talks about music, gossip and the deception of the Republican party
by Lawrence Ferber
Joan Jett’s latest CD ‘Sinner’ boasts some provocative,
naughty lyrics and titles, including ‘Fetish,’ ‘Naked,’ and ‘A.C.D.C.’
Joan Jett has claimed the title of “Sinner” for her latest
album. Filled with the pop hooks and tasty guitar rock she’s been
feeding us since “I Love Rock N’ Roll,” “Sinner” (Blackheart
Records) also boasts some truly provocative, naughty lyrics and song
titles (including “Fetish,” “Naked,” and “A.C.D.C.,” a
cover of The Sweet’s song about a slutty bisexual gal) and a dash
of politics. Several songs feature songwriting and vocal contributions
from Le Tigre’s openly queer Kathleen Hanna.
Having first garnered attention during the late 1970s in all-girl rock
outfit The Runaways, the Philadelphia-born Jett went solo and had her first
number one hit with “I Love Rock N’ Roll” in 1982. Besides
making music as Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, she’s also appeared
in films (including “Light of Day,”) played Columbia in Broadway’s
2001 uber-gay “The Rocky Horror Show” revival (for which she
shaved her head), and her ditty “Bad Education” became the
theme song for cult TV gem “Freaks and Geeks.”
In reality, Joan Jett has hardly ceased touring during much of her career.
In 2002, she raised eyebrows in the Middle East when she did 10 days of
performance for the troops stationed in Afghanistan. Reportedly Jett would
come onstage wearing a birkha, which she ripped off and stomped on before
blazing through her legendary down and dirty rock show.
Now celebrating the 25th anniversary of her own Blackheart Records label
(co-founded by creative partner/singer-songwriter Kenny Laguna), Jett is
re-releasing her entire catalog, remastered and souped-up with extras.
She’s also currently on the road with The Vans’ “Warped
Tour” through summer.
Q. The new album is called “Sinner.” What’s the worst
sin you’ve committed, Joan?
A. That’s interesting, because everyone’s take on a sin is
different, right? But probably not being truthful at times in my life for
one reason or another.
Q. Have you known any AC/DCs in your life?
A. Oh, I’m sure many. Probably many more than I know. I want to sing
to everybody and that’s really the thing. I’ve always wanted
to do that and I never like to paint things down because you want everyone
to think you’re singing to them.
Q. What about the song “Tube Talkin’?”
During a 2002 performance in Afghanistan Joan Jett reportedly stormed
onstage in a birkha, ripped it off and then stomped on it as she
launched into ‘Do Ya’ Wanna’ Touch Me?’
A. It’s a song written by Kathleen Hanna and to me it’s a song
about gossiping and how poisonous it can be.
Q. What’s the worst gossip you’ve heard about yourself?
A. That’s a good question. I don’t pay attention, because ultimately
it’s not important and it will get you bent out of shape.
Q. Do you actually give a damn about your reputation?
A. Yeah, to a degree depending [on[ what part of the reputation you’re
talking about. I want people to care. I feel genuine, I try to be humble
and be real and appreciative about what I have and that I’m blessed.
But on a grander scale, if people are going to judge me on what I wear
or how I dress, than I don’t give a shit. I do care on a humanity
level, but in a sense, no, I don’t give a damn. If you and I met
one-on-one, yeah, I would want you to leave thinking I’m a nice person.
Q. “Baby Blue,” co-written by Kathleen, is also on the sexual
and queer side. The lyrics go: “Switch-hitter/you know she plays
the field/she ain’t concerned/as long as its real/top bottom/she
does either/always in control/she’s a teaser.” So who is this
A. Baby Blue could be anybody. I could be talking about someone I met or
I could be talking about myself. It goes back to that [idea that] I want
things to apply any way people want to hear them.
Q. Is there a specific real-life Baby Blue that inspired this song?
A. I would have to say yes, I guess, but it might not be the same one who
inspired Kathleen. Kathleen and I wrote four songs together on the album.
I met Kathleen when a lot of things were happening. She was involved in
a movement called riot grrrls or something, about women in music and rock
and roll doing it their way. We were also involved during a time when a
band called The Gits was in Seattle. They had a female lead singer, [Mia
Zapata], who was walking home from a club one night, I believe after a
show, and she was raped and murdered. The whole community came together
to try and find the killer. I knew Kathleen through this time period and
it was very interesting. She’s a really intelligent woman, she’s
great, she’s funny, she’s really outside the box which I get
a kick out of and she’s a lot of fun to hang out with.
Q. The song “Riddles” ends with the famous sample of Dubya,
aka The Decider, botching up the “Fool me once shame on you” saying.
A. “Riddles” is really about how the government doesn’t
talk to us straight. I campaigned for Howard Dean. I went out and tried
talking to Americans about why I thought he should have been our president
during the primaries. Howard Dean spoke straight to you. This [Bush] administration
doesn’t. They use a deceptive language, couching policies [in a way]
that is confusing to Americans even when they are trying to negotiate a
Medicare thing. It’s just overwhelming. We as Americans should not
be fooled, and we have to make our voices heard.
Q. I saw you in “Rocky Horror” with your shaved head. You looked
A. I loved it. The more people hated it, the longer I kept it [shaved].
It’s that thing where woman have to have their hair — it’s
part of their sexual identity — and I really saw firsthand how people
reacted with disgust. It was quite interesting as an experiment.
Q. So people would look at you and go eewww?
A. Pretty much, even my friends. Men can shave their heads and everyone
thinks it looks cool. I just didn’t get it. I love fucking around
with gender issues.
Q. You and the Blackhearts have played some gay Pride events. What year
was the first one?
A. I think maybe around 2000.
Q. Was it a big decision to play a big gay event?
A. I don’t think so for me, not really. We wanted to make sure it
would be fun for everybody and there was no reason why it wouldn’t
be. It’s rock and roll, people are people.
Q. What are you looking forward to the most with the “Warped” tour?
A. It’s been a long time since I’ve had any new music out and
it will be really great to turn a whole bunch of people on to me, the music,
and maybe put a face to the name with somebody who loves “I Love
Rock N’ Roll” or is familiar with it and now they have a chance
to connect it all. It’s also a good chance to get out and play for
a different audience. We’ll be on the road pretty much from now until
November. It’s a nice way to mix it up.
info: Joan Jett performs
at Raleigh’s Alltel Pavilion on
June 27. She is at Charlotte‘s Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre
on Aug. 8.