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.