Lita Ford: Neon Angel on the Road to Recovery
Finally free from the chains of what she’s called a “mentally, physically, sexually” abusive relationship with glam-metal singer Jim Gillette, Lita Ford has been approaching her music career with a renewed sense of purpose. In 2012, she released her first album in three years, Living Like a Runaway, a collaboration with guitar shredder Gary Hoey and a conscious attempt to return to her more stripped-down punk and metal roots.
Last year, she continued moving forward with a live album, The Bitch is Back. The set featured fan favorites spanning her solo career, from 1983’s Out for Blood to 1990’s Stiletto, including her biggest hits “Kiss Me Deadly” and “Close My Eyes Forever,” as well as five tracks from Living Like a Runaway.
After years of estrangement, Ford has also reconciled with old Runaways bandmates Joan Jett and, in particular, Cherie Currie, with whom she’s become extremely close over the last couple years. Ford and Currie recently began collaborating again, releasing a Christmas single (“Rock This Christmas Down”) in December, and will be signing autographs and taking photos with fans in Atlanta this month as part of horror convention Days of the Dead.
Ford also has a new book coming in 2014 – “It’s an autobiography,” she says, “going through my childhood and The Runaways and the insane Lita era of the ’80s, and it’s gonna be good.” When Stomp and Stammer caught up with Ford last month, she was getting ready for the annual NAMM Show, a music-gear convention in Anaheim, where she was repping her many sponsors from BC Rich guitars to Monster Cables.
You’ve got a new live album that just came out, The Bitch Is Back…
“We came off the Def Leppard and Poison tour, and we had this recording we did at the Canyon Club [in L.A.], which is our hometown, and the recording was so good. It’s really for the fans. We just wanted to do a live album for them. They helped put together the artwork, it’s dedicated to them – it’s just a little piece of rock ‘n’ roll history for the fans.”
Several of the songs from Bitch Is Back are off of your most recent studio record, Living Like a Runaway. A lot of people have been saying this is a return to form for you.
“I was looking for a producer for my next album, although I didn’t have any songs written yet, and Gary Hoey called me one day and said, ‘You know, Lita, I have a studio at my house. Why don’t you come over and record?’ So I hopped on a plane and flew from Ft. Lauderdale to New Hampshire where he lives. It was like – I would start a sentence and he would finish it, and he’d say exactly what I would have said. It was a match made in heaven. And it just rocked. We had great chemistry, and that’s really hard to find. I’m actually meeting him tomorrow at the NAMM Show, and we’re gonna do [Living Like a Runaway‘s] ‘The Devil In My Head’ and ‘Relentless’ over at the Monster Cables booth.”
There’s a big horror festival coming through Atlanta in February, and you’ll be there with your old Runaways bandmate Cherie Currie. This will be one of the first times you’ve appeared together in 30 years.
“We’re excited. We’re really happy to be together again. It shows when you look at us, and you can see it when we look at each other. It’s surreal for us, too, because it’s been so long since we’ve played together and been together. It’s so hard – sometimes we have to fight back the tears. We were kids in The Runaways – we went through a lot together. Though we never really knew each other because we were so young, and then we went our separate ways.”
After all the years in between, and the lives lived on your own – coming back together now, is it almost like meeting somebody for the first time?
“Well, we did a photo session together, and that was fun. I’d look at her, and I’d be like, ‘God, am I really looking at Cherie standing next to me?’ It’s so cool. And we did a Christmas single together, which everybody just went nuts over because it was Cherie and I. And we feel the same way about these signings we’re gonna do at Days of the Dead – it’s just gonna be a blast. I’m gonna bring an acoustic guitar. We might have to break out a song or two.”
Obviously, there was some great chemistry in The Runaways. Sitting with Cherie again and playing music, was it a familiar feeling? Did it bring anything back?
“Oh, yeah. That was like riding a bike. It felt right.”
You hadn’t seen Cherie, really, since The Runaways. What was it that brought you back together? I know there was a sudden renewed interest in the band when the Runaways movie came out a few years ago.
“I didn’t have anything to do with the movie. That was Joan Jett’s thing. So I don’t really know anything about it. Actually, what happened was that I wanted to do a Runaways reunion. I talked to my manager Bobby [Collin], and he reached out to Joan’s manager Kenny Laguna, and I had dinner with Joan. Joan gave me Cherie’s contact information, and then Cherie and I had dinner, too. Joan lives on the East Coast, I live on the West Coast, and Cherie is only about 45 minutes from me, so we’re neighbors. We’ve been hanging out a lot lately. It’s been great. We’re able to get on a plane, and come to Atlanta and do the Days of the Dead and the Christmas single, and she hopped up on stage at The Whiskey with me [and we played ‘Cherry Bomb’ with Slash from Guns N’ Roses]. Did you see that? Oh, my God – it was amazing!” (Ed.’s note: There’s footage on YouTube)
Was it spontaneous?
“Pretty much. It was a last-minute thing. We knew the day before, but we didn’t tell anybody. We wanted to make it a surprise for the audience.”
What do you like most about working with Cherie?
“Just being around her is wonderful. It’s like being with my sister. It’s a sisterly love. And it just comes back. I don’t know how to explain it. I don’t have a sister, a real blood-relative sister. The closest thing for me would be Cherie.”
You said you’d suggested a Runaways reunion. Has that moved along any further? Is anyone interested?
“Well, the problem is Joan. We’re all waiting on Joanie.”
Has she ever explained to you why she isn’t ready to do it?
“Nope. I know she’s working her own album, releasing her own record, but as far as a reunion goes, I can’t answer that question. I wish I could.”
I think it’s something everyone would love to see.