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Life Behind the Scenes with the Go-Go’s

Frank Mastropolo

Gina Schock’s New Book Features a Treasure Trove of Photos

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Black Dog & Leventhal

You may think you’ve stumbled into a time warp when you see how omnipresent the Go-Go’s have become in 2021. Formed as a punk band in 1978, the Go-Go’s — singer Belinda Carlisle, guitarists Charlotte Caffey and Jane Wiedlin, bassist Kathy Valentine and drummer Gina Schock — starred in 2020’s acclaimed Showtime documentary The Go-Go’s and haven’t slowed down since.

Schock released her first book, Made in Hollywood: All Access with The Go-Go’s, on Oct. 26. It’s a mind-blowing coffee table photo book packed with stories and photos collected by the drummer over her 40-year career. “I’m excited to share this with everyone because these photos have just been sitting in drawers and under the beds and closets and all over the place,” says Schock. “So it’s nice to have them all in one place so that everybody will be able to see them.”

Made in Hollywood includes essays with friends the band has made along the journey, including Kate Pierson, Jodie Foster and Dave Stewart. Schock explains how the band reunited after their 1985 breakup when actress and activist Jane Fonda asked them to perform at a 1990 benefit for the Environmental Protection Initiative.

The book’s release preceded the Go-Go’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame alongside Tina Turner, Carole King, JAY-Z, Foo Fighters and Todd Rundgren on October 30th. The band will embark on a short tour on December 28, 2021.

What lessons can young musicians take from your career?

The only lesson that I know is to have faith in your own ability. Because you’re going to run across a lot of no’s. You’re going to hear no a lot more than you’re going to hear yes. You gotta have faith in your own ability and if you believe you can do it, you can do it. I’m a perfect example.

I come from Baltimore. I didn’t have any connections out to L.A. and I came out here with a dream. But I was very, very focused. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. You just gotta stay hyper-focused.

You gotta have faith in yourself. If you believe in yourself, it’s contagious.

What are your thoughts on the Go-Go’s long-awaited induction into the Rock Hall?

It’s taken so long but now I’m excited about it. It will be exciting to see the audience with all my peers. I can’t wait to see everyone that’s going to be there to play and meet and greet. It will certainly be very memorable for the band. I’m super-excited about it. I could probably speak for the rest of the band in saying that.

Your new book is a treasure trove of behind-the-scenes photos and stories.

I am super-excited about the book. The Go-Go’s stuff takes care of itself but I had to take the reins here and try to get everything together as far as book signings. It’s a lot of work but I’m used to that. I can’t believe I’m actually putting out a book of my photographs that I wrote too. There’s a lot of text as well. I’m excited to share this with everyone because these photos have just been sitting in drawers and under the beds and closets and all over the place.

So it’s nice to have them all in one place so that everybody will be able to see them. Nobody else is gonna do this book so I’m glad I could. And I could gather other photos from other people that we worked with along the way. And I could get some essays from other people that we’ve met along the way. It was a real labor of love and I can’t wait to get out there.

I’m also doing gallery shows with my photographs. I’m very excited to be doing a gallery show in L.A. at a place called Mr. Musichead. And one up here in San Francisco at Saint Joseph’s Art Society. And one in a little get-together in Laguna Beach at Harley. I’m setting up stuff in New York right now to do lots of book signings there. Virtual and in-person stuff.

What can fans expect on the upcoming tour?

We’re doing seven shows this December. We’ll be playing all the favorites and I guess we’ll put in our new song, “Club Zero.” We have to get together, we’ll rehearse and figure out what we want to play. We’ll probably add a couple of new things. We have to get into the same room to work it all out.

"Club Zero" by the Go-Go's

After the Go-Go’s broke up, you became lead singer of your own band, House of Schock.

Believe me, I had no intentions, I just wanted to play drums and write the material because I was ready for that. The rest of the band was like, “Gina, you sing these songs better than anybody else that we’ve brought in and tried to introduce as our lead singer. You should just be the singer and let’s stop searching the country to find the singer for House of Schock. You should do it.” So I just wound up doing it.

So no featured vocals on the upcoming Go-Go’s tour.

No. The Go-Go’s are the Go-Go’s. I’m a separate thing. Jane does her separate stuff, we all have our different things that we’re involved in that don’t involve the Go-Go’s. But certainly the Go-Go’s is definitely the platform for everything that we individually do. It all starts there.

If the Go-Go’s remained hard-core punk rockers, how different would your careers have been?

They would have been over a lot sooner. What this band transformed itself into was a very natural progression, because there’s a time and place for everything. As we got better and better, it just sort of happened the way it was supposed to. We didn’t have anything set. We didn’t know exactly what the hell we were doing. We were just writing songs and working on arranging them and getting better at playing our instruments and trying to write about more interesting things. It was a learning process. All of it.

But I think our punk roots remain, there’s no doubt. And I’m glad we’ve come from that. And that’s part of what keeps us really relevant in this day and age as well. Because we’ve got something strong to back us up.

Like Blondie, were you criticized when you made the switch to a more pop sound and began selling records?

Well, Richard Gottehrer produced Blondie and produced the Go-Go’s. He gave them more of a pop sound and he gave us more of a pop sound.

We thought he ruined our songs. They weren’t punk anymore but they were something else. They were emerging into a bigger world of music. It was not punk and then it became pop. It was punk-pop. Rock. A mixture of those genres of music, which gave us a larger audience. And it works.

In your new book you wrote about the importance of songwriting. What should young musicians know about songwriting revenues?

I think the most important thing to know is that if you are in a band, it’s very important to share your songwriting money. You can sit and write songs all day long. Unless you have the platform to show those songs off and let larger groups of people hear it, it doesn’t matter. A great songwriter is one thing. But it doesn’t matter if you don’t have an audience to play it for.

With the Go-Go’s, people were coming to see the Go-Go’s. Charlotte, Jane and Kathy were writing good songs at the time as well but one was no good without the other as far as I’m concerned.

What does that conflict do to the internal makeup of a band?

It breaks a band up. It broke our band up. It had a lot to do with breaking our band up when we’re all out there workin’ and a couple of people in the band are making a lot more than you are. It’s not fair. It’s not right.

You can take credit for writing something but you should be sharing those royalties with your bandmates. That’s the way it should be.

There’s a lot of managers out nowadays that won’t even sign a band unless they split things because they know the minute money comes in, the band’s gonna break up if one person’s making 10 times what the other one’s making.

It’s your input. What you contribute to that song as a player is part of what makes up the sound of that song. That’s valuable. If you’re a solo artist that’s one thing. We’re in a band, man. Everybody needs to get their due. And it just shouldn’t be on stage. It should be in your pocketbook too. Do the right thing. Be fair. You can take all the credit you want as a songwriter but you should split the money.

How did the band reunite in the 1990s?

Gina Schock: We were already starting to talk. Belinda had made a couple of calls, I made a couple of calls. There were these little calls unbeknownst to each other and then all of a sudden we realized oh, we’ve all been talking to each other. And then when the Jane Fonda thing came up, it was like well, there’s no excuse because we’re all environmental activists and yes, of course we want to be part of this. And who says no to Jane Fonda? And after that, it felt very natural, very normal to just get back, starting working again, start playing together, steppin’ on stage together and letting that magic happen.

Because when we play, it’s this wonderful chemistry that doesn’t happen anywhere else with any other people that I’ve played with. Everybody else in the band says the same thing. I’ve played with a lot of different people and so have other members of the band but when you’re playin’ with the Go-Go’s it’s just a different thing. Totally different.

What’s the secret of staying together since then?

We’re family. You know how it is with your family. You can’t stand them but then in a week or a month you get over whatever the fight was about. You go right back to business. Of course we’re family. That will never go away.

I can’t tell you how many times they’re like, “I’m never working with such and such in the band. I’m never gonna step on stage with her again.” And then something comes up, the manager says, “Do you guys want to do this?” We’re like, “Yes, of course we want to do that!” And then we get in that rehearsal room together and and it’s all huggin’ and kissin’ and lovey-dovey. We all love each other here. Because it’s family.

You wrote, “The drummer is the foundation of every song.” Explain that.

The drummer is the foundation of every song because that’s where it starts. When you’re recording a track, usually you start out with the drums. You gotta come up with the drumbeat that’s gonna make that song put all the parts together, make it all cohesive. The drums are the glue. People have got to follow something, they’re gonna follow the beat, the rhythm. The drummer comes up with that. Can you imagine “We Got the Beat” without that drumbeat? It wouldn’t be the same song.

"We Got the Beat" by the Go-Go's

That’s a perfect example of a drumbeat that counts, that matters. I use that because it’s the most obvious one but there’s Hunt Sales’ drumbeat in Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life.” I mean, Whoa! There are a lot of songs that you can sit around and talk about drum parts. John Bonham. Keith Moon. Their parts stick out like a sore thumb. You can’t help but notice them because they had something that is one of the major parts of the sound of those bands. It’s a major part of the sound.

As far as it being the foundation you’ve got to start somewhere, you start with the drums. Somebody brings in a guitar riff or a bass line, starts playin’ it, starts workin’ out the drum parts then everybody starts putting in parts after you get that drum part worked out. You gotta get the beat straight. Everybody locks into that beat. The song starts comin’ together. That’s why it’s the foundation.

Let’s do a lightning round. Favorite drummer.

I have a lot of favorite drummers but I’d have to say the reason that I started playing drums was because of two drummers. That was Charlie Watts and John Bonham.

If you were not in the Go-Go’s, what band would you have been a good fit in?

Foo Fighters.

What is an overlooked Go-Go’s song that more people should have listened to?

How about a song I co-wrote called “Beautiful”? On Return to the Valley of the Go-Go’s.

"Beautiful" by the Go-Go's

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Mastropolo is the author of Fillmore East: The Venue That Changed Rock Music Forever; Ghost Signs: Clues to Downtown New York's Past; and Ghost Signs 2: Clues to Uptown New York's Past

New York, NY
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