Cherie Currie burst onto the pop culture landscape as original lead singer of ‘70s teenage, all-girl rock band The Runaways. At the tender age of 15, she fronted the group, a talented band of girls who could play rock like no other female group before them. Alongside Lita Ford, Joan Jett and Sandy West, she experience both amazing highs in the spotlight and unbelievable darkness behind the scenes; all of which were chronicled in her spell-binding autobiography, ‘Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway.’ It is hard to believe an artist who made such an impact on the rock scene hasn’t released an album in 35 years — until now!
Authentically raw and captivating, the multi-faceted ‘Reverie’ ushers in a brand new era for one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most unique voices. The long overdue record reunites her with legendary Runaways producer, Kim Fowley. The duo’s strained relationship was miraculously resurrected and led to a final collaboration in the months before Fowley lost his battle with cancer in early 2015. Also featuring Lita Ford, the album revisits the creative magic they all shared in the early years of The Runaways. This exciting, game-changing new chapter of Currie’s story also teams her with the wildly talented Jake Hays, who just so happens to be her son! Hays masterfully handles much of the instrumentation on the album, along with the production duties. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Cherie Currie to discuss what lead to the creation of ‘Reverie,’ breathing life into the spirited album, the challenges she encountered and the lessons she learned along the way!
Your new album, “Reverie,” is your first release in 35 years. What brought the album about and what made now the time to release it?
You know what? I had made a record about five years ago with Matt Sorum (Guns ‘N Roses, Velvet Revolver) and it was a very cool record. That is still on the shelf to be released at a later date. Kim Fowley had reached out to me and I was kind of a little bit frustrated that my record with Matt hadn’t come out yet. I really wanted to work with Kim again. I knew he was ill. I thought it would be a great way to come full circle and end on a good note. That is what started the process of making this record.
How did the process of working with Kim Fowley change from the way it was in your early years as an artist?
Unfortunately, Kim was very ill at the time and was in a wheelchair, so he couldn’t get up and tower over me and yell and scream! [laughs] He would raise his voice here and there but, to me, it was a totally different experience. I wasn’t afraid like I was as a kid and I respected him and his genius as a songwriter and producer. I knew, I believed, that these were the last months of his life and I was definitely going to make sure my son, Jake Hays, had the opportunity to witness the genius that Kim Fowley was. Jake ended up producing the album in the end. To see Jake, Kim and myself in the studio together after all of those years was really spectacular.
It is so cool to see you working alongside Jake Hays. What can you tell us about him as an artist and what he brings to the table?
Oh my goodness! Jake Hays, he has his own band, Maudlin Strangers. They just signed a very lucrative record deal. Actually, he just got off the road a few weeks ago. He had been out touring in support his new record. I knew from the time he was 13 years old that he had something pretty special, so I started taking him with me to do radio interviews and had him play to back me up. He just took to music like a duck to water! It really made him come out of his shell. He used to be very shy. He was just a little redheaded kid who was very shy. Now, not only is he gorgeous and fronts his band, he is just brilliant not only as a stage performer but as a writer and a musician. He plays just about every instrument on this record.
What can you tell us about the writing process for this record?
Jake and I went to Kim’s apartment to start writing. Of course, Kim’s MO was always to say, “This record is about you. Tell me about your life.” Then all of a sudden he would turn to Jake and gesture to him to start playing in whatever chord and he would just start singing! We were tape-recording the whole time. He would tell Jake to change chords and he would. Before you knew it, a song was born. This happened about six times that one afternoon! We brought the tape recorder back to my house where Jake and I refined the songs and turned them into real songs. Within three days after that, we were in the studio with Kim!
Did you have goals or aspirations for this album?
I really just wanted to work with Kim again and I wanted to sing. I had just gotten off tour. Working with Kim was very special. It was something that I never thought I would do again. I knew he was ill. I have suffered a lot of heartache over what had happened in The Runaways and I also knew this was a way to not only heal myself but to end on such a wonderfully positive note. It was also a wonderful experience for my son, Kim and myself. Of course, Kim ended up moving into my house for a short time and I cared for him towards the end of his life. It was meant to be for us to make this record.
I am sure you took away a lot of great memories from the experience. Can you share some of those memories with us, along with some of the challenges you might have faced?
I think my favorite memory was being in the studio. We were only in the studio with Kim for four days because he had become too ill to show up. That was the point where Lita Ford came in and did a little ad-libbed vocal for us for the song “Dark World.” To be in the studio with Jake, Lita and Kim to me is something I will never forget, along with how happy Lita was to be there. We were all so happy to be together and it was a very special moment for me. When Kim got too ill to continue and turned the record over to my son, then we moved everything to Jake’s studio and continued from there. We had to write songs because, at that point, we only had four and had to come up with six more to finish the record. Kim couldn’t help us with that because of his illness. I think it was a monumental challenge for Jake because he was also making a record for his band, Mob of Strangers, at the same time. The poor kid was juggling two really important projects and he really came through for me!
In all honesty, I feel he hit it out of the park when it comes to this album. Kudos to him! Are there any songs in particular on “Reverie” that resonate with you greatly at this point in time?
I think the song “Believe” is one that resonates with me. I wrote that song 18 or 19 years ago. I really love that song because I wrote it at a time in my life where I felt everything was possible. Every time I listen to that song I still feel that same way. “Shades of Me,” which is a duet that I do with my son, is another song I just love. Being able to sing with him is a blessing. He is such a great singer and a great writer. That song is one where I feel he did an amazing job! Of course, singing with Lita Ford again was just a blast! We had a lot of fun. There were a lot of good moments that went into this record!
Absolutely! I think you can feel that energy come through in the songs. It has a certain spirit to it, Cherie.
Thank you, Jason! It’s great to hear that!
Kim Fowley was a big part of this record. What was the biggest lesson you took from him and will always carry with you?
The biggest lesson I learned was just recently when he was living here. That is that no matter how bad you feel you have been wronged or mistreated or how angry you have been and how much you have wished harm on somebody, the bottom line is that time heals all wounds. The fact that Kim was able to be here in my home and I was able to take care of him after decades of me just hating him, to be able to turn everything around just shows me that life is a glorious thing. It really is! If you let yourself forgive, life is a glorious thing!
How have you most evolved as an artist through the years?
Oh my goodness! I am not sure if you are aware but I am also a chainsaw artist. I think had I not had the harrowing time I did as a kid with The Runaways and fighting all the uphill battles I have had in my life, I really don’t think I would have had the guts to become a pro carver. Even though I have a healthy fear. Fear stops people dead in their tracks from their dreams, I believe. I have not let that happen. That is not to say that I am not afraid sometimes, because we all are. I believe we can accomplish anything if we put our minds to it and believe in ourselves. To me, that has been my life legacy and I have been very blessed. If I have wanted to do something or I have wanted to make it happen, it has happened and I am very happy about that!
Are there any parallels between the worlds of music and chainsaw carving?
I would say no, simply because in music you really aren’t your own boss. You are kind of at the whim of the record company, management and all of that. As a chainsaw artist, I am my own boss and I make my own decisions. That is what I like about chainsaw carving, far more than the music business, is I don’t have to answer to anybody but the client and the client is always happy! [laughs] I love being my own boss, that’s for sure!
You experienced the music industry from many different perspectives. What excites you about the industry today?
I couldn’t tell you what songs are at the top of the charts if you paid me a million dollars. I listen to classic rock. That is what I listen to when I am carving. Good ol’ fashioned Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Elton John and David Bowie. I still love those bands, along with my son’s band, which I also love. I couldn’t tell you how it happened but I do know the industry has changed dramatically. I think it has changed for the better because now artists can put out their own music, like I have right now, instead of jumping through hoops. I think that is empowering for the artist. I also miss the singers that aren’t that great. Not everyone is a Celine Dion! I remember there was a period of time where you were either a Celine Dion or a Mariah Carey or you didn’t make it in this business. I think for kids nowadays, sometimes their dreams could seem unreachable if you continue to put people up there who have such an extraordinary talent. That was a little disappointing to me because I think some of the best singers like Deborah Harry or even myself, I don’t have the best pipes. However, it’s the attitude you feel through those voices that sort of stopped happening in the industry there for a while. For a while, you had to be a ridiculously good singer to make it. I am still a big Tom Petty fan too! He’s not the greatest singer! You know what I mean? [laughs]
I do. [laughs] But you’re right, there is something there that makes it special and unique. What are your thoughts moving forward. This record is brand new but hopefully you won’t keep us waiting another 35 years for the next one!
[laughs] I am going to be chainsaw carving here for a while! I have had to hang up the saw for about a year-and-a-half. Now I am picking it up and I am going to go back to carving! Hopefully, in the next six to eight months I will also do a tour to back up this record! Right now, I have some clients that deserve their carvings and they come first! [laughs]
Totally understandable! We can’t wait to see you behind the saw and on tour! Thanks so much for your time today. It is terrific to hear how positive you are and I can’t wait to see where life takes you next!
Thank you, Jason! I really appreciate it! What a darling you are! Take care!
Cherie Currie’s powerful new album, ‘Reverie,’ is available now on iTunes. Visit her official website at www.cheriecurrie.com. And, of course, you can learn more about her other amazing career as a chainsaw carver at www.chainsawchick.com.
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.