Joan Jett has always led a punk lifestyle and now she’s set to show the kids just how bad she is when she headlines this summer’s Warped Tour after releasing “Sinner,” her first studio album in 10 years.
Jett, 47, started making music when she was 15. She was the first female rocker to launch her own record label and paved a path for bands like Bikini Kill, Le Tigre and Sleater-Kinney and now scouts young bands to help get them started.
Jett talked from her beachside home in Long Beach, N.Y. about the music business, collaborating at Warped Tour and the country’s “scary” state of affairs.
AP: What are your expectations of the Warped Tour?
Jett: I don’t know what to expect. It seems to me like it’s going to be a big traveling circus. I’m looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be a wonderful exchange between a lot of people. They’re all there because they love music.
AP: What will you bring to the circus?
Jett: (Laughs) It’s a good question. My excitement. Just having a sense of humility going into it is important. Some people may not know who we are at all. We’ll just go out there like any other band and play a great show. If people are into the history of punk music and where things come from — I think that’s why [tour organizer] Kevin Lyman wanted me on this thing.
AP: You’re 47 — you could conceivably be a grandma to some of the kids that will come out to see Warped — how messed up is that?
Jett: Absolutely! I don’t even think about it. I got into a band at 15. I didn’t finish high school and didn’t go to prom and didn’t grow up how most people grew up. In some ways I still feel like I’m 18. I’m not concerned about age and judgment.
AP: I love that you have that George Bush sound bite at the end of “Riddles.” What do you think of the current state of our country?
Jett: Extremely scary. I’m very nervous about everything. “Riddles” isn’t an attack specifically on this administration. It’s more about how they don’t speak to you directly, nothing is clear. Everything is a game. I’m worried about it and I’m glad I’m paying attention. I’m not sure enough people are.
AP: Will you address it at Warped?
Jett: First it has to be about the music. There could be another forum on the tour where those things could be discussed. There should be something.
AP: You were a pioneer, not by choice, in that you had your own record label to put out your music when no one else would. Did all the majors come running after you found success in the early ‘80s?
Jett: Twenty-three labels heard [demos] and said there was nothing there. That either tells you that they don’t listen to what bands send them or they can’t hear hits. They heard “I Love Rock and Roll” — they heard four hits! People did not come running. They still don’t get it.
AP: Who are some of the bands signed to your label, Blackheart Records?
Jett: The Eyeliners, these three sisters out of Albuquerque who’ve been on Warped Tour. And the Vacancies from Cleveland. We’re always just looking to help people who are in the same position we were in.
AP: What are some things you must have on the tour bus with you?
Jett: My Starbucks. A little small baseball-sized ball that I use to undo knots in my muscles. That’s imperative to have on the road.
AP: What’s your big backstage diva request?
Jett: (laughs). Oh man. I’m not very Diva-y in that way. We just have some water and I try to get my Carefree sugarless bubblegum and they’re discontinuing. I wrote them, but it’s too late. I’m going to have to buy out their warehouse. No meat in my room — I’m a vegetarian.