Syteria is the new project from Girlschool’s lead guitarist Jackie Chambers.
The band was formed by Chambers out of a desire to perform live more often when not on duty with NWOBHM legends Girlschool. After a successful Pledge campaign, Syteria released their debut EP Wake Up earlier this year. The band have also performed a string of initial UK shows, with more to come including a date at the prestigious Hard Rock Hell festival in Wales.
National Rock Review recently caught up with Jackie Chambers on her return to the UK following Girlschool’s appearance at the world famous Waken Open Air Festival in Germany.
NRR: Thanks for taking the time to speak to us here at National Rock Review, we really appreciate it.
Jackie: No worries.
NRR: I understand you just got back from Wacken Festival where you were playing with Girlschool at the weekend. I was just wondering how did it go out there and what was that experience like?
Jackie: We’ve done that one quite a few times, well about five or six times now over the years. I love it, it’s probably the best one I think because it’s so well organised, it’s German so it would be (laughing), they are very efficient aren’t they. It’s massive now, I think they said 120,000 people can get in, it’s like Glastonbury that sort of size, it’s like a little village, it really is.
We arrived on Thursday night when Iron Maiden was on, it was absolutely chucking it down, and we thought oh no because that’s the worst thing when you’ve got a festival. It’s muddy and dreary but it didn’t dampen the spirits at all like it doesn’t for any festival really, everyone just loves it no matter what.
It was just brilliant, we were on the Wet Stage on Friday and it was a lovely sunny day, it was packed, it was brilliant. I mean when you are playing to that many thousands of people, you just have a good time no matter what (laughing). Like I said it’s so well organised, backstage is brilliant, you just have a great time and you see the bands you haven’t seen for a while, and catch up with old friends, that sort of thing.
NRR: How do you find playing at Wacken compares to playing the big rock festivals here in the UK?
Jackie: The only good rock festival I like in the UK is Hard Rock Hell in Wales, I love that one. I’m lucky that I’m playing that one this year but with Syteria, that will be kind of cool, it is my favourite one in Britain. We’ve never played Download, we’ve never played Glastonbury and the Girls played Reading in 1980. I think we’ve got one coming up in London on the 8th October.
So yeah, I mean I think there’s more enthusiasm for gigs abroad, especially Germany. If you go on at 11 o’ clock in the morning in Germany there is a massive crowd. I remember we once opened a stage at Wacken at 12 o’ clock and you know that’s a crap spot, you get out of bed and go to the gig. We came on stage and it was packed and they were all up for it. It’s 12 o’ clock and they are already drunk, either that or they just carried on from the night before (laughing).
NRR: I was just wondering if you managed to see Dio’s Disciples set when you were at Wacken?
Jackie: We didn’t, no. That’s the thing with these massive festivals your schedule is absolutely choca. You get there, and then you get onsite about 11am and you’ve got an interview and TV. Then you go for dinner, then you come back and you do this and then you are on stage, and you’ve got like an hour to get sorted out and get onstage, do your set. Then you come off and you do the signing thing, you never have any time at all. So we didn’t really get to see any music, just as you are walking around when you are doing interviews you can hear it in the background. It’s a shame I would have liked to have seen that.
NRR: Obviously, there were mixed reactions about Ronnie James Dio’s hologram appearing on stage. I just wanted to speak with someone who might have seen it firsthand.
Jackie: While we were eating dinner, we were sat with Wendy Dio. So we were chatting with Wendy about it and she was telling us all about it. I thought that sounds like a good idea, I mean it’s been done before …it’s been done a couple of times, I just didn’t see it, so I couldn’t comment.
NRR: Earlier this year you released your debut EP with Syteria. Could you tell us a little bit about that and the inspiration behind it?
Jackie: Well I guess I’m the political one (laughing). I’m not really political, I just have a lot of opinions these days. I think the older you get the more cynical, jaded you become and you see what is wrong with the world and it’s good to write about it. I think it’s a good way to vent, it’s a good way to get out what you are feeling in a song.
Of course with “Sheeple” it’s just like people blindly following without asking questions, and things are just getting worse and worse in this country as we all know. If you were to talk about politics you could be here for months, there is so much going on isn’t there? I think people need to wake up and just think about where we are going in society, it’s just a mess (laughing), it’s getting worse rather than better. I mean the NHS it’s all going horribly wrong. So I just put it down in a song.
Then I’ve got the other side to me where I’m quite spiritual minded. I like the idea of changing yourself first, because I don’t think anything is going to change in the world, no matter which politician gets in. It’s looking at that person in the mirror, a bit like the Michael Jackson song I suppose, you make the change and things will change, if everybody changed then it would be a whole new world, which is what “Reflection” is about.
NRR: Obviously, you decided to put this band together because you wanted to use this opportunity to do something a bit different from Girlschool?
Jackie: I love playing music and I love playing gigs, and Girlschool although we are still gigging quite a bit, we don’t gig as much as I want. I would rather be out there every day, I would be on tour the whole year if I could (laughing). I don’t mind waking up in a different hotel and a different city, I quite like that lifestyle.
I’ve been in this band seventeen years now, I’m the new girl at seventeen years. Kim and Denise have been doing it for thirty-eight years, so they kind of like to do the odd festival here and there and a couple of weeks touring here and there, but I just want to be on tour all of the time. So it works, they don’t mind it at all, I mean they kept saying they are really quite encouraging it Denise and Kim, go on go do it, go do it, then we have to do less (laughing), that sort of thing.
I just put it together because I wanted to play more when Girlschool wasn’t so busy. At the time I put it together all of a sudden Girlschool got busy, which is kind of ironic. Last year we were doing the Motorhead tour with Saxon and then the album and everything, it just got busy.
It’s kind of fitting in nicely, I mean Girlschool is my main project obviously and then Syteria. The thing is because we are doing a tour with Saxon now and Girlschool, that’s this year until the end of the year with Girlschool. But next year we are not doing anything with Girlschool, so I will concentrate on Syteria. We are going to do a new album in January, and we will be touring in March. So obviously then Girlschool will get a few festivals in the summer time and I’m going to try and fit Syteria around that and get some of the same festivals. As long as I don’t have to go on just before that would be great.
NRR: I know that you put together a Pledge campaign for your debut EP and I was just wondering how well do you think that worked and would you use that method of crowdfunding again for future projects?
Jackie: I think I will, I think we are going to do it again pretty soon. Last year we did the Christmas DVD and single “Santa’s Harley,” just to get ourselves out there and we did the video ourselves. But the money did help to pay for the actual recording and the video and all the things that go with it.
It was actually quite fun, you know some of the things we did for the Pledge, like getting people to the actual rehearsal, because we got to play live in an intimate situation with six people at a time. We just did like a little mini gig for these six people and I think you can gauge a reaction better when you can see people’s eyes, I quite like that although it’s quite intimidating for the other three because they’ve never done that before, I quite like that. After playing to thousands upon thousands of people and then playing for six it’s quite weird, but it’s good I liked it (laughing).
NRR: Do you get more nervous playing to six people or thousands of people?
Jackie: I don’t get nervous at all, but I think six people is harder in a sense because like I said you can see their eyes, you can see if they are enjoying a song, they are not enjoying a song and you can gauge it more. Yeah, I think it’s more intimidating playing for six people, they are that close as well in the rehearsal room.
NRR: Can you tell us about your band mates in Syteria and how you all met?
Jackie: Well Julia, I put an ad out at one point and a mutual friend had heard Julia sing in another band and said she is Sheffield based, which is in Yorkshire. So we got together, we met up in Wetherspoons for a drink and we got on really, really well.
I actually wanted to be in a band with people who are enthusiastic and you know on the same wavelength. I hadn’t even heard her sing and I thought yeah I really like this girl, she’s lovely, she’s from Argentina, and like I said she lives in Sheffield, but she’s lovely and we got on like a house on fire. So I started writing and I brought her over to hear some material and she sang on a couple of demos to see how it sounded. Then we searched for a bass player the same way, on Facebook.
We had a lot of trouble with female drummers, we auditioned seven or eight, they were pretty awful, they weren’t very good. So it was like this is not good because you want that drive, you need that beat, like Denise she is a powerhouse you know, you need someone like that in this kind of music. We had people come in and they were reading notes. What’s that about with drums you know? You can’t read music when you are playing the drums, it’s a feel, it’s a groove.
Keira’s dad is the original drummer of Raven. She’s only 22 is Keira, she’s so sweet. Her dad was helping us out whilst we were auditioning and helping us to audition as well because he knows his stuff about drums. So we ended up doing the EP with Mike playing because we had a drummer and she didn’t really work out, so Mike played on that EP.
Then afterwards he was doing gigs so Julia’s Brother Pablo, who is also an excellent drummer, he was helping us out too. We thought oh he’s such a lovely bloke and brilliant drummer, and the groove was just right if felt right, we said we want you to join. He sings as well, it gives it that little bottom harmony underneath which is quite unique really I think, it’s quite nice.
NRR: Obviously you’ve got some shows coming up with Syteria this year as well?
Jackie: We’ve only done five shows so far. My schedule has been quite gruelling this year. We did Nuneaton and London last weekend, which was brilliant, really good fun. We are coming up to Scotland, we’ve got a show in Paisley at The Bungalow and then in Edinburgh at Bannermans.
NRR: Going back to Girlschool, you’ve had a seventeen-year career with the band. Is there any one particular major highlight that you always look back on during your time with the band?
Jackie: Yeah I mean for me, playing was Alice Cooper, because Alice Cooper was my hero growing up and at school, I loved Alice Cooper. Actually playing a tour with him in Spain and meeting him as an equal as it were, it was just heaven. I got to go backstage and see how it all works, you know the guillotine, the gallows and everything and all of the backstage stuff and meet him as a person, it felt wonderful. Take me now I’ve done it (laughing), I’m happy, that was my goal I wanted to play with Alice Cooper.
NRR: You mentioned Girlschool toured with Motorhead last year I know, and you were due to tour again this year before Lemmy sadly passed. Obviously, you recorded with Lemmy, I noticed you also paid tribute to him at Wacken as well. I was just wondering with the recent passing of Lemmy, what is your fondest memory of him?
Jackie: I think the funniest thing was when we were doing the Legacy album back in 2008, and because it was an anniversary album we had special guests on it. Because Lemmy was in LA and we were in Wales, I was texting him and I was saying Lemmy, do you wanna be on one of our songs on this new album? So he texted me back going Jax (you could almost hear his voice) what do you want bass, guitar, harmonica or triangle? I went oh triangle, triangle (excitedly).
So we sent him the track, and there was just me and Kim in the studio and I had written this song music-wise. Kim said well what about a title? She had come up with “Don’t Talk To Me,” that was it, that was all we had, I had the music and Kim had “Don’t Talk To Me.” We thought Lemmy could sing on this one, it would be brilliant for Lemmy this one, no words, no nothing.
So he rung us up at two in the morning and we were so drunk (laughing) and we went it’s like this Lemmy (Jackie singing “nah nah nah nah Don’t Talk To Me nah nah nah nah Don’t Talk To Me“) and that’s all we had. The day after he said all he could hear was “Don’t Talk To Me.” I said well that’s all there was (laughing), he thought he just couldn’t make out the lyrics, so he wrote his own, the truth is we didn’t have any.
So then he went away, wrote some lyrics and my friend drove him to the studio and he put down the track, bass and vocals and then at the end he went ting on the triangle (laughing), a great way to end an album, Lemmy playing the triangle. He had a great sense of humour, he really did.
NRR: Obviously like we just mentioned there you were supposed to tour with Motorhead and Saxon earlier this year, and now you are going to be out with Saxon and Fastway, which again is another great combination later this year. What can your fans expect from your show this time around?
Jackie: Unfortunately, we are on first so we only get half an hour, so it could be all the fast ones. It’s hard to find which set to do when it’s half an hour because obviously, we’ve got to fit in “C’mon Let’s Go,” “Race With The Devil” and “Emergency.” We are probably going to do a couple from the new album, we will probably do “Revolution” and “Take It Like A Band.” It’s hard to know what else we will put in, probably “Kick It Down.” I don’t know, I suppose we will change it each night, as long as we do the ones that everybody wants to hear.
NRR: We are looking forward to the tour, I think we will be covering the show at the O2 Academy in Newcastle, which I believe is the first show of the tour.
Jackie: It’s the first one isn’t it? I think on the 28th October. What a way to start it, it’s a party town. Oh dear, that doesn’t bode well for the rest of the tour (laughing).
NRR: What’s your favourite track to perform live and why?
Jackie: Well I guess one of the new ones because it’s fresh. I’ve always liked doing “Race With The Devil,” I guess I’ve done that song every show for seventeen years, so it gets a little boring after a while. So I think for me at the moment I’m liking doing “Revolution” and “Take It Like A Band” because they are new.
NRR: Outside of Girlschool and Syteria, in terms of your own music collection, what’s the one album in your record collection that you couldn’t live without?
Jackie: Oh that’s a good question. I love “Paranoid & Sunburnt” by Skunk Anansie, honestly, I just love that album. There are so many songs I like on that album. A few Alice Cooper ones. There are loads of albums honestly, If you took my record collection away, I would be like please don’t take that (laughing). Yeah, so quite a few I suppose, I couldn’t nail it down to one Alice Cooper album, I’ve got them all obviously. I like The Cult as well, there are a couple of Cult albums that I wouldn’t want to part with, too many.
NRR: If you could choose any band to cover one of your songs, which song and artist would you choose?
Jackie: Well that’s a good question isn’t it, which song? That’s a really good question, I’ve never thought of that. Obviously, I would like Alice Cooper to do one. Yeah, Alice Cooper would be good doing a song, which one? Let’s say “We All Have to Choose” on Believe because I kind of wrote that with Alice Cooper in mind.
NRR: What else do you have in store for the rest of this year?
Jackie: Lots (laughing). So obviously Syteria gigs, we’ve got a couple in September and we are playing Hard Rock Hell in November, right in the middle of the Girlschool tour with Saxon, I don’t make things easy.
I came off the stage at Bang Your Head last month, into a car, rushed to the airport just to get back for a Syteria gig the next day, and only just made it (laughing). So I’m doing the same thing again, only in reverse this time. I’m on tour with Girlschool and I will be in Nottingham, then I’ve got to get to Hard Rock Hell in Wales, and then do the gig and get to Holland, it’s going to be fun, how to make life difficult.
There’s going to be quite a few gigs and Syteria are going to be doing another video very soon and we are going to do another Pledge campaign so that we can record an album in January which is the plan. Then next year there’s quite a lot going on, we’ve got a tour planned in March.
NRR: That’s great, well thanks for taking the time to speak to us, we really appreciate it. It sounds like you are very busy, we look forward to more of what’s to come from Syteria and obviously we will catch you on the Girlschool/Saxon tour in October hopefully as well.
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