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INTERVIEW – Suzi Quatro, January 2015

| 29 January 2015 | Reply

INTERVIEW – Suzi Quatro, January 2015
By Shane Pinnegar

The first thing you discover in interview with the pint-sized, leather-jumpsuit clad pocket rocket Suzi Quatro is that she is intimidatingly self-assured. While it’s early morning here in Australia, she’s at home in England at 11pm nursing a glass of wine, and her fifty years in the music business, as an actor and author and so much more have left her with little or nothing to prove, and it is, quite frankly, a little disarming.

Suzi Quatro 03

That shouldn’t be confused with arrogance at all – Quatro is no Johnny-come-lately, substituting bluster and bravado for achievement. She’s done the work, earned the right to be self-confident. As we talk she is charming and polite, eagerly looking forward to what’s been billed as her ‘Final’ Australian tour (which started last night in Perth), and also looking forward to new challenges, with no sign of a real retirement in mind at all.
100% ROCK: Suzi, you’ve had such a long love affair with Australia over the years, I assume that embarking on a ‘final’ tour wasn’t a decision you made lightly.

Suzi: Oh, God no, Jesus no. Absolutely not. It was made for all the right reasons. I think this is tour number 30, I’m not sure, I’ve lost count. It’s my 51st year [in the music business] beginning this year. I’ve kind of accomplished all my bucket lists. I’ve got my 4CD box set out which is very big achievement with 82 tracks on it, The Girl From Detroit City. I’ve got a poetry book being released with the tour called Through My Eyes. I made my autobiography into a one-woman show successfully. It just seemed that this is the time to do my final in Australia. I wanted to do my first final [tour] in Australia. It’s my gift.

Suzi Quatro 01

100% ROCK: You live in England, so will you still do occasional shows over there, or tour a little bit?

Suzi: Yeah, sure. I’m still working, it’s only the final Australian [tour]. It’s the first of the final [tours].

100% ROCK: Does doing a final tour like this open you up to explore other avenues? Can you then say, ‘Well, maybe I’ll come to Australia in a couple of years and some acting,’ or tour with someone else?

Suzi: Yeah, who knows what happens in the future? I am treating this seriously as my final [tour], but I don’t know what the future holds. I’m certainly not retiring yet, not completely. I’m still very much working, but it’s just the final Australian rock tour, that part of my career.

100% ROCK: Going way back, when you left Detroit and went to England with producer Mickey Most, how did your family react?

Suzi: You have to read the book, it’s all in there. We were all in a band together, so it was very hard for all of us, to be quite honest with you. Professionally, it was a no-brainer: I was going to take my shot. I had been waiting for that my whole life, but it was hard leaving all the family, sure it was. We’ve all talked about it millions and millions of times, and it’s the way the cards played out.

100% ROCK: Do you think now you might play some shows with your sisters as the Pleasure Seekers again?

Suzi: No, I don’t think we’d do that again. I’m not that person anymore. I don’t know how that could work, I really don’t. God, none of them have played professionally for years. Patti’s done a few things, done the odd gig, but that’s about it. Nancy left the business a long time ago, and Arlene left even further than that. They didn’t continue like I did. It wasn’t their life.

Suzi with her sisters in The Pleasure Seekers

Suzi with her sisters in The Pleasure Seekers

100% ROCK: Sure. You mentioned the box set The Girl From Detroit City, which is just an amazing collection of your work. Did you really want to draw a line underneath your 50-odd years in the music industry with that and the final tour starting?

Suzi: Yeah. I think it’s the perfect thing to do. I think it’s a real celebration to be able to get to this milestone and release these things, and say, ‘this is what I did.’ I’m still recording. I just made a new album with this supergroup I’ve just formed, which I can’t talk about yet – I wish I could, but I can’t.

Not yet, but soon. The album is pretty much completed, and now we’re actively looking for a deal. It will be very soon, but it’s very exciting. I’m happy, you have to draw lines sometimes. I’m starting my 51st year in the business. That’s a long time, [so] I look at [all of this] as a celebration.

Suzi Quatro - The Girl From Detroit City box set

100% ROCK: The title track to the box set, The Girl From Detroit City is just killer track. It’s one of your best songs in many, many years.

Suzi: I think so, too. It is special, isn’t it? When [producer and songwriter] Mike [Chapman] played that for me in the studio I was crying! I said, ‘oh, Mike, you wrote my life in this song.’ It’s a really good one. He’s done a really good job there.

100% ROCK: Did it really feel like the old days, working in the studio on a track that good with him?

Suzi: Yes, it did. Mike and I are very good friends and we will always, always work together, always. We’re just too close not to.

100% ROCK: I guess it must have been quite a nostalgic experience to compile all the tracks for the box set.

Suzi: Oh, wow. It was a lot of work. I worked very closely with the record company. I got some pictures together. I got all the tracks put together. I really wanted it to be every single side of me, and I think I accomplished that.

I’m a good songwriter myself, you know. All my fans know because they buy the albums, and the albums were always mainly written by myself. We had the arrangement that Chinn and Chap would [write] most of the singles, but I would do the album songs. I’m a pretty prolific song writer myself, and I wanted to show that on the box set, and I think I’ve done that.

100% ROCK: Absolutely. Do you think the box set has caused some people to re-evaluate your career as perhaps being more than just a handful of hit singles written by others?

Suzi: To all those people around, I’m sure. I don’t know. I never came up across that. I do have respect, I’ve been around for a long time. I don’t know, I don’t pay attention to critics anyway. They either like me or they don’t, you know what I mean? I am too long in the tooth to worry about that.

100% ROCK: I’ve heard talk of an ‘ego room’ in your house. What’s that all about?

Suzi: Absolutely. Like it says: it’s an ego room, and I love that I have that, because it means you have to go up 3 flights of stairs and go into the ego room, and you have to come out. Do you get it? You have a room where your ego lives. I think everybody should have an ego room.

100% ROCK: It’s a fantastic idea.

Suzi: It’s a fantastic room. If I send people up there, they don’t come out.

100% ROCK: I’m not surprised. I’m sure people would be begging to get an invitation.

Suzi: It’s quite a special place. Funny enough, it’s peaceful in there, I don’t why it is, but it is.

100% ROCK: Wow. You should do a book or something like that, featuring all the memorabilia from your ego room.

Suzi: I should call it that, that should be my book. You just gave me the title for the novel I’m writing!

100% ROCK: I’ll send you a bill for the royalties.

Suzi: The Ego Room, but I already had the room.

100% ROCK: You got me there.

Suzi: I like that, yeah.

Suzi Quatro 05

100% ROCK: When you look back on this amazing career, do you feel like you’ve achieved everything you could?

Suzi: I can’t complain. I have done everything that there is to do in this profession, everything. I’ve acted in one of the biggest TV shows ever [Happy Days]. I’ve done West End musicals, I’ve written a West End musical and starred in it as Tallulah Bankhead. I’ve had my own talk show on TV. I’ve done millions of tours in America and all over the world for the past however many years. I’ve had my own radio show since 1999. I got nominated for the Broadcaster of the Year with that. I’ve written my autobiography. I had the one-woman show called Unzipped. I’ve got a poetry book released, my box set.

Jesus Christ, how much more can you do in this business? How much more can you do than what I’ve done? I’ve got my own Christmas cards. I’ve taken the artistic license on this because I am an artist. That’s how I see myself. I’m an artist. I’ve done everything that this business has allowed me to do, and that is no mean achievement.

100% ROCK: Absolutely – and as you say, it’s not over yet.

Suzi: No, it’s not over by a long shot. If this supergroup takes off we will take it on the road.

100% ROCK: Excellent! Look, after 50 years in the business, you’ve probably seen it all, the good and the bad of the music industry, and all the sex drugs and rock and roll going on around you. Did you need a thick skin and an open mind to stick with it for that long with all that stuff going on around you?

Suzi: What stood me in good stead was my upbringing. I had a musician father, a very religious mother who totally supported us. My mom gave me my moral code which, even if I was bad, I wasn’t bad for very long. If you’re born and raised Catholic, it stays with you a lifetime. It’s a good thing to have. My dad gave me a very professional attitude to the music business, and for that I thank them 100%.

100% ROCK: It’s actually quite surprising that you avoided all those pitfalls, especially in the ‘70s, I guess, with all the drugs and sex that was in rock n’ roll.

Suzi: What’s the point? I’ve always had the same attitude: what is the point? I’ve spent my life wanting to be successful in my chosen profession. I learned my craft. I had the bleeding fingers, I had the raw throat, I had the whatever. Playing in the dives, with the drunks at the bar that don’t wanna listen to you. What’s the point of achieving your dream and then being too stoned to enjoy it? You can quote me on that.

Suzi Quatro 06

100% ROCK: Your influence on pretty much every female rock n’ roller that came after you is undisputed and well documented, but not as many talk about your influence on blokes who rock out.

Suzi: Yeah, that’s a funny one. Nobody does. I’ve always had the utmost respect from all the guy musicians. I don’t know, it’s a funny thing in my experience. I feel that whatever you put out is what you’ll get back. I always put out, ‘hey, hi, I’m a bass player, no bullshit,’ and that’s what I got back. I got the respect. I don’t when I influenced the guys. I’ve had a lot of compliments from guys on my bass playing, a lot. What was it the other day? I was talking with my two musicians, my drummer and my keyboard player, and the drummer said, ‘whatever you play on the bass is always appropriate.’ I thought, ‘that’s a strange thing to say.’ I took it as a compliment.

Yeah. ‘It’s always appropriate,’ well thank you very much. The piano player said, ‘what you play feels right.’

100% ROCK: There’s a good argument to say that being appropriate and feeling right is much better than being showy.

Suzi: I can do that, and I do sometimes do that. I’ve always done a bass and drum solo that lasts about 10 minutes. The main thing is to use it only when you need to. Bass and drums are the engine. Don’t get me started – we’ll be on the phone for the next week! The bass and drums are the engine, and the key to good bass playing is it’s not what you play, it’s what you DON’T play that counts. You leave the spaces, they’re more important than anything.

You know sometimes when you’re talking and there’s a pause? Do you know much is said in that pause in conversation?

Suzi Quatro 04

100% ROCK: Absolutely, yeah. That’s a really good way to look at it. Over these 50-odd years, for much of that time, you’ve also been a sex symbol and a pinup to hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Has that made it harder to have ‘normal’ friendships like, for instance, with the other school mums, or whatever?

Suzi: I do think fame can distort reality. I’ve always felt that. You’ve got to have a very strong sense of self, hence my ego room. That’s the best way I can explain it. I go up to it, then I come out and shut the door and come back down. That’s how I live my life. When you are famous, you never can be sure why somebody’s being nice. You just have to develop a very good sixth sense. I call it my bullshit detector.

100% ROCK: Do you have anything special planned to commemorate your last show in Australia?

Suzi: It’s a 2 hour show and I’ve worked very hard on it, and it’s very special. I don’t want to give too much away, but boy oh boy, you’ll go away with a tear in your eye.

100% ROCK: I assume you will, too, once you leave the stage.

Suzi: Oh, are you kidding me? Don’t get me even started now. It’s going to be hard for me not to cry. It’s a very emotional thing, but we’re going to have a good time. It’s going to be great, but it will be emotional. It’s going to be a real rock and roll night. What was it that Betty Davis said in All About Eve, ‘fasten your seat belt. It’s gonna be a bumpy night.’

100% ROCK: I’m sure it’s going to be amazing. I appreciate your time today. It’s been much great.

Suzi: My pleasure. Okay.

100% ROCK: You enjoy that second glass of wine.

Suzi: I will. Thanks a lot.


An edited version of this interview was originally published in X-Press Magazine’s 28 January 2015 issue

Category: Interviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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