Interview: Former Runaways Guitarist and Queen Of Rock Lita Ford
Thursday, November 7th, 2013 at 3:00 pm
Since her breakthrough in the 1970s with all-girl hard rockers The Runaways, Lita Ford has become one of the world’s foremost guitar-wielding goddesses. Twice. She managed to come back from a 13-year music hiatus to fight her way back to the top of her game and is still releasing punchy hard rock albums that leave many of her (few) peers in the shadows to prove she is still the first lady of rock.
As well as cranking out albums full of hard rock, Ford has set up a Facebook page dedicated to raising awareness of Parental Alienation, of which she is currently a victim after her divorce from singer Jim Gillette.
Lita Ford is one of America’s greatest living rock stars, but her story did not start in the U.S. We got a chance to talk to her recently about her upbringing, music, touring, and what’s to come for the tattooed queen of rock.
Geeks of Doom: Is it right you were born over here in England?
Lita Ford: Yeah, my parents were in the war, they were in World War II. They met in Europe; my mother was from Rome and my father was wounded in the hospital in World War II, he got put into an Italian hospital and that’s where he met my mom and ended up living back in England after the war and had a few kids then eventually I came along! So I ended up in England being born in England. Loved it. I still love it.
Geeks of Doom: You have memories of living here?
Lita Ford: I really do, believe it or not! I don’t have any photographs. When you look at some of those old photographs and the wallpaper; stuff like that brings back memories.
Geeks of Doom: How old were you when you left?
Lita Ford: I was four. It’s amazing how much you remember when you’re only four, you remember those young days.
Geeks of Doom: Where were you living?
Lita Ford: We lived in Streatham [South London]. We weren’t wealthy so we came a long way. It’s tough out there, but my parents didn’t have that much money when I was a little girl because we were just coming out of the war and it was like the Great Depression or something.
Geeks of Doom: And is that what prompted the move to America?
Lita Ford: Umm, I don’t know. You know, I really don’t know why my parents chose to move to the U.S., but I remember the main thing was my mother wanted beach! She wanted to be on the beach so every time we ended up someplace, the weather wasn’t right. Like Boston was too cold; Dallas, Texas had no beach, so we ended up in California. California girl!
Geeks of Doom: Do you enjoy coming back here?
Lita Ford: Oh, fuck yeah! Fuck yeah, I love it over there. I’m fine if I never leave.
Geeks of Doom: Could you ever see yourself moving back here or settling over here with your kids?
Lita Ford: Well, yeah; you never know what the future brings.
Geeks of Doom: That’s very true. Let’s get to the music: You still tour lots – do Lita Ford tours run smoothly?
Lita Ford: Ha! They’re chaotic! It’s like going to war and then coming out winning. You gotta win the war. It’s such a good feeling when you come out [and] you’re done. You go on these little adventures and [they’re] really difficult, in a good way. A challenge. And we got such a good band and we got such a great group of guys working with us that everything is so professional. We take a wacky situation and we make the best out of it. We come out of it with such a good feeling, all the shows have been so good they’re just magic because of the combination of people I have working with me.
Geeks of Doom: Who’s in your live band at the moment?
Lita Ford: Bobby Rock is on drums, Mitch Perry and I both share the guitars so it frees [me] up, I can sing more than focus on nothing but guitar playing. I’m able to sing and play, so Mitch really covers a lot and he’s badass! Marty O’Brien plays bass and he’s like this cool little dude that’s really quiet and all of a sudden he straps on a bass and it’s like he straps on an alter ego and he becomes this monster motherfucker on the bass! It’s awesome. We got Doogie with us. Doogie is one of the roadies that used to work with Van Halen. He worked with Van Halen since nineteen-eighty-something, so he’s got all the Van Halen stories!
Geeks of Doom: And the Lita Ford stories now!
Lita Ford: Oh yeah! Oh yeah, man!
Geeks of Doom: Not only those guys, but over the years in the studio and live you’ve worked with so many people. Is there anyone you’d like to work with that you haven’t yet?
Lita Ford: Wow. I could probably think of a lot of people. Nobody really sticks out. Like, Oh, I’ve really wanted to work with that person. Because I think if I really wanted to I would have already approached that person. But there’s a handful of people that are so amazing. Look at Elton John, we just did “The Bitch Is Back.” “The Bitch Is Back” was an amazing song in its original form and Elton John? Come on! That’s the shit! You go there and you re-do a song like that, we made it more guitar-orientated, more guitar-heavy I should say, rather than the keyboard or piano. But it worked, there’s not too many people that could sing “The Bitch Is Back”!
Geeks of Doom: You’re still touring the album Living Like a Runaway – is there a timeframe for when you might start a follow-up to it?
Lita Ford: I’ve started! It’s badass, haha!
Geeks of Doom: What stage is it at?
Lita Ford: We’ve just started a couple of songs and we’ve got an idea, got an album title and that’s huge. That’s something huge to work with when you’ve got the title and we’ve got a couple of songs started and we just have to stick with what we’re doing “˜cause it’s fuckin’ dead on the money.
Geeks of Doom: Can you give me the title?
Lita Ford: No! Ha ha! I can’t! You gotta ask though, right?
Geeks of Doom: Exactly! Everyone knows you took time out and time away you lived on an island and you raised your sons. When you decided to come back and start touring again, was it easy to get back into that mindset?
Lita Ford: Oh yeah. It’s not like riding a bike, though, you really have to polish up on a lot of shit. For me, I think writing was just pouring out of me, I couldn’t believe it. I was just overflowing with fuckin’ ideas and songs and it was awesome. Stopping it was the hard part because then I had to focus on the Poison/Def Leppard tour and that was fantastic, what a way to kick off that album with that tour. It was really great so we’ve been working really good, really heavy since last year except for Christmas time. You know everything comes to an end, so I’m going to make something of myself this Christmas and do something productive instead of sit around [and] eat!
Geeks of Doom: But that’s what it’s for, isn’t it? For hardworking people like you to finally stop and relax?
Lita Ford: No, I hope not. I hate relaxing.
Geeks of Doom: Fair enough! How’s the autobiography coming on?
Lita Ford: Slow, just like anything. But it will be worth the wait.
Geeks of Doom: Out For Blood, the first Lita Ford album, is 30 years old this year.
Lita Ford: Oh really?!
Geeks of Doom: Yeah. Do you think it still holds up?
Lita Ford: Oh my God, yeah man! We play it [the song “Out For Blood”] live, it fuckin’ rocks! It rocks! And also we do “Cherry Bomb” and “Black Leather” by The Runaways, so we kind of take the audience back that are familiar with that era of rock “˜n’ roll. We take them back for three songs and I bring out the black Hamer [guitar] that I used to play during The Runaways, it’s really cool.
Geeks of Doom: This year, after the tour dates are up, what’s next for the Lita Ford band?
Lita Ford: Well, I’ve gotta work on the book and I’ve gotta work on the next record and I started a course at UCLA college in screenplay writing for television! How’s that tickle your fancy?!
Geeks of Doom: Wow, that’s really cool!
Lita Ford: I told you I’m not going to sit around and eat during the holidays! I want to keep myself busy so I thought, what an interesting thing, what an interesting field to get involved in. I’m living in Hollywood.
Geeks of Doom: You want a piece of the action?
Lita Ford: Yeah!
Geeks of Doom: What made you want to study it?
Lita Ford: I’ve taken acting lessons before and I’ve done little tiny cameos in all kinds of different things. It’s just an interesting world. Reality shows to me are, I don’t know, I can’t stand them. I think they’re done. The older television where people used to really create people like I Love Lucy or Jackie Gleason [The Honeymooners], The Munsters; those were classic shows. They were some things that somebody created, they weren’t just standing in somebody’s living room filming what they’re eating. It’s like, boy, that’s creative! I just don’t get it. But it’s something to do that I think I would really enjoy.
Geeks of Doom: I guess writing screenplays is not far from what you do in songwriting: it’s telling stories.
Lita Ford: Yes, Living Like A Runaway is a very visual album. There’s a scene and a setting for every song, you can almost see it when you listen to the songs … I think it’d help me for the book writing, too, which is one of the main reasons … I’m just learning the course so I can say I did it. Haven’t you ever wanted to own a pilot’s license or something like that? It’s just one of those things.