An Interview with Suzi Quatro

They call Suzi Quatro “The Queen of Rock ‘N’ Roll.”

More importantly, as a bassist and front person, Quatro is one of rock’s truly singular talents. Dating back to the early 70s, Quatro began an incredible journey which saw the bassist blaze a trail for women in rock, as before she hit the scene, rock music was a space almost entirely dominated by men.

Quatro’s angelic, yet rocking voice, and galloping basslines burst upon an unsuspecting scene with her debut record, Suzi Quatro (1973). As the decade wore on, Quatro remained one of the genres defining figures behind the release of a string of classic albums, Quatro (1974), Your Mamma Won’t Like Me (1975), Aggro-Phobia (1976), and If You Knew Suzi… (1978).

Present-day, Quatro is still blazing a trail, and most importantly still rocking. Her most recent efforts, No Control (2019), and The Devil in Me (2021) show that not only does Quatro still have plenty left in the tank, but that she is truly just getting started.

I recently caught up with the trailblazing bass player regarding her long career in music, as well as her enduring influence. If you would like to learn more about Suzi Quatro, the link to her webpage is here.

Andrew:
Suzi, thanks for taking the time. Let’s dig right in. From a young age, what first gravitated you toward music? When did the bass guitar first come into the picture for you?

Suzi:
I was raised in a musical family of five children. There were four girls and one boy. My dad was a musician, and we all play a few instruments each. My first was bongos, then classical piano and percussion. The bass came into the picture at age fourteen when we started our first all-girl band, The Pleasure Seekers. All the other girls grabbed an instrument, and I was “given” the bass, which turned into a lifelong love affair.    

Andrew:
You grew up in Detroit, right? That’s a city with a tremendous musical history. With that being said, from your vantage point, paint a picture of the scene you were exposed to as you came up.

Suzi:
I talk about Detroit all the time because it was and is a special city. It’s a place where black and white meet effortlessly, respecting each other and borrowing from each other for influence. There is an edge, energy, and danger element. If you are born and raised in Detroit, this never leaves you. You can hear Detroit in my music one hundred percent.

Andrew:
Walk me through the early days with the Pleasure Seekers. How did that band develop?
What do you recall regarding the group’s first gig?

Suzi:
We started in 1964 after seeing The Beetles on TV. We thought it would be a great idea to start a band, and we started to work almost immediately, and before we knew it, we were working constantly because we were unique. This ended up being great training for who I was to become. Our first gig was at a local club called The Hideout. At that time, we only knew three songs with the same three chords. I went onstage and looked out at the audience for the first time, and thought to myself, “I’m home.”

Andrew:
Take me through how you first met Mickie Most. How did that meeting change the trajectory of your career onward?

Suzi:
Well, The Pleasure Seekers, which was a show band eventually turned into a group called Cradle, which was a hippy band. We soon started writing our own material, and I went from being the main front person on bass singing who was singing ninety-nine percent of the songs to the backline and was only doing a few songs on lead vocals. So, my brother found out Mickie was in town and got him to one of our gigs. During the show, I only sang two songs, but he still offered me a solo contract. I took it and relocated to the UK right away.

Andrew:
In those early years, you were touted as the next Janis Joplin by some and lumped in with glam rock by others. What were some of the challenges you faced as you worked to find your musical identity amongst a bustling scene.

Suzi:
It was frustrating because I was never the next Janis Joplin. I am nothing like her, she was a blues singer, and I’m a rock ‘n’ roller. I knew I was not like anyone else, and therefore, I stuck to who I knew I was!!! I had no niche to fit into, so I created my own, and the rest is history.

Andrew:
What do you recall regarding the writing and recording of your self-titled debut record and the subsequent supporting tour with Thin Lizzy?

Suzi:
I had put the band together after a year in the wilderness out in the UK. At first, I was recording with session people, with me on bass, and not getting anywhere. But once I got my band together, everything made sense. We were doing all original material, all my own songs, and getting a style and sound together. Mickie put me on as the opening act on Slade’s first UK tour. On that tour, I had twenty minutes before Thin Lizzy and then Slade would go on. During those shows, the band completely came together. We had our look, we had our sound, and I was ready to explode.

Andrew:
Moving forward a bit, as the 80s and 90s moved on, your output became less prolific. Looking back, how would you view that time for music? Did you find it difficult to make your voice heard?

Suzi:
Music had moved on as it does. I stretched out and started doing musicals. I had my two children and was still constantly touring. I didn’t find it difficult because of the fact that I had already established my voice loud and clear. It didn’t matter if I was having hits or not because I already had my place in the industry.

Andrew:
1990’s Oh, Suzi Q is an underexposed record that doesn’t enough attention. I wanted to dig into your thoughts on that record. Why do you feel that it flew under the radar?

Suzi:
Well, in my humble opinion it was not a true Suzi Quatro album. They used studio players for the first time in my entire career, which made it feel kind of “removed.” Honestly, it’s not my favorite album because it’s not one I really felt part of, but it did bridge the gap.  

Andrew:
Over the last few years, you’ve released two outstanding records in No Control (2019), and The Devil in Me (2021). To that end, how has your songwriting progressed since your early years?
 

Suzi:
I have always been a prolific songwriter. In 2019, I teamed up unexpectedly with my son, who really wanted to write with me. We thought we were just having fun, but it turned into a great partnership, and we work very well together. With No Control, we got our feet wet, and with The Devil in Me, we knew where we were going. 

Andrew:
On the subject of The Devil in Me, walk me through the sessions for that record from its inception to its release.

Suzi:
My son Richard wanted me to make an album that was as groundbreaking, and as important as my first album, Suzi Quatro By this point, I trusted him, and we accomplished that. Every critic, DJ, etc. has called it my best work. I gave birth to him, and he gave rebirth to me. It felt like being discovered all over again. It’s joyous.

Andrew:
Your influence has been well documented – especially for female musicians – as when you came up, there was no one else like you amongst the scene. With that being said, how would you describe the landscape for females in a male-dominated world today compared to when you were coming up?

Suzi:
I am very happy to see that lots of women are playing instruments now. I was the first to have international success as a female musician, and I will proudly take that to my grave. Today, although not unusual, it still doesn’t feel like “my” journey. I am a non-gender person, but still keep my female boundary lines, lines which have become very blurred. 

Andrew:
Last one. What’s next for you in all lanes, Suzi?

Suzi:
I am busy, busy, busy. I’ve got a duet album out next year with my friend KT Tunstall, and an EP release this year. I’m working on film music, music for my next solo album, as well as writing and working with other artists. I also am about to release my sixth book, it’s my second poetry book, Through My Heart. Other than that, not very busy! [Laughs].

Interested in learning more about the work of Suzi Quatro? Hit the link below:

Be sure to check out the full catalog of VWMusic Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interviews

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

With an immense passion for music, a disposition for writing, and an eagerness to teach and share both, Andrew decided to found VWMusic in 2019 as a freelance column under the column Idle Chatter. Over time, the column grew into a website that now features contributors who further the cause of sharing both a love of music and the art of journalism with the world through articles and interviews. While Andrew enjoys running the website, his real passion lies in teaching and facilitating others to do what they do best, and giving them the opportunity to explore their passions in the process. Some of Andrew’s favorite artists include KISS, Oasis, ACϟDC, Elvis Presley, Ace Frehley, The Rolling Stones, Rush, The Pretenders, Led Zeppelin, The Gaslight Anthem, Iron Maiden, John Lennon, The Melvins, Noel Gallagher, Regina Spektor, Rory Gallagher, The Stone Roses, The Strokes, Thin Lizzy, Elvis Costello, Van Halen, Neil Young, Blur, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, and many more.
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