Everyone has a story.
And with a name like Billy Bones , you just know that the story is going to be quite an interesting one.
The year was 1976 and the punk rock movement was exploding onto the Los Angeles underground music scene with a loud, rebellious bang!
One of the very first bands to enter the picture were "The Skulls".
This iconic band had a hardcore sound that took the roots of early rock 'n' roll and submerged them into pure punk energy. The Skulls frequently performed at the legendary Masque club in central Hollywood. A rock club that quickly became the nexus of early LA punk subculture, where The Skulls played alongside bands like The Germs, The Screamers, The Go-Go's and The Weirdos.
Photo: Kerry Colonna
This was about the time Steven “Billy Bones” Fortuna came onto the scene. His fast and furious vocals and in-your-face lyrics quickly put him in the top position of the new frontman for The Skulls and took the band to a whole new level. Now with Billy Bones sneering and stomping front and center in his manic live performances, it was the final ingredient that was needed to create The Skulls razor-edged quintessential sound. A sound that in this writer's opinion, ranks them right up there with punks heavy hitters such as the Sex Pistols and The Ramones. The Skulls rewrote the rules of punk and their energy can still be felt decades later in their bootleg recordings spread throughout the underground. That is why in L.A. the name "The Skulls" lives on in the Los Angeles punk rock community as one of the true revolutionary punk pioneers and rightly so.
There is an old saying. True success is not always about how much you make, it's about the difference you make in people's lives. That true success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life, but by the many obstacles which they have had to overcome. And throughout it all, to be able to continue to live life to the fullest while lifting others up while they climb.
This statement holds true to the life of Steven “Billy Bones” Fortuna. Like everyone else, he has certainly has had his share of ups and downs.
As a performer, Billy Bones stage presence is all over the place! He's a frontman in every way. A rock n roll maniac, with his snarling vocals, socially charged lyrics and limitless energy. But, there is much more to this man than just the energetic fire ball we see onstage and his punk rock legacy.
From Left : Daughter Dani, Billy Bones and wife Christina
Meeting First Lady Hillary Clinton at the White House in 1996
The group finally disbanded in 2006, as members parted ways to explore various artistic endeavors. After that, the music never left his blood.
In 2008, Billy Bones went on to form 'The BillyBones' – a hard-driving punk rock band and is also currently teamed up with members of The Sold! to form a punk/blues explosion, 'The Sold! And Bones' which are catching the attention of punk fans all over the U.S.
Let's face it, it’s not everyday that you get to talk to a bona fide punk rock legend.
Cool Magazine is very proud to present, the legendary 'Billy Bones' himself! The shades-wearing frontman talks to us exclusively about his work as a singer, his time with The Skulls, including his current collaboration 'The Sold! And Bones', and about his upcoming solo project.
It was maybe way too soon that the members of The Skulls decided to go their separate ways before they got the chance to gain the widespread exposure that they deserved, but it was singer Billy Bones who had undoubtedly made his mark on the music scene. A mark that has stood the test of time. It was Billy's strong belief and love that he had for The Skulls that made him the band’s only consistent member for the next three decades. He went on to reform The Skulls with an entirely new lineup for a highly anticipated reunion over two decades later.
Now that's dedication.
Lucky Seventeen Photography
Off the stage, Billy Bones does a complete flip side of the coin. He completely defies the stereotype of what we think the punk rock image would be. He has been happily married for over 30 years to his lovely wife, Christina. To see them together, they make married life seem cool and fun like the way it should be. They have a daughter, Dani, a bright and spirited young lady, with a winning personality that seems to capture people's hearts wherever she goes. And it was when Dani was diagnosed with a severe medical issue at age 3, Fortuna honorably put his family first and walked away from his musical career to be there for both his daughter and his wife when they needed him most. It is times in life such as these that makes Billy Bones a truly remarkable man in our book. A lot of people seem to feel the same way. For example, in 1996, Billy, his wife Christina, and his daughter Daniella were all official guests of First Lady Hillary Clinton and were invited to the White House in recognition for their fundraising work for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and Children’s Miracle Network. No doubt, a shining moment for all of them.
Now, even though Billy had seemed to put his music days behind him at this point, destiny had other plans.
Back in the saddle again...
The music was undoubtedly calling him back and soon Billy Bones found himself in a situation where he was putting together a new revised version of the "The Skulls". This time, with all new members. It was with this formation that The Skulls released two studio records, two live records, toured Europe twice and was featured on the Warped Tour in the United States, garnering both critical acclaim and commercial success.
Who or what inspired you to become a musician? How did you know that music was something you wanted to do? Is it something that came naturally?
"I always loved music, my mom being English. I was born in England as well. She always had British Invasion music wafting throughout our many homes. Being from a Military family, we moved a lot! You could hear the Beatles, Stones, Animals, Dave Clark Five, etc. So, between listening to the radio and watching the many TV variety shows, watching Mick Jagger, James Brown, Eric Burdon, The Animals, and all the cool early rock band performances. I actually would imitate some of these amazing performers in front of my mirror. Yeah, you could say I was hooked. I knew music was something I wanted to be part of for the rest of my life. I became intrigued with everything that had to do with music. I read all the rock magazines. I always searched the coolest radio stations, so I could listen to what was new and different with music and especially electric music! It was exciting to me and every time I heard a new sound or a new style or different approach to music, I wanted to know everything there was to know on how that sound or style was created! I think once I started delving into music, it did become a huge part of my life, that has, and will never leave me. Besides. I love to dance, sing and perform! So, yes, I would say music and Billy Bones are one - and after I figured it out, it's pretty much natural. Kinda like breathing!"
Photo: Michael Yampolsky
How did you first get involved to sing for legendary punk rock band The Skulls?
"It was 1976-77. I was living in Hollywood, Ca. and I ran into a friend I hadn't seen in over a year, Michael "Sten Gunn" Wallace. Before we had lost track of each other, we had always said that if we ever started a band we would call it "The Skulls". Mick had started a band, called it "The Skulls" and he fronted the band. He really wanted to play drums, so he asked me if I would like to front the band. I said of course. I went down to his rehearsal and a couple hours later, Billy Bones was fronting The Skulls! Mick, also along with Brendan Mullen, founded the world famous premiere punk venue that lays in the basement of the world famous Pussycat Theater, The Masque, where famous punk bands like, The Germs, The Dickies, The Weirdos, The Screamers, The Bags, The Zeros, The Eyes, The Controllers , The Go Go's, The Deadbeats, F-word, and a lot of other very cool L.A. iconic punk bands were spawned! I loved it all! It was exciting, and the rest is history!"
How have you seen punk rock change throughout the years?
"Early on, punk was fresh and exciting. It was different, rebellious, innovative, creative without being judged. Punk rock music was a new way to play music. It was performed in the simplest form - 3 Chords with a message - and of course, punk music was a strong platform for protest. As punk rock music moved into the late 70's, early 80's, the music was played even faster, more aggressive, and the art of friendly 'pogoing' became a bit more leaning on the side of violence. Moshing was introduced. Regardless, punk rock music is more accepted now. TV commercials etc. I can tell you there were no "Hot Topics" then! Punk rock is a way of life!"
What was one of the best highlights that you can remember from one of your performances?
"One of the first ever punk shows in Orange County, Ca. A big surfing beach community. We had a show set up at a club called The Cuckoo's Nest. We, The Skulls and The Controllers, vanned ourselves into Beach Boy territory, Huntington Beach, Ca. Crazy rebellious me, thought it would be really cool to bust up a surfboard on stage while screaming obscenities at the lame surfers, just to piss everybody off. You know 'Punk Rock'! Anyway, I found out really quick it wasn't so easy to break a surfboard on stage - and what I had failed to realize is that we had a show scheduled a couple days later again in O.C. a few miles from The Cuckoo's Nest! Needless to say, all hell broke loose! Cops, fights, mooning etc. And that's a whole other story!"
What was the inspiration behind The Sold! and Bones latest track 'I'm Right! You're Wrong!'? (Cool song, by the way)
"That song "I'm Right! You're Wrong!" was written by Easy Lou Jones, the brilliant young man who wrote and produced our first full length, 'Full Circle Suicide'. He is a prodigy. Been playing guitar since he was 4 years old! Brilliant musician and super cool guy! He had brought me into his band's rehearsal "The Sold!" to hear some song he had written with me in mind - and then one song led to two, and two to three, and before you know it, we had a full eleven songs and 'The Sold!', with the addition of Billy Bones, became The Sold! and Bones. We went into the studio and recorded what was going to be a reference demo, later became our first full length 'Full Circle Suicide'."
"'I'm Right! You're Wrong' is about the mass oppression of human rights for those who don't possess wealth and must struggle to be heard. It's about the notion of knowing you are right, and they are wrong, continually getting knocked down, but continuing to get back on your feet again, in a political cycle where we are bound by the shackles of our national debt." - Easy Lou Jones
What was it like to work with Grammy Award winning, Chilean musician Beto Cuevas as the director for your latest music video? Anything cool or amusing happen during the shoot that you would like to share?
"What can I say about working with Beto Cuevas? Well, first of all he is a friend, and we all have so much fun when we are together. Besides being one of the nicest, kindest, caring human beings I have ever met, not to mention his talent is off the talent chart, he's untouchable! BC is very spontaneous in how he thinks and does things. I am the same way. We both love to have fun and that's just what we did! Beto's a visionary and a man who knows how to gets things done. He doesn't vacillate. Very focused and he knows what he wants! He has amazing non-stop energy and he gets great results because of it! Everything just flows with Beto. Behind the camera he is so relaxed and he keeps the whole situation flowing! This video was a labor of love and we had the entire 'Sold! and Bones' camp involved. One big happy family!"
Billy Bones and Beto Cuevas
Is the new single a part of an upcoming album? And is there a tour in the works?
"'I'm Right! You're Wrong!' is the first single/video from The Sold! and Bones debut album CD "Full Circle Suicide" written and produced by my partner in rhyme, Easy Lou Jones on guitar, and along with this slamming rhythm section consisting of Charles Salvatore La Ferrera on bass and Justin McGrath, our hard hitting animal on drums!"
What new music are you listening to these days?
"I am a fan of The Black Keys. I like blues derivative music, especially with an edge to it. I like a lot of the L.A. bands, Prima Donna one of my faves, Paperhearts, The Stitches, F-71 who I produced, The Briefs, The Woolley Bandits, Dark Water Rebellion to name a few. I am a huge Roxy Music / Bryan Ferry fan and I like all the early 1977 punk stuff and I like all of Mr. BC's music as well!"
How did you become friends with Green Day bassist, Mike Dirnt? We heard it's a very interesting story.
"Long story, I will shorten it. Warp Tour, my daughter and her friends wanted to go see Green Day. Being a punk music snob, I really didn't know too much about Green Day. I had a friend who worked at Warner Brothers. My daughter, who was a spokesperson for Children's Hospital L.A. who had numerous surgeries, had just had a story published in The L.A. times about her, in which she had stated this band Green Day was her favorite band, so I asked my friend at WB if he could hook something up in Anaheim Ca. Warp Tour? He did, and I got backstage passes. Billy Bones plus six, so we hung around back stage. The kids were waiting for someone from Green Day to come out of their trailer. Eventually Mike came out. I approached him cause the kids were scared. It turned out he was a fan of The Skulls. He was super cool to the kids, leaving a personal voice message on each of the kids cell phones. We talked for a bit and that was it. We went on our way. A year later I ran into Mike again at Headline Records in Hollywood Ca. We talked, exchanged numbers and from then on we became the best of friends. Like Beto, Mikey is one of the coolest, kindest, humbling gentlemen you will ever meet! So, it is safe to say Billy Bones is most definitely blessed when it comes to friends. I have the greatest of friends!"
Greenday bassist Mike Dirnt with Billy Bones
Where did the nickname Billy Bones come from?
"I have always been fascinated by the pirates lifestyle and adventures. I have read all kinds of pirate books, especially Treasure Island, multiple times. "Billy Bones", The Skulls look and image was total swashbuckling 'shiver me timbers' Pirate Clobber. We wore stripe shirts, eye patches, etc. Also my middle name being William (Billy) and I have always been called 'Bones' because of my skeletal appearance."
What is your definition of cool?
"Cool is about attitude. Cool is about style. Cool is a way of life and how you live it! Cool is how you act around your fellow man/woman. Either you're cool or you're not!"
There you have it from one of the true heroes of the punk rock world himself. Bones has been singing his music of rebellion for nearly 40 years and he shows no signs of slowing down yet.
Steven “Billy Bones” Fortuna is a husband, a father, a friend, a mentor, an inspiration, and there is a reason he has garnered the respect of friends and fans alike. Maybe it's because Billy Bones appreciates his fans. He goes out of his way to remember their names and stays to talk with so many of them. He even caught the attention of filmmaker-director Kathy Kolla, who was inspired to make an entire documentary dedicated to bringing his unique story to film. The 2015 documentary titled "Who is Billy Bones" is an amazing piece of filmmaking and has gone on to be an official selection of the Hollywood Film Festival and the winner of Best Cinematography of the Downtown Film Festival Los Angeles.
So, it's safe to say despite what the mainstream says, four decades later, punk rock is still very much alive and well. Because as long as there is someone out there to oppose the system, there will be punk.
And of one thing we can be certain, as long as there is punk rock, there will be the name Billy Bones.
- By J & M Shepherd (2017)
Want to know more about Billy Bones? Well, take a sneak peek look at the official "Who Is Billy Bones?" documentary trailer! And don't forget to follow the official page on Facebook too!
Also check out the latest video single "I'm Right! You're Wrong!" by The Sold! And Bones (directed by Beto Cuevas)