|Jackie Chambers - Girlschool - Interview Exclusive|
|Written by Jim Rowland|
|Sunday, 08 April 2012 05:00|
It's a life affirming 32 years since Girlschool (then Enid Williams, Kim McAuliffe, Kelly Johnson and Denise Dufort) first released their 'Demolition' album on the unsuspecting rock buying youth of the United Kingdom. You could almost say I grew up with the band's music as a soundtrack to my formative years, either through gigs or on my stereo. Like most of the people of my age bracket I kind of lost touch with the band during their fallow (for that read AOR) years, but they were always there on the live circuit plugging away. More mainstream interest in the band was once again peaked with the tragic passing of Kelly in 2007 and the ladies eventually returned with a new album in 2008 as 'Legacy' was released both as a celebration of the band's 30th anniversary and also as a celebration of Kelly Johnson's life.
Keeping the 30th anniversary theme in full flow 2011 then saw Girlschool re-record their sophomore album 'Hit And Run' (as Hit And Run - Revisited) and recently when the ladies in question played a London show in support of this album I got the chance to catch up with the band's guitarist Jackie Chambers for a long overdue chat about her time in the band and on life on the road with Kim, Enid and Denise.
So what are Girlschool up to at the moment?
JC: Right now we're on a mini tour of the UK, still promoting the 'Hit And Run Revisited' album. It was the 30th anniversary last year, it should have come out in April for the 30th anniversary, so we're still going on that one.
How's the tour been going?
Really well. We did some Italian shows in January. We've just done Leamington, York, and Manchester and as you know we have London coming up.
You've got some festivals coming up in the summer too
Yeah, the usual ones. We've got Hellfest in France, Rock Hard in Germany, Sonic Rock Solstice in Wales, and we've got Sweden Rock as well this year. Hellfest is always a good one; we played two years ago when Motley Crue played.
You're still promoting the re-recorded version of 'Hit & Run'. What made you revisit that album?
Initially we wanted to do it to get the ownership of the songs back. Obviously the girls signed different sorts of deals when they were 18 and 19 years old, and we didn't own any of the songs. So we wanted to get the songs back, but it didn't quite work out like that. Because it was the 30th anniversary, the record company said why don't you do a re-recording of 'Hit & Run' and we'll release it with a modern sound, and obviously with me on it rather than Kelly. So we thought, 'yeah, why not?' so we just did it.
And it's been very well received hasn't it?
Yeah. I was the only one who didn't actually want to do it. I thought it's a classic record, just leave it alone, but we thought let's just do it and see how it sounds, and it was alright.
So after you've wrapped up promoting this one, are there any plans for a new album of new material?
Give us a chance!! (laughing) That depends on the record company. It seems they put us in every couple of years. It seems to be a two or three year gap these days, but we're always writing new stuff so I'm sure we'll come up with something eventually.
Do Girlschool consider themselves a 'girl band' or a band that happens to be all girls?
As far as we're concerned, we're musicians who just happen to be girls. We get asked a lot 'what's in like to be in an all-girl band', but what's it like to be in an all-guy band? Previously, I've always been in bands with all guys. I've never really thought about myself being a female musician. I played in an all girl band years ago, and we sent a tape to a record company who rang me back and said oh, ok you must be the lead singer? I said no, guitar player, and they said 'Oh, there's two of you then'! They couldn't tell it was girls on tape - how can you tell it's a girl band on a recording? You can't. Girls don't play differently to guys. If you hear out drummer, she hits harder than any drummer I've ever played with!
Certainly in terms of metal bands, Girlschool are seen as pioneers of the all girl band. Do you think that's the case and do you think Girlschool paved the way for the numerous all girl metal bands that followed?
I guess in this country, yes. There wasn't anybody beforehand. You had people like Susie Quatro who were female fronted bands, and you had Fanny and Bertha and those kind of bands, and then along came the Runaways, Go-Go's and Bangles and all that stuff. A lot of people have come up to us at gigs and said the reason they picked up a guitar is because they saw us play, and that's still happening now.
Do you think it's easier now for girls in rock and metal than perhaps it was when Girlschool started?
Probably, yes. They don't seem to last as long though. I don't know why that is, perhaps some get married and have kids or whatever. With this band we seem to be in a little bubble of our own. I was married and divorced and I think I'm the only one out of all of us who ever got married!
What were your influences that made you want to pick up a guitar and play?
I was always into music. I just wanted to write songs and play in a band. It's the same for all of us. Kim and Enid grew up on the same street, and none of the guys would let them into their bands! So they started one together playing covers in pubs, and then when Kelly and Denise joined them in '78, that's when they became Girlschool. For me, I was listening to punk stuff and I just wanted to be in a band and it didn't matter whether it was with guys or girls. All we wanted to do what just to play music.
And you've been in Girlschool for about 12 years now?
Yes, Kelly did her last gig at Wacken. That was supposed to be my first gig and I said no way! Stepping into Kelly's shoes was hard enough without having to do that as my first gig! So I came in after that, and that's when Enid came back as well.
Going back to when Girlschool started, were you aware of them then or a fan?
Not really, no. I'm a few years younger, so I was coming up though the punk stuff really. In their heyday in 1980/1981 I was still at school and listening to Sex Pistols, Ramones and stuff like that. My brother had their single so I kind of knew who they were but I didn't listen to Girlschool until a few years later. Ironically, I met Kim in 1995 through an ad in Melody Maker. She had a side project covers band, and I said I didn't want to join a covers band, but we got on so well over the phone that we met up and started writing songs together. Then we all just became great friends. I became great friends with Kelly and Denise, and Tracy at the time. Kelly always wanted to leave the band, but I had never played lead guitar, so Kelly and Chris Bonacci gave me a few lessons and showed me how to do it!
So when the opportunity came up you were already there as such?
In 1995/6 they didn't have many gigs so Kelly muddled though, because she did want to leave, and I didn't really take them too seriously. But when they were serious, I thought do I join the covers band to get my playing up to par, learn some solos and really practice, and then by '99, Kelly and Chris taught me all the Girlschool songs and I went away and practiced until my fingers bled! And the rest is history! And all those years later I'm still the new girl!
That's always the way with the last one to join!
Phil Campbell's always moaning about that! He's done twenty six or seven years and he's still the new boy!
Well thank you Jackie, for taking the time to speak with us at Uber Rock, it is very much appreciated and all the best with the summer shows and promoting 'Hit And Run - Revisited'