Lorraine Lewis was a part of your Dial MTV/Headbanger’s Ball past with her band Femme Fatale and was one of the hottest and most talented frontwomen in an era where only a few females rose to the national level in hard rock. That story of their rise from the club scene of one of my favorite cities, Albuquerque, New Mexico to their relocation to L.A. and record deal with MCA is an interesting one. Even more interesting are Lorraine’s recent developments, she has carved out a nice career as a T.V producer, her new “Ex-Wives Of Rock” show airs Friday nights at 10:30 eastern, 7:30 Pacific on FuseNetwork and she has just announced an all new, reformed lineup of Femme Fatale. The new, all-female band figures to look every bit as amazing as they sound featuring Nita Strauss and Courtney Cox (the stunning guitar killers from the Iron Maidens), bassist Janis Tanaka (PINK,Fireball Ministry, L7), keyboardist Katt Scarlett and drummers Rachael Rine (ex- COCKPIT) and Athena (sister to Motley Crue’s Tommy Lee). They are just getting started and have plans to work on a new full length album and kick your ass harder than ever before. I talked with Lorraine who, at the time, was still being coy about all the new announcements but was more than forthcoming about everything else I asked her! Read on….
Legendary Rock Interviews: It took me a while but I have finally got you on the phone Lorraine… I wanna know how you look better now than you ever did in the 80s and what you have up your sleeve with the new Femme Fatale, what can you tell me?
Lorraine Lewis: Thank you for wanting to talk to me, that’s very nice of you to say. I can’t tell you anything yet John (laughs). It’s a big secret! I know you are gonna love it though. I am reforming Femme Fatale with a totally new lineup, all the original guys from the band with the exception of Bill D’Angelo who passed away a few years ago are doing other things now. It is going to rock and it is going to be a whole new start that I think you and hopefully everyone else are totally going to want to see. In addition to the new lineup making new music I have also been looking into a reissue of the original Femme Fatale record and the second Femme Fatale record. I’ve been talking with a couple of labels about that.
LRI: I have waited long enough to talk to you since you were taped up in my locker in high school so I have a few questions that have piled up about the old days.
Lorraine: You are funny.
LRI: You mentioned a second album. What is the story with that and what was it like?
Lorraine: It’s an album they were thinking of calling “Lady in Waiting” that was recorded, gosh, over 16 years ago. It was supposed to be released on SunCity Records but never saw the light of day so I am trying to work something out to release at least some of the songs that were recorded for that album. I am really hoping that we can see those tracks released. I am excited about that material finally being heard after all these years because I really love some of those songs. i would say that the material was a lot different. We really grew on the road and got our shit together while touring so it’s really a shame no one has ever heard it. At the same time, our second record was a lot meaner (laughs). We were a little less wide-eyed and a little more mad, especially the guys who kind of felt that we got a raw deal at MCA. There’s about five tracks on there that I wrote with some other people including Wes Arkeen (GNR). Those songs, those five songs are GEMS, in my opinion. I think the rest of the songs were really powerful but just a little angry and I don’t think the arrangements, which were really long, were quite right for the band.
LRI: So, would the re-release of the original Femme Fatale record include some bonus stuff like maybe “Chains” the solo track you did for the “Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead” album?
Lorraine: You are too cute that you know about that. That’s awesome. I’m not sure. That might be something we could do. I have been talking with UMG the label that owns the original Femme Fatale recordings and I think what we are really hoping to do is release the original album with some of the tracks from the second album as bonus tracks. Everybody is wondering what exactly I have up my sleeve and that’s what I am thinking, a reissue of the Femme Fatale album everyone knows but is out of print but with some bonus unheard material. It would be nice to have something like that come out before the end of this year while doing some one-off dates with the new Femme Fatale.
LRI: A friend had mentioned seeing the classic Femme Fatale album on Ebay for inflated amounts of money that most people couldn’t afford.
Lorraine: Yeah, that album is going for 40-60 bucks on Ebay, it’s crazy. I only own one copy myself…I have an import copy. MCA Records is no longer, it’s now UMG the umbrella company and we may be able to do something to see if we can’t get the masters.
LRI: No offense but from where I stand it is equally important for you to secure the rights to the masters of those videos!
Lorraine: Well, those I have my hands on, I am still really good friends with Marty Callner the video director. I don’t know we might be able to do something with that and combine it with something new, something fresh. I don’t know…..I hate to keep saying that but I am just weighing all those options.
LRI: I know that KIX releasing their live album with a DVD is a smart move. More people are apt to buy a product that has those extra bells and whistles.
Lorriane: Yeah, we might be able to put it all together in some kind of package. I also don’t know really how many fans there are out there. I can tell from Facebook and Twitter that it sounds like there are some people who are really hungry for another taste of Femme Fatale but you just never know for sure. Hopefully people will let me know if they really want more of us (laughs).
LRI: Going all the way back, I have always wanted to know, what was the scene like in New Mexico where the band had its beginnings?
Lorraine: Oh my gosh…It was a total top-40 scene. Plain and simple. I came from a top-40 town. There were bars and you had to play top-40 because that’s how you got the fanbase. There was a totally great band early on called The Philisteens. At the beginning, I had a band called Babe Ruthless. We had a huge fanbase to the point where we would have a line going out the door and around the block of people waiting to get in on a Monday night. Weekends would be triple that. It was crazy. We were totally top-40 and I always wanted to be David Lee Roth so I found myself wondering “What am I doing singing these top-40 songs when I wanna be a rocker like David Lee Roth?” (laughs). Like “What am I doing here?, what is wrong with this picture?” (laughs). There is even video footage you can find if you look hard enough, footage of me thinking I am David Lee Roth and coming out in a shopping cart with a bottle of Jack Daniels, the whole thing (laughs). Once I saw him onstage I instantly knew that was what I wanted to be and I modeled myself after him, especially early on. I wasn’t quite as witty as he was but he was who I wanted to be for sure.
LRI: So you did master the kung fu art of being as limber and flexible as Diamond Dave?
Lorraine: Are you kidding me? Go watch those videos, slow em down, take a look (laughs). Yeah, I got those high kicks down! I did great kicks. Dave was a little more serious than I was though if you’ve ever read his book. He used to scrub down the stages in the towns he went to before he played there. We didn’t do that! Dave’s the man.
LRI: When you relocated to L.A. did you have a period of playing and slugging it out or did you just immediately start showcasing?
Lorraine: We were signed really super fast, the story that a lot of people know is true, we were signed after ten shows. We did “No Bozo Jam Night” at Whisky A GoGo and played for Riki and Taime who were big fans of the band early on. I think we did a Monday night, got asked back and it just blew up really fast. The first time we played it was for like ten people, the second time was for like 300. It was a super fast word-of-mouth kind of thing and Taime and Riki loved us and we were friends with Randy Castillo because he was from Albuquerque and we were friends with Phil Soussan and the Ozzy guys. It was a fun time and it all happened fast which was cool but was also a double edged sword because we were so new when we were signed that we didn’t have that committed, loyal fanbase that other bands who slugged it out had. It was like “Wow, they’re awesome” and then we were snatched up and yanked out after ten shows and put in the studio. We didn’t really have time to work the street like Poison or other bands did. There was a whole fanbase there in L.A. that we could have better capitalized on had we been on the scene longer as a Sunset Strip band. We showcased, one label paid for it and MCA showed up. We didn’t know anything about the business end of things or recognize the political nature of all that or the sting that could come with that we were just like “Oh cool, MCA showed up, the more people the better!” (laughs). It kind of set up a weird thing when MCA showed up for a showcase that was totally set up by Manhattan Records. Manhattan was pretty pissed off about it to be honest with you but the MCA team was really interested. I locked eyes with a bigwig of the label who came out to see us then back in those days and the next day we were in meetings with Irving Azoff and it was done.
LRI: Were things pretty good from MCA as far as support and promotion?
Lorraine: Absolutely. We were their baby band. I was the first “rock girl” that they signed so I was treated really well, the band was treated really well. Did they do everything 100% right? No, but we didn’t do things 100% right either. We could have gone the obvious route and released a ballad as the second single and it could have changed the whole playing field. We made some mistakes but my experience with them was really great. They loved us, they nurtured us, they took care of us, they gave us budgets. We got a pretty good push and they did a lot of things right for us but the unfortunate thing was there was a shake-up at the label and they cleaned house before our team got a chance to really take hold. We had a really nice, stable team at MCA, Marty on board with the videos, MTV, the whole thing and everybody got fired in December while we were out on tour. We came back to MCA after Christmas and it was like we didn’t recognize anyone and nobody knew us. It was like all of our cheerleaders were gone. They had moved on to Pretty Boy Floyd. What are you gonna do?
LRI: Your window of impact wasn’t that wide but you did manage to make a real impression in that time and even broke the top 100 in England with “Falling In and Out of Love”.
Lorraine: We did. That’s cool. We only managed to get to crack 141 here on Billboard. We did play Birmingham, Nottingham and London which was great! That was the extent of it though. We played the Marquee in London which was a flippin AMAZING night. The U.K. was amazing in general, I was thrilled to even be walking on that ground. I was shocked and it was awesome to me as a little girl from Albuquerque. It was awesome. There were actually fans camped outside the lawn at our hotel when they found out where we were staying, they were hungry for us. They followed us and followed the tourbus, it was that whole dreamy deal. I remember being downtown in the U.K. and thinking how weird it was because our posters were flippin everywhere!
LRI: Being from the Rockford, Illinois area I have to mention Cheap Trick anytime I canand you guys actually toured with them. What was that like?
Lorraine: We had so much fun! We just had a blast with those guys. We goofed around a lot, we drank a lot with them. I would say one thing I learned from Robin back then was that he didn’t talk during the day. I guess that was one of his tricks in keeping that amazing voice, unless he just didn’t want to talk to me (laughs). He kicked ass every single night and I was in awe of that. They were great, just great guys and of course, a great live band. We made friends with them and they were truly very nice. It’s really cool to be a girl on the road with a bunch of guys because they were super nice to me. We were set up with shitty monitors most nights because we were a support band but I would say on that tour I was using their monitors by the second night. That was really great for me and just really let me kick ass because I could actually hear myself and I was really having a hard time sometimes hearing my own vocals with such a loud band behind me. They let me use their monitors the whole tour, it was kind of like the little sister thing, they took me under their wing and that was very cool of them.
LRI: Femme Fatale seems like they would be the right combination of rock and pop to be an ideal touring match for Cheap Trick. Were the audiences pretty receptive?
Lorraine: They were great to us! I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t realize the whole dimension of what that exposure on MTV was doing for us in middle America. If you don’t live there and you’re not from there you have no idea. You roll into some town like Normal, Illinois and think “Oh, God, I wonder if they’re gonna show up early to watch us at this show” and the place would be flippin packed. We would open for Cheap Trick in a coliseum and people would be there with like Femme Fatale sheets with our name written on them and it was just crazy. It is always such a surreal experience being on tour when you have no real concept of what the road is. You get out there and you learn that the magazines and radio and MTV are helping you get fans in the seats even if you’re touring as a support act and it just blows your mind. In a perfect world, all of those elements could align at the right time and you become Poison or Guns and Roses. We didn’t get that big but it is and was pretty cool to see the impact that we DID have. It’s so funny man. It’s been like 20 years but I am having so much fun again. I didn’t sell as many records as Vixen, I didn’t sell as many records as Lita Ford but there are people who know me and love me and love these songs and I am so, so grateful for that and the opportunity to re-present that material and maybe turn a few new heads. To be blunt and to tell you the truth, I feel really honored that people like you and others still give a shit after all this time. It feels good, it feels really good that people dig what I have always loved doing which is performing. Is it my life and my career 100% of the time? No, I’m a total dog mom, I’m totally into my reality TV stuff and all that but at the same time music is still a huge part of my life. I still write music.
LRI: I was astonished to see how amazing you and Athena and the great Alex Kane were in the recent one off show I saw on youtube. The band sounded great and you are on some sick time machine trip where you are getting hotter by the decade.
Lorraine: Gosh. Thank you. You are super sweet for saying that. I am looking at 55 years old this year which is pretty scary to say but you know, I am a total animal lover, total dog mom and I think they help keep me going between that and working out at the gym and trying to eat as healthy as I can. I drink when there’s something to celebrate and I don’t know, I think I also have good genes. I have a young man in my life Erin, i have always, always like them younger than me and I think that helps too (laughs). He is 14 years younger than me and that’s how it has always been. I was always chasing 18 year olds back in the Femme Fatale days and things haven’t changed. Erin, my fiance and soulmate, fell in love with me and put a ring on my finger and he is just awesome, such an amazing part of my life. I’m glad you like those performance clips, Alex and Athena are good friends and great players who can make any project better. Alex is awesome and he’s like my brother. That was my original L.A. Nookie idea where we would do one of Alex’s Life Sex and Death tunes and one of Athenas songs and I had also wanted to include Maya from the Donnas who I have become friends with. Those shows were fun and there was a lot of fire which only makes me wanna keep going forward with this new Femme Fatale.
LRI: Before I let you go, how are things with Bobbie and Athena and Ex-Wives of Rock?
Lorraine: Things are awesome. The show is on Friday nights at 10:30 Eastern, 7:30 Pacific on Fuse Network, all of the women are fantastic and it is just the brainchild of myself and my best friend of 20 years, Lisa Brucker and we are just keeping our fingers crossed that it continues to keep gaining ground. We have an AMAZING director for the show in Peter Mervis. If you were to compare what Lisa, Peter and I do to the music biz we are the engineers and producers and the networks are the record companies! We had the debut in Canada on Slice and then to have the show be seen here in America on Fuse is just awesome. The response has been great.
LRI: What is blowing my mind is that all the shit they told me in those original interviews last year about their lives and everything going on, you captured all that. Reality TV is so processed most of the time but this is the real deal crazy crap going on in these girls lives.
Lorraine: We have an embarrassment of riches in terms of material to work with involving these amazing women and their lives, we really do. Bobbie, Blue, Athena and Sharise are kickass women, they are beautiful and interesting and smart and funny and most of all real, like you said. They are totally real and we just followed them and assembled the episodes and it has turned out to be really, really good stuff. Our production company is also developing other shows right now and I am just having a blast in general. I’m busy!
LRI: Good luck on the new Femme Fatale and the Monsters of Rock Cruise Lorraine, have fun.
Lorraine: We totally will. This is going to rock!