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Once upon a sunny day in London, I met up with GIRLS ON TOP to interview them. We had a fun afternoon in the beer garden of a pub.
Here is the interview, uploaded in memory of Vicki de Vice who departed this mortal realm on August 23, 2016 after a five-year battle with cancer.




(September 2006)

GIRLS ON TOP: A SPAWN OF THE CAMDEN SCENE
[Girls On Top are: Vicki De Vice (vocals, harmonica); Liddy Lustre (drums, vocals), Amanda Pukon (bass), Neil Downe (guitar, vocals)]

First, I'd like to ask each of you what you were doing, musicwise, before getting together for Girls On Top. What bands you were in before you ever met. Vicki?
Vicki De Vice: I was in a sort of rock'n'roll band. Greasy rock'n'roll. So the band was called Greasy Pig! I'd sing and play the harmonica. That's the first band I ever fronted and started writing songs for. I learned not be nervous and to be able to talk in between numbers. I did that for about three years. Very Rolling Stones style.

So, after Greasy Pig, what happened, did you decide you wanted your own band?
Vicki: Yes. I think that's after that all split up that I met Shanne, who was a bass player at the time, and-
Liddy Lustre: She met me first.
Vicki: We were introduced together through an art group.
Liddy: I was doing an Art Foundation course where I met Shanne. I told her out of the blue that If I could get a band I would call it Girls On Top, just to take the piss. And the following week she said "I've got a singer"! "You're joking!" "No, we're gonna meet in Camden". And that's how I met Vicki.
Vicki: I think everyone was thinking about doing a band at the same sort of time. It gelled very easily, very quickly.
Liddy: We started writing songs in Shanne's loft for a couple of months.
Vicki: We were looking for a girl guitarist at the time. We wanted an all-girl band because we were very pro-femme and we wanted some very punk, outrageous, sexual stuff. We couldn't find a girl guitarist at the time, and then it just happened that Neil Downe, actually Tony from the Dead Beats, was available. We were introduced at a gig. It was-
Neil Downe: Bill Hurley.
Vicki: Apparently, we all knew each other through different people.
Liddy: And that was the band! We carried on writing songs, we had three songs before Neil Downe joined in, and we said: "Ok, let's go to the studio!" We had never heard each other play.
Vicki: Liddy was on a rubber mat doing the rhythm. I was doing the singing. Shanne and Neil were acoustic. We thought it might be awful!
Liddy: And when we went into rehearsal and we heard it, unplugged, we thought: "Wow!" It was a shock.
Vicki: We all loved it.

So, Liddy, before Girls On Top, you were doing Art College, but musicwise, what were you doing?
Liddy: I had been drumming for three-four years in a gothic band called Scarlet In Heaven. Then I started singing and drumming in a cover band called The Playgirls at the same time I was doing Girls On Top. I've been doing both for ten years now.

What about you, Neil Downe, what were you doing before joining Girls On Top?
Neil: I played in a band called Plummet Airlines. They were one of the first bands on Stiff Records. I also played in a band called the GT's on the "Raw Deal" record, which is quite a collectible now, I found out. Then I was in a band called the Dead Beats. After that when Suzy the singer went back to America, I did a bit of session work with Bill Hurley, a garage punk rock band. Then I was in a band called…….
Vicki: Something like Abortion or Cesarian!
Neil: No, that was different. This one ended up being called The Big Bad Wolf. It would change name for every gig. Then I didn't do anything for a couple of years. I was into football really, my big vice. Then when Suzy came over from America one time, we went to see Bill Hurley play and I was introduced to Vicki who was looking for a guitarist. Was I interested? I said "well, I'm not doing anything, I could give it a go."
Vicki: You always liked girl groups. 60's girl groups.
Neil: And I ended up with Girls On Top!
Vicki: We also found out we knew a lot of the same people. Very small world in the end, the music business. And the Camden scene.

Alright. What about you Amanda?
Amanda Pukon: Before Girls On Top I was in an all-female band called Virago. Sort of punky, but more poppy.
Walki: And who were in Virago?
Amanda: Jackie was the guitarist of the band, and she now plays with Girlschool. And a singer called Emma. We didn't get signed. I met Liddy through that band.
Liddy: Yes. I went to a gig with a friend who is now dead. We thought Amanda was an extremely good bassist so we decided to get her number because we were doing a cover band at the time. So, she started playing with The Playgirls, too. Then we started to have problems with Shanne; Shanne wasn't interested in the Girls On Top anymore.
Amanda: I was with that band a year and a half. Before that, there were a lot of heavy metal bands, which were great fun. Chilli Peppers style bands. I had seen Girls On Top before but I hadn't recognised Liddy!
Liddy: We used to wear lots of wigs in the old days. We were dressed as men dressed as wimin.
Vicki: Like the New York Dolls. Glam rock. In N.M.E. they wrote: "Are they chaps?" They couldn't tell! Question mark sexuality, it was our style at the time. But you can't keep something forever. We've been together ten years! Then we went through a glittery phase! Plastic. Leather. What you wear helps you getting into your persona. Dressing up. We wanted to be what people didn't want or couldn't be, just to piss everybody off. There was a lot of dance music at the time. I think we were together because we liked retro music, rock'n'roll, real music.
Liddy: We don't take ourselves too seriously.

So, Amanda, you had seen Girls On Top play. And then what happened? Did they ask you to audition for them?
Amanda: Yeah, I had to audition! [everyone laughing]
Liddy: I knew she was the right person, but at the time, we had that feisty bass player. She wanted the job.
Vicki: They were only two contenders and Amanda walked away with the job and with flying colours.
Liddy: It was everybody's decision. Shanne was not pleased about being sacked, but she was not turning up at rehearsals or gigs, so we had enough. Vicki tried to pluck up her courage and went to tell her, but Shanne wouldn't even open the door! Later on, she was really annoyed we didn't tell her, but we needed to move on.

How many years into the band did you switch bassists?
Amanda: For the new millenium. It has been 6 years now.
Vicki: Yes, we started in May 1996.
Liddy: For the first album, it was Shanne playing the bass. The second one, too.
Vicki: Not all of them. It's actually Neil playing the bass.
Liddy: Sometimes she had problems keeping the beat. Sorry, we're not slagging her off……. But, it's the truth. The G-string was a bit loose…….

How would you describe your style of music?
Vicki : I think it's a very hard thing to do. I hate writing it down.
Liddy: It is such a mixture. We write together.
Vicki: It is a mixture of retro 60's, punk, rock'n'roll, glam.
Liddy: A bit of everything.
Vicki: I think the best to do is to listen to all sorts of music you like and bring it
together in a sort of melting pot.
Liddy: It's our style. I think we are into different things. If you look at our new album ["A Taste of Cyanide"], there's a bit of French -because I'm French-, there's a bit of tango.
Vicki: We wanna bring something different. We don't wanna be fashionable. We were all doing sort of garage rock'n'roll.
Liddy: That was before The White Stripes.
Vicki: Yes, before The White Stripes bring back the guitar. We're actually grateful to them because they made people listen to something else. Before, it was just pop and dance stuff, music made in studio, rather than real instruments.
Liddy: People often say that we're punk, but we're not because if you listen to proper punk, there are a lot of different punks around.

Currently, Mel Roxy is replacing Neil Downe on guitar. Previously, she replaced Amanda on bass when Amanda was pregnant. How did you meet Mel?
Vicki: I think we were doing a gig at the Borderline. We saw this other band play. There was a feisty Japanese chick on bass. She was jumping up and down like a mad thing.
Neil: There were two girls and two boys in the band. The two girls were good. So, when Amanda got pregnant, we asked Mel because she was very capable.
Vicki: We didn't want to take any risks. And now, Mel is replacing Neil on guitar.

Yes, let's get to that. Neil, last February, you were attacked by a sea urchin.
Neil: It went for me! [everyone laughing]
Walki: Since then, you've been unfortunately incapacitated: You haven't been able to play the guitar in the band.
Neil: I still can't bend my finger properly [flexing his injured left index finger]. It is not as swollen anymore, but the joint has stiffened out because of the trauma. I had a spike through my finger. I am still doing physiotherapy.
Vicki: we were lucky Mel was available. The thing is, because we've been together for so long, and we've got such a catalogue of songs, it is difficult to bring someone in overnight. Some of our songs are quite intricate. It is hard: ten years of songs to choose from. You can only teach a certain amount of things.
Liddy: We've rarely cancelled gigs during these years. Maybe three or four.
Vicki: You never know when someone's gonna be ill, or something.

Fortunately, you had recorded all the songs for the new album before the attack of the sea urchin.
Vicki: We recorded last summer. By February, we were mixing and mastering and stuff like that and getting the work done!
Liddy: It took a while because we didn't have the money.
Vicki: We all pay for ourselves.
Liddy: And thankfully it's been out now since July. Two months.

So, tell me about this new album. What has it got that the previous albums haven't got?
Vicki: I don't compare it to the previous albums. I believe it's still the same. I think there might be a gradual difference, but I don't know what that is.
Liddy: we still talk about girly topics or ideas, or the world. We've got a song about -
Vicki: Killing the parents!
Walki: Yes, you hated them, now you kill them!
Liddy: We had a song called "Barbie Is A Smackhead" on one album ["Ovulater", 2002], we have "Barbie, Sindy, Ken + Paul" on the new album, now we're thinking, maybe Barbie goes religious. That's another project.
Vicki: The Barbie song was such a smash hit with the audience. Everyone knows it, everyone asks for it. It's got petty frost. This song has an underlying message about the fashion models wanting to look like junkies. At the time we did know a lot of junkies -and still do-, we didn't know what the real problem was. We thought it was a very stupid attitude, so we wrote "Barbie Is a Smackhead". We don't only write fun jokey songs, we do actually talk about serious things, underneath it all.
Amanda: Some songs are stories that happened to our friends or even to us.
Liddy: One line I got one night ended up in one of the new songs. I went out with a girlfriend and one guy thought she was single, when actually she was married, and I was the one who was single. So I told him: "No, I'm very very very very single!" It turned into a song!
Vicki: We have songs about pain, about addiction, about fun. "Cryonic Suspension" is about people not wanting to die. They want to keep their body and live forever. What it would be like to fall asleep now and wake up in the next century. "All I Got" is about people buying things constantly just for the sake of it, not enjoying what they already have, and always wanting more. Our songs are about life. They are light-hearted.
Liddy: We have a lovely songwriter here: Vicki De Vice. She is very quirky. She writes about things and twists them around.
Vicky: I do like playing around with words, but we do the rest altogether. We all feel very strongly about the band.

To finish up this interview, would you like to say a few words about your upcoming tour?
Vicki: We're undertaking a tour in France, next week. We always appreciate the way the French like us, feed us and water us. The audience is very loyal. We also have the official tenth anniversary of our first gig, which was at the Red Eye in King's Cross [London], on the 5th of October 2006. We're gonna play Gaz's Rhythm & Blues Club at the St Moritz in Wardour Street [London] on that very day.
Liddy: To mark the actual date of our first gig. Ten years.
Walki: Ready for another ten years?!
Liddy: I don't know, do we? I think it's pretty good to be there with the whole line up after ten years.


www.girlzontop.co.uk
Girls On Top's discography:
On Vinyl: "Boys Meet" on 4-track Salon Talon released by Nana Records (London, UK)
On CD: 1997, EP: "He's Been Around", "I'm Hot", "Barbie is a Smackhead" and "Thrush".
2002, LP: "OVULATER".
2002, single: "Wrap Yourself in Tinsel" and "I Hate my Parents".
2003, LP: "ELECTROLUXURY".
2006, LP: "A TASTE OF CYANIDE".


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