Suzi Quatro

Interview by Dennis Morgillo

Interview with Suzi Quatro
by Dennis Morgillo
Suzi Quatro is the groundbreaking, bass playing, band leading, leather clad rock star, who influenced all those who came after her. Suzi has released fifteen studio albums, ten compilation albums, and one live album. Her solo hits include "Can the Can", "48 Crash", "Daytona Demon", "Devil Gate Drive", “Stumblin’ In”, and "Your Mamma Won't Like Me".
Quatro has sold over 50 million albums and continues to perform live, worldwide. She has a new album and tour scheduled for 2017. 

Madhouse: What are your musical influences? I read that Elvis, The Beatles, Janis Joplin, and Billie Holiday were your major influences. Can you tell us what each of them meant to you and what is was like the first time you heard/saw them? ​
Suzi Quatro: The first time i heard Elvis I was six and I was watching the Ed Sullivan Show with my family. He came on, sang “Don’t be Cruel” and I had my first epiphany. I saw this man and thought without a shadow of a doubt that that’s what I was going to do. 
Madhouse: And what about The Beatles? ​
Suzi: Again we were watching the Ed Sullivan Show and you know how he always had something for the kids at the end of the show like a musical act. He brought out The Beatles and I was 14 at the time and very excited. Me and my friends all ran to the phones and had an idea to start an all girl band. Everybody took an instrument and the bass was left, so it was given to me. They inspired us to form a band. 

Madhouse: What about Janis and Billie Holiday where did they come into play? 
Suzi: Billie Holiday I’ve loved since I was 16 and there’s a good story to that actually. We were being signed by Mercury Records in NYC and the guy that had came to see us was talking to me. Me being a young girl and all, I was trying to impress him, you know, show him my best behavior, and how cool I was and stuff. He said to me, “You’re really good. You really are. But if you want to be a singer, if you really want it, you have to go get yourself some Billie Holiday records.” And I said, “I know all of HIS stuff!” Of course I was really embarrassed, but I got the albums and just fell in love with her. Now Janis, I liked when I was a teenager and I loved “Piece of my heart”. It was the first time I could truly identify with an artist and say “oh it’s a shame she put that record out ‘cause it would have been perfect for me.” I just thought she was fabulous and let it all hang out. She showed you how far you could go. What she did was organic. ​
Madhouse: Now on the flip side you were very groundbreaking and influential yourself. You created the mold and then broke it, you were the first bass playing female rockstar in an all male band. Did you realize how important that was at the time? ​
Suzi: Well, it’s not the reason I did what I did. I did it because I had to do it and I loved it. But to be honest I never thought of myself as a girl musician I just thought of myself as a musician. As I look back on it now I see the importance in it. I think the reason it was me who broke the mold though was because I didn’t do gender. I just went out there and did my stuff and didn’t think too much. But now looking back, yes I am pretty proud of basically giving permission for other female artists to do what I did. 
Madhouse: Yes and like you said if you had gone out there and purposefully tried to be the first female lead bass in an all male band it just would not have worked. ​
Suzi: No it wouldn’t have worked because it wouldn’t have been natural. I guess it had to be me. 
Madhouse: Exactly, and since you, there has been a few people that you have directly influenced. But there really is a void for people like you now, what do you think of the current state of the music business?​
Suzi: I don’t think there was anyone like me. Joan (Jett) was definitely the closest, she was my biggest fan. She was so cute, she would wait in the lobby of the hotel I was staying at with my jacket and my hair cut. I was so glad when my publicist told me she had started a band because she needed to put that talent somewhere. And even though she borrowed a lot from me in the beginning, she developed something that was completely her own. 
Madhouse: I think that if you were just starting up today there would totally be a spot for you in the music industry today. ​
Suzi: I thought there was going to be loads taking up my mantle, but there hasn’t been. You know, this is not a job for the faint-hearted. It’s a very difficult job, you have to have so much stamina and tough exterior just to survive. But you also gotta be liquid inside and be able to just roll with the punches. Like that bass guitars weighs more than I do but I mean I pick it up and I play it. You know I’m doing 52 years on the road now. That’s a lot of grease, buses, planes, trains, dressing rooms, sleepless nights, I mean the list goes on and on but I love it so I still do it. 
Madhouse: How exciting was it for you when you were touring, living in England, #1 hits and all that?​
Suzi: That was amazing. I had a 9 year apprenticeship before I had my own gig. I came over here in ‘71 and was signed. Then by ‘73 I had my first #1 hit. Now what I’m saying isn’t egotistical, but it’s the truth. I wasn’t surprised when all that began to happen because I had believed in myself and I was always waiting for that to happen. Then when it happened I was like “yup here we are.” You gotta have that belief or you’ll never go anywhere. 
Madhouse: You toured with everyone at this time. Alice Cooper, Kiss, Thin Lizzy. Do you remember what show you enjoyed the most and what was the biggest crowd you ever played for? ​
Suzi: The biggest crowd was near Philadelphia for 60,000 people. That was AMAZING. But there were so many magical gigs I couldn’t just pick one. 
Madhouse: Now at this time, you were a beautiful young girl surrounded by boys who must have been crazy for you. How did you handle this?
Suzi: Well lucky for me I grew up in a big family and I didn’t grow up with this feeling like “Oh I’m gorgeous” so that was good for me. I mean I only thought I was cute so when everybody started going crazy for me I didn’t take it seriously. I mean so many people told me that I was these guy’s pinups. One guy even told him I helped him through puberty which I thought was a great line but yea I just never really took all the praise very seriously. But girls liked me too, I empowered women which I absolutely loved. 
Madhouse: You turned down an invitation from Elvis Presley! Is this true? 
Suzi: Yes, oh my gosh this is such a famous story now. Basically, they put him on the phone with me and I basically died. He invited me to Graceland and I said no because I actually was not ready to meet him yet. I thought I would get another chance, which I didn’t, but I wrote “Singing with Angels” as a tribute to him. If I had met him that song wouldn’t have been written so I believe everything happens for a reason. 

Madhouse: On Happy Days you played Leather Tuscadero,  and this was unheard of at this time. You were a huge star and now you were on this huge show. How did this come about? 
Suzi: They needed someone who could act and sing and someone who could be tough and vulnerable which was me. My first ever acting job. 
Madhouse: Did you ever appear on an episode with Pinky? Did people ever think you were actually Leather Tuscadero?  ​
Suzi: No I never appeared with Pinky. Yes - Oh my god, they called me Leather all the time! Especially in America!
Madhouse: You’ve had an amazing career and you’ve done it all. 50 years later you still look and sound great, you have a new album coming out, ‘QSP’ tell us what this is about. ​
Suzi: It was an idea my husband and I had together about ten years ago. We were discussing a bunch of different ideas and different styles of music and ten years later we have it together.
I got together with The Sweet’s guitarist Andy Scott and Slade’s drummer Don Powell for a jam session. We clicked and recorded an album’s worth of covers and new tracks which we will release next month. We signed a deal with Sony Music, who were also instrumental in convincing us to get back on the road. QSP = Quatro, Scott, Powell. ​
Madhouse: When is the QSP album coming out?
Suzi: It’s coming out in December in New Zealand and Australia. We will be doing a Suzi Quatro tour of Australia in 2017, with QSP as the opening act. 
Madhouse: Will you be coming to the U.S? ​
Suzi: I want to come there! I always want to tour in America, it drives me crazy. ​
Madhouse: I read that you went back to your old house and took a picture, and when you got the picture back/developed, there was your mother standing in the window. ​
Suzi: Oh my god yes, and I can’t even find that picture anymore. But we went back to the house and nobody was there. We took pictures of the three sisters standing up against the window and when we got the picture back the outline of my mother’s face was in the window. 

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