Joan Jett and The Blackhearts Bad Reputation Nation

Interview with Kenny Laguna 1/21/02

Joan Jett started the New Year doing something she's done all the other years: playing in front of live crowds. 2002 started with The Stan Tour, so called because: "We were all over the place, and every place ended in "stan," (Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan... AFGHANISTAN????) according to Jett's musical partner and in this case, fellow performer, Kenny Laguna. These were very exclusive shows: to get into one, you had to be a member of the Armed Forces deployed far from home.

Now Jett is back home, prepping for a number of live dates, writing material for a new album, and taking part in several other projects. Laguna gave some details on where they've been and where The Blackhearts are headed.

Q: Can we expect any new interviews with Joan coming up soon?

KL: Right now, she's just not doing interviews. She did every interview for so many years, everything anybody asked, from high school papers all the way on up. And so she's stopped for now. Through the years, many great artists have gotten to that point. It's very tricky for me, as her musical partner. I have radio stations calling, people calling for comments about things like the Stone Pony [potentially closing].

Q: Speaking of which, now that the Stone Pony has won its fight to remain open, it's been reported that Joan is going to play an anniversary concert there next month. Can you confirm that?

KL: There are no plans to do a show there with Joan, although we probably would, since we like the guy who owns the place.

Q: What else is happening? Is there any word on the long-awaited new album from The Blackhearts?

KL: We're doing a bunch of dates in February, and I expect we'll be doing some more in March. And we're trying to get something going on with a record company. We're giving up on Warner Brothers, I'm pretty sure. They just don't seem to be able to put out a record. That means we have all these labels interested, and we're talking to them, and we're trying to get the best situation.

Q: So you think you'll partner with another major label?

KL: We need the help of a major label. Today you have to spend a million dollars just to put out a single. A lot of labels want us, and we're going to try to make a deal and get [a new album] out in the spring.

Q: Will you get to keep the work that was done at Warner Brothers?

KL: Yes, they're being nice about working out something so we can get the stuff out. Warner Brothers is one of the nicest bunch of people we've had to deal with. It's just that circumstances didn't work out. The company became unstable; even though they ended up really hurting our careers, it wasn't like they were trying to be jerks, they had a lot of changes going on all the time and it just didn't seem like there was enough focus out there, and couldn't stay on top of the situation. It was difficult for everybody.

Q: Will you use the songs you recorded for Warners on the new album?

KL: I don't think we're going to put out the old stuff now, and treat it like a brand new release. If some miracle happened, and something became big, of course we will try to put it out. There's about 30 tracks in the can. Some of it's repeated stuff from both Bob Rock and Teddy Templeman [producing]. We will try to get it out just for the sake of history. It's pretty good, but it's also good to have something in the can you can release, like "La Bamba," if we get shot out of the sky.

Q: So you and Joan are writing new material for an album?

KL: We're working on a lot of things. Joan just did this movie, The Sweet Life. She got into it through Chris Stein from Blondie. His wife was starring in it, they needed somebody beautiful and tough, and Chris suggested Joan, and we liked it and we like these guys. So we wrote some new songs for that: the title song, "The Sweet Life," and another song, called "Cherie" (or "Sherry") after her character.

We're also planning to release the recording of Joan and Cherie Currie singing "Cherry Bomb" together last year in California. We're going to make that available through the fanclub. There might even be a new song with Joan & Cherie for a possible Runaways tribute album. That was a great moment. It was magic! They have such good energy together. There's never been anything except love between them. And that goes with Joan and almost everybody in The Runaways. Joan was so focused on the music and going forward, she never got caught up in fighting with anyone.

Q: What's it like to work with Cherie Currie?

KL: Cherie has been so good to us, all through the years, very terrific in the way she handles herself, and when she dealt with our company. She's classy, and extremely talented and smart.

Q: What's your take on whether there will be a Runaways reunion?

KL: That's up to those other girls. Every time they call up and we say yes, somebody has a fight. The Runaways are going to be inducted into the Guitar Center Walk of Fame. Maybe everybody will be there for that, and take it from there.

Joan gets along with all the real Runaways, and has no fights with any of them. There are those who pretend to have been in The Runaways, when they really weren't, and although there is no animosity, there is no interaction either. In other words, Joan doesn't even know some of the side musicians who have somehow crossed paths with The Runaways and who try to revise history.

As far as Lita is concerned, Joan respects and likes her very much and gets along with her. Any speculation by the fans or anyone else to the contrary is bogus.

Q: What else is on your plate?

KL: Joan and I have written three songs so far for Jarrod Emick who was in Rocky Horror [Brad]. He's a country guy, really, so now we're doing country music. We've got an unbelievable country vibe, like "I Hate Myself for Loving You," which works really well as a country song.

Q: Along with new working relationships like that, and Joan dropping in to perform with Daphne Rubin-Vega [Magenta], did her time in the show change the way Joan was perceived outside of the rock arena?

KL: I don't know what other people saw. I know her fellow actors saw that she was the toughest, she was the last man standing, she never missed a show until her 6 months were up. She had the mandatory Actors Equity week off, and then never missed a show. They begged her to stay on, and she did, though we had to do some dates [with The Blackhearts]. How did people perceive it? I don't know. Joan liked it. She liked doing it, and it's a fact that we had to teach those guys a lesson [regarding the cast album]. We didn't care about that bullshit. We didn't need their money, and we sell more than they did on RCA when we have a bad selling release on Blackheart. If they had lived up to their word and Joan was in the cast CD, they would have sold many times more then they did. I'm sure they were shocked when they got slapped in the press; that someone could actually fight back. People on Broadway were secretly calling us and cheering us for standing up to the plantation system that exploits Broadway actors on a regular basis.

As far as Joan's stage persona is concerned, she learned a great deal about projection and performance by doing that show every night with those very talented people. I see a vast improvement in her on stage, although she was already one of the best rock performers who ever lived.

Q: Joan refused to participate in the cast recording because the producers made a deal for its production different from the one they promised when she signed on. Do you think they expected her to walk away from it?

KL: They are so used to bullying people with the paycheck, they never dreamed Joan would call their bluff. The people in the show work from paycheck to paycheck. They can get pushed around because of that. But Joan wasn't there for the money, so they couldn't push us around. They found out the hard way. They were arrogant. the joke was on them, and the whole record business knows it.

Q: Despite that, Joan liked being in the show itself. Will she do another one?

KL: Yeah, we would do something, but it would have to be the right creation. Maybe next time, it'll be our show. We have our own label, our own publishing. Maybe we'll have our own show. My friend Pete Townshend had a show that did pretty well ["Tommy"].

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