INTERVIEW with SUZI QUATRO!
We talk about her history and how it all leads to the brand new album "The Devil In Me" from Steamhammer.
Suzi Quatro has sold 50 million records worldwide. Quatro has several #1 singles in the UK and around the world. Her bass playing influenced countless fledgling rockers including Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads and Kathy Valentine of The Go-Gos. However, Quatro is more than just a bass player, she is the primary influence on Women in Rock. After years of playing with her family, when she found her own music and voice, its impact gave us The Runaways, Joan Jett, Girlschool, and many, many more. Best known to American audiences as female biker goddess/Rock star Pinky Tuscadero from Happy Days, Quatro is back with her 18th studio album, "The Devil In Me" from Steamhammer Records. She graciously spoke to us about her history, career, and this new release she calls "the best album of her career."
T-BONE'S RECORDS: First of all, Suzi, you are due a lot of credit for kicking down the doors of Rock N' Roll and letting the women in.
SUZI QUATRO: Well, as it says in my documentary over and over again. I had no blueprint. Nobody had done yet - what I did. I was always a square peg in a round hole, so I had to create my own niche. I kicked down the door, because honestly - I didn't see the door. I was just being who I was and still remain DIFFERENT.
T-BONE'S: Let's go back over your history. How was it in Detroit in the Sixties during the Motor City's heyday?
SUZI: We were in the midst of a lot of magic. Motown. The white Rock bands. We all grew up together and played the same gigs. Detroit is a city like no other. There is something in the air - like an electrical charge, you can feel it. Listen to the last track on "The Devil in Me," "Motor City Riders." This song explains it all. I will always be "The Girl from Detroit City." It is in my DNA.
T-BONE'S: As a Pleasure Seeker, you and your sisters combined a sort of showband motif with being a band. How were you accepted and how did it feel to get those three singles out on Mercury Records?
SUZI: We were a show band, and we worked all the time which was great! This really gave me a chance to learn my craft. We had a single released on Hideout Records ("What A Way To Die/Never Thought You'd Leave Me?" in 1965) and three on Mercury. Although it was great to be signed to a major label, I didn't like the product very much. I didn't think it was who the band was at all. They were not successful, although "What A Day To Die" has become a cult classic.
T-BONE'S: What led to the change in direction and rebranding as the Hard Rock of Cradle?
SUZI: We did a festival in Detroit that my brother put on. We did our "Show Band" set - and died. We were out of touch and cocooned in Show Biz Land. All around us were these Hippy bands in Tye Dyed shirts, barefoot and jamming. So, we decided to completely revamp the band. I took a back seat after being the front person/bass player and my little sister Nancy was brought in to sing lead. Also, we started to write our own material. I was never happy in that band.
T-BONE'S: It was being in Cradle that brought you to the attention of famous producer Mickie Most. He saw you and immediately knew that you were a star?
SUZI: Yes, even though I was at the back...and only sang two songs. He was not interested at all in Cradle - he only wanted me. This was the second offer I had in one week to go solo. The other was from Elektra Records. It was my time to move on and follow my own path.
T-BONE'S: Going solo in 1972 in England must have been a real strain. When you were developing the music and stage presence that would be your own, who were you drawing inspiration from?
SUZI: My heroes were Elvis, Otis Redding, Bob Dylan, and Billie Holiday. There was no one around at that time that I was listening to and I was too busy going to the company every day and writing songs.
T-BONE'S: How did you meet the producers/writers Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman? You already had a single and an idea of how you wanted to sound, was it obvious to you that they were of the same mind?
SUZI: Finally, I formed a band and went on the Slade tour. We were doing all of my original songs and by the time the tour was over, we had a real tight unit and a sound. So Mickie got Mike to come and see the set and then try to come up with a single based on what he heard. If you listen to the first album (1973's classic self-titled debut,) you will hear all the original songs and how they all fit together. It was a perfect marriage for a long time.
T-BONE'S: Glam Rock in the UK in the early Seventies was huge. You were part of the craze, but you always seemed to have more Hard Rock on the brain. Is that the case?
SUZI: I was never Glam. But I started having hits in the space of time - so I locked into this adjective. We were always a plain and simple Rock N'Roll band. I didn't even wear make-up and the band certainly didn't either. Never was Glam. Not Glam now. Just Rock N' Roll - that is it.
T-BONE'S: What did it feel like when "Can The Can" went #1 in 1973?
SUZI: Like all the hard work and sacrifices had been worth it.
T-BONE's: By 1977's "Aggro-Phobia" you were really starting to expand your sound. Were you feeling like your music was maturing?
SUZI: I think we started to expand in 1975 on "Your Mamma Won't Like Me," adding a horn section and female backing singers for the first time. My music is always a work in progress and nothing is off-limits. However, somehow, I always manage to sound like "me" - which is a good thing.
T-BONE'S: Now let's fast forward to the present. Your new Steamhammer album "The Devil In Me" seems to find a place to incorporate elements of your "classic" sound with the rumble new harder Rock. When you were making the record with your son Richard Tuckey, did you feel like you just wanted to make another record that - to put it simply - ROCKED?
SUZI: "No Control!," our first outing together, gave us both the confidence that the "team" worked big time. When we started to write the new album, we both wanted this to be as important and groundbreaking as my first album. If the song did not have the vibe - it didn't go on. We were on fire on this one - simply on fire. It was organic. It was real and somehow my son lit my fire. I am now seeing myself through his eyes which is very exciting. We teach our children until they teach us!!
T-BONE'S: Working with your son Richard makes this one a real family affair. Do you think it was easier to communicate the ideas you had to him as your producer this time out?
SUZI: We wrote and produced this together as we did "No Control." We work as a team and because of my history working with family is not a problem. I worked with my Dad, and my sisters. Then I came to the UK and married my guitar player (Len Tuckey, father of Richard.) When I am working, relationships do not come into the picture.
T-BONE'S: Your voice is yet again in top form on "The Devil in Me," and you show no signs of slowing down. Did you feel like you had a little more control on this record and even more confident?
SUZI: I felt like I had total control as I always do. I am not one to let anyone control me. Not how I am wired. My voice seems to be getting better with age.
T-BONE'S: The song "The Devil in Me" has a more dramatic modern sound. You really get to howl on this one - which sounds like quite the release. When you first started recording it, did you feel like your vocals were really being pushed by the energy of the song?
SUZI: Yes, I did! It has a real earthy growl to it right from the opening riff. My Rock N'Roll heart just comes alive and this scream comes out. This is something I have no control over!
T-BONE'S: Is there a song on here that you are particularly proud of and why?
SUZI: I love my voice on "My Heart and Soul." I love the song, it is very beautiful and I have never used this type of voice before. So, it feels like quite a revelation. Also, I love "Motor City Riders" because it is a homage to my hometown and I worked hard to get the lyrics completely correct.
T-BONE's: I hear a lot of Detroit on this new record. Being recorded in lockdown with "The Devil in Me" acting like this kind of tension build-up and release, is it safe to say you drew on some of that hidden energy within you?
SUZI: Well, my energy is never hidden. But, it was and is frustrating being locked down of course. So, maybe a little of that comes out.
T-BONE's: There is a lot of material here, from across the spectrum as well. Were there tracks cut from the album? Are you ready to write the follow-up?
SUZI: We are working on tracks now for the next release and they are going GREAT! I have never felt more creative than I do right now.
T-BONE'S: Your career has taken a lot of stylistic twists and turns, "The Devil In Me" seems to confront those and give you a chance to demonstrate all your musical and vocal interests and abilities. Is it safe to say that this has been a long time coming and this record is something you have envisioned for a while?
SUZI: It is safe to say that I have been able to use everything I have on the recording. I will not be boxed in, ever. To be able to have such a diverse album that all fits together is just wonderful!
T-BONE'S: Finally, we know that touring is just getting underway again soon. How do you see yourself when you first get to take the stage again?
SUZI: I WILL SMILE, I WILL CRY, I WILL KISS THE GROUND, AND ROCK MY ASS OFF.
Big thanks to Suzi for this interview and Bjorn at Steamhammer for assistance and guidance with it. Suzi's new album is at T-BONE'S today!
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