Interview: Cherie Currie
First published on ripitup.com.au | May 31, 2016
In the latter half of the 1970s, The Runaways took the world by storm with their edgy brand of rock ’n’ roll. Fronted by the feisty Cherie Currie, only fifteen at the time, the starlet’s gutsy vocals and cool demeanour came to define the band. Offering up a slew of hits including Cherry Bomb, I Love Playin’ With Fire and You Drive Me Wild, The Runaways made an incredible impact on musical history and proved to the world that an all-girl band could rock just as hard as a band of blokes.
Despite the abrupt demise of the group due to interpersonal conflicts, disagreements with controversial then-manager Kim Fowley and Currie’s personal battles with drug addiction and sexual abuse, the singer remained prolific in a variety of creative pursuits throughout her life. She continued to write and perform music with her twin sister, Marie Currie, starred in a number of films including the teen drama Foxes alongside Jodie Foster, and went on to produce a memoir and take up chainsaw wood-carving art.
This month marks Currie’s first Australian tour in support of her latest solo album, Reverie, after a 35-year hiatus from recording aside from the odd musical project here and there (Lita Ford and Cherie Currie Christmas duet, anyone?).
Produced by Currie’s son (Jake Hays) and Fowley, Reverie showcases Currie’s vocal prowess that has evolved magnificently since the days of Cherry Bomb. The release is also the first collaboration between Fowley and Currie since The Runaways, when Fowley was swindling money out of the band members and capitalising on their budding sexuality as young teenage girls.
“The reason why Reverie was made was because Kim Fowley reached out to me and asked if I wanted to make a record with him – I just jumped at the chance,” Currie tells ripitup.com.au.
While Fowley only contributed to four songs on the album before having to return to hospital due to cancer and passing away shortly after, Currie states that working with him was fantastic and helped to resolve their trying conflicts from over four decades ago.
“Kim was very into it – it was me realising that I was only damaging myself holding onto this resentment and anger. I don’t think it was bothering him at all. I happened to see him at a party. As soon as he saw me walking up to him, he got frightened ‘cause usually I would go berserk,” laughs Currie.
“But this time I said I wanted to get to know him, and I wanted for us to talk. I knew that was the only way for me to understand what happened. In my eyes, we became friends and in his as well.”
Floria Sigismondi’s 2010 biographical drama The Runaways, co-produced by Currie and ex-bandmate Joan Jett, charts the rise and fall of the group while briefly exploring their troublesome relationship with Fowley, depicting his aggressive and domineering nature as their manager in a particularly jarring light. The perspectives of Ford and Jackie Fox weren’t focused on as much due to contractual disagreements regarding production.
“I think it could’ve been a miniseries, to be honest. I’d have been really thrilled with that because you just can’t put two years of insanity and self-exploration and all that we’d been through in ninety minutes, you just can’t. So I was very happy to have my book coming out at as well at the same time for people that were interested in the stories that were not told in the film,” shares Currie.
Neon Angel, Currie’s memoir, delves into the turbulent world of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll that she was thrust into, resulting in lasting traumatic effects on her adult life. But does Currie regret joining The Runaways so young?
“I don’t regret being in the band at all. I was chomping at the bit to do that ever since I’d seen my first David Bowie concert, the Diamond Dogs tour back in ’74. I do wish we’d had a mediator, someone who could’ve sat us all down and let us talk out our problems because towards the end we were too young to know how to deal with all the feelings. You know, jealousy, feelings of betrayal – Kim even admitted he pitted us against one another because he thought it would make us edgy onstage but in real life, he made a grave mistake. Because we were too young to handle that kind of rigorous touring and recording and writing and rehearsing schedule.”
When ripitup.com.au caught up with Currie, she was warm, self-assured and, above all, excited to be sharing stories about her passion for art and music. Despite the hardships she has endured, it is plain to see that Currie has channeled her energy into creativity and growth.
“I love everything that I do, I love being good at it. I’m good at chainsaw art, and I’m also good at being onstage.”
Stating that she feels more comfortable than ever onstage without the fear of overshadowing The Runaways (a result of several spats where Currie appeared on the covers of magazines without the other members), Currie’s show at The Gov is set to be a powerful and inspiring evening from one of the pioneering women in the world of rock music.
And, her advice for anyone hoping to pursue an artistic career?
“Don’t ever ask anybody’s opinion … My advice is listen to that inner voice ’cause it’s always right. And if you feel in your heart that this is your reason to be on this planet, there is nothing that can stop you except for listening to other people. So don’t."