Girlschool have had an iconic status in the British rock and metal scene for over forty years and world-wide recognition as one of the most long-running female bands in history. Guitarist Jackie ‘Jax’ Chambers has been part of Girlschool now for twenty years and I spoke to her via Skype on 11th July to chat about the band ahead of their headline shows in Dublin and Belfast on 18th and 19th July and at the Disturbance Festival in Letterkenny on 20th July.

In addition to talking about Girlschool and picking some of their tracks to play we also chatted about Jackie’s other band, Syteria, and we play one of their tracks.


The interview was included on the Friday NI Rocks Show on 19th July – that Show is now available from our MixCloud page - https://www.mixcloud.com/NIRocks/interview-with-jax-chambers-from-girlschool-and-syteria-on-the-friday-ni-rocks-show-19th-july-2019/

 

 

 

Check out the Girlschool Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/GirlschoolOfficial/

Check out the Syteria website - https://syteria.co.uk/

The interview will be transcribed and posted here later.

 

 

Playlist for the Show

STORMZONE – Cushy Glen

BLACK STONE CHERRY – Southern Fried Friday Night

KRIS BARRAS BAND – Ignite (Light It Up)

GASOLINE OUTLAWS – Light Up The World

DORO – Celebrate (Full Metal Female Version)

GIRLSCHOOL – C’mon Let’s Go

Interview with Jackie Chambers Part 1 (7 min)

GIRLSCHOOL – We All Have to Choose

Interview with Jackie Chambers Part 2 (7 min)

SYTERIA - Reflection

Interview with Jackie Chambers Part 3 (8 min)

GIRLSCHOOL – Hit And Run (With Doro)

GIRLSCHOOL – Guilty As Sin

GIRLSCHOOL – I Spy (Dio Mix)

REUBEN ARCHER (with The Brand) – Love is Blind

TYLER BRYANT & THE SHAKEDOWN – Shock & Awe

EIGHTEENTH HOUR – In Denial

BLUE OYSTER CULT – Burnin For You

GILLAN – Mutually Assured Destruction

SAMMY HAGAR – Heavy Metal

SABATON – Fields of Verdun

Promo Interview with Joakim Broden from SABATON

SABATON – The Red Baron

FAITHSEDGE – Back From This

SINHERESY – Zero One

LICENCE – Line of Fire

DANNY VAUGHN – The Shadow of King John

 


 

NI ROCKS – Hi, thanks for taking some time to talk to Rock Radio NI. The band have just returned from their first ever tour to Australia. How did that go?

JAX – Oh, it was absolutely fantastic. We’ve all wanted to play Australia for so long and there have been a few times where we’ve been booked and something has gone wrong. This time we got out there and we landed and we’re like ‘wow, we’re in Australia...where’s the kangaroos’ (laughs). I just loved it. It was just one of those times – the experience was wonderful, the gigs were fantastic, they really looked after us well. We enjoyed the whole experience. Not so much the travelling – that was a lot of travelling – but the whole experience was fun.


NI ROCKS – Next up for the band are shows in Dublin and Belfast next week. Are you looking forward to getting back over to play here again?

JAX – Yeah, it seems like ages! I’m sure it isn’t, but it does seem like a while. It’s a while since we done Dublin. I did it a few years ago with a band called Blitzkrieg – a punk band. That was great fun. We love it out there. We’ve played Belfast I think the last time we were out there – a one off show. So that’ll be good fun too – I know it will.


NI ROCKS – The band currently have Tracey Lamb filling in on bass again. When do you think you’ll be making an announcement about a permanent bass player?

JAX – Well, she is really the permanent bass player now. We did that trial thing – with her living in Spain, we needed to see if worked out time-wise and things like that. But it’s working out perfectly – it’s like she never left. This is Tracey’s third time back in the band now. When I joined in 1999, she was the bass player then. But she left just before, and Enid came back in 2000. It’s nice to have her back.


NI ROCKS – You mentioned that that you will have been part of Girlschool for twenty years – if not now, very soon.

JAX – Yeah, it’s twenty years. From 1999.

NI ROCKS -   I wasn’t sure when exactly you joined but knew it must be twenty years. What are your memories of joining the band then and did you imagine you’d still be playing with the band twenty years later?

JAX – I met Kim in 1995. She’d answered an ad that I put in ‘Melody Maker’ myself. I was in a band and we’d just split up and I didn’t want to start again. So I put an advert in and she answered it. That was in 1995 so we just went out drinking and hung out. She was wanting to do a side project and because I had a sort of home studio, we were  just writing songs together – just me and Kim. But of course I got to know the rest of the band at that time – going to all the parties and hanging out, so we all just became good mates.

Kelly, even then, wanted to leave the band, and they were always saying ‘why don’t you join, why don’t you join?’ And I was always, nah I don’t play lead guitar, I’m a punk rocker, blah blah blah. So we just hung out. Then in 1999, she said I don’t want to play anymore – please play, so I said ok, thinking it’d just be for a couple of gigs.

They weren’t doing a lot at that time, they were taking time out and just doing the odd gig here and there. They’d booked three gigs – one was The Garage in London, somewhere else I forget and then Wacken was the other one. So I said ok, I’ll join for a little while, thinking that I’d never be able to do it anyway – Cris Bonacci and Kelly helped me out, teaching me how to play the part, Then the first gig came in and it was Wacken in 1999 – and I was like, ‘No! I’m not doing that as my first gig. Not a chance in hell!’ So I thought I’ll do a little one first – I’ll do The Garage – and then I think that fell through and we did one in Luton. So that was my first impression of the band. There was this massive gig and I was ‘no, no, no I don’t want to do that as my first gig. So when I joined the band I just didn’t think it’d be a lot of gigs – just the odd one here and there. Then it just kind of escalated, My first gig was in Luton – there was radio there and TV cameras there – and I thought, ‘oh my goodness, this is incredible’. I was quite nervous. I thought I didn’t really want this; I was just wanting a couple of gigs, thinking it would be a small thing. Just another rock band and a bit of fun. Then the rest is history then – we got on tours, did an album and it just kind of escalated and now I love it. I can’t imagine life without Girlschool really.


NI ROCKS – The first album that you would have been involved in would have been the “21st Anniversary: Not That Innocent” release which largely featured Kelly (Johnson) on guitar I think. Did you play on a couple of the tracks?

JAX – That’s right yeah. I think they had recorded it in 1999 because I was around when they were recording it. Kim was playing me some of the tracks when they were recording and I was going ‘yeah, it’s brilliant’. For some reason it got shelved for a couple of years – it didn’t get put out straight away, like what happens with albums sometimes. Then I joined the band in 1999 and Enid joined in 2000. When that happened we thought we need to put something out, why don’t we put that album out and add a couple of tracks and make it like ‘introducing the new line-up’ as it were, because it would have been two different new people. So we wrote “Coming Your Way” and “Not That Innocent” and released it with those two tracks on it. As a sort of introduction for me and Enid I guess.


NI ROCKS – And the first album that you were fully involved in would have been the “Believe” album released in 2004. We’ll play a track from that album shortly, but what can you recall about recording and releasing that album?

JAX – We did it in Wales, in Sonic One Studios, and we still use that today actually. Tim Hamill. That was an experience for me because it was my first full album. I loved every single second of it and I was involved from the beginning to the end. I have, as I said, the home studio; so I was writing the music in the bedroom and Kim would come over and put some lyrics to it and Enid would come over and put some lyrics to it. And it took off from there really. It was kinda pre-written in the bedroom in Streatham in London and then of course we went into the studio in Wales and put it down. I just loved the whole experience because I really felt involved from beginning to end.


NI ROCKS – We’ll play a track from that album now. Do you want to pick a track and tell us something about it?

JAX – Let me think! “We All Have to Choose” which I think is track 12 or 13. It’s one we don’t do live. I’d written it about Kelly – it’s a little bit about Kelly and quite personal when she was going through a lot of things. At that time I was sharing a house with Kelly. So while I’m writing the album, I’m living with Kelly, so every night I’d be going ‘what do you think of this, what do you think of this’ (laughs) ‘Does it sound like Girlschool?’ She’d run up and down and say yeah I like this one, I like this bit’. She liked that one.

 

 

 

 

NI ROCKS – The band’s latest album was “Guilty As Sin” in 2015. Are we likely to see another album being released at some point?

JAX – There is talk. Now we’ve got Tracey back in we’ve got a new lease of life again. It’s always nice when there is a new energy in the band. I’d love to do a new album. I really would. I really started off as a song writer rather than a guitar player. I play guitar to write songs. I love writing songs and that’s why I put Syteria together of course as well; so I could write more songs and get more songs out there. So I’m hoping that it’s going to be on the cards. It does look promising – we’ve had a few chats with the record company and we’re in talks about that right now. When we’ll do it – I’m not sure – but I think possibly next year. I can’t see it happening this year because we’ve got too much on, but possibly next year.


NI ROCKS – Good stuff! When had writing and preparation for “Guilty As Sin” actually started and what are your stand-out memories from the making of that album?

JAX – I guess we were writing that all along. Like I said I had a back catalogue of a lot of music and what used to happen was that we’d all have ideas and I’d be ringing up Kim saying ‘what do you think of this’? We’re very non-tech – it’s like singing down the phone or on a Dictaphone the old fashioned way. I’d get the music together and I’d put it on a CD and send it to then via post (laughs) – snail mail! That’s how the albums come together and doing “Guilty As Sin”, I think that was with Chris Tsangarides that was. The actual record company, that was their idea and the wanted to use Chris Tsangarides, which was brilliant. It was a new experience again. We went down to his studio in Dover and that was an amazing experience because he has a lot of history. His wall was just covered in gold disks – you name it, he’s done it. Listening to his stories was incredible – I loved listening to his stories. He came up with some great ideas and I got to try out every single one of his guitars (laughs) – ‘this one was played by Gary Moore, this one was so and so’ – that was just a brilliant experience.


NI ROCKS – We’ll play a track from that album (“Guilty As Sin”) later in the Show. Which track would you pick from that album and why?

JAX – Let’s go with “Guilty As Sin” – the title track. We just started doing that one again. I say again – we never did it when Enid was in the band. We just decided to do it for this last tour, so we’ve been doing it this year.

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NI ROCKS - You mentioned the band Syeria and I was wanting to chat to you about that. What was the motivation for starting that band and how did you recruit the other members of the band?

JAX – Everybody in the band knows that I love playing live and that I like writing songs. Girlschool at that time; we’re talking about three years ago, maybe four – yeah 2015; I just thought we weren’t doing enough gigs. I’d been playing with Blitzkrieg, the punk band, and that came to a head – somebody got ill and blah, blah, blah. So I really wanted to play more, and Kim says just start another band or join another band as well. You can fit two things in – you can actually do two bands, because Girlschool were only doing gigs here, there and everywhere. So I thought, yeah that’s what I’m going to do and I started my own band. At least then I could use all these songs that I’d written that hadn’t been used – because I’ve so many. I found Julia (Calvo), the singer via a mutual Facebook friend and we just started looking then for a bass player. We found one in Yorkshire called Keira, and the first thing she said to me was ‘my dad used to play in Raven, have you ever heard of them?’ I’d just been on tour with then for three weeks, stuck in a fan (laughs). And I’ve just come off tour with them again now as well. It took us a while to find a drummer and we couldn’t find a female drummer that fitted, but Julia’s little brother (Pablo) came over from Argentina – they’re Argentinian – and he is just amazing drummer and great singer too. He helped us out for a while and then after that I just thought, he’s brilliant, why not just keep him. That’s how we were formed.


NI ROCKS – You released an album in 2017 after a successful funding campaign on the now defunct Pledgemusic site. Are there are plans for a new album and what can you tell us about that?

JAX – As we speak it is being mixed. I’m literally sat surrounded by cardboard and all sorts of things, jiffy-bags, ready for it all to go out. We recorded it again in Sonic One in Wales last month and it is being mixed as I speak to you and should be back very soon. That was another pledge campaign, although Pledge is now folded, so we did it on Kickstarter. A kind of similar sort of thing, although it doesn’t really work for musicians just yet. It’s not the same platform that Pledge had – it doesn’t have the push as it did, because you can only pledge for one thing at a time. It’s a new platform and it still works; it is definitely worth checking out.


NI ROCKS – The band have played quite a few shows around the UK and done a few international appearances. Are there more Syteria dates planned for the next few months?

JAX – Yeah, we’ve got a few planned. The next one we’re doing is a little show just to showcase the new songs from the album – in Derby. A place called The Flowerpot in Derby on August 9th. We just want to put the new songs in the set – what do you think of these guys? Before the album is actually put out. Obviously with the pledges, we give the pledgers the album first, then we’re going to put it out three months ahead, after the pledgers have got it. So at least they’re getting it before everybody else. We’re looking at options now with different record companies and distributors to see which one we’re going to sign with; and then it’ll be out to the general public – in three months I guess from now.


NI ROCKS – Syteria have a track included on the new sampler album from Rock n Growl Promotions which was released last week. I’m going to play that track called “Reflection” now. What can you tell us about that track and the link with Rock n Growl?

JAX – That is the name of the album “Reflection”. We did that track “Reflection” for the last album “Rant-o-Bot”, but we had extra tracks; we had three spare. So we were going to release it as a single last year, but never got round it to, with so many things going on – the videos, Girlschool stuff etc. So we thought we’d keep it as the title track for the next album; which it is. Then Rock n Growl approached us for a single and that was ready of course. So we thought why not put the title track on, and that should push the album as well with any luck! (laughs)

 

 

 

NI ROCKS – We’ll get back to chatting about Girlschool. You’ve the shows in Dublin and Belfast coming up and there are a couple of shows with Saxon in October I think. What other plans does the band have for the rest of this year?

JAX – There are quite a few. We’ve got festivals. We’re at Wacken. We’re playing Wacken again this year. There are a couple of festivals – there is one in London and one in Wales. I know at the beginning of next year there is talk of a couple of shows getting booked in for the UK, that are our own shows. Starting in early February – they’re not fully confirmed yet, but I have seen the dates and it does looks like it is going to happen in February. We actually have some of our own dates for a change.


NI ROCKS – Girlschool have recorded with a number of artists over the years obviously, but I don’t think you’ve ever actually recorded with Biff from Saxon, although you both appeared on different versions and both sang on Doro’s Celebrate single! Have you ever tried to get Biff to appear on an Girlschool track?

JAX – Yeah actually we did. I think the last time – we did the 30th anniversary, we got Lemmy and everybody on there. Then there were no songs left for anybody else to sing on! We have talked about this a times, saying we should do something, but maybe that’ll be our 50th anniversary! (laughs). Who knows! We sit all the time having a laugh about stuff like that – like a head girl type thing. It could happen – you never know.


NI ROCKS – One legendary rock vocalist that did appear on a track was Ronnie James Dio. He and Tony Iommi performed on the track “I Spy” on the “Legacy” album (in 2008). That was a track that you’d written along with Enid and Kim. How did Ronnie and Tony come to get involved in that?

JAX – That was an interesting time. This was when Kelly was really, really ill – no actually, she had just died. We were literally in the middle of writing an album and she was really ill – about to die, as it were – and I’d written a couple of songs, and I called this one ‘Sabbath’, funnily enough – the music for “I Spy”. You always have working titles when you’re writing a song, and because I wasn’t writing the lyrics, I just wrote the music and I called it...actually I called it ‘Black’ (laughs), because I was feeling very dark because of the situation with Kelly. It was a really hard time for all of us. I gave it to Enid and Kim to listen to and they both went ahh, yes, they really liked it and they both put lyrics to it. It’s called “I Spy” of course and it’s about CCTV cameras. When we heard it we thought it sounded so much like Black Sabbath, because the music was very Sabbathy. When we were in the studio we just said that we had to ask Ronnie to sing this – because it just sounded so Black Sabbath, even the riff sounded very much like something that Tony Iommi could have come up with. We thought, right, let’s ask him! We got on there, asked him and played it to him and he loved it. So he sang on it for us. Then we thought let’s put a bit extra in, because is my version I didn’t actually have a solo in that one for a change. Let’s put an extra 8 bars in there and ask Tony Iommi if he wants to play the solo. So, we sent it to him and he was in Birmingham at the time and went into the studio. He really like it too – best compliment I’ve ever had that; to think that Tony Iommi liked my riff (laughs). And he put a lead solo in the middle. We just put an extra 8 bars in so that he could do a solo.

NI ROCKS – It’s a great track. Both versions that are on the album. It’s a good song.

JAX – Yeah. Obviously, Phil Campbell came down for the day and he played on three or four different ones and we picked which one to use. We loved that solo that he did on there, so we thought let’s use them both. There’s us and him and obviously the Dio and Tony Iommi version.


NI ROCKS – There were very few female rock musicians when Girlschool first emerged or even twenty years later when you joined the band. These days there are loads of strong, high profile female rock artists around. That must be something that you’re very supportive of – the increasing role of women in rock music?

JAX – Absolutely yeah. We’ve always been supportive of everybody else in music obviously. So when we come across bands - when we’re playing live we usually end up with two or three female support bands on tour and things like that. It’s always good to encourage, because they generally do come up to say thank you for being who you are, it’s because of you that I started playing. I’ve had people come up to me, saying that to me, and it’s such a massive compliment, it really is. People need role models or they need inspiration from other women to do this. We never really set out to do that, but because people see our longevity, as it were! Iit’s amazing how many people have said they started playing because of the band, and that is always lovely to hear of course and we support women wherever we can.


NI ROCKS – In terms of the music you listen to yourself, do you find yourself listening to a lot of the newer generation of rock bands or are your playlists more classic rock or punk influenced?

JAX – Myself, I like listening to new stuff, but I can’t speak for the other three. They’re stuck in the ‘80s (laughs). I have ‘Kerrang’ on quite often in the background and there’s a lot of new stuff on there – there’s a lot of old stuff as well. I do like to listen to what is going on. I do like a lot of the older stuff – I love stuff like Foo Fighters and Rammstein still. And I’m a mad Alice Cooper fan still. But I’ll listen to anything, if it’s good. If there’s a song in it I’ll love it.

NI ROCKS – Anything that you’ve listened to recently – newish stuff that you really liked?

JAX – Let me think! You know when you’re put on the spot you can never think! I check out bands when I’m playing live myself and I try to check out bands on the festival days. People say ‘oh, you’ve got to check this band out’ and I go watch them and love them. There’s a band called Eureka Machines, you know them? They’re not really new, they’ve been around a little while. It’s Chris Catalyst – his band, He’s the guitarist for Ghost and played for Sisters of Mercy and Ginger Wildheart. That’s his band. They’re actually from Leeds funnily enough and they’re just brilliant. I love them; they’re a really good band. Who else? You know I can’t think when I’m on the spot! It’s terrible! When I see people at venues that I’m playing I tend to go online then and check them out. There are some great bands out there.


NI ROCKS – Back in 2011 the band released “Hit and Run Revisited” on the thirtieth anniversary of the original album release. I thought we’d finish with a track from that album. Which one would you like to play and why?

JAX – I love so many on that album! Let me think. Let’s go with “Hit and Run”, just because it is the title track and of course it brings back a lot of memories for people, I think, that one. No matter when we do it live, I get to the point that I’m fed up playing it live in some ways because I’ve done it for twenty years. It is different our set, because sometimes we’re playing with all these death metal bands and you see all that screaming and we come on with ‘Hit and Run, Hit and Run’ (singing); it’s almost twee pop (laughs) compared to all this extreme metal. But I think it kind of sets us apart sometimes, because it’s a melodic song, people will sing along to. No matter which audience we’re playing to – it can be death metal audiences, or whatever, and you look out and everybody is singing the song. They’re actually singing and you think Ok that’s good.

NI ROCKS – It is a classic!

JAX – Everybody knows it. That’s what it is. That’s what it is supposed to be about at the end of the day. It’s not how many notes you play – it’s about the song.


NI ROCKS – That’s all the questions that I have, thanks for taking the time to talk to me.

JAX – Thank-you.


 

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Last Updated (Wednesday, 17 March 2021 17:11)