It's been a decade and a half since metal mistress Lita Ford has been on the scene. During her hiatus she got married, started a family, moved to the Caribbean, and gave up wearing shoes.
In 2008 Ford resurfaced at Rocklahoma and since then she began working on a new album - the first in almost twenty years - and metal fans couldn't be happier that she's returned.
"Oh, you know, I'm getting such an overwhelming response, it's amazing," exclaimed Ford in earnest. "We just did a press conference in Sweden and I walked out in front of all these people and they just stood there with their mouths hanging open. It's really weird, it's almost like people are in shock, I just appeared out of nowhere."
So did Ford have any idea just how much she was being missed?
"No, I really didn't. I really didn't, I literally live on a deserted island - we're talking no Wal-Mart, no K-Mart, no Federal Express, no fast food restaurants, I mean there's nothing where we live. When you walk the beach your footprints are the only ones in the sand; it's really desolate. And we wanted a good place to raise our boys, we have two boys, and we wanted to teach them to live off the land - so to speak. If anything ever happened we know that they would survive because they can hunt, they can fish, they can swim, they swim out with the sharks," she laughs, "Not something every parent would let their child do but they live off the land, they love it. They bring home fresh food for dinner, it's kind of cool. But then I miss the malls."
And there probably aren't many concerts playing out her way either?
"No, none. Actually, on one of the other islands they do have concerts and we do pop over there every once in awhile."
Ford's forthcoming album, Wicked Wonderland, and her first in 18 years, is readying for an autumn release.
"Hey Jim - is the album done yet?" Ford calls out to husband, and former Nitro vocalist, Jim Gillette.
"The last time I checked we had three songs left to master but he says it's totally done and mastered. It's due out the middle of September and it's really heavy. Heavier than anything I've done in the past, it's very high-energy except for one song which is a ballad called 'Sacred,' and very sexy. It's sort of a love-hate kind of album; I love you, I hate you. It's about us, we've opened the doors to our bedroom and our family life and it's really about us."
When pondering the option for Ford to return to the music business, a family vote was cast, but prior to that was she writing at all?
"There was a long period of time where I didn't do anything except raise my boys. They're home-schooled, so it was quite a challenge having two boys and then trying to get situated on a deserted island. Jim pretty much took over the entire island and got a whole crew of people and put everyone to work, and we've really made quite interesting lives for ourselves. Yeah, it's not for everybody. It's definitely a surreal story."
How did that come about - packing up and moving to the Caribbean?
"Well, after we had our second boy, Rocco, we felt like we wanted to get out of the US, and I think 9-11 was the topper. After 9-11 happened we just freaked out and wanted to get out of the US. And Jim went island hopping and came back and said, 'Ok, I got the island!' And we packed up and sold our houses; we had 10 houses and sold everything. We got three suitcases and put everything else in storage. And we went to the island and rented a house and started looking for a place to build, and we just ended up staying out in the Caribbean. It's really wild, and every once in awhile we come back to Miami because it's the closest point of entry into the United States, and we do rehearsals here and the band is here and that kind of stuff."
So what was the timeline in Ford's life; did the pairing up with Gillette happen before or after heavy metal was put on hold due to the emergence of grunge?
"It's like 'metal' was a dirty word," Ford exclaimed. "We've been together for 15 years now so I think it happened during. He sort of saved my life from the wackiness of the music industry. But I think that's why I disappeared; I just kind of stuck my head in the sand. I didn't want to know what was going on, I stopped watching MTV and I stopped listening to the radio, I just didn't want to be a part of that whole grunge thing. Which, it kind of added a whole different dimension to rock and roll; even the rock and rollers who are coming back now have a whole different dimension to them. But, I don't know, grunge just kind of scared me away. Like, do you work at a gas station or are you a rock star? I can't tell."
And rather than try to stick it out the way some bands did despite going from playing arenas to playing clubs - Ford had different feelings.
"I was pretty burnt out at that time on a lot of the things that were going on. I had tried different things, different musicians. I tried singing, I tried not singing, I tried just playing guitar and getting different singers in - and no one really wanted anything to do with that. They were like, 'Lita, if you're not going to sing we don't want anything to do with it.' So, it wasn't working. And I met Jim - and Jim and I did an album which actually never came out. And it has some great stuff on it because Jim sang the lead vocals and I played lead guitar on it, it's pretty cool. Maybe one day it'll surface. So it all happened at once and it really was an accident. Which - my life has been full of that - it always seems to take me in the right direction. I am fortunate, I really am blessed."
What was the defining moment or event that tugged on Ford's sleeve urging her back into the metal limelight?
"Well, I've got a lot of friends in the music industry that were like, 'Lita, what are you doing? Why aren't you out there playing?' and I was like, 'Well, I will when it's time.' And when the music industry is ready, not just me, but also the industry; and when they're ready for me I'll come back. And now when my kids are telling me, 'Mom - what are you doing?' Now when they're telling me that I should be out there playing it's like, 'Ok, you guys are ready, I'm ready.' My oldest son, James, says, 'Mom, you're Lita Ford for god's sake! What are you doing?' And so I said ok, let's go play. And then we got an offer we couldn't refuse from Rocklahoma and that was it; we were on the bill. I remember we did a meet and greet a couple years ago and I remember I went with Dee Snider who our family is friends with his family and he was sort of my date for the evening, and I had no clothes. I'd lived on the island for so long, I told Dee, 'My god, I feel weird!' and he said, 'What do you mean?' I said, 'I have clothes on!' It felt really weird, I had these big boots and leather pants, it just felt really wrong. I haven't worn shoes in 10 years, it was like wow - this is weird."
Just prior to last year's Rocklahoma, Ford did a few shows in New York under the name Kiss Me Deadly. What was the reason for not using her own name?
"They were just warm up dates. We were trying not to say it was me but it sort of leaked out and we had some really good shows. Of course it was all over freaking YouTube," she laughed. "You fart and it gets all over YouTube! But we just wanted to do some warm up dates quietly. It was amazing, just amazing. People were not sure what to expect, if it was really me or someone posing as me - they didn't know. We had a lot of people trying to push me back into the industry. Dee Snider was one of them, Danny Stanton from New York - he was a huge part of it. And we had some of the Cheap Trick guys, Ted Nugent, it's like everybody I saw was like, 'Lita, what are you doing?' And then like I said when my kid started saying, 'Mom!' It was time; it was time to get my ass up and out."
And do Ford's sons offer her new music any constructive criticism at all?
"Yeah, they sure do. They sure do, they speak their mind. 'You know, that's not a good guitar part, mom. I think you can do better than that.' Or, 'Why are you singing those lyrics, they suck!' Ok, we'll have to change that part. They're really funny, I just adore my kids. They go everywhere with us too and I think it's educational as well - taking them to places like Spain, and Greece, and you know places you'd rather go to than look at a picture in a book. It's really nice to have that option, we're fortunate."
"I hate leaving them. I really hate leaving them; they're so much help to me. They're really big into martial arts too which is nice because it keeps them away from bad things, you know, drugs and alcohol, cigarettes, and all that crap, they're really against it. And Rocco, my youngest, was doing jujitsu when he was three years old - and they're amazing at it. They're taught nutrition, they're taught good health and how to stay healthy; my 12 year-old is so strong it's amazing. They work out every day, they run, we have a rock wall in our gym, we have every kind of work-out equipment you can possibly think of. They run a couple miles in the morning, they're just really healthy, athletic kids, and it really helps to stay away from the bad stuff."
Any plans in the future for doing a record with some other performer or band?
"I've been thinking about that and I don't really know yet. But there is definitely something that we can do with somebody famous - we know everybody, you know? A lot of people are DJs now like Dee Snider, you know he does his radio show, and Alice Cooper has got his radio show going. It's really nice to be able to talk to him and say, 'Hey Alice, I've got a new album, you want to play it?' And he's like, "Oh yeah, sure.' It's not like the old days where you had to beg and plead and see if they liked you. But of course I'll run into a bit of that as well."
Lita Ford will be playing the Bridgeview MusicFest on July 4, and will be sharing the stage with Warrant, Lynch Mob, LA Guns, Adlers Appetite, Enuff Znuff, and The Leftovers.
Interview by Melanie "Sass" Falina ©2009