With four decades in the music game, it seems the long-reigning Queen of Metal, Lita Ford, is just getting warmed up! Hot on the heels of her recently released memoir, “Living Like A Runaway,” she is ready to rock the masses once again with a new album! “Time Capsule,” which will be released April 15th, 2016 via SPV/Steamhammer, is a unique record. For this throwback, Ford opened the vault to reveal a collection of powerful, never before heard songs. The album features Ford paired with some of the most identifiable voices and brilliant players from the decade of decadence, jamming without planning or pressure. The album’s highlights include Billy Sheehan playing bass and Rodger Carter on drums; Dave Navarro playing a mandolin; Jeff Scott Soto singing a duet with Ford; Rick Nielsen and Robin Zander of Cheap Trick singing backing vocals; and KISS’ Gene Simmons ripping the bass. “Time Capsule” is a work of art that turns back the clock to a time when rock music was handmade and recorded without digital tricks and contraptions. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Ford to discuss the origins of “Time Capsule,” the challenges involved in bringing it to the masses, her recently released autobiography and what the future holds for her as an artist!
For a lot of people your work is one of their first memories of music. What are some of your first musical memories?
Oh boy! Some of my first memories are listening to The Monkees. I think that was my first real favorite album. They were so cute, The Monkees, and they had great songs! Their records were such great fun and I always thought Davy Jones was so cute! I also listened to The Who’s “Who’s Next?” That is the one where they are all pissing on that concrete thing! It was The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Grand Funk and anything that had a hook or a riff I would listen to and then try to figure it out on guitar. I really started listening to guitar when I was very young. I was probably around 10 years old when I first picked up a guitar.
I imagine you didn’t realize at the time how far the guitar would take you.
Well, I had a dream! I wanted to follow that dream, so whether or not it would come true or not, I didn’t know for sure but I did have a dream and a vision! Playing guitar was something in my nature and something I call a gift from God. It was something I was able to do and I was a child prodigy on guitar. I didn’t know that at the time and it didn’t dawn on me. Looking back now, I really can say I was a child prodigy. People would come over from all around the neighborhood and sit in my living room, where I would give them their own personal little concert!
That is awesome! You have come a long way from those early years. It is only fitting we discuss your new album, “Time Capsule.” What can you tell us about it and what made now the time to release it?
It was something I had on my shelf, literally, in my closet. I had been saving it. I don’t know what for but I just knew it was something that was going to come out one day. There are so many great people on this record and the songs are amazing! It is really a double whammy on this record! It has a lot to offer the fans and it is also a little bit of a treat because it was recorded in the ‘80s. It is literally a time capsule of rock ‘n’ roll history! The people who are on it make it that way and it was an absolute honor to be able to work with these people. They are amazing musicians and it was an absolute honor to work with Gene Simmons, Robin Zander, Jeff Scott Soto, Dave Navarro and Billy Sheehan. When you work with musicians of that caliber, you have to be up to par yourself. You have to deliver the goods as well and can’t be the one who is lacking! Working with people like that definitely keeps you on your toes! Ya know, people really miss the ‘80s and the fun times they used to have and the music. There are also people out there who were too young at the time and didn’t get to live through the ‘80s. This album is something I wanted to put out as a gift to the fans and to the kids who didn’t get to live through the ‘80s!
Every album has its own unique set of challenges. I am sure putting this one together wasn’t as simple as grabbing the tapes from your closet. What were the biggest hurdles?
One of the biggest challenges was I had to go get the tapes. My ex-husband had the tapes. We were going through a divorce and I wanted the tapes. He had changed the locks on the house and put a security guard on the house in case I showed up! This is my house and I had lived in it for almost 10 years! All I wanted were my tapes. I wasn’t going to steal the couch, the stove or anything like that! It was really stupid. I just grabbed my music tapes and that was it! I took them back to Florida and put them in safe keeping where I could use them for the future. This was back in 2010 or 2011. I knew I was going to use the tapes down the road because they were so good!
Is there anything still hiding out on those tapes that we might hear in the future?
I think I picked the best of the best off of the tapes and put it all together in Lita Ford’s “Time Capsule.” That is why I never forgot about the tapes. They were something that were just priceless. I knew eventually I would use them but I just didn’t know when. It seems like now is a good time to put them out!
The album features cool artwork and brings a retro feel. How did that come about?
The artwork was done by Gene Kirkland. In the ‘80s, Gene photographed me to death! He has all of these amazing images which we used in the booklet. We made a stack of stuff for the album cover of all the old pictures, a lot of which came from the drummer who played on the sessions, along with Gene’s photos. Throw in a can of Aqua Net hairspray, a bottle of Jack Daniels and a hash pipe and it is the ‘80s all over again!
It definitely captures the spirit of the time! [laughs]
Yeah! Along with the musicians who played on the record.
“Time Capsule” is a perfect compliment to the book you just released, “Living Like A Runaway.” Putting your life down on paper seems like a monumental task. How difficult was it to get the ball rolling?
It really was a challenge to get it rolling! I couldn’t find the right author for the project. They just weren’t capturing my voicing. I don’t know if it was because I am pretty much one of a kind and because of that they weren’t getting it. There are plenty of guys who have done what I have done but when you read the book, it is not coming from a guy. You can tell it is written from a female standpoint or point of view. It has a lot of different aspects of approaching the music world, whereas a guy wouldn’t write these things. So, I think some of the co-writers I was trying to work with just weren’t getting it for that reason. I am just guessing but maybe they couldn’t digest the fact I am a woman. I did it myself and I am glad I did because I got what I wanted out of this book in a way that I don’t think anyone else could have put it together. It is not a very big book but there is so much that happened in such a small period of time. Even in The Runaways days, by the time I was 18, and it says this in the book, I felt as if I had lived an entire lifetime. We did so much in The Runaways and had so many ups, downs and hurdles we had to jump. It was a lot!
There were some instances where I wasn’t sure what happened first. Did I date Tony Iommi or Nikki Sixx first? I had to dig and make sure everything was in chronological order and make sure the dates were right. It was a difficult process because a lot of the old memorabilia that I had was not given back to me in my divorce. I lost all of my memorabilia. I didn’t lose it, it was stolen by my ex. He even took my mother’s baby pictures. He took anything and everything that meant anything to me, so I had none of my personal belongings to go through, look at and try to remember which picture was which and where it came from. I had a lot of great stuff! I had pictures of Sid and Nancy and other stuff that can never be replaced. It is all gone. I was able to go back to some of my friends and relatives, who I had sent pictures to, and they still had stuff I had given them years before. I was able to use their photographs and memorable moments of being with Lita to flesh it out. For instance, my drummer Dusty Watson, who’s on the “Out For Blood” album cover, is someone I hung out with a lot. Getting his takes and my old bass players takes, we were able to slowly piece together the entire book.
One of the things I love about the book is it feels honest and uncensored.
I didn’t want to get cold feet halfway through the book and say, “I am not going to talk about that because it’s gross, disgusting or I am too scared.” When the book did come out, I wasn’t sure how people were going to react. Of course, “The New York Post” just went ahead and pulls all the sex out of the book and put it up completely out of context, making me out to be, “She screwed this guy, this guy and this guy.” If you actually read the book there is an actual story around it. I knew they were going to do that. I didn’t know who would do that but I knew somebody was going to do that! Sure enough, there it was on “The New York Post.” If you read anybody else’s autobiography that is in a rock band like Nikki Sixx or anyone else coming from a hard rock standpoint, their sex stories way exceed mine, along with the things they did to women. Those guys way exceed anything I did that was crazy! A woman does it and she is called names but if a guy does it is OK. So, it made me a little nervous at first but now I am really happy I did it.
Are you comfortable with playing the part of a role model for those who might look up to you?
Heck yeah! Somebody’s got to be the queen!
Where do you see yourself headed in the future when it comes to music?
I am going to write another album. I am in the process of doing that now. It is a slow process because we are so busy right now. I have a lot of great, brand new songs that are ready to go but I just need to finish the album. I need a few more songs and we should have another new album out for 2017.
What can you tell us about your songwriting process these days? Is there a method to the madness?
I feel the song. I feel it out and if it doesn’t feel right or doesn’t sound right, I will change the part as I am writing the song, whether it is the chorus, pre-chorus or somewhere you want to put a lead guitar part or harmony guitar part, I write it as we are writing the song. Then, when you come to record the song, I don’t like to do too many demos. I think doing too many demos makes the song sterile. This is just my opinion and just how I like to record. It is almost like having sex for the first time with someone you really love. It is amazing. The more and more and more you do it, that first initial impact you had seems to wear off. You want to keep that initial wow in your music. The more you record it and mess with it, it seems like you lose that. I like to keep it spontaneous and keep that first vibe and feel of the song true.
You have an incredible drive, even after experiencing the ups and downs of your epic career in the music industry. What is the secret to your longevity?
I think it is in your blood. You either have it or your don’t. If you have it in your blood, there is no way you can refuse the music. Even if you try, you will always come back to it. I read a quote somewhere that said something along the lines of, “If you have it in your blood, it will always be a part of you. There is no escaping it.” That quote is right on the money! Like I said, I look at it as a gift from God.
I am sure you learned many lessons along the way. What is the best piece of advice you can offer to young musicians?
I have hung out with some pretty amazing people along the way and learned from them. If you are a guitar player or a musician, there is always stuff to learn. It is neverending! There are always little bits and pieces you can learn from somebody else. Always try and take that and apply it to yourself. By doing that you will always keep growing!
That’s terrific advice! Thank you for your time today, Lita! We look forward to talking with you again soon! Until then, stay out of trouble!
[laughs] Do I have to?!
Nah! Your secrets are safe with me, Lita!
OK, thanks! [laughs]
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.