Lisa Fancher Interview

Lisa Fancher Interview (September 2011)

Lisa Fancher has lived a life in which music has always been central. Beginning as an occasional writer for the influential fanzine Bomp!, Lisa saw numerous early Runaways gigs and was hired to write liner notes on their first album, all while still in high school. From here Lisa moved on to become an early fan of the LA punk scene, and in 1980 founded her record label Frontier Records. Eventually moving beyond its punk origins to release albums by varied bands such as Heatmiser, the Long Ryders and American Music Club, Frontier continues to exist and distribute music to this day.

RIS= RealInspectorShane
LF= Lisa Fancher


RIS: How did you first get interested in the Runaways?

LF: I knew Greg Shaw because, you know, I was a big fan of his various magazines and he was the editor of a magazine called Phonograph Record and then he had a fanzine called Who Put The Bomp?, so he and Kim were obsessed with finding the ultimate way-out girl band, so they had this big coast-to-coast hunt, and they put an ad in Bomp, its probably in the Bomp Book, I don’t know if you’ve seen it–

 

Micki-Steele-Sandy-West-Joan-Jett-1975-the-runaways-15493194-1280-843

The Runaways, 1975.

 

RIS: No. That’d be a pretty fun thing to see.

LF: Yeah, anyway, they didn’t get any responses, they literally didn’t get one girl band to write them or send a demo or anything, so that’s when Kim went about putting it together. I had nothing to do with it, I just knew they were doing it. So that’s when he started hitting the clubs. Its not like he didn’t already go to Rodney’s and like young girls, uh you know, he found–Kari Krome, Kari was actually the first one that he found but she wasn’t *supposed* to be in the band, she was like the ‘genius songwriter girl’ or whatever… So then they just started, I dunno, only books can tell you where Micki was found or whatever, I don’t know if there was an ad placed… so anyway, my involvement was once the band was together, then Kim decided–Kim and Greg decided for me that I was going to write a story about them, like whether they were genius or not I was going to write about how genius they were. I was like ‘ohhh, OK’–

RIS: ‘You may say they’re brilliant’.

LF: Yeah, so as the band got solid and was rehearsing.. I mean, this all moved really fast, I can’t tell you what the period of time was but it was like *fast*, because the whole record and everything out, and with Cherie happened, I’m gonna say, just within a year, the whole thing gelled. So anyway, Kim, I’m in high school, can’t remember what year I was, first or second year of high school, then Kim’s making me–you know, dragging me all over the city to see various shows, there was the first show at Phast Phreddie’s house… wouldn’t it have been good for the movie? Oh, that’s right, Micki isn’t in the movie.

RIS: [laughs] Didn’t exist.

LF: They kinda made this hybrid of the living room show, but it was ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about’ cause I don’t know one like that with the full band, you know, I mean, I think they were already playing clubs with Cherie, I don’t think they played any more house parties, so its all a little hybrid of events. Anyway, so I saw a lot of weird shows, like, you know there’s Hollywood where obviously all the nightclubs are, but I live in the San Farnando Valley which isn’t far away, but they mostly played movie theaters, like all kinds of weird crap.. and I thought they were great. Like I thought, you know, Joan had a lot of charisma, I thought Micki did, Sandy was a real rocker. I didn’t like hang around them personally, I wasn’t ‘besties’ or we’d call each other on the phone, I’d just kinda be loitering around… and um, so, somewhere along the line, I wasn’t privy to super-insider information, but you know, I know that they made the demo tape, and all that kinda stuff, (and uh, so if you have any follow up questions on that…) I know that they made those demos, you know, Kim always had access to studios and everything.. I’m sure I heard those at the time, I don’t know if anybody made me a copy or anything, but I’m sure I had heard them at the time.. They were in a big rush to make this thing like *move*, I don’t know what it was but me and Greg were like you know, ‘this girl band thing *had* to happen’, it had to happen…

RIS: ‘six months or else’–

LF: Yeah, so I don’t know what it was but these was this mad dash so.. You know, its cool on a Malcolm McLaren level, you know, if you can’t find something then put it together, and smash it together.. you know, they more or less wrote those songs, or helped or whatever it was, he just put the words in their mouths… which was good. It wasn’t like The Monkees where other people played their instruments, and sang on the demo tape, I mean, at least they were competent enough to be in a band…

RIS: I read somewhere that on the first album they had the bassist from I think, Blondie [Nigel Harrison] playing on it.

LF: Yeah, they were like in between things, with the Jackie Fox thing. She wasn’t quite in the band yet, I guess they just didn’t have a solid, without Micki in the band they didn’t have a solid bassplayer, and obviously she wasn’t going to play on it seeing they gave her the *boot*, so that would have been rude to even ask… Somehow I found out about it down the line, you know, nobody’s going to bother, I wasn’t important enough in the organisation to call up and find out, but like ‘oh, there’s another show, and we have a whole new singer, how exciting!’ and I was like ‘what the hell?’ And uh, the story that I always heard, I can’t quote anybody verbatim, but the story I always heard was that Danny Rosencrantz didn’t think Micki was sexy enough, or jailbait enough, or whatever, Lolita enough… he wanted a blonde, he didn’t care who it was but he wanted a blonde teen, a sexy blonde teen. And uh, so I guess Kim had to go out and start scooping all over again and you know, he dragged Cherie, and he must have found her pretty quickly because there was you know, like no super downtime while they were hunting around the country. I guess they just went to Rodney’s and said ‘hey, can you sing?’ and its ‘not *really*, not so much’, you know, or ‘OK’, she wasn’t great.. [after a couple of words I had trouble making out] I did think Micki was really cool as a person, and good for the band cause it seemed more authentic with her.
RIS: That reminds me of something else I was wondering… what did you think of her as a person back then?

LF: Uh, you know, I didn’t really… I can’t even tell you that you know, I spoke to her more than a couple of times, but she seemed, you know, less outgoing than Joan, but perfectly nice and sane and pleasant and everything, but I didn’t ever really hang out with her separately, or go out with separately, or any of that stuff, it was kinda ‘hi, how are you?’, she wasn’t a jerk or aloof or anything like that.
RIS: Uh, what do you recall of the concerts you saw that year?

LF: That year? Oh god, I saw *everything*. I saw everything from the Hollywood Stars at nightclubs, yeah, I definitely would have seen Bowie or Roxy Music, the bigger bands that I liked weren’t super famous, but you know, whatever, bands like 10CC that could play to a thousand people, but I saw a lot of club shows. I wasn’t ‘sposed to, but I always made my way into Hollywood and you know, I just *had* to go and see whoever… but there was a lot of bands playing the Starwood, you know, the gamut of everything, you know, like Keith Relf, the singer of the Yardbirds…you name it, I found some way to get into Hollywood, and either get in free or use Greg’s name to get in on the guest list.

RIS: Nice work!

LF: Yep, it was a blast though! Sure, I paid for it by not doing well in school, but you know what? Who cares.

RIS: You got your own label, you don’t need school.

LF: Yeah, exactly. You know, it would have been *nice* to have a real education and succeeded in college, but, I got through high school. It was far more important to me to see The Ramones than it was to move on, so yeah, that was the path I took.

RIS: Looks like it worked out well for you OK anyway. Do you remember anything about the Runaways shows you saw, or not so much?

LF: [Just barely]… they were extremely not well attended, and usually a bunch of guys that were like ‘oh my god, girls!’, but I can’t even remember if there were other females in the audience other than me, you know, maybe someone’s girlfriend… Um, I saw them in weird places. I distinctly remember a movie theater in the Valley, like a really old, decrepit movie theater and um, there was just a smattering of humans, and uh, I remember that Whisky show that I have a tape of–

RIS: Oh wow.

LF: If I’m not mistaken, I think Lita was supposed to be the second guitar player in the band even when Micki was there, maybe I got my wires crossed, but I’m gonna say, did you interview Phreddie or not?

RIS: Yeah, I did.

LF: Cause he has a much better memory of these years than me, cause he knew Lita pretty well. but I am gonna say, I thought Lita was supposed to join the band while Micki was still in it–

RIS: You know, I saw a photo of Lita and Micki both on stage, so it must have briefly been the case–

LF: Yeah, cause there was a time I remember a show where they were supposed to play together but uh, Lita got the shit beaten out of her by a gang or something probably because Lita’s a bit of a smartass and she didn’t play a show that I was going to see, and everybody was like ‘where’s Lita?’ because I had heard all about her and everything, that she played like Richie Blackmore, who’s *not* my favourite.. and um, but anyway I mostly, I always saw, I don’t even remember seeing them with Lita, I might have but 90% of the shows I saw were with Micki, and that wasn’t even a lot… but you know, a handful. The ones I could make without getting into too much trouble, that weren’t too far away from my house cause let’s face it, I had to go to school in the morning. Those were fun. It make me feel like I was super important, ‘I’m in high school, I’m on the high school paper, and I’m followin’ the Runaways!’.

RIS: Didn’t you get them to play your high school, or was that later?

LF: Indeed I did! They played my high school, I can’t remember if it was before the album came out or after the album came out, but within a month either way… cause I graduated in June, so it was some time in Spring. I had flyers, like these really crappy mimeographed flyers, for fifty cents.. and oh god, I don’t know, the auditorium held probably five or seven hundred people and there’s one hundred people there, and everybody *hated* them, it was with Cherie of course…

RIS: [laughs]

LF: [with even more emphasis] hated them. So, but a little bit of my article from Bomp was in the liner notes, so I was like, I just thought I was *way* too cool for all that, and thought I was really happening. But anyway, everybody hated them so you know, what few people did like me in high school, that was prettymuch the end of that, they were like ‘this is *terrible* music’, and they didn’t get Cherie and her whole thing… but you know, everybody at that time, they were super into prog, like Yes and Genesis, all that crap, or else the stoners just listened to Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, nobody liked the bands I liked at all.

RIS: Its like, ‘where’s my twenty minute drum solo?”

LF: Yeah, exactly! Yeah, they just wanted to get stoned and listen to Jethro Tull or whatever the hell it was. So I was a total 8-ball because I’d be like ‘wait until you see Television’ and they’d listen to it and go ‘this is terrible’, you know, whatever it was, and that’s all I ever heard. I never made any converts to any of those bands… that was pretty neat that Kim, you know, let me… you know, you can’t really call him a manager cause he doesn’t know how to manage, but more or less, he was their svengali than anything else. He was their Phil Spector guy even though he’s not very talented in that department, he just put the whole thing together, and wrote a whole lot of their lyrics and all that kind of stuff…

RIS: I was also gonna ask, did you see much of the shit he did? Like, you read about it, but did you see any of it at the time? Harassment, sexual crap, you know….

LF: I never saw any of that stuff. I’m not saying it didn’t happen, because obviously they saw him a much closer way–you know, I just saw him out in the public place, but um, his type was more like the victim, the victim type of person, you know, like the actual runaway kind of person–

RIS: Yeah–

LF: Like someone that actually ran away from their parents or homeless. Uh, anybody that was stable or sane, like Joan or anything, would very much not be his type. But considering it came from several of them, I don’t doubt that its true, but I never witnessed anything.

RIS: I was just saying cause you know, you read the story and like, there’s the one about Micki saying that he was basically just trying to crack onto her the whole time, and being a creep–

LF: Oh really! So she said it too.

RIS: Yeah, and then her refusing to–

LF: So that’s another type of person, cause Micki’s a real no-nonsense kind of a chick, she’s not going to put up with that at all, so uh, wowee.. and you know, him and Rodney had no lack of underage girls at that point because everybody wanted to ‘get into a show’ or meet rockstars or whatever, so it surprises me that he would even pull something so unprofessional, but *that’s what people do*.

RIS: I think it was like she said that she hadn’t had enough experience to just know to tell him to fuck off at the time, so it was like some big pressure thing…

LF: That’s the exact same story Cherie had, so *howw weird*. You know, that’s what the casting couch is all about, how do you think Marilyn Monroe or anybody, how do you think Madonna got somewhere–

RIS: Yeah, it wasn’t just for her music–

LF: Yeah, but anyway they never got anywhere one way or the other, so its good that they [MS/Cherie etc:] didn’t cave in. Joan had the same story, even Jackie Fox, but from personal experience, I did not witness any of that. And its really yucky considering they *were* sixteen years old. You know, its funny… I kept getting older but they stayed the same age, or they’d be like two years younger than me so I never figured how that really worked, but interesting how that works.

RIS: Did it change the band much live when Micki left and Cherie came in?

LF: Um… you know, it was a bigger sound for sure, like adding the whole another guitar player. I mean, Joan is definitely a rhythm guitar player, not a lead, so there really wasn’t any leads, she wasn’t that far along in her guitar playing, and then you have Lita, and then you have a singer who’s just singing and able to work the stage because obviously Micki had to play bass at the time, so yes, definitely, I suppose it was, I don’t know if it was more ‘professional’ or whatever, but more, I guess, commercial, maybe that’s a good word for it?

RIS: Hmm, yeah.

LF: You know, easier to sell to a whole roomful of guys, you know.. I mean, I think Micki’s really attractive and talented and pretty and that kind of stuff, but there’s a certain guy who likes a girl, a blonde girl in lingerie more.. so that’s who you’re trying to sell records to instead of somebody who’s an actual, real musician–

RIS: It [with Micki] might have been less about the you know, sexualised image.

LF: Mmm-hmm. Yeah, exactly. If you’re going for the whole sexualised, jailbait thing.

RIS: Hmm, I was gonna say, did you ever see any of the many other bands Micki played in?

LF: Oh, ah, I saw her a lot with the Bangles, and I’m sure we talked about the Runaways situation at some point, but even *that* was in the early 80s, so uh, she obviously joined the band after Annette Z. left, so I’m gonna say this was 83, early 84?

RIS: ’83, mid ’83–

LF: So that was a *hell* of a long time ago. but I’m sure we had a laugh at the whole Runaways thing. She was super cool. I remember she had an apartment right off the Hollywood Freeway and stuff like that. And uh, she wasn’t exactly like *them* either. She was apart from the Bangles. She wasn’t exactly the same type, if they had a type, she was kind of more her own island. And obviously the Petersons were sisters, and Susanna had known them for a long time, obviously they had formed the band and Micki joined but you know, as a latter member it probably felt hard for her, I’m gonna guess.

RIS: Yeah? You mean like on a personality level?

LF: No, I’m just saying she came on board down the line, so its not like being the original member of a band, its probably like being a hired hand, or somethin’.

RIS: As opposed to the Runaways.

LF: Right. [pause] But yeah, that’s about all my Micki stories… my entire brush with greatness. ( If there’s anything else, like more recent… I didn’t see, what was the new wave band, Toni–

RIS: Toni & The Movers?

LF: Yeah, never saw, at least, I don’t remember, let’s put it that way. I may have but I don’t have a photographic memory, but I don’t recall ever seeing them.

RIS: Hmm.. I was gonna conclude by asking if you have any thoughts on the LA scene in general, this far on? Like how you look back on it?

LF: Hmm…gosh.

RIS: I know, its a deep one.

LF: I know, exactly.. any big momentous thoughts about it, no. But you know, I think it was a really good endeavour that Kim tried to put together a good band even though it was just to hit on chicks or whatever his purpose was… but yeah, I think its, considering that you had, I don’t know, your Ronettes or something, they were all fake bands, so it was nice to put together female *musicians* and play that kind of music where they weren’t just trying to be pretty girls and not sweaty girls, and stuff.

RIS: Yeah, who actually play instruments, you know..

LF: At least he tried, you know, what are ya gonna do. But as far as part of the scene, it didn’t even feel like it because they kinda jumped in and out of it so fast it almost didn’t even seem like they were a LA band, you know, it was such a short period of time and then they were immediately running off to uh, Japan, none of the things that any local bands ever got to do. It was like they were in garages one second and then they were outta here… so for me it was just yeah, a really short period of time. And then after Cherie left, I didn’t even pay attention. the whole Vicki Blue and —, I’m sure I saw them a few more times, but…

RIS: The fun was gone maybe?

LF: Yeah, but it was just like nobody *cared*, you know what I mean?

RIS: Yeah–

LF: Everybody was so immersed in punk by that point. It was almost like they were quaint or something, ‘oh the Runaways, yeah, I remember them…”

Note: LF’s first Bomp! article on the band (‘Are You Young And Rebellious Enough To Love The Runaways?’, Bomp!, Spring 1976, pp.12-13, 16.) can be read at

Cover

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[Scans originally posted by Stereo Sanctity: http://stereosanctity.blogspot.com.au/2010/02/neon-angels-on-road-to-ruin.html]

 

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