INTERVIEW: Suzi Quatro – The Devil in Me
2019 saw The Queen of Rock release some of best work to date! ‘No Control’ proved that after six decades in the industry Suzi Quatro’s appetite to create high-quality new music hadn’t diminished. Fast forward two years and we about to see Quatro release ‘The Devil in Me’ on March 26 through Steamhammer/SPV. It’s a twelve-track collection of pumping rockers, a bit of blues, a sprinkling of jazz & the odd Motown inspired tune. It is also the second album that she has co-written with her son Richard Tuckey and where ‘No Control’ was a mere “accident”, this one shows that this has very much become a successful partnership which will only blossom & grow further. While Suzi has been based in the Essex home in the UK, her husband has been very much stranded in Hamburg, Germany due to Covid and this allowed her to concentrate on the album, all the while using some of the pain of isolation & separation to inspire and give focus to her work We managed to lock in some quality talk time with the legend herself to discuss ‘The Devil in Me’, what advice she would give a fourteen-year-old Suzi Q and how first impressions count…
Sean: Good evening Suzi.
Suzi: Hey, how are you?
Sean: Very well thank you. How are you doing?
Suzi: Yes, good thanks.
Sean: Thank you for talking to us at The Rockpit in Perth once again. Coincidentally, it’s almost two years to the day that you and I last spoke when you were over here for the Red-Hot Summer Tour and funnily enough it’s going to be almost two years to the day when you release ‘The Devil in Me’ from when you released ‘No Control’.
Suzi: That’s fantastic.
Sean: Is that just coincidental or was it a conscious decision?
Suzi: No, its just the way it should be. When stuff like that just happens, it means it was supposed to be that way.
Sean: Music lovers around the world will be incredibly happy if you continue to release albums like this every two years [laughs]. We’re very greedy us fans [laughs]
Suzi: [laughs] We didn’t mean it to be this quick, but it just happened, you know?
Sean: Well, in a way it feels like a continuation of ‘No Control’ because once again you’ve co-written the album with your son Richard (Tuckey) and it’s another collection of quite diverse songs. ‘No Control’ had the wonderful ‘Strings’ track so I was patiently hunting through ‘The Devil in Me’ for that type of differing sound…
Suzi: Well, I’ll tell you which song took the place of that one on this album… on this one it was ‘Get Out of Jail’ and my son said to me, “Can you put some kind of a chant at the beginning?” So, for the whole month we were recording I was going (sings) “Oh Lord, Life ain’t easy” and everyone was saying “Shut Up” and I was going (sings) “Oh Lord”. I always find a theme that drives everybody nuts [laughs].
Sean: Brilliant. It almost has that cotton field Blues feel to it.
Suzi: I pictured a chain gang. My son had the riff, and he had the title and he said to me, “Here’s my idea. It’s crazy mum but you’ve been doing this all your life. What if you were in jail and you were let out to do one more gig?” And then lockdown happened. So, I said to him, “Guess what? This song is kinda true now”. It’s been such a creative time. I didn’t think we could beat ‘No Control’ but we’ve managed to. That’s two years on and we’ve found our feet together and as good as ‘No Control’ is as an album we feel we’ve taken this one to the next stage now.
Sean: I was reading back through our last interview and you said that you felt ‘No Control’ was very much an accident when the pair of you wrote it. This now feels very much like a partnership and its progressing so well.
Suzi: It is. Neither of us saw that first album together coming and it was both of us getting our feet wet in this new pool of creativity and now we both know how we both work well together. We both challenge each other. I now trust Richard even when he’s being difficult and unmoving. I trust his instincts, which is very good. He trusts my artistry. Who knew this would happen? I didn’t know.
Sean: Once again it got some real diversity running throughout the album. We had an almost Caribbean feel on ‘No Control’ with ‘Love Isn’t Fair’ and this time there are a couple of almost jazzy numbers but the one that sat out for me, surprisingly as a rock fan, is ‘Isolation Blues’. It’s a wonderful track.
Suzi: I’ll tell you what, so many people are picking up on it. It’s so strange. One of the other guys I was talking to earlier today, and he does a lot of reviews, said to me that a lot of the songs that have been written during lockdown have been contrived. He felt that with ‘Isolation Blues’ he was in the middle of it with me, sat in a bar with me singing it just how it is. Its very emotional and its very real, which it is. Richard had the idea for the blues, and he suggested ‘Lockdown Blues’ but I said, “No, we’re gonna call it Isolation Blues”. I took the track and put it on my iPad and took it to my little bubble where I write, sat back and I wrote everything I was feeling about lockdown. My favourite line in it is “G n’ T getting so high, it’s an alcoholic lullaby” [laughs]. Its really kind of pegged it for most people when they hear it. They like it because it expresses how many of us are feeling.
Sean: My family are still UK based in the county of Kent, so I get regular updates from them but it’s very difficult to comprehend what’s going on as things are very different here in Australia. Certainly, here in Perth, other than a five-day lockdown a few weeks back, and venues having restrictions on numbers, it’s all very much business as usual, with local music being well supported. So, it’s very hard to get my head round just how tough it has been for many.
Suzi: It’s very, very difficult. I’m a glass half full natured person so I try to keep up, up, up, up. I do my Instagram and I do it religiously. I did fifty master bass lines, and I don’t get any money for that. I do it because I want to do it. It’s hard work. I do an uplifting message with a picture every day on Instagram. I do Facebook every day. I’m constantly, constantly, constantly uplifting. I’m telling you this for a reason – and it’s funny. I do this all first thing in the morning. One morning I woke up and wrote on Facebook, “Good morning everybody, bladdy bladdy bladdy blah… and depression, don’t come knocking on my door because you’re not getting in here!” That night I hit the wall. So, it happens to everybody and I was also honest about that the next day too. I kind of used my black humour and said, “That’s me and my big mouth!” [laughs]. It must have been around my edges and I could feel it and that’s why I said it even though I wasn’t letting it in, it was there. My husband is in Hamburg, I’m here in the UK and it’s been like that for three months and I just went “Bang” right against the wall. I told everybody that no one is in this alone. When you feel it coming, let it and just cry. Let it out and then its just out. But its just so funny that I said that… big mouth [laughs].
Sean: I’ve been kind of comparing this album to going on a pub crawl along a street full of different music venues. You walk down into some dark basement Blues club for ‘Isolation Blues’ then you move to a jazz club and they are playing ‘Loves Gone Bad’ with that smouldering saxophone and then on to the next bar where its real rock n’ roll with tracks like ‘Motor City Riders’ and that’s how the album started playing in my head.
Suzi: That’s actually not a bad take on it because as we are writing we are going along, and the days are taking on slightly different moods. We’re in lockdown and we ain’t going anywhere so each day we’re floating on different levels. I’ll be like, “Hey I’m really up today so let’s do a fun one”. It’s like that all the way through so yes, your right. And I love singing ‘Loves Gone Bad’. I’m actually a very big Billie Holiday fan… huge actually, since I was fourteen and my son said to me, “When you’re singing this, vibe her in”, so I did. As a huge fan I just said to myself, “Think Billie” so I just thought about her way of singing.
Sean: The first single released late last year was ‘My Heart & Soul” and reminded me of those beautiful old Motown style songs, like something The Temptations would do, especially with those wonderful harmonies running through it.
Suzi: Yes, it’s a beautiful song. I heard the song coming out of the studio, it was just the track at that time, and I was just struck in the heart by an arrow and I made sure I didn’t think… it obviously hit me, but I didn’t let my brain go. I said to myself, “Don’t think, just feel!” I went out and said to my son, “What’s that?” and he said, “Just something I’m working on.” So, I told him to play the track and I put on the headphones and got in front of the microphone and didn’t think and out came the first four lines exactly as they are on the record. When we came to put the track down properly and we had put down all the instruments; the strings, the horns, the backing vocals and we came to put my vocal on, so like the big moment and I’m singing away, giving it everything, vulnerable like you are when you’re singing, and my son had the engineer stop the tape. I asked him what was the matter and he said, “You’re not doing it Mum.” I said, “What do you mean I’m not doin’ it?” So, he put the demo on and I was like, “Woah, I sung it like that?” and he said, “Yeah, you did.” So, all I had to do was to stop being Suzi Quatro in the studio laying down the vocal and I just pushed everything out of my head and put all the feeling back into that song and it just flew out. Sometimes when you’re laying down a vocal and you think to yourself it has to be good you sometimes start to over think it. He was very smart to do that and I got it almost immediately when I heard it like wow… wow, ok I get it.
Sean: So, it really was from the heart & soul so to speak.
Suzi: It really was. I took a minute. Walked outside the studio, took myself right back into the pain of not being able to see my husband and out it came. I sneaked a little peak thought the glass at my son and I knew I had nailed it. It certainly awakened the Detroit in me too, one hundred percent.
Sean: I see once again the vinyl edition will, have two bonus tracks which I haven’t heard yet.
Suzi: Yes, I kind of have a tradition of doing that. They are two acoustic, piano only and vocal done live. One is called ‘Can I Be Your Girl’ which I do on stage at the piano, by myself and the other one that Australia would have seen me do at the piano is ‘Desperado’ and I’ve made it my own.
Sean: Beautiful. Well, I was incredibly lucky to come and see you on your second night here in Perth when you played The Regal Theatre. I hadn’t seen you live for a very long time and it was just such an incredible show. I know your drummer Johnny (Salerno) through Jon Stevens and I’d only caught up with Tim (Henwood) a few weeks previously and didn’t know you had brought him in on the tour on guitar, so it was a pleasant surprise to see them both on stage. That got me wondering just how you put your touring bands together because you select some incredible musicians for these tours.
Suzi: I always make sure I have good people. I have a good instinct for good musicians. They only need to walk in the door, to tell you the truth. The moment they walk through that door I know if they are good or not…. Isn’t that terrible?
Sean: Not at all. You’re judging someone on how they make you feel immediately you meet them. Chemistry is so important. I’m exactly the same.
Suzi: Oh, I’m definitely an instinct girl. In fact, I’m so good at it that my husband of twenty-seven years has learned to trust it now and when I meet somebody he turn and says, “What do you think?” My instincts are great. The only times I’ve ever had any problems, and it’s not many – maybe two or three times but all with people I went against my instincts. It’s there for a reason.
Sean: Well, I dropped Tim a message the other day letting him know we were having a chat and I know from having spoken to him that he is a huge fan of yours so I asked him if he had a question and he wanted me to point out if you ever have a film made about your life, he feels he would be an ideal ‘Mike Chapman’ [laughs]
Suzi: You know what, he would.
Sean: There we go. We’ve cast him [laughs]
Suzi: He would be perfect. Simply perfect.
Sean: I don’t want to keep you much longer as I know its late your end, but I just have a couple more if you don’t mind.
Suzi: Not at all. Fire away.
Sean: If a fourteen-year-old Suzi Quatro walked into the studio right now and asked you for advice, what would you tell her?
Suzi: Oh gosh. I mean there is a moment in the documentary when Liam asks me that. Advice for anyone getting in this business would be the number one qualification is that you need to have talent, that’s number one. Then learn an instrument properly. It doesn’t matter which one but get a ground in music. Then put it in your head for the rest of your life that this is a profession and if you’re not going to be professional then get out. You owe the people to entertain them. You don’t entertain them with booze or drugs. Entertain them with your talent and by reaching out and grabbing them.
Sean: And of course, one more bit of advice we just learnt from you… trust your instincts.
Suzi: One zillion percent! Remember your instinct are there for a reason. My god, in the cavemen days before they could talk all they had was their instincts.
Sean: Well, I look at the clock Suzi and see our time is up so one final question to close with. You have sung your wonderful duet ‘Stumblin’ In’ with so many incredible vocalists including Tim Henwood on your most recent tour. In fact, I interviewed Dave Gleeson only a few months back and he always tells me just how much he enjoys singing that with you on the Red-Hot Summer shows but is there an artist that you haven’t had the pleasure of singing it with who you would enjoy having alongside you on stage for a rendition?
Suzi: Who would I like to do that with? I mean, Dave is hard to beat and he does a good job at it. I’d say Rod Stewart.
Sean: What a wonderful duet that would be. Suzi thank you so much from all of us at The Rockpit. It’s always such a pleasure & honour to chat to you. We wish you and Richard all the best with ‘The Devil in Me’ and hope to see you back over here in Australia as soon as possibly allowed, because I know you are very loved here by the fans as you are everywhere you go.
Suzi: Thank you very much. Take care. Bye.
Sean: Thanks Suzi. Bye.