Suzi Quatro / Alice Cooper and I “had a dart gun fight in a hotel…”
12 February 2021
With Suzi Quatro set to release her latest album ‘The Devil In Me’ 26 March, MetalTalk spoke with the iconic musician.
In Part Two of the interview, Suzi spoke about shooting Alice Cooper, her QSP collaboration and how her philosophical side influences the lyrics of her music. You can read Part One here.
You can also read MetalTalk’s review of the excellent ‘The Devil In Me’ album, which we think is a is a gem, chock full of surprises, here.
On this album, you collaborated again with your son, Richard Tuckey. Was it just songwriting, or does he play instruments as well?
Suzi: “He plays guitar and deep background vocals occasionally, but we worked together on the production. He is just good, he is the riff guy for writing, but in recording, he will close his eyes when he hears the demo and decide. He is a vibe person.”
You always see guitarists playing onstage, with a whole wardrobe of different instruments. Are bass players the same?
Suzi: “I think the word is anal [laughs]. I don’t know about other bass player, but for myself, I am not a failed guitarist and I play the bass. I believe the bass and drums are the engine of the group. We drive the sound.
“I do a bass and drums solo onstage every time. I like volume and tone control, I want to play my bass and drive the band and that is how I approach it.”
‘Hey Queenie’ sounded to me like it was about someone who was wise to the ways of the world, but refuses to give up on life. Did you draw on your own experiences when you wrote it?
Suzi: “I am glad you picked that one out. It is one of my best bass lines and God help me if I have to play it live. We had a song called ‘Glycerine Queen’ on the first album and my son wanted to revisit the theme.
“In ‘Glycerine Queen’, a transvestite found her way into the dressing room, poured a glycerine drink and drunk it, so we called her the glycerine queen.
“Queenie is a song about the same person, who is now older. Listen to the original song first and you will get it. Hopefully it will be the second single.”
As well as playing bass, you also play guitar, drums and piano. Do you play these instruments on your albums, or do you prefer others to?
Suzi: “It depends on the song. I always play on the demos. Onstage, I play a song called ‘Can I Be Your Girl’, and it is just me and the piano. The band go offstage. Then, one time I got another pianist to play piano and he played my arrangement exactly.”
The first Suzi Quatro song I ever heard was ‘If You Can’t Give Me Love’. It is a real eclectic mix, acoustic start, you are singing almost like Country and Western style. The lyrics mention disco and then tell the story of a strong woman telling a man exactly what she wants from a relationship (and wearing in the video what looks like the biggest tie in the world).
It is almost a microcosm of the variety on ‘The Devil In Me’. Have you always been so wide ranging in your songs and song writing?
Suzi: “There is an element in my voice and on that single we wanted to do something different. I do have a good ballad voice and it was widening. It widened my sound and it is still one of the evergreens.
“People love this song. I still play it live.”
A few of the songs on the new album are about life, warning, or at least advising the listener to watch out, be careful, it is a cruel world out there.
People might be surprised at the more serious side to you. Has that always been there?
Suzi: “OMG! It is always there. I love writing a nice sounding song that everybody sings to and then they say, wait a minute, what did she say?
“I am very philosophical, I go way down deep. I am all about saying something, I don’t do the weather.
“If you are talking to me you will know that I do a conversation we will both remember.”
I was intrigued to read about your QSP collaboration, joining forces with Andy Scott from The Sweet and Don Powell from Slade. How did that come about, and will we see and hear any more from them?
Suzi: “I think we have all decided we would like to do another album. We are friends and we enjoyed doing it.
“We did lots of shows together in the past and my husband said we would make a great supergroup.
“Actually, QSP were my support act on my Australia tour, so I played in both bands on the same night.”
I could not miss the lyrics in ‘My Heart and Soul’. Was/is it a Christmas song?
Suzi: “It is not necessarily a Christmas song. It is timeless. You could be singing it in the summer time, you could be singing it anytime.
“Whenever it is, you are separated and you just want that person home for Christmas. It just ended up as that.”
I listened to ‘Can The Can’ when planning this interview and it still sends shivers right through me. Your earlier songs have been part of you for so long now, does it still feel fresh to you when you play them live?
Suzi: “Yes, I never have a problem with that. As soon as you start one of the known hits, I never get tired of it and the crowd love it.”
The new album has a huge range in terms of variety. It is certainly at odds with your image, although you do also remain true to that as well. Have you always had such variety in your music?
Suzi: “I have. I am a wide ranging artist and I draw from all sorts of things, always a little bit of everything on each album. I am multi-faceted, although some things are always there. Don’t box me in, that is my motto.”
For a musician, you have also done quite a bit of acting. Is that something you actively pursue or work on, or is it a case of being in the right place at the right time?
Suzi: “I could have gone into acting. I know I can do it, but I love music. When the opportunities presented themselves, I would take them when I wanted to.
“Then I went from there, like Annie Get Your Gun, absolutely.
“When I am offered something, if my instincts say go for it, I do it.”
And going back in time, you have also said that when you were five, you saw Elvis and knew you wanted to be just like him. Did you achieve that?
Suzi: “One million per cent. Even when the image decision was made, Micky Most was against it, he said it has been done before. I said not by me. And I still wear it. It is perfect for me and the fact it was sexy was something I did not even think about until I saw the photos.
“I guess I can be quite naive. Sometimes, if you are not looking for it you do not see it.”
‘The Devil In Me’ has an immense variety of songs, but one of the recurrent themes is the Blues. Have the Blues always been part of you musically?
Suzi: “I don’t think about. I am not a Blues person as such, I just play it my own way, I do it my way.
“It is interpreted through my feeling. ‘Isolation Blues’ is probably the one song I wrote about the lockdown. My son said we should call it lockdown blues, but I said no.
“Everyone who has heard the song, says that was just how it is.”
If you could put together a line-up of all the musicians you have either recorded with or toured with, who would you choose?
Suzi: “Steve Cropper, BB King, James Jamerson on bass, but he would have to move over. Maybe my original drummer, Dave Neale, he is hard to beat. On piano, Alistair MacKenzie, he is very special. Elvis, Otis Redding, Billie Holiday.”
I read that you once gave Alice Cooper a black eye. Is his other eye safe and are you still mates?
Suzi: “We are still friends! We were on the ‘Welcome To My Nightmare’ tour and we had a dart gun fight in a hotel, which spilled out into the hotel corridor.
“Alice hid behind a TV and peeked out. I went bang and he thought ouch, good shot.
“Afterwards he wore my t-shirt onstage out of respect and we are still friends [laughs].”
So at your next concert, if you could invite any musician you wanted to guest for the last song, who would you choose and what song would you play?
Suzi: “That is a hard one, but I would say Bob Dylan and singing ‘Just Like a Woman’.”