Joan Jett and The Blackhearts Bad Reputation Nation

Jett-Setter: An Interview With Joan Jett

Joan Jett? Is she still around...? Such is the comments many make when her name comes up. To those who know, yes, she is still around and will continue to be until... well, there is no more existence. In fact, she has recently released a new album Fetish. She is out and about promoting it and touring. Her band has changed and she has changed her own appearance. Gone are the days of Joan with the jet-black hair all spiked up and in leather. Now, she is a close cropped blonde, and talking loud about her fascination with certain sexual practices.

Who is this woman? Is she... or isn't she? Why does she do this or that? Hmmm, for a woman who has been around for quite a while, and whose songs we've all sung along to, there is a lot still unknown about her. Being curious about her, but only allowed 20 minutes to uncover some answers is not much to work with. Still, we have to try. A conference call with her publicist, a long wait, and then a gruff sounding Joan comes on the other line. The twenty minutes have been counting down, and I have to squeeze as much out as quickly as possible.

NBCi: How do I know this is really you?
Joan: I guess you don't. Ask me something only I would know.

NBCi: Ok, uhhh, when did you get that George Harrison style tattoo on the back of your neck?
Joan: George Harrison?

NBCi: Yeah, you know, that hippie symbol, it is on George Harrison stuff, Kula Shaker uses it, it's all over the place.
Joan: Really? Ohhh. Well, I got this in the early 90's. 92 or something like that, I don't remember the exact date...

NBCi: That's cool, I trust you. Any others, or is that the only one?
Joan: There's more, seven.

NBCi: What else, like a big anchor on your back?
Joan: No, nothing like that

NBCi: Small and discreet?
Joan: Uhhh, no, not necessarily small, and certainly not discreet.

NBCi: Oh, I see. In a photo on the recent USO tour, you can be seen with a ring on your left hand, ring finger...
Joan: Uhhh, coincidence. Left hand?

NBCi: Yep.
Joan: Just a fake, a fake thing.

NBCi: I see...though you may be getting domesticated
Joan: Well, that depends on what you call domesticated.

NBCi: What others may find shocking is your help with the USO. You have been doing that quite a while now, for atleast the last 10 years or so right?
Joan: Since the early 80's.

NBCi: Wow. That doesn't exactly fit in with your bad girl image, why do you never talk about it?
Joan: I don't remember the exact circumstance as to how I got involved. We have gone all over the world, from the DMZ in Korea to parts of Eastern Germany, I think even some stuff in Hawaii, but I am not sure if it was USO. We have been all over the place, to a lot of places that just, well...aren't very pleasant. I just never publicize it because I don't want people to misinterpret the reason why I do it. The reason I do it, is because if people really look into it, they're(soldiers) just kids. The people I usually play to anyway, that is my audience. They are in a very uncomfortable situation. I personally don't publicize it because people will misinterpret that I am supporting government policy.

NBCi: Maybe it is the mother instinct in you.
Joan: Uhhhhh, maybe it is more because I just like to play for people. When I have a captive audience, I like to get out and play. I guess I had a good experience with the first time I did it, so I continue on with it. I just don't like to publicize it because people misinterpret things...

NBCi: Yeah, well, you're no stranger to that though.
Joan: No, not at all...

NBCi: How much of Joan Jett do the people really know?
Joan: I am not sure what you mean. I don't look at websites to see what people are saying about me. I think if people listen to my music or read my interviews they know who I am. I am just not sure what you are getting at.

NBCi: You know, some performers are very insular. The Joan Jett onstage may not be the same person they would meet in real life.
Joan: Well yeah, it is the same woman, but a different situation. Today it is not Joan Jett onstage there to perform for you, it's Joan Jett offstage, maybe without make-up, maybe wearing shorts if we were by the beach shooting the shit. I've got different aspects, I am not just the woman you see onstage. I think my music will let you know who I am and that through it we can connect somehow, but...yeah, it will be the same vibe.

NBCi: Ok, uh...
Joan: No! When you meet me in person you tell me.

NBCi: Ok, most definitely I will. A friend of mine said that everytime he has seen you, several times over the last 15 years, you were sick.
Joan: First of all...are you sure you know this guy well?

NBCi: Yes.
Joan: I have never talked about the way I feel. I have maybe told the crowd as to why I am hoarse, but I never get up and bitch about the way I feel. Hey if I'm sick, I work hard, I go out and do it. Maybe afterwards, while meeting fans and signing autographs I say stuff, but never onstage. I am not a sickly person. I don't know what he is talking about. You see, that is what I mean. People just blab things that aren't true. It is very annoying for people like me. It pisses me off!

NBCi: OK. There is an obvious line of this 'fetish' hang up in your work. Most obvious, the new lp Fetish. It seems like it really took shape between Pure and Simple and Fit to be Tied, is that so or am I missing something here?
Joan: No, you gotta listen to the music. I have been singing about this stuff since, uhh 1980. "Love Is Pain", that was 1981. This theme has been in there ever since The Runaways. I don't know what kicked it off, something in my childhood or a past life experience.

NBCi: Past life? You believe in that stuff?
Joan: Oh yeah, for sure. Definitely.

NBCi: Since you mentioned The Runaways...there has been a lot of talk. Are you really comfortable with getting back into the same line up of people with someone like Lita Ford? I mean, heavy metal mistress, crawling around on floors while being sprayed with water, slinging her long blond hair, playing those BC Rich guitars or whatever...
Joan: Well, first of all, I wouldn't judge Lita so harshly. I think if we were to do The Runaways reunion it wouldn't be a long-term thing, a one off, that's it. I personally don't think it is going to happen, because I have to be involved and I am not so sure how I feel about it. It goes from me sometimes wanting to do it, to not wanting any of it. It leaves too much open to the press to take shots at The Runaways. I can't deal with that.

NBCi: Yeah, well c'mon. You are restarting something that was 20 years ago...
Joan: It will never be like it was. To me, it is like why? Why do it? Someone's gotta tell me a good reason why. We would be creamed in the press, CREAMED. A bunch of almost 40 year old women trying to recapture their youth, and it didn't work the first time and da da da da da... It just leaves us wide open and I can't deal with that. The Runaways were so special to me, and I can't take that. I would rather not do it at all. I don't need to do it. It would have to be totally fun, no headtrips from anyone, no bullshit...perfect.

NBCi: You know that is asking a lot.
Joan: Well yeah, so I don't have to do it then. There is absolutely no reason.

NBCi: Someone once said you were a rock and roll journeyman.
Joan: Well, that depends on how you define it.

NBCi: You know, no matter what, you will be out there, bustin' your ass till the end of time, rockin' and rollin'. Joan Jett will always be there.
Joan: Well, yeah, I guess so. Definitely. I think I will do this until it is not fun anymore...or until I am physically not able to do this anymore. I mean, I really have fun out there. I really get a kick out of being on stage. I love talking to fans, signing autographs and just talking with fans after the show. It is such a huge part of it for me, and such a great is so important for me. But, you have to be able to draw the boundaries and be polite about it, that is the hard part.

NBCi:What about the new kids out there, like The Donnas or The Prissteens? Anyone ever come to you for pointers or advice?
Joan: No, not really, not directly. Not like that. I hung out with Bikini Kill, but they never really asked any specifics or so direct.

NBCi: Ok, while on the subject. Why does it seem like you changed your whole sound. You dropped the melodic, almost doo-wop based rock and roll of Dion and the Belmonts or Tommy James, and picked up this formulated Riot Grrl type stuff?
Joan: Well...rock and roll is really varied. I don't look at Bikini Kill as being different at all. Maybe they don't have a doo-wop background, but the chord progression is almost the same. I think I was just tapping into different parts of myself. I don't think my Stones vibe, or doo-wop vibe will ever leave. You will see what I mean when the new album comes out...which will be soon.

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