We continue our interviews with the ex-RUNAWAYS drummer Sandy West. She was one of the very first members of the band, who actually survived all the line-up changes in this legendary band. Reason enough to fire a lot of questions at her, that were on our minds. We went from the foundations of this band to the future plans of Sandy "Wild Thing" West. More than twenty-five years of rock history were captured in this interview. We start our trip through time right before Sandy formed the RUNAWAYS, together with Joan Jett and Micki Steele.
Did you play in any bands before THE RUNAWAYS?
"Yes, I started playing live when I was thirteen years old. I was the only female in the band. We played "keg parties". That's when the parents leave town for the weekend and the band sets up in the living room and they have a keg of beer for the party. It was usually a hundred people packed in and we played very loud music like LED ZEPPELIN, BLACK SABBATH, DAVID BOWIE, etc. It was 1973-1975 back then."
Being one of the original RUNAWAYS members (starting out as a three-piece), you experienced all the different line-up changes. Is it true, there was also a bassplayer named Peggy (she joined the band after Micki Steele in '75), who quit two weeks later? (Jackie Fox replaced her shortly afterwards). I found her name on a fan's page on the internet and never heard of her before.
"Yes, there was a girl named Peggy, who played bass for two weeks. I think she was a nurse or something? I also remember someone trying out for keyboards, but I don't quite remember her name..."
How did you actually get in touch with Joan and Micki and whose idea was it to form an all-female rock'n'roll band?
"I met Kim Fowley at the Rainbow Bar & Grill in Hollywood when I was fifteen and a half years old. I told him I was a rock drummer and gave him my phone number. He told me he knew a girl in the valley, who played electric guitar named Joan. He called me and gave me Joan's phone number and I called her. She came down to my house and jammed with me. I had a drum set, a Marshall amp and a Les Paul guitar for her, ready to play with me. It was amazing, she had perfect rhythm. Then Kim, Joan and myself found Micki Steele. So the idea was Kim, Joan and myself."
Weren't you afraid of the fact, you probably wouldn't be taken seriously, because there weren't any female rockers around back in those days (except for maybe SUZI QUATRO and BIRTHA)?
"No, the musicianship was so good and so powerful, I never worried about that. I think we were a lot bigger & faster and also very different. You could hear, see and feel the different forces of personality coming out on album and live in concert!"
What was your main goal when you started THE RUNAWAYS back in 1975?
"Our main goal was to have hit songs, sell out concerts, have fun and see the world. But also to be taken seriously as musicians. We were not into the feminist thing."
I read about a ballad somewhere called "I'm your fantasy" (1976?), which was never released. What can you tell about this song? Is there any more 'unreleased' RUNAWAYS stuff from rehearsals, demos or sessions? Maybe a studio version of "Getting' Hot" (which only came out on the "Live in Japan" CD)? Any chance you will bring this out one day?
"There are a few unreleased songs and tracks, but that's normal for any band. You record so many, like thirteen songs, and than pick the best for the album. I can't see releasing any of those tracks from the past."
What are your best memories from the early RUNAWAYS days?
"There are so many. Now that I look back even the rough times were good. How many teenage girls get to do what we did in a lifetime? I do love the memories of playing some large crowds in Europe and the crowds going crazy!! And Japan was amazing. I also loved hanging out with the roadies after the show and causing trouble somewhere, somehow. And I have fond memories of Joan and I going out to clubs together. Vicki and I also had a fun European & U.S.A. tour together with our mischievous ways!"
You toured all over the world with THE RUNAWAYS. Do you have any favourite places and cities you went to; and why?
"Favorites are England, Scotland, Switzerland, Norway, Germany, Denmark, Ireland and Japan, for the wild times, rock musicians, audiences and cool towns. I don't have favorite cities over there. In the U.S., it would be Los Angeles, San Fransisco, Denver, Austin, Cleveland and New York."
Looking back at those days, what was (in your opinion) the best thing you've achieved with THE RUNAWAYS?
"Five gold records, world tours, TV shows, my three 1st place trophies from the rock and roll sports classic, my Ludwig Drums endorsement and a lot of great memories with the girls."
Do you think you've opened any doors for the women in rock with THE RUNAWAYS?
"Yes, when Joan and I first started auditions, there really wasn't very many. I remember when Lita came in to audition as a bass player and then she pulled out her Gibson and we started jamming. She was so good on lead guitar back then. I was in heaven! But yes, we opened a lot of doors for girls in this male dominated field."
What would be your first (or major) advise, when girls want to start an all-female rock band?
"To choose the right management to handle your career. To keep the communication open between the girls, act like a family and stay close, protect each other and love each other."
Please comment to the following names:
Kim Fowley: "If I hadn't met him, I would never had the experience. But he was difficult to work with and he treated us bad. And thanks to him I'm broke!"
Laurie McAllister: "Played bass O.K., nice personality, but I didn't really hang out with her much."
Lita Ford: "The best female guitarist in the world and one of the best guitar players in the world. Lita is made of pure talent, skill and she puts so much feeling into her music. She's an amazing person, who really cares about me and is a lot of fun. We have had a lot of good times. I love her!"
Ted Nugent: "I met him twice.
What exactly went wrong, when THE RUNAWAYS split up in '79?
"Well, that's a long story! Basically poor management led to tearing the band apart."
After that, you formed the SANDY WEST BAND. Would you say that music is the most important thing in your life? Is this still the case and why?
"Yes, music has been very important in my life. I really am graceful for all that success and experience. It's a very tough business to be in and I try to do it just for fun now."
Did you actually ever had any drumming lessons?? And did you style change much throughout the years and if yes, in what way?
"Yes, I learned in the fifth grade school. I was the first girl allowed to learn in that area. Then I had private lessons for a short time. I don't think my style changed through the years. I've always been a hard hitting, straight ahead drummer."
Can you name a few drummers that you admire (any other female drummers perhaps?). Who's Gigi Worth (she played at your recent Golden Apple gig in May)?
"John Bonham (LED ZEPPELIN) and Roger Taylor (QUEEN) were my favorites. Yes, Gigi Worth did play drums on a few songs at the Golden Apple when Cherie and Marie did a few songs off the "Messsin' With The Boys" CD."
What/who are your musical influences?
"I was influenced by LED ZEPPELIN, BLACK SABBATH, DEEP PURPLE, AEROSMITH, DAVID BOWIE. But when I was younger I was exposed to, and brought up with classical music like BACH and BEETHOVEN and also the sixties era from JIMI HENDRIX to JONI MITCHELL."
I read you are also a producer. Tell us something more about that. Have you produced any big names so far?
"The only music I've produced is my own. I recorded a single in 1986 with a song called "F-13" and my remake of "Wild Thing". That was available by mail order. Then in 1994, I released a four song cassette with songs named "Sunset Girls", "I Do Believe", "Magic" and "However You Want It", which was available on my website."
What do you think of today's music scene? Do you feel it is more easy to get a reord deal than - let's say - twenty years ago?
"I think with the smaller labels, it's easier to get a record out. With the larger record companies, they don't give out the money they used, to get you going. Twenty years ago it was easier on the up & coming bands."
How do you feel about doing this performance with Cherie & Marie at the Golden Apple in May '98?
"It was a lot of fun and the fans that showed up were great. The place was packed inside and out, and then we had a huge autograph signing afterwards. It was like old times. I love Cherie and Marie!"
Whose idea was it to play together again?
"Cherie and I, have always loved playing together. It's like we belong together. She booked that gig."
Please tell us about this great (back up) singer Katt Lowe. How did you get in touch with her? I understand you've been playing with her for awhile.
"I met her at a club and was really interested in her music she writes. She's so talented. She writes all her songs, all the parts. She's a great singer and rhythm guitarist. We've been working together and have done a few shows together."
Are you going to do more with her in the near future?
"I know we want to do some more recording together of her songs and also my new songs. I'm sure we will be doing some live shows together, too."
What happened with your own plans to record a full CD?
"That's still in the works…"
What are your future plans? Are you going to record any new stuff after your demo tape in '95? And how will it sound?
"I've recently written a lot of new songs, that I will choose ten to twelve out of, to record a CD. It will sound like rock, pop and some ballads. I hope the fans enjoy it."
Is the SANDY WEST BAND still together and who's in it? Please introduce your band members and which instrument(s) they play.
"The SANDY WEST BAND changes all the time. I've had a lot of different players through the years. Paul Hone stuck with me in the eighties on lead guitar, vocals and he also engineered my single. Steve Julian has been with me in the nineties on lead guitar along with Jessica Harrington on backing vocals. Katt Lowe has played a few shows with me and Cherie Currie as special guest. And the guy that has been with me the longest is my best male friend Jerry Venemann, who played drums, when I would go up front."
What's the status about this 'possible' RUNAWAYS reunion or were they just rumours?
"Lita, Joan, Cherie and I have agreed to get together and record. I'm very excited about it. We're just getting everyones schedules together."
Did your reunion gig in '94 (with Jackie and Cherie) have anything to do with it?
"Through the years Lita, Cherie and myself have always talked about it and wanted to do it."
Did you already find a suitable bass player, as I understand neither Vicki nor Jackie (the two most important bassplayers of THE RUNAWAYS) are willing to fill in on bass?
"The bass player position has not been decided."
What's a RUNAWAYS reunion going to do to your personal life? Did you ever think (or hope) it'll come this far?
"This reunion means everything to me. I've been dreaming about it for years. To be on that level again would do me good in every way. It would help me reach larger crowds again. It could open doors for my music and/or as a drummer. It would help my stability."
And what would you do differently then? (in case of a reunion)?
"Well, I won't be drinking beer anymore!! And make sure that everyone is happy and having fun."
Do you still consider yourself a "Wild Thing" after all these years?
"There's still a part of me that is. But I'm safer now and think before I jump. I'm kinda "Peter Pan" and "Wild Thing" at times."
Please name your five personal favourite RUNAWAYS songs.
"I Love Playing With Fire", "Getting Hot", "You Drive Me Wild", "I'm A Million" and "Wild Thing"."
How do you feel about the fact that people seem to be more interested in your RUNAWAYS days than your solo projects afterwards?
"I think it's great to still have so many fans and new fans on "THE RUNAWAYS". But my solo projects have been difficult, because I've never had the record company and/or the management behind me."
How did THE RUNAWAYS get on the KISS soundtrack CD "Detroit Rock City" ('99) and did you girls have anything to say about the song choice ("Schooldays")??
"I really don't have any idea?!?"
If you wouldn't have been a full-time musician, what other profession (do you think) you would have chosen?
"I really wanted to be a veterinarian. It was a dream. I'm not sure, if I would have made it through college. It's a pretty tough school. I also thought about going into sports professionally. But I'm best at drumming, so I'm glad that happened."
Do you have anything to say to the readers of METAL MAIDENS?
"You have been the truest and greatest fans forever. You love rock and roll like I do and you show it. It would be great to see you again. You haven't forgotten me and I won't forget you. Thank You!"
Thank you very much for doing this interview, Sandy!
Contact SANDY WEST at: Times Square Productions, 520 Washington Blvd#199, Marina Del Rey, CA 90294, USA.