Thursday, February 6, 2014

Nikki Corvette

     Nikki Corvette’s music has been described, quite accurately I might add, as the perfect blend of The Ronettes and The Ramones. Garage bands around the world have been trying to imitate her sound ever since her debut album Nikki and the Corvettes came out in 1980 on Greg Shaw’s legendary recording label Bomp! Records. Although her name didn’t attain the household status that some of her peers achieved, it didn’t make Nikki’s music any bit less relevant. In my opinion, she hit all the marks a lot of her fellow lady rockers of that time missed. It’s more playful and light hearted than Joan Jett’s first records and less of a show boat than Blondie’s Parallel Lines and Eat to the Beat LP’s. Nikki Corvette continues to play her unique brand of sharp, sassy, and fun Rock N’ Roll with as much charisma and bounce as she did back in 1980 with a new crop of musicians she helped inspire. How’s that for the ultimate homage!

Interview by Jay Castro

You started writing and performing songs with one time guitarist for The Romantics Peter James. How did you meet him and was it him that inspired you to want to write and perform music?
I met Pete when I was 16, his best friend was dating my best friend and we dated for a while. We both liked the same kind of music and went to every concert and show possible. I learned a lot about music from him, but I always wanted to sing in a band. We stayed friends after we broke up and then started Nikki Corvette and The Convertibles together and co-wrote all the songs so he really helped me realize my musical ambitions. Our very volatile relationship did inspire the lyrics for “You Make Me Crazy.”

Nikki Corvette and The Convertibles were formed in a bit of a hurry due to the fact that you had shows booked but no band or songs. In retrospect, do you wish you would have had more time to rehearse and maybe gather your thoughts a bit, or do you feel you benefited by having your career starting off with a bang and not over thinking things?
I was friends with this guy Skid Marx, he played bass and was booking a club called The Red Grape and I was always saying I wanted to be in a band so one day he told me he booked a show for me. So Pete, Skid and a drummer, Bob Mulrooney, aka Bootsey X, put some songs together including a couple I had written with Pete and we did the show but we never rehearsed, just learned the songs separately. Not only was the sound check was the first time we ever played together; it was also the first time I ever sang in a mic!! The show was packed, everyone I knew was there and I knew after the first song it couldn't ever be worse then that!! We got booked every weekend for the next 3 months from that show and we still never rehearsed! It's really hard to say what would have happened with more time to practice, etc, it might have been great but I think the way it happened was best. It was crazy and spontaneous and scary but with time to think, I might not have jumped in; I wasn't a great singer and that might have stopped me. I believe it was fated to happen this way and I'm glad it did!

From what I gather things became a bit romantically complicated with you and some other Corvettes, former boyfriends, etc. Do you feel like this contributed to the breakup of the band in '81?
Like I said before Pete and I dated when I was in high school and his next girlfriend, Lori Jeri joined the band about 6 months after we started playing and that was never a problem. Most of the girls in the band had musician boyfriends who weren't always happy when their girlfriends went on tour, but I don't really think that had anything to do with the band breaking up. I think it had just run its course although Pete, Lori Jeri and I continued to work on other projects together over the years.

To me, the first Nikki and The Corvettes record on Bomp has a sort of sweet sunny disposition to it, a bit more of a West Coast feel and less of what one would think of as a Detroit or New York resonance. Did you have a particular sound you were shooting towards or was it more of a feeling or a 'vibe,' for lack of a better word?
Nikki and The Corvettes had so many influences and inspirations and wanted to be like all of them. I always wanted to be more punk and Pete wanted us to be more pop. The album just ended up being our combination of all of that but my voice was just kind of cute and girly and plus I've always been just super happy and excited about life so that was probably more the sunny West Coast feel, plus I love California, lived there for 24 years, so I'm very much a Detroit California girl. I don't think we tried to sound a certain way, it's just what evolved, what we had to work with, doing the album ourselves and who we were.

In 1997 you published a book called Rock ‘n’ Roll Heaven. What is it about and what led you to want to write a book?
It all started as a game Lee Childers, photographer, manager for Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers and Levi and The Rockats, part of the Bowie, Mainman, Warhol crowd and on and on, and I used to play when we were bored at work. We would try to list all the dead Rock Stars we could think of and I decided it would be a great book for all the crazy people like us. I had wanted it to be an encyclopedia of dead rock stars, how they died and where they were buried; a lot of my friends and I like to visit their graves but didn't know where many of them were buried. In the end, I had to cut in down drastically because of time issues, deadlines and the overwhelming scope of it but it's still my dream to publish the definitive book of rock star deaths and a map to their graves.

In 2003 you released the "Love Me" b/w "What's On My Mind" 7” on Rapid Pulse Records. The first record that was released that marked an end to your recording hiatus.  How did that project come together?
After a long hiatus from music I started playing again occasionally with a young all girl band called The Pinkz. I got a message from Russell Quan, Bobbyteens, Flakes, Mummies and too many other bands to name, that a friend of his wanted me to play his festival called Rock Action in Minneapolis. I called his friend, Travis Ramin, intending to tell him no but he somehow convinced me to do the show with him and some local musicians. The show was great and Travis and I became really good friends. Next thing I know he wanted to write and record some songs so we wrote 2 songs over the phone, I was in LA, and we recorded them in Minneapolis. Pretty soon we started doing mini tours, East Coast, Midwest, West Coast and then Japan and eventually decided to make a real band of it and we became Nikki Corvette and The Stingrays recording several more records together.

In releasing the Wild Record Party album in 2005, you covered the gamut of pop music, everything from late 70's Punk to late 50's Rockabilly and Doo Wop. Is this a sort of homage to your influences or are these simply songs you've always just wanted to let loose on?
It's kind of a combination of reasons. Some are songs I had always loved and covered in the past, some were songs I just wanted to record and most of them were either a direct influence or representative of my many varied musical influences. There were also a few that were requests of other band members and a few that were compromises between us. It was just a fun record for me because I'm just a true fan, always have been, always will be and it was the chance to do a lot of songs I wouldn't normally do but that I was a fan of.

You have records on many different labels and collaborated with a lot of people through out your career in music. Have you ever thought of compiling your music into a sort of career spanning 'Box Set' collection?  Because that frankly would be super fantastic.
I hadn't really thought about it until I read this question but I kind of love the idea! There are a lot of records, especially the Japan only releases, which a lot of people haven't heard and there are some songs on those I'm quite proud of. I think it would be interesting to do, especially to re-release some songs I'm really proud of that were only released in Japan. Some of the recent work I've done is more grown-up and I'm trying some different styles of music and I'd like people to see another side of me. What do you guys think???? I would love to get some feedback!

There have been a number of books and memoirs written about the NYC music scene in the mid to late 70's. You were right there in the middle of it. There's even a story of David Johansen writing an English paper for you when you were in high school! Have you ever seen a passage or read any book that just completely misrepresents those times or anyone you've known from back in the day? Anything you that's made you think to yourself "that guy has it all wrong!"
Although there is nothing I can think of offhand, I am absolutely sure there are many instances I have thought this but that doesn't mean it didn't truly represent what the writer felt, it's all relative and personal to everyone in a different way. I have found in talking to people about shared experiences that we viewed them very differently even if we were together and I'm sure I've said stuff about things that happened, that someone else said "No, that's wrong." As far as the Johansen story, I was a college freshman and had stayed up all night hanging with The Dolls, I had an English paper due in a couple of hours on Desire Under The Elms and Johansen actually did help me write it. I got it turned in on time and gave him credit for the help.

You've been involved throughout the years with many young artists, everyone from Amy Gore to LA's The Pinkz, who I saw open up for The Real Kids and totally held their own, and The Donnas. Have these collaborations been a key factor in keeping you inspired to continue to play and write music?
I really love working with different people because they open me up to different styles of music and yes, they very much inspire me to try new stuff and keep me fresh. I'm a little scattered/ADD/easily bored so all these people keep me excited.

What does Nikki Corvette have in store for us in the near or not so near future?
I have so many projects in the works it's insane!!! I am currently working on songs/singles with Hunx from Hunx and His Punks, Kepi Ghoulie from Groovy Ghoulies, Morten Henriksen from The Yum Yums, Kevin Preston from Prima Donna and King Khan as well as writing songs for an album with my band The Romeos. Some Rock N' Roll Art shows with this amazing San Francisco artist Dirty Donny, a book project in the very early stages I will be doing with Deniz Tek, Radio Birdman as well as a mini West Coast tour this winter and tours of Japan, Spain and possibly more of Europe and hopefully Australia next year. I just released a single “He's Gone b/w Rockin' Romeos” with my incredible Italian band The Romeos, right before our last European tour, it's sold out but hopefully we will repress it soon. I have 3 songs I co-wrote with producer Mike E. Clark as well as some vocals that will be on his Zombies Rule record later this month. I am constantly finding new projects and beyond what is already in the works, I'm not even sure what's in store but I will keep working, playing and rockin' as long as people are interested and I'm having fun!!!

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic and love the great stories! I'm no longer in NY, but last I was staying there I met Lee. One night we sat in an East Side bar where he happily told me stories of the old days. It was a super treat. Couldn't help but feel kind of good that we are all connected one way or another. I very much relate to the tales of her beginnings.

    Love this blog btw. Nice to see something different and to make new discoveries in music. They are hard to find when your tastes are rather specific.