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Cherie Currie Interview: "Blvds of Splendor" Is "the Album I Wished I Could Have Made After I Left the Runaways"
Musician, actress and artist Cherie Currie was the lead vocalist of the rock band the Runaways in the mid-to-late 1970s. After the Runaways, she became a solo artist, and then teamed up with her identical twin sister, Marie Currie, and released an album with her. She appeared in the 1980 coming of age drama film Foxes, alongside Jodie Foster, Scott Baio, Randy Quaid and Sally Kellerman and in other films including Parasite, Wavelength, Twilight Zone: The Movie and The Rosebud Beach Hotel. Currie has been a wood-carving artist since 2002, using a chainsaw to create her works. She has competed in and won awards at three world Chainsaw Art competitions. Currie and and actor Robert Hays have one son together, Jake Hays.
Currie’s latest solo project, Blvds of Splendor, is set to be released digitally on April 28, 2020, and features guest collaborations with Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins), Slash and Duff McKagan (Guns N’ Roses), as well as Juliette Lewis, Brody Dalle, the Veronicas and ex-Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver drummer Matt Sorum, who also produced the set.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Cherie, how are you doing during these strange times?
Cherie Currie: Oh, you know what? It really doesn’t seem that strange to me, which really makes me strange (laughs).
Smashing Interviews Magazine: At least you’re able to work on your chainsaw art.
Cherie Currie: That’s absolutely right. I’m blessed. I just have to walk out my back door, and life is just the same for me (laughs).
Smashing Interviews Magazine: I believe my favorites are those adorable bears!
Cherie Currie: Aw, thank you so much. That’s so sweet, Melissa. Thank you.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: That work seems really hard on the back. Do you get used to it?
Cherie Currie: Oh, my goodness. I get achy, of course. It depends on what I’m working on. I’m doing a cigar store Indian, my very first right now. This is a little over six feet long. So when you’re bending over trying to get the detail and stuff for the legs and everything, it’s the bending of my lower back that takes more of the beating. But otherwise, to be honest with you, my body has become so accustomed to the weight of the saw and everything else, that it’s just second nature to me now. I don’t suffer that much.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: I’ve got to tell you, I absolutely love this album! It’s the best music I’ve heard in a long time, and the love was immediate the very first time I listened to it.
Cherie Currie: Thank you!
Smashing Interviews Magazine: What was going through your head when you were recording the record?
Cherie Currie: I felt like it was the album I had always wanted to make, all my life. It’s the album I wished I could have made after I left the Runaways, but I ended up making a record with my sister Marie, whose husband was Steve Lukather of Toto. There were a lot of things that caused this record, even though it’s a good record, to kind of go off the rails of what I had hoped for. So this record is the record I had always wanted to make.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: How did you recruit all of those awesomely talented musicians to be a part of the album?
Cherie Currie: I have got to give all the credit to Matt Sorum for that. He’s very good friends with all of them, and they jumped at the chance, which was shocking to me. It was humbling that they wanted to come and be a part of this record. I didn’t really realize what the Runaways had done in the history of rock and roll in the 1970s. We really had made quite the impression, which I was completely unaware of, so that was a wonderful experience, and I am so grateful to them that they wanted to lend their great talents to this record.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: How did you choose the cover songs?
Cherie Currie: “The Air That I Breathe” was one of my very favorites growing up. So I brought “The Air That I Breathe” to the table. “What Do All the People Know?” Kenny Laguna brought to the table. I also brought “Roxy Roller” to the table because I loved Nick Gilders’ version of that song. He had a big hit with it when I was in the Runaways, and I got to play with him after I left the Runaways. But I always loved that song.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Then there’s “Draggin’ the Line” by Tommy James.
Cherie Currie: There we go! That’s a great song.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: What is different about this version of “Queens of Noise” first released in 1977?
Cherie Currie: Besides Matt playing every beat exactly the way Sandy (West) played it to pay homage to her, we updated the sound quite substantially and kind of let Nick Maybury, who’s just a fantastic guitar player, loose. As much as I love Lita, and I do, I just said, “Play whatever you want on this. Just kill it.” And he did. It was so much fun for Brody Dalle to do a duet with me on this song, and Juliette Lewis and the Veronicas, of course. A bunch of heavy hitter chicks, you know, to come in and become the new Queens of Noise for a day. It was fun.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: What’s your favorite song on the album?
Cherie Currie: You know, I don’t have a favorite. “The Air That I Breathe,” of course, really moves me. It just depends on my mood. But I haven’t really listened to that album, Melissa, for many, many years because it seemed like anytime we were getting ready to maybe put it out, something would happen. So I just never really expected it to come out, to be honest. So I listened to it the other day, and I was just absolutely floored by it. Every song meant something to me. I will say that “The Air That I Breathe” was special to me because it was a song I’d always wanted to sing since I was a teenager. So that made that very special.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: I really like “Force To Be Reckoned With.”
Cherie Currie: Oh, neat. Yes! That was written by Holly Knight and my son, Jake Hays.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Of course, the big delay on the record was when you took that horrible fall.
Cherie Currie: Yes. That was a long recovery, too. We were toying with putting the record out there in 2016, and then that fall just paralyzed the left side of my face. Those were some dark times. But I’m fully recovered and healed. It’s just great that I don’t remember the fall. That’s a big plus. It knocked me out. I just remember carving the foot of a bear up in a tree, and the next thing I know, I’m opening my eyes, and this doctor, a retired trauma surgeon, who I was carving for, was looking down at me. I had ice all over my face, and I didn’t know what had happened. So that is a blessing because I think I would’ve had a very difficult time continuing with the carving if I had remembered that fall.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: It was also very fortunate that your client was a physician.
Cherie Currie: Isn’t that right? Yes.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: How does it feel for your son, Jake, to be working in the recording studio with you?
Cherie Currie: He’s a fantastic musician. In fact, he wrote the song, “Shades,” on the record. Matt wasn’t completely sold on the original lyrics Jake had written even though I ended up re-recording this song for an album that Jake and I and Kim Fowley produced called Reverie that came out a couple of years back. I did a duet with Jake and kept his original lyrics. So Matt and I changed some lyrics on “Shades,” and a little bit of the music on it. So now we have two great versions, Jake’s original version on Reverie and Matt Sorum’s version on Blvds of Splendor. It’s pretty cool to do a great song twice.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: I recently interviewed Suzi Quatro on her documentary set to be released this summer, and I know you were featured in the film. What was Suzi’s influence on you?
Cherie Currie: She was my idol, Melissa. Especially being a teenager, there was no one else but Suzi. We went to her shows. I saved my allowance lunch money to buy her records. She was so influential to the Runaways, to Joan and me in particular and also Lita as well. She was a hero. So when I was asked to do this film, I jumped at the chance. Jumped at the chance, and I wrote a song that they used in the film, as well, for Suzi. You can’t rewrite history, Melissa. Suzi was it. She was the one who kicked down the door for us gals. There is no doubt about it. No one had done what Suzi did. No one. Joan came on the heels of Suzi Quatro. No doubt about it.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: You weren’t really interested in singing rock and roll before you joined the Runaways.
Cherie Currie: I was very interested in David Bowie. I was incredibly enamored by him. My very first concert was his Diamond Dogs Tour at the Universal Amphitheatre, and when I saw him on that stage, it was like a lightning bolt for me. I really, at that moment in time, knew that that’s what I wanted to be. I wanted to be a stage performer. So I made up my mind at that moment. The fact that the Runaways found me at the Sugar Shack was a fluke. It was a fluke like passing those guys chainsaw carving by the side of the road 20 years ago. A lot of it is luck and being open minded. I was very lucky that they found me at the Sugar Shack because that was exactly what I wanted to do, and it was the right time for me.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: The Runaways premiered on Netflix this month. You’ve been a little critical of the film in the past. Is that because it omitted some events that were in your book?
Cherie Currie: Well, they get to take license with the story as they see fit. As far as timing and chronicling, that film was a little backwards. Putting on the corset in Japan for the first time is untrue. I started wearing that corset pretty much out of the gate once the first album came out. I’d seen that corset in the window, and I just knew it was going to be perfect for that song. So there were things that they changed. You can’t take two years of absolute madness and roll it into a 90-minute film. You can’t do that.
I thought there were a lot of deeper situations that could’ve been used in the film. But, am I happy with the film? Absolutely. I think Dakota Fanning was spectacular. Kristen Stewart was amazing and so was Michael Shannon. I think when you’ve lived it, when you’ve lived the part, you see all the things that happened and how they happened, there is a method to the madness. You can be highly critical of a film because they didn’t live it like you did. So, of course, I have been critical, but I love the film. I think I was very blessed to have a film made of something I was a part of.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Do you think the Runaways should be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?
Cherie Currie: I don’t. If Suzi Quatro isn’t in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the Runaways have absolutely no reason to be there, in my opinion. I think they need to really look at the history of music. Until she’s in there, I don’t think very highly of them. It’s just the way I am. I kind of call it the way I see it. Until Suzie’s in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, I just can’t take it seriously. I’m sorry to say. She was that influential. She truly was.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Any news on a Runaways reunion?
Cherie Currie: You know, we came so close back in the late 90s. Lita had actually reached out to me and Sandy to get Joan to be a part of a reunion, and then she agreed. But then Lita walked because she and Kenny did not get along. Then Lita wanted to do it after the movie, and Joan didn’t want to do it. I’m the only member that’s played individually with all these gals since the breakup of the band.
But I don’t see it happening now, and of course, losing Sandy was huge. But yet, I still felt like we could pay homage to her very similar like we did in the video for “Queens of Noise.” I’ve told Joan and Lita this, to be able to make Sandy a part of it. But, you know, I just don’t think that Joan, Lita and Kenny can have a meeting of the minds, so I don’t see it happening.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Any last words about Blvds of Splendor?
Cherie Currie: It’s just a dream come true for me. Like I said, it’s the record I always wanted to make after I left the Runaways. I’m so grateful for all the very talented people that came together to make this possible. Thank you. I’m very grateful for all of it.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Thanks for taking the time today, my friend.
Cherie Currie: Well, thank you. You know what? We get better as we get older, Melissa! (laughs) It’s so true, my friend. Thank you so much for giving me the time and for liking this record. It really means a lot to me, Melissa. It honestly does. And that is no bull.