Best known for his guitar work with The Cult, Doheny, Camp Freddy and Circus Diablo, Billy Morrison is an artist, musician, singer and songwriter and has recently taken on the role of actor. Looking at Billy’s accomplishments, it would seem he grew up with a silver pick between his fingers, but he actually had to work up from the bottom of a beer keg filled with wild teenage abandon and drug addiction.
It wasn’t that he didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life. As an only child in the UK, Billy learned early on watching the Sex Pistols, Clash, Ants and Heartbreakers, that life really could be as simple as sex, drugs and rock and roll. Unfortunately, the drugs would hold him down through the eighties and early part of the nineties. He joined the band Stimulator in ‘96 and found himself for the first time really caring about the success of a band.
It was Stimulator that first opened Billy’s eyes to the possibility of a record deal and a first album with Geffen Records. This first album would eventually be made, but unfortunately never saw the neon light under a new release rack. A massive music merger was going on at the time and the album got lost in all the shuffle. Billy has still not ruled out the release of this album at some point in the future.
Emerging from Stimulator clean, sober and goal oriented, Billy decided to grab the world by the tighty whities and show her what he could do. It was Billy’s mate, Billy Duff from The Cult, who first showed him her waist band and let him experience that all important first tug. In 2001, Billy Duff called Billy M, who was in the UK at the time and invited him out to LA to audition for the band. The next thing Billy knew, he was jamming on tour with The Cult and Aerosmith—life was good!
A year later, Billy put his own band together calling it Camp Freddy, which is named after his favorite character in the movie, The Italian Job. The band is made up of Dave Navarro (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane’s Addiction), Matt Sorum (Gun’s N’ Roses), Donovan Leitch, Chris Chaney (Jane’s Addiction) and Scott Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots, Velvet Revolver).
Originally put together for the purpose to have fun, Camp Freddy has actually enjoyed quite a few high profile shows over its six years. One of the bands favorite gigs has been the X-Games/ESPN party they’ve jammed the past three years in a row. Of course, with each of the band members having their own projects going on, it makes it tricky to culminate in one spot sometimes. Somehow, they always manage to do it however and not disappoint their fans.
Billy has also recently taken on the role of model and spokesperson for the True Love and False Idols clothing line. But the current project that has taken center stage in his life over the past two years is Circus Diablo. Circus Diablo consists of Billy Duffy (The Cult), Ricky Warwick (The Almighty), Brett Scallions (Fuel), Jeremy Colson and Matt Sorum.
When we caught up with Billy, he had just come back from the Ozzfest after having to leave early due to an outbreak of pregnancies the band has recently been blessed with. He was psyched about the couple shows they had done and was ready to get back on tour once Ricky and Brett got those babies settled in:
Eric J: How was Ozzfest, Billy?
Billy M: “It totally exceeded my expectations. Circus Diablo, which is the name of my band right now, is very much a different kind of rock band from most of the bands on the Ozzfest—traditional rock and roll stuff. We wondered how we were going to go down, but we were received by nothing but love and respect everywhere we went.”
EJ: With the finale of Ozzfest out of the question, what is next for Circus Diablo?
Billy: “I am currently in the middle of editing the video for the first single called “Loaded”, which is on the radio now. We are tweaking the edit and it should be out soon. We are releasing in Australia, Japan and Europe very shortly, so I am doing a bunch of press. A couple members of the band have wives that are heavily pregnant, so we are just waiting for the babies to arrive and then we can get back out on the road again.”
EJ: What is going on with your other band, Camp Freddy?
Billy: “We actually just played on Friday. This year is our sixth anniversary and it just keeps going from strength to strength. We played at the House of Blues for the X-Games party. We had Slash (Gun’s N’ Roses) there, Scott Ian from Anthrax, Robbie Krieger from The Doors, Vivian Campbell from Def Leppard. It was the usual star studded affair and we had a great time.”
EJ: The party was at the House of Blues?
Billy: “The House of ‘anything but’ Blues. That’s what it should be called.”
EJ: What else have you been up to outside of the music scene?
Billy: “I’ve become somewhat of an actor. I begin my third movie in September. I have done a couple of horror movies and a comedy so far. This one I start is more like a slasher film, I play a detective. I do that and then I go back out on the road with Circus Diablo. With the radio show with Dave Navarro, Circus Diablo, Camp Freddy, acting and a bunch of TV stuff, I’m fairly busy… which is just the way I like it.”
EJ: What are the names of the films?
Billy: “The name of the film I begin shooting in September is called Basement Jack. The film I wrapped earlier on this year was called Evilution, which is like a zombie film. The film I shot last year was called Tripping Forward, which is a comedy.”
EJ: Speaking of ‘Evilution’, tell us a bit about the evolution of your favorite tattoo.
Billy: “The tattoo on my stomach, it is the word ‘CORE’. Dave Navarro and myself both had the word core tattooed on each other because we are what we call core members of Camp Freddy, which means we were there in the beginning. Dave’s is on his neck and mine is on my lower stomach underneath my navel. We actually both tattooed each other. Mark Mahoney at Shamrock Social Club in L.A. tattooed both of us—(but) I tattooed a bit of Dave’s neck and he tattooed a bit of my stomach.”
“My whole back piece says, ‘SCARRED FOR LIFE’ in Japanese. I basically gave my back to a tattooist called Bugs in London and said, ‘I don’t care what you do, just do something cool.’ About 28 hours and weeks later I had my back piece. In fact, most of my tattoos have been done like that—both of my forearms included.”
EJ: That’s taking a bit of a chance, don’t you think?
Billy: “Yeah, well when you’re using tattooists like Mark Mahoney and Alex Benny from London, then you’re not going wrong!”
It must be nice to walk into one of the top celebrity tattooists of the world, take off your shirt and tell them to ‘do something cool’. Britney Spears might even someday follow such advice, but with her reputation in Hollywood, a tattoo is probably not what she’d receive! Baddum bum-bum…
(Originally Featured in Walking Canvas Magazine)