Interview and Live Pictures by Adrian Hextall (Writer / Photographer / Journalist)
If you consider the British music scene and especially that around London, it’s very easy to play “6 degrees of Ginger Wildheart” as he seems to be linked to every band, promoter, solo artist and more around. Festival promoter Chris McCormack is the brother of Danny, once the bass player in The Wildhearts, Hollis J of the Love Zombies will also front Ginger’s Hey!Hello! project in their latest incarnation. Michael Monroe’s guitarist Rich Jones plays in the Ginger Wildheart band and Ginger himself wrote and performed with Monroe on his ‘Sensory Overdrive‘ album. That’s just scratching the surface but it provides an insight into how busy the man is and it beggars belief as to how he manages to keep on top of everything going on in his life.
To find out more and also try and condense a couple of hours of questions into a 20 minute slot, Adrian Hextall sat down with Ginger prior to his appearance at Camden Rocks 2015.
MGM: Can we start with the new ‘Clout‘ E.P. A present for those that have Pledged on your latest project, it delivers something of a curve-ball to the crowd. Was it a deliberate surprise or just something you’ve just been wanting to try out?
GW: It’s down to the fact that I’ve worked with Jase Edwards (Wolfsbane) for so long. As a general rule, we always end our calls with our little ideas and messing about with samples. We’d always promised ourselves that one day, we’ll just come into the studio with no ideas and just start from what someone says, or something you saw, or something else. You just want to start with the sound of a train coming into a station. Or one of those science fiction doors opening and closing. And what we do from then, no idea and made it up on the spot. I think it’s a project that came out really well.
I didn’t deliberately want to do something that people weren’t going to like. I know electronic is not everyone’s cup of tea. I get why people wouldn’t like it, but the response was way more positive than I thought it was going to be. I thought we were going to get fucking torn apart. [chuckles].
MGM: You always put yourself out there when it comes to those little listening parties. You appeared there in the comments as well. It must be quite nerve racking for you because you’ve had some seriously negative feedback, if you look at when you put the Songs & Words project through, on the book side of things. There was a bit of tension there from some fans around the pricing before they’d even seen the end result. This time, knowing what could come, you still threw yourself into it and you’re quite happy to sit there and hear what people are saying. Is it tough for you?
GW: No, the thing is, if I go off on one now, it’s because something else is going on in my life and that rubs me up the wrong way. Normally I– if people have opinions, if someone thinks of a book that they haven’t even seen yet is too expensive, then they’re a dick head. It’s nothing to do with me. I don’t even know what it’s going to look like when you say it’s too expensive. Well, fuck it, don’t buy it. But normally, I wouldn’t be bothered. But on a day where your kid’s being a little swine and he’s got in trouble at school, the last thing I need is someone putting you down. It’s human error. I don’t profess to be anywhere near bomb proof. I also don’t want meet anyone who is!
And it makes you feel better about other people fucking up, if you fuck up yourself, you know. I still like to hear what people say. I think that’s really important. It’s the most important thing in the world. I don’t expect everyone to like everything that I do. I don’t like everything that other people (artists) do and I like that I don’t like everything they do. It makes it far more interesting to me. I can’t get my head around it when an artist delivers the same album every single time. Eventually, you would get bored, wouldn’t you?
If you’re going to do that, then there’s loads of bands to go and follow that go and do the same thing all the time. I’m probably the worst person in the world to support if you want something that’s consistently similar. I’m going to do something consistently unsimilar. And you knows.. if you don’t like it, what are you doing there? It’s probably the wrong place for you.
MGM: Well, you seem to keep multiple plates spinning all at the same time. The current Pledge campaign, you’ve re-initiated Hey!Hello! and you’ve got Mutation Two, coming up as well?
NB: At this point I realise I’ve totally misinterpreted what Ginger did with the Mutation projects. Two single albums which I’d assumed were a double. Thankfully he was good enough to put me straight !!
GW: Three. The first album was called the Frankenstein Effect. The second one was called Error 500. And I’m doing a third one. They were released as a double, but that wasn’t my idea and I didn’t like that idea. I wasn’t happy with that at all.
I don’t have no problem with double albums. You know some of my albums are double albums, when you get them on vinyl because they’re long songs. But I didn’t want that to be confused. The Frankenstein Effect was about written four years before Error 500, but as a double album it doesn’t work on any level.
In my mind, P.H.U.Q is a double album. But it wasn’t. It’s got some long songs on it. I’ve got a different idea of what I do, than people who buy it.
MGM: In terms of that dividing line between the people that buy your music, the fans, and you as the artist, you seem to be happy to step over it on a regular basis. You ask for opinions and feedback, as well. Does what the fan base say to you resonate in terms of what you put out in future? Or do you still work within, say, your musical family more so, in terms of your output?
GW: We’re all in this together, as far as I’m concerned. I’m happy enough to be on that side of the photo pit, and they’re on this side of the pit. But we’re all in it together, you know what I mean, very much equal. I think knowing what they think is imperative, I couldn’t understand musicians that wouldn’t want to know what their fans think. They shouldn’t influence you, what you’re going to do, but they’re not in charge of what I do, but they certainly are welcome to their opinion on it.
I still don’t get why musicians don’t want to get rid of that final wall and be friends with their audience you know? Find out that they’re not all cool. Some of them are not cool. Some of them are great, and do really lovely things for each other, and that’s very inspirational. So on a personal level, they do inspire me a great deal when they’re looking after themselves as a community, it just makes me so fucking proud of it all.
They’re constantly amazing me. You know, I’m a Ramones fan, The Ramones had a community group. As Ramones fans, you go to a Ramones gig, all the freaks in whatever city they’re playing, are all in this fucking building. Where do they all go when the Ramones aren’t playing [chuckles]? These guys shouldn’t be allowed out on the streets. So I always wanted that in a community and I got it, but what I didn’t expect was that they would all like the same things and that’s the most satisfying thing of all.
Anything to do with putting together this beautiful bunch of people that are so generous and selfless that it’s inspirational to me.
MGM: It’s almost like family. Really.
GW: Yeah. It is an extended family. Because they’re the boss, and they’re paying my wages, they’re feeding my family. If I do something and they fucking hate it, then it kind of levels out against if I do nothing and end up alienating the whole bunch. And I don’t want to do another thing they hate but I’ve got to give them something else to complain about. I keep it interesting for everyone. If you get those who complain a lot about stuff, they’re going to complain, anyway. When we did the G.A.S.S. thing I got the most brilliant complaints. Someone said it was too much value for money. I just thought, that is just crazy.
MGM: You can’t win there, can you [chuckles]?
GW: When are you going to play nearer my house? That’s another one. If I sit there in your back garden, you’d decide that you didn’t want to leave the house that day. So some people just like complaining, and because of that I don’t mind them complaining. They’re going to moan anyway. But the fact that the community shuts them up, and I don’t have to, is why I try not to react. Like I said I did, at the beginning of the book.
MGM: Well, to be fair, it was justified. You can’t judge something until it’s out.
GW: It’s just an opinion. You can vote UKIP for all I care, you know? My opinions on voting UKIP shouldn’t really influence you and what you do. Sometimes I can’t help myself, but I don’t fucking want to. (laughs).
MGM: Haha.. That’s fair enough. Now, just looking at the Songs & Words shows. A great success and you’re looking to go out again with round 2 next year ?
GW: I am looking at it hopefully, it will be another string to my bow that I can do in the future. Again and again. I loved it. I love enjoying anything that terrifies the fuck out of me. I was absolutely shit scared– for the first time in a long time I was shit scared before the first gig. Which was a warm up in a pub. That we charged a pound for. So, it didn’t matter if it was going to be a nightmare. I obviously didn’t know how it was going to go. I haven’t felt like this for a long, long time. And I want to feel that. And being effectively naked in front of an audience with just you and a mike, and no volume to protect you, to hide behind. No flashing lights. I fucking loved it. Every night, I was thinking, “Anything can happen.”
MGM: Aside from a few audience members that had had a few too many, broadly everybody just kept quiet and listened to you didn’t they? You could hear a pin drop for most of the show.
GW: There was not a single heckler, not one heckler. It was getting hard for those that drink, some people are better at drinking than others. I think everyone agrees with that, doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, it’s just like, “Did you really need 20 gin and tonics in a pint glass? Really? [chuckles].” Or do it after the show, so you can remember the show when you’ve paid 20 quid to get in to. They didn’t just piss me off, they pissed everyone off. So, again, the audience were there, “Will you shut up?” I didn’t have to say anything.
MGM: They just club together and deal with it?
GW: Yeah. Not even saying “get out”, not like– you know we had a couple talking in Ireland that hadn’t seen each other since the last Wildhearts tour and of course they were excited and they talked all the way through the gig. And I was like, “Why did you guys come to this? Here’s your money back, why don’t you guys to the pub next door and I’ll join you after the gig.” You can’t sit there and talk, rambling all the way through the gig, you’ve ruined it for other people. There’s nothing wrong in talking, but go and do it somewhere where you….
MGM: Where you’re not upsetting the rest of the theatre?
GW: Yeah. And if you didn’t, you should have. But.. not a single heckler. That was another thing that I was dreading because, not that I haven’t got plenty of lines to come back with. It would just spoil the atmosphere and the show. But I had nothing to worry about, there was none.
MGM: When you go back on the road with Part II next year, when you’ve found your batch of intimate venues as it were, are you going to look at the same period again, or are you going to look at everything from 555% till now?
GW: No, it’s not going to be the same as it were. This time it is personal, and what it’s going to be is…… The book will be out, the DVD will be out and all the stories you have heard will be in the set [Book & DVD]. So I’ve got to tell the stories that I didn’t tell last time and that’s going to be the first half of the set. Then the second half of the set is going to be a Q & A.
What we’re going to do is, everyone will give us questions when they come into the venue and then someone’s going to hurriedly type it all out and put it in a nice font, and they’re going to show it on the back screen. So we can see their name and I’ll point them out and we’ll have a Q & A session, for the second half combined with music as well.
But that’s going to take it to an even more personal level where again, we’re continually breaking down walls. Which I like to do.
MGM: Knowing the community that you were talking about earlier, there is absolutely no way that you’re not going to get a raft of decent questions from that, is there?
GW: Yeah. They’re an interesting bunch. There’s going to be some serious questions and there’s going to be stuff that’s so random it makes the fucking punchline on the nightly news [chuckles]. That’s what I love about this lot. They’re such a colourful bunch, but smart as well. I like how smart and caring they are. I couldn’t be more proud to be honest.
MGM: Just looking at today, given who else is playing, are you playing just your own set, or are you going to join Hollis at all? Are you going up on stage with Love Zombie’s before hand?
GW: No. I don’t need to spoil their set by getting in the way. Do get warmed up through Love Zombies, because they’re great.
MGM: We’re seeing Hollis later on this afternoon for a chat with her and the band as well.
GW: Hollis is just one of my favourite human beings in the world. She’s instant family. Some people you meet and you haven’t known them for a long time, and they’re just in your heart straight away. Hollis is one of them.
MGM: And the last question just on that then, you’ve got a show with her on the eleventh [June] as a warm-up before Download. Is that going to include new material?
GW: No. We’re having a a lot of discussion about this and it is never going to be the plan. There was some personal digs when we announced that we had a new singer, that we’d planned this, that we’d sacked the old singer and planned this. It was never a plan. We were all at my birthday bash, talking and the conversation went to “Oh, wouldn’t it be great if we’d all play together?” And then our agent, who wasn’t even our agent at the time, said, “Why don’t you do Hey! Hello! and get Hollis to sing?” And I’ve gone, “That’s a great idea.” And then we changed the subject and talked about something else, and no one mentioned anything. A few weeks later, this guy, this agent, got us a gig, “I’ve got you a gig.” And we’re like, “Fuck!, oh man, we haven’t got any new songs or anything.” “That’s all right, just bring your own self.” “Okay, where’s the gig?” “Download, headlining one of the tents.” And I’m like “You’re joking [chuckles].”
If I wanted to play Download, I couldn’t, you know what I mean? It just happened like, just one of those things an absolute freak event and you can’t– fortune like that doesn’t come all the time. And there’s nothing you gain, you know what we did the last time. This is something that’s gone in to all the bands. I can’t wait to write some songs, but I’m certainly not going to rush it. And we didn’t really do that much to promote the last album anyway. I just want to get the band together and get a feel of how it’s going to be.
Then we’re going to get together and write the album together and record the album together. Because obviously, the first album was just me.
MGM: No, you did absolutely everything on it, didn’t you? Apart from obviously the lead vocals.
GW: Yeah because I’m not very good at it [chuckles]. But we turned it again– just by pure fluke, we turned in to a great live band. I can’t wait to hear this lot on an album. It’s very, very fresh. Some people say, “Why didn’t you change the name?” No, my son named the band Hey! Hello!, it’s his name. I’m not going to change the name, it belongs to my six year old boy. It’s like–
MGM: Why would you need to?
GW: I’ve no desire to change the name at all. It’s my little boy’s fantasy band.
MGM: The only thing the fans might do is add Mark II, at the end of it, the same way they did Deep Purple.
GW: Well what we’re going to do is call the album Hey! Hello! too, T-O-O. So it’s also Hey Hello.
As far as I’m concerned, the name Hey! Hello! reminds me of my younger boy, everything about that album. There wasn’t even meant to be an album, it was a single and then I can’t write two songs, I write four. So I wrote four and that turned into ten.
MGM: Final question from me then Ginger. The last time we spoke at Camden Rocks 2014, you actually recommended Love Zombies as the band you wanted to see that day. What about this year? Anybody new that you’ve stumbled across that you think we should catch?
GW: Scaramanga Six if you haven’t seen them. They’re amazing. It’s lovely. The festival just such a great spirit about it. My day is full of seeing old bands. I’m going to see Trail of the Dead at 6:15, then I’m going to see The Dictators and I’m going to see Michael Monroe. I’ve seen all the oldies today. There’s one that I really wanted to see called The Men Who Not be Blamed for Nothing. But they’re on at 2:00 [The same time this interview takes place…]
MGM: I’m very grateful you’re here!
GW; There are certain things, I get to miss bands. I get to miss every fucking band. I bought tickets for one band the other day and I can’t go now because I’m busy. So, I’ve got to sell them. In my line of work, I don’t get to see other bands. That’s fine. That’s fine, because my God….. The benefits far outweigh the negatives. So you won’t see me complaining.
And we wrap up. Safe in the knowledge that Songs & Words Part 2 is coming, Hey! Hello! Too is coming and the DVD and Book plus more Pledge items will be released in the coming months. The Wildhearts will also tour in the autumn in support of the P.H.U.Q 20th anniversary. Something for everyone and more.