Monday, 11 September 2017

Suzi Quatro interview

I first interviewed Suzi when I was a teenager. Suffice to say that was a very long time ago. I was a student at the time, little guessing that a few years later I would be a full-time music writer for such august titles as Flexipop!, Number One and Jackie! Suzi was my first brush with pop-stardom. Anyway, clearly a lot has happened since then. Suzi continues to record music and tour worldwide. Her latest releases are the compilation disc, ‘Legend’ which includes all her greatest hits, Can The Can, 48 Crash, Daytona Demon, Devil Grate Drive, Stumblin’ In, The Wild One and If You Can’t Give Me Love plus a selection of her favourite tracks. And there is also an album, QSP, made with legendary Sweet guitarist, Andy Scott, and Slade Drummer, Don Powell. I began by asking Suzi about that…

You have a project called Quatro, Scott and Powell and the album is called QSP. How did that come about?

My ‘Back To The Drive’ album (2006) was produced by Andy Scott. And, of course, we’ve worked together many times over the years. It was my husband who said that there was a great chemistry happening. He said, “You know, that would make a great band – you and Andy”. He said all you’d need then would be to have Don Powell on drums. I thought, “Oh! What a brilliant idea!” We’re all similar musicians from the same ballpark. And then about two years ago we found the space and the time to get together and form a band. We each picked a cover as a good starting point. We did a cover of Dylan’s ‘Just like a Woman’ and as soon as we did that I told Andy and Don that we had just established our sound. Then I went on to write a song called ‘Long Way From Home’. I finished it with Andy and when that was done it was so good that even though it was going to delay the album I thought we needed to go ahead and write some more. So not only did we do covers but we also wrote six new songs so we ended up with eight covers and six originals.

Then I did an Australian tour in January and February and my husband suggested that I take QSP out there and see how it went. So I was my own support act! It was fantastic. We released the album just in that area and it reached number 20 in the charts. The album will be released everywhere else in September. Our live shows in Australia went so well that we really want to do more. We all really, really want to work together again.

I love Sweet. But it seems to be that a lot of people don’t know anything apart from their hits and so they don’t even know that Sweet are a hard rock band.

No they don’t. Sweet did a lot of very poppy stuff. But Andy is one of the finest rock guitarists around.

You had so many hits yourself. Don’t you get tired of playing them time after time now?

No. Why should I? Of course you have to play the hits. It is so stupid when an artist doesn’t do that. But I always have a combination of hits and my own personal choices. I’m a very prolific writer. I’ve written a lot of my own stuff and so we always have both the Chinn and Chapman songs (Note: Chinn and Chapman are the song-writing team who wrote hits for Suzi, Sweet, Mud and others in the ‘70s), and we also have my own songs. A lot of the fans really like the album tracks. You can gauge that when you do it live because you can see the reaction.

You are clearly an innovator as a hard-rock female singer. These days you see lots of female rock singers. Even with Heavy Metal bands. But when you were starting that was extremely unusual, wasn’t it?

It hadn’t been done. There hadn’t been a successful rock and roll female musician. So somebody had to do it sooner or later. I think the reason it fell on my shoulders is that I actually don’t ‘do’ gender. I never have and I still don’t do it now. I’m not a female musician – I’m a musician. I was always a tom-boy. Not masculine. Just a tom-boy. Did I look like I was up there trying to show that a girl could be as tough as a guy? No, I just looked natural. Well then, did I look as if I was trying to be sexy? Absolutely not. All I ever did really was just be me.

I’m glad that there are a lot of females out there now. It’s fantastic.  Women Heavy Metal singers have taken it to the next degree, which is great. I’m not Heavy Metal at all. I’m rock’n’roll. But really there should be no barriers. I don’t believe in barriers. The only barriers are the ones you create for yourself. I don’t do that.

Do you think there are fewer barriers now than when you started?

The only barriers I see come from a slightly different angle. The lack of clothes on a lot of female singers now! It shows that they have trapped themselves in their own sexuality. At least, that’s how I see it. They’re letting themselves be sexualised and that’s a trap.

I mentioned on Facebook that I was going to interview you and asked if anyone had any questions they wanted to ask. Here’s a question that I don’t even understand. It comes from Iain McKinnon who asks: Does Suzi still go shooting?

I took up shooting because my ex-husband went shooting as a hobby. So I took it up and I became quite a crack shot. I haven’t done it for a long time but I’ve been told I’m a natural shot. But I don’t really have much time for hobbies.

So what do you do apart from music?

Apart from my music, I just released my first novel at the end of May. It’s called The Hurricane and I also have a poetry book called Through My Eyes. I always wanted to write a novel and I mentioned to my friend, who’s now gone, Jackie Collins, that I’d like to write a novel. She said “You should. You can write really well. Just stick with what you know.” So it’s about a rock chick but post-Suzi Quatro. People are enjoying it and I’ve left it open for a sequel. I want to show where she went next so that’s how I wrote it.

Of course, the other thing you’ve done quite a bit of is acting. Any more in the pipeline…?

I haven’t anything planned at the moment but if something comes up that I like, I’ll be happy to do it. But I’m always so busy doing other stuff. The show I do on BBC Radio 2 takes up a lot of time. Then there’s my writing and poetry, QSP, so many things.

Here’s another question from someone on Facebook. This one comes from Mark Antony Raines. He wants to know what are your memories of acting in ‘Happy Days’?

Great memories. I’m still very much in contact with Ron Howard and Henry Winkler. I realise that people in America often know me better for Happy Days than for my music. I didn’t have so many big hits in America. My biggest there was Stumblin’ In which was a million seller.

Why do you think so many bands in the 70s had problems breaking into America?

Well, I did have that one big hit. But yes, I had more in Britain. Mickie Most kept switching record companies which caused problems. I didn’t sell as many single releases there. But I sold a lot of albums and I did a lot of tours. And I’m still a cult figure there.

A ‘cult’ figure. What do you mean by that exactly?

Mike Chapman says I have a cult following. He’s always telling me if I came back to tier America I’d sell out. He calls me a cult. I don’t know what he means.

You have a new album, Legend, that includes your hits and other personal choices. A lot of the tracks have been remastered. What difference do you think that makes?

It’s just better. The technology is so much better now. You should hear some of the old Elvis tracks that have been remastered. It’s unbelievable. People today are used to hearing the kind of sound you can get from remastering.

The other thing that young people especially take for granted today is auto-tuning…

Oh! Don’t get me started on that! I think it’s one of the worst inventions ever. I’d rather record the same line six hundred times until I get it right. Every record you hear now, everybody sounds like Cher singing Believe.

It also seems that bands these days do mixing and production on a massive scale with so many different tracks and so many different takes.

Yes, production is massive now. Sometimes you can’t stop progress. In each decade, ever since the ‘50s they’ve used what tools they had and you have to go along with that. But you still have to make it organic. That’s something I insist on. You sit in the room with the other musician and you play the track. You can do all your production after that. But first you have to play the music with the other musicians in the same room at the same time.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to me and good luck with everything you are doing. I know you keep saying that the next tour will be your last but…

No, I never said that! It’s not true! I said it one time in Australia. And I said it would be my “final Australian tour” but I never said that anywhere else. I’ve done thirty-one tours of Australia. When my 50th anniversary came up I thought it would be a nice swan-song. And then, of course, I couldn’t stand it so I did another one. But believe me, I’m not retiring!

For more on Suzi - her albums, books, tour dates and more, visit her web site: