Singer-guitarist Lita Ford first joined the Runaways when she was only 16 years old. Now, at age 53, Ford is still at it. She just released her new album, Living Like a Runaway, and is on a summer arena tour with Def Leppard and Poison. We caught up with her (and her two adorable Chihuahuas) backstage at Quicken Loans Arena last night before she went on stage. She talked about her highly personal new album and how she hopes the Runaways might get back together.
Have you been playing arenas prior to this tour?
Not really. We’ve been doing little shows here and there in clubs and stuff. The last arena tour I did was, shit, I don’t know. Even when we toured with Queensryche, we just did clubs. I think the last arena tour would have been 1989. It’s hard to get intimate with the audience in an arena. In clubs, I can see everybody right there. I can go, “Hey you with that blue hat on. What are you doing!” I can read the writing on people’s shirts. In arenas, you feel really disconnected. You have to project yourself more and it’s very difficult.
This album is so personal.
I wrote it going through my divorce, which was one of the darkest, most horrible times of my life. I emptied all my pain and aggression into this record. I think it’s something that’s dramatic. I am really in love with the record. The riffs and guitar playing really came to life.
I think you said after 2009’s Wicked Wonderland, you wanted to rock harder.
That’s not a Lita record. I just feel like this is a true Lita record. I was able to write the songs myself. I didn’t have anyone telling me what to do and when to do it. Gary [Hoey], as a producer, allowed me to be me. He didn’t try to stop Lita from being Lita. The takes on the album are the original takes. There’s no overdubbing and no I can’t sing today, I’ll come back tomorrow. I compare it to having sex with somebody when you first meet. It’s great and the next day you have this stupid grin on your face and feel all happy. This record does that to me. I came away from the songs feeling like I had the best sex in my life.
Some of the songs are about your divorce, but I think you’ve been divorced before, haven’t you?
Well, I divorced [W.A.S.P.’s] Chris Holmes but that’s because he had a drinking problem. He’s a sweetheart. I don’t want to ruin his reputation, but he’s a sweetheart. So is [Motley Crue’s] Nikki Sixx. I dated him for a while and he’s awesome. They never did anything like this guy. This guy is just a freak. He was abusive — mentally, physically, sexually. He’s horrible.
In a song like “Devil in My Head,” you really question yourself.
It started off “Angel on My Shoulder.”
What was it like working those emotions out in the song?
I could see it clear as day. It was there. The words were there and I just had to take them and put them on paper.
But “Relentless” is more triumphant.
Yeah. The album is a survival record. It’s not a victim record. Not at all. No fucking way.
The title track reflects back on your time with the Runaways.
The song title came about because I was living like a runaway at the time. I had run away from home and filed for divorce. I grabbed my keys one day and got my guitars and put them at a neighbor’s house across the street and I had prepared to leave. The one day I had 45 minutes to get out of the house. I left and never came back. In the song, it says “one day I left town with just a guitar on my shoulder and a shirt on my back. Yeah, I wasn’t coming back. I had to break the spell my heart was under so I had to roll out of town on wheels of thunder.” If you saw my truck, you would know. I have a monster truck with a lift kit and a big skull and crossbones on the front. It’s a true story. I also wrote it about the Runaways. How can you not go there?
Do you still embrace the legacy of the Runaways?
Did you see the movie?
No. I saw the trailer and that was enough. I didn’t want to see the movie.
Do you ever think what would have happened if the band hadn’t broken up?
Well, we can always get back together. We’ll see what happens. I did put an email out to Joan but I didn’t get a response.
Some critics didn't like how you subsequently presented yourself as a sex symbol. What's your response?
I’m a girl. I can do those things if I want.
Have you been happy with your solo career?
Yeah. It was a fight. though. Now, in 2012, I don’t feel like that anymore. Back then, record companies and record company executives had been pushed out and replaced. In one case, the president who broke my album was paid off and pushed out. They brought in another guy from Nashville who didn’t know what to do with me. He wrote me a letter that said, “Lita, you are one kick ass lady but I don’t know what to do with you.” I was like, “What?” I was being nominated for Grammys for best female rock vocalist and he didn’t know what to do with me.
Did you have any issues with Sharon Osbourne when she was managing you?
Not really but at the end of our relationship, I severed our ties because Sharon was in really deep ice with Ozzy. It was affecting my career. He had choked her and she pressed charges. During that whole time, I was like, “I have a gig tonight. Do you think you could answer my phone call?” I couldn’t get her on the phone. It wasn’t anything against Sharon. I love Sharon. When I look back on those days, I wonder if she thought I was having sex with Ozzy. He was screwing everything that moved, but I would never do that to her nor did I want to. I don’t know if she knows that I didn’t. Ozzy probably doesn’t remember if he did or didn’t. I saw her recently in L.A. and she didn’t want to talk to me. It hurt my feelings because I love her.
You and Ozzy were a perfect match on “Close My Eyes Forever.” Did you know it was special after you recorded it?
No. We were just messing around. Sometimes, the best things are spontaneous and happen by accident. That was one of those. We hadn’t planned a writing schedule but we felt like jamming. That song got written and the next morning, we were still sitting in the studio and I said, “Shit, Ozzy, you better go.” The sun was coming up. We had finished the song and he was like “I got to get out of the canyon.” I couldn’t drive him out of the canyon. It was one of those windy California roads. I was totally drunk. I put him in a cab and I lived right up the street so I didn’t have far to go. I had a life-sized duplicate of Koko the Gorilla from the San Diego zoo. I strapped in Koko next to me and drove home.
Where do you go from here?
I have a few irons in the fire and I just have to see which ones burn the most.