LISTEN TO MY ENTIRE INTERVIEW WITH LITA FORD:
Lita Ford is probably the coolest rockstar I’ve ever met. She’s carefree and tough, and she’s definitely not the type of person to hide who she truly is. As the queen of badass rock and roll, Lita’s maintained her spark by transforming her deepest feelings into lyrics, riffs and intense live creations that forever changed the music industry and the opportunities that developed for women especially. As the lead guitarist of my favorite band The Runaways, she was one of the first female hard rock guitarists who wasn’t afraid to give the finger to disbelievers, making her an icon to young women like me.
I caught Lita Ford in the middle of a whirlwind of transition – from moving homes, switching around booking agencies, touring with her band and writing a new concept album. I’ve enjoyed getting to know her through her music, the writing of her book Living Like a Runaway and by chatting with her backstage and over the phone on a real, personal level. She’s fun, down to earth and really easy to connect with. The love we have for our mothers and our sick obsession with rock and roll music helped shaped this interview, and I feel fortunate to give you this special inside look into the heart and soul of Lita Ford:
Can you talk about where you’re at in your life right now?
“The song writing has been quite intense. Trying to get the right material and trying to top the last album, which I thought was really great, real and true. We’re trying to stay real and true.”
Do you all get an equal say in the writing process?
“Yes absolutely. The guys say what they feel. It’s just whatever the guys want. We’re a real easy-going band.”
Congratulations on your book Living Like a Runway. It’s been almost two years since it was released, right?
“Man time flies! It did really well when it came out. It was five stars on Amazon the entire first year it was out. I was happy about that because I put a lot of hard work into that damn book. It drove me nuts; it almost killed me writing that book!”
You did the chapter on your mom, Isabella. Can you talk a little bit about that?
“My father was diagnosed with brain cancer. It came on so fast and he had been given three months to live. Out of being healthy – all of the sudden he had the stroke and was diagnosed with brain cancer. We were visiting him in the hospital during those three months. My mother, coming down the elevator, said in her think Italian accent ‘Lita, I feel a lump in the side of my neck, can you look at see what it is?’ I looked at it, and my girlfriend was in the elevator with me, and we both knew that it was cancer and it was coming back after the 10 years she’d been fighting it. We were both devastated. When she found out it was cancer, she died within a year after that. It was quick. Cancer is disgusting; it’s the devil’s disease. It just eats you up. It made mess of her.”
I relate to you a lot in that sense. My mom had life-threatening surgery in March and she’s been in and out of the hospital since. I was reading about your relationship with your mom and that made me feel strong – also listening to the song you wrote for her: ‘Lisa.’
“I wanted to write her a song. I wanted to give her a gift because I felt so helpless watching her disintegrate into nothing like my father. So I wrote her ‘Lisa.’ We did the video before she passed away. She used to go get her chemotherapy with the video, and the doctors would stand around and watch it every time. It made her feel good; it made her take her mind off everything going on in her life. She just loved it because it was footage my father shot when I was a little kid. So it had my father in it, and I was in it – it was all of us in that video.”
Where did you do your writing for that song?
“For that song, I wrote that all over the place. That’s quite bazaar, that one. It took quite awhile to work out. I wrote some of it backstage at the Hammersmith Odeonin in London at a W.A.S.P. concert if you can believe that! It got nominated for one of the best guitar solos in a rock ballad, which is really cool because it does have a beautiful solo. I was proud.”
Is it hard for you to listen to it now?
“I cry my eyes out. I’m about ready to start crying now. I loved my mother and father very much. To see that on anybody is just…”
Especially from reading your book, I’ve admired that you’re so open about the things you’ve been through.
“Yeah I’m pretty open. A friend of mine said to me, if you’re going to tell it, tell it like it is. Tell the truth and don’t hold back. I didn’t.”
You mentioned Black Sabbath so many times in your book. Black Sabbath is the band that made me say what you said in your book about wanting to escape and lose all control. That’s how I knew I loved that music.
“They are extremely powerful and very deep. Their music is very deep. When you hear it, you either hate it and can’t take it, or are just memorized by the darkness of it. It had such a feel to it when it first came out. I remember hearing it for the first time – it was absolutely life-changing.”
You wrote how ‘it confirmed your feelings about the music you knew you loved.’
“It really did.”
Do you have a specific concert memory of theirs that you remember really well?
“Probably the first one I ever saw, which was 1972 if you can imagine! The Long Beach Arena in California. It was PACKED. Completely sold-out. People were jumping off the rafters. Things were different back then. You could do a lot of things that you’re not allowed to do now. The place was full of smoke – everyone was smoking all kinds of stuff. The vibe and the vibrations and the power that was coming off the stage was just insane. It sucked me right in!”
You said ‘you dreamed of making people feel the way Black Sabbath made you feel.’ Does it feel special now that you’ve achieved that goal?
“It’s pretty bazaar that it came full circle. I’m very happy that it did. Meeting Ozzy and having a Top 10 Hit Single with him. Seeing him as a little kid, not even paying any attention to him – I was focused on the guitar player. Then becoming engaged to the guitar player, [Tony Iommi] and having everything happen that happened. Some of it was great and some of it was just crushing; horrible. Your idol, your superhero, the person you admire the most next to your parents, at least I do – or did – turns out to be someone you don’t think is.”
You never really know anyone until you’re close to them but I think that’s a risk you have to take in life.
When I was 14 years old, I started listening to The Runways. It was so awesome feeling rebellious. I had a lot of crap going on with my family and all I wanted to do was run away. I’m lucky I had a CD player blasting that through my head.
“You found your escape!”
Did you realize you were having this impact at the time?
“Not really. I mean, I was so into the music. I think the main places we realized we had an impact on people were Europe and Japan. It was because of the culture differences. It felt like you could see the craziness and the emotion coming out of the girls especially, and the guys were going nuts in Europe. It was a sea of leather and denim when we played. The girls at the show would be hovering off in the corner trying to stay away from these crazy guys that were jacking off and playing with themselves DURING THE SHOW! They would stick it in a condom and throw it up on stage. I mean the stuff that we had to deal with – you either run away or you pick it up and throw it back at them!”
Did you all have that attitude or did some of the girls feel shyer about that?
“We were all very different. Sandy the drummer was in the back and didn’t get hounded as much as we did. The guys would try to throw us off. It was a real fight between male and female, it really was. Especially one concert, this guy tried to squirt me with his can of beer. He stood right in front of me while I was playing. He didn’t think I was watching him. So I waited, and I’m like maybe eighteen at the time. He held it up and was just about to pop the cap, and I kicked him in the wrist. That beer went flying backwards over the heads of all the people behind him. I think I broke his wrist! I had on these high heel platform boots. I had a whole closet full of those – those were badass.”
What was your favorite moment in fashion throughout your career?
“Since I’ve made my comeback from living on the islands, I sat down with a paper and pencil and I drew what I wanted. I knew what it was going to look like. The hard part was finding someone to make it. I found this leather mathematical wiz who started working on my first suit and he made me exactly what I wanted. The guy who makes my guitar straps made my belt and hand cuffs. I have a couple in red, so I can switch them out.”
I think your fans are super excited to see you at the Medina on Saturday night! That will be a party, huh?
“I know on our end it definitely will be! Please don’t miss it. It’s going to be a killer show. We’ve got some kickass musicians in the band. They all get their moment in the limelight and we put on a great show. You’re going to be hot, sweaty and energized when you come out of there. You might even get a speeding ticket!”
It’s worth it!
Lita Ford will be performing LIVE at the Medina Entertainment Center THIS Saturday night September 30th with April Wine, and you can purchase your tickets at www.MedinaEntertainment.com!