Joan Jett takes no prisoners. From her early days of breaking in with The Runaways to her solo act and the super stardom that followed, Jett has had ups and downs but always keep true to the music. After many decades her stage show still electrifies and takes no prisoners. Jett sat down at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival in Park City (where her documentary “Bad Reputation” is playing) to discuss fighting for equality, battling for her place in rock and advice to those women following in her footsteps.
What is this documentary about for you?
Joan Jett: I think the film is in part about women empowerment and diversity. It’s about how my life was such a struggle to get there. To move forward with my career when I was told as a woman I couldn’t rock! It wasn’t easy to make it in this men’s world. It’s unbelievable that I was told one too many times I couldn’t play rock n’ roll! It made no sense to me and it was not easy to overcome this prejudice.
Was it challenging and eye opening making this documentary in retrospect?
JJ: Not so challenging in the sense that I stayed myself during the making of it. I knew I had to be true to who I am as an artist and I trusted the people who were making the film. It’s a teamwork. I did my part by being myself. Maybe it opened my eyes about the many challenges I had to face to get to this point in my life…to be here with this documentary. When you live the struggles, you don’t necessarily realize them. But with distance and time, I now realize how painful this was at the time; this journey and how difficult it was to do what I really wanted to do…which is to simply play rock n’ roll! But overall it is quite surreal to have a movie in Sundance about your life, that’s for sure. I’m quite a humble and private person so it’s a little strange to see so much focus being on myself! But for now I gonna sit back and enjoy the ride!
Have things changed for women in rock?
JJ: I’m not so sure! You don’t see too many girls rocking onTV or listening to them on the radio. Not too many swinging the guitar out there. So I’m not sure. It seems like rock is still a man’s world. But with my label I try to counter that and to give girls a chance, like with FEA, one of the new bands I back up (Writer’s Note: they appear in the Doc towards the end and some of them were in another Joan Jett produced band called ‘Girl in a Coma’). And even if we don’t have too many girls doing rock n’ roll, you have some many talented young women rocking the stage and the music business. So many singers are women today and they do control their destiny much more than in the past. Some of them even have their own music label like I do. Overall I think we have a long way to go for women in rock to have equal opportunity. We are not living in an all liberated and equalitarian society in spite of what some of the media is saying. I can still see the fight going on for women in every path of life to make their mark, and it’s not easy for them…it’s not easy. So I just hope that by setting an example with my life that other women keep their dream alive and keep fighting for it! But we have a lot of issues to still deal with and discuss like the sexual harassment issues we are facing now. But I want to believe that with time and the proper education we will keep making progress.
What would you tell young girls today?
JJ: Just follow your Dreams! Never give up on your Dreams! Life is not an easy path but anything you are passionate about you should fight for and try to get to it. If you don’t go for your dreams you will always wonder: “What if?” What if I had taken a chance and fought a little longer to really do what I wanted and become who I wanted to become. Don’t let anyone tell you how to live your life…unless you’re under 18 and your parents give you good advice!
Interview By Emmanuel Itier