Album review: Decadence “Six Tape”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Swedish band Decadence is back with another terrific thrash metal album. It’s full-on aggressive headbanging and air guitar mayhem!

Swedish band Decadence gives us proper thrash metal served just the way I like it with great guitar riffs, terrific melodies and Kitty Saric’s splendid voice on top of that. I love the relentless energy, the aggression and the attitude. The bulldozing track “In Natura” is an obvious favourite of mine. It has everything I love about thrash metal: speed, raw energy, mean riffs, fantastic melodies, aggressiveness, musical twists and a pissed-off vocalist which adds a touch of death metal to the mix. “Red Façade Hotel” is perhaps the album’s best track, but this is a rather even album with no fillers. Decadence’s core duo is Kitty Saric on vocals and Kenneth Lantz on guitar and bass. Session drums on the album are once again played by Lawrence Dinamarca of Nightrage fame. “Six Tape” is Decadence’s sixth full-length studio album since they formed in Stockholm, Sweden in 2003. On “Six Tape”, Decadence demonstrates to the listener that the band has that rare quality of being able to combine DIY, grassroots kind of thrash metal with a modern and professional metal sound. It is a great album and it is one of the better metal albums that I have heard this year. Awesome!

www.decadence.se

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Gig review: Candlemass opens the door to doom in Tokyo

Drummer Jan Lindh and bassist Leif Edling of Candlemass on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Sweden’s Candlemass opens the door to doom for the Japanese fans with a flawless heavy metal show in Tokyo.

Candlemass at Club Quattro, Shibuya, Tokyo on 13th November 2019

Johan Längqvist and Lars Johansson of Candlemass on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

It’s 29 years since I saw Swedish doom metal masters Candlemass live for the first time when they were playing at a metal festival in an ice hockey arena in Sweden. I already liked their early albums but seeing them up on stage took the love for this band to another level. Having then, many years later, witnessed their first-ever Japan gig in 2016, my expectations on the band’s second Japan visit are sky high and they don’t disappoint. The setlist this evening in Tokyo is flawless. It’s sheer doom awesomeness from start to finish. The first half of the set consists of songs from the albums “Nightfall”, “Tales of Creation”, “Ancient Dreams” and the latest album “The Door to Doom”. The second half is all dedicated to Candlemass’ 1986 debut album “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus”. In the “Epicus” section, we get to hear “A Sorcerer’s Pledge”, “Demon’s Gate”, “Crystal Ball”, “Under the Oak” and “Solitude”. Magnificent!

Leif Edling of Candlemass on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

The current line-up of the band combines its most classic line-up from the late-80s/early 90s – Leif Edling on bass, Mats “Mappe” Björkman on rhythm guitar, Lars Johansson on lead guitar and Jan Lindh on drums – with the return of original vocalist Johan Längqvist. Längqvist departed the band following the release of the debut album and stayed away from the limelight until his return to the band last year. His voice is splendid and live in concert he commands the doom troops from centre stage. The only question on my mind is: what has he been doing for the 32 years he was away from the band? Whatever he’s been up to, his voice is in terrific shape.

Mats “Mappe” Björkman of Candlemass on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

It is difficult to pick out highlights in such a terrific show, but let’s try: The opening with “The Well of Souls” from “Nightfall” is world-class. The live version of “Astorolus – The Great Octopus” from “The Door to Doom” is magnificent, not least because of Lars Johansson’s exquisite guitar playing. The heaviness of “Bewitched” shakes the whole venue and, of course, ending the show with “Solitude” is how it should be done.

Epicus Doomicus Fantasticus!

Johan Längqvist of Candlemass on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

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www.candlemass.se

Album review: Kiyoshi “KIYOSHI4”

Kiyoshi on stage in Tokyo in March 2018. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Japanese artist Kiyoshi became known to a wider audience through her membership of Marty Friedman’s band. But it is as a solo artist she really gets to shine. She’s now back with her fourth fabulous solo album, “KIYOSHI4”.

I still remember the day some years back when Marty Friedman asked me in a Tokyo rehearsal studio: “Do you know Kiyoshi?” Before that, I didn’t know Kiyoshi but I immediately looked her up and I have been a massive Kiyoshi fan ever since. Kiyoshi looks very innocent. But she is a monster of a bass player. The bass guitar seems to bring out her wild animalistic side. But Kiyoshi is much more than a mere kick-ass bassist. She is also a great songwriter and she has a characteristic voice that I just love. When you combine those three things you get magic.

Kiyoshi with Roppongi Rocks boss Stefan Nilsson in Tokyo in 2018.

The production of this new Kiyoshi album has a raw touch to it. It sounds as if it has been recorded live in the studio, which may well be the case. In true Kiyoshi-style, the album basically consists of Kiyoshi on vocals and bass and she’s simply backed up by a lone drummer. Musically, bits and pieces of this reminds me of other Japanese artists such as GO!GO!7188 and Anna Tsuchiya (not least in the J-pop meets punk attitude), but the prominent part that the bass guitar plays in Kiyoshi’s music makes this different. Most of all this is very Kiyoshi. This is Kiyoshi and no artist is quite like Kiyoshi. While the song titles, again in trademark Kiyoshi-style, are in English and mostly have single-word titles such as “Pride”, “Hurt” and “Frustration”, the lyrics are sung in Japanese. The emotional song “Pride” is one of the tracks that immediately stand out for me. Kiyoshi’s at times vulnerable voice is beautifully combined with an edgy bass. The album’s opening song, the splendid “Warning”, is one of the rawest and edgiest songs on the album with a serious bass assault hitting the listener. “Little King” lets Kiyoshi the bass player shine. But the terrific song “Roots”, which closes the album, is probably my favourite. It’s the best kind of J-pop song. Not the soulless superficial kind. This is a song with real emotion and depth but camouflaged as easygoing J-pop. As far as bass work goes, the song “Go For It” is terrific with an unapologetic bass demanding attention. On the track “Melody” there is a fine bass solo, but on this, and many of the album’s tracks, the devil is in the detail. Kiyoshi puts in many small bass quirks and twists and turns. Most of them are very subtle and hidden in the background, but they add depth and make these songs great.

Genre wise Kiyoshi lives somewhere in a back alley between J-pop and alternative rock. Kiyoshi does Kiyoshi music. Trends and expectations don’t come into her mind. She creates the music that she wants to create. The result of that is pure magic. Kiyoshi is one of the most interesting artists in Japan today. She remains an important part of Marty Friedman’s band, but as a solo artist, she gets to be in the limelight and shine like the star she is. Thank you, Marty Friedman, for bringing this fab artist to my attention.

Kiyoshi’s album “KIYOSHI4” is out now.

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www.kiyoshi1031.com

Album review: Cyhra “No Halos in Hell”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Modern European melodic metal band Cyhra returns with its second album “No Halos in Hell”.

Cyhra consists of vocalist Jake E, guitarists Jesper Strömblad and Euge Valovirta and drummer Alex Landenburg. That the members have played with bands such as In Flames, Amaranthe and Kamelot does not come as a surprise as Cyhra’s music kind of lives in the same musical neighbourhood as those bands. With a second album now below their belts, Jake E and his fellow band members have firmly established a Cyhra signature sound. It is a contemporary melodic metal sound with plenty of pop hooks. But within that signature style, there’s actually quite a bit of variation which is why this works very well. “No Halos in Hell” is the follow up to Cyhra’s 2017 debut album “Letters to Myself”. The new album is a natural next step for the band. It’s partly more of the same modern melodic metal with pop hooks, plenty of keyboards and guitar riffs that we heard on the debut album. But, additionally, we get a somewhat more mature band that explores some new musical areas. Cyhra’s contemporary soundscape and never-ending catchiness bring a freshness to the listeners’ ears that I really like. They are not creating something truly new here, but they are doing great radio-friendly poppy melodic metal. I have always liked Jake E’s voice and his songwriting. On this second Cyhra album,  the band and its fans benefit from the album being more of a band effort than the first album, although Jake remains the principal songwriter. There are some very strong songs on this album, including the power ballad “Lost in Time” and tracks such as “Out of My Life”, “I Am the One”, “Blood Brothers”, “Kings and Queens” and the title track “No Halos in Hell”. The special Japanese edition of the album features no fewer than 18 tracks, including some special bonus material. I particularly like the scaled-down acoustic versions of some of the songs where we really get to hear how good a vocalist Jake E is. The acoustic version of “I Am the One” is exceptional! Here we get a splendid vocal performance combined with some terrific acoustic guitar work. It is the standout track on this album for me.

Cyhra’s second album “No Halos in Hell” will be released on 22nd November via Ward Records in Japan and on 15th November via Nuclear Blast internationally.

www.cyhra.com

www.facebook.com/cyhraofficial

Interview – Bloodbound: the Dragon Empire takes on Japan

Fredrik Bergh and Patrik Selleby of Bloodbound backstage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

When Swedish power metal band Bloodbound recently played in Japan for the first time in the band’s 15-year career, Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson met the band’s co-founder and keyboardist Fredrik Bergh and vocalist Patrik Selleby for a backstage chat.

Patrik Selleby of Bloodbound on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

We start the interview sitting on the balcony at the venue for the evening’s Bloodbound gig at Evoken Fest. But after a few minutes, the volume of the ongoing soundcheck makes it impossible to hear anything and the three of us decide to continue the discussion in the backstage toilet. It doesn’t exactly smell of roses, but at least it is a bit less noisy.

Bloodbound was founded in 2004 and released its debut studio album “Nosferatu” in 2005. Earlier this year the band released “Rise of the Dragon Empire”, its eighth studio album.

You two are the keyboard player and the lead vocalist in the band. When you’re composing new songs, do you try to add some extra keyboard or vocal parts in the songs as a way of sticking it to the band’s songwriting guitarist and co-founder Tomas Olsson? Do you have fights in the band over this? “It is the songs that are the most important. No one is trying to make themselves or their instrument more prominent. The songs and the melodies are absolutely the most important things,” says Fredrik Bergh. Patrik Selleby continues: “The sound has become what it is naturally. No big discussions. Sure, we can sometimes discuss if the guitars should be louder in the mix, but then it is something that all of us agree on. But there’s never been any fight about what should be more prominent in the mix.” Fredrik adds: “Whatever the songs need. Whatever makes the songs the best.”

Fredrik Bergh and Patrik Selleby of Bloodbound backstage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Fredrik is an experienced songwriter who in addition to writing for Bloodbound also has written for and recorded with artists such as Joe Lynn Turner, Bonfire, Revolution Saints, Phenomena, Anette Olzon, Steve Augeri and many more. Do you approach things differently when you write songs for others? “I have to adjust things to how they sound. I have to be a bit like a chameleon! I have to write things their way. You have an idea of what kind of song it should be. It’s not a coincidence.” Patrik adds: “I don’t write for others, but I write music all the time. A lot of it I realise won’t fit in with Bloodbound. I have a lot of songs piled up high and so we’ll see if I will use them. You quickly realise what fits: ‘This feels like a Bloodbound song!’”

Patrik Selleby of Bloodbound on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Do you feel that you have to write songs that fit within what people expect of Bloodbound or can you create music more freely? “Often you know how we should sound,“ explains Fredrik. “You try to write such songs from the start. And if it doesn’t fit, then you reject it, if it isn’t good enough. You have an idea and then you reach a point where you realise that this doesn’t work and then you discard it. I’ve got a big folder of rubbish at home!” Patrik continues: “I feel that it isn’t that boxed in. We’re not as boxed in as perhaps many other bands are. We felt that we found our sound with the ‘Stormborn’ album. Since then it’s been a given that we have a certain sound. You have written a song perhaps that can be tweaked a bit by adding some keyboards in order to make it a Bloodbound song. We’re exchanging ideas a lot. You have a basic song idea. Perhaps I send it to Fredrik or he sends one to me. What do we think? Can we make a Bloodbound song from this? Then we continue from there.” Fredrik adds: “It’s not really limited as we have a rather wide spectrum. It’s not limited by the vocals. Sometimes when Tomas writes it’s very… Like on ‘Dragons are Forever’. If we had a more limited vocalist it wouldn’t be possible at all. Patrik can manage to sing across a broad range. When it comes to melodies, we do not limit ourselves. A song can take off in any direction.”

Bloodbound on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Since the band was formed in 2004 by Fredrik and guitarist Tomas Olsson, there have been quite a few line-up changes. The current version of the band also features Henrik Olsson on rhythm guitar, Anders Broman on bass and Daniel Sjögren on drums. Have the changing line-ups had an impact on the band’s sound? “We have had more or less the same line-up for the past eight years now. It’s working great. Both on a personal level and how we work together. It was mainly in the early days when it was a bit chaotic before we found Patrik, I’d say,” explains Fredrik. Patrik joined the band in 2010, taking the frontman position previously occupied by Urban Breed (Serious Black, Tad Morose) and Michael Bormann (Jaded Heart, Bonfire).

Bloodbound had already released three studio albums before Patrik took over as lead vocalist, but he doesn’t have a problem performing songs from before his time. “No, I absolutely don’t have anything against that at all. I myself was a fan of Bloodbound before I started to sing with them. I love the old songs too. There’s no pride preventing anything there.” Fredrik adds: “We only play one old song!” before Patrik continues: “Yes, now we do, but we have played more songs during my years in the band. The newer songs, we feel, are better and work really well live. It has nothing to do with which album they’re from. We just try to select the best songs that we have.”

FredrikBergh of Bloodbound on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

When Bloodbound released its first album in 2005, you established an interesting contrast where the band name and some of the visuals used were very dark and somewhat evil, whereas the music is melodic and good-natured power metal. Was it a deliberate contrast? What was the thinking here? “Yes!” says Fredrik. “When we started the band and we were going to take some photos for the first album, we felt that we needed to do something that stands out. We can’t just stand there like every other band. Perhaps we made it too extreme with corpse paint and everything!” Patrik adds: “As a fan, as a power metal fan in general, I thought it was really cool!” Fredrik continues: “It got a lot of people talking” before Patrik adds: “The contrast was amusing as the music was so damn happy and then they stood there in corpse paint!” Fredrik brings up German power metal band Powerwolf as a comparison. “If you look at Powerwolf today – they’re massive – and they do sort of the same thing that we did in the beginning. Thus, I think it was wrong for us to stop that. I think that we should’ve continued with it. But certain people in the band didn’t want to and that’s why we stopped it, around the time of the second album, I’d say. It was a bit weird. Some people said: ‘They can’t have corpse paint because they play power metal!’ There was a lot of talk like: ‘Have you seen this new band?’ We got a lot of great publicity.” Patrik continues: “It was ahead of its time, to do that kind of thing. Then Powerwolf came along and it was the right time. Then nobody thought it was weird.” The two band members seem to have somewhat different recollections of who did what and when. “But they started around the same time as us, I believe,” says Fredrik. “But they didn’t have the face paintings and such then,” answers Patrik. “Didn’t they?” asks Fredrik somewhat surprised. “No,” says Patrik.

“We were a bit dumb, but now we’ve got the dragon mask,” says Fredrik excitedly with a reference to the fact that Patrik is nowadays wearing a dragon mask and a horn while performing on stage. “We have to bring back some of those crazy things!” Patrik elaborates: “We look at it this way: since I started to wear the dragon mask and the horn, people will now remember that. If we play at a festival ‘Oh, yes, that was that guy with the horn!’ Rather than just standing there dressed in jeans and t-shirts. We should stand out in different ways.”

2019 has seen you release a fab new album and you’ve toured internationally, including coming here to Japan for the very first time. What’s next for Bloodbound? “We have a few winter festivals in Europe that we will do before Christmas,” says Patrik. “We have recently changed booking agents and so we are kind of between the two firms now. Thus, we don’t have too many fixed plans right now, but a new album won’t happen until 2021. We’ll probably do some gigs ahead of that and also perhaps summer festivals next year.” Fredrik continues: “We have already some gigs booked, including a major festival next year. We did our own headline tour last spring with Dynazty and Manimal as opening acts and that went very well.”

A few hours after our chat, Bloodbound appears on stage in Japan for the very first time and they delight their Japanese fans with a brilliant but short festival set.

Fredrik Bergh and Patrik Selleby of Bloodbound backstage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

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www.bloodbound.se

Single review: Stagman “En mil i mina skor”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Former glam rocker Zinny Zan returns with a new Stagman single which brings back memories of some of his old bandmates and 1980s-style Swedish pop and rock.

In an earlier life, Bosse Stagman called himself Zinny Zan when he fronted the terrific glam metal and sleaze rock bands Easy Action, Shotgun Messiah and Zan Clan. Now he’s 55 years old, calls himself simply Stagman and has moved into a musical territory which is part singer/songwriter, part pop and part punk-infused shout-along rock. It suits him well and he’s good at it. I particularly like the hints here and there of the Swedish tradition of melodic shout-along punk-rock. Because it is in the Swedish punk-rock scene that Stagman has his roots: he was a drummer with Belsen Boys, Trassel, Alarm X and Brilliant Boys before he switched to glam metal in the early 1980s when Easy Action was formed. In Easy Action he famously played alongside future Europe guitarist Kee Marcello. But more importantly from a musical pedigree and influence point of view, Easy Action featured three former members of Swedish pop/rock band Noice: Marcello was a live guitarist for Noice which also housed drummer Fredrik von Gerber and bassist Peo Thyrén (aka Alex Tyrone). That connection between Noice and Stagman has now – although Stagman in the past has said that Noice was not really his kind of thing – come full circle as there are some hints of Noice on Stagman’s new single. “En mil i mina skor” is the first taste of his next solo album which will be released later this winter. It is his third solo album since he switched to singing in Swedish in 2016. Stagman sings in Swedish with a distinct Stockholm dialect. Musically he is not miles off what Swedish artists such as Magnus Uggla have built great careers on. Not least the wonderful 1980s-sounding keyboards make me think of Noice and similar bands that were big in Sweden in the early 1980s. Both Uggla and Noice were essentially pop acts, but they had somewhat of a punk attitude. As a youngster in Sweden in the 1980s, I adored Zinny Zan and Easy Action. Now, both Zinny and I have grown up. I really dig the mature and toned-down rocker that Zinny Zan has become.

Stagman’s single “En mil i mina skor” will be released on 16th October via GMR Music.

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Album review: Lindsay Schoolcraft “Martyr”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

Cradle of Filth’s Lindsay Schoolcraft goes solo with a splendid and beautiful debut album in collaboration with former Evanescence man Rocky Gray. Just wow!

Canadian musician Lindsay Schoolcraft is best known as a member of British extreme metal band Cradle of Filth. On her new solo album, we get to hear and experience a somewhat different side to this terrific artist. Sure, there are a few hints of Cradle here and there, but musically this is quite different. Evanescence comes to mind more than once (just listen to the track “Dangerous Game”), which is not exactly a surprise as Schoolcraft’s album has been co-written by former Evanescence drummer Rocky Gray who also plays multiple instruments on the album. In Cradle of Filth, Schoolcraft plays the keyboards and provides background vocals. But on this album, she’s at the centre as a lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist. She gets to shine like never before. There are some faster and louder tracks, there are ballads and much more. The music is beautiful and, yes, there is that gothic, haunting and eerie feeling on much of it which keeps it interesting. The piano ballad “Blood from a Stone” is sheer beauty and an obvious highlight on a top-quality album. Another immediate favourite is the hard-hitting yet dreamy “See the Light” (with a guest appearance by Ne Obliviscaris vocalist Xenoyr). The album’s opening song, “Saviour”, is my top choice on the album though. It has everything I want: riffy metal guitars, piano, strings, Schoolcraft’s fantastic voice, a great melody, chanting and plenty of variation. The song material is exquisite and so is the production. It is a modern soundscape that manages to bring in medieval touches (Orthodox and Gregorian chants and harp!) and hints of classical music. This is an album that refuses to fit into a specific music category. The result is very Schoolcraft and it is brilliant. Schoolcraft has a busy schedule with Cradle of Filth, but I hope she gets the opportunity to perform her solo material live with a proper tour. This music is too good to just be a side project. As much as I enjoy Cradle of Filth, I like the solo artist Lindsay Schoolcraft more.

Lindsay Schoolcraft’s solo album “Martyr” will be released on 7th October. 

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www.lindsayschoolcraft.com

Album review: Detraktor “Grinder”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

Germany-based Detraktor is back with its first full-length studio album filled with relentless thrash metal with some crossover hardcore touches.

I love Detraktor’s take on in-your-face and relentless old-school thrash metal with some crossover hardcore touches. There are no compromises, just great music with plenty of energy and attitude. Detraktor is a multinational band based in Hamburg, Germany. Its members – Henrique Queiroz (drums and vocals), Rafael Dobbs (guitar), Boris Pavlov (guitar) and Juan Orellana (bass) have their roots in Chile, Brazil and Bulgaria. Their music is raw, groovy and bloody good. The album title, “Grinder”, should give you a bit of a hint what this band is capable of. There’s not a weak second on this album, but my standout favourite is the terrific fast track “Rejekt” which hits its listeners like a runaway freight train. It’s as if Californian bands Exodus and Suicidal Tendencies had a Kreator-obsessed Latino out-of-wedlock bastard child in Europe. I love this band. You should too. “Grinder” is the band’s debut full-length studio album. They have previously released a couple of EPs, including “Size Matters”, produced by Dirk Schlaechter of Gamma Ray fame, which landed them a well-deserved German Metal Hammer award as newcomer of the year. This is so much better than most of what’s out there. This is the new soundtrack to your life. Album of the year? Perhaps so. 

Detraktor’s album “Grinder” is out now via the German label Violent Creek.

www.facebook.com/detraktor

Album review: Prime Creation “Tears of Rage”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

Sweden’s Prime Creation gives us great melodies, heavy riffs and a contemporary soundscape on its new album. 

Prime Creation formed in Sweden in 2015 and released its debut album in 2016. The band is part of the well-established Swedish melodic hard-rock tradition where great melodies are always at the centre of the songs. But Prime Creation has a certain edge to its music which at times is more hard-hitting than some its peers’ music. One such song is the album’s title track “Tears of Rage” which sounds very modern. The tracks “Lost in the Shades” and “Pretend till the End” are among the album’s obvious highlights. Those songs define what this band is about: catchy melodies with pop hooks, heavy guitar riffs and a contemporary soundscape.  Among all the modern stuff, the band still somehow manages to also keep an unpolished rawness which gives it all some great edginess. That some of the band members have a background in power metal comes as no surprise. For the most part, Prime Creation has a somewhat different sound, although the terrific “Before the Rain” is basically catchy power metal. There is, of course, also a big keyboard-soaked ballad in the form of the track “Endless Lanes” on the album. 

Prime Creation’s album “Tears of Rage” is out now via Silent Wall Productions.

www.primecreationband.com

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Interview: Girlschool “We just go straight through the amps!”

Girlschool on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

According to Alice Cooper, school has been out for summer for many students. But one British school has not had the summer off: veteran British rockers Girlschool toured Japan and Australia this summer. Roppongi Rocks caught up with the band backstage in Tokyo.

Kim McAuliffe of Girlschool on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Founded in London in 1978, Girlschool has two remaining founding members: Kim McAuliffe on guitar and vocals and drummer Denise Dufort. Both have turned 60, but are still at the top of their game. Legendary guitarist Kelly Johnson passed away in 2007 and the other member of the classic Girlschool line-up, Enid Williams, left the band, once again, at the beginning of this year. Kim and Denise are joined in the current line-up of the band by lead guitarist Jackie Chambers and bassist Tracey Lamb. Tracey, a founding member of the band Rock Goddess, is back in Girlschool for her third (or fourth stint, really), having first played with the band in 1983.

Sitting in a small room backstage with the four members of Girlschool, there’s endless banter and self-deprecating jokes. It never stops. They’re the same on stage a few hours later. They’re a lovely bunch of ladies and their British humour resonates well with me as I, too, spent a big part of my life living in London. 

It’s now been 41 years since the band was formed. What motivates you to keep going after all these years? “We’re stupid!” says Denise Dufort with a big grin across her face. “Stupidity!” screams Kim McAuliffe and continues: “But also, the fact is, it doesn’t seem like it. It just goes so quick. Anyway, when we first started, if you would’ve told us then that we would still be going now…” Denise jumps in again: “No way!” before Kim says: “It just happened.” Jackie Chambers explains that the band is still going because “We don’t have any other friends!” before Denise screams: “It’s true!”

Girlschool toured here Japan for the first time in 1982. What do you remember from that tour? “The first time you come here, it’s so different,” explains Kim. Denise adds: “Culture shock!” Kim continues: “I remember, when we went on stage, there was so much screaming, we thought we were in The Beatles. What the hell’s going on here? The other funny thing I do remember is that where we’re playing because it was a big theatre, they won’t allow smoke machines. So, there was all this little crew, running in, literally, filling up bags of smoke outside the doors and ran into the stage!”

Girlschool backstage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Lemmy and Motörhead have had a constant presence in the Girlschool story. What has his support meant for Girlschool? “I think what happened was that they gave us more of an identity,” says Kim. “Obviously, we were touring way before we met Motörhead. We sort of had the same thing as Motörhead, the crossover thing. We played punk clubs – they’d think we were heavy rock. And when we played heavy rock clubs, they thought that we were punk. When we did that first tour with Motörhead, people went ‘Ah! That’s what they are! Whatever it is, whatever that may be.’ The crossover thing, you know.” Tracey Lamb adds: “Similar sound. When I was in Goddess in the early years, Jody and me went out and bought all the Girlschool albums and Motörhead albums and there was a similarity in the style, with the crossover punk and metal thing.”

How do you balance playing old classics versus newer material? Do you ever think: Screw the old stuff, let’s just play newer songs? “We’d like to,” says Kim. “But the thing is, I always think, what would I like to hear if I came to see a band? I wanna hear the songs that I know, the classics. Everybody does.” Tracey adds: “It’s good to have a mixture, isn’t it?” Jackie continues: “We put new ones in. We try to put them in, because people who’ve found us only a few years ago, and then there’s some young people only just coming into the band now, so we have to put something new in.” Kim takes over: “But having said that, since Tracey joined, we are playing four new ones, to us, in a sense, that we never usually play.”

Girlschool backstage in Tokyo with Roppongi Rocks boss Stefan Nilsson.

Jackie explains: “We put ‘Bomber’ in for the first time ever.” Kim continues: “We’ve never played ‘Bomber’ live ever. But we do now! And also ‘Action’, which is a relatively new one. Tracey was on that album.” Tracey quickly says: “1988!” before Jackie adds: “New in 1988! Haha!” Kim continues: “We play two new ones, ‘Guilty as Sin’ and ‘Take It Like a Band’, from the last album.” Jackie feels the urge to explain that “When we say ‘new’, it is always like ten years ago!”

Your latest studio album, “Guilty as Sin”, came out in 2015. Can we expect a new studio album anytime soon? “People are saying ‘get a new one together’ and we’re thinking now when Tracey’s back in, we should do something next year,” says Jackie. 

Tracey Lamb is back in the band yet again as Enid Williams left. Was this an obvious choice? Is it a temporary or a permanent solution? “She’s under initiation test,” says Jackie before Tracey proudly says: “I passed. I’m in!” Denise explains: “I wanted Tracey back in the band. Because she’s a great bass player. Me and her always play well together, so I wanted her back!” Kim continues: “This is her third time now. We’ve known each other for 40 years.”

Tracey Lamb of Girlschool backstage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

“It’s fantastic being back,” says Tracey. “I love it! I’m back to stay, I’m back for good. I’ve been away for about 19 years and now I’m back.” Kim screams: “19 years? Bloody hell! Where’s that gone?” before Tracey continues: “It’s great! Because I left Goddess and then a few months later I got a call from Denise: ‘Can you help us out first of all and see how it goes?’ And we had such a great time in Spain and then we played Belgium, didn’t we? It gelled musically.”

Will Rock Goddess continue without you? “Yeah, they have got a new bass player now. They replaced me with a younger model. Haha! She’s only 28!” says Tracey.

Jackie Chambers, who joined Girlschool in 1999, is referred to as “the new girl” by the others. “20 years! New girl?!” says Jackie. “We keep saying the new girl,“ admits Kim. “It’s a bit like Ronnie Wood. He’s the new bloke in the Rolling Stones!” 

Jackie Chambers of Girlschool on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Jackie, you joined a legendary band more than two decades after it was founded. Now, some 20 years later – you have a major role in the band as lead guitarist and songwriter. Was that tough to achieve? “I didn’t see it like that because they were mates,” answers Jackie. “I’d met them all in 1995. Even though we were mates, I never saw myself in the band. Kelly wanted to leave. I never even thought about joining Girlschool. Me and Kim were doing a project, writing together at my house. No, actually we were just getting drunk, weren’t we? Pretending to write songs! When Kelly at one point just had enough, because I didn’t play lead guitar at all. I was in like punk stuff and played rhythm and riffs. She goes: ‘Look, if I help you…’ Cris Bonacci lived two streets away. She’s like ‘I’ll teach you the songs!’ And I thought: ‘Alright then!’ I joined a cover band to get my playing up to speed because I had never played lead guitar. They taught me the songs, I just went away and practised, thinking nothing will ever come of it. And then one day they said: ‘We’ve got some gigs, a London gig and Wacken, which was Kelly’s last gig. They wanted me to do Wacken and I went: ‘Not a chance in hell is that gonna be my first gig!’ in 1999. So, I said: ‘OK, Kelly, you do this as your last gig and I’ll take over there.’ And it just happened. Then Enid came back. The first gigs we did was 2000. So, 1999 I officially joined. I just like writing music. I wanted to be a songwriter, not a guitar player. What went wrong? I get to do both now. I enjoy it. I don’t write all the songs. I like to write music. We just work together, don’t we, really? I jam with Denise to write songs and me and Kim swap ideas on the phone. It’s really high-tech this band, whistling down the phone, an idea!”

Let’s talk about the classic Girlschool sound. Throughout the years, you’ve had many different constellations when it comes to guitars and bass and how the lead vocals have been handled. This year you have again had a shift with Enid leaving the band and Kim being, more or less, the sole lead singer. How have you managed to keep it sounding Girlschool through all these changes? “I’m a bit worried about these gigs now,” says Kim, “because we have like six in a row or something. I’m not used to singing all the songs. I need a bit of a break.” She’s pleading with Jackie and Tracey to take on some of the lead vocals. “I’m going to try one!” says Tracey who then a few hours later sings lead on “Watch Your Step”. “I think it’s just the Girlschool sound, isn’t it?” says Jackie. “We don’t use effects, you see. We just go straight through the amps. I think most bands use effects, pedals and things like that. Because we’re straight through Marshall, that is the sound. So, whoever joins, I mean, obviously I’m sort of similar to Kelly in style anyway, so as soon as she starts playing, that’s the sound, straight through a Marshall. That’s it.” Kim rounds it off: “We plug straight in! And I still use leads. People can’t believe it. ‘Where’s your wireless?’” laughs Kim while shaking her head. A few hours later the band is on stage and killing it. What a fab band and a great bunch of Brits.

Girlschool backstage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

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