"Deep down inside, I'm a selfish witch; one-half tomboy and one-half bitch. Breaking hearts is what I do, getting through to creeps like you."
– Gore Gore Girls, "Pleasure Unit"
Just in case you equate girl groups with fluff and cuteness, the Gore Gore Girls are here to straighten you out. Since 1997, Amy Gore (née Surdu) and her cadre of female rockers have been dishing out hard-edged, guitar-driven garage rock. But Gore maintains there's more to the group. "We're not just a jeans and T-shirt band," Gore said in a phone call from her Detroit home. "There's more depth to us, the subject matter and the song structure."
Contrary to the girls' jagged edge, "there's a lot of sweetness there," Gore says regarding their records, including a cover of Ellie Greenwich's '64 hit for the Crystals, "All Grown Up" on the Gore's latest, Get the Gore.
Yet there's a backbone behind Gore Gore Girls that you don't find in other girl groups they're compared to. These girls aren't asking some man to be their baby, giving out kisses and mess; they're the ones in charge. "She's got a fabulous crotch," Gore growls on "Fox in Box." "You know this ain't fiction. What we're talking about here is friction. She's a goddamn fox in a box ... let her rock."
There's really nobody around today to compare them to. Because of their intense, hard-rocking guitar attack and tough-sounding vocals, the Runaways come to mind, but Gore doesn't care for that. "The Runaways were groundbreaking, but they were just pure rock," she says. "There's more going on with Gore Gore Girls."
A connection does exist with the Runaways, however. The Runaways founder/producer Kim Fowley co-wrote "Pleasure Unit" with Gore and co-lead guitarist Marlene Hammerle. But Gore says Fowley won't get any further into the Gore organization. "Kim is extremely controlling," Gore says, explaining that he comes from an era when the producer and management molded artists for their projects. "Gore is distinctly my project, my concept," the guitarist says. "He said to me, 'Are you willing to be my Rhesus monkey?' And you can probably imagine my response to that question: 'Hell no!'"
Local homegirls the Coathangers fare a little better on the Gore scale, but get filed in a different category. "They open for us. They're really cute. We're not cute at all," she says, laughing.
Gore says she really didn't think about it that hard when she started the Gores in '97. "We had a dress-up girl band in town, then we had a metal girl band, and I wanted to do something that was neither of those." The Gore Gore Girls is a movie title by filmmaker Hershel Gordon Lewis, credited with founding the slasher-film genre in 1963 with Blood Feast. "What I identify with and admire is that he had a complete vision of what he was doing," Gore says of Lewis. "He had a means to an end in mind." Lewis, who contributed liner notes for the band's latest release, says that to appreciate the Gores' music, you have to have "an absolute belief in the strange, the unpredictable and the offbeat."
But that doesn't translate as novelty. Gore and Hammerle are accomplished guitarists with a catalogue of licks spanning from Bo Diddley to the Kinks, and strong female singers including Wanda Jackson and Etta James have influenced their sound as well.
Gore believes the current crop of entertainers doesn't measure up. "I feel like standards have slipped. There's so little art, so much style and posturing and marketing involved, that I really don't think artists like Elvis or Dolly Parton could become famous or groundbreaking [now]," she says. "Everything's a fucking joke."
But for Gore Gore Girls, it's bloody serious. "My guitar player and I try to hold ourselves to a higher standard," Gore says. "I don't just want to be famous to be famous. We're learning every day."
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