Exit Interview: Joan Jett

Exit Interview: What are your memories of Philly?

Joan Jett: I don’t really have any. [laughs] I left when I was six months old, so I think that’s a little young for memories. But my grandparents lived in Philly, so I was there quite often.

EI: Did you chuckle when the Philadelphia Music Alliance placed you in the Walk of Fame, considering you were in diapers when you split town?

JJ: Well, I don’t know what the qualification is. If it’s being born there, I guess I count. I was very honored.

EI: Did your birth at Lankenau Hospital and the next six months here influence your musical direction?

JJ: I can’t honestly say that was the case.

EI: I know you hate it when articles mention your age, so you’re probably going to be angry with us. But we did the same thing to Bret Michaels of Poison.

JJ: That’s different. Usually, it’s the other way around. They never mention a guy’s age, but always a woman’s, whatever field she’s in. That’s very annoying.

EI: Of everyone I’ve interviewed for this column, you’re the first person I truly fear would kick my ass.

JJ: [laughs] No, it’s not personal.

EI: Are you as much of a badass offstage as you are on it?

JJ: I think what people see in me is one slice of who I am. It does permeate my life in the sense that I don’t like to be told what to do, or how to be, or how I can do it. But I’m probably a lot tamer than people would expect.

EI: Do you knit on the tour bus? Go antiquing on your days off?

JJ: Not that tame. But it’s not a 24/7 party, wrecking everything in sight, screwing everything in sight.

EI: Your hotel-trashing days are over.

JJ: I was never into that. I don’t consider it rock-’n’-roll. That’s just acting up.

EI: To stick with the theme here, your new record is majorly kick-ass.

JJ: Thank you very much.

EI: And literally. A song like “Fetish” [sample lyric: “Relax while I pound your ass”] should come with a warning for people who only know you for “I Love Rock ’N Roll.”

JJ: That is a slice that people would know me for, and that’s me also. I’m not sure what they think about it, but people respond well to all the material.

EI: Are you sick of that song after all these years, or can you find the inspiration to play it for the millionth time?

JJ: I do, definitely. I had to make a conscious decision, y’know? Are you going to resent this, or are you going to feel blessed by it? To see the way it makes people smile, that’s what I get excited about. And I love the song.

EI: You played the Warped Tour this summer, which draws a young crowd. Did anyone ask you what a jukebox was, or why you’d put a dime in it?

JJ: [laughs] No. They played along, I guess.

EI: You’ve also moved from picking up a 17-year-old dude in “I Love Rock ’N Roll” to “ACDC,” in which you’re singing “She’s got some other lover as well as me.” Is that a reaction to the never-ending questions about which team you’re playing for?

JJ: Yeah. Part of it is having fun, and part of it goes back to what I said about just being able to do everything. When you’re singing songs about love and sex, you want everyone to think you’re singing to them. Whether you’re a boy, a girl, a woman, a man — whatever you’re into, I can be that.

EI: At this point in your career, does it matter that headlines like “Joan Jett Teams With [Michigan’s Nancy] Skinner for Congress” sound very not rock-’n’-roll?

JJ: I don’t care. Some things are bigger than that. I never really discussed playing for the troops before. I’m not trying to get press. I’ve been to some very hairy areas: Afghanistan, Pakistan. I’ve been shot at. I’ve earned the right to speak out.

EI: They tried to take out Joan Jett?

JJ: So I was told. I didn’t see it, but the guys I was flying with said, “Damn, I’m gonna get $150 extra! We were just shot at!”

EI: You were also onstage with Howard Dean when he gave his infamous “scream” speech. Did you have anything to do with that outburst? It was very punk.

JJ: Afterward, I got onto his campaign plane. If it had been a big deal, those press people would have been up my ass. “JOAN! WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT YOUR CANDIDATE GOING CRAZY?” Not a word. It was a non-story. The other campaigns must have stripped out the college kids chanting his name, so when he screams, he sounds like a nut. What would Mick ­Jagger look like if you stripped away his music?

EI: That’s a comparison Dean probably doesn’t hear often.

JJ: I was very disappointed with Chris Matthews. He showed it about 7,000 times. I wonder who greased his wheels and said, “Show that a lot.” I expected more from him. It was disillusioning, but you can’t lose hope.

EI: If Joan Jett loses hope, the terrorists have already won. Do I get points for not asking you one question about being a woman in rock?

JJ: Sure. Yeah. You get another question.

EI: What can we expect when you rock South Street live?

JJ: A lot of energy. People should get ready to sweat, dance and sing. To me, that’s what a good night of rock ’n’ roll should be.

EI: Any cameos by the neonatal staff at Lankenau Hospital?

JJ: [laughs] You never know.

Around the Web

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.