Cherie Currie: “Every time I get on stage I realise it is something I was born to do”

cherie currie the runaways

IN welcome news for fans of classic rock, legendary Runaways lead singer Cherie Currie has announced a debut five-stop Australian tour in May.

Having waited nearly forty years for the opportunity to see the iconic ‘Cherry Bomb’ singer in the flesh, Australian audiences should go wild for the rocker who, as a 15 year-old in 1975, joined Joan Jett, Lita Ford, Jackie Fox and Sandy West in forming the influential band.

Under the watchful eye of manager and rock svengali Kim Fowley, The Runaways grabbed headlines with their powerful rock shows and punk-rock jailbait image before imploding in 1979. Currie overcame alcohol and drug dependency before The Runaways found a new audience when a biographical film, inspired by her memoir, was released in 2010, with Dakota Fanning playing Currie.

This will be your first Australian tour. Why has it taken so long?

It’s been so long because I haven’t been in the business, really. I went into acting, got married, had a kid, then became a chainsaw artist. I had always written songs and recorded; a couple are on the new Reverie record as well as the live record that will be available when I come and see you guys in May. I was doing other things, and I think being a chainsaw artist really did fill that void, but every time I get on stage I realise it is something I was born to do. It’s the place I feel most comfortable, believe it or not.

Did you deliberately stay away from music, or just naturally fall into other things?

The thing is, it wasn’t that I stayed away, it just didn’t happen. After my Capitol record I did a lot of writing and worked with some great people, but sometimes it’s just not the time and there’s nothing we can do about it. This happens to be the time for me now, and it’s a good time, because when you get to be 56 years old you really don’t care and just want to enjoy life. You want to be the best you can and you’re not fighting for, or insecure about, anything any more; you’ve grown past that. Plus, you’re not full of yourself, like a lot of people who have a lot of success at a young age and believe all the hype. I’ve been around long enough that I don’t believe any of it [laughs]. I just like really good people who are down-to-earth, because that’s the person I am, and that’s how I am on stage. With maturity comes a better performer.

What do you play in your sets these days?

I want to give the fans what they want. I want them to reminisce. I get to reminisce when I go to see bands I love; it’s disappointing when you don’t hear the songs you love. I’ll be doing Runaways stuff, new things, and a couple of tributes.

How does it feel playing songs you first played as a teenager when the band image was fairly sexualised?

The only sexualised part of the Runaways, really, was ‘Cherry Bomb’, which was me putting on a corset for three minutes [laughs]. Otherwise, we wore jumpsuits and it wasn’t that sexualised. We were much more covered than anything you see today, that’s for sure. I came up with the corset because the band had just come out of the gate and I thought it would be something that would bring attention to the song, and it did. But it’s great to be doing songs that I’ve been doing for forty years; it never gets old for me. Never. I have as much fun doing them as the audience does listening to them.

What was the catalyst for making a new album after so much time?

I made a record in 2009 with Matt Sorum from Guns ‘N’ Roses; he produced a record for me. Unfortunately my management company at the time did not want to put it out, so now I’ve finally negotiated a contract where they’re finally going to put it out within the year. It’s a great record. Billy Corgan wrote a duet that he and I do together. I’ve got Slash and Duff [McKagan], and of course Matt, Brody Dalle and Juliette Lewis. It’s a real fun record. Reverie, which I put out on my own, is the one Kim Fowley approached me on when he was very ill. I wanted to take the opportunity to create some memories with this man, instead of living in this place of all my memories of him came from being a child. They’re not good memories and I feel like I needed to face that and make new memories. So that’s what we did, and I’m very grateful we did that before he passed away.

[Last year, former bassist Jackie Fox (real name Jackie Fuchs) told the Huffington Post of having been raped by Fowley in 1975 after having been given quaaludes by a roadie, with differing accounts of exactly what happened being offered by various bandmates.]

What are your feelings about Fowley now?

I was there. What Jackie claims happened is not what I saw. And again, I did stand up and walk out when I couldn’t seem to stop it or they didn’t seem to want to stop. Regardless, it was a different time when young girls really wanted to be with older men, and I think what Kim Fowley did was deplorable and horrible, and that’s why I wrote about it in my book. While he was alive I faced him on it. But again, it’s forty-something years later and the person is now dead, and she had a very good relationship with Kim up until the time he got sick, and I never understood why she didn’t address it before then, because I gave her ample opportunity. But you know what? People do things in their own time, and I wish her well, like I wish everyone well in this band. I hope only the best for her.

Do you have a relationship with Jackie now, or is that gone?

Not now. Simply because she was well aware of what I witnessed, but for some odd reason – and it’s documented in interviews I did back in the ’80s – she tried to stop me even though I changed the name. She did everything she could to stop my book from coming out in 2010, even though my kidnapping; where I was beaten half to death and brutally raped by a madman, she didn’t care about any of that. She just didn’t want me to tell a story about something I witnessed, even without her name attached. To me, that’s really somebody who’s pretty self-serving. I gave her every opportunity to write it with me, you know? Not only was she aware, but the Huffington Post was very aware of what I had witnessed, as well as two other people who have passed away. There was one other girl who collaborated my story, but they chose not to include that. It had to be this narrative, and I guess that’s the only way that Jackie feels uncomfortable, but you can’t include a 16 year-old of sitting there, doing nothing and watching something that I did not see. I did not see what she claims; that did not happen. If she’s going to do that on national television, she’s doing it for another reason. She’s not doing it to benefit victims of rape. She’s doing something else and using me and Joan [Jett] to blame, and I’m never going to let that slide, I’m sorry. I just can’t tell a lie, and I won’t lie for her. That’s the bottom line. Trust me, it would be so much easier if I just went with her narrative, but the bottom line is I have to be true. I’m sorry Jackie can’t be, but it’s not my problem; I wish her the best, I really do. I know what it’s like to be abused by someone.

Did you feel the movie was a fair and accurate representation of the band, overall?

I really, really wished that Jackie and Lita had been involved. Unfortunately Lita never read the contract. I guess her husband read her the first page of the script and they threw it in the trash. Of course Jackie then went to the Linsons [producers John and Art Linson] demanding four times the amount of money Joan and I were making, and demanding to be a producer, so they just wrote her out. She then said they could use her name but they said no; she did not make a good impression, and that was unfortunate as Joan and I really wanted her to be a part of it. So that meant we didn’t have hers or Lita’s input, and of course we didn’t have Sandy with us any more, so that was really sad. But I think that visually, it’s phenomenal. [Director] Floria Sigismondi captured the seventies in a brilliant way, and of course Dakota Fanning, Kristen Stewart and Michael Shannon did a superb job, just superb. I mean, who gets to make a movie made about them? I’m just going to say “Job well done, thank you very much” [laughs].

What are your plans for the rest of the year and beyond?

I’m excited about the live record as I just came out of the studio the day before yesterday after fine-tuning some mixes, and it sounds great. I’m looking forward to the Suzi Quatro film that I wrote a song for; actually, the production company is there in Australia. I have a lot of carvings I have to catch up on, but coming to Australia will be a high point in this gal’s life, I’ll tell you that much. I’m just so happy and blessed to have this opportunity, and I’m very grateful for it.

CHERIE CURRIE PLAYS:

Thursday 26 May 2016
The Triffid, Brisbane, QLD

Friday 27 May 2016
Manning Bar, Camperdown, NSW

Saturday 28 May 2016
Corner Hotel, Richmond, VIC

Tuesday 31 May 2016
The Gov, Hindmarsh, SA

Wednesday 01 June 2016
Rosemount Hotel, Perth, WA

For The AU Review

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