INTERVIEW – SUZI QUATRO, January 2017
By Shane Pinnegar
Suzi Quatro famously gave up touring at the start of 2015, staging a Final Australian tour to say thankyou to her Australian fans. Just two years later – she’s back with a vengeance – and a new supergroup – playing a month of shows from Tweed Heads to Darwin and everywhere in between.
Tweed Heads – Twin Towns – Friday February 3 & Saturday February 4
Toowoomba – Empire Theatre – Monday February 6
Brisbane – Concert Hall – Tuesday February 7
Adelaide – Entertainment Centre – Thursday February 9
Perth – Crown Theatre – Saturday February 11
Sydney – Sydney Opera House – Tuesday February 14
Geelong – Geelong Arena – Thursday February 16
Melbourne – Arts Centre, Hamer Hall – Saturday February 18
Sale – Botanic Gardens – Sunday February 19
Hobart – Wrest Point Theatre – Tuesday February 21
Canberra – Canberra Theatre – Thursday February 23
Wollongong – Anita’s Theatre Thirroul – Friday February 24
Hunter Valley – Hope Estate Winery – Saturday February 25
Mackay – Entertainment Centre – Tuesday February 28
Townsville – Convention Centre – Wednesday March 1
Cairns – Convention Centre, Great Hall – Thursday March 2
Darwin – Convention Centre – Saturday March 4
Suzi’s new band has been rumoured since 2014, and have only just released their self-titled debut album. The band is QSP – named after the three members: Quatro on bass and vocals, Andy Scott of Sweet on raucous guitars, and Don Powell of Slade providing stomping drums. It’s a match made in rock n’ roll heaven, blending the best of all three acts into one massive, rollicking, boogie woogie good time – and Australian audiences will be the first to see QSP live when they support Suzi Q’s tour around the country.
“It was an idea, first of all, about ten years ago, from my husband,” Suzi explains. “I was explaining to him, I’m an organic bass player and whatever I play feels good. He said, ‘oh, you know who plays like you? Andy Scott.’ I said, ‘yes he does.’ ‘So does Don Powell,’ [he said]. And I said, ‘yes he does.’ He said, ‘you guys should form a supergroup.’ I thought, ‘oh, now there is a good idea!’
“[But] everybody is busy – I am out as me, and they’re out with their respective groups, and finally, a couple years ago, it become a reality and we went into the studio. First, we did covers to see what we were going to create, and then we started to write, so you’ve got an album with six covers and six originals – and I am in my own support group, which I think is great – it’s crazy.”
Quatro has history with both of her new bandmates. Scott co-produced her 2006 comeback album Back To The Drive, and she has shared many a line-up and festival stage with both Sweet and Slade.
“Oh God, for years and years and years,” she enthuses. “My very first tour that I did in England was Slade’s first nationwide tour. I was unknown and I was right at the beginning of the show for twenty minutes – so we go way back. We go back to ’72, Don and I. We’ve all known each other for a long time. A long, long, time. We are all from the same ballpark, this is why it all fits.”
Quatro goes on to explain the vibe in the room when the trio finally started jamming on some old favourites.
“Like Andy has said, we didn’t have a blueprint. We just all needed to be there and we could do it – we sat down and started playing and jamming a little bit. Everybody had to choose two covers to bring to the table. For me, when we laid down Just Like A Woman by Bob Dylan, I said to the boys after that, ‘now we’ve found our stuff.’ That was the one for me that cemented what we are.”
At the time of talking, no-one outside the trio’s inner circle had heard a note of the new project, and Suzi found explaining their sound a tricky task.
“It is so hard to describe – it sounds like we have played together for ever… There is a real unity in it. God, what did we do. I can’t describe it. It’s our own sound, that is all I can say. The originals are… after Just Like A Woman was recorded – I sung the ass off it, because I loved that song so much and to be able to sing it, I just went crazy – I went away after that session and I came up with the beginning of a song called Long Way From Home, and I played a bit of it to Andy, and I said, ‘this is us. If you like the song, let’s write this together. That’s what we are – we are always a long way from home,’ and we wrote the song. It was so good, so on the money, that I said, ‘now we’ve got to write some more.’ It delayed the project by about a year because we started to write and then we had to get all together in the studio. [So] I can’t even say we sound like anybody – It’s just whatever the three of us are.”
The album is, indeed, eclectic – fittingly so, considering the diverse music Ms Quatro has made over a staggering fifty-year career. From head shaking rockers to heart-wrenching ballads and muscle-bound boogie grooves, QSP covers a lot of ground over its twelve tracks. But then – anyone who is more than just a casual Suzi Quatro fan knows that defining her sound isn’t a simple task.
“Many, many years ago, I refused to be boxed in,” she explains. “It is just how I am. I wanted a long career, I wanted a varied career and as much as I love my leather jumpsuit – which, God knows, I do – sometimes I want to unzip it and step outside. I am a big communicator and I am an artiste. That is how I describe myself. I do poetry, I write songs, I have had TV chat shows, I’ve been on BBC radio, too, since 1999. I have done musicals, I’ve written a musical, I’ve got a poetry book out. I wrote my own autobiography. Like I say, it is not that I diversify, it is that I liked the whole ball of wax that is available as an artiste and I do what I feel I can do in that availability. I like communication – that is what I am all about.”
When we come to talking about the fact that here she is, a mere two years after her “final” Australian tour, Quatro is adamant that it was sincerely intended to be just that.
“I seriously thought, that was it,” she declares. “I treated the tour that way. It was like a trip down memory lane – I was in tears, and then the year goes on and people start writing to you and I actually started thinking, ‘what do I do? I don’t want this to be it,’ and then it just became a reality – so here we are again.
“I remember the last gig in Tasmania – we were in Hobart, and I go to shake the hands at the end of the last number, and people were smiling but there were tears coming down. It was so emotional. When I said good night at the end of the shows [on that tour], many times I was choked up. So here you go, I get a chance to do it again.”
Quatro goes on to insist that she’s had no backlash from anyone thinking it might have been a publicity stunt to call the last tour her final one.
“No, not a thing. I think people pretty much get the gist of me – I am not a bullshit artist, what you see is what you get! I am not one of those that pretends – like I said, it started to feel so long, it started to real [obvious] that maybe I was too quick to do my final tour…
“Then, of course, the extra bonus of having QSP, and that gives it another shot in the arm, and I’ve got the Girl From Detroit City box set out, which everybody seems to love – it’s really good, beautifully packaged, so I started to think, ‘you know what, I am not ready to stop yet.’ Maybe my attitude has changed since doing the final tour, but I found myself thinking, ‘wait a minute, I’m not ready yet!’
“[Once I got home after that tour] a strange thing happened. Artists, by their nature, are never satisfied. You’re just not. You do a take in the studio, you want to do another take. There is always something not quite satisfied. It just goes with the turf of being an artist. That was the first tour I ever got home from, and I felt satisfied. I’m never satisfied, and I said to everybody, what a great way to finish in Australia. It was never the final anywhere in the world, just Australia because I have been there so many times and I told everybody who would listen, ‘wow, wow, wow, wow.’ I didn’t want to relax but I just felt satisfied… but then I started to feel unsatisfied. It didn’t last all that long. It lasted for about three months and then the old sickness came back so, ‘let’s do it again!’”
Raring to get back to Australia and tackle such an exhausting show – she laughs and says, “only a Gemini could support themselves” – Quatro is looking forward to delivering another eclectic show that is far more than just the ‘Leather Forever’ persona she is perhaps most well known for.
“I always try to give a little bit of that. I don’t just do the hits – I do the hits but I am a big one for doing what Mickey Most used to call the ‘meat’ of the show, which is my compositions. There is a few surprises.”
Famously, Quatro keeps the spoils of her many tours in a special room at home in England that she has christened ‘The Ego Room.’ She says it got stoked with plenty of additions after that last Australian tour.
“A zillion things: Gifts from people, cards, knick-knacks, all of the posters, oh yeah. On the door to The Ego Room I have now put up the poster to the tour. It [used to be] in a smaller room, and I had to move it to a bigger room – one of my friends called it, ‘The Inflated Ego Room’, which I thought was very funny. I have always hoarded, I always planned on one day having a room like that.”
In the past Quatro has claimed she gets ‘psychic’ flashes from the other side. Having had a girlfriend who could channel some pretty interesting information, and being very open-minded to such things, I ask if she still sees things.
“I don’t know what you call that… I think most artists are like this. You are sensitive to energies. I think most artists are. I heard Paul McCartney one time say that the songs came from somewhere and he didn’t want to question it. That is kind of in the artistic mind: you are open to everything, so you are open to energies, and I have always believed in it and I always will. I’m an intuitive person. People don’t like to talk about it, they think you are crazy. Let’s put it this way: I don’t dismiss what I can’t understand.
“I think everybody can do it. I have always said, everybody has psychic abilities, I think you call it the sixth sense. I think everybody has this sense but I think that for most of us, it is shut off in childhood, where you might say to your friends, ‘oh I saw such and such or I heard…,” [and they say] ‘oh don’t be silly, you are imagining it,’ and then eventually you believe that’s the truth. It is the explanation by grownups, of the unknown. Luckily, I always kept the channels open.”
Finally, I ask Quatro how she manages to head out on such a gruelling month long tour playing support AND headlining, at 66 years of age?
“I trained. I was like an Olympic champion. I trained at this job,” she insists. “When I was fourteen, I was out playing gigs – that was five shows a night, forty-five minutes on, fifteen minutes off. I did my training in the trenches. I learned to experience how you can sing the wrong way and lose your voice and then suffer the next night. So I have honed my craft. I do my vocal warm-up, I make sure I don’t talk during the day, I go to sleep after the show.
“My father [jazz musician Art Quatro, for whose band Quatro was playing drums or percussion from the age of seven or eight] taught me that this job is a profession, and this is how I treat it. That is my advice to anybody, even young-uns: if you are going to get into it, do it seriously. The same thing my dad taught me, if you can’t get out there on that stage and give all of yourself in the best possible health and make those people happy that they paid their money to see you, then don’t bother.”
An edited version of this story was first published with X-Press Magazine
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