Interviews

Interview with CJ Wildheart (The Wildhearts)

 

 

 

Interviewed by Adrian Hextall (Journalist/Writer/Photographer) Myglobalmind Webzine

 

 

 

CJ (Christopher Paul Persaud-Jagdhar) is a British singer/songwriter of Guyanese and Seychellois descent and is the lead guitarist with UK rock band The Wildhearts. He formed The Wildhearts with ex-The Quireboys guitarist Ginger (David Walls) and over the last 20 years we have seen a very turbulent yet productive band always on the verge of imploding yet always managing to emerge and rise victorious often on the back of fan from one of the most loyal fan bases a band could ask for.   As the Wildhearts continue to tour in support of their (now) 20 year old ‘Earth vs The Wildhearts’ debut, CJ has also announced that he will be releasing a solo album, called ‘Mable’, as part of a Pledge Campaign which also includes a line of hot sauces he has created with Chilli Devil Sauces. To get more information about the anniversary shows and CJ’s solo output, MyGlobalMind sat down with him on the eve of the last night of the current UK tour at the Electric Ballroom in Camden, London.

 

So it’s the London show tonight, last date of the tour and you’ve got Scott back in the band with you. How’s it been?

CJ “Well, we’ve got an American bass player again as opposed to a British one. Yeah, Scott brings a more punkier edge whereas you know, Jon’s like the best musician in the band, he’s an incredible player but Scott’s definitely more punk rock. He brings much more of that punk rock element so I like both versions of the band. I like the fact that when Jon’s around it’s a little bit more musical, when Scott’s around, its more punk rock. Yeah, yeah, I like it.”

Is it going to fluctuate whichever one’s more available.

CJ “I think Jon’s doing Download (UK summer festival), I don’t think Scott’s doing Download so yeah I think Jon’s doing it. It’s a revolving door so whoever’s around gets the gig.”

It’s always been the way with your bass players over the years hasn’t it?

CJ “It’s been quite a few members, our drummers as well. I think it’s nice we can chop and change. I think you know, we’re quite lucky that there’s always someone to fill in that role.”

In terms of you all getting together, Scott’s over in the States a lot, Jon being over here, what about yourself because you were in Tokyo, are you still out there?

CJ “No, I live in Yorkshire now, Knaresborough I live so out in the countryside.”

So for the majority of you, actually getting back together is quite easy.

CJ “Well Ritchie (Battersby) lives in York so he lives about half an hour from me and Ginger lives over in St Helens so we rehearse in Huddersfield which is an hour for us and we just all drive in. We all live in the north of England now apart from Jon, I think he’s in Bristol and obviously Scott’s over now…Don’t know where he lives, Boston or something.”

Given you have a bass player at all times now, be it Jon or Scott, can we expect any new material from you guys?

CJ “As in recorded material? Not at the moment no. I know next year we’ve got a few more anniversaries coming up so we’re talking about going out and touring those and which I like, you know, whenever you hit a 20th anniversary, it’s always good going out  to tour. I’m really looking forward to doing the 20th anniversary for P.H.U.Q. I think it’s going to be a really good one and then we talk about albums all the time and I know we are going to do an album at some point. It’s just, you know, it might happen next year, it might happen the year after. We’re all quite, quite busy.”

CJ Wildheart

You, yourself, have got a pledge campaign on the go? Tell us a little bit about that because it’s not just the album, you’ve got your hot sauce as well.

CJ “Yeah, yeah I’ve always cooked. It’s a massive passion of mine, food… and funny enough, Scott’s a chef as well. He runs a restaurant over in America. So we both love food but I also grew up with real spicy food. My mum’s from the Seychelles and my dad’s Indian and my mum’s always made her own hot sauce and I am in the process of working on a cookbook but it’s taking me a long time to kind of get the parts together and I just thought I’ll do my own hot sauce, I’ll do something totally unique and come up with a recipe and I hooked up with a company in Yorkshire called Chilli Devil and we came out with this. It’s Beer, Barbecue and Chilli all in one. So it’s a combination and it’s lovely. I mean people absolutely love it. Its early days and I thought the best way  to kind of launch a sauce would be on the back of an album so I made the album to kinda’ push where I really want to go.”

So you hooked your fans in with the music as in “have a listen to this..and now try this..” in relation to the sauce?

CJ “Well, this is the first time I’ve actually made an album completely on my own. It’s a complete solo album and I recorded it on my own over the summer and I’m mixing it with a guy called Lee Ray who used to play bass in my other solo band and its really great just working on my own. It kind of opened up my juices for doing some more music so I am thinking about another mini album for next year with the cookbook and another sauce.  I’ve got another two sauces coming out this year as well and I am looking at maybe doing a vodka as well. ”

So your other sauces, are they milder and stronger variants?

CJ “The Devilspit sauce is like a trio of sauces so the one out now is a medium then I’ve got Extreme coming out in September which is like monster hot and the mild one coming out is called Devilspit Mojo and it comes out in time for Christmas and then I am going to box them as a gift set.  This one out right now is not hot enough for me; I need something a little bit hotter.  I thought I’d ease them into it before I go for the jugular.”

And only available via the Pledge campaign at the moment?

CJ “I am in the process of getting a shop going but we’ve got a lot of promotion to do so I am sending out a lot of freebies to various celebrities and talking to various people about how I can get this out to a wider market as I am completely new to the whole chilli sauce game. I am shooting blindly at the moment but I’ve got a lot of people out there willing to help me, a lot of high profile people.”

Are we going to see you on Dragon’s Den like Levi Roots then?

CJ “No, I would never make anything as appalling as Levi Roots’ sauce. I wouldn’t feed that shit to my dogs. You are what you eat in this world. Fortunately I like good food and if anything says hot on it, it should be hot; it shouldn’t be generic like the crap you can get anywhere.  I mean my sauce is handmade and there are no additives, there’s no chilli extract.  We even brewed our own ale to put in there.  It hasn’t got fish guts in it so it’s suitable for vegans and I sourced a supplier of Chipotle from Mexico and we’ve got a farmer in Devon growing our chillies. This is like high end stuff you know.  It’s not Tabasco!”

What’s it going to retail for?

CJ “Its £8 a bottle but there’s a reason for that.  There’s £8 of work in it.  I could bring it down to £2.50 if you like vinegar.  It’s a gourmet sauce if you want good stuff.  In this world you’ve got to pay for it if you want the really good stuff.  It’s down to the individual.  I’d rather starve and save up money and get a better meal than live on Pot Noodles.  You are what you eat. ”

You say you got your chef’s instinct from your folks?

CJ “I grew up with food because my parents cook and they’re always cooking curry and stuff.  I just love food, love music – anything I like I really want to get into the nuts and bolts. I don’t like foodies, I don’t like pretentious food.  I like junk food like American gourmet junk, I like curry and pizza and ribs. I don’t like anything a la carte, anything French, anything fancy. The minute rules get put around, if you can’t eat with your fingers and your hands and get down and dirty and get grease, I’m not interested in it.  The minute someone tells me how to eat a certain dish, then I am out of there.  The Japanese make the most beautiful food in the world and there’s a reason why their food is like that.  It’s part of their culture whereas, no offence to the French, their food is pompous, it’s a different attitude.  I hate food snobs and people who are snobby about food.  If there is a God, he is only going to eat one dish and it’s going to be a curry – come on let’s face it! (Laughs!)”

I noticed that you have got a reissue coming out of CJ and the Satellites ‘Thirteen’?

CJ “Have I?  Oh it’s coming out with the Pledge thing innit? ”

Is that the way it’s being done? Linked with the new Mable album?

CJ “I think it’s a vinyl thing maybe. I think they are doing a double vinyl and maybe a double cd. (Laughs) I am not clued up here, should have paid more attention!”

Any intentions of rereleasing your Honeycrack stuff?

CJ “No.  No that’s all Sony, it’s all tied up with that. I’m doing some acoustic shows and I believe Willie (Dowling) is going to come down for the London one and do some Honeycrack songs with me and we haven’t done anything like this since the last time Honeycrack were together so who knows what will come out of that meeting.”

When are you doing your solo shows down here?

CJ “Gav (McCaughey), my manager, said when you do the pledge thing, we should do a couple of ‘Evenings With..’ and he mentioned the word acoustic and I was like, “you know I don’t do acoustic”.  I play electric, that’s the thing I do and you know when people go camping and they pull out an acoustic guitar? I always carry a pair of scissors with me just in case I can snip the strings, it’s like a jugular you know?  There’s a time and a place for it and I just don’t. My music’s electric so I want people to hear it in that arena.  I didn’t write my songs to be played on an acoustic guitar but Gavin, my manager has made me do this and it’s really out of my comfort zone. I feel a bit of an idiot so I’ve got to try and get over this dislike of acoustics.  I am doing one in Leeds and one here in Camden.”

Are you doing this as part of Camden Rocks then? (One day festival 200 bands over 20 Camden venues)

CJ “No, no they asked me but I said no. This is purely for the pledgers and it’s just me saying thank you to them and it’s the only way.”

This is one of the things you can pledge for to be able to come down and see you?

CJ “Yeah an evening. I am helping out, it’s at the Barfly and they asked me to do another set for them for when the club opens because it’s a private thing and it’s purely a thank you.  It’s the only way you would have got me to do acoustic.  But saying that, I have seen a lot of artists go out and do their acoustic tour.  It’s so cheap for them to do it, just a guitar and a car you know?  Maybe you’ll interview me next year and go “I thought you didn’t want to do it”?”

And you find you changed your mind because you actually really enjoyed it?

CJ “They don’t enjoy it, it’s just easy money – let’s not beat around the bush!”

The solo album is then coming out as well.  Wholly down to you obviously from what you’ve been saying. What are the themes behind it?  What’s driven you to write down the songs?

CJ “The album’s named after my favourite chicken, Mable.  I have chickens and she inspired me to make the album because I retired from music when I hit 40 and I started a business in London, purely because I had never done it before… had a day job. We got managed into the ground for the ‘Chutzpah’ album by a Finnish company and they mismanaged us and we kind of hit a brick wall. It got to the point of “What are you guys going to do and I’m going to take a bit of time off music” and I started a business, 3 years on my business and it was really good and I was quite successful but then we kind of got back together a couple of years ago for Ginger’s birthday. We did a Wildhearts show at the Forum and then there was talk of all the anniversary stuff so my wife said “Right you are going to have to decide what you’re gonna do”.  We moved up to Yorkshire so you are either going to do music or just start another business, get a job’ and I was like “I might make an album” and one day, I was in the garden and Mable looked at me and I thought “I’m gonna make an album and name it after you”. Everyone was like “you’re crazy, what’s on the cover” and I said “a chicken”. But it looked as cool as fuck and everyone, when they see the cover, never thought a chicken could be so cool. It does work, it looks like a skeleton of a chicken and everyone is like “that’s amazing”.”

CJ Wildheart Mable

But what about the content on the album, presumably you can’t write chicken songs?

CJ “It’s ten songs about different ways of cooking chicken so one of them is called Wings, one of them is called Roast…nah I’m joking! (Laughs out loud, having clearly unsettled me as a long term fan of his work to date).  My favourite one’s called Nuggets, ha ha no.. joking!  I had this whole vision of the album cover and everything and the name.  I sat down for six months and demoed. The songs are mostly about my last three years living in London and about me about to become a father for the first time and saying goodbye to my younger years because I am 46 and I’m approaching middle age and that’s what the album’s about, it’s an end of an era for me. I’m saying goodbye to what’s been and gone. That’s what the theme is mostly about, mostly about my last years in this city and you know, moving up north and settling down and thinking about children.”

Living away from temptation?

CJ “I don’t smoke any more, I don’t do drugs any more, I have a drink occasionally but I’m really clean living now and it’s like I’m saying goodbye to that whole life and that is the theme of the album. So the next one, I don’t know where the next album’s going, I don’t know what I’m going to write about so I’ve no idea.”

You mentioned the Forum show, something had given you a bit of a thought around maybe you could keep doing this. That did inspire you then did it, because obviously you’re now doing the album, you’ve started doing the tours again as well?

CJ “Actually it was Ginger who mentioned it, saying I maybe should do something with the pledge campaign. Ginger’s been ridiculously successful (See Ginger’s 555%, Hey! Hello! & Mutation and Albion pledge campaigns) and I don’t even expect for a second I would emulate the sort of success he does because he’s the front-man of the band and he has a big following but I’ve had enough of a response from the pledge thing to enable me to do this once or twice a year if I want to. It’s really encouraging and part of me is like “oh great I don’t need to get a job, a day job” but I have started another business of chilli sauce. I thought I’d best do both, you need a backup plan don’t you? (Smiles.) I’ve got that McDonald’s interview form to fill in just in case it all goes wrong.”

You don’t want to still be having to play when you’re in your 70’s if you’ve got your business going?

CJ “I don’t mind, my attitude to life is you work to live so it doesn’t matter what you do for a job, it’s what you’re doing when you’re not working that matters but I don’t care how I bring home the bacon.  I am not a proud guy, I will do anything to support my wife and my children and look after my pets. The minute pride comes into it; I think you’re mugging yourself.  You live to work; I don’t live for my job.  I love my job but it’s not the reason why I’m here.  I’m thinking, right now this is the last night of our tour and next week I am going to be on a beach in Spain drinking tequila and that’s great, it’s my reward for coming out and hanging out with these idiots for two weeks!”

Are you going out there with your wife?

CJ “Yeah it’s our last holiday before the kid’s here which will be in August and she has a house out there so it’s great and we can go out but yeah, I think it’s real lucky that we actually get paid to play as well, really lucky.  I mean it’s even harder now for younger musicians to make a crust out of this. When we first started, everyone was getting a £50 here, a £60 there, it seems like a lot of people are just having to pay now to play and get gigs, there are so many bands and like, aggressively driven people out there.”

Do you still find it difficult when you guys all get together?  

CJ “What emotionally?”

Yes.

CJ “There is so much drama with this band but we handle it well now. The drama doesn’t get out of control. It used to get out of control but we kind of all know when to walk away when things are getting heated.  I mean I’ve got to say the band’s aged quite well, we’re quite graceful with handling our problems and obviously, there isn’t the abuse anymore because we’re not kids any more.  We were driven by drug abuse and alcohol abuse, we were a rock’n’roll band, that’s what drove us. It’s what fuelled all the anger and fuelled all the arguments and the drama but also made for great shows and it’s a good story as well but when we come off stage and we’ve done a great show, it’s amazing, it’s a great feeling and the fact that everyone sings our songs back to us is just amazing.”

So that reception you got when you played The Forum for the ‘Earth vs..’ anniversary last time where you held boards up asking which song do the fans want. That was some reaction?

CJ “How can you not come off stage and feel like a king after that, I mean, it’s brilliant!  We love it, you know and it’s nice, that that’s the reason why we’re playing as well for that buzz. We wanted to go on tour before just to have fun and just be party animals and we don’t do that anymore.  We come on tour to play now and do shows.”

And the buzz from the stage?

CJ “It’s amazing; I would be lying if I said it wasn’t.  When you do a good gig, there isn’t much in this life that can match that adrenaline, that high you get.  There isn’t much. A chicken maybe….?”

So your chicken drives you now clearly.

CJ “Actually no, I now have a lizard… a lizard and my cat, I miss them and my wife keeps sending me updates of my cat waiting for me on the bin at home. I am an animal person so as long as I am surrounded by various pets or other people’s pets, I’m happy.”

And then your new delivery is due in August?

CJ “Yeah, yeah I’ve already got a collar for him.”

Yes…umm I think there are rules against that possibly. And on that note and before social services need to become involved, we bid farewell to CJ as he prepares for the last night of the current tour.

 

You can check out the current Pledge campaign, his passion for Chilli Sauce and of course, The Wildhearts by clicking on the links below:

 

LINKS:

A review of The Wildhearts show at The Electric Ballroom 

Chilli Devil Sauces

CJ’s Pledge Campaign

The Wildhearts

The Wildhearts are: Ginger – vocals, guitar CJ – guitar, vocals Ritch Battersby – Drums Scott Sorry – bass, vocals

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