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Exclusive Interview: Lita Ford
Legendary female music icon Lita Ford returns with the release of Living Like A Runaway on June 19 – her first “real” album in years.
“This CD is truly a dream come true,” Lita says proudly. “It took me one year to write Living Like A Runaway with Producer Gary Hoey and writing partner Michael Dan Ehming. We have dumped our hearts and souls into this amazing CD – along with a lot of tears, pain, heartache, laughter, ripping out hair, going hungry, losing sleep and a lot of frequent flyer miles. Living Like A Runaway is like being able to walk through fire and coming out the other side unscathed.”
Coinciding with the album’s release, Lita is hitting the road this summer with Def Leppard and Poison on the “Rock of Ages Tour”.
I had a few minutes to catch up with Lita and talk about Living Like A Runaway. A true labor of love and truth, this record is as honest as you can get from an artist who wants nothing more than to connect with her fans.
Hey Lita, it’s great to catch up with you! Our last interview was almost four years ago to the day. You had just finished a long day of shopping in New York with Dee Snider and we were all excited to talk about your return to the music world. I’ve gotta say, I’m more excited to talk to you now because I know you’re doing things on your own terms, making music that is 110% Lita Ford.
You’re right. You’re absolutely right. I didn’t have much control over the other record. I didn’t do the guitar playing. I threw a couple of licks in there and did a little bit of vocals. They put my name on there and released it. I was thinking, “Oh god.” I had 100% control over this record. I wrote every song, minus “A Song To Slit Your Wrists By” and “The Bitch Is Back.” Even with those I did ‘em my way. I didn’t copy them. I’m very happy with it. It’s got some great guitar riffs on it. The vocals are killer. They lyrics are killer. I think it has some of the best lyrics.
The lyrics are so personal. After all the emotional struggles you’ve been through the past couple of years, was it easier to write the songs because of that or did it make it a more difficult experience?
It made it easier. People write about their experiences in life. For instance, Nikki Sixx and Sixx:A.M. have the song “Life Is Beautiful.” Nikki died. He overdosed on heroin and died. You write about your life experiences because they’re real. I’ve been gone from the public eye for 17 years. A lot has happened to me in those 17 years. I’m overflowing with emotions and I channeled them into this record. I know I’m wearing my heart on my sleeve with this record and it’s OK. I think a lot of people will be able to relate in many ways – dealing with homework, having a bad day at the office or having a great day at the office. It’s almost like the album cover should have one big middle finger on it!
The songs on Sixx:A.M.’s Heroin Diaries touched so many people because they could relate the lyrics. I really see Living Like A Runaway having the same impact with listeners. There are people out there that could hear these songs and find some comfort with their own situations or to inspire them to get back up and keep kicking ass.
Absolutely. This record will be an inspiration to a lot of people in many ways. Like “Living Like A Runaway” – how many people are running away from things? Running away from the law, their homework – it goes many different directions. Or maybe “Asylum” – sometimes your house can turn into a nuthouse. Sometimes your office can turn into a nuthouse. Sometimes your school can turn into a nuthouse. This album has also got a lot of great guitar riffs.
It really does. Every song has that catchy guitar riff that a lot of artists have moved away from or forgotten about.
That’s true. You don’t pay as much attention to it anymore. That seems to have gotten lost. I really wanted to go back to basics. When Gary (Hoey) and I recorded this album, that’s the first thing we said to each other: “Let’s go back to basics and bring back what we both love”. Gary and I are the same age. We’ve watched the music industry change over the years. Now the music industry is up against the wall. OK, now what are you gonna do? A lot of people miss those beautiful guitar parts and the real riffy rock. I didn’t pay too much attention at the time what was going on musically, but now that this record is written and I’m starting to compare it to other records I can hear that a lot of it has gotten lost over the years. I’m glad that I’m able to bring some of it back.
Tell me about working with Gary Hoey. How did you two first get together?
We would run into each other here and there. One day he called and said, “I have a studio. You’re always welcome to use it.” That was really cool and I thought about it and decided to take him up on that offer. When he called me I was looking for a record producer. I had talked to various record producers but none of them fit the mold because they weren’t thinking along the same lines as I was thinking. The type of record I wanted to make didn’t appeal to them. They were like, “Eehh – it’s gonna be old school and it’s gonna be dated.” If they felt that way then they were the wrong producer! I kept telling Gary I couldn’t find a producer. I told him I wanted to go back to basics and play guitar. I don’t want to play some sort of electronic device. I want real bass and drums. I want the album to have a theme like Welcome To My Nightmare or Dark Side Of The Moon. I want it to have a consistency. The first song we wrote was “Love 2 Hate U.” It turned out to be a duet and it was really great. It was like, “Wow – this is really something that’s going to work”. We ended up staying in that studio for a year recording this album!
You just mentioned Alice Cooper. Parts of Living Like A Runaway remind me of that old school Alice Cooper vibe. Not only is the music catchy but you get caught up in this dark, twisted story – like the song “Hate.”
That song would fit the criminal in a Batman movie. I could see it working. That song is cool because it has that monotone vocal. The trick to that was trying to put emotion and attitude into that monotone vocal. It was really difficult. It doesn’t have too much melody until the chorus kicks in, but that’s the beauty of telling that story.
I’m a sucker for guitar tone. Did you have a pretty good idea of your guitar sound before you went into the studio or is that something you and Gary worked on together?
Gary’s got lots of equipment in the studio so I wasn’t worried. I grabbed my Warlock, which has the balls and the crunch, and sent up an old ’67 Les Paul Junior that I like to use for slide. I sent up my Telecaster which is the beginning of “Living Like A Runaway” and kinda has that U2 vibe. I used a Taylor acoustic that has a really beautiful, warm sound. Gary actually ended up getting one for himself. Gary’s got the Soldano amps and the 5150 heads and he was able to dial in some great guitar sounds. That definitely wasn’t a problem. We just had a lot of fun with our guitars.
Tell me about the bonus tracks.
“The Bitch Is Back” rocks so much! It is so good. “Bad Neighborhood” is smokin’! I got that riff from Doug Aldrich from Whitesnake. I told him I needed a riff and he sent something over. It was too slow and I told him I needed something really high energy. He sent that riff over and it was perfect – done! My songwriter Michael Dan Ehming and I took that – Michael is a brilliant lyricist. We took that riff and wrote “Bad Neighborhood.” That song title came from a saying of a friend of mine named Tom. Tom used to be the head of Narcotics Anonymous. He was the guy that took care of Steven Tyler and all the big rock stars to try and keep them off drugs. Tom used to say, Get out of your head – it’s a bad neighborhood. I thought that was cool. That’s a song. It really has nothing to do with where you live. It’s all about what’s in your head. That can drive you crazy sometimes!
Does “Living Like A Runaway” feel like a true return to form for you?
When we finished the record Gary and I would call each other and say things like “It’s a really good album” or “I can’t stop listening to it”. I’ve been listening to it for a year and Gary mixed and mastered it and he can’t stop listening to it. You don’t get sick of it. It’s like a good movie that you watch over and over again. The real test is when the fans hear it. Thank God we’ve got a wonderful label. Everybody at SPV is very happy to have this record and we’ve got their support. That’s half the battle right there. It would be a shame to make this record and have it shelved. I’m very happy with everything so far.
And next month you’re out on your first proper tour in forever – opening for Poison and Def Leppard.
I’m not a religious person, but this has been a godsend from day one. From hooking up with Gary, writing these songs, the tour. What’s wacky is the tour starts the day after the album is released. The album is released June 19 and our first show is June 20. It all happens at the same time. It’s going to be so much fun.
Lita, thanks for taking time out today! What would you like to say to your fans to wrap everything up?
I put a lot of heart and soul into this record. I hope everyone can relate to this album. I know you will. I know you’ll be able to find your favorite song on this record and make it part of the soundtrack to your life. We’ll see you out on the road!Got a news tip or correction?
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