Interview by Eve Mayzes
On Monday I sat down to speak with one of my favourite musicians of all time, and I’m not too proud to admit, I was extremely nervous. While she may refer to herself as “…just a chainsaw carver from the San Fernando Valley…”, the rest of the world know Cherie Currie as the fifteen-year-old singer who revolutionised the music industry and redefined women’s role in rock. As the front woman of the world’s first ever all girl rock band, playing alongside Joan Jett to make music history, Currie’s life sounds like something Hollywood would dream up; and the rock and roll powerhouse isn’t finished redefining music yet.
Having released her first solo album in 35 years, Reverie, through iTunes in 2015, Currie is all set for her first ever Australian tour in May this year. Having had a gold record in the country at only 17 years of age, Currie says she has wanted to visit Australia for most of her life, and now that the chance to tour has come along, she has a message for her fans down under; “I will not let you down!”
While the album, Reverie, is Currie’s first solo release in 35 years, it is not her first solo recording. After leaving The Runaways, Currie was still contractually obliged to record another album for her then label, Mercury Records, resulting in “Beauty’s Only Skin Deep” . Currie went on to tell me that in 2010 she partnered with Guns N’ Roses/Velvet Revolver drummer Matt Sorum to record an album through Joan Jett’s record label Black Heart Records. However, due to complications with the release, Currie says she became frustrated and after being approached by her former The Runaways manager, Kim Fowley, moved on to record Reverie. The 2010 recording has since been finished and the album is due for release later this year.
When asked why she chose to record an album with Fowley, who’s management of The Runaways is shrouded in controversy from royalty theft to assault accusations, Currie explained it was time to create some new memories with the man who launched her career. Fowley, who was battling Cancer at the time, wanted to make amends for the past, and Currie felt ready to do that. Fowley co-wrote songs and began production of the album, however only managed three days in the studio before he became too ill to continue. At this point, Fowley handed production of the album over to Jake Hays, Currie’s son, and continued his involvement from home. Currie explained Fowley came to live with her during this time, “…there was a period of time about 3 months before he passed away where he came and lived here. He was in transition from one house to the next and he really had a feeling that he wanted to live at my house and I, I absolutely said yes and I got to spend, only nine days but they were nine great days, of recording and it was just him and I most of the time, you know he needed full time, 24 hour care, so I was a care-giver to him for those nine days, and when I think of him now it’s just him smiling or, you know, it’s a good way for him to go on and me to have great memories of him here at my home.” Kim Fowley passed away in January of 2015, only two weeks before the completion of the album, something that Currie is still sad about, although she said she knows he was very happy with the music and that really meant a lot to her. Despite their troubled history, one thing the pair did very well together was make music.
Currie’s son Jake Hays not only produced, but also played every instrument on the album and recorded a duet with his mother, “Shades of Me”. When asked if she enjoyed working with her son, Currie laughed and said, “… I really did you know, but my son is very, um, very opinionated about what he thinks works, and that I instilled in him at a very young age (laughs), but then I regretted it! Because the things that I wanted, like the one song I had written called Believe, I wanted like the Glen Campbell type of French horns and he just didn’t want it and finally I had to put my foot down and say ‘Son!’ (laughs) ‘This is my album!’ and, you know, it was very funny. But working with him is just great…”
In conjunction with the new album, Currie also has a live album coming out this year which she recorded in the UK. The live album, also produced by her son, Hays, features one of Curries own idols, Suzi Quatro. Currie co-wrote a song for the upcoming film about Quatro’s life which is being produced here in Australia. Currie told me that Quatro liked the song so much she wanted to perform it with her and the recording will be a part of the live album.
As well as being a musician, Currie has also carved out a name for herself in, well, carving. Currie has a flourishing business as a chainsaw artist, as well has having received multiple awards for her carving works. The art form called out to her, she explained. “When I walked into their gallery and saw how beautiful their carvings were I knew, again that voice said, you can do this, and I immediately asked them if I could apprentice there and I started carving! And, you know, once you get, kinda that, paralysing fear of that saw to the side, I started winning ribbons and placing in competitions and I’ve been doing it for 15 years now.”
Cherie Currie was an absolute pleasure to interview, her passion for her music, carving and life are truly contagious; she retains the same vivaciousness that made her famous at 15. While the new album sounds like a statement about her abilities, with rock solid vocals that, without any formal vocal training, have matured and improved even further with time, the artist says the album was actually a journey of self-discovery, as she herself is “…still in the process of finding out who I am…”, that she is “…still a work in progress.” She has a sincere kindness about her that shines through when she talks about the people in her life and the people she has known. Currie’s life, a rollercoaster of music that saw her grow up on stage in front of the world with very little adult supervision, has resulted in a beautiful, mature songstress with plenty left to give to the music industry. With a new album out now, two records due for release this year and her first Australian tour this May, Currie is still an artist to watch, and I for one, am very excited to see what comes next.
“I’m going to give you guys a great show and I’m extremely confident about that.”