AN INTERVIEW WITH LITA FORD..
Everybody’s got their idols. One of mine is Lita Ford. Growing up in the 80s, there were few female musicians who could rock as hard as the boys in the metal/hard rock genre. Lita Ford not only kicked ass on the guitar, but she looked good doing it. She had style and she had substance, two things that didn’t always go together towards the end of the 80s. After a 15-year hiatus, Lita has returned to the stage and the studio and is set to release a record of new material this fall entitled Wicked Wonderland. I had the privilege of sitting down with Ms. Ford to discuss a variety of topics including her family, her guitars, and her aversion to doing the dishes. Lita, her sons Rocco and James, and her husband of 15 years, Jim Gillette were a riot. They were totally down to earth and were gracious enough to give us a glimpse into their wickedly wonderful world. Join us, wont you.
Tracey: So, its been a year since you returned to the scene, are you happy with your decision to do that?
Lita: Almost a year? It has? My God.
Tracey: Yes, Rocklahoma was about this time last year
Lita: Yeah, we did an album in the meantime, so we’ve kind of been out of the scene. We did Rocklahoma and then we disappeared again we’re good at that, and then we did this wonderful new album which tonight, were going to play four songs off of and it’ll be out October 6th. So, yes, I’m very excited to have a new album out, very excited.
Tracey: Whats the first single going to be?
Lita: We don’t know yet. What we’ve done is we would you like to do this? Would you like to do this? (Ed note: She is jokingly annoyed by her husband, Jim, who keeps poking his head in & out of the interview room). We gave the album to radio people and we let them pick the first single, and they picked 5. So what were going to do is put a disc out that has five tracks on it, and were going to let radio pick what they like out of those five. There are actually twelve or fourteen songs on the record they picked five. And there are a bunch more that I liked, that I thought they should have picked, and they didn’t, so, you’ll get a release of a five song EP on October 6th, to radio.
Tracey: How were you able to go off to a deserted island for so long? I mean, did you invest wisely is what I want to know
Lita: I absolutely invested wisely. My husband, Jim Gillette, has developed lots and lots of real estate out in the islands. In fact, we recently had an offer from Donald Trump who wanted to buy out our land, but we didn’t have enough land for him; we only have a hundred acres, he wanted more. Sorry, Donald! Anyway, hes been busy with that, he just developed a marina that wasn’t there; it is literally a deserted island. There is nothing on it. I mean nothing! So he just took that and sectioned it off and sold some lots and there’s a few houses built now maybe five, its still pretty desolate.
Tracey: Well, that leads me to my next question: what did you do for your kids education?
Lita: We home school them. I’m in charge of reading, writing and arithmetic, and Jim is in charge of P.E. (laughs) They’re really into the Martial Arts; Jujitsu and Boxing, they rock-climb and all that crap
Tracey: So they must be pretty close if there are no other kids around to play with?
Lita: Y’know, they really don’t like hanging out too much with other kids it’s like, Mom, when are we going to go home? and they have their favorite friends that they like to see, and that’s it. It pretty much always works out that way anyway, I mean you got your handful of your favorite friends and that’s it.
Tracey: At Rocklahoma, you brought Rocco onstage, and I hear that you have them both up there now. Were they apprehensive to do that?
Lita: My twelve year old was going to kill me for bringing him onstage; he was like, MOM! Why the heck did you do that?!? and I was like Awwwww, you’re so cute!!! You know the words to Kiss Me Deadly, why didn’t you sing it? and he goes, Don’t you EVER do that to me again! So, today he says, Mom, you going to bring me onstage tonight? He kinda wants to come now. But Rocco and James both come on and offstage whenever they feel like it. If I ask for a guitar, they’ll bring me a guitar. If I ask for a drink, they’ll bring me a drink, y’know? Its like, Hey Rocco, grab me that. Hey James, grab me that. They run back and forth onstage and grab me stuff but they don’t want to SING. Don’t get them near a microphone. They’ll freeze up.
Tracey: On the new album, did you collaborate with anyone on the songwriting: famous or otherwise?
Lita: Jim Gillette, and Greg Hampton, who is a record producer out of Los Angeles. Greg and Jim did the bulk of the producing and writing, and they’re great as a team. Greg Hamptons awesome.
Tracey: So how did you hook up with GnR guitarist Bumblefoot for the tour?
Lita: Hmmmm I don’t know I called him up! I said, What are you doing? and he said, Waiting for GnR to go out on the road. And I said, Well, OK, well while you’re waiting, do you just want to do a few shows? and he said, Sure and so he came out and is doing these few shows while hes waiting for GnR.
Tracey: So, do you think hell be waiting a long time?
Lita: I hope so. I really don’t know. That’s their business and I try to stay out of it, but we love him.
Tracey: Now, you’ve been through a lot of lineup changes. Is it harder than you thought to get the right group of people together?
Lita: Its very hard. Its like trying to find a good housekeeper or a good nanny, or anything like that. Trying to find a good lead singer or a good guitar player; its the same thing. Its like, This guy plays real well, but he looks BAD! or he looks really good but he plays bad, and then you have to like their personality. You have to be able to LIVE with this person, not just play with them. We spend hours on end in airports and tour buses and you literally do live together.
Tracey: How hard is it to get in sync in terms of playing? Do you have to do a lot of rehearsing before you go out on the road?
Lita: Well, I think that when you have great musicians, it really comes quite naturally. It isn’t something that they have to work really hard at, they just do what they do and if its good enough, then it clicks. If they’re really bad, then we don’t have time for that, so we just move on.
Tracey: You’ve made the Warlock pretty synonymous with your face. What new and/or old gear did you use for this record?
Lita: That is so cool that you asked that question! The man who made my old guitars, which I will be playing tonight my double-neck is messed up damn it well, maybe they fixed it anyway, the guy who made my Warlock, his name is Bernie Rico. He passed away. So his son, Bernie Rico, Jr. was taking over the company, and recently I called Bernie Rico, Jr. and I asked him he’s the only one, y’know it’s like a family recipe, these guitars, its like an old family spaghetti sauce recipe or something he’s the only one who knows how to make these guitars. So I said, Your Dad made me these guitars, and I want new guitars. So he says, Man, were making these new guitars now called Rico. They’re not B.C. Rich, but they’re the same manufacturers, and hes putting me together some new guitars right now as we speak, and I should have the first one next weekend for the Sturgis rally.
Tracey: Is it going to be a signature line?
Lita: Were working on that right now we don’t have one yet. Were just kind of gearing up to that.
Tracey: Well, that’s cool, though!
Lita: Yeah, that’s very cool. He was so happy to hear from me, and I was so happy that he was happy and it was just, like, family, family, family y’know?
Tracey: Were going to do some fun questions now. Name a guilty pleasure of yours that fans might not know about. Like getting up at two in the morning to watch a reality show or something silly like that
Lita: Well, I don’t work out, Id never tune my guitar, and I love junk food. OK? Actually, chocolate, I should say.
Tracey: Ah. A woman after my own heart. Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate.
Lita: But, I eat good, I do eat good.
Tracey: How do you keep in shape? For the tour and just everyday?
Lita: I don’t do anything. I don’t do a damn thing. I don’t believe in it. I just think its a bunch of BS. If you want to be a bodybuilder or whatever, I don’t know. Being a lead singer, you need to have the wind, so a little bit of cardio doesn’t hurt, but spending hours on end in the gym is just ridiculous. We don’t do babysitters or anything like that, so we keep our kids with us, so the time that I would spend in the gym, most people would not see their kids or not be with their family, I just don’t do that. So
Tracey: So tell me what household chore you absolutely hate to
Lita: (Cutting me off) THE DISHES! The freakin dishes! I HATE the dishes; my hands get all wet and moist around my fingertips I hate doing the dishes.
Tracey: Ok then! Obviously throughout your career, there have been a lot of men that have pursued you. Why Jim? What made him special?
Lita: Hes the only real man that Ive ever met in my life. People, well, men seem to be intimidated by me, and I’m not a real intimidating person, but when it comes down to being romantic, or, you know, having a sexual love affair, the only man that could ever fulfill me that way is my husband. Hes very, um, I love you, you are going to be my wife. There’s no bullshit, there’s no BS, its just straight down to it he’s not scared, y’know? Hes not a wimp in any way, shape or form.
Tracey: How’d you guys meet?
Lita: We met in Dallas, Texas, backstage at some show. I don’t even remember the band that was playing. He showed up, and we got married two weeks later on Friday the 13th.
Tracey: I got married on Friday the 13th!
Lita: Did you?
Tracey: Yeah! That’s always been a lucky day for me, that’s why we picked it.
Lita: And my son was born on Friday the 13th. (Ed. Note: at this point in the interview, Lita pulls up her sleeve to display her tattoo that shows a black cross with Friday the 13th in Roman Numerals written beneath.) And I just got this one. (Shows brand new tat, right beneath the cross, baring the letters J I M in blue and black ink)
Tracey:> That’s fantastic. So, do you feel that the music scene has gotten better or worse since you were interviewed on the beach by VH-1 years ago?
Lita: Um, I think that things are definitely changing in the music industry, there doesn’t seem to be as much grunge as there was, and the 80s hair bands don’t seem to be such a bad name anymore, which is nice. It used to be, Oooo, you’re from the 80s? Ewwwwww! And it was like, What the hell did I do wrong? I should be an inspiration to you, y’know? You came from the freakin’ Two Thousand and Ones! But anyway, I think were getting back into the 80s now, and the 90s, those oldwell, I shouldn’t say old, which they are kinda old (laughs) coming back, that music, that level of music is coming back. And its not so disrespected anymore. It was so disrespected. It was like a dirty word.
Tracey: Well, look at some of the longevity that some of these bands have had.
Lita: Oh yeah
Tracey: You, for example, having been gone for 15 years, how many of them, the ones that were around in the late nineties, are going to be able to say that ten, fifteen years from now? No ones going to remember who they were.
Lita: That’s right. Here today, gone tomorrow.
Tracey: I cant tell any of them apart.
Lita: No, I cant either.
Tracey: Back in the day, I knew every single person in a band now this guy sounds like that guy sounds like this guy. I don’t know who the guitar player is, or the drummer.
Lita: I know exactly what you’re saying and I agree with you.
Tracey: Well, as a longtime admirer of your work, I would like to thank you so much for sitting down with me
Lita: I cant wait to tell Bernie Rico about that question about the Warlock, hes going to freak out! I should call him as soon as my husband comes back in; hes got the cell phone.
Tracey: And, were glad that you’re back to rock our collective asses off (Ed Note: her husband enters the room)
Lita: Jim, she just asked me about the Warlock signature model! That was her question, so you need to call Bernie and tell him!
Jim: We talked about that already!
Lita: No, but it came from her, not me!
Jim: Oh, cool! Yeah, were doing one, and actually, the one shes getting made right now, I have a picture that I can’t
Lita: But, that’s the hybrid.
Jim: But were going to sign six or eight of them and then were going to sell those and then, hes got a new shape that he thinks you might like
Gus: I think that for women who play, I think it would be the best idea to do that; put your model out there.
Lita: Well, there are two. And ones called the Vixen, and ones called Diva. And the Vixen is a double-necked flying V, which I think would be awesome. But its out he’s already got it sealed.
Jim: And it’s real tweaked out; the Diva it’s pretty sexy looking.
Lita: Yeah, yeah, all of his guitars are awesome.
(Ed Note: Jim continues to talk about the guitars at which point Lita asks if she should step out, so he can step in (everyone laughs)).
Tracey: Don’t worry Jim, I asked a lot of questions about you!
(Ed Note: Lita then posed for a few pics, including a family photo of the whole clan, and then explained it was time for her to go warm up. Twenty minutes later, we were treated to a fantastic performance80s style! Thank you for staying true to your roots Lita! You freakin’ rock!
Backstageaxxess.com would like to thank Terry Wang from Shock Inc. for setting up the interview. For more information on Lita Ford, you can go to: www.myspace.com/litaford.