Fireworks Magazine Online 80 - Interview with Suzi Quatro

SUZI QUATRO

Interview by Malcolm Smith


With a career spanning some fifty years, Suzi Quatro is showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, quite the opposite and 2017 is turning out to be a busy year for the legendary rocker. Not content with having a UK tour scheduled for October and the impending release of 'Legend - The Best of Suzi Quatro', this year has seen the publication of her first novel, 'The Hurricane'. If that wasn't enough, September sees the European release of the collaboration between Suzi, Andy Scott (Sweet) and Don Powell (Slade) for the supergroup QSP, all this and still finding time to host her own Radio show! Fireworks caught up with Suzi recently to find out how she still manages to cram so much into an already long and glittering career.


Suzi Quatro - Interview

Your latest Greatest Hits collection is called 'Legend', often a misused word in the music business but concerning yourself, I believe well justified. How does it feel to have this tagged to your name?

I think that after fifty-two years in the business I'd like to believe I've achieved that status at least. I think you earn your stripes as they say, but I've been around a long time and done every gig God sent, played under the most horrendous conditions, got changed in many a toilet, as well as thrown up on stage and sang with laryngitis, so yes maybe I think I've earned it!

Joan Jett and other notable musicians have quite rightly cited you as a major influence, with Joan Jett saying that you should be in the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame. Does not being recognised by these establishments bother you at all?

The fact that it happened that way round and with Joan Jett being a self-confessed Suzi addict, and for them to put her in before me makes it a bit of a joke. There's no way I shouldn't have been in there before Joan. I was the one that started it and it makes it laughable and it's something that can't be taken seriously. I was the first woman − end of, and people like Joan wouldn't have done what they did if they hadn't seen me first. I don't know how they can take themselves so seriously and I know an awful lot of people feel the same.

You are touring here in the UK this autumn. It's been quite some time since you last toured here, why so long and are you looking forward to playing for UK?

Yes, I'm really looking forward to it. It's basically going to be a hits tour, hence the title 'Legends'; it's going to be a real trip down memory lane and it's going for people's memories of those times. I will of course be throwing in two or three of my favourite album tracks and the other artists on the tour will probably be doing the same, but yes I'll be playing all my hits.

As well as the 'Legend' album and tour, the QSP album is finally getting a European release. How did that collaboration come about?

It's an album we are all very proud of and is split fairly evenly between original material and covers, but I reckon it all probably started some ten years or so ago when Andy (Scott) was producing my 'Back To The Drive' album, which incidentally is one of my personal favourites. My husband said at the time that there seemed to be a lot of chemistry going on and that we would make for a great band, and we thought wow, why not? So finally around two years ago, along with Don (Powell), we felt it was just the right time to make it happen. So we talked about it, went into the studio and everything just 'clicked', and we recorded the whole album down at Peter Gabriel's Real World studios in Wiltshire.

Could you give me a little insight of how the album was recorded?

Well, there's a back story to it of course. We initially laid down a few covers to find out who we were and when we did Bob Dylan's 'Just Like A Woman' and I put down the vocal track, it was just magic and I said to the boys that this track really defines us as a three piece. So I went home with that 'buzz' and started writing 'Long Way From Home'. When I gave it to Andy to see what he thought, he was like, 'Yes! We have to write some more because what we have here is special'. So we were off and running.

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A few songs on the album drew my attention, in particular 'Pain' and 'Broken Pieces Suite'. Both seem very personal songs − what's the story behind them?

With regards to 'Pain', I came up with the intro and I called Andy at eight in the morning whilst he was on tour − and he was not happy [laughs]. But he called me back some two weeks later saying he couldn't get it out of his head. It's a real personal song and everyone we've played it for has been in tears; it's got a real emotional lyric that says it gives you permission to have pain, and this song says that nobody escapes it. We recorded an orchestral and band version, but Andy couldn't decide which was best so we put both of them on the album.
When it comes to 'Broken Pieces' I initially sent Andy and Don the demo wondering if they would do it, but they loved it too. I have to say that it's my masterpiece and I don't think I will ever write a song like that ever again. It's one of those 'once in a lifetime' things that is probably a culmination of everything I've ever felt and done, but it's also the story of love from beginning to end, and it's something I'm so very proud of. It's my life in a song.
What surprised me, and will a lot of other people too, is that the album sounds nothing like what would be expected from three of the most iconic figures from the 70s.
I think that's great! That means we didn't stick within our comfort zones and we created something new. When we have played together on stage people have commented that it sounds like we've been playing together forever, and the truth is we haven't!

I also noticed that the song you wrote with the late great Dick Wagner (Alice Cooper, KISS, Lou Reed etc) some time back, 'If Only', makes an appearance. Did you feel the time was right to record it now?

You know, we were looking for different things to record and Andy mentioned to me that he'd read in an interview that I'd written with Dick in the past. So I went home and dug out the demo tape and put it on in the kitchen and just at that time my husband was coming down the stairs and said, 'Whatever you're playing needs to be a single for QSP'. It was almost like Dick Wagner came by and put his voice through my husband. Dick had, of course, passed away by then, but isn't that weird?!

The cover versions on the album are also something that people probably wouldn't have expected from you. I'm thinking in particular of the Dr John song 'I Walk On Gilded Splinters'.

Andy does such a fine job on that one and when we played it live on stage it was one of the best songs we've done and it was so well received by everyone.

You can now add author and poet to your already lengthy CV. How do you manage to cram it all in? Does Suzi Quatro have any particular regime to keep her going?

I'm proud of everything I've ever done. I'm 67 and proud of it and as I said earlier I've earned my stripes. I'm an artiste, for want of a better word, and that can include my poetry, my first novel that's just come out called 'The Hurricane' and my radio show, which is ongoing. I just love communicating and I guess that's what keeps me going.

Your Autobiography 'Unzipped' and various recent interviews I've read see you being very candid and open about your life. Is that something that you've found easier to do with the passing of time?

I just don't know how to be any other way. I am a direct person and don't feel the need to hide anything. I believe honesty is the best policy, and of course, you can get hurt that way and you need to be prepared to take the pain that comes along with it. It's much more hurtful to be lied too.

With 2018 fast approaching, what are your immediate plans, and can you ever envisage your retirement?

After this UK tour I'm off to headline again in Australia in January/February next year. I've had a love affair with that country for many years and I always joke that it's just that, a love affair, and we should never get married [laughs]. But after that there's nothing specifically planned although I am thinking very seriously about making another album with Mike Chapman (Legendary 70s producer, Sweet, Blondie and Suzi herself) and that could be my swan-song, and I'd love to tour with the QSP album as we had so much fun making it.

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