GIRLSCHOOL's Jackie Chambers: A legendary guitarist from a legendary band.....

Greetings brothers and sisters! Today, we will be chatting with the one and only Jackie Chambers, guitarist extraordinaire for the one and only pioneers of British heavy metal, GIRLSCHOOL....

Hello, Jax! It's truly an honor to chat with you today.... Welcome to Metal Maidens.
Jackie Chambers: Hey, long time, no see!""

Jackie, I have been a fan of GIRLSCHOOL since the old "Screaming Blue Murder" days. Were you also a fan before joining the band?
Jackie Chambers: “Only “Screaming Blue Murder”, eh? Not as old as some of the fans then... I'm a few years younger than the other girls, so whilst they were rocking and rolling, I was still at school and listening to punk rock. I was always into ALICE COOPER and a few of the cross over bands back then, but didn't really get into rock until much later. My brother had the “St. Valentines Day Massacre” single, but that was the only song I'd heard.”

Yeah, "St. Valentine's Day Massacre" was a great tune. What songs really kicked your ass after first meeting the band?
Jackie Chambers: “When I met the girls, Kim gave me all the albums to listen to and the songs that jumped out to me were “Don't Call It Love”, “Play Dirty” and “On My Way”. We've never played any of them live, since I've been with the band, which is a shame. There's so many other great songs to chose from with so many albums out there and it’s getting harder with each new album, too.”

What other bands did you grow up listening to and what guitarists influenced you to start playing guitar on your own?
Jackie Chambers: “The first album I ever heard that blew me away was ALICE COOPER’s “Welcome To My Nightmare”. An ex played it for me, when I was about 15 and I had to hear more and more and have been a huge COOPER fan since that day. I've always loved ALICE COOPER, THE CULT and QUEEN. I never really planned to be a guitarist. I just picked one up to write songs originally, found I couldn't sing and play at the same time, so grabbed a friend to sing and it continued from there. The guitar players I love are the more melodic rock players, like Brian May, Steve Stevens and Billy Duffy. They all have great riffs and their solos are usually melodic and interesting.”

At what age did you first pickup the guitar, Jackie?
Jackie Chambers: “I was a late starter. I was about 17, when I first bought one, an old Kays catalogue guitar (2nd hand) with a JHS amp. I kind of liked the tremolo on it. They were both old and battered and the guitar was pretty awful to play on to begin with, but then when I got a better guitar with a better action, it all started to feel much easier. My fingers were very greatful!”

What kind of gear do you use today and why?
Jackie Chambers: “I use a custom made Chandler guitar as my 1st guitar. It was customized for me, so it’s light and feels perfect for me to play. It has Seymour Duncan pickups and 2 single coil fender pick ups in it and spirzels, which make my life much easier when changing strings. I have a few other guitars, a lovely white flying V Dean guitar, which sounds fantastic, a Gibson flying V Daisy and Luna guitar in my collection amongst others and I've just picked up a 1966 Fender Stratocaster, too. I use a Marshall JCM 800 amp. It's the original amp, that Marshall gave to Kelly back in 1978-80 and it sounds fantastic. There’s a lot more to it than the new ones, I think.”

Had you been in any previous bands before joining GIRLSCHOOL?
Jackie Chambers: “Yes, quite a few. Far too many to mention..zzzzzz! I guess, the only ones I played in, which were signed or professionally managed were DEJA-VU, FLOWERS FOR AGATHA, BLEECH and VIRAGO. None really did very much though, just known in the UK.”

I know the circumstances in which you joined the band were very tragic with the passing of Kelly Johnson, but how did you decide to become a permanent member of the band? You were friends with them all first, right?
Jackie Chambers: “I met Kim in 1995, when I'd placed an advert in the Melody Maker looking for a new band. Kim called me as she and the rest of GIRLSCHOOL were all doing side projects, besides the band. We met, got on well and started to write songs together... Well actually, we usually just ended up in the pub, but hey.... I met Kelly, Tracey and Denise at the same time and we all hung out together. Kelly wanted to leave the band even then and do something new, but at that time I only really played rhythm guitar. I joined a covers band to push my playing and Kelly and Cris Bonacci gave me a couple of lead guitar lessons, taught me the set and then in 1999 I joined GIRLSCHOOL.”

I am sure you get this question a lot, but was it hard stepping into the role of lead guitarist for the band with the memory of Kelly still very fresh in everyone's minds?
Jackie Chambers: “I didn't really think about it. Of course Kelly was an amazing guitar player, but we just used to laugh a lot, when she was teaching me the songs. I was having a lot of fun and we were the best of friends. There was never any competition. She actually wanted me to and persuaded me to join the band.”

Do you think the transition was harder for yourself or the other girls in the band?
Jackie Chambers: “It must have been harder for Kim and Denise as they'd played with Kelly from 1978 until 1983 (?) and then she'd come back to the UK and played for a couple of years again. They'd been close friends, but by this time I was sharing a flat with Kelly and me, Kelly, Denise and Kim hung out a lot together. It felt like being in a band with my mates. Kelly sometimes even came down to the rehearsals to hang out with us.”

How did fans first react to you at the live shows?
Jackie Chambers: “My first show was actually in 2000, when Enid came back to the band. We did have a couple of rehearsals in 1999 but no gigs, so I guess in some ways it didn't really hit me that I was in GIRLSCHOOL, until I showed up for my first gig, which was in Luton. We got there and there was a film crew and a live radio interview. Talk about being thrown in at the deep end... Then it was real: 'Yikes, I'm really playing lead guitar with GIRLSCHOOL!' The reviews were pretty good, but I'm sure they were just being kind (lol). I just stood there rooted to the spot, concentrating really hard on playing well.. I probably looked like a rabbit in headlights!”

GIRLSCHOOL really are legends and pioneers in heavy music. Do you get a bit overwhelmed sometimes and have to pinch yourself to make sure you’re not dreaming - haha?
Jackie Chambers: “I love playing guitar with the girls and feel very blessed to be able to travel the world doing what I love for a living. Yes, I guess, that I do pinch myself every so often.”

This band has had so many accolades over the years and been an inspiration to many musicians of today, that has to make you feel great pride to be a part of that legacy and also a bit humble as well. Do you agree?
Jackie Chambers: “Absolutely! To have young girls come up to you and tell you, that 'they picked up a guitar, because they saw me play a few years back' is one of the best feelings ever! And yes, very humbling indeed!”

The band recorded the single "Emergency" for the victims of the earthquake in Haiti. How did you all get involved with that?
Jackie Chambers: “Well, Andy from Livewire sent me an email asking if we'd like to be involved. Of course we wanted to help where we could. We'd recorded “Emergency” in 2005 as a download single to release for the MOTORHEAD tour and told the Livewire team, that they could use the original backing track, then add to or take away whatever they like. Of course Lemmy sang a vocal, the Livewire kids added bits of guitars and drums and Rudy added his parts. Hopefully, it will make some money for Haiti. They need it, even more than ever now.”

I heard a rumor, that you guys are in the studio at this moment re-recording the classic CD "Hit and Run". Can you shed any light on that for us?
Jackie Chambers: “We went in the studio at Christmas and finished the album over New Year! We're just waiting for all the art work, pictures and the record company to release it now. We wanted to own our own songs and release a new version for its 30th anniversary this year!”

Will there be a tour supporting “Hit And Run” and will the band only play songs from that CD?
Jackie Chambers: “Yes, we should be doing a tour later on in the year. We're just back from Brazil and it's the first time ever in the bands’ thirty-two years, which is exciting, but besides the odd gig here and there, we should be doing a few festivals as well. As for doing all of the “Hit And Run” album, we do most of it already, so we'll have to have a think about that one.”

So that means, that the classic "Screaming Blue Murder" is on next, right (haha)?
Jackie Chambers: “Yep, we had a laugh about that, too. When we get to Legacy again, then surely we'll be in the ‘Guiness Book Of World Records’, if we're still performing “Emergency” by then. We might literally mean it...999...(lol).”

Is there a CD of brand new GIRLSCHOOL material on the horizon sometime soon, I hope?
Jackie Chambers: “Well, let's get this one out there and promoted and then we'll start thinking about new material again, honest!”

The CD "Legacy", which was released in 2008 had a virtual all-star team of musicians contributing to it. How cool was it to work with guys like Ronnie James Dio, Lemmy and Tony Iommi - just to name a few?
Jackie Chambers: “Yeah, the whole experience was amazing! Never knew what we'd hear next. It all started, when the MOTORHEAD fan club asked us to do a cover of a MOTORHEAD song in a very different way, so we did “Metropolis”, but it ended up sounding too Motorheadish, so we had Tim Hammil, our producer, come up with a radically different dance version for their CD. We asked Eddie to do one of the solos on the song and had it on our album as well. Then seeing as though we were in Wales I got hold of Phil, who was back home for Xmas. He came down and played the solo on about five songs and told us to chose, then I sent Lemmy a text asking if he'd sing. He sent a text back, that made me laugh. He said ‘What do you want, Jax? Bass, vocals, harmonica or triangle?’ Of course we got him to do bass and vox, but had to get him to do the triangle, too! (lol) Then of course we contacted everyone else who appears, the rest is history.”

The passing of Ronnie James Dio was such a heartbreaking thing for the entire metal community. Did you know him very well?
Jackie Chambers: “I wouldn't say I knew Ronnie well, but the times I have met him, I really liked him. He was a very talented and intelligent man and it's totally heartbreaking!”

In my mind, I know Ronnie, Kelly, Cliff Burton, Randy Rhoads and Dimebag Darrel are all sitting around, drinking a few beers and laughing about all the good old days.. What do you think, Jax?
Jackie Chambers: “Oh yeah and can you just imagine that jam.. Wow!”

Without GIRLSCHOOL, there would be no CRUCIFIED BARBARA, HYSTERICA, FRANTIC AMBER or any of the dozens of female bands and musicians out there playing in the scene today.. What is your opinion of women in hard rock and metal and the popularity they seem to have finally achieved?
Jackie Chambers: “It's about time really. There are so many talented female musicians and it shouldn't matter what sex you are. If you’re a good band, then you’re a good band. We've had a lot of girl bands play with us over the years and they've not really had much success. There's the odd band, that have done really well, like THE DONNAS (I know Alison is a GIRLSCHOOL fan and they kind of sound a bit like us at times). They had some commercial success, but for all-girl bands it doesn't happen often enough, but when it does, they make an impression. Of course there are a lot of amazing female singers out there fronting bands, that are doing really well.”

What advice would you give to young female musicians, who may want to follow in your footsteps and are you comfortable in being a role model or mentor for them?
Jackie Chambers: “Argh – a role model… I'm not sure that would be very wise. But the advise I would give to everyone would be to play because you love music and never for the money. You won't last very long in the music industry, if you’re in it as a job. Have fun and don't give up, until you're where you want to be.”

Other than being a guitar goddess and playing with one of the coolest bands in history, what kind of things do you like doing, when not playing in the band?
Jackie Chambers: “I like to write songs when I have time, but I also love to go boxing, whenever I can. I like the physical activity and it's a great way of getting out any frustrations. I also love to read a lot. I tend to read most when we're out on tour in the van, as there are a lot of hours to fill..”

Where do you see yourself and this band in the next five years and beyond?
Jackie Chambers: “Yikes, five years more! That would mean GIRLSCHOOL would be 38 years old by then. Oh well in that case, I guess we should go for the 40th anniversary, why not? Hopefully, we'll make it to that point. I know, we will keep on playing as long as we are still enjoying ourselves. Who knows whether that will be one, five or twenty years more!”

What can fans expect from Girlschool in 2011?
Jackie Chambers: “Well, we re-recorded “Hit and Run” to release for its 30th anniversary this year, so we will have that ready for summer, then do a few gigs to promote it. We have a few festivals already booked here and there throughout the year. We're hoping, that Wacken will also finally release the live DVD we reorded for the band’s official 30th anniversary along with “Hit and Run”. Watch this space!”

Ok Jackie, I am sure you know the reputation of GIRLSCHOOL as being real bad asses on the road, this is your time to add anything at all you would like to your interview: road stories, fights, drunken nights on the bus or any other juicy tidbits, that you may want to share.........We put the kiddies to bed, so no worries there - haha?
Jackie Chambers: “Hmm, what could I possibly tell you, where the others wouldn't kill me? We of course spend a lot of time in the bars all over the world, so I guess with the amount we drink we tend to forget everything....(phew! dodged that one).”

Jackie, this was a very cool moment for me to be a part your interview and on behalf of myself and Metal Maidens, we want to thank you for being with us today and for being so gracious with all of my questions. You know Rita and Toine from Metal Maidens love you guys, as do I and we wish you and the band the best of luck in all that you do.
Jackie Chambers: “Hey, it was my pleasure!”
Horns way up brothers and sisters, Nick Rohm.

copyright: METAL MAIDENS
interview by: Nick Rohm, Metal Maidens 'zine / April 2011.

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