Lita Ford and Jim Gillette for House of Hair Online
By Ray Van Horn, Jr.
HOH: This is great stuff having the two of you together on Wicked Wonderland. Naturally everyone knows you two have been married for quite some time, but it’s a bit special to see you working synonymously on this record.
JG: We did all of this and we had no idea what’s going on in America. We’ve been on a damn island for so long! (laughs) We just wrote from the heart, man. We couldn’t tell you what’s popular, what’s the flavor of the month, what’s doing good now. We have no freaking idea! It’s pretty cool because we sort of explored it when we started writing. When you’re creative people and you don’t do something that you love for 15 years, boom, something just comes out like a hurricane, I guess. Man, we wrote a lot of songs; we wrote about 25 songs!
HOH: Then I’d say you probably have a nice chunk of material for another album!
JG: You know what? We won’t use it! (laughs) We’ll start all over again. If it wasn’t good enough for this album, then we won’t use it for another one. Or we might revisit it and re-tweak it, you know? Out of ten songs we’ll probably have seven or eight half-songs.
HOH: Well, that’s interesting because both Lita’s past work and what you did with Nitro and Tuff, none of it creeps into Wicked Wonderland. This album really is a fresh, clean slate!
JG: It is and it isn’t. Obviously it came from us, so there has to be some of that in there, but you’re right, it is like a clean slate. We mainly sat there and wrote from the heart; that’s all I can say. The lyrics for both of us are very personal. It’s kind of weird; we actually had to talk about it and whether we really wanted to let people know what our love life was all about. A lot of this album is about us! It’s about our love, our sex, our chemistry. Sex is a huge part of our marriage. I think if it was to more married couples, there’d be a lot less divorces! (laughs) What do you think?
HOH: (laughs) I can’t argue with that, brother! Apply that theory to politicians and we’d have fewer wars!
JG: I’ve got buddies who cheat on their wives and they end up getting divorced and they’ll tell me, ‘Yeah, she didn’t want to do this or that,’ you know, the wacky sex stuff. Here these guys are embarrassed to ask their wives to do freaky stuff! What are you, nuts? You marry the girl, you have kids with her, you sleep next to her every day and you’re afraid to tell her you like to be spanked or anything weird? They’ll hook up with someone they don’t know for a one-night-stand and ask the girl to bark like a dog, but they won’t ask their wives to do that? That’s insane to me! Why’s it okay to find that with someone else but not your wife? I just don’t get it, man.
HOH: Well,to my ears Wicked Wonderland is essentially your Eyes Wide Shut moment on album where you make your sexual encounters with one another widely public. You guys just put it all out there…
JG: But this is real life! (laughs) This ain’t a trip, you know? The big decision was ‘Hey, do we put this out there?’ Hell yeah! This is us, this is who we are and maybe somebody’ll get a little freaky with their husband or wife because of this and maybe it’ll save a damn marriage!
HOH: I understand this album is catching on with the bondage underground…
JG: Well, if it does, we’re happy, because we’re a part of it, you know? I mean, we don’t frequent the clubs or gatherings in that kind of subculture, but I think we’re the first rock ‘n roll couple to ever be endorsed by a bondage company! (laughs) How cool is that, man? We’re endorsed by Stockroom.com and they have the coolest adult toys and clothes. Man, it’s awesome! Our bedroom looks like a freaking factory! (laughs) We wear some of that stuff onstage. Did you see the video for “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” from A Twisted Christmas?
HOH: You bet.
JG: You know that suit Lita’s wearing that looks like freaking spray paint? That’s from Stockroom, and then we’ve got something called The Slave Harness with the black straps. It’s pretty wicked, all that stuff.
HOH: So you guys literally have a playground!
JG: (laughs) Yes, literally, we do!
LF: Stockroom has beautiful stuff! It’s nice stuff to use with your girlfriend or wife or your lover; it’s wonderful stuff. Even my 12-year-old wears the bracelets! They’re big, hunky leather bracelets, so there’s something for everybody in there. Beautiful clothes, silky and sexy; really nice stuff.
HOH: When you two were going through the process of writing Wicked Wonderland, was there anything that got pushed too far in your minds?
JG: No, no, not really. In the beginning we were wondering if that was so, but we had a talk and once we decided we were cool with putting it all out, there was no turning back. What else is there? We’ve got two rules: no animals and no other people! (laughs) If it doesn’t involve anybody but us and if it doesn’t hurt anybody, we’re good.
LF: You know when you start talking about barnyard animals, it’s time to turn it over to Lita! (laughs)
HOH: (laughs) Jim with the quick bailout! How’ve you been, lady? Great to have you back on the scene!
LF: I miss you guys! I miss everybody! I’m so excited to get out there and rock.
HOH: So fill in the gaps behind Jim; what’s been happening all these years? We know the basics: you two moved to the Caribbean, you’re raising your family and obviously you’re having a lot of sex!
LF: Yeah! We just wrote this wonderful album, we’re going out and doing some shows with Queensryche, who is an awesome band! We’re featured on an X-Box game coming out and I’m the voice of the queen…how awesome! We have Jack Black in it, Rob Halford, Lemmy, Ozzy, a whole bunch of rock ‘n roll tunes, about 100 tunes, something insane like that. It’s really going to be their largest-selling game of the year, so check it out! If you go on Brutal Legend.com, we have one of our songs from Wicked Wonderland, “Betrayal” there. So it’s like Lita year, man! Everything is happening! We’ve got a comic book coming out with our kids beating up zombies, but that’s nothing new since they do that every day! We’ve got all kinds of goodies coming this year.
HOH: Let’s go back to the early eighties for just a moment before you released Out for Blood. What was circulating through your mind in preparation of your solo career?
LF: Well, I did the Runaways of course from 1975 to 1980, and then my first solo project. I went out as myself with a bass player and drummer. I really wanted to get the point across that I was a guitar player and yes, I am female, yes, I’m into hard rock. You know, people looked at us onstage and the band’s jamming, then the solo comes up…all the cameras go on the guy! It’s like, wait a minute! He’s not playing the solo, you moron! I am! So I really wanted to come up with a way to get the point across I’m a guitar player and the only way to do that was to just go solo. It’s like Hendrix; Jimi Hendrix is my idol.
HOH: You had a short gap of time between Dancin’ On the Edge before you broke out with the Lita album. I’m sure you went through a bit of a mental challenge between records. What do you remember being your biggest motivating factor back then, considering Lita went on to enjoy huge success?
LF: Finding the right management, the right record producer, the right songs, you know, being in the right place at the right time. At that point in time in the music industry, you really had to be. It wasn’t like I had my own record company! It was pretty much unheard of back then. You had to get everything approved through the label and back then it was like, ‘Can we use this record producer?’ ‘What do you think about Lita’s makeup?’ ‘What do you think about Lita’s nail polish?’ right down to stupid stuff like that. That’s where I was at with them. To be able to get the label on your side meant you weren’t going to get shelved, that your album was going to get some credibility, that somebody was going to help push you. Otherwise you get shelved if they don’t like you or if they don’t know what to do with you…and that happens all the time, them not knowing what to do with you. Why? Because you’re a chick and you’re singing heavy metal and you’re playing guitar… ‘What do we do with you?’ Then there was the thing with censoring the music; don’t say this, don’t talk about that. I was like, ‘Goddamn, what the hell do you want from me?’ That was a battle! Then I got lucky because I got Sharon Osbourne and I got Mike Chapman, one of the greatest record producers and songwriters ever. Sharon Osbourne just kicked butt! I really nailed it with them helping me out, and the record label was so excited, so I had everybody on my team.
HOH: You know, Lita was a good-time record for a good-time year in 1988. For you, I’m sure it was a little Dickensian with a lot of great times and perhaps some not-so-great times during that period. What was it like?
LF: Yeah, I did go through a lot during that time. Things were right and things weren’t quite right. I had a lot going on in my life, but I think musically I had a lot of great success with that album. I think today, other than Wicked Wonderland, it really remains my favorite album. I’m very happy with Wicked Wonderland; it really kicks butt! Lita also kicks butt for that time. You know, my father died during that time, but at the same time I had a gold and platinum-selling album. I had something really great going on and something really messed up going on, but now for some reason, thank God I’ve got all of my eggs in a row here. Nobody’s sick, everybody’s healthy, everybody’s happy and everything’s going good for me. I’m really excited to get out there and tour!
HOH: If you don’t mind my saying, Wicked Wonderland is one of the most sexed-up albums I’ve heard all year and we’re still waiting for the new Genitorturers album to drop! Life is good in the Caribbean, eh?
LF: Oh, yeah! Life is great in the Caribbean. It’s not for everybody, but we enjoy our privacy. We like to run around with no clothes on…
JG: That’s what I’m talking about!
LF: (laughs) As a matter of fact, my first son Rocco didn’t wear his first socks until he was two! He screamed whole bloody murder when I had to put a sock on him. We came back to the United States and it was winter, so I had to get him some socks and shoes. In the Caribbean, it’s hot all year round so you hardly need to get dressed, but I put a sock on him and he was freaking out screaming, ‘Get it off, Mom! Get it ooooooooffff!” I was like, ‘Rocco, it’s a sock, for God’s sake! You’re gonna survive it!’ God bless him, I love him! Kids are great; kids rule! They rock the world. I have a wacky family; we need to do a reality show!
HOH: What do the boys think finally getting to see their parents in action onstage?
LF: Oh, they’re really excited! They love it. How cool is it for my kids to be traveling cross-country or looking out of the plane and seeing the tips of the Swiss Alps? Flying overseas…it’s something money just can’t buy. I remember when I was in school I was really bad at history and geography; I hated it! I sucked at it; I got D’s and I was begging my teacher not to give me an F, for God’s sake! I kind of wormed my way through those, but I really showed my colors and I graduated from school and was able to go out and tour. To see these countries in person and meet the people, see their cultures, learn about their money, the way they drive, the things they eat, the things they wear, it’s all very interesting! For my kids, it’s saved me a lot of home school! They actually get to go there and see these things themselves and I think it’s a wonderful life experience.
HOH: There’s a very unique balance in having you and Jim work together on Wicked Wonderland. You get to really amp up and turn your guitars loose without anyone really pressing a thumb down on you, while Jim doesn’t have to necessarily hit the highest octaves as he was well-known for in the eighties. A lot of the songs are playful and sexual like “Bed,” “Crave,” “Inside” and “Scream for Me.” On the other end of the spectrum, you have that serious love letter between you and Jim with “Sacred.” When going through the playbacks of these songs together, tell us what that experience was like…
LF: We had a good time making the record. I can’t wait to make the next one. We would mess around with each other; you can hear us moaning and groaning on a few songs if you listen carefully! We’ll be talking to each other and then you’ll hear some music. We were able to record when we felt like recording, not because we had studio time booked or anything like that. We just did it when we felt the mood was right or when we got an idea. It would be like, ‘Oh, I know how that should go! Let’s go the studio right now!’ and we’d run out to the studio and record it. So that was really nice. Then we had Greg Hampton from California, who was one of our producers,on drums, so it was just the three of us. He would lay down the drum tracks and zap it over to us through email. Having Pro Tools is nice to be able to do that so quickly. It really got finished quickly; it was easy and it was a lot of fun. It was very sensual at the same time, as well as us just having a good ol’ time. Jim had a good bit to do with the album’s recording…
JG: For us, this was honestly the only way Wicked Wonderland would’ve happened. Technology where it was at 20 years ago, we would’ve had to have gone into a big studio and we just never would’ve done it. We’ve kind of been able to ease back into this because we were such a family unit. We don’t go anywhere without the kids and they’re a part of everything. They’re with us all the time. I mean, how do you keep a couple of maniacs like our kids locked up in a studio for 12 hours a day? We’ve got an octagon in our house! They’d work out, they’d be training and watching movies, get on their computers and finishtheir homework, all right next to us in and out of the room where we’d record. They’re right next to us, you know? They’d be playing and going nuts on their video games, pinball machines, monkey bars and rock walls. It’s a good environment, you know? They couldn’t have been locked in a studio. Doing it at home kind of kept it to what we’re used to. No pressure, no stress. When you go into those big studios, they’re two grand a day, or at least back in the day they were; it’s probably not that way today since so many people have home studios. Back in the day they cost two thousand bucks a day and you’d lock the kids out! What would happen was, if you were sick, too bad, buddy! If you’re not in there to record, you’re losing two grand! So a lot of your performances weren’t as good as they would’ve been.
At the house we’d record when we felt good and if we didn’t feel good or if we didn’t feel the mood was right, we wouldn’t. Sometimes you’re just not feeling it, so we’d be like ‘Screw it, we’ll work on it tomorrow!’ and it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, my God, we’re going to lose $2000.00!’ It was cool. I was the engineer over here, so it’s just me and Lita. Especially when your songs are like these, it makes things more convenient! (laughs) She’d wonder why it was so hot in there! (laughs)
HOH: No urban myths with you guys similar to the reported Axl Rose show on “Rocket Queen,” if you get me…
JG: (laughs) No, this is the real thing, buddy! In the song “Indulge,” you’ll have to listen really carefully (laughs) and you’ll hear some actual stuff going on there! In the breakdown section of the song, we didn’t exactly turn it down! Plus, we’ve got the “real sex” version, as we call it! In a little while, we’ll probably stream it on the website for a couple of days and then yank it, but it’s just filthy! (laughs)
HOH: It sounds like you both had so much fun doing Wicked Wonderland, but can you pick one standout song overtop the others?
JG: Each song has its own life, you know? “Sacred” is very special to us. I actually wrote that for Lita and she got to sing it to me, so that’s pretty cool. That’s a very special song to us, but it’s also a very different animal than say, “Crave” or “Patriotic” or “Scream.” It’s way to the left while most of them are way to the right because we weren’t worried about time and because we didn’t have a producer reigning over us.
LF: The whole album ties in together. It’s not like one song or one part of the movie; it’s the whole thing together. It’s our own wicked wonderland.