Volume 1 Issue 4
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
Joan Jett Interview
How was your holiday?
JJ: It was great! I was away in the Far East, south east Asia. We were doing a little tour there. We left the 20th of December and we had this really long flight. It was about 32 hours. We went to Malaysia, which is real close to Vietnam. We did three dates, Christmas Eve, the 27th and New Year's Eve. We had a blast! It was so great! They were really into rock and roll and they knew the songs! It was 90 degrees and the land was all jungle. It was really nice. We got to run around the jungle. They got me a Christmas tree. We really had a great time. It was different being away for Christmas. I've played on holidays my whole life, but not on Christmas. It's nice to be home for Christmas, but I'm a workaholic. I'm a rock and roller and I love to play. I like to go out to see my parents and spend time at home on Christmas, but how often do you get to go to a place like this! The people there are really into rock and roll and nobody ever goes there. We're one of the few bands who have played there. We went there last year a little earlier in December and played Singapore, one gig in Malaysia and one in Taiwan. So we've been there before, and it was great to go back.
Did you play any unreleased material at the shows?
JJ: We sure did.
How was the crowd reaction to those song?
JJ: The reaction was probably equal if not better than some of the older songs. I'm not sure how much of the material the people knew. They especially knew "I Hate Myself For Loving You" and "Little Liar"
more so than "I Love Rock 'N Roll." They knew "I Love Rock 'N Roll," but "I Hate Myself For Loving You" and "Little Liar" were hits there more recently, making it easier for them to remember those songs. Some songs we did like "Star," I don't know if they ever heard it, unless they listen to The Stones. I'm not saying "Star" went over bad, I'm just saying the reaction to the songs we've never played for people to the stuff we've played a million times were equal to or better depending on the song.
What new songs did you play?
JJ: We played four songs that I've written with Desmond, "Lie To Me," "Ashes In The Wind," "Don't Surrender" and "Goodbye." We also did a song called "Backlash" that I wrote with Paul Westerberg. I'm very excited about that song. Some other new songs we did were "Out At Night" and "I Want You."
Will those songs appear on the new album?
JJ: It depends how they come out in the studio. If they turn out good, then they'll be there, if not, no they won't. Sometimes things sound great live but not in the studio. We want to go with what works and sounds the best.
How would you describe the new material?
JJ: For the most part, I think my style of writing is more melodic, whether it's loud or a ballad. Most of the new songs are loud rock and roll! I believe there is only one ballad.
What are the songs about?
JJ: They're all about different things. Some of the songs are about love, but not necessarily about falling in love, but different aspects of love. It's tough to keep writing about falling in love. The hardest thing to write about is rock and roll. There's only so many time you can sing, 'Let's go out on a Friday night, and kick some ass.' That doesn't work anymore. How many times can you say that? A song like, "Lie To Me" is pretty self-explanatory once you hear it. It's a song about somebody, which could be me or you, saying 'Lie to me just for now, because I don't want to hear the truth about our relationship. Tell me everything is as it should be and that everything's going to work, even though you know it's not. Lie to me just for tonight.' I think the song is about how people feel. I've felt it and I think many other people have as well. Sometimes you need that reassurance at that time and you don't care whether it's real or not.
Do you have a working title for the album at this point?
JJ: We haven't talked about it yet.
Will you be putting any cover songs on this album?
JJ: No, not unless something drastically changes. Maybe that's just the way I feel after doing an album full of covers like The Hit List. It's not that I'm tired of it because there are a million songs I'd like to do. I plan on doing many more albums, so I have plenty of time. There's always weird things we might do for B-sides of singles that you can't find on the record. You never know what we're going to do, but I don't expect a cover to be on this next album.
What stage are you at in the recording process?
JJ: We're in the middle of it, but we've been away. We're real quick in the studio, we don't take six months to record an album. We've been in the studio and we've gotten a lot of stuff done. I'm not sure how much of that stuff we're going to use on the record. We have a lot more songs that we still haven't recorded plus a lot more that haven't been written. I know that we will be writing more songs. We want to have the best album we can do. I'm probably the most impatient person in the band. I want to get the album done and get out on the road. I love recording, writing songs and that whole process, but playing live is the deal for me. So that's where I want to get, but I also want the best possible album.
Do you set aside a specific time to write or does it evolve naturally?
JJ: I write all the time, not whole songs, usually just a riff or a few lines. I have so many note pads full of random lines that aren't in any songs yet, but they're great lines that I can fit into song or base a song around.
How do you feel about your work as a songwriter?
JJ: I'm certainly not the best and I'm not the worst, but at least I'm real about it. Whether I'm working with Paul Westerberg or Desmond Child, who is this song 'hit maker' type of guy. Desmond knows me and knows what to expect from me. He knows my style. When we start writing together, we start from nothing. Maybe he'll have a mental idea for something or a subject and he'll throw it at me or maybe I'll have a subject or something and throw it at him.
What ingredients define the "Joan Jett" sound for you?
JJ: That's a real tough question. I could just say it's guitar, bass and drums because that's what it is.
From the outside it may look like you have everything you want. Is that how you feel?
JJ: I don't think you could ever have everything you want. I'd like to meet the person who has everything they want. I definitely want to meet them. I've got a lot of stuff and I live pretty good. I get to be in a band and I get to live out a fantasy, but there are always things that you have to give up. When I was in The Runaways, I could run around and do whatever I wanted, but I can't do that now. It has nothing to do with me worrying about people bothering me like the fans who are into the music. The world has become, especially in America, such a media thing. The term rock and roll and music in general has become a thing that everyone watches it. You do the slightest thing, and you're all over the press, or on the television, or someone's talking about you or you're in the Enquirer. I don't want that. I never had it and I don't want it. I'm an out there person, but I'm also very private. When you're out in the public, you're watched to a certain extent, but everyone deserves their privacy.
Does it bother you when your personal life gets more press than your music?
JJ: You're darn right it does. The music should get the attention. That's the whole point. If it wasn't for the music, I wouldn't be where I am today. I like to go out, but you don't want to go out and get hassled by the media.
Is failure a great fear?
JJ: I wouldn't be happy if the next record failed. I don't think we could flop too bad. If the music were awful then I wouldn't expect people to buy it. I think the music is going to be great. I think that the fans who have always bought my music will want to get the new album. That as least to me would be a success. If we didn't have a hit, that wouldn't bother me because it's happened before and that hasn't stopped me. My motivation at that point would be, get on the road and make it a hit. You have a couple of chances with an album and you should have at least a few singles. The only time I worry about it is when we go into a recession and money is going to be tight for everybody. I don't ever really think about it and money has never, ever, ever been at the top of my list. I never think about how much I have or what I have, I really don't know as long as I have something in my pocket.
Looking back 15 years or so, did you ever expect you'd be doing this?
JJ: Honestly, I thought I'd be dead! Sometimes when you're young, you think that you'll never get to a certain point or get older. I've always thought that I would be doing this right until I died. I don't think I'm going to be doing this when I'm 90 and I plan on living at least that long.
Do you have anything else to say about what's coming up in the future?
JJ: There's going to be a new album and tour. I just hope this time it's a more thorough tour. Much more of the west coast in America and doing all the different states. I want to do a world tour and put everything to use with the release of the album. I want to go as far away as Australia, New Zealand, Japan and go back to Malaysia and all those places over there, plus England and Europe. I want to go any place that we can. We've always been a band to take rock and roll to places that it hasn't been. We've been to Panama. We were the first American band to go there and it was amazing. I love doing things like that. I want to show the fans real rock and roll and thank God it's The Blackhearts and not one of these fake fuckers.
Thommy Price Interview
What is your history as a musician? What bands have you played in?
TP: Before I played with Joan, I played with Billy Idol for years. I did the Rebel Yell and Whiplash Smile albums as well as both tours. Before that I played in a band called Scandal with Patty Smyth. I did the Warrior album with them. I've played with Mink DeVille. I've done a lot of albums with different people and bands though I wasn't necessarily in the group.
When did you get your first big break?
TP: My first recording band was called Slame. We were signed to RCA. While I was with them, I met a producer named Jimmy Iovine, who used to produce Bruce Springsteen and Stevie Nicks. I used that as a stepping stone. I did a lot of work for Jimmy. He used to word out of the Record Plant in New York. It was through him that I did a lot of recording. After I left the band Slame, I joined a band called Mink DeVille. Then I started doing a lot of work with different bands and different producers as well as Jimmy. I did the last Debra Harry album, worked with Peter Wolfe, John Waite and I've done many other albums over the years.
When did you meet Joan?
TP: I've known Kenny for years. When I was growing up in Staten Island, I was working with a friend of mine, who was signed to the management firm, Leber/Krebs. They were a company that Kenny was affiliated with, he was sharing office space with them. This was over 15 years ago, even before Kenny met Joan. I've know Kenny for a long time and once he discovered Joan, he was helping her put a band together. I guess this was in the late 70's when they were first getting the Blackhearts together. I went down and played with Joan at the time, I had just joined Mink DeVille and I decided to do that instead. I kept in touch with Kenny and years later, they were at a point where they needed a drummer so I started doing some recording with them. One thing lead to another and I joined the band.
What made you decide to become a member of The Blackhearts?
TP: I was never really in a band after I left Mink DeVille, I just did a lot of recording with different bands. I was tired of jumping from group to group and not really being in a band. The Blackhearts were more of a group situation. I wanted the feeling of being in a group, instead of just backing someone up. Being in a real band was more attractive to me. I joined The Blackhearts and the first album I recorded with them was the Light Of Day soundtrack.
You joined The Blackhearts for a while, then left. What caused your departure and return to the group?
TP: I left about a year and a half ago to pursue my own career. I put an album out on the same label as Joan with Kasim Sulton. It was called Price/Sulton. I put the band together, and was writing the songs and fronting the band. I sang lead vocals. It was something that I had to get out of my system. At the time I didn't think I had the time to do both the Blackhearts and my band. I wanted to dedicate more time to my project. About a year ago I rejoined The Blackhearts. While they were recording The Hit List, which I was part of though I wasn't playing full time with the band, I decided it was time to rejoin. I told Joan, I felt it was time for me to come back full time and she agreed.
What makes being a member of The Blackhearts desirable for you?
TP: With The Blackhearts, there are four people putting as much energy into the band as I did with my band. I learned over the years of playing with The Blackhearts that there are four people contributing to the band and that you can sort of lean on each other as opposed to having to do everything yourself.
How would you describe your status in the band?
TP: I think we basically have an equal input. I'm feeling more like an equal member now that I went off and did my solo album. I definitely feel more a part of the band now then I did before.
Are you close to the other band members?
TP: Absolutely. As I said before, I feel a little better this time around. We've all gotten our aggressions out of our systems, including all the things you do when you're young and think you're a rock and roll star. I hang out with our new bass player Phil Feit. He's a friend of mine. After Kasim left, we needed a bass player, and I've been doing work with Phil on and off for the last couple of years, so I brought him into the band just recently, I did the same with Kasim a few years ago.
What's it like to play in a band like Joan Jett and the Blackhearts?
TP: It's great! I feel like I'm in The Who. It's that kind of feeling and that kind of music. I guess I feel like Keith Moon did in The Who.
Who were some of your early influences?
TP: The two drummers who really influenced me were Keith Moon, and a drummer by the name of Dino Danelli of the band, The Young Rascals. The Young Rascals were a band I grew up listening to. I finally met Dino after wanting to meet him for a long time. When I was putting my band together, he came down and played with me because I needed a drummer. I really needed a drummer that I could feel comfortable with and I figured since I learned so much from this guy, why not get him. I found out later that he was actually a fan of mine at the same time because of some of the records I had played on. I was more impressed than he was.
Have you written any of the material for the next Joan Jett and the Blackhearts album?
TP: I've written a few song, but I can't really say if any of them will be on the record or not. We're throwing around quite a few songs and we don't know which songs may land on the album.
What songs do you enjoy playing live?
TP: Probably the new things from the more recent albums. I like the older stuff too. I have a good time with everything. I like a lot of the stuff that we're doing that we've never played live like some new songs Joan wrote.
What kind of advice would you give to someone who wants to play the drums?
TP: If they really feel it's going to be a career and really believe in it, then put in 100% because you only get back, what you put in. If it's going to be a passing phase, then don't bust your balls.
Have you ever taken any drum lessons?
TP: No, I'm pretty much self-taught. I started out when I was six years old, so I didn't have a drum kit. My parents aren't rich, and they wanted to make sure it was something I really wanted. I started out on pots and pans and hampers before I got my first drum kit. I was about eight years old when my parents got me my first set. It was then that they saw that the drums were more than a phase I was going through. I was constantly listening to music and whenever I got my hands on a drum set, they saw how interested I really was and that there was some kind of talent there.
Is there anything else you'd like to try?
TP: I'd like to try producing. I think I'm really good at that. I have a home studio and I do a lot of my recording there. I would like to work with new groups in the studio and experiment with them and see what I can do for them and what they can do for me. You never stop learning and there's new thing that I can be taught and there's a few things I think I can show people.
Which do you prefer, recording in the studio or playing live?
TP: I like playing live more because it gives you more of a boost. I enjoy making records and being in the studio, but the thing that does it for me and gives me energy is the excitement of playing for people.
What's in the future for the Blackhearts?
TP: We're in the studio right now recording the next album. We're looking forward to doing a world tour in the next year.
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