BATTLE OF THE FORDS: LITA INTERVIEWED BY LEYLA
If you’ve never heard of Lita Ford at this point, I congratulate you for finding the most soundproof rock under which to live. Women in metal has always been a hot topic of discussion, and it seems now more than ever females are making their voices heard in this not-so-male-driven genre of ours. Lita Ford is more than just another member of the XX-chromosome metal league, though. She’s a pioneer.
She was a driving force behind The Runaways, one of the only all-female groups writing and playing punk/rock in 1976. After their dissolution in 1979, Ford went on to have a lucrative solo career, which included collaborations with artists such as Ozzy Osbourne and Nikki Sixx. It seems lately that attention has shifted more to her personal life, but Lita Ford is ready to face the world again with her new album, Living Like A Runaway, due out June 18.
Besides this mandatory mini-summary, she’s been a hero of mine since I was very little. I was lucky enough to speak to Ms. Ford recently and hopefully I didn’t creep her out too much with my fangirling.* It’s not often that I get to chat with one of my biggest inspirations.
Hi! How are you?
I just moved from Florida to Los Angeles so all my clocks are screwed up. I’m really not sure if I’m coming or going to tell you the truth!
Oh no. Is this a bad time?
No, no it’s just that I moved into this apartment, it’s just a place to stay temporarily, and I’m just trying to figure out how to do laundry. It’s such a big production! It’s like — oh my God — I gotta go downstairs and get a card and put money on it, then go find where the damn laundry facility is in the building, it’s just unbelievable.
What? Are you in a dorm?!
It’s so much work! I just want to wash my pants, you know!
I’ll try to be brief then.
Oh, I’m good, let’s do it… I like your name.
Aw! Thank you so much [ohmahgahd Lita Ford likes my name and not the part I blatantly stole from her]! So you’ve gone on record to say that this would be a “real” album as opposed to 2009’s Wicked Wonderland. Do you think that stands true now that it’s completed?
Absolutely. This whole album is… I think it’s the best album I’ve ever done. In my opinion. It’s nothing like Wicked Wonderland; Wicked Wonderland was out of my control. This album, I wrote all the songs along with Gary Hoey and my lyricist Michael [Dan Ehmig]. Gary Hoey produced it and it was just really a journey, this album. We started when it started snowing in New Hampshire in November and we finished it when it started snowing so it took exactly one year to write and record it.
Do you have any favorite songs or any that particularly stand out for you?
I gotta say I’m really starting to… well, I don’t know. I don’t really have a favorite but I think radio is going to lean more towards “Living Like A Runaway,” only because it’s the title track of the album. It’s a great song, the whole album really was just a gift from God. Everything came out so amazing on this journey. We’re going to do some remixes on, “Hate,” and, “A Song to Slit Your Wrists By,” sort of for the underground rock clubs, something you can dance to. Not that these are dance tracks, it’s just they have such a cool groove to them.
That sounds good. I actually really like “A Song to Slit Your Wrists By.” I got to listen to a preview of the album and it really got stuck in my head.
Awesome. That’s what we want.
Would you mind sort of walking me through the process? Like what inspires you to write and what you generally go through to create your music?
On this record? My life. My life was my inspiration. I went through hell for quite a few years and I just put it down into songs and along with my song-writing partner Michael, he had gone through hell, too — his mom had passed away, and his brother, too. He had a broken back and he was laying there in his house, by himself, just laying there with a broken back and I’m going through this horrible, just horrible, horrible divorce and the two of us together we would get on the phone and write the most amazing lyrics. I think that your lyrics come from either the highest point in your life or your lowest point in life and I felt like I had hit the lowest point in my life. This is where the album really came from along with Michael being in the situation he was in, the two of us just wrote the most amazing songs on this record. And Gary, of course. Gary just drove everything home.
Do your prefer working with others and collaborating on music? I know you’ve worked with several people and musicians along the way.
It just helps with the variation so not every song sounds the same. You know like Doug Aldrich wrote the riff for, “Bad Neighborhood,” on this record and we were stuck. We were stuck for a riff. Gary and I were throwing around ideas and I said, “Gary, why don’t we reach out to Doug?” We had just seen Doug in some show and I said, “Let’s see what Doug’s got up his sleeve.” So Doug came back with this riff for, “Bad Neighborhood,” and I was like, YEAAAH. We wanted something nasty and up-tempo, something slammin’ and he came back with that and we just fell in love with it. It was Michael and I on that one and we finished off the lyrics and it just came to life. It was really hard to let other people handle [this album]. We couldn’t give it to many people because it had a feel to it that we didn’t want to lose. When it came to mixing the album, Gary had someone in mind to use as a mixer and we gave it to him and he had mixed one song but we knew within that first song that he was not the guy. It just didn’t work. So Gary just mixed the record. The same thing with mastering. We had a guy in mind; one song and it didn’t work. It didn’t go through, he just couldn’t grasp the feel of the song so Gary ended up mastering the album as well. It’s kind of cool that we did it amongst ourselves. We locked ourselves away for a year and that was it.
Yeah, and it’s really personal in that sense too.
Yeah it is. It really is and it definitely shows.
Okay, I have to ask the question every female musician, especially in metal, gets. It’s annoying and I’m sorry but I really want to hear your perspective. As a woman in metal, do you think it’s gotten easier to be accepted and respected over the years or has it stayed about the same?
For me I think it’s gotten easier. Even though there seems to be more women out there and it seems to be “okay” now for females to perform. There are more lead singers now that I’ve noticed, which is great. Not too many guitar players, though. There are only a small handful of guitar players. It’s accepted now in 2012 but there are still people scratching their heads, still not quite sure. I think it’s just one of those things that doesn’t seem to go together you know? [Mockingly] A girl jamming on a guitar, hmm. I don’t know why it’s so hard to imagine but it can be done!
Cheers to that! What made you pick up that guitar in the first place? What drove you to it?
I went to a Black Sabbath concert when I was thirteen and that changed my life. I really wanted to, I don’t know, I wanted to make people feel like how they were making people feel at that concert. When I walked in the place was packed and there was this smell of pot smoke and cigarettes. The smell in the air was so thick! People were diving off the rafters, they were jumping from the balcony onto the stage, and it was total mayhem. And the volume from the stage was just incredible. I looked around and went, “Wooow, this is awesome. This is what I want to do with my life.” That’s what I wanted to make people feel.
How was it starting out with The Runaways? Was it hard to get the “good” kind of attention?
Well, The Runaways were really before their time. I really think if they came out now, they would be accepted. But in 1975, when we did come out, it was a little bit too soon. Of course, Cherie [Curie, singer] dancing around in her underwear and me with my hot pants halfway up my butt crack didn’t help. People didn’t take us seriously. But they do now!
I’d say so! I’m a Runaways fan and through listening to your solo work and them I can kind of pinpoint the more hard rock, metal aspects. Did that all come from you? Or was it a group effort and I’m just imagining things?
I know Sandy [West, drummer] was a metalhead, and I was a big metalhead, of course. Joan [Jett, guitarist] and Cherie were not so much metal. They were more pop, and I think the combination of it all made us punk. It was during the punk-era, which was awesome! Nothing like it, The Ramones and the Sex Pistols just all those bands. It was a blast.
Well with all these bands getting back together for reunion shows and comeback albums, you think you guys would be interested in that? Or has everyone pretty much moved on for good?
No, I think it would be great. I don’t know that Joan would do it. I know Cherie would do it and I would love to do it. So it would really be up to Joan.
Did you happen to catch the movie The Runaways?
It was an okay movie. Seemed a bit exaggerated, though.
Yeah, I think they didn’t get a couple things spot-on there. I’m not sure what since I didn’t see it but I know there was some kicking? There was some kicking in the trailer and I know I never kicked anybody. I think it was supposed to be me doing the kicking. I would kick objects but I would never kick a person. It was a story on Cherie Curie, I think it was based on her book, and Cherie and I and Joan didn’t hang out that much. Just because you’re in a band together you automatically think you hang out together but that’s not necessarily true, you know? You see each other onstage but you don’t really talk much onstage, it’s time to work then not really play. I mean play, play.
While on the subject of playing, do you have plans to tour in support of the new album?
We’re touring with Def Leppard and Poison starting June 20 in Salt Lake City, Utah. And I think we finish around mid-September.
That’s a long tour.
Yeah, a lot of dates in between those. We’re gonna branch out and have shows here and there.
Are you planning on going overseas at all?
I hope so. It wouldn’t be until the fall or next year. We should be coming over to Europe…I hope. I miss England, my hometown!
Oh yeah, you were born there, right?
Do you get to visit often?
No, I don’t. I haven’t been there in years. In ages, so it’s time for to go back.
They probably miss you.
I hope so!
Any other projects lined up? I know you’ve done other stuff in the past; you did a voice on the video game Brutal Legend, right? How was that?
Oh, that was fun! That was really a lot of fun. Let’s see, who else was in that. Rob Halford, Ozzy, Lemmy. There were a lot of heavy metal voices in there and I was Queen Rima and what was funny was that there was a person named Lita in the game and it’s not me! Isn’t that funny? I like doing stuff like that.
Would you want to branch out like have a role in a movie or are you more comfortable sticking to music?
No, I think it would be a blast having a part in a major motion film. Whether it is a song or an acting part, I think it would be a blast.
Back to music, do you prefer to sing or play guitar more or is it a pretty even match?
I like to play guitar, actually. If I could just stand there and play guitar, I’d be in heaven. I like singing, it’s both a lot of work and it’s something you have to learn to do. It’s not something that’s really easy and people can sit in their living room and say, “Yeah, I can sing and play at the same time.” Okay, but try and play a whole album or try and stand in front of an audience and play a whole album and sing at the same time. It’s a lot of work! These musicians who do sing and who play lead guitar work hard.
What would be your advice for someone just starting out, trying to be a musician?
Let’s see, I would tell them don’t wear stiletto heels onstage because you’ll fall on your ass.
That’s pretty good advice!
Yeah, right? Don’t head-bang in stiletto heels unless you got somebody to hold you up! No, just have a vision of what you want and go for it. Get it. Don’t let anybody try to change it or steer you away from your vision. I mean that’s really all it is, is a vision and capturing your dream. You just got to keep trying. It took me twelve years to get my first gold album, I just kept trying and trying and you grow. More and more people get to know you and you just build up.
Do you have any plans for the future? Or just to keep on going?
Yeah. I would like to do a book. I’m in the process of working on a book with Alanna Nash. That’s already started and I hope to eventually turn into a major motion film.
That would be great. To see it all from your perspective.
It would be cool because it’s the story of a life from a female point of view, you know? It’s similar to the Jessica Savitch story where she wanted to be a writer. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Jessica Savitch, it’s another book that Alanna has done, and it was a struggle for her because it was such a man’s world. She had to fight back.
I know exactly what you mean.
You just got to tell them off. Don’t take no shit from nobody.
Words to live by! I’ll start wrapping this up but what’s your favorite thing about you?
My favorite thing about me, oh God, I don’t know! My fans, I have to say. They’re so wonderful. They’re really heartwarming and caring and giving. I said to my manager — we ran into some fans the other day — we were at lunch, and I’m like, “Bobby, does everybody’s fans act like that,” and he told me no. How you treat people you get treated back, with respect. I think that’s the coolest part of being me, my fans.
Any last words before I let you get back to your laundry?
[Laughing] Just really bear down and listen to that new record, that new CD. It’s really a great record. It’s a journey and it deserves to be listened to in its entirety. Not just one song, you know? Put on Living Like A Runaway and crank it up!
Stay up to date on all of Lita Ford’s activity on her official website.
* Just look at the name on the byline for God’s sake.