It's been a long time since musician Lita Ford prowled MTV in videos to songs like "Kiss Me Deadly" and her hit duet with Ozzy Osbourne, "If I Close My Eyes Forever." Both came from her 1988 self-titled record, Lita. Before that, in the mid-1970s, Ford famously played lead guitar with Joan Jett for the all-girl band the Runaways, who put out hit songs like "Cherry Bomb." But she hasn't been in the public eye much in the last decade. In fact, her new album, Wicked Wonderland, is her first release since 1995.
The intervening years between record releases, however, have not followed the path of the typical VH1 "Where are They Now" segment. Ford and her husband, Jim Gillette, former lead vocalist for the '80s band Nitro, spent most of their time in the Caribbean islands while she was pregnant with their first child, James. With the birth of their second child, Rocco, they decided to settle permanently, so they put down roots on their own Caribbean island, where they've lived for the last 10 years.
The family has been offered roles in video games and comic books (both accepted) as well as reality TV shows (declined). Given Lita's previous well-earned reputation as a hard living, hard partying rocker, it might come as a surprise to her fans to learn about the life she lives today.
Indy: So you're touring as a family group then?
Ford: I've got my dogs, my kids and my hubby with me, who sings with me onstage. We're special guests on Queensryche's tour, so we come out and play with them during our part of the show— [interrupted, she hollers offline] Don't eat that crap! Don't eat it! Eat real food! [laughs] Sorry about that.
Indy: Actually, that's a perfect segue. How does one go from being a high octane '80s rocker chick to a mom who home schools her kids and grows all of her own food?
Ford: It's not what people would expect out of me! When you get married your life changes, and when you have kids your life changes even more. We wanted to be self-sufficient and raise our children to be self-sufficient, in case something crazy ever happened in the world. We also live in a place that's difficult to buy food. Our island is very remote, and there's really no grocery store, so we raise our own produce, we fish and we grab our own lobsters right out of the ocean. We live off the land, basically. You look at people and wonder how they'd survive if crap hits the fan and they couldn't go to Albertson's and buy their favorite cereal, ya know?
Indy: I'm actually talking to you from my car in an Albertson's parking lot right now.
Ford: No way! That's too funny!
Indy: So you didn't do the record for the money or anything. You're pretty much set, right? I gather you aren't living in reed huts out on the island or anything, are you?
Ford: Oh, no. We've got a gorgeous 10,000 square foot house built to catch rainwater. We have our own fresh water, so when it rains the cistern fills up. I mean, it's really different. It's very different.
Indy: What's been your relationship to music in the last decade?
Ford: I wasn't in touch with the music industry. I didn't know what was supposed to be cool, or hip, or anything. So it was awesome creatively when we started writing songs.
I'm still really out of touch with the newer bands, and...like, some guy came on the bus last night and said, "Hey, this girl wanted me to give you her CD." It was this all-girl band named Kittie, and I thought "Wow, cool." And, you know, she really wanted me to hear the CD. I'm sure the band has been around longer than I realize but we've just stayed to ourselves. That's what makes Wicked Wonderland so cool, is that it's not something that's been forced to fit into today's society. It's really from the heart. It's just us all the way, not trying to act or sound like anybody else, just us. And, you know, if you don't like it, don't buy it. If you love it, then, God bless ya!
Indy: When you started your solo career, when it came to hard rock and metal, it was pretty much you and maybe Doro Pesch.
Ford: That's right, that's right.
Indy: But now—Kittie's a perfect example. They've been around for close to 10 years now.
Ford: You're kidding.
Indy: And you're a big part of that. You're responsible for opening a lot of doors for women and bands in hard rock and metal.
Ford: Yes I am.
Indy: Does that ever freak you out?
Ford: I run into people in airports and they're running up to me, "Lita, if it wasn't for you I wouldn't be here right now, I wouldn't be getting on this plane!" And it comes from guys and girls. You forget all that when you're on an island for so many years, that you touched people's lives. I'll die and I'll feel good that I made my mark on this world. But I'm not going to die today or anything like that. [laughs] I've got too much rockin' to do!
Lita Ford plays with Queensryche at the Wilma Theatre Wednesday, Nov. 4, at 8 PM. $32.