I was born in 1982. The rock sounds that I came of age with in the 90s were of the grunge and alternative persuasions, music that had a depressed and nihilstic sound to it. Considering how bad my life was in the 90s, I turned to the rock music of the 80s for an escape. In 2000, for the first time, I heard the song “Kiss Me Deadly” by Lita Ford.
I immediately became a fan, and when I first started doing interviews years ago, I was hoping that one day I would have the chance to do an interview with her. That day came in June of 2014, when I talked on the phone with a performer whose sound offered relief from the depressing music that many in my age bracket were listening to. To speak to Lita Ford was an honor for me, and I hope you all enjoy reading this.
It’s the Pop Geeks Flashback Interview: With Lita Ford!
Lita: Hey, John. It’s Lita.
Johnny: Oh, hello, Ms. Ford. May I call you Lita?
Lita: Of course.
Johnny: Thank you very much for agreeing to do this. This is truly an honor for me.
Lita: You’re very welcome.
Johnny: I would like to start off with the following question: Your most recent studio album is called “Living Like A Runaway”. Your solo run has seen you do songs in genres from pop-rock to alternative rock, so how did it feel to go back to the sound of your Runaways days?
Lita: It’s fun. I haven’t played any Runaways songs since I left The Runaways. 2013 is actually the first time I played a Runaways song, and once we did it, it was so much fun we had to keep playing them. We learned a few more Runaways songs and one of the last shows we did was the M3 Festival in Baltimore. We flew Cherie Currie out for the show, and she got on stage and sang some of the Runaways songs. It was a blast.
Johnny: It must have been. For my next question: When I say pop-rock, I’m referring to songs like “Kiss Me Deadly” and “Close My Eyes Forever”, two songs that I feel work as both pop songs and rock songs. Many people refer to this era and its’ songs as glam metal, or less charitably, hair metal. Why do so many people reduce 80s rock music to its’ base visual aesthetics?
Lita: Why do they reduce it?
Johnny: I mean, it’s like whenever I hear people talking about 80s rock music, they primarily talk about the appearances, the visual look, as opposed to the music itself.
Lita: Well, that’s very shallow.
Johnny: I agree that it’s shallow, because I admire the music, and I was just wondering why you think it is.
Lita: Well, I don’t know that they bag on it so much anymore. I think there was a period of time, when the 90s came along, and the grunge scene and the rappers, they kind of wiped out the 80s music. Now here we are in 2014, and it seems like people want it back. I’m getting a lot of “Bring it back, bring it back, Lita”. We miss it. We miss the 80s scene. Of course, The Runaways were more 70s, but that whole era in rock-and-roll with Motley Crue and Van Halen and the bands like Twisted Sister…That was just such an amazing time, an amazing decade of rock and roll, that I think people are missing it now and they want it back.
Lita: They’re teaching it to their children. They’re trying to rehash those years for those people that were not even born yet in the 80s and feel like they missed out on a great era of rock history, and they are teaching it to their children. Now a lot of thise 80s bands are starting to come back, and they’re coming back and kicking ass, so it’s good to see. Nobody says that you can’t play guitar if your hair is too big. You know what I mean?
Johnny: I know what you mean.
Lita: We can call people names all day long, but what it really boils down to is the music.
Johnny: I definitely agree. Now to go to my next question: “Kiss Me Deadly” is the first song of your’s I heard that really made an impression on me and others, to the point where it could be seen as your signature song, even though you didn’t write it. If you chose a song you wrote to be your signature song, which one would it be?
Lita: My signature song? Probably “Living Like A Runaway”. You’ve heard that album, right?
Johnny: I’ve heard tracks from it, yes.
Lita: I like “Living Like A Runaway”. That would be a good signature song, and of course, “Close My Eyes Forever”, everyone knows.
Johnny: Okay. Moving on: When you perform “Gotta Let Go” in concert nowadays, would you ever do something like interpolate “Let It Go” from “Frozen” into the song?
Lita: I don’t know what you mean.
Johnny: When I say interpolate, I mean add a bit of “Let It Go” into “Gotta Let Go”, like the chorus. Sometimes artists in concert, when they perform their popular songs, they’ll often reference other songs by performing the chorus. Billy Joel did it in concert, adding some Elvis material to his songs. Lionel Richie performed at Bonnaroo and mixed in Laid Back’s “White Horse” with his song “Running With The Night”.
Lita: Sometimes we play “Back To The Cave” and we go off the track and just jam on it for a while, and I start singing the lyrics to The Rolling Stones’ “Miss You”.
Johnny: Yeah, like that.
Lita: So yes, we do, we do. I can’t explain it. I go off and it feels like the “Miss You” groove and I’ll start throwing in some lyrics from “Miss You” into “Back To The Cave”.
Johnny: Okay. I’d definitely like to hear that. I’ll have to look it up on YouTube.
Johnny: Moving on to my next question: Looking at your video for “Out For Blood” from 1983, and seeing videos of your current performances, you’ve managed to look young, and if I may be so bold, have an amazing figure for 30 years now. What’s your secret to looking so young?
Lita: Oh, thank you. I personally think it’s hereditary. As you age, you do eventually turn into your mother and father. Whether they’re shaped a certain way, or have a receding hairline, or they go grey, or any of those features, you’re going to eventually get one of those features. With me, my parents never looked old to me. They never aged. Even after my mother had breast cancer, she had chemotherapy, she still looked so beautiful to me. I thought “Is it because she’s my mother?”. Everybody loves their mother…Well, mostly everybody, but to me, she just looked so beautiful. She never aged, and my father, he never got overweight. He always kept his weight down. You are your parents, and I think it’s hereditary.
Lita: I have not had so much as one pinprick in my face, Botox or plastic surgery of any kind. The only thing I have is tattoos. Those are the only pinpricks I’ve had. I’ve got to say it’s hereditary, and I try to take care of myself. You like to dress nice. I like to wear rocked-out clothes, especially being a female, you can get away with doing that. Keeping your hair nice, your skin, your teeth, whatever, it all adds up.
Johnny: It definitely does. To move on, as alluded to earlier, you’ve performed in multiple genres of rock, from the pop-rock sounds of “Lita” to the alternative sounds of “Black” to the nu metal sound of “Wicked Wonderland”. What genre of music outside of rock would I be most surprised to find that you enjoy?
Lita: Hmm. Let’s see. I don’t know. I’m a pretty die-hard rock fan. I don’t know if you would consider something like Elton John or U2 as kind of soft rock.
Johnny: Yeah. I consider them that. They do generally tend to have a softer sound.
Lita: Yeah. I don’t really sway off of rock-and-roll. I’m not a jazz freak. I don’t really listen to any kind of symphonies. I’m a pretty die-hard rock fan. If I’m sitting around the house, I’ll put on some old Thin Lizzy or some old ZZ Top. I also listen to the newer stuff, like Pop Evil, but it’s always rock.
Johnny: Perfectly understandable. To my next question: Both with the Runaways and on your own, I think you should be in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame twice over. Do you ever wonder “what’s taking so long?” while artists like Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five get in the first year they’re eligible?
Lita: I think it’s definitely something that’s in the making and coming soon within the next couple of years. There’s a lot of politics behind the Runaways, so those politics get in the way sometimes, but I agree with you. I think The Runaways absolutely deserve to be in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame because we opened the doors for a lot of women in rock and roll. We’re still going. We’re still rocking. We started in 1975, for God’s sake, and here we are in 2014. I think we definitely deserve to be in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. It’s coming.
Johnny: I certainly hope so. To go to my next question: You’ve been a popular guest at genre conventions in recent years. What has been your favorite part of attending conventions like Chiller Theatre, for example?
Lita: I love meeting all the fans. They’re so interesting to talk to with all their stories. It’s a chance to be up close and one on one with your fans. You don’t always get to see that. You don’t always get everybody backstage. You don’t always get to get out into the audience and speak to people. It’s their chance, if they want to say hello or get an autograph or buy a CD, which is hard to find these days, unless it’s on eBay or Amazon or iTunes. It’s kind of hard to find a CD, but you can just walk up and buy it. We have CDs for sale, which is nice. Just to be one on one with the fans…It’s also great to meet all these other celebrities who are there. They seem to be such wonderful people with their history and what they’ve done as far as filmmaking. Different celebrities, different rockers, it’s pretty cool. You become friends with people you never think you’d be friends with. For instance, I became friends with Gunnar Hansen, who was the original Leatherface from “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”. He’s a great guy. It’s like “Really, would I have ever thought I’d be friends with the original Leatherface from ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’? Hell no”. It’s kind of scary, but it turns out he’s a really cool dude. People like that, Jason from “Friday The 13th”, Freddy Kruegger, all these people are a part of these conventions, Linda Blair…It’s just very cool. They’re very down-to-earth and not what you see in the films.
Johnny: Yeah. I actually saw, on your Facebook page, pictures that were taken this weekend of you, Cherie Currie and Cassandra Peterson, a.k.a Elvira, Mistress Of The Dark, and I must say you all looked splendid.
Lita: Thank you, thank you. We posted that as a Happy Father’s Day picture, which I thought was appropriate. Cassandra Peterson is just a sweetheart. She’s just such a cool person.
Johnny: I actually did an e-mail interview with her several years ago for RetroJunk, but there were a lot of questions that, since it was an e-mail interview, she didn’t have time to answer. I’m actually going to be getting back in contact with her representative in September about the possibility of a phone interview to take care of those additional questions.
Johnny: To get back to you, on “Living Like A Runaway”, you covered Elton John’s “The Bitch Is Back”, which is also the title of your 2013 live album. Have you heard from him about your cover of the song?
Lita: Yeah, I did. I went to see Elton John. We were on the Monsters Of Rock Cruise in 2013. He had played the Hard Rock in Fort Lauderdale, and the ship from the Monsters Of Rock Cruise docked there. When I got off the ship, somebody had told me Elton John is playing, and I thought “Oh, I’ve got to go see him and tell him we’ve done this cover of his song”. I went backstage to go say hello, and he said “Thank you for doing a cover of my song”. I was honored, and I said, “Thank you for letting me do a cover of your song”. I’ve always been a huge Elton John fan. I don’t think there’s anybody on the face of the Earth that isn’t. How could you not love Elton John? He’s written some of the best songs ever. Whether you’re a metalhead or not, there’s just such great songs in there. He was very, very gracious and very kind and thankful that I had covered his song, and I was happy to hear that. He was just such a gentleman. It was a good visit, and I got his vote of approval.
Johnny: That’s fantastic to hear. To move to my next question: You played the Hitchhiker in the 1992 movie “Highway To Hell”. Knowing that sometimes a character’s gender can change in between development and filming, had you auditioned for the role of Beezel in that movie?
Lita: No, they wanted me for the Hitchhiker, which is hot, because I think the reason they wanted me for that particular scene is because it says in the scene, “Sex, drugs and rock and roll”. I don’t think anybody else could’ve played that part. That was a rocker. It would have to have been some actress. I just couldn’t see someone like Ann Wilson sticking her head in the window saying “Sex, drugs and rock and roll”. I was the only one who I think could really fill those shoes at that time.
Johnny: That definitely sounded good and made sense. Speaking of movies, as artists mature, they often delve into making music for movies, and sometimes win Oscars, from David Byrne and Carly Simon in the 80s to Bruce Springsteen and Anne Dudley in the 90s to Annie Lennox and Eminem in the 00s. Would you ever venture into film music?
Lita: Yeah, of course I would love to. It’s something on my to-do list, I guess you could say. It’s pretty easy to write a song or a piece of music when you have a direction, and when you have a film that’s already made and created, that gives you a direction already. You don’t have to make one up. For instance, one of my songs, “Under The Gun”, was written about a police officer. It was written for a film. Something happened, the backers lost money or something, and the film went under. I don’t remember exactly what it was because it was a long time ago, but that song was written for the film, which was about a police officer under the gun.
Lita: The concept behind the music was already there. Sometimes it keeps people from writing songs because they can’t always come up with a good concept. That’s why we end up writing songs about our own life experiences, because it gives us a true concept to write the songs about. I would definitely be interested in writing for movie soundtracks.
Johnny: I hope you achieve that dream someday. I have to admit I’d really like to see you win an Oscar.
Lita: Thank you, John. That would be awesome.
Johnny: To move to my next question, the original “Out For Blood” cover had to be changed. Since it was a guitar that was bleeding and not a person, did you find it ridiculous that it had to be changed?
Lita: Yeah, I did. It was pretty stupid, but at the time, like I said before, we broke down a lot of barriers for people and things, and that was one of them. If it had been a guy holding the guitar, maybe it would have been a different situation. I don’t know.
Lita: Everybody knows guitars don’t have guts and blood…Even little children know that. Guitars are usually made out of wood or some dense material. They put a picture of me with no pants on in place of the bloody guitar. Did they ever think that maybe they should have picked a picture where I was dressed? It makes for good conversation.
Johnny: That’s true, and to my final question: Will your upcoming autobiography also be released in audio format, or is it too far ahead to make plans like that?
Lita: We haven’t talked about that yet.
Johnny: I hope it is released in audio format because I love reading, especially biographies, and I’m also into audio books, too, so to actually hear you narrating your story would be amazing.
Lita: It would be. That’s a really cool idea. I don’t think it’s in our contract or our agreement now that you mention it, but you never know. I mean, we’ve got quite a ways to go before the book comes out, a few more months, so you never know. Things can be changed.
Johnny: I just want to say that this has been an honor to speak to you. I mentioned writing for RetroJunk earlier. In 2008, I did an article for them entitled “Some Of My Fave 80s Women”, where I paid tribute to famous women of the 80s who made an impression on me with their talents and looks. You were one of them, and “Kiss Me Deadly” was the song that made an impression on me. As someone who unfortunately came of age with grunge and alternative rock, songs like that served as an escape for me, and it’s been wonderful to speak to you.
Lita: Thank you, thank you, John. I appreciate it.
I would like to thank Lita Ford for agreeing to do this interview, and Jon Freeman for helping to set it all up.
If you want to know more about Lita Ford then:
check out her official Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/litaofficial and visit her official website at http://litafordonline.com/. Her autobiography “Living Like A Runaway” is due out September 9th.
Keep on rocking, Lita, and keep on rocking, all of you.