Lita Ford Interview: "Everybody and Their Mother Has Asked Me About a Reunion. Let’s Get Past the Runaways"
Image attributed to Dustin Jack
Lita Ford was the lead guitarist for the all-female rock band the Runaways that recorded and performed in the 1970s. Born in London, England, Ford launched a successful solo career after the breakup of the Runaways with several albums including Out for Blood, Dancin’ on the Edge, Lita, Stilletto and Dangerous Curves.
Ford launched a PledgeMusic campaign featuring the release of her book, Living Like a Runaway: A Memoir, in February 2016, and latest album, Time Capsule, out April 15. Time Capsule is a “throwback” record that boasts identifiable voices and brilliant players jamming without any planning or pressure. Some of the album’s highlights feature Billy Sheehan, Dave Navarro, Rick Nielsen, Robin Zander, Gene Simmons and Chris Holmes.
“It was the very first tour. It was three months on the road with the Ramones, and I hadn’t even graduated high school. My father went and got my high school diploma because I was on tour with the Ramones. When I came back from that tour, I flew in, got off the plane and saw my father standing there waiting for me to get off the plane. This was when they were allowed to come in up to the jet, up to the gate. They were allowed to meet you at the gate. Now you can’t get past the metal detector without a boarding pass. But back then, you could go up to the gate.”
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Lita, why did you team up with PledgeMusic for both your book and new album?
Lita Ford: It was just something we wanted to do with the fans just to get the book out and get the record out and see what everybody thinks. Plus, there are meet and greets during the tour. They get to come backstage and meet and greet everyone. It’s really cool. You can go to the PledgeMusic website and find more goodies on there that the fans might be interested in.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): How did your latest album, Time Capsule, come about?
Lita Ford: Time Capsule was something I had that was just basically jam sessions, but they went overboard. All of these great musicians ended up on it. They came in, jammed on it, and the songs were amazing. It should have been released. It shouldn’t have sit on a shelf. It just needs to be shared with the public.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): These original songs were just remastered?
Lita Ford: We baked the 24-track analog tapes because being that old, you don’t want to take the chance of the tapes flaking or coming apart in any way. There’s a place you can take them, and they’ll do it for you. That holds everything together. Then we transferred to analog over to digital. We mixed it, but we did not change any notes. There’s not one note on that record that’s changed.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did you just grab Gene Simmons, Robin Zander and all those guys in to the studio to record with you?
Lita Ford: In the song with Gene Simmons, I went to his house. We were going to write a song, and Gene had already developed this riff for “Rotten to the Core,” which is really just a bass run. He already had that in mind, so it was very raw at that point. We just finished writing the song and recorded it. I had with me, one of the best engineers from the “Kiss Me Deadly” Lita album. He was so great in the studio that when that record was done, I took him into the studio, and we re-recorded some stuff.
We did some jams. We just had fun. I grabbed Billy Sheehan. He played bass on a few tracks, and friends came in from all over. Because it was a recording studio, there was another recording studio right next door in the same building, so there were always musicians coming and going. We knew most of them.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Why didn’t Gene sing on “Rotten to the Core”?
Lita Ford: Because it’s my track, not his track.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You didn’t discuss doing a duet?
Lita Ford: Never.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): For your memoir, was it tough for you to recall certain parts of your life and write them on paper?
Lita Ford: Some parts were very tough to remember. There are times and things you want to forget. Some of the stuff was very painful to revisit. But I wanted to give the reader an exciting, well-rounded version of my life, which really has many high, high, high highs and really low, low, low lows, as low as you can get sometimes. I just wanted to give the reader a true visual of what it was like to be in Lita Ford’s shoes.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do some parts of that life seem surreal to you now?
Lita Ford: Not really, no. It’s my life. It’s not surreal. It’s real.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you have any memories from living in England, or were you too young to remember?
Lita Ford: I have memories, yeah. I have memories. I was young, but the memories I do have, I put in the book. I used to watch Topo Gigio on TV with the talking mouse? Do you remember Topo Gigio?
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): As a matter of fact, yes.
Lita Ford: They put Topo Gigio on the Ed Sullivan Show because it was becoming more of an adult television show. They weren’t appealing to the younger audience anymore, so they added this mouse. I fell in love with this little mouse. Then there was Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. You only got to see one band, one song, one time a week. Every week, I would wait all week to see Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. Who was the band of the week? Who are they going to pick? Sometimes you’d get somebody like Deep Purple or somebody amazing. It was really awesome. They really made a big deal out of it.
They were special times, times to remember in England. I remember going to the beach with my dad and fishing, bringing in all of the conger eels. We would put them under the blanket, and we would stand on the blanket while they flip-flopped around underneath the blanket.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you think being an only child had anything to do with what you’ve accomplished in the music world?
Lita Ford: Yes, I do. There were never any distractions in the house. A sibling could quite possibly have been a huge distraction, or they could go the other way and just not want to be with you at all. But I feel that being an only child, I had to pretty much find what I wanted to play with the most. That was a guitar. It wasn’t a Barbie doll. It wasn’t a yoyo or anything like that. It was a guitar.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): At sixteen years old, was it scary for you to be away from home joining a rock band?
Lita Ford: It was. It was the very first tour. It was three months on the road with the Ramones, and I hadn’t even graduated high school. My father went and got my high school diploma because I was on tour with the Ramones. When I came back from that tour, I flew in, got off the plane and saw my father standing there waiting for me to get off the plane. This was when they were allowed to come in up to the jet, up to the gate. They were allowed to meet you at the gate. Now you can’t get past the metal detector without a boarding pass. But back then, you could go up to the gate.
I got off the plane, and I saw my dad standing there. I ran up to him, threw my arms around him and started to cry. He laughed at me. I looked at him, grit my teeth, and I never cried again. That was the only time that I ever felt like I wanted to go home. It was brutal. It was being thrown to the wolves in the music industry, seeing things you’ve never seen before and going places you’ve never been before. It was a learning experience at the very least.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What’s different today?
Lita Ford: Well, everything’s digital now. Nothing’s analog anymore. Everything’s changed. It’s not just the music industry. Everybody’s jobs have changed. I personally don’t care for it myself, but that’s just my opinion. I like old school because it’s not so invasive. You have so many freaks hiding behind the Internet. I’m old school. But that’s just me. The music industry is not the same. The money’s not the same. The whole thing has changed just like anybody’s job. The grocery stores have changed. The airlines have changed. Everything’s changed.
It’s all computerized with numbers and passcodes. It’s like, “Jesus Christ, all I’m trying to do is make a phone call.” I remember the day we could just pick up a phone and dial the number. Now it’s a whole different ballgame. It’s not so simple. It’s simple for the kids growing up with it because that’s all they know. If they knew how simple things used to be, they would be like, “Am I on a deserted island here?”
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): When did you feel that you had finally proven yourself as a female rocker?
Lita Ford: I think just being nominated for the Legend Award by Guitar Player Magazine was a huge turning point for me. It was something that I always wanted and wanted to be recognized. I was in good company with the Legend Award. I got the fourth award. The first two were Les Paul and Joe Perry, so I’m in good company.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did you contact any members of the band for input on the book?
Lita Ford: I contacted a couple of people just for memories and asked if they remembered stuff we could put in the book. I contacted my old drummer, Dusty Watson. I contacted one of my old bass players, Tony Iommi, and I dated him as well. Just a bunch of people throughout the book. Kim Fowley. That was cool.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you and Cherie Currie perform together occasionally?
Lita Ford: No. We just did a couple of things a few years back. We don’t hang out, you know. Our paths crossed a couple of years ago, so we took advantage of it. It was fun.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Are you in contact with Joan Jett?
Lita Ford: No.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): On tour, what’s it like performing “Cherry Bomb” almost 40 years after its release?
Lita Ford: Well, I didn’t sing “Cherry Bomb” with the Runaways. It’s different when you’re singing it. It’s a whole other animal. But no, it was just released a couple of years back in the film Guardians of the Galaxy, and it went to number one. It was nominated for a Grammy after 37 years. Pretty cool.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Who’s your favorite guitarist?
Lita Ford: Oh God, I don’t have one. My favorite guitar players are from the past: Tony Iommi, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, David Gilmour, Jeff Beck, to name a few.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Who are you listening to these days?
Lita Ford: These days I’m on an Aerosmith kick, old and new Aerosmith. I just got a bunch of songs that I’ve been stuck on for the last couple of months. Yeah. I’m just on an Aerosmith kick, which is kind of fun. Going from one band to another is what I do. Before that, I was stuck on Pink. She’s such a great vocalist.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Will there be a Runaways reunion in the future?
Lita Ford: Everybody and their mother has asked me about a reunion. It’s like, “Please don’t ask me that question.” Let’s get past the Runaways. I’m so tired of the Runaways questions. There’s so much more to the book than just the Runaways.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): After the tour, will you be working on any new music?
Lita Ford: Time Capsule is out April 15. At the moment, we have our hands full.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What’s your down time like?
Lita Ford: I don’t like days off. I like to keep working. If I have to have a day off against my will, I like to lay in the sun, play with my dogs, turn off the phone, turn off the computer … and just relax.
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