The 1970s were a murky place, and its brightest female rockstars often overlooked in favour of swaggering dudes in platform heels and spangly jumpsuits. Cherie Currie, former singer with Los Angeles teen tearaways The Runaways, whose story was interpreted for a 2010 biopic starring Dakota Fanning as Currie) and Brie Darling, drummer and singer of cult hard rock pioneers Fanny, are two such legends, who blazed a trail through a patriarchal music biz with mega riffs and a proto-punk attitude.
Strangely, the pair didn’t meet until 2017, when Patti Quatro, sister and onetime bandmate of iconic bassist Suzi Quatro, introduced the two. They hit off immediately and Currie contributed backing vocals to Fanny’s comeback album, ‘Fanny Walked The Earth’. Now, these two rock powerhouses have teamed up for their first album, ‘The Motivator’. Here they are on their chemistry and their careers.
You both emerged from the LA music scene of the 1970s but didn’t meet until recently. How had you missed each other for so long?
Darling: “When I was in Fanny, we went to see The Runaways rehearse, I think they were getting ready to go out on the road. That’s the only time I ever saw her (Cherie) in person but we didn’t meet. But they were a lot younger than us, I think eight or nine years, so we didn’t hang in the same circles.”
Currie: “Of course I knew who Fanny was! I got interested in female rockers from Suzi Quatro, and this is before The Runaways were even conceived. I knew of Fanny and I knew of Suzi so I was really interested in doing the background vocals to ‘Fanny Walked The Earth’.”
Cherie, you were about done with music when you met Brie, correct?
Currie: “Absolutely. I was going to buy some land up north. I put my house up for sale as soon as I closed on the property but the wells didn’t work on the land that I wanted so badly. Then Brie stepped in to my life and everything turned around. I had said goodbye and was really at peace with all of it but now I get to do everything that I’ve always wanted to do with someone that I really respect and love.”
What convinced you to team up?
Darling: “When Cherie walked into the studio to do vocals on ‘Fanny Walked The Earth’, she was just amazing. She has this charisma and undeniable presence and Dave, my husband and producer saw that as well. So, we had her come back in to do more work on that record and just hit it off and when it came out in 2018, Jean Millington, our bass player, had a stroke so we were not able to support that record (on tour). Cherie and I had already developed a friendship and a mutual admiration and things took their natural course and we took the opportunity to do this record. She’s my favourite partner that I’ve ever had and we have a big future ahead, this is only the beginning.”
You’re also playing Runaways and Fanny songs at your shows. What’s it been like rehearsing those songs together?
Currie: “It’s a lot of fun. Brie and I are not going to close the door on our past. We want to pay homage to what brought us together so we are doing some Runaways songs and some songs off of ‘Fanny Walked The Earth’, so we will promote that record as well.”
Your song ‘This Is Our Time’ seems to be the theme of the album — a sort of rallying cry. What does it signify for you both?
Darling: “That song title came from an early conversation that Cherie and I had. We were talking about us and the opportunity and she said, ‘This is our time’, and I thought, what a great song title, what a great theme. We wrote that song and it’s about us, it’s about women, it’s about everybody. It’s a song for the masses. This is your opportunity while you’re here. Grab every opportunity that’s in front of you.”
Cherie, much has been written about The Runaways, but they don’t seem as revered by the critics as other bands of the era like The Ramones. Do you have any idea why?
Currie: “I just feel that it was all timing. I left the band the band in 1977, we just weren’t getting along. Kim [Fowley, manager], towards the end of his life used to say if we had just hung together for one more album… and I agree with him, it was just that the timing was wrong. We didn’t have proper guidance. When you’re 16 and 17 there’s a lot of in-fighting, a lot of jealousy, we had nobody to rope us in, so, kids will be kids and we were kids.”
The 2010 film The Runaways was based on your book Neon Angel. Did the film get it right?
Currie: “I’m not going to say it got it wrong, but they took a lot of creative liberties which I thought was kind of a shame. I was so grateful that Dakota Fanning stepped in to play me. I think Kristen Stewart [Joan Jett] and Michael Shannon [Kim Fowley] did outstanding performances, but it wasn’t the real, true story. Rarely is there ever a true story when you have so many people’s accounts and opinions.”
Do you keep in contact with Joan Jett?
Currie: “Sure, we always contact each other on our birthdays and things like that.”
Any chance of a Runaways reunion?
Currie: “No. Joan and Lita [Ford] just can’t seem to see eye-to-eye on a couple things and that’s unfortunate. Actually, 22 years ago it was Lita that bowed out when Sandy [West] and Joan and I wanted her to be a part of it. We had a deal lined up and a tour and Lita just doesn’t get along with [producer] Kenny Laguna so that was unfortunate. And when Lita wanted it a couple years ago, Joan didn’t. So, to me I just don’t think it’s going to happen.”
Do you talk to Lita?
Currie: “Yes, I talk to Lita. Look, I’m the only one who’s ever played with every single one of these girls since the breakup. I’m the lone soldier that was hoping it would work out but you can’t control people, you have to just let it go.”
Your manager, the late Kim Fowley, seemed to be at times a positive influence but also someone who was emotionally abusive and cruel. You were very public about his transgressions over the years but ultimately reconciled with him, taking care of him before he died of bladder cancer. Looking back now, how do you remember him?
Currie: “I miss him. Listen, you’re talking 40-some-odd years ago. My anger towards him was hurting me, so it was more of a selfish reason why I really wanted to reconcile with him. And also being a mother myself opened my eyes. We’re all human, we all make mistakes. He said he was sorry and I knew he meant it. How do you deal with five teenage girls, honestly? A man that’s never been married and never had children, how do you do that? He was a genius when it came to PR and pushing the band and an amazing songwriter, which I got to see towards the end of his life. We wrote songs together and I was just blown away by his talent. So, for me, being able to reconcile with him and take care of him at the end of his life really helped me move forward and forgive and it allowed me to have the gift of Brie and make this record together.”
Are either of you following the R. Kelly story? Does it have any parallels with what was happening in the music scene in Los Angeles in the 1970s?
Currie: “I watched the [Lifetime] series. But again, we’re talking a different time. Back when I was coming up, the guys couldn’t fight groupies off. We have to call it what it is. It was a different time and fans were very pursuant to these stars and some took advantage, truly. Today is a totally different scene, you can’t get away with that stuff.”
What do you both think of the #MeToo Movement?
Currie: “I was very supportive of the movement in the beginning and then it kind of took off into a direction and I’m sorry, but if you pat a gal on the butt it’s very different than a kidnap and a rape which, when they started saying it’s the same thing, I took offence to that because I was a victim of a kidnapping and brutal assault. So that’s when I turned off to the #MeToo movement because we all have our individual stories… My fear is that women in the end will become hated by men because they are so fearful of even paying a compliment to a woman without being screamed at and yelled at. I kind of walked away but I’m kind of out of the age group for dating and that sort of thing. It doesn’t interest me, none of this stuff interests me that much.”
Darling: “It’s a tough one. I think it’s been good for women who have been abused, to come out with the truth but as with a lot of movements, sometimes it heads into a different direction. I think all people should be able to speak their truth and be heard, but sometimes the initial reason behind a movement goes off into a different direction and that’s a shame because it obscures what was intended.”
This current tour starts weaves through the US and a couple of Canadian stops. Any thoughts about taking it across the pond to the UK?
Currie: “We want to, we want to go everywhere.”