Nikki Corvette was on stage Saturday, July 15th, 2017
“I wanna be like Nikki Corvette”. Let’s start from the mid-90s: how was to listen for the first time to “Gimme My Radio” by the Donnas, 4 teenage girls singing that they wanted to be just like you? Do you consider yourself a role-model, a rock&roll icon?
I was actually stunned the first time I heard "Gimme My Radio", I couldn't believe it was even real that not only did people really know who I was but they wanted to be like me, wow! I guess it started in the late 90s, I started hearing from all these girl bands that were covering my songs and talking about my influence but I thought it was a prank or a joke until eventually I realized that all these girls had been influenced by me!!! I do kind of consider myself to be somewhat of a role model but more of a cult hero than an icon....When I started out in 1978, it was tough for girls in bands but I refused to be stopped. Even though some bands didn't want us on the bills (we were actually thrown off a few shows when they found out there were girls in the band) but I was raised to believe I could do anything I wanted and I fought all the prejudice, booked my own tours, badgered writers until they wrote about us. I ignored the gossip and negativity and forger ahead.
You grew up in Detroit, home of a lot of rock 'n' roll legends: Alice Cooper, MC5, the Stooges, Motown Records… Can you remember the first 3 live shows you saw and which were the first 3 records you ever bought?
I have been to so many concerts it's hard to pinpoint exactly the first 3, but The Stooges and the MC5 were 2 of the very first shows I saw and set me on this path of rock'n'roll insanity. They are still two of my all time favorites and set the bar pretty high. As for the records, just like with the shows I have tried and tried to remember but can't... There's a good chance it was Motown or something poppy/teen idol. Funny story though, when “Kick Out The Jams” came out, I convinced my grandmother to buy it because “Rambling Rose” was on it, then had to avoid playing it because she wanted to hear the Nat King Cole song. I finally played it and she was shocked, but it turned out ok and I had the MC5 album!!!
When (and why) did you move to L.A? What were the differences between your hometown and California (from a musical and cultural point of view)?
I moved to L.A. three different times. The first time with the Corvettes in 1979. We were signing with Bomp and went out to record. We did our first Bomp single “Honey Bop” at Rolling Rock Records with Ronny Weiser producing and Ray Campi on stand up bass and Rip Masters on piano. We were the first group not on Rolling Rock that Ronny allowed to record there, we also recorded a rockabilly pop version of “Popsicles Icicles” that was never released. We did a lot of recording with different producers like The Kessel Brothers, almost Kim Fowley, Rainbow Red Oxidizer from the Seeds and more before we moved back to Detroit to record the Nikki and the Corvettes album ourselves. I moved back again for a short time in the early 80's, then again in 1984. That time I stayed until the end of 2005. I really loved L.A, the weather, all there was to do, the music and movie opportunities and so much more but I always missed the grit, spirit, attitude and heart of Detroit. I didn't know how much I missed it until I moved back. Time just passes by in L.A but Detroit is so tough, you have to fight for everything but it inspires my music so much more. I dream of being able to split my time between both. Life would be perfect...
When you started playing as Nikki and the Convertibles/Corvettes, did you consider your band as a “power pop” act?
I always considered us to be more bubblegum punk than anything else. I always wanted to be a punk band but the guitar player wanted us to be more poppy. Looking back I guess we were kind of power pop, just not as quite gangly guitars and harmonies. We were trying to be the The Dolls/Ramones/Ronettes/Shangri-Las with all of our other influences thrown in.
In your opinion, what’s the definition of “power pop”? And does it fit to describe you (and your music)?
I think I already kind of answered that in the last question but to me Power pop has great harmony and not quite as punk influenced. I don't really have a description of what power pop is and although I don't really think Nikki and the Corvettes was, I think I've come to own some of my more recent power poppy songs and of course I love the title power pop princess bestowed upon me by the king of power pop himself, Paul Collins!
You’ve met a lot of rock’n’roll and punk rock heroes. Please, choose one adjective for each of these guys (and, if you’d like to, tell us one funny story about each of them).
Here's one story that involves Stiv and Greg. Stiv was in LA recording with Frank Seich, probably “Disconnected”. He was having a party at The Sunset Marquis and had just discovered the very strong beer, Carlsberg Elephant, and everybody was kind of drunk. Stiv and I were going to a liquor store for more beer and came up with this brilliant plan to prank Greg Shaw who was also at the party. I had been friends with Stiv for maybe 5 years, we were pretty good friends so when we got back to the room, we walked in holding hands and I sat down in his lap, whispering and giggling together. Then we got up and went into the bedroom and shut the door, jumping on the bed, making crazy noise and stayed in there for awhile, coming out, fixing our clothes, hair and getting dressed. The living room went silent and Greg looked like he just lost 3 of his favorite acts when he thought me and Stiv were hooking up and Cynthia from the B Girls (Stiv's girlfriend, my friend) would find out and everything would explode! We didn't say anything, just went back to sitting together and a while later Stiv grabbed my hand toward the bedroom and I grabbed Jonathan Paley and all three of us went in the bedroom. We told Jonathan what we were doing and he played along. We all thought Greg was going to have a heart attack until he finally figured out what we were up to....
The Corvettes were opening for The Ramones in Toronto and after we finished, Johnny came and found me to tell me how much he loved us and to find out if I was coming to the Detroit show the next night because he wanted to “go out”. I said no because the Detroit promoter really disliked me and wouldn't let me in even if I was on the guest list (she was always trying to throw me out of shows when someone from a band liked me), he said not to worry, he would get me in and when I told him she wouldn't let me in, he said they would refuse to play unless I was his guest. He had been following me around for a while and when he finally said that, I said I'd go to the show just so he would refuse to play until I got in. After that he would give me their tour itinerary and let us open for them whenever we wanted, watch our shows so people could see him and even do interviews with me. He was pretty sweet like that...
I think this one is the last. Johnny Thunders was living in Ann Arbor, probably in Gangwar with Wayne Kramer, and The Corvettes did a few shows with them. I had known Johnny for 6 or 7 years. One night he came to one of our shows and wanted to come onstage with us but we said no, so he asked our bass player and he said it was ok, so he lent him a guitar and Johnny jumped onstage, played a couple chords and threw the guitar offstage, grabbed me around the neck and said girls shouldn't be in bands but I was ok, sang a song with us and left...
I saw a picture of you together with Eric Davidson at the Third Man Party in Detroit: what do you think about Jack White’s activities (musician, producer, label-owner, music-business man…)? And, moreover, how was that Oblivians-Mummies show?!?
I think quite highly of Jack White and all of his endeavors. I loved the White Stripes and have enjoyed his other musical projects as well. He seems very motivated and I appreciate all the different ways he is expanding his music empire, it's like a counterculture alternative to the mass produced cookie cutter world of rock and pop music empires these days. Its so much more grass roots and down to earth. He also is putting his money and business back into Detroit. People seem to look only at the crime and decay and decline of Detroit, but Detroit is one of the all time great rock'n'roll cities. It's a tough city with a ton of heart, soul and hard working people so its great to see someone who made it giving back! I love so much of what Jack White has accomplished and would LOVE to work with him, are you listening Jack???? As for the Oblivians/Mummies show, it was as awesome as you would expect. A few hundred music fans and Detroit music stars packed in a fairly small space just enjoying the moment and some fine music. Plus I got to hang out with Eric Davidson, Amy Gore, Mary Cobra, the Mummies, the Oblivians and so many more cool people, I had an amazing time!!!
And now… How did you end up having an Italian backing band? What did you know about our country before meeting and joining with the Romeos?
I ended up with an Italian band almost entirely by accident but it was obviously fate! Someone wanted me to play a show in Europe and I contacted Franz Barcella about doing some other shows. I didn't have a band at the time and he suggested I use an Italian backing band. I was a little skeptical about going on the road with 3 strangers and wanted to bring my own guitar player but Franz said it would work better to have an Italian band because they would have time to rehearse together. I finally agreed and flew to Norway where the tour would start while they drove up from Italy. The band was Herve Peroncini (Peawees) on guitar and from Miss Chain and The Broken Heels, the Barcella brothers, Franz on bass and Bruno on drums and I met them for the first time 2 days before the tour started. We had one day to rehearse and it was pretty special right from the beginning. We rehearsed a couple hours and played all the songs a couple times, they wanted to practice some more but I thought we sounded great. I considered them my band, not a backing band right from the first show and wrote a song about them “Rockin Romeos” on the third day. Herve wrote music for it and it was part of the set by the end of the tour! I knew the basic history of Italy (Roman Empire, etc) and a fair amount about the art, food and fashion but I am happy to have seen so much of the country and experienced what it has to offer since The Romeos started. I also appreciate the time and friendship people have shown me, taking me sightseeing, excellent meals and drinking and shopping. Special shout out to Lavi, Miguel and Ari!!!
And what’s your idea about Italy right now, after sharing the stage with the Romeos and after doing a couple of European/Italian tours?
I love Italy!!! It's such a beautiful country, the people are warm and generous, the food is amazing and the people who come to the shows are really into music and having fun! I have an awesome band and look forward to new cities, I especially want to see Venice!!!!
Is there any song of yours that you would not play live, but you have to, because you know that your fans want to hear it?
There are a couple Corvettes songs that I have to play sometimes like “Boys Boys Boys” or “Gimme Gimme” but I always have to play “Backseat Love”. I love these songs and I know people want to hear them but I'm not quite that crazy young girl anymore and I sometimes feel a little strange singing them but it's what the people want so...
What’s next for Nikki and the Romeos? Are you going to release other 7”s or an entire album with Hervé, Brown and Franz? What should we expect from it?
Being in a band with 3 very busy people who all have so much going on (other bands, recording studios, tour companies and more) and live on seperate continents is challenging. Herve and I have very successfully written more new songs some of which the band have recorded and several more we will be recording when I'm there in July. I like recording the whole thing with the band all together better even though the songs we recorded with The Romeos in Italy (at TUP studios) and me doing vocals in Detroit worked out very well. We're going for an album but there might be a single or something as well. There have also been some offers for shows and festivals, so hopefully another European tour (or more...)
What do you expect from Punk Rock Raduno? Is there any band playing at the show that you’d really love to catch live?
I expect to have an awesome party/show/festival/hanging out with friends experience at Punk Rock Raduno. Since it's a couple days and we only play one day, I can drink and really enjoy myself for a few days (I never drink before a show and sometimes after its late, we have to travel or get up early or I talk to much and have to worry about losing my voice), so I plan on making the most of it. I am so excited to see New Bomb Turks and the Peawees especially but there are a bunch of bands I know or know of that I've never seen. It's going to be an amazing couple days...
Nikki Corvette interview
Punk Rock Raduno 2 fanzine - 2017