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:: Spotlight :: Prey For Rock And Roll - Cheri Lovedog interview

By: Catherine Naghten

Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll - Cheri Lovedog has lived the life. Her all-girl punk band toured LA in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, supporting rock legends like Guns N’ Roses, Jane’s Addiction and Hole, but never made the big-time themselves.
The film ‘Prey for Rock and Roll’ gives a snapshot of her extraordinary life. She has written the screenplay, most of the songs, and rocks out playing guitar on the soundtrack. I spoke to her on the phone from LA.

Prey for Rock and Roll screened at the Sundance Film Festival and won an award at the Santa Cruz Film Festival. How did it feel to have your first film so well received?

It felt pretty good. You know, when you work hard at something and especially when it's something that’s true to your life, its very risky so, a little nerve racking in a way. So it’s good when people see it and appreciate it. It’s always nice.

As a musician, how did you come to write a play?

I went to a psychic and she told me I should write about my music and write a story and I thought, I should just write a play. So I did.

That’s unusual!

Yeah, a little odd, a little different, but it worked out so she was right!

Did the filmmakers approach you or did you approach them?

They approached us when it was a play in New York and I said I’d do it as long as I got to write the script.

How much of the film is actually drawn from your life?

About 80%. When you write about your life there are other people who’ve been involved in it, so you don’t want to tell their story - you sort of switch things up. I took the collection of all these experiences I had and put them into this one story about this band and told it that way.

Did you have to modify the script much from the play to the film?

In a good way, because with a play you’re very limited - it’s a lot of dialogue. Visually you can’t do as much. It was nice when we had it as a film because we could make a lot of choices about locations and places to put these people to make it more exciting. But we used a lot of the dialogue from the play in the film. We didn’t really have to change it that much. We just got to open it up a lot, which was fun.

How was it working with the director, Alex Steyermark?

It was great. Initially, I kept thinking we should have a female director, just because it was such a female issue driven movie but when I met Alex, he comes from very much the same place I do in regard to music and rock and roll. He’s one of those guys that would be a great mom. He’s really cool and really understanding about women’s issues. He gave me, as a writer, and the actors, a lot of room to just let stuff happen and he didn’t really try to manipulate or get involved too much in that stuff. It was really organic and he was respectful of that so it was a really, really good experience working with him.

Was it hard working with actors who weren’t musicians?

It was scary because a lot of the time when you watch movies with bands in them, and especially if they’re playing live, it’s really obvious that they’re lip-synching or that they really don’t play. So they tend to cut away a lot, or show a close up of a guitar player's hand, then cut away to the actors. We were pretty much determined that whoever these people were, these characters would have to actually play those songs. Even though the music part was played to the record we recorded, Gina’s singing was all done live, so what you see her singing in the film is actually what she did as we were filming the movie. She did not lip-synch at all in the whole film. That was really cool and she actually played guitar too, the lead character could actually sing and play guitar. The other girls really didn’t play instruments but they had coaches and they learned, and went to band practice and the learned the songs and played them. If they were playing live it certainly wouldn’t be very good, they played along with the stuff really well. The hardest person to do that was the drummer. Shelley Cole, who played Sally, had the hardest job because drummers usually don’t get a lot of attention and she did in the film while she was playing. They worked really hard and pulled it off. All my friends were like “damn, they did a great job”- you know what I mean? It was very important to us that it be very realistic, and it was.

Have you had much feedback from other musicians about the film?

Yeah, especially musicians that come from that same time and place that I did - the early punk scene in LA - because it very much captures that feeling. Everybody who I played with really liked the movie because, if they watch it, it’s a thing they can really relate to. I mean, if you were Britney Spears you’re not gonna relate to it you know, ‘coz she never did that…thing. People who’ve been slugging it out in rock and roll - they definitely get it and appreciate it. Also, a lot of women appreciate it on a whole other level as well.

There are some quite heavy issues looked at in the film. How have your audiences responded and how important is that to you?

It’s pretty much all I could ever hope for. When I played live, people would come up to me after and talk to me about really personal stuff because they related to the songs. So when we did the play in New York it was the same thing and it was actually performing some of those stories that definitely affected people. That felt good. If you’re a writer of any kind, whether you write fiction or non-fiction, the fact is you have a story to tell and you like for people to get it, or feel it, or relate to it, or have some reaction to it. A lot of people will react to it negatively because it’s too much for them to deal with and they can’t relate to it on any level, and there are people who are very much affected by it. So its cool, you know. It’s important to me because I wanted to tell a true story about women, and also a true story about rock and roll. It's important to me that people who were in music or have had that kind of thing in their life will understand it, feel the reality of it, and not let it beat them up. You know, you got to come out of it stronger.

What was Gina Gershon like to work with? Did she study you for the role?

We met and we got along right away. We just hung out a lot and talked, not so much about Jacki or me, but she had never experienced a lot of the things her character does in the film, so we talked about that. But she did a good job because my mom said, “oh, she really managed to capture you well”. So if my mom thinks that then, you know she did an excellent job. I’m so happy with what she did. We became friends and we still stay in touch so its cool.

I believe Gina toured the US with a band to promote the film. Did you tour with them?

Actually no, I did not. That’s a sore spot with me. I’m making a little documentary called Hollywood Trash and Tinsel, which is about the making of the movie and addresses that whole issue of them putting together an all guy band to tour with her to support the movie.

Was it hard taking a step back and watching someone else perform your music?

When they did the tour to support the film, I mean Gina was the star of the film, so it would’ve made perfect sense for her to be the front person. I would’ve been happy to just play guitar and sink back. I can have her singing my songs like that; so on that level it wouldn’t have been hard ‘cause it was a promotional tool. It was hard for me that I wasn’t involved and it was hard that it was an all guy band. It was very hard for me to accept that.

you have you writing, your music, and you run a tattoo parlour. How do you fit it all in?[b]

Well, my girlfriend and I both run the shop, so when I’m gone doing stuff she takes over. I mean it’s hard. It’s really hard because when you make a film, you’re not making a lot of money or anything. You’re really sacrificing a lot to go and do these things. It's not easy to do, so you really have to want to do it and really believe in it to do it. It’s a lot of work and you sacrifice a lot to get things done. The end result is great, so it’s satisfying.

How many tattoos do you have?

I don’t even know because I have so many. I have a little bit of space left on my legs and on my stomach and that’s about it.

Is there a favourite?

Yeah, the big one on my back. Gina has it in the film. It’s a lady justice with the scales, and one side the gun and the one side the sacred heart. That’s a huge back piece and I really love that one.

Since you have a lot of creative outlets in your work, what do you do to unwind?

I don’t know that I do yet. I’m hoping that will happen at some point. Like, there’ll be a payoff at some point where I can say "let’s go to Tahiti for a week” or something. As it is now, I work at the (tattoo) shop and I come home and write. I have my other screenplay I’m writing, The Jesus Factor, but I also have that documentary I been working on. That’s pretty much all I do right now.

How long have you had a passion for music?

I always dreamed about playing music but never really did it until I was in the military for a couple of years and when I got out I really wanted to be a rock star but nothing was happening, then the punk thing kind of broke. I was like, I can do this, you know. I just like got a guitar and started writing songs and playing. I finally did what I’d imagined- what I wanted to do.

Were you surprised to finally gain recognition as a screenwriter rather than as rock-star, which is what you worked at?

Yeah because the music is what I did and my whole time in music is what made the movie. I’m forty-seven. I’ve spent a lot of time in music and I’m not ready to beat myself up in clubs again. What I find about the film thing is it’s a very good way to still be creative and I can still use my music so I get to do both now, which is cool. I’ve always written so I love that I’ve found a little success as a writer somewhere.

What do you feel when you’re up on stage?

The best moments in life are those moments when you’re on stage because it’s so self-indulgent. You’re there telling your stories the way you want to tell them, to people who want to hear them. It’s very satisfying. Every moment is different. You have some songs are frivolous and fun and some are really intense. You just take that ride throughout your set. Mostly you just feel really good to playing.

Do you still do gigs with your band?

Yeah, not as much. I don’t beat myself up in the van and tour all over anymore but once in a while we’ll get together and do a few shows and play ‘em and have some fun.