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The Runaways: Q&A with Cherie Currie
Cherie Currie, the coquettish singer of the first all-girl rock band, gives her version of The Runaways' story, as the film starring Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning is released on DVD.

By Marc Lee 3:19PM GMT 07 Feb 2011

The Runaways, released today on DVD, is the tumultuous, true-life story of the first all-girl rock band, who exploded on to the LA music scene in the mid-Seventies.

At the heart of the band were teenagers Joan Jett, who played guitar, and Cherie Currie, who was the coquettish singer.

Three and a half decades on, Currie talks about her life in the band, what happened next and her relationship with Kim Fowley, the manipulative Svengali figure who brought the “jailbait” band together.


The Runaways is quite an uncompromising account of your life at a very young age. It’s particularly honest about the problems your father and your sister had. How did it feel revisiting such difficult but also exciting times?

Actually, the book I wrote about it all [Neon Angel] is far deeper and far darker. The movie isn’t quite as graphic as the book, so I was comfortable with it. My sister Marie loves the movie.

My dad was so wonderful to us and such a terrific guy: there’s only so much you can do in a film that’s only an hour and a half long, and there are things that I wish could have been in there as well.


In the film, Dakota Fanning plays you and Kristen Stewart plays Joan Jett. How much did you talk to Dakota beforehand?

We met quite a few times, and I was on the set as much as I could be. And she and I spent quite a bit of time together in the studio: she did all of the recording [of the songs in the film] with me there.

I would sit in the vocal booth with her, and Joan would be out there with Kristen when she was doing her vocals. We were very hands-on.


All your time with the Runaways was over by the time you were 18. How has that period and all its intensity overshadowed the rest of your life? Have you learned to live with it or put it behind you?

I couldn’t put it behind me. I had to revisit all those feelings and try to look at what happened when I wrote the book [in 1988].

Then I became a mother in 1990 and raised my son. He’s very musically inclined: he actually plays in my band, and he’s a fantastic singer/songwriter. So I was teaching him early on about what my experiences had been.

It wasn’t just the Runaways: some of the other pretty horrific things that happened after the Runaways, all around my drug and alcohol abuse. So my son has got a really in-your-face education about this stuff.

To me it’s all been worth it. Would I do it again? I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Would I change things? Probably not.


Is that because you feel you’ve learned something from those experiences?

Absolutely. I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I wouldn’t be the mother I am today had I not experienced those things.


The look of the film, the production design is very detailed and very convincing. Is that how you remember your world looking in the 1970s?

I was so thrilled by the costumes, the sets. The visuals I thought were exceptional: they really took me back to the Seventirs, which were my favourite time.


How close is the dialogue to how it really was? Did Kim Fowley really come up to you in a club and say: “We are choosing you to be a part of rock-and-roll history”?

I’m not going to say it was those exact words, but he did walk up to me and say he really liked my look and asked if I could sing or play an instrument, and I told him I could sing… a little. And he said we want you to audition for the Runaways.

I was floored by that because there had been a lot of buzz around town about the band, and I’d heard the name Joan Jett.


What is your relationship with the other people in the story? How close are you to Joan these days?

Joan and I have really been able to rekindle our friendship. We speak whenever she comes into town. It’s great to have her as a friend again; that’s the one thing that I missed from the Runaways.

I couldn’t listen to the music for 20 years because I really missed her; I missed our friendship. Sandy West [the band’s drummer, who died in 2006] and I remained close, close friends until the end. I saw Sandy all the time.


When was the last time you saw Kim Fowley?

The last time was at the premiere of the movie. But he and I had buried the hatchet a couple of years ago. I saw him at a friend’s party, and I walked up to him, and he was very scared [of me].

But I realised that my anger towards him wasn’t hurting him at all; it was hurting me. And I had to be grateful to Kim for giving me this experience in the Runaways.

You gotta let that stuff go because it’ll eat you alive. I have actually enjoyed very long conversations on the phone with Kim over the past couple of years. I don’t trust him but I appreciate him!


You’re one of the few people in the world who lives with a song about them that a lot of people know. Are you still a Cherry Bomb?

I’ve never actually sat down and thought, 'Wow, I’ve had song written about me.’


It’s one of those songs that, once you’ve heard it, just sticks in the memory…

It is: Joan and Kim did a great job writing that song. It’s a breakout tune. [The lyrics express] exactly the way I felt at the time – the same way all of us felt.


It says at the end of the film that you are a chainsaw sculptor…

Yes. I have been a professional chainsaw carver for over 10 years. You can go to chainsawchick.com and look at some of my work. I take a log, and I pick up the chainsaw, and I carve mermaids and dolphins and bears and people – anything and everything.


It sounds very physical. Do you have to be very strong?

Yes, it’s kept me in decent shape, that’s for sure. Once I got over the fear, it was very freeing for me: I love it because it’s just me, the chainsaw and the piece of wood, and nobody’s telling me do this or do that.

That the way I really like to live my life, to be free to do what comes naturally.


'The Runaways’ is out now on DVD