Lee Aaron is a rocker, a mom and the immortal Metal Queen. She’s been rocking the world for nearly 40 years and has released 17 albums, including her latest Diamond Baby Blues.
She’s back with a vengeance and hasn’t finished telling her story yet. We sat down with the Canadian icon for a chat about music, sexuality and being a mom.
You’ve been busy ever since Diamond Baby Blues came out? It’s like a resurgence for Lee Aaron. Is there something you’ve done differently this time that is making the album and your live date so special?
I don’t know if it’s anything I’m doing anything different, you know I’ve sort of come back into the limelight a little bit now that my children are a little bit older, I was actually able to focus on writing and recording again and along with that of course becomes the whole gamut of doing videos comes along with it. I’ve had a greater video presence lately back again on YouTube and Spotify and all of those networks that are out there, as everything is digital out there now of course, right.
There was Fire and Gasoline 2016 and Diamond Baby Blues of course that came out in 2018, so we’ve written and recorded a couple of studio albums just recently and I think the material is strong and I think that’s resonating with fans. Some artists come back many years later and they do something but it doesn’t match the quality of what they’ve done in the past and I think the work we’ve done recently and when I say that I am crediting my band mates as well, not just myself, I think the work we’ve done lately matches the quality if not surpasses what we’ve done in the past and so I’m pretty excited about it.
I hear there’s a live album coming?
There is. I just got the release date into my inbox yesterday. It’s September 20, 2019. It is a live album DVD package. So it’s got a companion DVD. So what it is, is the best of 2 nights in the summer of 2017 when we were touring Europe, Germany, specifically. So part of it is from Bang Your Head Festival and part of it is from a huge nightclub called Hearst night club in Nuremburg. We recorded and filmed live both nights, so we’ve got the DVD on one side and the live album on the other side of the package. So it’s quite exciting and one of the coolest things I’ve done lately, so I’m excited about it.
Going back and talking about the great musicians that are behind you, I’ve been a fan of Sean Kelly for years and it seems like you guys are such a killer pair together.
We do actually. We just have a lot in common. You know he’s a teacher and I work actually in the field of special education out here in BC also with kids and I think for both of us it’s a way of giving back, outside of our music careers.
We connect on a lot of levels. We love children and we love inspiring kids to be musical and to reach their potentials. We both like similar styles of music, but then there is this area where he’s sort of stuck in and likes a lot of that Glammy 80’s rock and I like a lot of that but I dig in further of the past and I pull on blues and roots and blues and things like that, so it actually makes for a really interesting combination of influencing that we’re both bringing into the writing sessions and he’s just a lovely person. We get along really good, we both have families. We joke around; we’re like the Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of the Lee Aaron band.
It’s been a long time since the Lee Aaron project and Metal Queen, can you still relate to the woman that recorded those albums?
On one level yes, on one level no. Obviously when I look back at some of my song writing back then it was coming from the perspective of a 19 or 20 year old girl which was lacking a huge amount of life experience and being full of piss and vinegar bravado, but not knowing completely what I was talking about. Now I can look with wisdom and go okay I knew what I was doing then and I know that with Metal Queen I was trying to make a push back feminist statement but I can see now that perhaps it might have been misunderstood because it was presented to the public by a fairly immature person.
I know that video from Metal Queen was banned in England and also Australia because they saw the video. We were trying to create a “comic book style” female heroine character who prevails against the forces of evil and all of the regulatory advisory boards back then all they saw was there’s a woman getting her arm set on fire, that’s violence towards women. That was such of the day and that was what they were looking for. I don’t think it was necessarily. I kind of think that it’s nice for me now that as a more mature artist to fast forward to the future and bring some of that material and present it with a new face and I really feel that songs and their meanings evolve and change over time. When I play that song nowadays, fans in my age category who have followed me for years feel that it’s an anthem of empowerment for them and that’s a great thing.
With that song Metal Queen, I know a few times you’ve said that it was a battle axe that your burden to carry with you, so have you finally come to terms with that song or will it always carry a stigma?
No I have definitely come to terms with it. I don’t know, that stigma has largely kind of faded away in the last decade and I think again that comes with all of our audience. My audience is between 40-60 years old. Those are the people who remember my songs and I feel as the audience has grown up and matured with me, the music of their youth, takes on a different meaning… their able to look at it from a different world view, so I don’t feel that it carries that stigma.
Years ago, when I got fed up and I didn’t want to play it, it was because people would go oh along with that whole image Metal Queen, just the word Metal being involved in the title brought about a lot of negative ideas for people that I must be this woman who lives this certain type of lifestyle, doing drugs and alcohol, is promiscuous, it was like a tag hung on me that it is what it entails and comes along with that but it couldn’t have been further from the truth and that was frustrating for me because I was like oh my god, everyone has missed the feminist message here. For a while I was like, screw it, I’m not going to play it. Too bad.
Forward a decade where my demographic of audience has the most disposable amount of income, classic rock festivals are now bigger money makers than ever, everybody wants to see the music of their youth lives and why not because all us bands know how to play their instruments and perform. A lot of the new music today everything is so programmed and digitized. I find some of it un-listenable. So that’s what people want to see, so like I said, they are able to come out and experience the music from a new perspective, a new world view.
Do you still have the Metal Queen outfit?
I do not but I can tell you where it lives. It lives at the National Music Center in Calgary. The National Music Center in Calgary, if you don’t know what it is, you should Google it. It’s this incredible, it’s kind of like the Canadian Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It’s this incredible entertainment/education/archival venue.
Maybe 3 years ago, I heard from the curator and he asked me if I had anything that I could donate and I still had the Metal Queen vest and I still had my vintage body rock black leather jacket with all the buttons on it. So I donated it to the National Music Center in Calgary.
Back in the era, you were very sexual on stage but sexuality was all over the music back then do you think that was forced on you at all?
To be completely honest, yes I felt like I was battling a lot. I don’t like to say negative things about former work colleagues, people I’ve worked with, people I respect but there was a real agenda back then especially in the 80’s.
Women were, especially in rock and roll videos, sexualized. Quite often a video would have men parading around doing their thing and then there would be a bunch of scantily clad women that were pretty much ornamental to the video to prop them up to make them look more masculine.
The irony being that they probably had more hairspray and makeup than the women did back then. That was the ironic thing. There was definitely a push for me to fit into cultural marketing of the time. That is something that I was able to thankfully really pull away from and distant myself from later on. I actually went independent in 1992, I’m not sure if you were aware of that, I was actually one of the first acts in Canada to go independent off my label. I can wear whatever I want now. I can do the kind of music I want.
Commercially, the next couple of albums weren’t quite as successful as they had been with a huge label behind me but I think I was a lot happier personally than artistically.
With being a mom, what are your feelings about your daughter seeing some of the bad stuff from back then, now?
To be honest with you, it’s a lot less shocking than some of the stuff like Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry. A lot of the stuff that’s out there makes a lot of my former early stuff look mild. So honestly, it doesn’t really phase her.
They’ve seen all my videos in the past. I know that when she was in Grade 2, she came home and she said my buddy Jaden said his mom showed him a video and there’s some giant robot thing and I’m thinking what video is she talking about, she must mean Metal Queen with the giant silly aluminum drum rizer and she was literally lasted half the video and she said that’s it and I said yeah.
She was bored because it wasn’t CGI and didn’t have all these special effects that she was seeing. I have talked to my own daughter extensively about the fact that these are some of the obstacles that mom encountered when she was young and I maybe didn’t have the strongest support network around me like you have around you so you need to be aware that everything you wear sends a message. So we’ve had a lot of discussions around that absolutely.