Interview with Girlschool Guitarist Jackie Chambers (Syteria)

Photo by Kelly Johnson

By Mick Michaels

COSMICK VIEW: Hello, Jackie! Welcome to The Cosmick View. Thank you for taking some time out of your day to chat with me, it's greatly appreciated.
Jackie (JAX) Chambers: You’re very welcome!

CV: What does it mean internally for a band, like Girlschool, to have stood the test of time and surpass the critic's expectations?

JAX: Well we’re still not ready to quit just yet…so anyone who said we’d never last and the band is a gimmick got it so wrong. We love what we do and we'll continue to do it as long as we can.
CV: How would you describe the level of impact that Girlschool had on Heavy Metal in the early 80’s as the NWoBHM was bursting onto the scene? Were they a band that influenced you early on?
JAX: As Girlschool were the 1st all girl band to get noticed in the UK back then, of course they stood out even if you weren’t a Rock fan! There were a few female musicians around in the UK but no one doing what Girlchool did. I grew up during the Punk era so didn’t really get into the Rock scene until my 20’s, but my younger brother had a copy of “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” so I was very aware of them.

CV: Do you see longevity equating to a band's persistence and dedication in direct relation to the music or to the fans? Or is it a combination of both?

JAX: As a band that’s been around for almost 42 years now I think it’s a little of both…we are dedicated and will continue to write and release music we love for both ourselves and the fans. We are “what comes out,” we don’t try to be anything new or up to date. We plug straight into the amp, no effects and play…that’s it, all from the heart and what we are feeling at that time.

CV: Do you feel fans play a major role in a band continuing to pursue their music or is it moreso a personal endeavor on the part of the artist to fulfill a dream or even a need?

JAX: I think after 42 years we’ve pretty much done what the band set out to do, as long as there are fans out there who want to see us live and hear our new music then we’ll continue to release records and tour! There’d be no point in just touring and playing to no one, but if there’s no one interested we’d probably still play as we love it so much...but much less often…LOL
Photo Jarmo Hanninen

CV: How would you define the term “rock star? And is it still an applicable term today?  Do you consider yourself a rock star?
JAX: Mmm a rock star has a very different meaning now to what it did have years ago. Years ago it would have been all about the flash, cars, a girl or boy on each arm, parties galore, etc…as there was so much money in the industry back then, but now musicians hardly earn anything from record sales as it’s all downloaded and often for free, so not making anything on occasions…so nope not a rock star if that's the bar…I'm broke most of the time...LOL

CV: Guitar is the voice of Rock n Roll. What do you consider the most alluring aspect of playing guitar in a band?

JAX: Playing guitar gives me the freedom to write music for whatever band I play in. Also in my case too, I get to pose all over the stage.
CV: As a lead guitarist, how would you describe your personal approach to playing? Would you consider yourself an aggressive player?
JAX: I never really called myself a lead guitar player, just a guitarist…and my approach to playing would be whatever sounds good in the song and adds something to it…that's what I should play. It’s not about how many notes you can put into one song or how fast you can play it, it's just about being part of the team, the band! There’s definitely aggression to my playing at times…when needed of course. 

CV: How would you define the current state of the music business and then compare that definition to what the business was like when you first started working with Girlschool?

JAX: Well I’ve now been with Girlschoool for 21 years and SO much has changed even in that time. 42 years ago when the girls started it was a different industry all together. Some things are better of course, as in there’s a whole new platform for new bands to be heard now with the use of the internet and without having to be signed to a record deal…of which there were very few to even be signed to then , and even fewer now.
Now record deals seem like a waste of time when you can take control of the whole thing yourself and miss out the middle man. I do all of it myself in Syteria…so learning new things all the time. It’s also much harder in some ways too as record sales have been replaced with downloads and streaming and where as back then you could earn a good living from selling records/CDs…now we’d have to sell around 20,000 downloads just to make £20 and that's between us which is why most bands rely on sales of merchandise at their gigs.

Photo by Nisha Revill
CV: How do find the balance with playing in Girlschool and with your own band, Syteria? Do find there is ever a conflict of interest?
JAX: There’s no conflict at all with band members, the other girls in Girlschool are really supportive. We’ve actually played 2 or 3 festivals together in the past 3 yrs of Syteria gigging. The only time there’s a sort of conflict is when dates clash but we always seem to work it out somehow. As I love writing songs, I had so many that never got used on previous Girlschool albums, so with Syteria I used all of them…but this time using my own lyrics and not just the music, then added harmonies to them which we don't do a lot of in Girlschool, so they’re sort of Rock/Pop Punk songs…and when writing now, I still write for both bands in the same way.

CV: Have you found that by working in both bands, there is a certain amount of fan bleed over between the two? And if so, does that intensify the need, as an artist, to not disappoint?
JAX: Yes there certainly is, some very loyal Girlschool fans now support Syteria and absolutely I’d never want to disappoint anyone at either gig. When both bands go out there to play we give it our all, that’s what we’re there for :) Also some Syteria fans had never heard of Girlschool before and are discovering them for the 1st time…listening back over the decades of the band’s history together.

Photo by Hugo Chevalor
CV: Is playing in several bands, or working on multiple projects a sure fire way for an artist to stay current or even relevant in an ever changing industry?

JAX: I think most musicians like to play in multiple bands as we love to play gigs and use our creativity, even playing in different style bands too. Before forming Syteria I played with the Punk band Blitzkrieg for a few years at the same time as Gilrschool and loved it. As for current, I don’t think I’d join a band JUST because they’re current. I always have to enjoy what I do as that means more to me than being current or in vogue :)

CV: Does music have the power to truly reinvent itself or is it a timeless wonder that always comes full circle regardless of trends and eras? What do you think?

JAX: Most music is influenced by something that’s gone before it, so constantly reinventing itself, every decade there seemed to be a new style, Metal, Prog, Punk, Disco etc , maybe this generation has the singer songwriter style, all stripped back playing acoustic guitars and just a melody…what’s next? I guess we’re just waiting for the next “big” thing, but when it happens, it will have been influenced by something that has gone before in some way.

CV: Girlschool plans to write and record a new album in 2020.  What can fans expect…what can you tell us about the new album?
JAX: Yes, finally we get to go back into the studio with Tim Hamil and we are so looking forward to it too. This time we’ll have Tracey Lamb back on bass. I’d say expect the same Girlschool sound as always…Rock n Roll all the way, with a ton of fun packed in there too :)

CV: What's next for you?

JAX: I have a VERY busy 2020…the Girlschool tour in the UK kicks off at the end of January through February, then Feb 22nd Syteria’s new album is launched worldwide and we follow that up with a UK tour too…then March more gigs with Saxon and Girlchool together and so the year looks like a very busy one already and I love it :)

CV: Thank you again Jackie for spending some time talking and sharing with our readers. It was a pleasure. I wish you all the best and continued success.


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My name is Mick Michaels...I'm an artist, music fan, songwriter, producer, dreamer and guitarist for the traditional Heavy Metal band Corners of Sanctuary. Writing has always been a creative outlet for me; what I couldn't say in speech, I was able to do with the written word.  Writing has given me a voice and a way for me to create on a multitude of platforms including music and song, articles, independent screenplays, books and now, artist interviews. The Cosmick View is an opportunity to raise the bar and showcase artists in a positive and inspirational light. For me, it's another out-of-this-world adventure.

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