ThundHerStruck - Tina Wood

Tina Wood
(Photo by Andrew Jarvie)

Not only can Tina Wood "rip" with a guitar in her hands, she can rip it apart, put it back together and have it sounding and playing better than before.

In addition to her role as "Angus" in the all-female AC/DC tribute band ThundHerStruck, Wood is a highly-sought after guitar repair technician with a long list of clients (including several pro players) to her credit.

Born in England, Wood was inspired by listening to classic rock players to take up the instrument, although playing wasn't quite enough for her. She was accepted to a London college where she was certified as a guitar luthier, and later worked in a London shop repairing instruments as she struggled to find an identity with her first band.

It was her second band, No Shame, which actually scored a record deal and traveled to the U.S. Shortly after arriving in California, No Shame acquired a new drummer in Stephanie Leigh, and Wood and Leigh would work in several bands together afterwards.

After stints with No Shame, Fair Game and Phantom Blue, the latter of which also included Dyna Shirasaki, Wood became part of the AC/DC tribute band now known as ThundHerStruck.

What may have begun as a fun sideline project has become an international success, as ThundHerStruck has performed in several countries, often entertaining U.S. military personnel, in addition to joining in the fun at "The Big Ball," an AC/DC fan convention in Wales, and the MusikMesse event in Germany.

In addition, ThundHerStruck has performed at several major festivals in the U.S., and released its first CD, You've Been ThundHerStruck, in the spring of 2006.

Wood joined The Whitewolf Zone in July of 2006 to discuss her musical career, her deeply-rooted love of guitars and releasing her inner Angus.

You come to me very highly recommended by Robin Beacham.

Yeah, she's great. I can't wait to see her Aerosmith band. They do the - you know, they have the Cheap Chick thing, and it's awesome - and they have Ladysmith now. She's a great player, she's very cool. She's been great; she's been very supportive. I've been working on her guitars for many years, so I've known her a long time.

Well, she actually sent me some questions to ask you, so we'll get to those as we go along.

Oh, okay (laughs).

But I take it, from that familiar accent, that you are from England?

That's me (laughs). Actually my mom's Finnish, Scandanavian, and and my dad's English, but I actually grew up in England.

What town?

It's a really small town just outside of Bath, it's called Bradford-on-Avon, it's about eight miles outside of Bath. in the west country, southwest of England.

And you did not come from a musical family, is that right?

Not exactly. I mean, my mom did play some piano before I was born. But, other than that, not really (laughs). But, a lot of artists in my family.

Where did the interest in music come from, or begin, for you?

I always, always loved music. It was such a big part of when I was growing up. I was always, from the earliest time I can remember, always obsessed with guitars, too. When I was really young, I wanted to play guitar, and I just somehow knew that my life would revolve around it (laughs). As weird as that sounds, I knew, somehow, that my life would go in that direction. And that's exactly where it did go, besides playing them, I work on them for a living.

Can you think of, maybe, one or two players that you heard that really hooked you?

Well, I listened to a lot of the classic rock when I was growing up. First of all, because my brother had all these classic rock albums, you know, from Led Zeppelin to Pink Floyd, all that kind of music, and AC/DC, and I would always kind of sneak in and listen to his records (laughs), when he wasn't around. So I got into listening to a lot of classic rock and I loved all those bands. I loved AC/DC and Led Zeppelin. And then he started getting these metal records, and I remember hearing Blizzard Of Oz, and I heard Randy Rhodes play, and I was like, "Oh, my God, I've got to learn, I've got to learn." (laughs) It just floored me listening to that. So I started saving up whatever money I could, and went out and bought myself a guitar and an amp, and started to teach myself (laughs).

How old were you then?

I was a teenager when I started, I was a little bit later in life when I started. But it fired me to get going on it, you know? I was self-taught most of the way, but I did take a lesson when I got my guitar, one lesson, from a local guy. And he showed me how to play "Highway To Hell." (laughs) My first song I learned to play; it was cool.

(Laughs) What was the guitar? Did you learn on a piece of cheap junk like so many of us did?

It was a Gibson Les Paul. I saved up all my pocket money and savings, all that kind of stuff, and did chores around the house and got a used Les Paul.

Wow. I'm jealous already.

(Laughs) I figured if I spent a bit of money, it would force me to play better, especially if it's a nice guitar. It'll force you to play, because you worked so hard to save the money, you know, "I've got to play it." When you start, you can't really play much, and it's frustrating, and in the back of my mind I was like, "Ahhh, I've saved all this money, I've got to keep playing." And that kept me playing and trying to learn.

When was the first band?

My first band was after I moved to London. I found out about a luthier school in London, that teaches you how to build guitars, classical guitars and stuff. And I went to that college and, obviously, met a lot of musicians and stuff. And a friend of mine, one of my classmates, turned me on to another player, a drummer, and we ended up starting this band. And it was absolutely horrible (laughs).


(Laughs) But it was my first band, what can you say?

What was it called?

Oh, God, I can't even remember what we used to call it. Some really wacky, Gothic name. The drummer was a complete Goth-type person. And the name escapes me. Pretty sad, isn't it? (laughs) But, yeah, we were pretty bad.

(Courtesy Tina Wood)

Was this a cover band?

No, it was an original band. Yes. That's why we were so horrible (laughs).

Tell me a little more about the school. Going to school for luthiery? Sounds cool.

Yeah! I found out, by chance, about it when I was in Bath. I went to a trade advisor and found out. I was frustrated and I wanted to do something that revolved around guitars, and I was looking for a college to go to. And he goes, "I know the perfect thing for you. There's this luthier's school in London." And I was like, "Wow!" And, at the time, it was one of the only ones out there in England. It was a stretch for me to try to get in, because there's only "x" amount of places on the course. So, I applied, and it was only part-time the first year, but I wound up going full-time. and I just built guitars for the first year. Electrics and acoustics. And the teacher, like, one of the main guys, really liked my work, and I applied for the higher diploma, the full-time, and I got in. There were only like seven spots and I managed to snag one of them.


Yeah. It was an awesome course. I had a very traditional teacher, and I basically just built classical guitars on that course. Then I'd stay after hours and built steel-strings and electrics. And all kinds of stuff, I built a bass. And I got a lot of experience in building a lot of different types of instruments, which was really cool.

So, you were really - much better than the average player - able to figure out what combinations of woods and pickups and things sound best and so on.

Oh, yeah. I learned such a deep knowledge of construction. It was a huge foundation for me. It was just a lot of hands-on building. And I was very meticulous, and everything had to be perfect, you know?

Nothing wrong with perfection, or at least striving for it.

Right. So I went through three years of college, and when I ended up with college I was working in a store in London, repairing guitars. And at that time, my first band kind of fell apart. We weren't really going anywhere and doing much. And I hooked up with this, kind of, manager-producer type guy, with a different drummer. And he wanted to put this project together on us, and manage us, and blah, blah, blah. And we auditioned a bunch of singers, and I called my old bass player, and she joined up, and we found this singer. And when the contract came through with this manager guy, it was such a ridiculous contract, basically signing everything away, and you had no rights. And we were just like, "Forget it!" (laughs).


And that was how No Shame came about. I came up with the name No Shame. We had a really cool project, we had some really cool songs, and my writing abilities started improving substantially by then (laughs), I was a little bit more experienced. And it was actually a very cool band.

And what happened next?

The singer ended up by bailing, or started playing with another band, and it was kind of a conflict of interest with her. So we went through the audition process again and found the singer who ended up being with us for the duration of that band. And we got a real record deal, with CBS, so it worked out pretty well.

And you made it to America.

Yeah, yeah. We got signed and they moved us out here. They said, "Do you want to be in L.A. or New York?" It was actually a New York label, Columbia in New York, that we were signed to. And we obviously picked L.A. I just loved it, it was just so warm, the weather and everything. And we had so much fun when we came out here. And we did our album out here, too.

And then you met a crazy blonde drummer.

(Laughs) Yes. Unfortunately, we had to let our drummer go, it was kind of a shame, really. I felt really bad, because she had been with us from the beginning, you know, as she and I started the band. But the producer was trying to work with her, and she had a really bad timing problem, which, you know, for a drummer ...

Tina with Fair Game (Courtesy Tina Wood)

Not good.

Not good. I mean, it's so horrible. You get a deal, and then you have to fire your drummer. And it was a shame, it was a shame. And it just so happened that the engineer, during pre-production, said, "Well, I know a drummer. She comes and hangs out here, and I can introduce you to her." And that's how we first met Stephanie. And, obviously, it worked out, and we've been friends ever since. And that worked out great.

But, the band didn't work out.

Unfortunately. Yeah. We did our album, and we toured the States, and then we had internal problems within the band, you know, like half the band wasn't getting along with the other half. And the record company was really upset with our singer at the time. So they kind of lost interest in the band, and we end up getting dropped by our record label. And our manager kind of ditched us while we were on tour. And it just kind of demised at that point.

What happened after No Shame fell apart?

Right after that, we were living in Hollywood, and we moved out to the valley. And we hooked up with Ron Keel, actually he contacted me. And we went in and auditioned with him for the Fair Game project, and that's how that got started. And we ended up playing with him for a couple of years. And, we recorded that one CD. And we were kind of buttin' heads with Ron, because he wanted to go totally in more of a pop direction, and we wanted to play rock. We were into playing the heavier stuff. So it got to the point where we're obviously not going to agree, and dah-dah-dah, so Steph and I went our separate ways with Ron.


Steph ended up with Jeff Young, and I jammed with them a bit, and I was kind of doing some solo stuff. And it was that time when I ended up getting a really bad case of tendonitis. I'd been struggling with it through the Fair Game thing. I was playing so much - I was, like, practicing eight hours a day - and I think part of it was rehearsing in a cold studio in the winter. And it got worse and worse to the point where I just couldn't play anymore.

Oh, no.

And the doctor's prognosis was that "rest is the best thing for you." If they operate on it, it could make it worse. They could inject stuff into it, which would temporarily relieve it, but, at that point, being kind of frustrated with the music scene, I just took a break. I stopped playing for about three years. And, in that time, it healed itself.


And it really got me inspired back to playing again, with Dyna, out of the blue. Because I'd known Dyna for quite a few years, because I had been working at this music store in Sherman Oaks, with Guitar Guitar, and doing repairs.And she used to come in, and I'd work on her (bass) guitars, so I knew her through that. But yeah, somehow, after that time and that rest, it healed itself, which was a huge relief.

Onstage with Phantom Blue (Courtesy Tina Wood)

Did that injury force you to change your technique in any way?

Yes, it did. I'd already been trying to change it. When I was in college and building guitars, I took classical guitar. And the way I played had a lot of that classical style. And when I tried to learn more of the blues style, and change my whole hand position, and take some of the strain off that particular area, but it wasn't really helping. But it did open me up to playing different styles. With Jeff, I learned a lot of different techniques and stuff, which was cool. But I was just working and concentrating on building up my clientele.
And then, three years later, Dyna called me up and said, "Hey, I'm auditioning for this band Phantom Blue. Are you interested?" And they were a really good band, I'd seen them play years ago, and I thought, "Yeah, I'll check it out." I mean, my chops were really way down there, but I thought I'd practice a little bit and get a feel for it and see if I can learn some of this stuff. And I did!

Was this before The Party Girls, or after?

Actually, it was right before. Because The Party Girls were actually when we were in Phantom Blue. We were playing in Phantom Blue and an old friend called and said, "Hey, I need a backup band for the Super Bowl." And that was The Party Girls, Steph, myself and Dyna, and a keyboard player. We got together with a guy, who did the Bud Light (promotions), and we were his backing band. That was a lot of fun, playing kind of blues-rock style, you know. But, yeah, I was in Phantom Blue the whole time when we were doing The Party Girls.

Tina and Dyna (Photo by Ernie Manrique)

Did that segue directly into the AC/DC tribute or was there something in-between?

Well, we were in Phantom Blue for about three, three and a half years. I think, toward the end of it, I was getting a bit burned out with the metal. It just seemed like no one was interested in it, that style of music that we were playing. That was at the time when, the 80s music, just no one wanted to hear it. I know it's made a resurgence now, but then it was just frustrating. We had worked really hard, rehearsed a lot, and I just didn't feel like it was going anywhere. I took a break, and then, Dyna calls me again. Actually, at first, she called and asked me if I wanted to play in a Heart tribute band she had. And I thought that might be kind of fun. But before I got involved, she was already doing it, but then she called again and said, "Hey, how about an AC/DC tribute?' (laughs)


And I thought, "Great! I love AC/DC." She had met up with our old rhythm player, and I thought I'd check it out and see if it's fun and see how it goes. And, it kind of, took off.