Exclusive Interview: Lita Ford on The Runaways, solo career

Photo: Mark Weiss

LOS ANGELES, February 17, 2014 — Lita Ford first made a name for herself playing lead guitar for the all-female punk band, The Runaways, which also featured Joan Jett. After the breakup of The Runaways, Lita Ford went on to become a solo artist in the world of hard rock. Ford may be best known for her song with Ozzy Osbourne, Close My Eyes Forever. Lita Ford recently took some time to speak with Wells On Music regarding her time with The Runaways and her solo career.

Scroll below video to read the interview.

Kevin Wells: How old were you when you first picked up a guitar and what made you want to play the guitar?

Lita Ford: I was 11 when I first started playing guitar. I was really into heavy metal. I loved Black Sabbath. I loved Deep Purple. I loved all of those rocking guitar riffs, serious guitar playing. Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, that’s what I learned from originally. As a kid, I would sit with a record player and I’d be pushin’ the needle back into the grooves over and over and over until I learned guitar parts. I didn’t go to any classes or anything. I figured it out for myself. That would lead to joining The Runaways.

KW: How did you come to join The Runaways?

LF: Well, what happened when I first auditioned for The Runaways, Sandy, the drummer, was into the same kind of music I was into. So, we really got along well. The other girls weren’t into Black Sabbath or Deep Purple and the heavier stuff, whereas I was and Sandy was. Sandy and I really bonded. Me and the other girls didn’t bond so much, musically, that is.

I was able to add some riffs. I don’t know. It wasn’t my greatest expectations. The Runaways were not my greatest expectations, musically, because there was stuff that I did want to play that I couldn’t. That’s why at the end of the band, the band really did break up because of musical differences. Joan [Jett] wanted to play one style of music and I wanted to play another, but I loved punk. I loved the attitude behind punk. I loved the Ramones, they kind of play in synchronicity and The Runaways had that. I really enjoyed that part of The Runaways.

KW: After The Runaways broke up, were you done with punk?

LF: I was dead set on being a guitar player. Punk music doesn’t lend itself to being a guitar virtuoso. I wanted to prove myself as a guitar player and a musician. Nobody would take us seriously because we were teenage girls. They didn’t put two and two together that maybe we really were playing our own instruments, although we didn’t look like we were.

When I went solo, I was really into Jimi Hendrix because he was a front man/lead guitar player. He was doing both and he was in a three-piece band. There was no one else to look at in that band except Jimi Hendrix, the bass player and the drummer. That was it. So, that’s what I wanted to do and that’s what I did with Out for Blood. If you look at the Out for Blood album, it’s a three-piece band. That gave the audience nobody else to look at except me on guitar. Some people were saying, “Oh, there’s somebody else behind the curtain playing.” I mean, it’s ridiculous. It’s absolutely ridiculous. I didn’t have anybody behind the curtain playing.

KW: What was it hard going from being a member of a band to the person fronting a band that bears your name?

LF: It was something I had to teach myself how to do. I had to learn how to be a front person. I had to learn how to sing and play at the same time. So, it was a challenge, I guess you could say.

KW: Can you talk about the recording of Close My Eyes Forever? Did you record it the same night it was written?

LF: No, we didn’t. We wrote it in a recording studio, but we didn’t record it. I was in the studio recording the Lita album. Ozzy and Sharon came over to give me a house warming gift because I just bought a new house. They gave me this life sized duplicate of Coco the gorilla from the San Diego Zoo. Do you remember that gorilla? [laughs]

KW: I do remember. Coco had a cat, right?

LF: It had a kitten and the kitten was the gorilla’s baby. So, they made stuffed animals and I guess Sharon and Ozzy had gone to the San Diego Zoo and Sharon had picked up this gorilla. She brought it back and they brought it over to the studio. Anyway, Sharon got bored and left. Ozzy and I were playing pool and drinking wine. We ended up writing Close My Eyes Forever.

When we recorded it, the producer put us face to face with a sheet of glass between us, but Sharon didn’t want the video to be a love video. She didn’t want us face to face in the video, although we are in the same room. Ozzy’s up in this little doorway. It’s in an old, broken down train station. I’m on the floor, sitting on a stool in the train station and he’s up in this little doorway, like a window kind of thing.

KW: I cannot seem to find any footage, audio or video, of you doing the song live with Ozzy. Did you ever perform it with him live?

LF: No because he could never remember the lyrics. I don’t have a teleprompter. I would love to sing it live with Ozzy. I would love it, but we never have.

KW: Did you keep up with the punk scene after The Runaways broke up throughout the 80s and 90s?

LF: I disconnected myself from the music scene in 1994. I got married and I moved to a deserted island. I lived on a deserted island for ten years. I literally didn’t know what was going on in the music industry. When grunge kicked in, it destroyed a lot of what we were doing with the 80s and 80s music.

KW: How did you feel as the Seattle music scene was nudging out the bands from the 80s?

LF: I thought it was kind of sh**tty because the 80s became a dirty word. People were bagging on the 80s. I don’t know. I didn’t think we deserved it. I thought that we had done good for music and I didn’t think we had done bad for music. I didn’t think we deserved to be bagged on like that. So what if we had hair? What does that mean? What has that got to do with anything?

KW: What is your opinion on the state of rock music today?

LF: I don’t know. It’s difficult to sell records because there is so much downloading. Everything has changed so much. It’s just difficult to sell records now. Concerts aren’t as spectacular as they used to be. We need to pass the torch on to the next generation and hope they keep the flame burning.

KW: Do you think a reunion of The Runaways will ever happen?

LF: No, I don’t think so.

KW: If the others were on board, would you be into it?

LF: Yeah, of course. I’d love to.

KW: Are you working on a follow up to your Living Like a Runaway album from 2012?

LF: Yeah, I do. We started writing a new album and it’s monstrous.

KW: When can people expect to hear that?

LF: I can’t wait until it’s done. We’ve written three songs and have about three and a half songs in the works. We actually recorded the first song. It’s so damn good, I don’t know how I’m going to beat it. Yeah, we do have a new album coming out, but it’s gonna be a while.

KW: Will you be doing any touring in 2014?

LF: We’re doing the weekend warrior shows. We’ve got a lot of those planned throughout the year already. It’s cool, they’re a lot of fun. You just go out there and kick ass for the weekend and then come back and work on the book. I’m also writing a book. I have a lot of irons in the fire.

KW: Is the book an autobiography?

LF: It’s an autobiographical story of a woman in a rock band. It tells my story. It’s not just about music. It’s about my life. It’s about how I got into The Runaways, what it was like being in The Runaways. Then moving on and being a solo artist. Just, you know, the story of my life.

KW: When do you expect to be finished with that?

LF: I don’t know exactly when it will be finished, but it will be out in 2014.

KW: Is there anything else you would like people to know about you or anything you are working on?

LF: Check out Living Like a Runaway and check out The Bitch Is Back…Live.

Kevin J. Wells is the Sports Editor for Communities and also writes about Major League Baseball, punk rock music, and food. Follow him on Twitter @WellsOnBaseball

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