Kim McAuiffe needs no introduction. As part of one of the first all female hard rock bands, Girlschool, they helped prove women could play just as good as the boys. The band had a close relationship with Motorhead, did their first US Tour with Maiden and Scorpions, and are still going strong today. We look back with Kim on the music business and the secret to longevity.
How did you discover music and what inspired you to pick up the guitar?
Kim: Mum and Dad were into music - especially The Beatles and The Stones and the radio was always on so I grew up with it and of course in those days we had Top of the Pops which all the bands that I loved performed on. Slade T Rex Bowie, exciting times! My cousin who lived next door and who’s a couple of years older than me got me into Rock. Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath etc. He also got a guitar and I remember my parents saying not to get any ideas - a year later I was the proud owner of that guitar Ha Ha! Music is a way of life whether you play or just listen to it.
What was your original vision for Girlschool?
Kim: There was no great vision for Girlschool - we just wanted to be in a band!
You said once in an interview that no boys would play with you because you were a woman, and that’s how the band ended up all women. What was the initial response from the fans, especially the men? How did women respond, was there any jealousy?
Kim: Yeah the reason we ended up as a girl band was that all the boys we knew - including my cousin – they didn’t want girls in their band so we had to find like-minded girls who wanted to play. Of course in the beginning we were something different so got quite a bit of attention - so then we thought hang on we might be onto something here!! Ha Ha!
Tell me about your gear setup. What is your guitar and amp of choice? I noticed you are a big fan of Gibsons and Marhsalls. Is that something you have never changed?
Kim: I love Marshall - The original and the best in my book! Always loved Gibson for their chunky sound - Kelly and Cris Bonacci played Gold Tops but they are so bloody heavy! When Gibson bought out the Goddess a sort of mini Les Paul for girls - well that’s the guitar for me! Don t think they do them anymore which is a shame!
What do you remember about recording the first album? You worked with Vic Malie. Did he treat you different because you were women? Was this a good experience?
Kim: When we first met Vic we didn’t really get on - we thought we knew everything when really we didn’t, but he stuck with us and we became great mates and loved working with - it was his idea for the St Valentine’s Day Massacre EP with Motorhead which was a massive hit.
Talk about your first trip as a touring band to the United States. You were supporting Iron Maiden and The Scorpions and it was the early 1980s when both bands ruled music. What did you think about the USA?
Kim: The tour with Scorpions and Maiden was amazing - I think it was 3 and a half months long and the first time we had really toured like that - on a night liner bus with massive distances and of course big stadiums! It was also great being with Maiden who we knew a bit from gigs in London. Love the USA but don’t think I’d be up for it now though! A month is my limit nowadays!
Did you see a difference between the fans in Europe and the fans in the U.S.?
Kim: I don t really think there’s much difference between country’s as far as rock fans go - they’re pretty nutty wherever they are in the world! Ha Ha!
How did the bands treat you? Was there any difference because you were all females, were they supportive?
Kim: We never felt that we were treated any differently by any bands we played with - most bands have been great to us and supportive - have been lucky enough to play with some of our heroes and haven’t been disappointed. One of the first bands I ever saw was Black Sabbath at Hammersmith Odeon when I was sixteen - little did I know that a few years later I would be playing on that same stage supporting them for 4 nights - then touring with them over the years then having Ronnie sing and Tony play on one of our tracks! How amazing is that!!!
How do you feel about being in the “NWOBHM” category? How did you end up being on being on Lars Ulrich’s “New Wave of British Heavy Metal ’79 revisited” comp?
Kim: Didn’t really think about the NWOBHM thing until it was pointed out to us years later -As for Lars thing, I didn’t know we were!! I know he liked the band though.
During the mid to late 1980s there was a shift in your sound and fans felt you were trying to become too commercial. Did this time period feel authentic to you? Was there an influence from the label and management to try to make you more commercial?
Kim: In the 80s after Kelly left we felt we needed a change - I like what we did on Running Wild but perhaps we should have called ourselves something else and made it more of a side project.
Entering the 1990s, hard rock went somewhat underground. Was this a period of struggle for Girlschool?
Kim: Don’t remember a lot about the 90s - must have been having too much fun! Even though it might have seemed that Rock went a bit quiet it was always there waiting to pounce Ha Ha! We did record our eighth album - Girlschool - in 1992 with Cris Bonacci on Lead Guitar and Jackie Carreira on bass at Dave Stewart’s studio The Church in London. I am still in touch with Cris and Jackie, in fact Cris has just done some filming for us for our new DVD and Jackie has just had her first novel published - Sleeping Through War – which is quite an achievement and doing well!
Did you like what was happening in music in the 1990s? Did you have any favorite bands that emerged in that decade?
Kim: I’m afraid I’m pretty much old school as I still listen to the old and the best - do like Foo Fighters though!
Did you know that you always wanted to keep Girlschool all female?
Kim: Once we established ourselves it would have been odd to have a bloke in - although we did a few gigs with my then boyfriend Nick Lashley when Kelly couldn’t make 'em and found that the girls down the front were quite appreciative!!
Has the relationships between you and the band members always been like a sisterhood? You and Kelly had an incredible chemistry and it seems like you and Jackie do as well. How do you deal with arguments?
Kim: Kelly and I had a great relationship as did Den. She came to live with me and Mum and Dad as she lived way over the other side of London and it made more sense for her to be with us. We were only children so it was like having a sister. Jax is great as well – we’ve never argued!
Den and I used to have a few fights in the old days - mostly drunken ones which we laugh about now -we known each other over 40 years!
You have been though all the music business technology changes. You stated out in an era where you had to purchase an album at an actual store to hear it. How does this effect your way of thinking now when you go to promote an album?
Kim: Im so pleased that we came from an era where for example you had to save up your pocket go to the record shop and have this exciting piece of music in your hands!! It made it more special! Then to get home and put in on the record play - put the needle down for the first time - Magic! Course I sound old!! Also to have an actual Record Company - which we still have - is important to me.
What are your biggest accomplishments with Girlschool?
Kim: Our biggest accomplishment I would say is that we’re still here!!
What do you think of the current state of women in music? Is there anyone you are a fan of? Do you feel Rock N Roll is a lost art?
Kim: There are quite a few good female bands out there right now - it’s only taken 40 years Ha Ha! When we had our success we thought there would be more but no - it only seems to be happening now. Of course there was Rock Goddess that have just reformed - now we have Joan ov Arc - The Ammourettes and a finish band BarbieQBardies that are all good.
What are your passions outside of GirlSchool? Have you felt the band has ever taken away from your personal life?
Kim: Have moved to the country side and love lazing about in the garden - have half an acre - and watching my other half doing all the work! He loves it though!! Also have a beloved pussy cat and 4 rescue rabbits that are a joy to watch considering the horrors they’ve gone through.
What is the current vision for Girlschool?
Kim: Well I suppose keep going as long as we re wanted! Although my garden is a great place to be!
Have you thought about making a documentary about the band?
Kim: There has been talk in the past about a documentary - we did an hour long tv program in the 80s for channel 4 which was part of a series called Play At Home of which half was filmed at a gig at the Marquee and the other was of us basically mucking about - it was a bit Spinal Tap before Spinal Tap! Great fun.
GirlSchool and Motorhead have had a long friendship and history. Can you tell your favorite memory you have with Lemmy?
Kim: So many great memories of Lemmy and the Boys - one that sticks out is the first time we all as HeadGirl Sent on Top of the Pops! We were all so excited and seeing him in make up getting his hair done in a sort of which was hilarious!
How do you manage to stay healthy after all these years?
Kim: Healthy!? You having a laugh?! Ha Ha! No seriously do a lot of walking and try to eat healthily!
What advice would you give women in the current state of Rock N Roll?
Kim: There are more Girl bands now than ever which can only be a good thing, so I say go for it!