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Lita Ford Talks ‘Living Like A Runaway,’ Her Hiatus, ’80s Resurgence

Posted by on May 31, 2012

photo: Mark Weiss

Lita Ford has been through quite a bit in the last few years: a ‘comeback’ album that she was merely a participant in (2010’s poorly-received Wicked Wonderland), a painful separation from her husband and children, and almost getting hit by a train, then arrested for it (more on that below). However, things are turning around for her. Her new album, Living Like a Runaway, (out on SPV on June 19) is a lot more of a traditional, Lita-sounding record, and as is apparent from the album title, she’s addressing her time in The Runaways, the iconic ’70s all girl hard rock band that recently inspired a film. And she’ll be on tour with fellow ’80s stalwarts Def Leppard and Poison later this Summer. We first started talking about the cover of the album, which features Ford standing on railroad tracks.

 

So you were talking about your album cover.

It was fun, we were on the train tracks and the sun was going down, and Mark Weiss was doing the photo session. This train was coming and I’m like, ‘Mark, a train is coming,’ and he goes, “Yeah, the headlights look really cool behind you.” So I’m standing there making a pose and I said, ‘let me know when the train is a little too close’ and (SPV label head) Maria said, “Uh, you guys should probably get off the tracks now,” and I could hear this train coming and he was right behind me. So we took a few steps off the track and the conductor drove past us and said, “I called the cops!” So me, and Maria, and Mark Weiss ran into his studio we locked the doors and turned off the lights; we were in there trying to hide from the cops. And they came back the next day – they were there for two days looking for us.

 

Its gonna be a good picture, but it might lead into a criminal investigation!

I know right? It looks superimposed, but Mark actually did get the photograph with me and the train right behind me, literally right behind me. And the look on my face is like, holy shit, you know, am I gonna get hit?

 

That sounds like Stand by Me!. So you titled the album Living Like a Runaway, which is essentially confronting your past head on. Was that intentional?

Well it has a couple different meanings actually. We weren’t sure if we were going to call the album Branded or Living Like a Runaway.And I got on the phone with [my label] and they loved Living Like a Runaway. There was no doubt in their mind that that was the album title. And at the time I hadn’t even written the song yet, so I thought, ‘okay well great, great title, it’s a done deal.’ So I hung up the phone and I immediately went to work on trying to write the song. And it came about that at the time I really was living like a runaway. I mean, I had run away from home. Not in the Runaways days, because my parents were wonderful; I didn’t have to run away from home when I was in the Runaways. This song does reflect back on the Runaways’ days, when I was seventeen riding in the back of a black limousine, shakin’ the streets of Hollywood, and it does reflect back on the Runaways’ days. But it also reflects back on a couple years ago when I really did leave home. I left home with nothing but the shirt on my back. I had nowhere to live and had no money. I was living like a runaway.  And, my song writing partner, Michael Dan, he said to me, “there’s your title right there.”

 

What did you think of the film that came out and your portrayal by Scout Taylor Compton?

I got to meet Scout, but I didn’t see the film. I saw the trailers, and that’s about it. I think they did a real good job with the casting of the crew. You know, Kristen Stewart played Joan Jett amazing, I really couldn’t tell who was who. But I didn’t see the film.

 

No desire to?

Well, it’s pretty much a film on Joan and Cherie. And I did read Cherie’s book, so I think some things are better left untouched.

 

So I guess there’s no possibility of getting the band back together even though the film might’ve created a little bit more interest from those people who weren’t there for the first go-round?

Well I think its timing. I think if the Runaways were to be put back together it would have to be the appropriate time in the music industry. 15 years ago they tried to put the Runaways back together, and it was a really bad time. It was during the days of Nirvana, Nirvana had taken over, and it was not a good time for the Runaways. Joan and I were not really on good terms, and I just didn’t really think it would be something that timing wise, would have worked. I’d just had a baby, I mean, it was just bad timing. Now, my kids are older, Cherie’s all for it. The grunge has gone away, thank god. I think now would be the perfect time because, you know there are a lot of women in rock now, and I think it would be a perfect time. I know Cherie wants to do it, I want to do it. If the girls are into it, unfortunately we don’t have Sandy anymore but that’s the only bad point. I don’t know if Joan would do it without Sandy.

 

That is a perfectly legit reason, really.

Yeah, its really up to Joan.

 

How do you feel about the resurgence of 80s metal?

Yeah I think it’s fucking great. There was a time where 80s metal went in the toilet. It was like a dirty word, you know? Its like, why pick on somebody’s hair? I just don’t understand, that was some of the best music out there, ever. There was fantastic stuff, don’t pick on that. And right now I think the music industry is up against a wall, and really has nowhere to go, other than to turn around and come back. It’s almost like being at the top of the stairs, and having nowhere to go. You can’t climb any higher because you’re already at the top. You have to turn around and come back down. I think backing up and going back to the 80s and bringing back some of that metal, I think it’s a great idea. You know Judas Priest, the Old Scorpions records, I think it would be great.

 

How forward are you looking to play the arena shows you’re playing with Def Leppard?

Well, I think it’s a real godsend we’re on that tour, and I am very honored to have been asked to be on that tour. We are 100 percent dedicated to kickin’ ass, and when you’re on a tour of that magnitude, you’ve gotta be grateful, and give it all you got musically.

 

Have you played crowds of that size before?

We’ve done a lot of festivals, so yeah we’ve played to big crowds. But when you’re third on the bill, you don’t have room for a stage show, or pyrotechnics and large screens. We really have the toughest job of all. We don’t have room to move, and have to make the best with what we have. Therefore, we’ve gotta sound great and we gotta look great. Hopefully we’ve got enough time to play our new songs, at least a couple of them.  But were also gonna do some one-off shows, headlining, too.

 

With the exception of Wicked Wonderland, you went a long time in between albums. What led to such a long hiatus in between records?

I was 38 when I had my first son, in 1997. I just wanted to be a good mom; you know rock and roll takes all of you. There is no room for anything else in your life, really. It’s a 100% full time job, and I didn’t want to turn my back on my son. I wanted to be a full time mom, and that was a good time for me to bow out, because again, those three guys from Seattle you know, came in and took over, and it was a good time for me to focus on being a good mom. And then I had my second son Rocco, and we moved to the Caribbean right after 9/11. We lived on this deserted island, and all I did was hang out with my kids. I homeschooled my kids, I played with them 24/7, we went fishing and snorkeling. But honestly, after 10 years of that, I got bored, I was ready for civilization.

 

So will you be playing any material from your last album on tour?

No.

 

It definitely wasn’t a fan favorite. What were your thoughts on that record?

It’s not a Lita record. It was out of my control, and it’s really not a Lita record. For those of you who love it, great. But it’s not a Lita record.

 

Did you realize that as you were making it?

Oh yeah. They just went ahead and kept making it and I just sat back and went, ‘go for it buddy.’

 

So how therapeutic was Living Like a Runaway to write?

This record, oh boy, it saved my life. I mean, I was able to write this album through the darkest times of my life, I was able to pull this album together and after I’d finished each song, it was like having the best sex of your life. I’d come off the plane goin’ like, “Yeah! I got a new song!” and I’d put the CD in my car and crank it up. It just felt really good, it felt very satisfactory, and you know, god… what’s the word I’m looking for?

 

Cathartic?

Oh god, completely. Like you just had the best sex of your life, like you just partied your brains out. You know, the next day you get that stupid grin on your face. That’s how I felt with each song. You know, our producer Gary has a beautiful wife and she really helped us a lot. She was there typing out lyrics, rearranging verses and choruses, getting people on the phone for us, and cooking – she was awesome. So me and Gary, we just locked ourselves in a room for a year, and we didn’t let up until this record was finished.

 

It seems like a really personal record. I read the Decibel story about “Mother.” There’s a pretty heartbreaking story behind that, so it must’ve felt really good to address that in music.

Yeah, it’s my song to my kids. I’ve been alienated from them because of the father, I know he won’t allow them to hear it, but one day they will hear it. One day they’re gonna pull it out on their own, and it tells the story of what happened. ‘Cause right now they’re being brainwashed and they’re being lied to. That song tells the true story. I want them to know how much I love them, and how much I miss them

 

Would you be doing this tour if you still had your kids with you?

Oh, absolutely.

 

So you’re at a point where you’re comfortable with balancing?

Yeah, I would take them with me. They’re great on tour, they loved it. I bought them scooters on the last tour we did and they would scoot around the arena before the audience let in.  They had their own bunks, they loved being on the tour bus. They had a blast.

 

Awesome. So who’s in your band now? Do you have some of the same players from before?

No, actually. Since I moved to Los Angeles, I’m using an LA-based bass player name Marty O’Brien. He’s played with Tommy lee, and done I think, 3 Ozzfests. He’s a heavy metal slammer, which I love. And then we’ve got Gary Hoey on guitar. I’m really happy to have Gary. He produced the album too, so its his baby as much as it is mine. And Matt Scurfield is Gary’s drummer. He was in New Hampshire at the time we recorded drums, and in New Hampshire, there’s not a drummer on every street corner like in Los Angeles, so we used Matt on the album and he did a great job.

 

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