INTERVIEW WITH LORRAINE LEWIS OF FEMME FATALE (PART 1 OF 2)
Date: April 1, 2016
Photos: Christopher Carroll (photos 1, 5 and 6), Ali Innes/Christopher Carroll (photo 3), Olivier (photo 4)
IT’S BEEN MORE THAN 25 YEARS SINCE ONE OF THE MOST INFAMOUS UNRELEASED ALBUMS IN HAIR METAL HISTORY WAS RECORDED AND IT IS FINALLY GOING TO SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY COURTESY OF FNA RECORDS. FEMME FATALE’S RAVISHING AND SEXY LEADER AND FRONTWOMAN, LORRAINE LEWIS, SPOKE TO SLEAZE ROXX ABOUT THE RELEASE OF THE LONG LOST ‘LADY IN WAITING’ ALBUM, WHICH WILL HAVE A NEW TITLE, AS WELL AS HER TIME IN LOS ANGELES AND A FAMOUS BAND THAT WAS PLANNED TO BE HER “BACK UP BAND” ON HER SOLO ALBUM BACK IN THE DAY. OF NOTE, THE INTERVIEW TOOK PLACE LESS THAN 12 HOURS BEFORE GUNS N’ ROSES WERE TO TAKE THE STAGE AT THE TROUBADOUR ON APRIL 1, 2016. THERE WAS EXCITEMENT IN THE AIR AS LEWIS FIRST SPOKE ABOUT THE GUNS N’ ROSES GIG BEFORE THE INTERVIEW WAS REALLY STARTED.
Lorraine Lewis: When I went to LA to get a record deal, I worked at Tower Records — so right there on Sunset. So I am really feeling nostalgic and I actually saw Guns N’ Roses for the first time at the Troubadour and that’s where they’re playing tonight! There is just like a buzz in the air. It feels good to be in LA.
Sleaze Roxx: Do you know if Guns N’ Roses have been confirmed to play at the Troubadour?
Lorraine Lewis: Well, Courtney Cox who plays guitar for Femme — she’s been posting stuff and I actually saw online last night. I thought “What the fuck is she doing in line at some show?” Because Courtney can get in to any show, anytime, anywhere. So I was like, “Where can she possibly be that she is having to camp put to get in line for something?” So I sort of just kept watching and then finally she said, “Yeah. I am at the Troubadour — I mean, I’m sorry — at Tower Records, waiting for Guns N’ Roses tickets.” And I am like “No way!” Then I went to the website and it’s like, the rumour is it’s like an April Fool’s joke but it’s for real! And then she just posted wrist bands pictures. They got ’em! So they are totally in! Pretty cool!
Like I say, I am feeling totally nostalgic. I mean, moving to Los Angeles and the buzz on the Sunset Strip. I am kind of you know, buzzing. I definitely had a lot of coffee but I am totally feeling like this just cool energy because those times were so fucking great! I feel so fortunate that I was able to be a part of that Sunset Strip vibe and all of that so I’m stoked for Guns N’ Roses! It’s about time and I am really hoping that Steven Adler will be playing drums with them because it then makes it really over the top! They have been releasing rumours about the drum sticks. Whoever is playing drums — they have released the name of the brand of drum sticks and apparently Matt Sorum and whoever else — I can’t remember the other guy’s name that usually plays for Guns N’ Roses [Frank Ferrer] but both of them have said, “This is not the brand that I use.” So the speculation is that Steven Adler will be there as well so it’s really a cool day in Hollywood!
Sleaze Roxx: When did you move to LA in the first place?
Lorraine Lewis: I moved to Los Angeles — the first time — I want to say in 1986 and I came out here with my keyboard player. We tried to Put a band — you know — to put Femme Fatale together with LA musicians and it just wasn’t happening! So we actually went back to Albuquerque [New Mexico, USA] — our hometown — and look, I thought I wanted to leave Albuquerque back in the day growing up and get the hell out of there. Even though I love Albuquerque and where I’m from. Leaving there, coming to LA and then going back was really traumatic!
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Lorraine Lewis: [Laughs] Because then you’ve tasted Hollywood. You’ve tasted LA and then you’re back like in your hometown. And you’re like, “Oh my God! What have I done? Now I really really really have to leave again.” Because it was just nothing was ever the same. I mean, once you plant your seed on Sunset Strip in Hollywood, there’s no turning back [laughs]. It’s really the truth. At least, that’s how it was for me. So came back out a year later, in 1987, and then at that time, that’s when you know, I got my brother [Rick Rael], Bill D’Angelo and Bobby Murray to come out to LA and be the rest of Femme Fatale. So, we basically came to LA to put a dream band together, realized that the dream wasn’t happening, went back to our hometown [laughs], got our bros, brought them back out to LA and that’s when we got the record deal.
Sleaze Roxx: Cool! So how was the scene in LA because that was probably the most magical time that you were there?
Lorraine Lewis: Being in Los Angeles in the ’80s was really the best time in the world. You know, especially for me coming from Albuquerque, New Mexico and walking on the Sunset Strip — the bands that were playing. You’ve probably heard these stories a million times. Flyers all over. It was just a complete mayhem party scene on the Sunset Strip every night! It’s like nobody worked. It seemed like you know? Everybody just stayed out all hours of the night. I have really good memories of ending up at flipping amazing parties in mansions and off of Mulholland Drive — having no idea how I got there. That’s just kind of the vibe that it was. It was like everyone on the Sunset Strip just partied. We were all like a big gang of family you know?
And you just ended up in places that you don’t know how you got there. You don’t know how you are going to get home the next morning. Everybody just kind of took care of each other. It was a wild animalistic party scene and I have really great memories of those times! Sunset Strip was off the hook. You know, going to see bands like Poison, Warrant, all of those bands. I hung out with the Poison boys. I was really tight with Rikki [Rockett]. I actually dated Rikki back in the day. He’s a really cool guy. Used to be on the back of his motorcycle, his Harley with The Lost Boys. He remains a really good friend. I mean, he was just a cool guy. And I have really good memories of those times! You know, I was in on some of the photo sessions for Poison. Just like soooo much fun! Today, you’re getting like a completely amped up Lorraine…
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Lorraine Lewis: …the nostalgia train because I am feeling it today with everything that is going on with Guns N’ Roses today. So, it was a great time.
Sleaze Roxx: Speaking of nostalgia, I have to ask you this. I recently found out that the first time that you met David Lee Roth, he actually puked on your boots. So can you tell us the story?
Lorraine Lewis: [Laughs] It’s true. I met him. I am sure that he does not even recall the night because we didn’t really connect on any other level.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Lorraine Lewis: It’s not like we even “met.” I basically saw him from across the room at the Universal Amphitheatre backstage in the VIP area. I felt really privileged to be there. And I saw him and I was like “Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God! It’s David Lee Roth! It’s David Lee Roth!” I was like freaking the fuck out. I started to walk over towards him. And yeah, he got sick, vomited and you know, hey! It was just a stunning moment of “Oh my God! That’s my idol right there [laughs].” And it was like “Oh shit!” And I kind of didn’t go any further with any kind of conversation. I just sort of “Oh my God!” And I kind of just like exited. I remain a faithful over the top fan of David Lee Roth. He can do no wrong. I think that was totally rock star. Yeah! You know, I never had a conversation with him. Again, he probably wouldn’t even remember that even happened but that was one of my moments meeting my hero. So, you know, sometimes, it’s best not to meet your heroes I think [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] Fair enough. So switching gears a little bit, it looks like finally ‘Lady In Waiting’ is going to be released.
Lorraine Lewis: Yes. Actually, it’s not even called ‘Lady In Waiting’ anymore. It’s actually called ‘One More For The Road.’
Sleaze Roxx: Oh! Very nice!
Lorraine Lewis: Yeah. “One More For The Road” which is a great rocking track that Femme Fatale reincarnated have been doing at our live shows and Michael Grant from L.A. Guns has been joining us so we have a three guitar line-up on that song. But yeah, the release is called ‘One More For The Road’ on FnA Records. I am actually looking at a stack of a hundred CDs that I need to autograph and get back to FnA Records so we can do the official launch. But yeah, finally! I am so excited about these tracks. You know, the thing with this CD is that it was recorded over 25 years ago. So, it’s not even that we were in a studio. It’s not a studio — lots of hours with an engineer and a producer. It was basically the band. We went into a rehearsal studio. It was a rehearsal studio in the valley. I can’t even remember the name of it right now. But we went in. We had a snake from the board, from the control room to the rehearsal room where we were playing and we knocked out — I don’t know — 13, 14 songs and we recorded it to tape. Toby Wright engineered it. He has done a lot of stuff for Heart. He is also a guy from our hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico. He was there kind of managing boards.
We did everything live one song after another like it was a live performance and that is what has now become, 25 years later, the Femme Fatale CD ‘One More For The Road.’ And it’s raw, it’s edgy. It totally has that live feel to it because that’s exactly how it was recorded. It’s not like we went back in and you know, redug a bunch of tracks and “Oh. The guitar player made a little mistake here. Let’s fix that.” I mean, it just is what it is. And it’s really cool! I’ve been carrying this thing around with me [laughs] for a really long time! I actually had it on a cassette tape because the masters got recorded over and I had all the songs on a cassette tape which I then transferred to a CD and then I carried that around with me for like — I don’t know — 15 years [laughs]? And then uh, you know [laughs], it’s just all really crazy but it’s cool! I’m looking at it right now and the cover, it’s all…
It’s a nostalgic day today because the cover of this is actually my leather Femme Fatale jacket that I used to wear back in the day. I still have the jacket. I bought the leather at some store on Melrose and then I used to pay this guy — the drummer for Motorcycle Boy, another Hollywood / Sunset Strip band — and I used to pay him to stud my jacket. Anytime I had like 20 bucks, I’d stop by his place — a store that he worked at on Melrose. I would stop by and I would give him 20 bucks and my jacket and I’d say, “OK. Do what you can for 20 bucks.” And so he, with his own hands, studded this jacket and it’s really cool! So that’s what the cover is of this CD, the artwork of it. And Jackie King who did a lot of my costuming back in the day, he painted the jacket with Femme Fatale and like a chick which I think is me in a bustier [laughs]. It’s pretty cool so I am really happy about it and I can’t wait for people to hear it because it’s just what was going on at the time. It’s real, it’s raw and it’s rock n’ roll!
Sleaze Roxx: So, do you have a release date for it?
Lorraine Lewis: I don’t have a release date for it. I actually got an e-mail from FnA Records, from Steve Lockett over there, and he asked me if I got the CDs that you know, I have to sign and send back. And I said “Yeah. I am going to get them back to you as soon as possible and when is the release date?” I think that within the next 30 days, it will be released.
Sleaze Roxx: Oh! Fantastic!
Lorraine Lewis: Yeeehhh!
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] Finally! Why did you change the title?
Lorraine Lewis: Well, I just felt like ‘Lady In Waiting’ — a couple of things. You know, it can’t of had like a bad taste in my mouth from sitting on that release with that record company. I am not even going to name them. They kind of f***ed me over. Look, I am not in the million mark arena by any means with my music and my releases. So I am not signed to a big label. You know, my heyday was 1988-89 with MCA Records and MTV and all of that stuff. So here we are 25 years later and I am not pretending or imagining that I am a million album seller and I have all this clout and all this weight. It’s like I have done small deals and I have had a small deal with a record company in the UK as ‘Lady In Waiting’ and they f***ed me over. It never got released. It never saw the light of day. So here we are with FnA Records years later and I just wanted it to feel fresh. One of the biggest loudest baddest tracks on the album is “One More For The Road.” And I co-wrote that with Jack Conrad who has actually done a lot of co-writes for Heart and John Waite and a lot of ’80s rockers. He is a great songwriter. So “One More For The Road” was co-written with him. I think it is a really really awesome anthem kind of track and that’s why I decided “Let’s call it ‘One More For The Road.’ Let’s put ‘Lady In Waiting’ to rest.” Although I will say, “Lady In Waiting” is one of the songs on the CD and it totally kicks ass and we have done it live. But I just wanted something fresh. I am all about you know, let’s keep going but let’s keep renewing.
Sleaze Roxx: And how many tracks will be on the new album?
Lorraine Lewis: Let me look.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Lorraine Lewis: [Laughs] There are 14 tracks on the record, on the CD. One of the first tracks is called “Don’t Mean Nothing.” It was actually written by Brent Turner and Wes Arkeen who is considered the sixth member of Guns N’ Roses. And I did a little co-writing on it as well so that’s the first track. It’s interesting that all this Guns N’ Roses stuff is coming up today because yeah, that’s the first track. And then the third track is a song called “I know” and I wrote that with Wes Arkeen so there’s a lot of Guns N’ Roses energy around here.
I will say and I hate to keep going back to the Guns N’ Roses stuff but track number five is called “Buried Alive” and that song was one of the songs that Mike Clink — who as you know produced Guns N’ Roses record, the very first record — and he loved the song “Buried Alive.” And actually, we had a co-producing deal for this record. He was actually going to produce me and that was the reason why — because of the song “Buried Alive.” He used to call me the female Axl Rose so I am super flattered that he even thought that at that moment. I definitely — look, I’ve got some chops but Axl is totally in a class all of his own. But to be in the Mike Clink camp and be surrounded with that and have Mike say that kind of stuff is pretty awesome. The plan originally back in the day was that we were trying to solidify a solo deal for myself at the time and “Buried Alive” was going to be the first track that Mike was going to work on with me. The plan was that all the boys in Guns N’ Roses was gonna be my “back up band” for the album. And so Mike and I and my co-manager at the time Andrea and Howard Kaufman from the Howard Kaufman camp — we were taking meetings with all sorts of labels and trying to secure a solo deal with that song. So, a lot of Guns N’ Roses references and cool things, cool lineage for today for sure. So that’s the back story on that song so kind of cool!
Sleaze Roxx: Yes. Very cool! Now had you ever thought of instead of releasing the tracks from 25 years past or just re-recording these tracks with your current band that has actually been playing the songs live?
Lorraine Lewis: …
STAY TUNED FOR PART 2 OF SLEAZE ROXX’S INTERVIEW WITH LORRAINE LEWIS IN THE COMING DAYS.