Joan Jett and The Blackhearts Bad Reputation Nation

Volume 6 Issue 1

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Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
Fall 1997

Over the course of her career, Joan Jett has forged a standing as one of rock's hardest working female performers, earning the title, the Queen Of Rock 'N Roll. With mega-producer, Ted Templeman behind the controls, Joan, along with her band, The Blackhearts are set to take on the world with the release of The Blackhearts' latest offering (coming soon) available on Warner Bros. Records. It's been a long hiatus since the group's last release, Pure And Simple in August 1994.

"I want this record to be just right before it comes out," said Joan. "I've recently seen some artwork and I've been getting some test pressings. I'm not really sure when it will be released. It will depend on when the record is ready. It's driving me crazy because I want the album out now, but that's all down the tubes if nobody hears it. I want people to know that it really does bother me when I hear that fans are bitching and being really nasty on the Warner's board (America Online). That's so upsetting. It makes me just totally want to disengage. Do you really think that anyone want this record our more than me? But I want it out correct. I want it to come our right. I want it out when we have the best shot at being successful. It's no good if the thousand or so fans on the east coast are the only ones who have the record. So for all those people who I hear are bitching on the Warner's board, they should just think about what they are asking. They are asking for their own selfish whim to be satisfied. They want the album out al all costs, regardless of what it does to the band or my career. That's quite annoying to me, because nobody wants this album out more than me -- not one fan, Kenny Laguna, no one -- I want this album out BAD!! More than anyone, but it won't be out until the time is right." Joan is very pleased with the support Warner Bros. Records have given her during the recording of the album. "People have seemed to be behind me during my whole career at certain points," stated Joan. "But things don't happen when you expect them to, so we can only hope. I really believe that they (Warner Bros.) are behind us. We'll just have to wait to see what happens."

Joan was really excited when she learned that "Real Wild Child" would be the first single from the Iggy Pop tribute record entitled, We Will Fall. The record is set to be released on September 16th for the benefit of LIFEbeat. Joan said, "That's so cool that we're the first single and that there 's a video for it. I've seen the rough cut for the video and it's real exciting. I hope it does well for the record because it's for such a good cause." Joan didn't think the band's newest release would be available on vinyl. "I would be surprised if this album was released on vinyl, unless we pressed it ourselves. Record companies just aren't doing it anymore. We'll see, but right now, I just want to get this damn thing out."

The album contains a mix of original Jett compositions and material written by other performers. "I don't really think of them as cover songs. Cover songs are usually considered hit songs that you redo. That would be my definition of a cover song. When you redo a song that wasn't a hit, or a song that people really don't know, it's just doing a song that was recorded by someone before you. I'm not hung up on me writing everything. I want the best songs on the record regardless of who wrote them. I've got plenty of songs on this record."

The record defines yet another chapter in Jett's growth as a musician. The material presented on the release showcases her maturity as a songwriter, yet retains that classic Joan Jett appeal. "I'm really excited about all the songs we wrote and recorded. I'm using every little bit of knowledge that I've learned, not on purpose, but that's just the way the songs are coming out. By writing with different people, you come up with different ways of doing things and that's really exciting. I think this record might be the most, I don't want to say experimental, but maybe textured songwriting that we've done. To me, all the songs really rock. A song like "Baby Blue" has kind of a bluesy guitar riff that builds. I love that song. I love "Kiss On The Lips," it rocks to me like The Blackhearts usually do, but different. It's a slightly different kind of style and structure to the song because of the way we built it. I don't think I could pick a favorite track on the record. If I had to chose one, one that's fairly easy to say, on a most base level would be "Fetish." That song is pure and just poured out of me. It rocks really hard. It's got a really very sexy riff and a very, very sexy drumbeat. Everything about it is very sexy."

The Blackhearts' newest offering, untitled at press time is set for a fall release on Warner Bros. Records. It is a very special record that reminds us of how powerful music can be.

by Tom DiNardo Courtesy of The Musicians' Exchange

Even as a punky, axe-hammering teenage Runaway, Joan Jett could turn the world on with her smile. Since the early '80s formation of her band the Blackhearts (which currently consists of drummer Thommy Price, guitarist Tony Bruno and bassist Sean Koos), fate has continually smiled back.

Characteristically, in the wake of her dismal-selling but well-intentioned last outing Pure And Simple, Jett's been furiously occupied: jamming with Gits members in Evil Stig, releasing a European greatest hits compilation, finally returning to the silver screen and busily laying down tracks for her as-yet-untitled, forthcoming, scratchy-throated opus. She'll also be on the little screen in a May 7th appearance on ABC-TV's "Ellen."

By all counts, with so much competing for her attention, Jett seems pensive, to say the least, as she breaks for a moment at the Manhattan recording studio she's working at to talk about herself, the guitar-grinding gal who's gonna make it after all.

THE MUSICIANS' EXCHANGE: With cuts like "Little Liar," "Everyday People," "Shout" and "Cherry Bomb" (with L7), Great Hits, your latest 23-song Blackheart Records import, is a sweet fan collectible. When will it be available to US audiences?

JOAN JETT: Soon. It came out in Germany only, so far. It's pretty much every song that has been a hit or gotten some form of airplay or recognition, beyond being just an album track. It's a wide variety of songs which include favorites like "I Love Rock 'N' Roll," "I Hate Myself For Loving You," "Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)" and "Crimson And Clover" as well as tracks like "The French Song," which was a video and made it to MTV, and "I Need Someone," which was a single and also a video. There's also "Have You Ever Seen The Rain," which was a hit in Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Japan, and other different songs besides the obvious selections.

TME: The original "Mary Tyler Moore Show" theme, "Love Is All Around," also made it onto the record. That cut was an unlikely hit.

JETT: ESPN approached us to do this promotion with women's college basketball. I guess they knew I'm a huge sports fan - Baltimore Orioles, Green Bay Packers, New York Knicks - and I think all this televised girls' basketball lately is just great. When asked if I was interested, I said, "Yes." The "Mary Tyler Moore" theme is something we messed with, liked and ESPN was happy with. Even though it was just a gig, it was something I was definitely really into. But it was something we did very fast, with no thought about what it was going to become. The morning DJs at Z-100, a big New York Top 40 station, were watching ESPN, heard the song and started playing it. A competing station, WPLJ-FM, eventually added it also, and soon it became this huge hit around the country. Because it was different from a record cut, it was really surprising when it broke that way. We completely did not expect it.

TME: You're projecting a summer release for your next original album. How is that shaping up?

JETT: We've been working on it for a long time, longer than we would've liked. We're close to being done, and it should be out in a couple of months. It's sort of the same vein as my last record, Pure And Simple, in so far as that it's really raw and live, but it sounds really good and well produced; credit duly given to producer Ted Templeman (who has also worked with Van Halen, Eric Clapton, Aerosmith, Captain Beefheart and Little Feat).

TME: Can fans expect classic Blackhearts sneers in three chord tradition?

JETT: Yeah to me, that never seems to change. It'd be really hard for me to all of a sudden go in a totally different direction. These songs don't necessarily have the traditional big chorus sound of "I Love Rock 'N' Roll" or "Touch Me," but it's very guitar and drum oriented and it just rocks. The songs are all standouts, and we're still recording, so everyone -- from the band to Kenny Laguna, my musical partner, to the record company to friends -- hears something different. There doesn't seem to be one main consensus on a single yet.

TME: It's a curious marriage between you and producer/collaborator/Blackheart Records co-founder Kenny Laguna. Wouldn't you say it's an uncharacteristically supportive relationship?

JETT: I suppose it's similar in some ways, but I wouldn't call it a marriage. I think it's a really great friendship. We know each other so well on so many different levels - from what I can tell, it's real special because he's a good friend, business partner and musical collaborator. Other people in the business say it's unusual for people to work together as long as the two of us have, but it feels good to have that sense of history, to know that somebody really knows your music and what you're about musically. It's reassuring to know the person that you work with most, understands where you're coming from.

TME: The Pure and Simple material was sincerely passionate. Are you creating more of the same?

JETT: Yeah. I definitely thinks so. We've got acoustic sort of ballads like "Androgynous" that rock and have a sense of humor. There's a song called "Friend To Friend that has a really cool guitar riff and a song called "Five" about the various pressing questions that people ask throughout your life. There's also a song called "Fetish" that's pretty self-destructive. Basically, the songs are about sex, I suppose. That seems to be the central theme.

TME: After years of brushing off the "female rocker" tag, is a sex-centralized album an alternative career decision?

JETT: I've always written about sex, that's nothing new. This time it seems to be a little more obvious, 'though I wouldn't necessarily call it a career move. The things that have come up for me lately and people I've been writing songs with have steered the album in this direction.

TME: As a rocker and a female entertainer, haven't fans and critics for years justifiably zeroed in on the amount of sexuality you bring into a recording studio or onto the stage? Is that an asset?

JETT: As long as it doesn't overshadow the music. I like it when people get off. Whether they dig the music or just like seeing a girl sweating and playing a guitar, if it gets them off, then great. If it gets them off sexually, that's great too. I want my music to be the main focus - especially after my experience with The Runaways. It was so hard to get taken seriously, and the sexuality, it seemed, was the whole focus with that audience... and most certainly with the press. That was truly frustrating. I mean, we wanted to be sexual and that was definitely part of our identity. But nobody paid attention to the fact that we could actually play; that was very annoying. It really pissed us all off, so that's why I'm still sensitive to it.

TME: You told the New York Post that, for the right price, you'd consider a Runaways reunion. Were you joking?

JETT: (Snickering) Well, it would have to be a fuck of a lot of money - so much money that nobody would ever give it to me. It's not what I want to do.

TME: Are you satisfied with your status as "Queen Of Three Chord Rock" or the "Godmother Of Riot Grrrl Rock"?

JETT: It's nice to be thought of in that vein, and I like being considered to have an edge and being recognized by some of the riot grrrls -- my friends like L7 and many other people I'm not naming because there are so many.

TME: Commercially speaking, were you disappointed that Pure And Simple didn't live up to the expectations you and Warner Bros. had for it?

JETT: Definitely, man, because it was such a killer record. I thought it sounded great; the songs really rocked and it captured the absolute essence of The Blackhearts. For that to go unnoticed was really very frustrating.

TME: Business-wise, what else frustrates you about music? As an internationally recognized recording artist, are there still barricades to hurdle?

JETT: Oh yeah. Whenever you put a record out, it's always hard. In the business scheme of things, it's probably totally fair, but you're always battling with everybody and sometimes there are inequities that happen with things, such as promotions or whatever. The thing that really bugs me is a sort of deception that the media and press recognize hard-rocking women.

You tell me one fuckin' record by a female rock artist that's hard that's played on the radio! There is not one. . .unless you consider Alanis Morissette and No Doubt hard. I'm talking about the heaviness level of guys. There is no female equivalent to Rage Against The Machine that's accepted by radio. Musically, those bands exist! There are so many punk, hard rock and heavy metal girl bands, but radio doesn't play them. When magazines publish these Women In Rock and Year Of The Woman articles, it really gets annoying to see female artists misrepresented. All people know is recent history, so Alanis, No Doubt and Garbage are examples I see cited more often than anything else. Those are women in pop, not women in rock! The press creates a perception that hard rockin' women get radio airplay and are commercially accepted, which isn't true.

TME: As a notoriously single woman and performance artist, have you sacrificed much?

JETT: I think you can have it all: a relationship and a career. I think I was really just focused on my career for most of my life, but I would like to focus on other aspects of my life. I don't know exactly what that'll be, but I've got a family. I've got my blood relatives, close friends, animals -- they're all family. I'm getting better at trying to balance my personal life with the music. Before I was just so immersed in the work. These days we still work really hard, but as long as we keep the work up, it's nice to make time to get out and do things. Whereas before I was just on the road and in the studio and on the road and in the studio. . .these days I'll take a little time off for myself.

TME: In terms of career development, what's the biggest difference between the sweaty kid in The Runaways and the Joan Jett of today?

JETT: I think, basically, I'm the same person. I think some things have changed. I'm not nearly as wild and crazy as I was in The Runaways or during the I Love Rock 'N' Roll days or the time leading up to it. I think my voice has gotten a lot better and I've become a much better singer. I think I play better. I don't think it's gotten easier to write. If anything, I think it's gotten harder to write. I don't know why. Everything used to just pour out of me in The Runaways and the early Blackhearts. I guess when you get up to, like your 11th album, you want to be consistent with the quality that you achieve and not repeat yourself, at least not exactly.

I was very naive in The Runaways and I think I still am. I want to believe people are mostly good. I think, basically, I'm the same person, but I've got a lot more experience. I've been around longer and I've done things that have taught me a lot.

TME: Creatively speaking, you said finding consistent results can be taught. Does it pay to have a strong sense of identity?

JETT: I feel like I do have a solid sense of identity. Like if we're mixing songs, I know what I want to hear. I mean, I have a really strong sense of what I want things to sound like and how I want songs to turn out, but there's really only so much you can have any control over. . .how people view you, for example. So, ultimately, I really don't care. Even in interviews, I can only answer questions honestly so people get a true sense of who I am. I don't feel jaded by that.

TME: It has been said that as a performer, you're especially hard on yourself. Is this true?

JETT: Definitely. More so in the studio that live. On stage you just react to the moment, but I'm such a perfectionist. I'm a Virgo and I have a lot of Virgo in my chart. I expect to do things right the first time, every time -- even when I know people should not expect ultimate perfection instantly from themselves. That just doesn't happen. Say we're recording a song and I'm doing a vocal. If I'm off key or hit one note slightly off, I don't totally freak because I'm getting better about that. But I get really angry at myself. Realistically, you can only demand so much of yourself. I'm aware of that and I'm getting better about being more patient with myself.

TME: Has Joan The Person, made friends with Joan The Star?

JETT: God, rock star is just such a weird thing. I think a lot. Still waters run deep. Who I am on stage and who I am off stage, they're the same person, kind of. It's just that I'm more exaggerated and aggressive on stage. If I was as aggressive off stage as on stage, it might be too much. I'd probably be put away or something.

Where I have a problem is that I'm just a regular person and I like to just go places and hang out and do regular stuff -- go see a band, go to a restaurant, see a movie. Sometimes that's really hard or you run into people who have trouble treating you like a person. I understand if people are into you and want to come up and say, "Hi." That's no problem, and I like that. But being treated like a non-person or getting poked like the Pillsbury Dough Boy is not respectful. I understand about being a public persona and it goes with the territory and all. But I cannot accept that just because you're an entertainer that people can treat you like you're not a person. If I ever met someone I was a really huge fan of, I really hope I wouldn't be a jerk. I hope I would have the nerve to ask for an autograph. I hope people aren't afraid to come up to me and talk, but when people act inappropriate, they just push it.

TME: As a resident of New York City, do you thrive on Manhattan's aggressive decadence?

JETT: Yeah. I'm real comfortable in New York and I'm completely unintimidated by it. I don't want to challenge New York, but I'm not afraid to walk around. A lot of people can't just have a stroll down the streets or something, and that's too bad. I travel a lot and go to many cities, and New York has a lot of character. It's probably got more character than anywhere. I think European cities can be great and other places can be exotic, but when you get right down to it, it's hard to beat New York. The interesting people, the food, the buildings, the beauty of the nature when you look past the litter. This town's got it all.

TME: Boogie Boy is your rockin' return to motion pictures. Are you excited?

JETT: Very, it's an independent film written and directed by a guy named Craig Hamann, who was involved with Pulp Fiction. It's a real action film about a guy who gets out of prison and resumes dealing drugs and hangin' out with some toughs. He hooks up with a buddy he used to run with and they go see a band. The Blackhearts and myself are the group. The lead character winds up playing drums with me and I offer him a gig, which becomes kind of a pivotal decision. He's got to decide whether to play in this band or go back to his old ways amidst a plot about someone getting killed, a drug deal gone bad and a lot of high drama.

TME: Light Of Day convinced audiences that you were a big-screen natural. Are you anticipating more offers from Hollywood?

JETT: I certainly hope so. I'd love to do more. It's just a matter of being offered roles that interest me. I'd like to take parts that aren't necessarily stereotypical, like musicians and things. We'll see.

TME: Given the confinement of rock stardom, you don't seem concerned about the predetermined mold of expectation.

JETT: I've had short blonde hair for, like a year, but people haven't seen me lately and some of them are gonna shit because it's all different and they aren't used to that. In terms of acceptance, if people are willing to throw away their preconceived notions, they'll support me and whatever project I'm involved with because my music makes the grade. You've gotta do what you've gotta do, and my intention is not to bore people. That's what this is about. I want to help people have fun. That much you can continue to expect.

We Will Fall
The Iggy Pop Tribute
In Conjunction With LIFEbeat (The Music Industry Fights AIDS)

On September 16th, the much-anticipated Iggy Pop tribute record will hit the streets of America. We Will Fall, a 20 artist salute to "The Godfather Of Punk," features 73 minutes of Iggy covers dating back to the legendary Stooges. Highlights include Joey Ramone, Nada Surf, Misfits, Lenny Kaye, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Adolph's Dog (Debbie Harry, Chris Stein, Jimmy Destri & Clem Burke-aka-?), Pansy Division, Sugar Ray, Superdrag, Monster Magnet, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and D-Generation.

Royalty Records has recruited the help of MTV's "The Week In Rock" anchor and legendary music journalist in his own right, Kurt Loder, to write the album's liner notes. Loder, a longtime Iggy fanatic provides an articulate retrospective of Iggy's career and reminds us just how important Iggy Pop's influence has been on punk and music in general. Rare photo's have also been contributed to the project by some of punk's most important photographers including Mick Rock, Bob Gruen, Larry Busacca, Lee Black Childers and Roberta Bayley.

We Will Fall will be released for the benefit of LIFEbeat (The Music Industry Fights Aids). Iggy has personally agreed to donate his mechanical royalties from the tribute to the AIDS charity and Royalty Records will donate100 percent of their net proceeds. Most of the contributing artists have volunteered to donate their royalty (1 percent), as well.

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts' version of "Real Wild Child" will be the first single. The accompanying video was shot in New York City and features a cameo by Joey Ramone. In addition, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts headlined the record release party for We Will Fall, which took place at Spy Bar in New York City during the CMJ Music Marathon on September 3rd. Also performing that night were Nada Surf and Joey Ramone among others.


The first single from the band's latest Warner Bros' release. "This song is about blurring or crossing lines of gender or being ambiguous about your gender," said Joan. This catchy track was written by Paul Westerberg.

Tube Talkin'
Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill makes a special guest vocal on this track. "There are two voices talking -- myself and Kathleen (Hanna). I think you can tell the difference because it's two different voices. It's sort of like a conversation. It's really a high energy, very fast, sort of aggressive sounding song. To me the vocal sounds very sweet. It's about gossip with a funny title."

Baby Blue
Joan describes this song by saying, "It's about a woman who pushes her limits, sexually, seeking various sensations."

Season Of The Witch
Originally recorded by Donovan, it was Ted Templeman who brought this idea to the band. "He thought it would be a good song for us to try," remembered Joan. "Respecting Ted's track record, we gave it a try and we were all very pleasantly surprised with the way it came out. I wasn't expecting much from it and was very pleased with it."

A song that pushes the limits of sex with a very sexy groove. According to Joan, "It's pure sex, extreme sexuality. The lyrics say it all. This is really out there. This is more in people's faces and conjures up images -- it's not hard to imagine what I'm talking out. Nothing is left to the imagination."

This track has gotten quite a bit of exposure during the band's live performances the last several months. A very catchy, memorable chorus -- "It's a song about questions, " noted Joan.

Friend To Friend
A song originally written and recorded by one of Joan's favorite bands, Lungfish. Joan described the song's lyrics by saying, "I'm not really sure what this is about. The lyrics are about different aspects of relationships of all sorts."

Kiss On The Lips
Another Jett original describing sex. As Joan Jett put it, "It's basically the same subject as "Fetish.""

Love Is All Around
This track was released as a single in 1996. It became a radio hit for The Blackhearts. As Joan put it, "It's the Mary Tyler Moore theme song that we originally did for women's college basketball. The women-identified lyrics work perfectly."

Joan summed up this song a "A love song about stripping yourself bare for another person -- letting them see all of you -- the good and the bad."

Can't Live Without You
This song is reminiscent of the early Blackhearts' sound with a catchy hook and melody. According to Joan, "It's pretty self-explanatory -- 'I can't live without you and you can't live with me.' That puts it on you, the person who's singing it -- that you're the asshole. It's just one of those damned if you do, damned if you don't kind of situations."

A song about love and extreme sex," notes Joan. "It's a slower or more gentle song. To say ballad, that conjures up such strange images. It is sort of laid back. I'm certainly not ashamed of the word 'ballad.' I guess I always think of my songs, even the softer ones, as having a bit more edge than what a 'ballad' would have. "Watersign" is basically a love song about sex and intimacy. But a lot of the songs on this record are about sex."

Real Wild Child As Joan pointed out, "This song will appear on the Iggy Pop tribute release entitled, We Will Fall. All proceeds will be donated to the AIDS charity, LIFEbeat (The Music Industry Fight AIDS.) We did the song for the Extreme Games, where they have the crazy sports. It was used to help promote the games and obviously "Real Wild Child" just fit. After we did that, we were approached about the Iggy Pop tribute record. This is the second Iggy song we've done, we also did "I Wanna Be Your Dog." The people who were putting it together approached us about being involved and we picked "Real Wild Child." It's cool that we're the first single and that there's a video for it. I've seen the rough cut of the video and it's real exciting. I'm really excited about our song being the first single. I hope it does well for the record because it's for such a good cause." The European release of We Will Fall, The Iggy Pop Tribute will include a live version of "I Wanna Be Your Dog" as a bonus track.
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