When it comes to rock royalty, Lita Ford is a heavy metal queen.Often credited as the first female to play serious lead guitar in a hard rock band, Ford, 57, came to notice in the 1970s with the all-girl band the Runaways. Her 1980s solo career included the hits “Close My Eyes Forever,” a duet with Ozzy Osbourne that put both rockers in the top 10 for the first time, and “Kiss Me Deadly.” Guitar Player’s Magazine named her a Certified Guitar Legend. Ford has called the 2014 award a peak moment of her career.
This year marked two big releases for Ford, her tell-all memoir “Living Like a Runaway” and a new album, “Time Capsule,” featuring previously unheard music she recorded with a slew of stars during the 1980s.
In her memoir, Ford shares details of her personal life beyond the headlines, including her divorce from her ex-husband, who she claims was controlling and brainwashed her two sons, who remained in his custody. Before performing Friday, Aug. 26 at Hot August Nights in Lewiston, Ford talked to Inland 360 about her life in a phone interview from Los Angeles.
360: What made you want to learn to play the guitar when you were 11?
Ford: I just wanted a guitar. There wasn’t really any reason for it. It wasn’t like my mother played guitar … music does not run in my family. My mother and father were always listening to music. They always had the stereo blasting. I guess that could count as having music in your family but not in your blood. They listened to a lot of Italian opera and Elvis Presley, I guess that’s where the rock came from.
360: What was it about heavy metal rock that resonated with you?
Ford: I could never figure that part out. It was just something I liked. My parents weren’t controlling. They would let me do whatever I wanted to do and they would support me. If I wanted to listen to Black Sabbath, they would listen to Black Sabbath with me. They would always be so supportive. I don’t know how they did it.
360: You’ve been asked many times about what it was like to be a woman in the male-dominated ‘80s rock scene. Why is it so hard for people to take a female rocker seriously?
Ford: It’s just a very chauvinist world we live in. Period.
360: Do you feel like things are the same for female guitarists today?
Ford: I think they are. I think they still are. You’ve always got somebody trying to tell you how to put your amp settings or turn your volume control.
There’s somebody out there that wants it their way and because they’re a man and you’re a woman they feel it’s OK to open their mouth. I say, “If I was a dude you never would have said this to me.”
One instance, and this has nothing to do with music, it just goes to show you we live in a male-dominated world, I was at valet parking in Hollywood parking my truck. I drive a big truck. I can drive a truck, I’m not an idiot. I’ve driven trucks a long time. I was in Hollywood at this tiny parking space on a hill, on an incline, and the valet says, “I’ll park it for you.” I said, “No you won’t, I’ll park it.” He said, “You’re going to have to back it in.” I say, “I know that.” Then he reaches his hand in through the window and grabs my steering wheel. I grab his hand and pull it off my steering wheel and I said, “If I was a man, would you have done that?” He didn’t say anything. He looked like he was from Brazil or something. He didn’t speak very good English. Dude, keep your hands off my steering wheel. Don’t touch my knobs (laughs).
360: Why did you decide it was time to write a memoir?
Ford: I’d gotten a divorce and my ex-husband was extremely controlling and trying to find time to sit down and write a book, that was the only time. There was no one around me. I was able to focus on old memories and stuff that I had to bury very deep when I was married, stuff I wasn’t allowed to talk about.
360: Some people might have trouble understanding how this badass female rocker could wind up, as you’ve said, brainwashed, in a bad marriage.
Ford: He’d stripped me of everything I owned and everybody I knew was gone. It was a survival mode and now I think, possibly, that’s what my children are doing. He has my children and he has them because he had more money than I did during the divorce. He was able to pay more people to come in to fight for him. Parental alienation, it’s a form of child abuse. It is absolutely horrific, devastating, one of the most painful forms of child abuse I’ve ever, unfortunately, come across. I wish I never did. I didn’t grow up with that kind of family. It’s just evil, something I’d hoped I’d never have to encounter, evil.
(On Facebook I created) Lita Ford’s Parental-Alienation Awareness Facebook page. If you haven’t been around it or lived it yourself, chances are you don’t know what it is or just how horrible it is. It lists support groups for people that need it.
360: How do you go forward from that?
Ford: I’m writing a new album. My book just came out. I wouldn’t mind making a major motion picture film on things that weren’t in the book or things that were in the book, either or.
360: What’s the sound of your new album, are you still focused on ‘80s hard rock?
Ford: We’ll always sound like Lita, it’s heavy, it’s dark. You know, we try to stay close to my roots — the Runaways, early Lita albums. It’s very easy for an artist to start drifting into these different areas of music and sometimes you get to the point where it sometimes becomes too much. (Compare it to movie making), you have “Pirates of the Caribbean,” then “Pirates of the Caribbean” 2 is a little more complicated; then 3, you don’t even know what’s going on it’s so complicated. All this time goes by and in 4 it’s back to the roots. I don’t want to go through all that, I just want to stay close to my roots.
360: What can people expect from your show Friday?
Ford: We’ve got a little of all of it. We just get on stage and jam. We’ve got a handful of songs in the set that stay in the set and where they come out, and where they’re placed, is up to the audience. If it’s a dull, quiet, sit-down, want-to-relax type of audience you don’t want to play ballads all night long. We give them some energy, rattle some brains a bit. I’ve got a good band – Bobby Rock on drums, Patrick Kenison on guitar and vocals, Marty O’Brien on bass – together we’re quite entertaining and thunderous, I should say, a very powerful band.
If You Go
What: Hot August Nights concerts
When: Gates open at 5 p.m., show at 7.
Friday, Aug. 26 — Lita Ford and guest Jack Russell’s Great White
Saturday, Aug. 27 — John Waite with guest Vicci Martinez
Where: Boomers’ Garden, 0301 Second St., Lewiston
Cost: $25 advance, $35 day of show, $50 VIP standing room on the deck
Ticket outlets: GNC Stores in Lewiston, Moscow, Pullman; Rosauers; Boomtown; and ticketfly.com.