Monday, August 26, 2013

Lita Ford: My Interview With The Queen of Heavy Metal

The Queen of Heavy Metal. A title reserved for only one person on this earth: Ms.Lita Ford. 

Photo by Gene Kirkland

Many of you have read in previous posts that the two reasons I play guitar are Joan Jett and Lita Ford. As a girl growing up in the 1980’s and 1990’s, rock musicians that were female were few and far between. Jimmy Page, Eddie Van Halen, and Slash, they’re all great., but there’s something powerful about being able to identify with someone who is “like you” in some way, especially when you want to do something like play electric guitar.

But this is not about the 1980's and 1990's. You don't stay the Queen of Metal by resting on your laurels. Lita has been on tour in support of her 2012 album “Living Like a Runaway”, which is a great record with that signature Lita sound her fans love so much. She’s also got a live album (tentatively titled “The Bitch Is Back”) coming out in September. 

I remember seeing Lita for the first time on MuchMusic, shredding out the solo to “Gotta Let Go”. I watched with my mouth open as most children do when they see something incredible for the first time.  For years I have smiled with delight when I hear Lita make that BC Rich Warlock guitar of hers squeal those high, piercing notes.  Her solo on The Runaways “Live in Japan” version of “You Drive Me Wild” is a thing of brilliance and of beauty.  Any time my friends and I would sit around and create dream line-ups for rock bands we would love to be a part of, I usually chose Lita to be my lead guitarist. Lita can shred. Hard. And loud.

You can understand then, why when I got confirmation that Lita was willing to answer some questions for the readers of Playing With Chaos, the first thing I did was utter an expletive. Then I uttered another. I called my husband to tell him and he uttered one too. This was the opportunity of a lifetime. I sent off my questions and proceeded to headbang around my den listening to “Kiss Me Deadly” in celebration.  Lita took the time out of her very busy schedule to answer those questions, and here’s what she had to say.

Playing With Chaos (PWC): You’ve been touring in support of your album “Living Like A Runaway” since it was released in the summer of 2012. What has it been like to be back in front of your fans after a hiatus?

Lita Ford: I feel as if I’ve known my fans all my life.  Sometimes I feel like they know me better then I know myself.  LOL.  They are wonderful people that rock my world !   What’s an artist without his/her fans?

PWC: You have a live album coming out in September. Did you choose one show to record or did you piece it together from various tour dates?

Lita: No, it’s 1 show we did in Los Angeles.  We did it for the fans.

PWC: We’ve read reports that there is a Christmas album in the works. Why did you choose to do a Christmas album and what can fans expect from a Lita Christmas album? (Aside from awesome guitars of course! J )

Lita:  I chose to do a Christmas song , not an album, a single, because I thought that Christmas could use a new song!  Christmas songs have been rerecorded by different artists all over the world , but it’s always the same songs.  I felt  the rock world needed a new Christmas song. And what better way to rehash my friendship  with my old band mate , Cherie Currie.  Christmas is a time for friends and family to get together.

PWC: I know you’ve mentioned in several interviews over the years that your live/studio set up is quite simple – not too many pedals and effects. What gear did you use on “Living Like A Runaway” and live on tour

Lita: I have always been an amp/ guitar girl, get down to the meat and potatoes  kinda thing.  Skip the sides.
 I Wanted LIVING LIKE A RUNAWAY  and our live shows to be a challenge and do them the old fashioned way without using backing tracks and really give the fans some true playing and vocals.  I do not believe in using too many effects.  If you can’t make a guitar and amp sound good without all the pedals, bells and whistles/ sound effects, you might as well go back to the drawing board.  My old Marshall’s  JCM  800’s are kick ass . Nothing beats them. Also , my B.C. Rich guitars with the original pickups that are in my older guitars.  I am using the original Seymour Duncan super distortions;  they are custom wound for the same sound I had in the earlier days , with lots of crunch and powerful sustain. I use Dean Markley strings. I prefer a light gauge on the higher strings because I am a bending fanatic.   The lighter gauges are easier to bend, but I like a heavier gauge on the lower strings for the chugging on heavy chords and riffs.   Also, Monstercable make great guitar accessories , down to my favourite set of head phones to all the cables we use on stage. Pro tools , and in home systems as well.  Check out the Lita Ford B C Rich SignatureWarlock. Just don’t forget to take out the little screw in the back of the tremolo unit. It’s placed in there for shipping and protection.

PWC: This is definitely a guitar geek question, but what would you say is the secret to your guitar tone?   

Lita: My fingers and heart. LOL.  Really, each player has their own style of playing because of the way they attack the guitar .  I use my favourite gear, but even if I didn’t you could still say ‘’that sounds like Lita Ford’’.   Technique and your own style, which takes a lifetime to develop.  Vibrato, tone, style, and feel.  Something no instrument can give you as an artist.  It comes from within YOU!  Become 1 with your instrument.

PWC: Some guitarists practice scales on a daily basis, while others don’t pick up their guitar at all between shows. What is your routine in terms of “practice” or keeping up your musical chops?

Lita:  There is nothing like playing live. You can sit in your living room and jam, but it’s just not the same as tearing it up live!  Or in rehearsal too.  The only time I sit at home and play is if I need to figure out a part for tomorrows show, whatever that show might be.  Or  if I am writing a song , then I sit and play for hours .  But don’t let too much time go by with out playing.  It’s NOT like riding a bike.

PWC: Rock music stations across North America are slowly disappearing, and many kids today think a rock band is a video game. What are your thoughts on the state of rock/metal music today and what do you think the future holds?

Lita: I believe the youth of today WANT to play guitars, bass, drums, be lead singers, and play keys.  They do not want to sit behind a T.V. or computer and play video games.  They want to get off the porch and run with the big dogs .  Also, the video games are pretty much made up of 80’s and 90’s rock, so they are really learning the music to boot. If not learning from video games, they will learn it from their mom’s ‘n dad’s stories and encouragement! 

PWC: What artists/bands have you been listening to lately?

Lita:  I have been touring with a lot of different artists , so when we do a show with these bands I’ll pull out their songs to refresh my memory on their best tunes, which I’ll listen to.

PWC: Being away from home while on tour can be tough. Is there anything that you bring with you to keep “home” close by even though you may be on another continent?   

Lita: I bring my travel size dogs w me.  Two  4 lb. Chihuahuas . They are our tour mascots, and a real joy to be around.

PWC: You asked for fan input for your upcoming live album in the form of photographs. You’ve mentioned them directly – and indirectly- in your new songs. There is an unmistakable connection that you have with your fans that many newer bands could learn from. What advice would you give up and coming bands about the treatment of and relationship with fans?

Lita: Don’t disconnect yourself from your fans. If not for them, there wouldn’t be you!  They are our greatest asset! 

Photo By Gene Kirkland

Lita is living proof that staying true to your craft (and your fans) is what rock’n’roll is all about. She still does meet and greets, signs autographs, and poses for pictures with fans before/after shows – a true testament that the words she’s shared with us. Down to earth, genuine, and shred-capable. What’s not to love about the Queen of Metal?

Look for Lita’s live album next month. Playing With Chaos will keep you posted on its release and will likely have a review shortly after the release date. In the meantime, be sure to check out Lita Ford's website and Facebook/Twitter pages for official tour dates and other news.

A heart-felt thank you to Lita Ford, who was so gracious and accommodating in answering my questions. I’m eternally grateful. And by the way Lita, I still pick you as my lead guitarist when my friends and I talk about dream line-ups. Some things never change. 
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