By Andrew Bansal
One of the most recognizable, admirable and respected rock n’ roll personalities, not only amongst women but in the world of hard rock and heavy metal as a whole, Los Angeles-based guitarist, singer and songwriter Lita Ford is still going strong after four decades in the business, and has proven herself as nothing short of a living legend. She did not let her role in the well-documented and extremely shortlived mid-70s all-girl band The Runaways be her only claim to fame, and carved out a successful solo career for herself over the past 30 years. Earlier this year, Ford released a throwback album called ‘Time Capsule’, a collection of tracks made from old demos and recorded fresh with high-profile guest musicians. 2016 also saw the release of her colorfully entertaining autobiography ‘Living Like A Runaway’. She has been touring actively, and now, besides working on new original music, she prepares to take part in the Sirius XM Hair Nation Festival at Irvine Meadows on September 17th. She was one of the judges for the ‘Battle For Hair Nation’ BOTB event at the Whisky-A-Go-Go last Wednesday August 17th, but before doing that, she spent some time at the Rainbow Bar & Grill with the press folk. She was much smarter than any of the other musicians and personalities being interviewed, as she secured her own booth in the cozy indoors of the Rainbow. Metal Assault sat down with her for a one-on-one conversation about a range of topics, aside from Hair Nation. Enjoy the chat below.
Lita, it’s a pleasure to sit with you here at the Rainbow, in this booth. How are you doing today?
I’m doing great! It’s good to be talking to you, and it’s good to here at the Rainbow. I remember the day I walked in here where people would just take your pizza. There were so many people in here, they would just walk by and grab a slice of pizza. It didn’t matter who they were, your food was everybody’s food, or anybody’s feed. It was crazy. It was like, “Hey dude, you just took my food!”
That’s quite a memory to have. What do you think of it now as compared to then?
It’s definitely mellowed out! But I still come here as often as I can. The food is excellent.
What brings you here today? You’re obviously performing at the Hair Nation Festival next month. What are your thoughts on that?
I just wanted to judge the battle of the bands, and be a part of the culture of Irvine Meadows. It’s been such a huge part of my life! My childhood, growing up, it’s been my hang, my stomping grounds. I’m going to kiss the stage next month and try and take a piece of it with me.
What was your reaction when you first heard that the venue was going to be torn down?
I was sick. I didn’t want them to tear it down. It’s just such a beautiful place, so many wonderful things have happened there, and could still happen! But I don’t know, some idiot came in with a lot of money and bought it up, I guess.
That’s what happens to a lot of venues. Even the Gibson Amphitheater got shut down to be replaced by a Harry Potter theme park or something like that.
Yeah! I also heard that the Rainbow, the Whisky and the Roxy almost sold. I was freaking out. We all just protested, saying that they couldn’t do that. So, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon, thank God.
Yeah, we’re still here! So, coming to today’s event, you’re going to be one of the judges for the battle of the bands. What do you really look for in bands when you’re judging them? Have you ever done this kind of thing before?
Oh yeah, I have. I’ve been in the industry so long now, 40 years, so you know what to look for. You know when someone is not on, or what they’re lacking. It could be their choreography, it could be their music, it could be their drummer, it could be their clothes. It could be a number of things. And they could be totally kicking ass, in which case they would win! So, we’ll have to see. I’m excited. Can’t wait!
Plus, it’s probably been a while since you’ve had the chance to check out the local scene here, because you don’t really get the time to do that.
Yeah, I don’t. I don’t come down to the Hollywood area unless I really need to be here. I actually live quite far out of town. It’s quiet there, the streets are bigger, I drive a truck, and there’s places to park, unlike Hollywood which is just mayhem. So, it’s good to come into mayhem every once in a while but it’s nice to leave too (laughs).
Exactly. What have you been up to in 2016? I see that you’ve been touring quite a lot. Is that all you’ve done during the first part of the year?
Yeah, we really toured our asses off this year so far. We did a month with Halestorm in April, and we’re going to do another month with them in October. We went overseas, and just got back from Belgium where we did the Alcatraz Festival, which was amazing. We played with Kid Rock, which was different, and we did a show in Sturgis, which is a place I love. But they were doing a motorcycle auction, the guy drove the bike up onto the stage, and went right off the edge into the audience, with a motorcycle. People went to the hospital, but nobody died or was permanently injured, and I think everybody went home that night. But still, it’s an 800-900 pound machine, and you don’t want that on top of you. And huge lightning bolts were coming out of the sky. It was pretty bizarre. Quite a wild gig! So, we’ve had some pretty wild times. And then, there was a freaking Delta Airlines meltdown. Ugh, it’s been an insane last few months.
Sounds like it. In terms of new music, are you working on anything at the moment?
Yeah, we are. We’re starting to write for the next album. I’m writing with Gary Hoey, as I did for the ‘Living Like A Runaway’ album, and I work with anyone who comes up with anything great. Never reject a great song, no matter who writes it, it doesn’t matter.
You mentioned Halestorm, and I’ve seen that you’ve jammed with Lzzy Hale and the band, pretty much at every show on that run. How did that start? I’m sure she’s been a huge fan of yours and looks up to you.
I actually never heard of Halestorm until about a week before the tour, and then I saw how great they were. I mean, you fall in love with them instantly. We all were just having fun on the tour. It’s been a real honor to be on tour with them. Great band, great bunch of guys and gals. They have some women on their crew too, so it’s guys and gals, which is nice to see.
Awesome. Your other guitarist in the band right now is Patrick Kennison. I’ve known him for a number of years and I interviewed him about 6 years ago, for his other band at the time, Heaven Below. I’m really glad he has the gig. How has it been playing with him through the last couple of years?
At first, it’s a bit of a learning experience, because we come from two different pieces of cloth. I’m more old-school, Patrick is more ’90s. There’s a big difference in musical styles. So, it took a little while but I learned from him and he learned from me. So, we take each other’s riffs and feel, and put it together, and now it’s just ferocious. Plus we have Bobby Rock on drums and Marty O’Brien on bass. It’s a great band and I’m really happy with the guys.
You need a good band to succeed, even as a solo artist and even though the band is under your name.
Oh, absolutely! You need a good team.
Finally, aside from Hair Nation next month, what do you have coming up for the immediate future, for the band and for yourself?
We’ve got a lot of tours and festivals coming up, and writing the new album. I have a lot of flights booked to Gary’s studio (laughs). So, we’ve got a busy rest of the month, and then we’re gearing up for October with Halestorm and the other shows we’ve got booked. And we’ll see you September 17th, right? Looking forward to that!
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Lita Ford US tour dates 2016:
08/26/2016 – Lewiston, ID @ Rock the Valley Music Fest
08/27/2016 – Baraboo, WI @ Ho-Chunk Casino
09/03/2016 – Gering, NE @ Five Rocks Amphiteatre
09/04/2016 – Omaha, NE @ SeptemberFest
09/05/2016 – Milwaukee, WI @ Milwaukee Harley Davidson
09/17/2016 – Irvine, CA @ Irvine Meadows (Sirius XM Hair Nation Festival)
09/24/2016 – Schaumburg, IL @ Farm Rock Chicagoland
09/30/2016 – Lexington, KY @ Scarefest (Appearance only / Autograph signing)
10/01/2016 – Lexington, KY @ Scarefest (Appearance only / Autograph signing)
10/05/2016 – San Antonio, TX @ Fitzgeralds
10/06/2016 — Dallas, TX @ Gas Monkey Live *
10/08/2016 — Colorado Springs, CO @ Pikes Peak Center *
10/09/2016 — Salt Lake City, UT @ The Complex *
10/11/2016 — Tempe, AZ @ Marquee *
10/12/2016 — San Diego, CA @ House of Blues *
10/14/2016 — Reno, NV @ Silver Legacy Casino *
10/15/2016 — Sacramento, CA @ Ace of Spades *
10/17/2016 — Spokane, WA @ Knitting Factory *
10/18/2016 — Calgary, AB @ MacEwan Hall *
10/19/2016 — Edmonton, AB @ Winspear Centre / Emmax Hall *
10/21/2016 — Billings, MT @ Shrine Auditorium *
10/22/2016 — Minot, ND @ State Fair Center *
10/23/2016 — Duluth, MN @ Pioneer Hall *
10/25/2016 — Kalamazoo, MI @ State Theatre *
10/26/2016 — Toronto, ON @ Phoenix Theatre *
10/28/2016 — Montreal, QC @ Metropolis *
10/30/2016 – Rochester, NY @ Montage Music Hall
10/31/2016 – Sellersville, PA @ Sellersville Theater
11/01/2016 – Fall River, MA @ Narrows Center for the Arts
11/03/2016 – Las Vegas, NV @ T-Mobile Arena (Outdoor Toshiba Plaza Stage)
12/10/2016 – Versailles, OH @ BMI Indoor Speedway (with Trixter)
12/11/2016 – Annapolis, MD @ Rams Head ‘On Stage’
* = supporting Halestorm