Joan Jett and The Blackhearts Bad Reputation Nation

Interview with Kenny Laguna 04/02



If it's Saturday, it must be Cleveland. Kenny Laguna, Joan Jett's partner in Blackheart Records, is with The Blackhearts in the Midwestern city on April 13, preparing for the band's performance at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's fundraiser, "50 Years of Rock and Roll."

Q: An invitation to play in support of the HOF raises the question: when Joan is eligible, will she be inducted? How does that work, and is that something that the performer has any say in, or the fans?

KL: You can work on it, and some of the people in control of it are now actually in Joan's life, so I'm hoping for the best. The way it's picked, a lot of it has to do with the people who run the labels; they are on the committees. They obviously fight for their own product and artists. You'll notice that two Sire records acts, The Ramones and Talking Heads, both got in this year. They deserved to be in, but Seymour Stein [head of Sire] is an active guy who got the word out. Joan is on Blackheart, so we don't really have those connections, but we know that people have respect for the history she's made. Fans should always let the people who make these decisions know how they feel. There's a list of people on the selection panel on the Hall of Fame website (www.rockhall.com) The fans should contact them, starting now, and tell them why Joan should be in the hall of fame. I think she deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Joan Jett is the Queen of Rock and Roll.

: What else should the fans know about upcoming activities for the Blackhearts?

KL: We're gonna do a lot of gigs this year, all over. Check the dates already up on the website.

Q: You're playing the fabled Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ on May 26, now that it's been saved from being razed by developers.

KL: We issued a statement of support for them, and now we're going back there for this event, which is going to have a lot bands that day. [The Blackhearts are scheduled to perform at 2 pm]. We recommended ones we think are good, so you will see some of them. There'll be music inside and outside.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.stoneponyonline.com

Q: What new product is coming out?

KL: We've put out the Cherry Bomb CD single [Joan & Cherie Currie singing a duet of "Cherry Bomb," along with 2 other tracks]. That's a historical recording, people should try to grab it. It's a limited edition. We thought it was going to be released in conjunction with The Runaways' induction to the RockWalk in LA, then the timing didn't work [the induction has been postponed until summer], but we released the record instead of waiting. People can only get it through the fan club/website. It's not going to be in stores. They better get it while they can. We're going to take it out of print when what we've got is gone. Visually, it's a beautiful thing. There's actually two versions of it, a silver one and white one. I know a lot of people get these for collectibles, and I bet it'll be worth more before you even know it. I also like the way it sounds: the tracks all go together; that version of "Long Time" is one we didn't have out there, and the Cherie track is incredible.

For information about the Hollywood RockWalk and museum, go to www.rockwalk.com

Q: As always, what's the word on a record deal and a new album?

KL: We're working on some new songs. We have a surprise collaborator, I can't tell you who just yet, but it's somebody great, huge, writes a lot of big ones. And we're writing with that person. We'll have some interesting stuff. And we're very close to a record deal. We have two offers on the table, from East Coast labels. We're always working on new stuff, we just couldn't get it out on Warner Brothers. And if you don't release it properly, you hurt yourself. You can't just throw records out there, it's a very sophisticated business now. It's different than putting out a special release of 500 for the fan club. You really do have to keep everything under wraps, and have a real release. Warner Brothers has had huge organization problems, so we chucked it, going on to the next one.

Q: Speaking of new songs, at the end of a recent show, did I hear a country version of "I Hate Myself for Loving You" as we were leaving? Was that one of the songs you worked on with Jarrod Emick [Rocky Horror] that you told us about in the last interview?

KL: Yes it was. We've been playing that one lately at the end of the show. It's the kind of thing Frank & Dino would have done in Vegas years ago; surprise the audience with songs being played in a different way. We're also opening to The Who again ["Won't Get Fooled Again"].

Q: That show, at Irving Plaza in New York City, was for NYU's Women's Herstory Month, drew a very young and lively audience.

KL: We like the college audience, they understand the music. They're fun, and it was New York City and Irving Plaza, which has a great sound system. Joan likes that kind of venue. I like stadiums!

Q: Also in New York City, Bloomingdales department store has a window with a guitar surrounded by the titles of Joan's songs, inviting people to guess the artist and win prizes.

KL: That was done by Details magazine. The people at Details like Joan, they've always treated her well. The whole thing will benefit a charity, so we did it.

Q: One of your upcoming gigs is also a charity event for the T.J. Martell Foundation, which you've supported for a long time.

KL: I was a friend of Tony Martell [the foundation's founder] when he was president of a record company I was with. And when his son died [of leukemia], I was there for all that ordeal, it's one of the great satisfactions that the foundation's work has made an actual difference. Originally it was started to raise money for research on ways to treat children with leukemia, and since it started in 1975, the death rate of children with leukemia has gone way down. Since then, the foundation has expanded to raising funds to fight AIDS and cancer. It was one of the first music business charities.

For more information on the T.J. Martell Foundation and its programs, visit www.tjmartellfoundation.org

Q: You and Joan have always done charity work, both for organizations and individual requests.

KL: Yes we do a lot of that. And we're always getting more and more requests. It's kind of because Joan is known as more than a punk rocker, she's an icon in the entertainment industry. We get so many requests, it's so hard to decide between which ones you do and which ones you don't do. We get letters from 5-year-olds, from people who heard "I Love Rock and Roll" in Charlie's Angels. And you know, Joan does a lot of things that have never been publicized, she doesn't even want me to talk about it; the military told us we could be more public about our work with them. So I brag about it; Joan's uncomfortable doing that. She does a lot of things that are very personal and difficult to do. She loves people, and she's not uncomfortable being around people who are very sick, or not able to get around. It's a gift she has. People know she's real, like Cal Ripken, another wonderful fella, also from around the Maryland area, who worked very hard for a long time. I think that's why they've been friends for many years.

Q: And again this year, Joan is hosting an independent film program on Maryland Public Broadcasting. While you were down there did you get to see any games?

KL: We were down there on Opening Day. You could throw a ball to the ballpark from we were filming, but because we were filming, we didn't get to go to the game. We did manage to see the end of it. Kind of lousy for me, because the Yankees got beat. Joan's learned to love the Yankees, but she still loves the Orioles more.

Q: And are you going to be back courtside this summer for the WNBA's New York Liberty?

KL: We've got our tickets. The Liberty is not only our favorite team, but we love the organization, they've got the greatest people. Their General Manager, Carol Blazejowski, is a friend of ours. Sue Wicks and many of the other players are friends.

Q: Last year's theme for the Liberty was "Unfinished Business." This year, it might be "Don't Surrender."

KL: We've redone "Don't Surrender" and have been playing it a lot since 9/11. We cut it more like a classic Joan Jett "Hate Myself/Touch" style, it's incredible! We expect it to come out on a major label, or put it out on a single with the next record, or we'll place it in a movie. We'll get it out soon...we may send it along to the fan club to release, maybe with "Science Fiction."

Q: Joan's work has appeared in many films and television shows. "Bad Reputation" was in the Oscar-winning film Shrek.

KL: If you're off the charts, you're out of their hearts in the music industry. Luckily the television and film industry likes Joan. I can't believe all the places "Bad Reputation" has been, and you realize it never made it as a single. But it's gotten to where if you want to introduce a certain kind of person, or character, they play "Bad Reputation," from [the TV series] Freaks and Geeks to that Elizabeth Taylor special a couple years ago.

Q: Well, you know Joan & the Blackhearts are never out of the fans' hearts.

KL: Of course. So we'll do something new, get another hit record, everybody will kiss our ass again and it'll be beautiful.

This Week:

Wednesday
June 28,2017
Sugar Land, TX
Smart Financial Centre at Sugar Land
Friday
June 30,2017
Dallas, TX
Starplex Pavillion

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