Punk rock icon Joan Jett has been very busy. In the past month alone, the guitarist/singer has released a Greatest Hits album as well as “Joan Jett,” a pictorial-based biography by designer Todd Oldham. Perhaps nothing is higher profile, though, than The Runaways, the new biopic about her life in the eponymous, groundbreaking all-girl group she co-founded in 1975. At 16, she was already redefining what being a girl meant, offering an entirely new picture to the public of what a woman can do with a guitar and a pair of leather pants.

Then, there is the Joan Jett Blackheart model Gibson guitar, a variant on her much-loved Melody Maker. Her long-term relationship with Gibson started with her first Les Paul guitar, which she nearly equates to a lover – smart, attractive and something you'll want to hang around with in the morning. At 51, she hasn’t lost any of her snarling edge and, frankly, if you don’t like it, then she probably wouldn’t want you around anyway.

What made you first pick up a guitar? ??

I asked my parents for a guitar for Christmas when I was 13. I wanted to make the noises I was hearing on the radio from songs like “Bang a Gong” by T-Rex or “All Right Now” by Free, so I had to get a guitar.

What drew you to Melody Makers?

Actually, after the Sears Silvertone my parents got for me, my first real guitar was a Gibson Les Paul. Once I was in The Runaways, I saved up some money and I got this beautiful blond Les Paul Deluxe and its pickups were reversed; the treble pickup was the bottom one which made the toggle switch in the right place for my hand. It’s a heavy guitar, the Les Paul, and so I was actually looking for a lighter guitar as a number two. One of my roadies, at the time, had worked with Eric Carmen from The Raspberries and knew Carmen had a guitar he wanted to sell. It was a Gibson Melody Maker double-cutaway, California-style, and so I bought this guitar second hand. It turns out it was the guitar that played on “Go All The Way,” The Raspberries hit; that’s my white guitar.

It had lots of coats of white paint and, as I would take it to the clubs, the paint would crack. So my guitar has the most incredible cracked finish. It’s all discolored from the smoke in the clubs, so it’s like a yellowed white and it’s got cracks in the shellac…and it’s just beautiful. And now, it’s off the road and it’s in a cedar closet being kept safe. 

How much input did you have in the making of the Joan Jett Blackheart Model Gibson guitar

I had a lot of input, right down to the pickups. They tried to copy the pickups from my original Melody Maker, which were hand-wound coils, and they did a really great job. I think we created that pickup sound. The body style, the toggle switch position — including the direction it goes on and off — is so you can keep your hand on the volume knob but you can kick the toggle on and off with just your pinkie. I’m somebody who has to kick off the guitar really fast, a lot of times with the volume up, so you can’t have the guitar banging around making a lot of noise. I think it’s just a convenience for people who use the guitar a lot — less hand movement. Since it’s a black body, I wanted some color, so the red set dots. Also, I wanted to mark the 12th fret in a special way, so I did the double hearts, point to point. And it plays really nice, too. Real smooth.

And it has your signature at the top.

Copied Les Paul and put it right in the same place. 

Aside from being one of the first women in punk, you also started your own label, which was an unusual thing to do at the time. Was there a lot of trepidation in doing that or were you pretty sure there were people who wanted to hear your stuff?

There was a lot of trepidation. It was just trying to keep our head above water, really. We didn’t know what else to do, so we figured the kids want a record and we have the record, so let’s just put it out ourselves and maybe we can sell some. We printed up a few hundred and they sold out real quick. So we printed up more and it just started to snowball, because at the same time, we were getting support from the local radio stations in New York.

You have worked with everyone from Darlene Love to The Germs to Paul Westerberg. How did these musical pairings come about?

With Paul, I’m a big Replacements fan, so that’s how “Androgynous” came about, because I was just a fan of the band and I wanted to cover it. Then I was lucky enough to write a song with Paul called “Backlash” [from 1991’s Notorious]. Kenny [Laguna, Jett’s longtime collaborator] worked with Darlene many years ago in the late ’60s and early ’70s. In the ’80s, Kenny started working with Darlene again, managing her while she was singing and doing some film work. So she came in and sang background on some songs. 

What would you say were the major differences in being an executive producer on the film as opposed to producing an album?

Producing music is easier, because you know what you’re doing; whatever is on tape you’re creating in sound. I mean that’s what I do. And in the film, I saw my main duty as being a resource for Kristen Stewart and helping her get where she needed to be, wherever that was, to become me and to embody me. Secondarily, not too far secondarily, but still behind that, because if that’s not right then none of it can be right, I wanted to make sure the whole story stayed in the ballpark of believability and authenticity. I wanted it to be real and to really evoke the feeling of what it was like to be there, to be us.

Was there artistic license taken in the movie and, if so, were you satisfied with the way it was used?

There were some embellishments. It is a movie. But the embellishments didn’t change the theme of the story.

Aside from [lead singer] Cherie Currie, had you kept in touch with any of the other members of the band?

I kept in touch with [drummer] Sandy West throughout the years, but Sandy passed away in 2006, unfortunately. She wanted this movie to happen and would have been happy with it. But I have not kept in touch with the other girls.

Any particular reason for that?

People lost touch, there’s no reason for it. I wish them all the best and love them all dearly. We went through some special stuff together. I have no ill will towards anyone.

What involvement did you have with the Todd Oldham book?

It’s a book about my life, so we did interviews, wrote some text and picked the pictures, some of which came from my family and from my mom. I mean, Todd did most of the work, but I certainly had to approve it.

Would you consider yourself protective of your image?

Somewhat, yeah. I’m not super-rigid, but I’m not being super-liberal either.

On the Rolling Stone list of “100 Greatest Guitarists,” in terms of women, it’s just you and Joni Mitchell. Who else do you think should have been included?

So many people could have been included. You’ve gotta take all those things with a grain of salt; they have one every year, don’t they? 

Your role in Rocky Horror Picture Show [Jett played Columbia] was very well-suited to you. Have you considered going back to Broadway? Maybe expanding your range?

You can never say never. I admire those actors so much, because it’s a really ass-kicking job to do. The Broadway schedule is really intense, but you know, let’s see. It could come up and maybe. I really like playing rock and roll and being on the road and stuff, so it’d have to be something really good to make me want to stop again for a year. It took a while for my hair to grow back.

It was short?

No, it was bald. It wasn’t for the role either; I just did it. And the more everyone bitched about it, the longer I kept it. 

Ah, right. That was a number of years ago now.

Yeah. Actually, I shaved my head for the millennium, and to sort of take stock of my life and everything, so it was a spiritual exercise; but as soon as I started to get a response to it, I got really pissed. Number one, the fans were acting horribly and I was like, “You guys are fans of the music! And number two, you’re fans of a woman who breaks the rules about what a woman’s allowed to do — and you’re pissed at me for shaving my head? Go find someone else to like. I don’t want those kind of fans if you’re gonna be like that.”

That’s awesome.

I’m serious. You misunderstand who I am if you’re giving me (expletive) for shaving my head. It makes me mad.

As a public figure, are there issues that you’re happy to be able to use your celebrity to bring focus on?

Yeah, but more as just a musician. I think you have to be careful with the celebrity aspect of it with it, because it can also backfire. I’m not saying to shut it, but sometimes you want to be careful about how you use the media and the press to your advantage as a celebrity. I prefer to auction something off for a cause than necessarily handle it another way.