling. Then i went through a good session of Temazcal / steam room, and was too tired to last till the end. Got out, had some fruit i think, was exhausted, and started to feel the pain in the muscles. It was like you’d exercised every muscle in your body, and each & every one was in pain. Being on the scooter, i could feel every slight bump ripple through my abs in a wave of pain. Shortly afterwards i went to the French Alps and walked up steep hills a fair bit : for the first time in over 25 years of going to the same places, i felt like i was invincible. Of course, i wasn’t, but i could walk straight up the steepest parts and my legs could take it. The muscles in my thighs didn’t just start burning after a couple of minutes. I felt like i could do it and i could.

Feeling relaxed enough i guess, maybe a tad sleepy. Not unpleasant, but not euphoric by any means.
I’m also a tad hungry now, but that’s just because i haven’t eaten for many hours.


Definitely feeling more relaxed now, nice. Can feel the bottom of my legs relaxing. Hope things continue down this path… 😉


Still feeling nice & relaxed, no change.
While we wait for more, i should point out that yesterday i upgraded the weights i use for my exercise by 4kg and my biceps have been painful all day. It’ll be interesting to see whether they start hurting me more than the rest later on or not.

I can feel a slight pressure inside my head, like some kind of dilation of the brain. If it were a lot stronger it might be described as a headache. Still feeling pretty good & relaxed, though.

Still feeling relaxed. Still have the slight pressure inside my skull.
Just re-read my post about the first experience, was quite interesting. You see, this is why i have this blog in the first place : so i can get accurate recollections of things i have lived, even months or years later. I couldn’t recall half of what i put in the post and was really surprised. Especially by this : that first time there was just a tea-spoon’s worth. Sweet Jesus, this time i had around 3 ! So the first time it must have been around 3 grams.
I don’t know if drinking green tea alongside it interacts/cancels it out at all, but for accuracy’s sake i have been sipping green tea ever since i drank the bitter brew.

I cannot explain this, and it is going to sound weird : my hearing is starting to feel different…whatever that means !

The muscles in my left arm are starting to hurt me a lot when i stretch my arm.

The muscles in all my body are starting to hurt.

Everything hurts from the inside out. My arse, my lungs, my abs deep down, my throat, my face, my arms & legs…it’s easy to forget what this feels like, but when it’s back it’s a whack in the face.
It’s at this point that you really wonder why the hell you took it in the first place.

12:10 the following day
Sure can feel those muscles, geeez. Not as bad as last night or this morning, though. Skipped exercising yesterday but might try some weights today. Won’t go running, however… :-/

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 !

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