Joan Jett and The Blackhearts Bad Reputation Nation

Volume 2 Issue 4

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An Open Forum with Joan Jett!

Not one to be accused of sounding like or wanting to be like anyone else, Joan Jett has established herself as one of the most fluent, expressive and emotional artists of the day. She's reached the point where she can do anything musically and stylistically with her first love. . . rock n' roll!

Joan is currently taking some time off, writing new material and rehearsing before embarking on a tour of Japan starting July 21, 1992. Behind the music is a very intelligent lady with a clear and accurate vision of what she wants to accomplish. . to make music that stays true to the essence of rock n' roll and something that she can be proud of.

After reading the latest mailbag of letters sent to the fan club, Joan wanted to discuss her feelings on different topics occurring around the world and what's on the mind's of her fans.

As Kenny Laguna said introducing Joan for this interview, "Here she is. . .the Queen of Rock N' Roll!"

Feelings about the fans:
I hope that it's pretty obvious how I feel. Having fans is a very special thing. I consider it an honor. I know that sounds corny, but people could like anybody because there's a lot of bands out there. When I get loyal people who are into my music and they can get something from it, no matter what it is -- if they are healed in some way by the music, that is a common ground. In a way we're all friends. The fans are really special because they are the people that I'm singing to and they've found that common ground with me. I try to sing things that the fans and I can relate to. I think it's really important to try to involve the fans as much as possible -- whether that means writing in questions to the fan club, calling radio or just hanging out after the shows to get an autograph. I've always been into signing autographs. I really enjoy meeting the fans and finding out what they like and what they don't like about the shows and just making that contact. I remember before I was in a band, when I wanted to meet somebody and they just completely blow people off. That's devastating when you look up to someone and admire them. So I really try to go out of my way to extend myself to speak and meet everybody to whatever extent that I can. Some nights I don't have the time to give too much, but as long as I can look somebody in the eye, smile and say 'Hi,' that's really important and special to me.

Earlier albums reissued on compact disc:
I'm really excited because everything's been remastered from the original two track masters so the sound quality is excellent, plus the fact that these records haven't been available since the mid 80s. To have the records, Bad Reputation, I Love Rock N' Roll, Album and The Glorious Results Of A Misspent Youth, available is really great. Every year, I have so many people ask me where they can get those records because they can't find them. Now, they're all out there. There's bonus cuts on the compact discs, so there's a lot of things people haven't heard -- B-sides from European singles, count offs and things that weren't ever put on record. Each one contains original liner notes and some extra notes explaining some of the tracks we did and where they came from. I'm really excited about it. I was out in the city the other night and somebody's already come up to me and said they bought I Love Rock N' Roll and really loved the new CD. These releases open up a whole new world for us. We're doing it ourselves the same way we started and it's fun doing it like this.

New Record Deal:
We're still on Blackheart Records, but we're not distributed by Sony any more. We're negotiating for new distribution and we'll announce it when it is complete.

Recording of a new album:
We've been writing songs. It's slow but sure. I'm always writing. I always have song titles and ideas, and we're getting it together.

Ideas for songs:

Life -- stuff that happen either to me or things I see in the news, on television or things that really happen in everyday life. Occasionally a phrase may come up and suddenly it's a song title. That's really where I get a lot of my ideas.

Recording cover tunes on future albums:
I wouldn't rule it out, but I'm not really thinking about it right now. We've done so much of that and now it's become the thing to do. So many bands do cover songs and I don't want to do what everybody else is doing. I did cover songs when nobody else was doing them. Now that everybody is doing them, I think it's time to lay back for a while unless I find something that I really love and something that is obscure, and not a known hit.

Change in hair style and image:
It seems to be a half and half kind of thing -- half the people like it and half don't like it. It seems that most of the girls like it, but the guys are split on it. The thing that bothers me is that a lot of people are asking why I changed my image. That's crap! I've gotten a lot of letters that have hurt my feelings. I've always thought that our music stood for individuality. I got tired of it, so I cut it. It has nothing to do with change of image. If anything, I'm more hard-core, not less. I really resent it when somebody says I've changed my image because of a haircut. I have to express how I feel because it really angers me.

Line-up changes in The Blackhearts:
Well, they're not over. When we first started we had an original line-up of The Blackhearts -- Danny O'Brien on drums, Gary Ryan on Bass and Eric Ambel on guitar. Danny O'Brien didn't work out on drums, that's all there was to it. The next drummer was Lee Crystal. Eric Ambel eventually didn't work out on guitar, and Ricky Byrd replaced him, although we're still friends. That was the band for years and years; Lee Crystal, Gary Ryan, and Ricky and myself, until the mid 80s. You would have to ask them why they left. Gary Ryan and Lee Crystal wound up with wives and girlfriends and they wanted to settle down. So they left. That's when I started working with Thommy Price on drums and Kasim on bass with Ricky still on guitar. That line up stayed together for a couple of years, then Kasim wanted to play jazz, then Ricky wanted to be a soloist. Now, we still have Thommy Price on drums, on bass we have Kenny Aaronson and that seems fairly stable. I don't foresee a change in that.

Making videos:
I don't feel I have to do it. I have fun doing videos. I've been fortunate enough to work with some really fun directors. Early on in The Blackhearts, we had a director named David Mallet who did a lot of videos with us that were really funny, like "Fake Friends" and "Bad Reputation." He had a great sense of humor. I've had some very good experiences doing videos. I don't put the whole ball of wax in the video. Video is a tool, but that's all that it is.

New Home video:
Nobody's ever seen some of these videos. All the videos were made and maybe got one play, or a couple of plays on MTV, but for the most part they haven't been seen. The videos are clever and good. I think they deserve to be seen and our fans would enjoy it. I'm careful about live shows on video because I don't want it to be a substitute for seeing the band live. As far as showing someone artistic videos, that's fine and I'm real excited about ours coming out.

If you've got a good video and single out and they're going to play it, I think MTV's going to help you in some circles. Not everybody listens to radio and a lot of people watch MTV, so in that sense MTV can help to get your song out there if they play you. I don't feel real strongly for or against MTV. I like them if they play my videos.

I've always fantasized about being in a rock band and having a hit record. I've been lucky to have that dream come true a few times. I love hearing my songs on radio, I crank it up just like any fan would, but again, we don't put our whole ball of wax in radio. We really try to concentrate on being a live act. When we make records and radio plays it, that's great because that makes the live shows even better. But if radio doesn't play our song, then we can still play live. That's always the way I've looked at it. It's really exciting to have the radio on and hear one of our songs.

I love it! It's my favorite part of everything we do. I love it for many reasons -- I love to travel, see different places, meet people and just play. I love the actual physical part of it. We sweat, breathe heavy, and play hard. It's like sports, I get a certain adrenaline rush when I'm on stage. I live for the road. I make records so I can go back on the road.

New music scene:
There's a lot of stuff I like that's out now. I don't bother remembering stuff that I hate. There's a whole scene out of DC that I love -- a whole bunch of independent label stuff like Fugazi, Lungfish, Circus Lupus. Circus Lupus asked me to produce two songs for them that's coming out on Fugazi's label, Discord. It should be out later this summer or early fall. There's some all girl bands that I like -- Bikini Kill, L7, Bratmobile and Babes In Toyland. I really like a lot of this independent label, punkish type of music.

Favorite movie releases:
I like watching movies, but most of the time I wait until they're in the hotel rooms. Two of my favorite movies are Cabaret and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Baltimore Orioles:
I follow them everyday. If I could watch them everyday I would. I call Sports Phone every 10 minutes when the Orioles play whether I'm on the road or at home. I'm following them very closely as always. It seems like every time I write about them in a song they do well. Bad Reputation was dedicated to the Orioles and they did well in 1979. On Notorious, in the song, "I Want You" there's a lyric that says "I want to go and see the O's never lose." I want to go to Baltimore sometime this year and see the new stadium.

Riots in Los Angeles:
I thought it was really upsetting that things have gotten to the point where people have to freak out like that to ventilate their frustrations. Personally I thing the verdict was ridiculous, but I don't think that justifies what happened. I think the riots may have been certain people taking advantage of a situation, but that's easy for me to say because I'm sitting here. It's definitely something that we have to deal with. Everyone needs to get involved with the election, play attention, not be apathetic and get out and vote! It's ridiculous because it's in our hands to change what's going on but a lot of people just sit back. If you're of age to vote and you don't then you have to be a moron. I think it's really important to get out there and vote. At least make you voice heard.

Presidential Race:
I follow the Presidential race everyday. I have my views on it, but I keep them to myself. I will say I don't like Bush. I'm left and you can use your imagination, but I don't like Bush. Most nights before we leave the stage, I do tell everyone not to forget to vote, because it is very important.

I'm definitely prochoice. A woman should have a choice. I'm very perturbed and I don't understand how these prolife people are so concerned about a bunch of cells in a woman's uterus but once the kid is born, they couldn't give a fuck about the kid - letting them sit in welfare homes and rot. But as long as it's some kind of fetus, it has all kinds of rights, but what about the ones that are already born? The right to life should mean the right to a life that's already here, not the life that's being thought about. I'm really strong about this and I am and will be involved.

Elvis Stamp:
I didn't vote on the stamp, but I would have voted on the younger one. I don't look at it so much that they're recognizing rock n' roll, but more that they are recognizing Elvis as the star and legend that he was. Even though Frank Sinatra doesn't have his own stamp, he's made a major impact and deserves one like Elvis.

I would say that I'm religious, but in my way. I don't go to church every Sunday, but I do talk to God a lot. I just do it in my own way. I don't follow anything that's very structured. I grew up going to Sunday school and going to church every Sunday. I believe in God. Everyone has their religion, whether they're Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Buddhist or whatever. I was raised Protestant, but I don't think of myself as Protestant. I assimilate everything that makes sense and is logical to me in the spiritual realm. It doesn't matter to me if something comes from a religion that I wasn't brought up by. I'm all encompassing. I want to hear it all and then make my decisions after that.

The official Joan Jett Fan Club:
To me the fan club is very important. I'm really proud of it. I think we've finally gotten something together that I can appreciate, and the fans can really appreciate. I feel that we've got a good package here. I think it's really important to have a fan club that is informative and keeps people up on what's going on, even though there isn't always something happening. It's really good to put something out to let the fans know what's happening and what's not. I think it's a good way for the fans to keep in touch with the band and with each other through the fan club. I think it would be great for the fans to write in and swap stories, anecdotes and things like that. It's really important to me to know that the fans are informed.
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