The rock phenomenon was well and truly rolling by the time The Runaways burst onto the LA scene in 1975, but the feisty all-girl band was something the world had never seen before. Managed by the ruthless Kim Fowley, The Runaways shocked the world with their unabashed punk rock, lewd lyrics and general “unladylike” behaviour. Whether crowds were mortified or enraptured, there’s no denying that The Runaways and their platform boots helped kick down barriers for women in rock n roll.
The brainchild of rhythm guitarist and rock legend Joan Jett, The Runaways was made up of lead guitarist Lita Ford, guitarist Jackie Fox, bassist Micki Steele, Sandy West on drums and, of course, the blonde bombshell Cherie Currie on lead vocals. But just like a cherry bomb, the fame, substance abuse and conflicts caused the band to fizzle out fast. By the end of 1977, Currie and Fox had fled the band, putting the first nail in the coffin before the queens of noise eventually went their separate ways in 1978.
Over 40 years later and Currie is back and ready to give fans what they missed when her musical career was cut short in the late 70s. After spending the last few decades pursuing other creative outlets, such as chainsaw art and acting, the songstress has finally returned to the road. Though she toured much of the world with The Runaways, Currie will be popping her down under cherry when she visits Australia and New Zealand on her solo tour in May. We had a chat with Currie about the tour, her 2015 album Reverie and how her tumultuous time in The Runaways changed her life and the face of rock n roll.
Music Feeds: Congratulations on the release of Reverie last year and the upcoming Australian and New Zealand tour!
Cherie Currie: Thank you so much. I’m honoured, I’m really honoured. Finally I get to go to Australia and New Zealand! I’m thrilled!
MF: Yeah! You never made it to Oz with the Runaways. What are you looking forward to the most about coming down under in May?
CC: Oh my goodness! I guess I have lived vicariously through photographs and I’ve got some friends who live in Australia and it’s just so beautiful there. For, jeez, 40 years I’ve wanted to come, so to me it’s just a dream come true. And the people are so nice! It is beautiful. Honest to god, if my son didn’t live here (in the US), I would live there.
MF: Out of all the places you’ve toured and travelled over the years, where has been your favourite?
CC: Wow! Well, Japan was always right up there and my last tour in Scotland was just wonderful and of course London, I always loved playing in London. You know, it’s just so nice to go to these countries and not be home sick, a home sick kid. You know? (laughs). Because when I was in The Runaways, you know, it really was a culture shock. I couldn’t wait to go to Europe because David Bowie came from London and I couldn’t wait to go. But I got there and I felt like it was Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
The sun never came out the whole time. You know, maybe one day during the whole two months we were there and this California girl started freaking out a little bit. But now I can really appreciate it because I’m 56 years old and I really can enjoy wherever I am now. I don’t need mummy and daddy anymore.
MF: You did a 8 show tour in the UK. What’s it like being back on the road?
CC: Well, it was really terrific. This band that’s coming with me to Australia and New Zealand, they were my band before the UK tour with Alex Michael and are just terrific guys. And of course I toured Canada and the United States, those four tours were with my son and that was all really fun. The band is great and they’re really good looking guys. Half of them are available and young, you know, for any of the girls coming to the show, they’ll enjoy that (laughs)!
MF: You’ll obviously be playing some new tracks from Reverie, but what else can we expect from your solo tour?
CC: Well, I really, really want to give the fans what they want. I know for myself, being a classic rock-type gal, that whenever I do see bands from that time, you want to be taken back in time. So, for me, I think it’s important to play the best The Runaways songs and let people see, you know, with their own eyes, something that they didn’t get to see. So I’m really looking forward to that. So, a couple of tracks from Reverie and a little montage for my heroes as well, Suzie Quatro and David Bowie and things like that.
MF: As a frontwoman, you obviously knew how to rouse a crowd during The Runaways, but do you feel extra pressure when you’re performing solo?
CC: No, um, for some reason I think stepping on a stage is probably easier for me than, you know, entertaining a crowd was just something that was born into me. That’s easier than even this interview, though this interview has been lovely! But that’s the truth, I mean everything else works for me. I mean, for me, getting on a stage is what I was born to do. I realised that at my first concert which was Diamond Dogs by David Bowie and I really realised that’s when that connection happened and that was something I was going to do and I did. Yeah, I really look forward to it because I just love the fans and I love making them happy, you know?
MF: You mentioned the Diamond Dogs tour. How old were you when you saw that?
CC: I was 14 or just turned 15. It was unbelievable, it was just one of those moments where the skies open and the ground shakes and you get that realisation that “That’s what I want to do!” and before I knew it I was in The Runaways. Again, just like a whirlwind, it just happened.
MF: Some recounts of The Runaways history, such as the 2010 film, make it seem like you were plucked out of obscurity and placed into the band. Had you always been a singer or was this a talent you discovered when you joined The Runaways?
CC: Well, my father was a great singer. And, being a twin, as kids we would, from the time we were two years old, my mom and dad would sit us up on a corn stand and we would sing and they would give us free corn (laughs). It’s so funny! My sister and I were on My Three Sons, which was a show out here with Fred MacMurray where we sang “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”. So I did sing, but I never ever really sang until I was in The Runaways.
MF: Wow, what a way to start!
CC: I know! A lot of pressure!
MF: While you’ve remained creative with your artwork and acting career, Reverie is your first album in around 35 years. What made you want to get back into making music again?
CC: Well, I actually made a record with Matt Sorum (Guns N’ Roses) back in 2009-2010 and that record has been sitting on a shelf for, you know, five years now. And I have finally signed the contract so that record will come out and it’s got, you know, a lot of great collaborations on it. You know, Billy Corgan from Smashing Pumpkins wrote a duet on it for he and I, Brody Dalle and Slash and Duff and Matt. So that will be coming out within the year.
And there’s also the live album that I did where Suzie Quatro came on stage and guested on a song that I wrote for her autobiography film that is actually being produced there in Australia. And they had asked me, they filmed a segment for the film, because, of course, to talk about Suzi Quatro I could do it all day long like I could David Bowie. And when the director said “You should write a song for this film” and I was like “Come on?!” and I thought “Wow, you know what, THAT interests me!” because she interested me and she loved the song enough that, you know, we did it live in London. She showed up in the middle of the song after we chanted her name and it was just brilliant.
So, the live album will be available also when I’m there in Australia and a couple of bonus tracks including the Suzie Quatro live performance and, you know, a couple of other fun surprises on that record.
MF: Wow, that’s amazing! I bet your 14 year old self wouldn’t have believed that one day you’d be sharing the stage and singing a duet with Suzi Quatro.
CC: No! And in fact, there is a DVD coming out as well where I’m standing on stage and there’s a time where I’m speaking to her and she’s up there playing and I literally just lose it. I mean and I wrote the song and I just stopped dead in my tracks (laughs). I mean, I couldn’t believe it. It was just a time that I so appreciate when things like that happen. And she’s become a good friend and I know she’s really, really appreciated down under and that’s great. And she should be, I’ve seen her concerts since I was 14 years old as well.
CC: The album features the work of Lita Ford and was produced by your former manager Kim Fowley. What was it like working with them again?
Well, my son actually produced the songs with Lita. Except for one “Dark World” where Lita came and did some ad libs on that one. But you know, it was great because she’d never been very kind when I was a kid and that haunted me a lot. So, to be able to get to meet her again and get to know her, the only two mothers in the band by the way, that kind’ve helped me get over what I went through as a kid in that band.
I hear her book just came out, so I wish her well on that. It’s good for her. It seems like a very brave book. It was good to get to know her on a personal level, you know, as adults. It was very nice.
MF: Given the rocky relationship you had with Fowley, was it the same process to continue working with him again?
CC: Mmm, yes. And again, you know, I wanted to – I did not have good memories at all. So when he reached out to me almost two years ago I to do a record with him, I jumped at the chance because I also wanted my son – I knew he was very ill – and I wanted my son to experience songwriting with Kim Fowley. I wanted to make good memories because the last thing I want is to hold on to bad memories. Make new ones, better ones.
And towards the end of his life he actually came and lived here, he was bed-ridden, but he came and lived in my house for about nine days. He wished to stay but he was just too ill and had to go back for the hospital for another surgery and so I’m just glad that I have great memories of Kim now.
MF: Yeah, definitely. It must’ve felt good to let go of those grudges.
CC: Oh yeah. That doesn’t hurt anyone but ourselves, does it?
MF: Definitely! How do you think you approached the songwriting process differently when writing your solo album in comparison to when you were with The Runaways?
CC: Well, you know, there’s a song on there called “Believe” which I wrote, well I guess it was 20 years ago now. Um, and it was great to be able to have a song like that on the record and to work with Kim. I trusted him as a songwriter and also my song, and there’s also a couple of The Runaways songs on there. But it’s really neat to kind of be my own boss. That’s why being a chainsaw artist was really what drew me to chainsaw art is that, and why I had to break out on my own, is because I just wanted to be able to do it my way for once.
Whether it fails, I can live with it if it fails and I did it my way, but it’s very difficult when you’ve let other people, you know, make decisions and then it doesn’t work. Then you’re always questioning “What if I’d have just stayed my course?” Because we all have our own individual path. We can’t continue to have other people tell us how to walk on our path. So at 56 years old, it took me a long time to learn that, really. It really, really did.
MF: The music industry was very male dominated when you first started out, and unfortunately it still is. What advice would you have for female musicians in 2016?
CC: Well, it is very, very different than it was in The Runaways. I mean, girls were just not in the business. Very, very few. The thing is that if you believe that this is your path and your passion, get out there. Play as much as you can, write as much as you can and if you love it and it’s what you really want to do with your life, it will work. It always does. If that’s what you were put on this planet to do, it’ll work. Never let fear be part of the equation.
Cherie Currie tours Australia in May, grab all the deets below!
Thursday 26 May 2016
The Triffid, Brisbane, QLD
Friday 27 May 2016
Manning Bar, Camperdown, NSW
Saturday 28 May 2016
Corner Hotel, Richmond, VIC
Tuesday 31 May 2016
The Gov, Hindmarsh, SA
Wednesday 1 June 2016
Rosemount Hotel, Perth, WA