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Cherie Currie: It feels so good to be back in control of my career

Cherie Currie: It feels so good to be back in control of my career
Erik Hess

It's a sad truth in rock 'n' roll that the pioneering spirits often get the arrows. As the magnetic frontwoman of the trailblazing proto-riot-grrrl band the Runaways, Cherie Currie deserves a damn statue erected in her honor, or at least a hall of fame nod. Instead, the incredibly influential singer and songwriter has been forced to watch her stock fade in the 15 odd years since her last official solo release, weathering the indignities and seeing precious few perks.

But in 2010, partially thanks to the work of her former bandmate Joan Jett, Currie finally started to have some respect come her way. Following a Hollywood biopic about her old group and a re-release of her autobiography, Cherie returned to the stage and was overjoyed to find a mass of positive reception. Label and management troubles have stalled things a bit, but there's no doubting that the singer is on a comeback trajectory. She set the Amsterdam Bar on fire for the Girls Got Rhythm Fest earlier this year, and now she's making a second pass on her first headlining tour in decades. Gimme Noise caught up with her ahead of Sunday's show at the Belmore.

See Also:
Girls Got Rhythm Fest night one at Amsterdam Bar and Hall, 5/10/13
Girls Got Rhythm Fest night two at Amsterdam Bar and Hall, 5/11/13
Girls Got Rhythm Fest returns: The festival comes back for a second year, ruled by punk


Gimmie Noise: How was your experience playing the Girls Got Rhythm Fest?

Cherie Currie: Oh it was fun! And what great people, you know I hadn't played in years, so it was just really awesome. You know, to see those faces, playing those Runaways songs and seeing how much they meant to people. It was a loving, fun thing to be a part of.

How did that show play into this new series of road dates you'll be doing?

Well, I opened for Joan [Jett] at the Pacific Ampitheater back in 2010 and it was so well received. It had been two decades since I had done a show, and I just thought "why not?" We were offered a record deal right out of the gate after that show, but I ended up going with Blackheart Records because [co-founder] Kenny Laguna was my manager at the time. He didn't believe I should do any shows until the record came out, but he wasn't putting the record out! So I sat for three years, and when my management contract was up in March, I chose not to re-sign and I just decided that I wasn't gonna wait another year or two or ever for this record to come out. I just wanted to get out in play! So that's what I'm doing, getting out there and giving the fans the songs we want and maybe some new ones.

We'd love to hear more about the new material. Can you share anything about it?

On the record, I've only written a couple of songs, and my son and I wrote a song together for it, but this really came out of the blue. I've been writing for the last 20 years. But once I picked up the chainsaw about 12 years ago, the guitar kind of went away, but I did do a song that I wrote 17 years ago on the new record. The great thing about this album is that Matt Sorum produced it, and he brought in Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins, who is such an amazingly talented man, he wrote a duet for us to do. Brody Dalle came and participated, Slash and Duff [McKagan], they're on the record. Even Juliette Lewis stopped in to lend her vocals on a remake of a Runaways song. It was really a lot of fun, and a great collaboration of artists that just wanted to celebrate what I had done with The Runaways.

Is taking your son out on tour a bit like a family road trip for you?

Well, the thought of Jake being out on the road on his own...[motherly pause]. He's 22 now but he's learned so much by seeing what's happened with me in the last few years. Also, to be able to be out on the road be safe because, well, he's with his mom! He gets to enjoy all of it and learn a lot. He's an amazing singer-songwriter, producer and musician in his own right, and he's put out a record, so this is just kind of getting his feet wet, so people get to meet him. He's gonna be in this business for the rest of his life. He's definitely a lifer.

So, you've got this big tour and a new record, would it be safe to say that this is a full-fledged comeback for you?

I'm gonna do it! I think I've got about five more years left in me. So, this is definitely something I'm going to do until I can't do it anymore, or until people don't want me anymore. Then I pick up the chainsaw in between, it's really a great life.

Does your work outside of rock as a chainsaw sculptor inform your musical creativity at all?

I think the fact that I've made my living as a chainsaw artist for the last 12 years...I'm alone, and I'm able to control my life in general, made it really hard for me to give up control to a management or whatever. So right now it feels so good to be back in control of my career. When you're wielding a chainsaw for a living, you have to be right all the time. It was hard to relinquish my power over to somebody else, and it didn't work for me at all. As an artist, I am my own boss, and people count on me to do a good job, and I take all that really seriously.

 

A lot has been made of the recent "War on Women" in the headlines. What's your take?

I don't see a war on women, sometimes it even seems like women have a war on women. Every time you turn around and say "there's a war on me," you're a victim. Women are not victims, they shouldn't say that they are being victimized. It's kind of a moot point, I don't see it. Nose to the grindstone, continue on. We can never be silenced or pushed aside, and if more women knew that, this discussion wouldn't even be taking place.

Back in '75 it really didn't exist, there was Suzi Quattro, who to me is just the godmother of rock 'n' roll, and us. That was it! So now it's just so different! Can you even imagine if we had had that sort of "war on women" mentality back then? It would have really meant something, but now there's so many artists, so many females out there that are so successful that it just seems a little strange to me.

Cherie Currie: It feels so good to be back in control of my career
Erik Hess

Still, it's great to hear that you've observed positive gains for women in rock over your long career. Are there any newer bands that have sparked your interest recently?

To be honest with you, I just kind of listen to classic rock. I will always be such a huge fan of that time in music. I really don't listen to what's on the radio today, but I don't hear great things about it. I feel with The Voice and with American Idol that there's all these prodigies that get up there and that just becomes the norm in what sells records. It's really sad because those are people that are very few and far-between and unreachable for the majority of girls out there. Not every girl is gonna sound like Mariah Carey. But what I love the most are these women that get out there and know who they are, and might not have the best voice but they sure have the best heart. That sells music to me, and I believe them. Where they're coming from is real to me. That's far more attractive to me than all these notes that these gals are hitting these days.

Can you give us a preview of what we'll be witnessing onstage during these upcoming shows?

Well, right now we're just kind of out of the gate. For me, the people that come to the show, they are friends that have hung in there for decades believing in a band that I had really kind of given up on 20 years ago. I thought that we had been forgotten. I mean, when Madonna was supposedly the first woman to ever wear a corset onstage, and she didn't say "no, it was actually Cherie Currie", I just thought we were forgotten. The fans have kept us alive, they've kept the interest happening. These shows are a bunch of friends getting together, and I get to sing the songs that they love. But there's going to be a lot of cool things that are happening this year.

Cherie Currie will play with L'Assassins and The Japhies at The Belmore/New Skyway Lounge on Sunday, August 11.

See Also:
Girls Got Rhythm Fest night one at Amsterdam Bar and Hall, 5/10/13
Girls Got Rhythm Fest night two at Amsterdam Bar and Hall, 5/11/13
Girls Got Rhythm Fest returns: The festival comes back for a second year, ruled by punk


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