Interview by Miriam Cadoni
Canada’s best-selling artist Lee Aaron is back with a brand new album,“Radio On” recently published via Metalville Records. With a renewed energy, the Canadian artist and her band have forged one of the best acclaimed albums of this period. Let’s learn more about it together with Ms. Aaron herself. Enjoy!
Hi Lee, welcome back to Femme Metal Webzine. How are you? And, how is this strange period treating you?
You mean like the life in the pandemic in the last year and half? [laughs]. I’m a very positive person, of course all the deaths that we have seen all around the world is not at all a positive thing.
But I try to find the silver lining in every situation. Yeah, I hate to not play live, and I miss my band, performing in front of my fans. On the other side, my family is much healthier because we spend a lot of time together hiking and exercising.
While me and my entire band have set up on a digital platform for recording together. Then, producing an independent Christmas-related release and partially “Radio On”.
You mentioned your amazing new album “Radio On”. Luckily, I had the chance to have a listen to it. Besides loving the album, I really like the fact that it has an 80s attitude with a modern approach. How did you manage to record an album that sounds so fresh and innovative?
Firstly, thank you because it’s one of the nicest compliments that I’ve received so far. You just nailed it! Indeed, that’s what we were hoping to do. “Radio On” captures the spirit and energy of the 80s with a modern production and mixing approach. So, I don’t know really what to say except that when my band and I got together to write this album, we had some different writing process than the normal. Mainly, the difference lies in how we worked.
This time, in place of sending back and forth files, I flew out Sean Kelly from Toronto to Vancouver and then, gather in a room to write all those songs. That ended up being the magic formula. In the beginning, I said to the guys to bring in the best 3/4 ideas.
With that, I just wanted us to remember when we were teenagers and jamming together. Our attitude was simply that. Just going into the studio, being influenced by the music we like and that’s it. Simply, “Radio On” is the outcome. Again, our attempt wasn’t to please record companies or any radio for promotion. Our idea was simply to going into the studio and record an album that was cool to play among friends. Most probably, our attitude is translating into the listeners.
Personally, what I can also perceive from “Rock On” is just being true to yourself and your musical attitude. Simply put, just do what you like, and you’ll see the result.
Well, thank you. You get in a certain stage of your life that you literally start to not care about people think about you. As you know, for being a woman in the music industry, I learned to develop a very thick skin. Because when you are putting yourself out there, you are opening yourself up to all kinds of judgement and criticism.
Also, this concern everything from your look and your music. Throughout the years, I’ve been criticized to be not ‘metal enough’, ‘too melodic’, and lately of having plastic surgery. It really bothers me that people tend to focus on the look, especially men in the music industry. In the end, I’ve decided to stay true to myself and keep on going.
Additionally, “Rock On” feels as a sort of continuation from your previous two albums “Fire and Gasoline” and “Diamond Baby Blues”. Do you agree with this statement of mine?
Yeah, indeed. Every album I published are a little bit different from each other and they slightly shift. But it’s never been my goal to make the same record over and over. There are only few artists that can do that successfully. For example, AC/DC and Doro. She’s fantastic in maintaining that strict style that she does.
That’s great and I’ve so much respect and admiration for them. But from the time I was a young girl, the albums I liked the most were early Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, David Bowie, The Who. If you think about it, there is a lot of difference between their first and their last ones.
If you allow me to say, the same thing can be applied to Fleetwood Mac. You know, if we consider the period between 70s with its amazing album “Tusk” and then, the 80s with “Tango”.
Absolutely. At the time, “Tusk” and “Tango” were universally forgotten and then, now are getting re-evaluated by the general audience. Indeed, those were two great albums. About this, I want to be remembered in a long term of time and, not in the short because I don’t care about it. For example, many listeners and fans are right now re-evaluating two of my albums, “Emotional Rain” released in 1994 and “Too Crushed” in 1995.
Indeed, for many of my fans those two albums are the favorite ones and, mind you, those albums weren’t commercially successful. But I’ve followed my heart and I did what I wanted to do. For me is important to produce albums where I can bring the listener on a journey. It must not be the same mood on every song when you listen to it. And I carefully select the tracks to feature because it’s a period like on a colorful sentence. At last, my goal is to write the best songs possible and produce albums that are like a book, an experience that you can listen on a journey.
“Twenty-One”, “Vampin’” and “C’mon” are the promotional singles for “Rock On”. While replying to my previous question, you mentioned that every song for you represents a chapter of a book. In truth, which chapters characterize these singles?
Well, they are all different. “C’mon” is a funny, upbeat, joyful, and spirited love song. It’s about having a second, maybe even a third, a fourth chance at love. One of the challenges that I’ve faced was to write a credible and mature love song. However, whether you are 20 or 60, when venturing into a new relationship those terrifying yet exciting feelings come out. And, regardless of the age, they are the same.
Instead, I had “Twenty-One” ‘s conceptual idea even before writing it. In the light of some dramatic deaths such as the ones of Prince and David Bowie, their unexpected deaths make me unexpectedly nostalgic for my youth. Also, the sudden death of my first husband contributed to this state of mind because we both loved Prince. So, this song expresses my nostalgy and the passing of the time. Indeed, it’s a love letter to all my fans that have grown up with me and gone through lots of challenges in their life.
For example, divorce, parenthood, have your children leave home, or friends’ deaths. For last, we have “Vampin’”, whose common theme is feminine empowerment. You know, it all started with “Metal Queen” back in 1984, then you have “Some Girls Do” and “Whatcha Do with My Body” and “Diamond Baby”. It’s all about discovering your diamonds and you need to let yourself shine. And I’m constantly writing songs about female empowerment because part of growing process happened in public.
Unlike other people, between the age of 17 and 21, I struggle a lot of management pressures to being marked as a sexual object. As “Metal Queen”, “Vampin’” is about taking your power back and rising from dark times which it feels perfect for these COVID times. you know, one sentence from the lyrics says “Hell yeah, that baby is vampin’. Super Trampin’. An outstanding crashlanding”. We often have crashlandings, but we can surely get ourselves up and dust ourselves off again. That’s life.
You know, you have released “Metal Queen” in 1984 and personally speaking, I’m still petrified by the fact that we have still to be outspoken about female empowerment. It feels like we didn’t progress at all, because if we have yet a singer like stating some preposterous accusation as the ones mentioned before. And in all this, 40 years followed. Even though, it feels scary I’m glad that you keep being vocal about it.
We have made some progress. For example, the whole reckoning in the film industry with the Weinstein’s scandal. And the #MeToo movement. It was important that happened. However, we are in dire need to have a reckoning in the music industry too. It’s still there and it’s especially pervasive in the hard rock genre.
You know, if you are woman and you are picking up a guitar, there’s this expectation that you must be a sort of sex goddess. Don’t you feel that? You know, I think that there should be a place for everybody, all races, all cultures, all sizes of woman, all color of skin, all sexual orientations, all body shapes, and sizes.
You should be able to be who you are, pick up the guitar and rock out. Unfortunately, I still feel that there’s an unfair expectation. For instance, Orianthi and Nita Strauss are the most successful hard rock artists of this period, and they are so talented but, people still focus on their beauty.
Let me tell you, I’ve interviewed Orianthi and when I had to choose the photos for my piece, her pictures were giving relevance to her instead of what she’s. Now, the artist is opened to disagree but personally, those photos make me feel as a woman that we must keep on paying a price to show our talent.
I agree. Again, with me, I can choose my own photos. Of course, I won’t choose photos where I look crappy because nobody likes that. However, I’m conscious to not share photos that might be disrespectful for my persona or that too much cleavage is shown because I absolutely don’t want that anymore.
I don’t have to sell myself in that manner. Since I’m not aware of the pressure these women are under, I don’t want to criticize them. But I sincerely think that we don’t have to sell ourselves in that way anymore. The accusation that I’ve previously mentioned were said not by a specific publication, but these articles were published on a certain online forum.
And, what bothered me the most were some comments underneath these posts written by men. You know, if we are in a situation where they can write those kinds of comments, it feels quite disheartening.
On occasion of Record Store Day 2021, a special vinyl edition of your second album “Metal Queen” was released. How does it feel to be discovered by the new generations? Also, how does it feel to be celebrated this way?
Well, it’s amazing. I think one of the greatest rewards for an artist is when you see that his/her music has crossed generations. You know, my husband recently had an interview with the American singer-songwriter Paul Williams, and he mentioned an interesting thing, such as every artist has its own Billboard moment. So, one of my billboard moments was during a show 5 years ago at Pacific Exhibition here in Vancouver.
Then, in the front row of my show there were a grandad in his 60s, a dad in his 40s, and in his shoulders his 8-years-old daughter. They were all Lee Aaron fans. Indeed, I met them at the autograph table, and I was still completely surprised how my music has crossed 3 full generations. As a musician, isn’t any greater joy. About the special edition, unfortunately I don’t own the masters of the first 6 albums, so, my masters went through different ownerships.
And now they are now own by Unidisc Canada. But I agreed to entering a verbal partnership with them for promoting the hot pink vinyl “Metal Queen” release on Record Store Day. Even so, it was important to honor that album not only for its re-release but having it on hot pink vinyl makes it much more special. Indeed, which bigger feminist message can you send? [laughs]
So, Lee, what’s in the pipeline? And which are you next plans? What are you looking forward the most?
Well, one of my next plans is trying to get out and play a few Canadian shows. Here the world is slowly to open a little bit. Considering this, I received a call from my agent with a couple of offers to play on a tour together with other Canadian bands in the fall of which I’m really excited about it. Of course, my European shows are now schedule for 2022. I’m hoping and crying that the Delta variant won’t sideline again.
Due to this, Australia is back on a full lockdown. I’m so sick and over about this, I’m getting enough of COVID and PLEASE, PLEASE people get the vaccine. Then, we have our Christmas album coming out this fall on Metalville Records which is a re-release with two bonus tracks and a new cover.
And, finally, I received an email from Mike Fraser, who has recently mixed the AC/DC latest full-length, where he confirms his availability for August in the studio. This only means that soon we’ll start recording our next LP. We have so much material.
Alas, this was my last question. It was an honor to speak with you again and I hope you have enjoyed my interview. Feel free to conclude our chat as you wish.
Well, I hope that we’ll manage to play in The Netherlands or at the Alcatraz Festival, in Kortrijk, Belgium. And I’d love to get over there and play for you.