INTERVIEW: Made in Hollywood: All Access with the Go-Go’s by Gina Schock
Made in Hollywood: All Access with the Go-Go’s by Gina Schock is a beautifully designed photo book which features essays from each member of The Go-Go’s, along with 1980s pop culture icons Kate Pierson, Jodie Foster, Dave Stewart, Martha Quinn and Paul Reubens (aka Pee-Wee Herman). In her poignant foreword, the Go-Go’s bass player, Kathy Valentine, refers to Gina’s perch on the drum stool as a ‘throne.’ As the core duo of the rhythm section, the bass player and the drums need to be in sync at all times. Kathy points out that as the drummer, Gina had a bird’s-eye view of the entire band and crew, and also a unique look at the audience each night. And Gina, was the ‘ruler of the band,’ the one who dictates the direction of each song, sped up or slowed down. She could take the temperature of the room with each song. Kathy says, “You best follow along…the drummer, if it’s Gina Schock, also gives the songs identifiable hooks – instantly recognizable, the heartbeat and life-force of a track.”
In 2020, their self-titled documentary film, The Go-Go’s, was released to both fan and critical acclaim (Critics Choice Award), and in October 2021 the quintet will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame alongside Tina Turner, Carole King, JAY-Z, Foo Fighters and Todd Rundgren.
Gina spoke with F-Stop Magazine about Made in Hollywood, her impending induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, her background, and ultimately about the sense of family and sentimentality that she feels is at the core of the book.
Cary Benbow (CB): In the book, you mention working on the documentary film for the band, and ultimately becoming the official ‘archivist’ for the band. What’s it like to work on projects with decades of hindsight and material to draw from?
Gina Schock (GS): I’m a very visual person. If I’ve been somewhere once, I’ll remember how to get back there. So I’ve always been visually inspired you know. So over my 40 years of being in The Go-Go’s, I’ve always been in interested in what’s important to us. I was always the one with the camera, and it’s always something I’m interested in. I was taking lots of photos along the journey. I didn’t plan on being the band archivist, it just worked out that way. I can start another book right now, I have so many photos.
CB: How did this project take shape for you? Why make this book, and why now?
GS: Over the last several decades, it’s been on my mind. The girls in the band were also pushing me to put this book together. I will bring out photos when we get together, hysterically laughing like we used to do. When the documentary was being put together, I said I have lots of photos for the documentary, and they told me, “Wait a minute, with all this valuable stuff you’ve got a whole other thing to come back to for telling the Go-Go’s story. There’s a whole other project here.” In the documentary probably 90% of the photos you see are mine.
CB: Do you see the audience of the book being different than the documentary?
GS: I think anyone who sees the documentary will want to see the book and have ownership of the book, and also folks who didn’t see the documentary would be enticed by the cover of the book to pull in through the pages and see what’s going on inside. I’m telling stories with these photos and tons of text as well.
CB: Made in Hollywood has a ton of ephemera: ticket stubs, posters, a calendar page, a telegram from Paul Reubens, etc… and of course all your candid photographs behind the scenes. Why did you keep all these items in the first place?
GS: It’s because I’m such a sentimentalist. I don’t like throwing away things that are memories. You can pick a photograph up and it’ll put you in a whole new frame of mind. Just like music. Same thing. It has a big impact when you look at something or hear something. You can’t help but feel that impact, you know? I always felt I should save things like all the letters my parents wrote to me, all the birthday cards, all the love letters, all the important things…and photographs are just such a big part of my life.
CB: How did you get started being a photographer?
GS: Being a photographer just always appealed to me. I love music, I love film, I love art. It’s just part of who I am. Within the big picture are the details, and that is of the upmost importance. So I’m trying to always take everything in as much as I can handle mentally and physically with this band.
CB: Were you given a camera by your parents at an early age, or did you just decide to take up photography?
GS: No, no, that wasn’t it at all. That’s not how I started out. My dad did some Super 8 films when we were kids, but that’s only because they won a camera on ‘The Price is Right’ when they visited New York. (Laughter) My parents took photographs, but they weren’t really into it. There weren’t a bunch of art books laying around the house, that’s for sure. My father worked on the waterfront, my mother was a homemaker… a model for a while, and she taught hairdressing. But our house was always active and things were always going on. I came from a very active family.
CB: You grew up on the East Coast, right?
GS: Yeah, Baltimore.
CB: What was it like growing up there?
GS: You know, my childhood was idyllic. It couldn’t have been better. I had the best parents in the world, you know. They made me believe that anything was possible. And I’ve held that belief in myself and everything around me my entire life. I’m like a perfect example of someone who comes from Anywhere, USA, had a dream and went to California believing that I could be a rockstar, and a couple years later it happened. I have to attribute everything to my parents. They made me believe that anything was possible and I could achieve anything I could put my mind to, as long as I would put the work into it.
CB: Photography was such a conscious decision 40 years ago… not like today when everyone has a camera in their pocket and social media pervades daily life. Did you shoot photos every day on a tour with the Go-Go’s, or at events, or whenever the mood struck you?
GS: I just always had a camera with me. I was really into it and wanted to document events I was involved in, take in pieces of everything I was experiencing, and be able to look back on it. And photography was the way to do it. Even driving across country when I was a kid I had a camera with me all the time. It was something that just really spoke to me.
CB: What’s it like for you to have one of your favorite creative outlets so intertwined with the other?
GS: You know, it’s shocking to me. I can’t believe… I just can’t believe I have a book of my photography out. It was something that was yet another dream of mine: It would be great if I could have a gallery show; which I am! One in LA and one in San Francisco, I’m really excited about it.
CB: Have you seen the PBS series ICON: Music Through the Lens? I have to imagine your situation is not unlike one of those photographers who shot at CBGB for over 15 years and when somebody finally asks about images of some artist from that time, and also asks ‘what else have you got?’…and then Bam!… three more books spill out from all of this incredible photography built up over the years.
GS: Yeah! You surprise yourself, you know? You open up one chest of drawers and it’s like, OK the stuff is pouring out, then you go to the closet and there’s even more stuff and you say ‘I can’t believe I have so much history laying around. Let me get it out there and see what people think.’ I think it’s going to touch everybody. It’s going to remind them of what they were doing then… and if they are a fan of The Go-Go’s they’re going to be really happy when you open this book up.
CB: So you’re capturing the vibe of everything that’s going on, the behind-the-scenes shots of everything going on and capturing the vibe of the moment. You described yourself as a sentimentalist, so it’s really a labor of love, right?
GS: Yeah, this really needed to happen. There’s really nothing else out there documenting The Go-Go’s this way. I was like, God, this really needs to happen. And I’m just happy I was carrying a camera around to get all of it.
“I truly had no idea that I was to become the Go-Go’s archivist. I’ve always loved photography, so taking photos of the band was a natural process. When you check out this book, I hope you feel like you were right there with me over the last forty years. From Baltimore to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, what a trip this has been. I am thrilled to finally share my personal collection with everyone.” – Gina Schock
CB: Was there a common idea or thread you enjoyed shooting over the years?
GS: I would come up with these goofy little scenarios in my brain, and have the girls role-play like a bunch of kids. You know, like the ‘Clown Family’ was one of those, which is so ridiculous, but we would just laugh and laugh constantly, over and over with the clown family. It’s lasted 40 years and I still laugh at it.
I would just come up with an idea and get everyone to go along with it, and it was easy.
In the ‘Van ’81’ photos, we were so fucking miserable stuck in that 12-seater van driving across the country and playing in clubs, oh my God. It was so miserable, and it would break down… and I have photos of us… you know, paying our dues.
CB: With induction into the Rock Hall of Fame coming in October, have you been waxing nostalgic for the days of performing and riding around in a 12-seater van with the Go-Go’s?
GS: Oh God, while putting this book together I was in tears of laughter and tears of joy. This process really brought me closer to the band. When everybody in the band sees this book, they’re going to get a really warm fuzzy feeling. They haven’t seen it yet, and I hope the girls really like it.
CB: So the book ends up being like a family photo album in some sense?
GS: Exactly. The Go-Go’s family album.
As for the Hall of Fame, this has been a long journey and I’m in grateful mode. None of us knew how it would end up, and I’m amazed at that, and that people still care. We could go out and play shows every day of the week if we wanted to. I don’t know… I wouldn’t have thought back in the day when we are playing little punk clubs that 40 years later we’d still be together… and everybody’s alive to tell the tale, you know? A lot of folks don’t make it. Bands break up constantly, but we’ve been able to keep it together all these years. I just attribute it to us being like a family, you know?
CB: As the primary photographer in this photo family album, what do you think it says about you as an artist?
GS: I keep saying I’m grateful… but I really am. I had incredibly supportive parents from the beginning, a great band that has allowed me to do things I only dreamed of. Being in The Go-Go’s allowed me to be in the presence of people that I’d never been able to meet otherwise. I worked hard for a long time.
It can happen to anyone if you really want to work for it, you know? It’s attainable for most folks if you really believe, and have faith, and work hard.
Look, there were a million times at the beginning of our career where “No” was the only thing people would say to us. “No. No. No. You can’t do this, you can’t do that, you’re an all girl band… you’ll never do this or that…” and you know what? We were like, fine. If that’s the way you think, we don’t give a fuck because we feel like we have something to offer. We’ve had a great time doing what we’re doing, and we believe that anything is possible. We all held that belief. We did it at our own pace, and it was a very organic rise from being punks in punk clubs to stadiums, you know? It happened the way it was supposed to happen, and that’s pretty cool. Things happen in time how they’re supposed to. People ask, “Do you think the Go-Go’s would’ve been more popular if they came out in 1985?” You know, I think we just happened when we were supposed to. I’m glad we came out when we did… the 80s were a great time for music.
CB: Have you drawn any support or camaraderie from people involved in the music industry who also pursue visual arts?
GS: There’s lots of folks in my business who are always active and doing creative things. There’s always something going on and I’m sure I have a lot in common with people who are known for one thing, but have something worth checking out that they also do. Matt Dillon has some great photographs! And John Mellencamp…I love his paintings. I think it’s really cool and really earthy, and it says a lot about the guy… who he is, where he comes from. It speaks of his origins.
CB: Have the heightened social events of the past year or two, such as the BLM movement, or the MeToo movement, raised any issues for you personally? As a woman who found success in the music industry in the 1980s… what advise would you give to people coming up now?
GS: Well, first of all, it’s about time. I’m happy that everybody’s in for inclusion… it’s about time. We’re all connected whether you like it or not. We just are. Why should anybody be made to feel bad about their skin color, or who they want to be with, who they love, or who they choose to marry? It’s their right.
It’s been tough to be a woman in a ‘man’s business’, and we are part of what helped make that change. And we didn’t do it by just talking, we did it by our actions. And that’s what we need people to do now, get out and fight for what’s right. Do your part, don’t just sit around and talk, get out and do your part. Everything counts. Your words and deeds make a difference; for you and the people around you. Don’t ever think that it’s not important or it doesn’t count, because it all counts. Don’t think that when it comes time to vote, that one vote doesn’t count. Because… Yeah it does. All those little votes add up to make the big picture. When you say something enough times, it starts to sink in with people, you know? Or these injustices that keep happening over and over… it’s just starts to sink in, and people will recognize injustice. It all adds up. It all means something and it all worth doing something.
CB: Your music has such broad appeal and staying power for decades. What’s that like, and what perspective do you have on something you helped create with the Go-Go’s?
GS: That’s really nice to hear. You know, you and your band create music in hopes that that that will happen. That it will have an impact on people. At all our shows, everybody smiling, singing all the word, and they’re dancing. That’s a fucking gift, man. That gift… that’s the part that really gets me… and it’s what we all need. There can’t be enough of that.
CB: I think that vibe comes across in your book. When one sees images that evoke a genuine feeling, and covey a sense of people enjoying what they are doing, it shows.
GS: Putting everything together, and having it come together the way it did just made sense. You get a feel for these things, and after 40 years of being in the band, I think it will make sense to the fans too. I hope people like it, and get into the stories and the photographs, and maybe look at the band a little differently. Ultimately I hope it will make you smile at the end of the day.
MADE IN HOLLYWOOD: All Access with the Go-Go’s
By Gina Schock, Foreword by Kathy Valentine
Published by Black Dog & Leventhal
240 pages | 9780762474974
About The Book: Made In Hollywood is a visual account of the band, as told by their drummer, Gina Schock, and featuring personal photographs and memorabilia collected by Gina over the course of her 40 year career. Gina offers a treasure trove of personal images that follow the course of the band’s wild journey to the heights of fame and stardom. The book features posters, photographs, Polaroids, and other memorabilia from her archives.
About The Author: Gina Schock is a working musician and songwriter known for being part of the all-female band the Go-Go’s for four decades. She has done everything from producing the Go-Go’s DVD release of their 2001 concert, Live in Central Park to co-writing the title track for the Miley Cyrus album Breakout in addition to several songs on Selena Gomez & the Scene’s debut album Kiss & Tell. Schock’s songs have also appeared in many movies including The Accused, Superstar, and Bull Durham, to name a few. She has also acted for television and independent films. This is her first book.