Monday, 21 November 2011

Online Interview with Jackie Chambers and Denise Dufort of Girlschool, by James Nuttall

This week I managed to secure an interview with two members of the longest-running female rock band of all time.

Denise Dufort, the original drummer of pioneering rock band Girlschool, and Jackie (Jax) Chambers, who took over as lead guitarist from the late great Kelly Johnson in 1998 give us an insight into what it is like to still be head-banging 34 years later...

Q: How does it feel to be a member of the longest-running female band?
Jackie Chambers
JAX : "It still makes me smile when people call me the new girl, I've now been in the band for 13 years now and have known the girls for a lot longer but it's been a great experience and one I'm very much enjoying and as long as we all continue to enjoy doing what we're doing, we'll continue to record and play live. 34 years and counting bring it on!"

DENISE: "(It) Feels AMAZING, who would have thought that I would still be in this band
After all these years..PHEW!"

Q:Have you got a particular favourite GS song/album?

JAX : "Before I joined the band I was good friends with Kim (McAuliffe) and she gave me the albums to listen to and on first listen my favourite tracks were Play Dirty and Don't Call it Love, I thought they were well written songs, neither of which we do live..shame! I also loved Race With The Devil which is still one of my favs. Whilst in the band one of my fav albums has to be Believe as that was the first full album I appeared on and had a hand in writing all the songs on there."

DENISE: "Play Dirty used to be my favourite album but now its'Legacy',
My favourite song on that album is I SPY."

Q: Who inspired you to become a musician?

JAX: "I think music is in the blood, to be a musician you have to love and be passionate about it. Whilst I was at school it was the 'punk rock' era, I was about 13 and hating all the prog rock in the charts I heard this new exciting energetic music and I loved it, something to get my teeth into and express myself and because it seemed like anyone could do it, I wanted to too. I didn't actually pick up the guitar until I was about 17 almost 18 and even then I only got the guitar as I wanted to write songs and needed one to get the songs across... Ironic."

DENISE: "My brother inspired me to be a drummer, I grew up watching him play in bands and loved it so much that I always knew that that's what I wanted to do."

Denise Dufort 
Q: What prompted you to re-record your 1981 hit album 'Hit & Run'? 

JAX: "(It was) the record companies idea, it was the albums 30th anniversary and we didnt want to just put the old one out we wanted to mark the occassion like we did the bands actual 30th anniversary. We re-recorded it basically as we wanted to own our own songs again, didn't quite work out but it was fun to go back in the studio with the old songs and re-do them. We do about eight of them live anyway so it was an easy and quick album to do."

Q: Are there any plans to go on tour to promote it?

JAX: "Well we've been out and about promoting it all this year really. It was supposed to come out in April, we recorded it last Xmas..record co's tut! We have a couple more gigs this year in the UK and then the gigs start again in Europe in January 2012, so we will keep on going through the summer and do the festivals again too; well that's the plan."
Original bassist, Enid Williams, live in Brixton
Q: How did you end up joining the band?

JAX: "My band had just split up in 1995 and I'd put an advert in the Melody Maker to look for a new band. Kim answered my ad as she was also doing a side project in a covers band, we chatted on the phone, got on well, met up for drinks that night and kept in touch. I didnt join her covers band as at that time I didnt play lead guitar. Kelly (Johnson) at that point wanted to do something different and kept trying to persuade me to join so she could leave, so she offered to help me with the lead guitar parts by teaching me them all. I ended up joining a covers band to practise lead guitar and practiced Girlschool songs until my fingers bled, then finally in 1999 I was ready. I was supposed to do Wacken as my first gig but thought that would be a bit much so Kelly did it as her last...the rest is history!"
Kim McAuliffe
DENISE: "Its a Long long!"

Q: Are you still in touch with past members of the band?
JAX: "Yes we pretty much keep in touch with everyone, it's like a little family. I lived two streets from Cris Bonacci and a half mile from Kelly and Denise when I first joined so we were always hanging out together .Then I shared a flat with Kelly, Now I share with Kim and live on the same street as Enid, can't get We don't see Jackie Carrera or Gil Weston that often as they don't live in London but we do keep in touch and Tracey, now lives in Spain but were in touch via skype etc."
DENISE: "Yeah, we're still in touch with Tracey Lamb, Jackie Carrera and Gil Weston."

Q: What has been the highlight of your career?

JAX: "That would have to be supporting Alice Cooper, he was always my musical hero whilst I was growing up so to sit and chat with him was amazing! And of course I got to see him play straight after us, result!"
DENISE: "Touring with my heroes...bands like Deep Purple, Rainbow, Sabbath, and of course Motorhead."

Q: What music do you listen when you're not on tour?
JAX: "I like to play Rammstein very loud to get me in the mood, always brings a smile to my face too... Love it!"
DENISE: "I love Rammstein and Muse but I'll listen to anything that's good..."

Q: The last album of new material, Legacy, was released in 2008- do you plan to make another album of completely new material? 
JAX: "LOL, give us a chance we're still promoting this one. I guess by the summer of next year we will be at least talking about it, so hopefully so."
DENISE: "We are still promoting the Hit and Run Revisited album..that's only just come out..give us a chance ha ha."

Q:Do you have a favourite song to perform live?

JAX: "I like to do Never say Never and still get a buzz from doing Race with the Devil even after doing it every gig for 13 years, LOL."

Jax & Kim rockin' out

DENISE: "Yeah I love playing I SPY live."

Q: Girlschool has toured with a lot of different big names- is there anyone you would like to tour with?
JAX: "Yes we've been very fortunate over the years, there's probably a few bands that I'd love to play with but to nail it down I'd say Rammstein or Foo Fighters for me."

DENISE: "I would love to tour with AC/DC, they have always been my favourite band."

Many thanks to Denise and Jax for agreeing to the interview; to find out more about Girlschool and see their latest tour dates, see their official website:

Me, backstage with Girlschool after their opening night with Anvil in 2010

Friday, 11 November 2011

Sonja Kristina: "There will be a new live Curved Air album." By James Nuttall ©

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Space is curved, as is time and air- Sonja Kristina reveals plans for the first live Curved Air album in 37 years.

Sonja Kristina, the siren of prog in the early 1970s is still captivating audiences with her latest line-up of Curved Air. Before their final show on the UK tour she spoke of their plans to release a new live album, and even do a new album after that.

Chris Harris & Kit Morgan, the current Curved Air
“We’re going to be doing another live Curved Air album, which Marvin (Ayres) will be producing and once that’s underway we need to slot in some time to tour. Ayres is Kristina’s partner in her side-project duo ‘MASK’ formed in the 90s. He has also worked along side members of Simply Red, Culture Club and Frankie Goes to Hollywood. “The recordings were done last year at gigs but Marvin’s busy with lots of other things and he’s been making the best out of what we’ve got recorded."
Robert Norton & Paul Sax, the current Curved Air
She went onto say “We’re working on new stuff, also. They all have strong ideas so a new Curved Air album will be coming, which hopefully Marvin will be producing as well.”

So when can we expect to see an album of new material? “It’s mainly down for me to write some words that I believe in, and I’m not that prolific a writer so it tends to
come in batches. With Curved Air in the early days they had ideas for songs and I carried on writing (lyrics for) them.”

  The new band is comprised of: Sonja, the only constant throughout the bands 41 year history; Florian Pilkington Miksa, the original drummer who rejoined the band in 2008 after playing in Kiki Dee's band; and newer members: Chris Harris on bass; Paul Sax on violin; Robert Norton on keyboards and Kit Morgan on guitar. They have all played with Kristina for some project or another, including her Acid Folk band. "The live album will represent the talents of these players." comments Sonja. 

Curved Air is not the only outlet for Kristina’s talents. MASK is also planning to release another album. “We’ve got plans to go to Marrakech to record the next album; you know, there are a lot of wicked musicians out there… it will be good to draw some other colours into Jack and Virginias journey” (The project is based on two characters with a very fiery relationship.)

Florian Pilkington-Miska, Curved Air's original drummer 
With such a long and diverse career, and a marriage to Police drummer Stewart Copeland (who was a member of the band in 1975), more recently performing at the Isle of Wight festival in 2008 and High Voltage this summer, there must be many highlights so far. “The Roundhouse has always been great to play. I used to go there when I was a student and I remember seeing the Doors and Jefferson Airplane, and then it became a very important venue for early Curved Air as the audience grew. Also, meeting with Stewart, when Curved Air disintegrated- it was really stunning being in thick of the rise and rise of the Police.”

70's Prog Siren, Sonja Kristina 
There will be little rest following the end of the recent tour. “There’s a possibility I’ll be doing a benefit in December with my Acid Folk band for one of the leaders of the White Panthers. But otherwise we’re releasing the live album, and then we’re going to Europe and writing the next album.”

Curved Air will soon be announcing European tour dates, and there are plans to come back to the UK next year.

Dates and news can be found at:
Thanks to Curved Air and the Hebden Bridge Trades Club, where I did the interview for their hospitality and help.

All photographs copyright James Nuttall 2011 ©