Interviewed by Adrian Hextall (Writer/Journalist/Contributor)
On the back of a successful G.A.S.S (Ginger Associated Secret Society) fan club launch, a tour with Hole founder Courtney Love, one of the hardest working musicians in the business managed to find time to sit down with Myglobalmind to talk about all things Wildhearts, touring with Courtney, Hey! Hello!, G.A.S.S and more.
MGM: Lets start by having a chat about G.A.S.S if that’s all right as you’re at the end of your first couple of months on this now. The response has been pretty good, I imagine?
Ginger: It’s been mental. We did what I predicted to do in a month, in 24 hours. And then we’ve exceeded what I expected to do in the first month by a lot. And again, it’s not– we’re talking about small victories here. It’s not a big mainstream concern, it’s not in the major news agencies. Although I’ll take that back. It is actually in the major news agencies because the news syndication association network, whatever, picked up on the story. It’s called the Ginger Associated Secret Society. It’s supposed to start small. It’s supposed to be a need to know basis. So it’s a kind of word- of-mouth thing, like things used to be back in my day. It’s gathered momentum from word of mouth. That was always our intention. Being picked by news agencies, it’s great, but that’s not really what we’re trying to do here. We’re trying to provide a service for the fans that stood by us for ages and give them something that’s really fucking cheap. There’s nothing you can buy for 12 months that costs £30, apart from probably a good kicking. Do you know what I mean? Even that would probably cost more than £30.
MGM: No, that’s very true [chuckles]. Ginger: Thirty-six brand new songs and two unheard-of demos and unreleased songs you’ve never heard of. Plus a bunch of information. It’s the kind of thing, I’m still a fan myself. The whole point of this is, if Sparks did this or Cheap Trick did this, for example, I’d be in heaven. And they’re the people that we are really trying to address on this, and not just the casual fan. And if the casual fan wants to get involved, they miss nothing if they join six months in. It’s a twelve month–
MGM: It’s like they can pick it up along the way. Ginger: Everything is archived. Everything is there for them to catch up on. It’s a win-win situation and we’re not trying to force it down people’s throats. But the thing is that, the thing that’s kind of going wrong with the pledge campaigns, people are going like, ‘We need to get it 100 %. You’ve got to get involved now.’ And everyone feels that they are duty bound to jump in on the first 24 hours. It’s not that with this. It’s a lot more relaxed and down. And I hope ultimately rewarding because it’s, “do it when you got the money but don’t go fucking skint for it”. It’s 30 quid. Save up a fucking a pound a week and you’ll be all right. So we are just trying to do something that’s kind of so much value for money that when people get involved that they realize this is almost too much value for money. But it’s– it’s easy. Anyone could do this. It just involves getting out of bed early, working their bollocks off. What would you rather be doing?
MGM: Something you love, apart from anything else, isn’t it?
Ginger: Something you love, in a service to the people that you love. And everyone that’s got involved in this and there hasn’t been a single complaint yet. So I can only say that these are the real hardcore fans that have got involved so far. They’re the people that I do this for. To understand and to know your market and who you’re providing the service for, just about the most rewarding thing in the world for someone like me.
MGM: It’s putting it all back in your control as well, presumably. Because when you tried something similar a few years back with the singles court. You were looking at a CD a month. It got to– What was it? Five, I think?
Ginger: And then the record company got cold feet and–
MGM: That was it.
Ginger: Pulled the budget. If something like that happens, you can’t help but wear some of the blame. It’s the nature of what we do.
MGM: Whereas this eliminates that, does it?
Ginger: This is my fault if this fucks up, then it’s direct to me. There’s no one else to blame. I’m not planning on that being the case.
MGM: Now, in terms of the actual layout, you’re talking about some of the complete packaging and everything. The artwork on the site, now, that’s pretty special. Who have you employed to do the artwork this time around?
Ginger: I got in touch with all my favourite artists to commission some exclusive artwork from them. Then I said, “Well, who’s your favourite artist?”, and I fished it out to all the people that are respected within the art world that aren’t really getting a– Pretty much like what I try to do with bands when I get new bands on tour. I wanted to give new artists a break as well, because I’m a massive fan of art. Every month, we’ve got nine brand new exclusive pieces of artwork. And should anybody want to own a print or anything like that, they can do a deal direct with the artist, so it’s nothing to do with me. I ain’t taking no commission whatsoever. I’m only, again, providing the service and if I’m putting people in touch with an artist that they respect, man, that’s just the cherry on top of the cherry on top of the cherry on top of the cake.
MGM: Totally. Yeah, there’s some beautiful pieces there. Those nine boxes as they sit there looking like mystery doors with prizes behind, I assume will all change each month as well?
Ginger: Every month we’re going to have brand new art. Every month we’re going to have brand new content. And every month we’re going to have brand new ridiculous slogans on the art. I’m not even sure why that was a good idea in the first place, but I just thought, if you just put something completely random on the artwork just to make it a little bit weirder.
MGM: It makes you want to look behind the door, doesn’t it?
Ginger: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s not just a nice picture. So what could this possibly mean and then you press it and the results are a complete random piece of information, whether it’s a podcast or video updates or indeed the song.
MGM: Or even your favourite horror movie at the moment?
Ginger: Or my favourite horror movie instead [laughter]. So the whole thing is supposed to be completely interactive. The whole point is to breakdown that final wall between you, the people that have taken a commission and your audience. This is to try and get rid of the middlemen. And there’s still middlemen, and whatever you were doing in the fan funding market and– don’t get me wrong, it’s a fantastic way of making music. For today, it’s probably the strongest– pledge are probably the strongest force for new bands with an audience. If you’ve got a band who are still curious as to what else there could be, if pledge is not an offer, you’ve still got unfinished, unresolved issues about– I’m still not close enough to the people that listen to my music. Hopefully this is providing an example, not to copy from what I’m doing, to do something different. What I’m trying to do is to… It could come across sounding conceited but what I want to do is to try and provide an example that you don’t have to do it like someone else is doing it. The fucking market is open. The playing field is wide open, right now. The imagination is going to be the currency of the future. If you’re a small artist with a baying big fan club, your imagination is where you got to go. You don’t have to be restricted to what everyone else is doing. Because the pledge things start– Everyone has started having pledges, and having incentives and other, you know, listening parties on Twitter and all rest of it. That’s great but that’s what we were doing two years ago.
MGM: Yeah, yeah, you’ve done that three times now, haven’t you?
Ginger: Yeah. It’s time for people to start using their imaginations. And now’s the time to see who’s actually got an imagination or not.
MGM: Now looking at the – you mentioned it a couple of times there – look at all the pledge fans that have signed up for the top-end deals where they get a thank you and handwritten notes and things like that. Your audience in Japan still looks to be fairly intensive. Is that still the case? Ginger: Yeah, but in Japan, they don’t tend to trust websites where you give your credit cards. So I’ve have a very few Japanese fans pledging for any albums. The only ones I’ve had pledging for albums are ones that live in England.
MGM: There’s quite a few Japanese names on there. I just assumed they were out there, you see.
Ginger: No, the Japanese haven’t really gone for it. And why should they? There’s still a healthy music scene in Japan. There’s still record shops, there’s still CDs, are still major concern. They’ve still got CD charts. They still got charts in general, the pop charts are very very strong and we’re talking about a domestic pop chart. Japanese bands for Japanese people. About the only place that really went for pop is Korea and K-pop is a big thing in Japan now. But as far as getting involved in fan funding, there’s been no interest from Japan. I’m hoping to go over there– well, I’m going over there soon and I’m hoping to publicize this thing further and to let them know that this is a different [paradigm?]. It’s not an advance order for an album. It’s not you involved in some company. If you trust me then your money goes directly to me and that’s where the deal– that’s where the relationship– Not via a third party where you might– where you only see this much of it like it used to be. Like we’ve already mentioned the Singles Club, that was via a third party, and they let it down. Now, I’m not saying that the pledge or will let anyone down. I love pledge. I think it’s a fantastic formula. I think bands should definitely experiment with pledge. But it’s not the last word. The last word is, what are the band’s intentions? What do they really want to get from this? How do they feel about the relationship? When you take out the middlemen, you got no one to blame. And I’m seeing a lot of [green now?], a lot of kind of corporate mentality from bands that are just going– supposed to be going straight their audience but they’re not talking to their audience, they’re not providing a service.
MGM: Yeah, some of those targets, like you say, they seem to take forever to get there and you do think it’s because what they’re asking for, for all the individual items, it’s so highly priced, the target they must have gone for must be astronomic. But yours have always been very reasonable. You’re always looking for enough just to do the job, to deliver the product back to the audience.
Ginger: But that’s where it’s gone sour, I think. The whole competition about getting 100%. Now, some people are asking for 50,000 pounds, some people asking for 5,000 pounds. But it’s all a case of so-and-so got to 100% in 24 hours. Yours took a little bit long, and you’re like, ‘Well.’ We’re back to competing with each other. I thought the whole point of this was to stop competing with each other. There ain’t no radio anymore, so there’s no need to be commercial and to be mainstream. It’s all about what’s going to be the next thing. We’re going to be the next thing. What the fuck are you doing? And if it’s still a competition, if that’s still the attitude amongst a lot of bands and fans, then we haven’t got anywhere. We’ve just run out– We just don’t have a scapegoat anymore. And for that reason, I think there probably should still be record labels because I think some bands probably need a record label because their ideas aren’t personal enough.
MGM: Yes. Whereas you’ve gone through all that so you know what will and won’t work now.
Ginger: Well, I did this as a result of the corporate world not working for me. I didn’t do this as a reaction against the corporate world. I did this as a desperate measure because there was no other way of doing it. But, my whole thing was I’ve always been involved in answering fans’ questions. Once you get involved in answering fans’ questions and get into the thick of it, really the meat and potatoes of what you’re actually doing. You realize that your music is a part of what you represent. You know, you start answering questions and then you get involved in some really deep stuff, whether it’s mental health issues, domestic violence issues or just a social malaise. What the fuck am I going to do with myself? All of that. It covers the whole gamut of the essence of relationships in the first place. They’re not just black and white. There are a lot of grey. And for me, there’s not enough bands exploring that side of it. I’m genuinely interested in who buys my music because presumably the message is getting across to someone and the message is a pretty hardcore message. It’s wrapped up in sugary tunes a lot of the time, but it’s talking about the human condition on a very base level sometimes. And when people are into the songs and their favourite song is something that is talking about mental health then I want to talk about mental health. I don’t give a shit about signing autographs and having my whole photo taken or getting their money from them. And that’s why when the G.A.S.S. thing, we wanted to give them something that was already recorded. I didn’t want them to bank roll the whole thing. I want them to be involved in it. We’ve got 6 months worth of material now. You know, if someone invests the money, we’re covered. We’re good, you know?
MGM: Yeah. You can just [rip the CD] now. It’s ready to go.
Ginger: Yeah. It’s ready to go. We’re all right. The money that we’ve made has covered the first year of recording. Whether there’s going to be a second year, I don’t know. It’s a lot of fucking work.
MGM: I can imagine.
Ginger: But the most important thing is people are finding somewhere to go and something to believe in. And as a fan of music myself, that’s all I really ever wanted. I wanted something that echoes my personal experience of the human condition.
MGM: Well, not only with this though. I mean, you’ve got your fingers in so many pies anyway. I mean, you’ve toured recently with Courtney Love. You’ve obviously got the piece with Victoria and the other side of things, which is– Has that surprised you? The level of popularity that that’s achieved?
Ginger: No, it was designed to do that. That’s why I’ve got a pretty blonde girl to do the vocal.
MGM: And always going to good look on the publicity shots as well.
Ginger: Have you seen me in many publicity shots? I’m the guy at the back with the glasses on. I like that. It’s kind of like– Again, I’m a fan of Sparks. A cute guy and a goofy-looking guy. I like the juxtaposition of offering something that is easily digestible. A double act is an easy thing to accomplish.
MGM: Markets well, as well, I presume.
Ginger: If you’re both vying for attention, the double act is going to fall flat on its face. But because I’m pushing Victoria to the front on that one, I’m not surprised it works at all. She’s absolutely gorgeous, she’s got an amazing voice, and she’s a stunning front person. Am I surprised that people like that? Not at all.
MGM: You make a good argument, that way, definitely. Because of the popularity, that’s presumably going to have the phase two, as well.
Ginger: I don’t know. I don’t know. A lot of things have changed. A lot of things do change in life.
MGM: You’ve just started doing a regular set of shows, as Hey! Hello! You’ve got a band behind you as well. We were talking to The Rev earlier. He was saying how you’d used him, obviously on guitar, for that as well.
Ginger: Well, diplomacy must always win out. But there’s reasons why Hey! Hello! might not continue. It has nothing to do with me and Victoria. Me and Victoria are fine. And I’ll leave it at that.
MGM: Well, if you can get another project out of it, we’ll be all the happier.
Ginger: I’ll always be doing projects. This thing is a 12 month project. The great thing about having a 12-months projection is you know exactly what you can’t do for 12 months. I know I can’t do anything. Don’t expect any new projects until next May or June (2015), because we’re just going to be doing G.A.S.S. We’re going to be concentrated on that. And Courtney obviously, if Courtney wants me to play with her, whatever she’s doing, that’s a fun gig. It’s a fucking fun gig. Yeah, you can imagine it’s times what you can imagine by about 500, and that’s what it’s like playing with Courtney.
MGM: Does that just give you the opportunity to again step back, let her take the limelight and you just get on with playing, basically?
MGM: Takes all the pressure off you completely because of the play.
Ginger: Yeah. Well, the pressure on me is to back her up. Pressure on me is to give her the best that I can offer, and that’s all I’ve got to do all day. Man, she’s got an easy 100% out of me. What the fuck is there to do all day? What else am I going to do? I love it. I love it. And the people in the band, the guys are great, the crew’s always great. You know, Courtney knows quality. She understands quality. Whether it’s in threads or in people. She doesn’t suffer fools. She likes people who are genuine. She can smell bullshit before she even walks in the room where the bullshit is. She’s the real deal.
MGM: She’s looking for grafters and she knows one when she sees one, basically.
Ginger: Well, yeah, she’s looking for people who don’t complain. She’s not one of those people that is going to put up with anyone moaning about anything. She can’t stand that shit. And that’s where me and her get on just fine. I can’t stand people complaining either. The rest of it, she’s looking for– Again, I keep finding myself mentioning the word, but the essence of a person. Their background, their– where they are now because of the life that they’ve had. As you can imagine she’s had a pretty fucking colorful life. Having taken a significant amount of time over my allotted 15 minutes, we wrap up at that point thanking Ginger for his time.
G.A.S.S. can be found here: G.A.S.S Main Website