‘Blimey! You don’t sound very Australian!’
And so begins the inaugural interview for Sentinel Daily, your one stop shop for all things metallic and classy. Once she’s got over the disappointment of me not being an actual Australian, Girlschool’s Kim McAuliffe proves to be an immediately likeable and immensely talkative interviewee; This is, of course, rather fortunate as we’ve hooked up via the global telephonic wire system for a chat about her band’s sixteenth full-length elpee, the excellent Guilty as Sin…
We break the ice by comparing weather notes; At SDHQ in Canberra we’re ‘enjoying’ stinking heat amidst the remnants of a thunderstorm that signally failed to get rid of the air of oppressive mugginess enveloping the city, whilst Kim sits in Blighty marvelling at the minus two degree temperatures creating what she describes as a ‘winter wonderland’ outside her window… still, meteorological differences aside, we’re both united in the belief – and knowledge – of Guilty as Sin’s worth as an album. But it’s been getting on for a decade since the band released an all-new album – How difficult is it in this day and age for a band like Girlschool to get an album together? Is it almost like going back to where you were at the start of the eighties with the band? It’s a completely different world now, no? ‘I really didn’t realise it was that long! People at the record company were saying ‘’isn’t about time you did a new, original studio album?’’ and I was saying what are you talking about? We only did one a couple of years ago! I’m dreadful with time. Then they said it’s been eight years! So then you think how are we going to do this? What are we going to write about! But it’s actually easier for us to do this now because we’ve got a proper Record company in (German label) UDR; so everything’s actually in place there, it’s just up to us to get this together. Having said that, over the years, we’ve all sort of written stuff. You’ll see something and think ‘oh! That might be a good idea for a song’. So I did have a folder with loads of things in it sort of ready… And then just before Christmas 2014, we got a phone call from management telling us that the label had booked us into the studio with (famed producer) Chris Tsangarides on the 23rd of January! And that was in, October I think! And we’re like what? (a) Chris Tsangarides! How did that happen? And (b) is this definite? And they said yes, so you’d better get on with it! But I think that’s the best way for us to work really’.
A bit of pressure? ‘Yeah, exactly! So we all got our folders out, dusted them down and had a look to see what was in them. So there are a few ideas from the past, and some new stuff too’.
I’m interested that you say that, because as I was making some notes before coming to do this interview I’ve written that for me it’s the best album you’ve done since (1986’s) Nightmare at Maple Cross, and part of the reason for that – and this is why I was interested in the old and new comment – was that GaS sounds almost like a quintessential Girlschool album; You could have put this one out at any time in your career couldn’t you? Not in a going-through-the-motions way – it’s a very natural sounding record isn’t it? ‘Great! That’s how we wanted it to be really! And I was a bit worried, because I didn’t want to do it for the sake of doing it, like you say… The thing with Girlschool is that each song doesn’t have to fit a formula, we always like to play around a bit, it was good working with Chris Tsangarides again, who we’d worked with before, so we knew what to expect. That was great, almost like going back to the eighties when we worked with Vic Maile… but I’m really pleased you’ve said that because that’s what we were aiming for!’
Well, you’ve certainly achieved it. Will there be as long before the next one? ‘What – eight years! I dread to think… I’ll be in my sixties by then. Who knows? There is some talk of a live album coming out at some point. That might be a good idea because we’ve never had a ‘proper’ live album out, ever. And that’s good because it means we won’t have to start wracking our brains again! It’s very stressful because when you do a new album it’s always going to be there, isn’t it? You can’t just go ‘’I don’t like that anymore’ and get rid of it. That’s why I’m very pleased we did this how we did it’.
Do you think that about any of your albums? Is there any one that you’d rather wasn’t still available to be heard? ‘Well, obviously people keep saying that about (1985’s) Running Wild’.
I love that record! ‘Well thank you! Funnily enough I heard a few tracks a few weeks ago and I thought I really like that! The only thing is I think it shouldn’t have been called Girlschool. It should have been known as another project really, because it was so different. It was recorded as a five piece… we should have called it something else and then I would have been more happy with it. But I really like it now!’
Moving on, you were due to be touring at the end of this month with Motörhead and Saxon. Now for obvious reasons this was called off, but was there ever a chance that you could have fulfilled the dates as booked alongside Saxon? Or was that never a viable option? ‘No, never. The whole point of the tour was for Lemmy, the fortieth anniversary of Motörhead, so it was never on the cards. It’s still a bit of a shock. We were meant to be doing the first show back with them this coming Saturday. So it will be quite a sad weekend again, as was last weekend with Lemmy’s memorial… At least we were so lucky and honoured to have done the first part of the tour with them before Christmas. It was amazing – they were selling out seven and eight thousand seater venues… in Munich they sold out two nights! It was incredible. The first night of the tour was chaos and we only just caught a glimpse of Lemmy, but the second night we managed to have a good old chat and we were looking out over this massive venue and I said ‘how the hell did this happen Lem?’ and he said ‘yeah! I know!’ I thanked him for getting us on the lineup and he was really pleased that it was such a strong bill. It was really good that we had that last blast with him. We knew he was very ill, and God knows how he got up there every night but he bloody did and it was brilliant. We were expecting to carry on with this second bit of the tour and then he could have a bit of a rest, so it was a shock to say the least’.
You had a thirty five year association with the man, didn’t you? ‘Yeah, since 1979, or 1980’.
I know it’s probably impossible to limit this to just one, but what would your favourite Lemmy tale be from that time? ‘What, from the early times’?
From any time really. You choose. ‘Doing (1981 Top 5 UK single) Please Don’t Touch with them in the studio was bloody hilarious, really funny. But there are just so many. My favourite moment from the last tour was that big chat. And finding out that they were using the Bomber lighting rig! I said to Lem it made me go all funny when I saw it. I said to him I didn’t know you were using the bomber! That’s awesome! And he started laughing his head off because I used the word ‘awesome’. I said I’ve just been on an American tour – what do you expect!’
So will you be touring any more for this album over the course of the year? ‘Yeah, we’ve got some festivals lined up and it’s possible that we might do a tour with Saxon, which does seem like a good idea. We would actually like to do some sort of tribute for Lem as Well. I’m in touch with (former ‘head axepert) Fast Eddie Clarke who has been really upset, not least because we lost (Motörhead drummer) Phil Taylor at the end of last year too. Lemmy was very upset about that. That was something else we talked about. Eddie was going to get up onstage with them at Hammersmith to do Ace of Spades on this tour’.
That would have been a great night. ‘Yeah. But I’ve been touch with Eddie, and if we can get these gigs with Saxon sorted out then it would be good to do something as attribute to Lem’.
Any chance of a trip to Australia? ‘I hope so! We’ve never been! Apparently it’s looking good for a trip down there in the Summer which is typical ‘cos it’s your winter! So we’ll be leaving our little summer to come down there!’
There’s a couple of covers on the new album – Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees and the Small Faces’ All or Nothing – and you’ve often been known to do cover versions in the past. How do you decide what makes a song suitable for the Girlschool treatment? Do you come together as a band, or do individuals say ‘I’ve always fancied this or that song’ – how do you do it? ‘In the past we’d agree on something and it was easy because we’d all grown up in the glam rock era and liked the same sort of stuff. But on this one it was quite a problem. I’ve done all my favourites and I couldn’t think of any! Enid (Williams, bass) and (guitarist) Jackie (Chambers) would come up with some ideas and me and (Drummer) Denise (Dufort) wouldn’t like the sound of them – we couldn’t actually agree on anything. And then our manager suggested Stayin’ Alive and we all went ‘are you nuts?’ But actually I was a fan of Saturday Night Fever in my young days! I actually love the song but there’s no way… But Enid and Denise could hear the bass and drums, and Chris Tsangarides thought it was a great idea! So we tried it and now we love it! So I’m afraid to say it wasn’t even our idea but now I really like it’.
At which point time catches up with us, the money starts to run out on the meter and we say our goodbyes. 2016 might have started in a bad way for this most enduring of bands with the loss of a dear friend, but the rest of the year promises to be a vintage one for Kim and Company – and a well deserved one too.