I remember my first encounter with Girlschool: It was the second LP `Hit And Run’, released in 1981. I got it on cassette that very same year through tape trading. That tape, featuring incredibly rebellious songs such as ,,C’mon Let’s Go’’, ,,Kick It Down’’, ,,Hit And Run’’ and ,,Yeah Right’’, has been spinning countless times in my cassette player and are now stuck in my head forever. At the time the songs felt like a true revelation during the rise of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, because these chicks from London knew how to rock! The amazing fact is that Girlschool is still around in 2016. They have never given up on rock ‘n roll and heavy metal and are now on tour with the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal legend Saxon. Before the show in 013, Tilburg (NL, 11th November 2016), I got the chance to have a little chat with guitarist/singer Kim McAuliffe, bass player/singer Enid Williams, lead guitarist Jackie Chambers and drummer Denise Dufort in their dressing room.
(Photo taken from Girlschool Facebook)
Well, I can tell you that in this case there is not much difference between a guys and girls dressing room: open bags, instruments, clothing, laundry, beer bottles, soda cans, food, phones and towels are everywhere. In less than a minute it is also crystal clear these ladies are as uncomplicated and fun as their music. What you see is what you get, all very down to earth, very kind, but with a strong message! The very same message Girlschool had when they started in 1978: Girls can play rock ‘n roll!
Enid remembers it all very well but believes there is still a lot to do on a global scale. ,,When we started with Girlschool, people loved us because we were female. And yes, things have changed really a lot and gone forward over the years. You see more girls and women playing in bands now, although there were a lot in the late seventies in the punk scene for a couple of years and then they disappeared again. But when you see someone like Trump, who can talk about abusing women, grabbing their crutches and can still be president? That means things have gone backwards for women in some ways as well. In the seventies I was quite angry about the situation for women, so our message at the time was: `No, we are girls and we do what the hell we like! We play music and no one tells us we can’t do’. And although it is not necessary spoken, the fact that we still play rock ‘n roll is not what people expect of women when they get passed 50. But I still feel the hunger for going `fuck you’ and as long as I don’t hurt anyone, yeah, I’ll do the hell whatever I want! Women in their 50’s, like Hillary Clinton, are expected to say they are devoted grandmothers who bake cakes. Well, you know what? I like baking a sugar free, fat free, wheat free granny cake, but that is not necessary what women have to do, especially when they are older. So don’t expect us to sit in a chair and watch television for the rest of our lives. Like Jackie is saying, we are not Martha Stewart!’’ [All laughing.]
The answer to the question if they feel Girlschool has been a role model to other women, comes first from Kim, who looks up from her bag, apparently searching for something, saying: ,,We’ve been told, yeah’’. Enid reminds it wasn’t the case in the beginning and she feels Girlschool have been kind of alone in its early fight because there were maybe two other all female metal bands but they were American and America seemed like Mars to them. But because of YouTube and the Internet young girls and women have now found their way to the music of Girlschool, Enid explains. Jackie adds: ,,It is really nice when people come to you and say they picked up the guitar or started playing drums or sing because they have seen you play live. It is the biggest compliment ever and it is really nice to inspire people. I mean we all started like that.’’
The advise Girlschool wants to give to young girls who want to become a musician is simple according to Denise: ,,Just keep playing.’’ Jackie: ,,Do it because you enjoy it. Don’t go into it because of the money.’’
(Photo taken from Girlschool Facebook)
MOTÖRHEAD AND SAXON
It is obvious Girlschool still have the passion to play live and to go on tour. I wonder how important this current tour with Saxon actually is for them. Enid reacts: ,,Very important! Last year, 13th November, our album `Guilty As Sin’ came out, it happened to be the day of the terrorist attacks in Paris. Two days earlier Phil `Philthy Animal’ Taylor [former Motörhead drummer] died after being ill for a few days and two days after our release we were going on a European tour with Motörhead and Saxon. It all felt very strange. We toured for about a month, had a break for Christmas and then Lemmy died. So that tour stopped all of a sudden in the middle of it. The tour we do now with Saxon feels a little bit like a continuation of that tour.’’ Jackie agrees: ,,Yeah, it feels like where we left off almost. The first couple of days were definitely a bit emotional and it was kind of weird too.’’
When I ask how different touring in 2016 is comparing to the eighties and nineties, they all start to laugh when Kim says: ,,Driving, travelling, hanging around, waiting. It is still the same in 2016!’’ ,,And no sleep’’, Jackie adds.
Back in the days the fun factor involved a bottle of alcohol and staying up all night, mentions Enid, but those wild times seem to be over. Jackie shouts the fun factor is now chocolate cake and she shows me a huge piece of dark brown hallelujah sweetness in a box. According to Kim, they of course still have fun: ,,We have a few drinks here and there, but I can’t do it anymore like we used to do anyway. I don’t think anybody I know can. It is too painful the next day. So at one point we go back to the hotel and watch something on the IPad or so.’’ Jackie laughs out loud: ,,Yeah because it takes you two days to get over the last gig.’’
(Photo taken from Girlschool Facebook)
Of course there has been a lot written and said about the reputation of Girlschool over the years, true or not, but Enid feels the biggest misconception about Girlschool is that it almost seems Motörhead invented them. ,,Although we are really close to Motörhead, we love them and they have been absolutely amazing to us over decades and decades, we were already an active band. We had a single out that has been played on the radio and we have done hundreds and hundreds of gigs even before we met Motörhead.’’ ,,But they were certainly very massive in our career’’, continues Kim. ,,Because if we hadn’t met them, we wouldn’t have met our manager or the record company. And who knows what direction we’ve got have been in. So they have been a massive influence on our career.’’
(1981: Photo taken from Girlschool Facebook)
Speaking about Lemmy, soon it will be December 28; the day Lemmy Kilmister left our planet at the age of 70. Kim still can’t belief it is almost a year ago already: ,,On stage we dedicate the song ,,Take It Like A Band’’ to Lemmy and to Phil. It is a song about being on the road. Yeah, that sums it up.’’ Enid thinks one appreciates the moment more. ,,Because not only Phil and then Lemmy died, which was just massive, we are also huge David Bowie fans, who died a week later. Then a close friend of us died at a young age and also the death of Prince was a huge thing for us. He was an incredible person. It gave us more of a sense to really enjoy life because you never know how many tours there’s going to be ahead and who is going to be around.’’
Although the road hasn’t always been easy for Girlschool, the band never gave up and they all agree on the why, which is being stubborn, stupidity and the love of doing this. For Jackie there is absolutely no point faking it. ,,We still love the music and if you enjoy it you just keep on doing it. If the passion is gone you have to stop.’’ Enid also points out: ,,We can do it is because we don’t have any kids.’’
Back in the days none of them could imagine the band would still exist in 2016 after a career of 38 years. Kim remembers: ,,When we were quite successful in the beginning of our career, I said to Kelly [Johnson, lead guitarist/lead vocals, R.I.P.]: ,,`When we are all 40, or in the year 2000, we’ll make sure that we all to meet up somewhere and all get together sometime.’How the hell should we have known we were still doing this and seeing each other all the time? It seemed so far in time. No, I don’t think we have learnt any lessons, that is why we are still here.’’ [Laughing] Jackie agrees: ,,They say the older the wiser you get, but that is not really in our case. But I would say, don’t listen to what other people say and just go with what you’ve got. Go with your heart. People in the music business are manipulative and if you listen to the wrong people you go a lot wrong roads ahead.’’
Seeing Kim, Enid, Jackie and Denise being passionate on stage, you keep wondering what they do when they are not on the road, in the studio or in the rehearsal room. The fact there is not much private information to be found, Kim explains straight forward: ,,Nobody really ever asked and therefor we could get away with a lot more without people really know about it.’’ [Everybody laughs.] So now I pop the question: What do you do in your free time?
Denise who is apparently glued to her phone most of the conversation looks up and answers with a big smile: ,,Stay on the Internet.’’ Jackie, who likes writing songs, being physical active or read a book, is clear on her band mates: ,,Enid does gardening and meditation, Denise watches television and Kim is into rabbits!’’ Enid: ,,Yeah, Kim and I both love gardening but I am also an astrologer. I do rock astrology quite a lot in between.’’ Kim: ,,And I got a boyfriend, who has kids and grandkids. He is a grand dad now. [Laughing] I’m a step mom but not a step grand mom. No, not me! So there is a lot that hasn’t got to do with rock ‘n roll isn’t it?’’
(Kim (L) and Enid (R); Photo by Conny van den Heuvel)
The clock is ticking and Girlschool has to get ready to go on stage. I have one more last, important question: Can the fans expect a new album anytime soon? Enid is very clear about it: ,,We are not thinking about an album right now, because we are now only thinking which hotel are we staying in tomorrow night and buy some shampoo for the next gig. [All laughing.] Then Jackie gives the redeeming answer: ,,We will release a live DVD first. There is no release date set yet but it will be somewhere next year. First we will do this tour until December 22nd, having a break for Christmas, recover from New Years Eve and then see what comes along.’’
(Jackie; Photo by Conny van den Heuvel)
Less than half an hour later, Enid, Jackie, Kim and Denise are rocking out on stage, show some balls with ,,Demolition Boys’’, ,,Kick It Down’’, ,,Hit And Run’’, ,,Future Flash’’, ,,Yeah Right’’, ,,Watch Your Step’’ and ,,Race With The Devil’’. Little jokes, smiles and interaction with the audience tie the songs together. And like they promised earlier they play ,,Take It Like A Band’’ for Phil and Lemmy. But they also bring an homage to Ronnie James Dio with ,,I Spy’’ and remember us about the night of the Bataclan attack in Paris one year ago with ,,Come The Revolution’’. It almost seems logic that ,,Emergency’’ serves as the closing song for this very entertaining gig. Tonight Girlschool definitely proves: 50 plus chicks can still be rock ‘n roll!
(Kim; Photo by Conny van den Heuvel)
(Denise; Photo by Conny van den Heuvel)
(Enid; Photo by Conny van den Heuvel)