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Cherie Currie on Blvds of Splendor, Working with Billy Corgan, and the Elusive Runaways Reunion
"I feel so proud of everything [The Runaways] had done 'cause we went through hell"
ON MAY 19, 2020, 2:29PM
Cherie Currie is a rock ‘n’ roll pioneer, having fronted the groundbreaking band The Runaways in the ’70s. Over the past 40-plus years, she has had a fascinating career that has run the gamut from musician to actor to author to professional chainsaw-carving sculptor.
In April, Currie released her latest solo album, Blvds of Splendor, for the first time digitally, following a limited vinyl run last year. The album, which in large part is a collaboration with former Guns N’ Roses drummer Matt Sorum, features guest appearances by such rock luminaries as Slash, Duff McKagan, and Billy Corgan. The expanded digital LP also sees Currie offering a new take on The Runaways’ “Queens of Noise” with The Distillers’ Brody Dalle, Juliette Lewis, and The Veronicas.
We recently caught up with Cherie by phone, and she discussed Sorum’s role in making Blvds of Splendor, as well as working with Slash and McKagan, and collaborating with Corgan. She also talked about the 10th anniversary of the movie The Runaways, in which she was portrayed by Dakota Fanning, as well as the influence the band has had on a new generation of women in rock.
Finally, we mentioned the unlikely reunion of the Misfits, and asked Cherie whether something like that can inspire a long-elusive Runaways reunion with fellow surviving classic members Joan Jett, Lita Ford, and Jackie Fox. Currie gave us a clear and honest answer, sharing her thoughts on where she stands and why it hasn’t happened yet.
Pick up the expanded digital edition of Cherie Currie’s Blvds of Splendor here, and read our full interview below.
On the journey of making Blvds of Splendor and working with Matt Sorum
I have to give Matt all the credit because the circumstances of how we even came together was that he had reached out to me to sing on his now wife’s record. And this was back in 2010 when I was doing a lot of PR work for The Runaways film. So I got back to Matt late and I knew who Matt was. I’d met him at a couple functions and charity events. So, when I reached out to him, I just happened to have been asked to open for Joan [Jett] at the Pacific Amphitheater, which is no small gig. This was a big gig, and I didn’t even have a band. So … I told ]Matt] that I needed to put together a band in pretty short notice to open for Joan.
Matt, to my utter surprise and shock, says, “Well, I’ll be your drummer.” I was shocked. And he goes, “I’ll put together a band for you.” I mean, I couldn’t believe it. I just couldn’t believe it. And he put together Nick Mayberry, who is truly one of the greatest, most gifted guitar players, and Grant Fitzpatrick from The Cult, and brought my son Jake Hayes in and we worked our butts off and we opened for Joan and we kicked ass. And when we walked off that stage, Matt just turned to me and said, “We need to make a record.” And I just let it roll right off my back. I didn’t think anything of it. People talk all the time. And I just was like, “Yeah, right.” He goes, “No, we do.” And within like a week, we were in his home private studio, which was a great studio by the way, recording “Roxy Roller”. And working with Matt was such a great experience for me because first of all, I hadn’t been performing, except for opening for Joan, in many, many years. And I hadn’t worked with a producer that didn’t try to change me. He let me sing the way I sing.
He boosted me up instead of tearing me down, which I was kind of used to, the tearing down. And he had all these wonderful friends that he was calling — Slash and Duff and Billy Corgan, and Brody Dalle and Juliette Lewis and, and The Veronicas and Holly Knight, and got Holly and I together to write. And I brought my son in and she and my son wrote some stuff together. It was really all Matt. This was Matt’s brainchild. I just threw in a couple of songs that I wanted to do and my son did come in and write a couple of great songs. Otherwise, it’s all Matt.
On working with Slash and Duff McKagan on leadoff track “Mr. X”
They had recorded the song, and I loved it right off the bat, but it wasn’t on any record or anything. And Matt reached out to Slash and Duff and said, “What do you think about Cherie cutting this song?” And they said, “Hell yeah!” — which surprised me. And they were behind it. And you know what, it’s not an easy song to sing. Right out the gate, it’s very fast paced, a lot of lyrics, but it’s a magical, well-written song. Even Slash was asked recently about his Top 10 collaborations, and he had me as one of those Top 10. And I love that tune, and I love doing it live, too. It’s just a kick-ass song.
On the song “Wreck Me”
I wrote that song in 20 minutes because I had just broken up with somebody and it was just devastating to me. So that just poured out, and I called Matt and I had the first two verses and the chorus, and I just sang it to him over the phone. And he goes, “I like it. Come on in, let’s record it.” So, we all wrote the music together — it just came right from the heart. Some of the coolest songs just happen, and that’s one that happened and it was true blue. Nothing made up with that song.
On collaborating with Billy Corgan on the track “Blvds of Splendor”
I am a huge fan of his, honestly. This guy was so generous with his time and his talent. And not only was he generous with this song, but my son and I had written a song that we threw in his direction. He was actually on a retreat, a songwriting retreat after we had recorded — I just want to just tell you how great this guy is — and he took the time to write his ideas and record them on videotape and send them to us. I mean, he didn’t need to do that. Not only is he brilliant, and no one can argue that he is. He is a true blue, great human being that deserves all of the praise that he has gotten in his career. And I found nothing but just honest, compassionate generosity coming from Billy Corgan. I can’t speak highly enough of him.
He didn’t want to do a whole lot of singing on [“Blvds of Splendor”]. He wanted it really to feature me, and I really wanted it to feature him. I’m crazy about his voice. There isn’t a voice like it. He just was great to work with. Like I said, can’t speak higher of the guy.
On updating The Runaways’ “Queens of Noise” with Brody Dalle, Juliette Lewis and the Veronicas
Whenever I’ve done shows, and I have done quite a few since I left The Runaways, always having Sandy [West] on drums up until she died, actually, and we always did “Queens of Noise.” And Matt was asking if there was a song to kinda give an ode to The Runaways. I brought up “Queens of Noise” and, of course, he loved the idea, and then he listened to how great Sandy was on it. And you know what, we were still reeling from her death because she had just died, not more than just a couple of years before. So, for him to pay such homage to her by playing exactly what Sandy played, and then to bring these gals in, you know, Brody, who was wonderful, had a very Joan Jett-esque voice. I’d never met Brody before. Again, Matt’s friends, he brought in his friends and we just had a blast, and it was “Queens of Noise” revised.
On the influence of The Runaways on a new generation of women in rock
To be completely honest with you, until 2000, I thought The Runaways had all but been forgotten. I will be honest with you. I didn’t watch any of the videos nor did I listen to any of the music, ’cause it was just too painful. I saw Madonna take credit for wearing a corset, like she was first one to wear one and I just thought, “You know what, nobody remembers this band.” But then I started watching the videos and listening to the music ’cause [Joan Jett’s manager/producer] Kenny Laguna and Joan had approached Sandy West and Lita and I to sue for the name and to be able to start getting royalties, ’cause everything had been stolen from us. And it wasn’t until there started to really be interest in us coming back together to reunite that I saw the interest. And I did hear the Go-Go’s on the radio and some other girls give us credit for kind of kicking the door open. Of course, to me, Suzi Quatro was the one that kicked the door open for us in the Runaways.
I think when the movie [The Runaways)] went into production is when I really did see how influential the band was. And it was great to have pride and feel so proud of everything that we had done ’cause we went through hell. And now, we’re even more iconic than we were in the ’70s. So it just tickles me, it really does. And it just fills me with pride. I’m so grateful that I was a part of it.
On the 10th anniversary of The Runaways film and whether it was a fair portrayal of the actual story
Dakota Fanning is truly one of my favorite actors of all time. I thought she was perfect as me. I thought Kristen Stewart was amazing as Joan, and Michael Shannon was excellent as Kim Fowley. [Director] Floria Sigismondi caught the true essence of the ’70s, no easy feat. And how can you take two and a half years of absolute craziness and put it in an hour and a half? It cannot be done. Were there little stories here or there that I wish could have been told? Of course. Did I wish that maybe things were more in order? Does it really matter that much? Probably not, but I am so honored that they thought that this band was worth making a major motion picture about. And I got to meet Dakota Fanning and Michael Shannon, pretty cool. And I ended up carving a bench at Kristen Stewart’s new house. So that’s kind of cool. So, I’m really very humbled by the whole experience.
On her career as a chainsaw-carving sculptor
If it wouldn’t have been for art in general, my first book, Neon Angel, never would have been written. I was a drug counselor for drug-addicted teens back in the mid ’80s. And I started sketching because I had to sit in the classroom with them for two hours a day. My then manager took me to Price Stern Sloan, which was a young adult or kids book company, as an artist. And they asked how long I’d been drawing. I said, “A year.” And they said, “How is that possible?” And I said, “Well, I was in this group,” and I told them the story and they said, “We’ve been looking for our first young adult book and this is it.” So I walked in as an artist and walked out an author. And then I went from sketching to painting to relief carving, which is using a Dremel tool — it’s two dimensional carving.
And then one day I was on the back of a motorcycle, happened to pass some guy’s chainsaw carving at the side of the road, and I couldn’t get it out of my head. It was this voice in my head that just would not let me forget that I needed to go back. Finally, I went back a couple of weeks later and, and was amazed by these gorgeous pieces of artwork. And this voice said, “You can do this.” All I did is I listen to that voice and I immediately started winning ribbons and I competed in 2005 in three major competitions, and I placed fairly high in two of them. And I’ve made it basically — it’s not a hobby — I mean it’s been my job for 20 years now.
On her ‘80s acting career and whether she would pursue it again
I’ve been hired to do the audio version of my book, Neon Angel, the extended version. And let me tell you something, I’m on chapter four right now, and I really realized this is an acting job. It brings me back to doing [’80s movies] Foxes and Wavelength. My career was destroyed from drugs and had I not been a drug addict at the time, I might’ve really enjoyed [acting] and stuck with it. But, unfortunately, my drug addiction made people turn their backs on me. So, would I act again? Sure, absolutely. Right now just getting this book done is going to be a monumental task because … every chapter has some really tragic thing happen. And I think once I’m finished with this book, I might definitely be ready to jump back in front of the camera. If anybody wants me to act, I wouldn’t say no. Am I going to go out and pursue it? Absolutely not.
On whether seeing a band like the Misfits reunite can inspire The Runaways to get back together
It’s not up to me. Back in the late ’90s is when Lita had reached out to me and Sandy to reach out to Joan and get Joan interested in doing a reunion. Joan finally agreed and Kenny [Laguna] had a tour set up, a record deal set up and then Lita walked because she does not get along with Kenny. And then Lita reaches out after the movie comes out and she wants to do it, and Joan then decides she doesn’t want to. Well, I’m the only one that’s worked with each one of these gals since the band dispersed. And I’ve been onstage with Joan; I’ve been onstage with Lita, and, of course, Sandy, and Jackie. I have to let it go because unless Lita and Joan and Kenny see eye to eye, it’s never going to happen. So I’ve moved on past it.