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Dr Rock: Exploring Lita Ford's Wicked Wonderland
The Quietus , January 28th, 2010 07:01

Dr Rock talks to The Runaways star Lita Ford about living on an island paradise, learning to be a mother and duetting with Ozzy Osbourne

This week Dr Rock gets lost on a remote island where he has a rumble in the jungle with his favourite queen of noise, Lita Ford, and learns that family, a good dose of heavy metal and a bread-making machine are essentials for survival in the wild. All hail!!!!

Last month saw the release of your first album in 15 years. What have you been up to since the 90s?

Lita Ford: Living on a Caribbean island and raising my family. When the first Runaways record came out I was 17. By the end we'd been touring for 22 years. And I got pregnant when I was 38 so I figured it was a good time to take a break from the music industry. I just wanted to raise my kids - I have two boys - and be a good mum. I didn’t know how to treat kids because I’d never held a baby before. They don’t come with guitar strings or a manual. So I put rock & roll on the back-burner. When the whole grunge scene kicked in the music industry changed so dramatically, so it was a really perfect time for me to get out.

Tell me about life on the island.

LF: My husband and I were sitting there talking and he said to me, "If you could go anywhere in the world to live, where would you go?". I said "Would you build me a beach house? I want to live on the beach".

So he said "I have an idea" and he got on a plane all by himself and went island hopping. He went from island, to island, to island and when he came back home he went "I got it, I found the island. We’re going to buy the island". So we got a little island, 42 square miles and that’s where we built a massive home, 10,000 square foot made of solid concrete, to withstand a hurricane. You could park a semi-truck on the roof of the house, it’s pretty strong. So anyway, we’ve been there and I’ve been home-schooling my children because there’s no schools there.

Does it not get lonely for you and your family out there?

LF: Jim [Gilette, Lita’s husband, formerly of hair-metallers Nitro]’s parents live next door to us, there’s 20 people in their family so sometimes my kids will go over to play with them. And we have a lot of visitors to stay with us because it’s such a beautiful paradise. And my boys have each other as well so it’s nice. I take them fishing and we walk the beach and swim in the ocean, go out on the boat and so on. There’s always stuff to do there. We also grow our own food, we’ve got a cool garden to grow stuff in and we have fresh fish and lobster and that kind of stuff. We also buy buckets of ground wheat and we bake our own wheat bread. It’s really pretty easy, you just dump a couple of things in the machine, press start and the machine makes it. It’s so good, it’s a meal in itself.

Your life on the island seems like perfect reality TV fodder. Have you ever been approached by a network to do a show?

LF: Actually Jim and I and the producer for Edgeplay, the Runaways documentary, are working on a reality TV show ourselves. We’re going to pitch it to a producer. It’s based on your abnormal but normal family these days and then a bit of rock’n’roll and a bit of living in the Caribbean. We've got a lot to offer. Reality shows are the way to go these days. But it’s got to be right and we want it to be true and interesting for the fans. We’re working on it and we’re going to see if it does happen, we’re not quite sure yet.

Let’s get back to music. After all this time off, what made you want to record an album and get out there again?

LF: My kids got older. You hear from me now because we’re able to take them with us and I don’t have to have a nanny or a baby-sitter. So anyway, I talked to a few friends of mine like the Cheap Trick guys and Twisted Sister, all asking the same thing, “Lita, what are you doing, don’t you miss it?” “Yeah I miss it”. “When are you coming back?” “Well, when I’m ready, when my kids are ready.” So now we’re ready, we’re back. And the music industry’s changed again. It’s evolving around heavy metal again, I think, maybe because of all these video games, I don’t know.

Talking about video games, you recently did the voice for a character of the Brütal Legend game. How did that come about?

LF: Actually they contacted us on Myspace, it’s really weird. So first we checked if it was legitimate. And it turned out it was very legitimate, they used the voice of Jack Black and various heavy metal singers and they wanted me to play the queen. We were so excited to be a part of it. And they also used ‘Crave’ off Wicked Wonderland for the soundtrack. It’s an awesome game.

So when did you actually start to write music again?

LF: Only very recently, all of the songs on Wicked Wonderland are brand new. You’d think that over the 15 years I’d written a lot of songs but I really didn’t write anything. I was just really focusing on my family. I mean I had been doing the rock thing my whole life really. I started playing guitar when I was 11. So by the time I was 38 I was ready for a break and I really didn’t want to play guitar anymore, I got kind of bored with it. So I took all my equipment and put it in a controlled environment where it was being taken care of and I took one acoustic guitar and two electric guitars and an amp with me to the island. And I had keyboards to play and just mess around with too so we just played a little here and there. I wrote a song for my seven year old, he sang it and it turned out great. It’s real killer. My friends in Los Angeles played drums on it and they sent it back to us and we recorded guitar and vocals and the song rocked. And so eventually we took it from there and started to rehearse in Miami. Miami is the closest point of entry into the United States from where the islands are. So we fly my band into Miami, where we have a rehearsal facility.

What’s inspired you for this new album? Have you had access to new music via MTV or something like that?

LF: We could’ve had MTV but we didn’t want to. We didn’t want to know what was going on on any television show. We don’t have any television channels but we have a massive collection of videos and every night after the sun goes down one of us will pick a movie and we usually sit around and watch the movie and have popcorn. And then friends will come and visit us and bring us the latest stuff and we will watch that but honestly regarding new bands, I couldn’t tell you who they are. We wrote this album from our hearts, we wrote it for our family. We didn’t write it trying to fit into today’s society. You just write and see what comes out. And I think we came out with a pretty heavy, in-depth album. It’s very sexy and has a lot to say. So I’m pretty pleased with it. It’s our ‘wicked wonderland’.

Wicked Wonderland appears a lot heavier than your previous albums. Would it be fair to say it’s down to 15 years of pent up rock’n’roll aggression?

LF: You’d think so but really, I’ve always had an itch for heavy metal. The very first rock band I ever saw, aged 13, was Black Sabbath. At the time, they were the heavy ones. And Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, that’s where I came from, those were my guitar heroes.

Talking about Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne famously did a duet with you, ‘Close My Eyes Forever’. What was it like to work with him?

LF: Ozzy’s extremely talented. He’s also extremely out of his mind [laughs]. But it was real nice to be able to go down to the studio with him and to sing it face to face. The vibe was really intense. I thought "get it right, get it right". And just now we’re touring with Queensrÿche. And Geoff Tate from Queensrÿche, he sings Ozzy’s part. And it’s beautiful. It’s really cool. We’re huge Queensrÿche fans.

A Hollywood film about the story of The Runaways is about to come out. Had you been involved in any way?

LF: I don’t know much about that film, to tell you the truth. I really didn’t even want to be portrayed in it. There’s people in it that have tried to destroy my career for the past 30 years and I didn’t want anything to do with it. They offered me a ridiculously low sum for the rights of my life story, $1.500 which is what, £700?! It was an insult and we never replied. So recently, the girl that plays me in the movie, her name is Scout Taylor-Compton, I called her because I felt that they were going to show me in a bad light. So anyway, I called Scout, the actress, and she completely understood my feelings, she agreed with me on the way I feel about these people and she came out to see me play and we made friends with each other. So that was the good part. But as far as the movie goes, I couldn’t tell you. It’s a weird situation.

What’s coming up for you, do you have any British and European dates pencilled in?

LF: Definitely. In the spring or summer we’ll be over there. We’re working on dates now so things are in progress. We’re trying to get everything confirmed, the festivals and different shows over there. You know, I’m British, I was born in Britain, my father’s from Britain and I just really want to come back, I miss it. It’s like home to me.