Interview / article by Adrian Hextall : Myglobalmind Magazine
With more successful PledgeMusic campaigns that pretty much any other artist that’s gone down the fan funded route, Ginger Wildheart has a rabid fan base that vacuums up any and all releases from the man as they are made available. It’s highly likely that a host of bank managers have just had to agree thousands of overdrafts in a single day as a result of a new Pledge campaign and with the Hey! Hello! Too album due, a rescheduled live show and more live dates to come, it suggests Ginger has a sackful of goodies that need to be discussed.
Via the magic of satellite communications and digital telephony, I’m transported to St Helen’s in the North of England for a chat with one of Britain’s most endearing and enduring artists.
As we get the polite small talk out of the way, Ginger advises me that he’s “Just trying to get Julian to bed.” – Yes I know… at this point I think it’s fair to throw the book at the transcription team and thank editors who can spot these sort of errors. So, without further ado, as Ginger leaves ‘JUNIOR’s” Mum to put him to bed because “I tend to talk to him too much, so he doesn’t sleep, so his mother is better putting him to bed than I am,” which is fair enough and it leaves us with an uninterrupted opportunity to discuss life, the universe and more importantly, everything that’s gone on in Ginger’s life since the release of the ‘CLOUT e.p’ towards the middle of last year. “It’s been..” I offer, “a rather interesting 7-8 months for you?”
“They’re always interesting months” confirms Ginger, matter of factly. “I don’t know whether it is ’cause I’m getting older, I believe in cramming more stuff in, or because being freed up with the business model that we use these days, where I get to do pretty much everything I want within reason. There has to be a quality limit, but you know, if we don’t hit the quality control, then I won’t do it. I won’t just put any old stuff there. I put stuff that inspires me. And once it reaches that quality level, then I stop being a critic, because I know I have a lot of songs that I wouldn’t have put on albums necessarily before, so yea. I keep myself busy, but on a certain quality level.”
Ginger then goes on to explain what the fans can expect over the next few months; “I recorded a new Mutation album, which we are gonna sit for a little while. I’m going to record a new acoustic album, and we’re gonna do that in March. We’re gonna sit on that for a while, and mainly, this year, I’m going to concentrate on promoting and touring with Hey! Hello! who have also recorded an album. I also have Year of the Fan Club, where a lot of people have already heard the songs on it but not in the order that they are on the album.”
Having started life as a 12 month subscription based (3 news songs per month download) service, the original 36 songs were all stand out, instantly recognisable GW compositions. The exercise to whittle 2/3 of the songs out of the final public / non-Pledge release must have been difficult. It generated many hours of debate in the fan forums but everyone seems to agree that the final choice is the right one.
“They weren’t all my favourites, to be honest,” says Ginger pragmatically. “There are some songs there that are other people’s favourites. ‘The Pendine Incident’, and the song called ‘Toxins & Tea’, they are all right. They have nice lyrics, but other people have really, really enjoyed them, so I thought it would be kind of criminal not to put them on. Certainly, it was songs that strike me as fitting on this album.” To expand upon his logic the for the 12, he goes on to explain; “I’ve never liked bands that have albums that sound like albums. I’m a fan of people like Frank Zappa and the Cardiacs, that don’t even have a genre to stick to it. And I’ve always enjoyed that on solo albums. So I thought it would be the most fun to listen these songs as there’s a little bit for everyone, if they can be bothered to listen to it.”
The logical question as to why wouldn’t people be bothered to listen to it arises and with a sigh in his voice, Ginger states what I had feared he was going to say; “Obviously, a lot of people can’t, because if it doesn’t say ‘The Wildhearts’ on the cover, so then a lot of people aren’t even giving it a go, but, you know, what we’re doing here is creating a legacy for after we’re gone as well. In 50 years’ time, they might listen to this album, and say, you know: Why was Justin Bieber bigger than this? And the answer is because there’s a lot of people that aren’t very smart, which is why we’ve got a fucking Tory government, but, politics aside. I imagine that if I had a million fans, I’d have as many people with good taste in music as I do now.”
The mere mention of the Government in the UK at the moment leads neatly to a question about one of the 12 tracks on ‘YoTFC’ , ‘Toxins and Tea’, a song that , to me, looks at the state of the country at the moment.
“Well, I mean, we all knew what was going to happen when the Tories came. We all knew that the first thing to suffer would be the NHS. We’re gonna copy the American style of medicinal care, which is unfortunate. When I found myself, finding out about depression pills, because I could afford to look into it, ’cause I went to a hospital where you have to pay quite a lot of money to get taken in, and I was shown also the stuff used on the NHS. So, we’re going to more draconian values as, you know, exemplified by America.”
Ever the one to champion the right causes for the people, Ginger continues; “And we all knew it was going to happen, and the only people that didn’t know what was going to happen are the people who didn’t pay attention. Unfortunately, there’s still too many people around that don’t pay attention. We have a lot of stupid people in this species, and it’s always gonna be that way. And it’s just about dealing with things, given those limitations. That’s why I don’t tend to get too involved in politics. It’s people that don’t use their voice wisely and don’t know what their votes are worth that annoy me and that’s what ‘Toxins & Tea‘s about.
Imagine if you would, the thousands if not millions of people walking blindly into a polling booth, putting a tick in a box on a ballot paper, thinking they’ve done their bit walking out, but not realizing exactly what they’ve just done or helped create. Regardless of your views on the UK ‘Brexit’ referendum in June this year, whether you decide to vote to stay or leave, at least have an informed view of what your choice means before voting.
Looking at how people blindly make these choices \ decisions, Ginger offers his view; “People don’t follow any history books, they don’t look at what screwed us last time; doing things because your family do, you know.. not paying attention to the small print. And believing that there’s only three parties to vote for. You could have used your vote in all manner of ways and I was annoyed by people using the vote lazily, but not as near as annoyed as I was at people not using their voice. It mentions [Toxins & Tea] – well, it doesn’t mention UKIP, but it’s kind of insinuated in the song that’s someone voted for immigration changes, even though they had a, you know, an Asian step-son. And that’s nothing compared to Russell Brand telling people not to use their vote. I mean, that cost us. It really did cost us, because it turned a nation of people that aren’t educated into lazy uneducated people, which is really, really dangerous. There’s nothing more dangerous in this world than apathy.”
With a mention of public soapbox persona and self certified people’s champion, Russell Brand, it’s easy to imagine how he might turn peoples’ opinions simply because he has the power of personality and the ear of a lot of the nation. There could be many undecided voters that just listen to someone like Brand and make their decisions based on his persuasive arguments and challenges.
“He could,” concurs Ginger. “There’s always that chance. Gene Simmons and Henry Rollins’ comments after the death of Robin Williams, where they were talking about depression being a weakness of some kind, of suicide being a coward’s way out. I was huge Henry Rollins fan, and a massive Kiss fan when I was a kid, you know. And they have got a lot of people listening to them. And if they are going to spout off things that are potentially dangerous, and potentially harmful, then I think it’s a lazy use of your power.” It’s clear as the conversation progresses that this is an area Ginger feels very strongly about and knowing his own battles with depression, it’s hardly surprising that he wants people to understand the real issues and problems rather just blindly listening to a famous public persona such as those mentioned above. “You could be using your power for something a lot more positive. And so that annoys me, because you fight, and you struggle and you get your way, and you get your position of power, then you don’t use it for anything. I think that’s something that we’ve kind of become as a species, because we’re picking a fight to earn a lot of money, and then we hold all the money because it’s ours, instead thinking: I’m in a position of power. I could do something with this money. Of course, people don’t. What people do is enough things with their money to get a tax situation, but you don’t actually get together enough and try to help. That’s the species that we are. It’s a bit complaining about the weather in England, really. I just think that people.. I don’t think a human being really has an apathetic or sympathetic natural gene, and there’s a few of us trying keep that tiny little gene clear and fresh, but you’re swimming against the tide.”
Of course it only takes one person to convince another person, and then they convince another one, and you get a ripple effect, and eventually it does begin to hold the mind and the sway of that majority.
As we continue to discuss the work of the good and what can be achieved, the conversation also looks back at how the apathy and ill informed decisions can have negative effects on the services received by the UK public and most importantly the National Health Service. A bastion of what it is to be British and one of the things celebrated about GB during the opening ceremony at the 2012 London Olympics, Ginger reveals that the only way he identified new and possible alternate treatments for depression were as a result of seeking private treatment rather than being offered or even being aware of treatments that might be available on the NHS.
“Absolutely.” he says. “And it’s not just me. There’s a few people that are starting to ask their GP about this new medication that I’ve never really heard of, and it’s already having a positive effect on this.. I hate to call it illness, but I guess it is – this ailment, that is very much a physical problem. It’s not a mental problem, as people think it is. It’s an inability for one synapse to offload onto another synapse. So, this material that helps to bring two neurotransmitters that isn’t getting across. Pretty much how your body is unable to produce calcium, or you know, you have asthma.”
As we explore how debilitating, physically, depression can be, Ginger goes on to explain how he’s managed to turn a corner thanks to the support not only from his family but also the private healthcare sector.
“I’m lucky enough, thanks to the fans, to be in a position where I’m going to a private hospital and then find out stuff like this. If I could get one fucking person to make a change in their life that makes them happier, than that’s a pretty good cause.” Now the thing that seems to be making a huge change in his life and we’ve recently seen it making headlines in national and social media is a drug called Venlafaxine.
“Yeah, Venlafaxine. It’s also called Effexor. I know a few that were put on Effexor in the past and taken off straight away, which is a terrible thing to do. To take someone off their medication is a criminal misuse of a lack of education. There is a lot of that around. Inexperienced doctors… How can they be experienced? They can only be experienced to the level of their expertise and not their experience; they don’t suffer from depression as you couldn’t get a job in medical profession if you suffer from depression. So, it’s not a brand new drug but Venlafaxine is a brand new name. What they’re doing with it is a brand new process. What I’m trying to do is let people know that this thing works for me; they might want to try it. It’s not a sedative. You’re not gonna be numbed. There’s nothing worse about the treatment of any type of mental illness than the feeling of emptiness, and the treatment of it is to be numbed, which is fucking really, really cruel when you think about it, because all you really want is for your brain work like a normal person’s, whatever a normal person is. And that’s what this thing does, it just fires up all your neurotransmitters so you’re producing the correct doses of serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. And it works. You know, they build you up to it, and in that way your brain starts working on this stuff naturally. So when they slowly take you off your brain’s gotten into the habit of producing this much of these essential products and it does it when you come off. And if it doesn’t, you go back on it. I mean, there’s nothing to be ashamed of being on medications. I’ve been taking stuff for fucking decades now. I’ve been taking something called lansoprazole, and it’s a medication. And I take it once a day for heartburn. And there’s no stigma attached to heartburn. No one looks down on you if you’re having a heartburn. No one looks down on you for buying a nurofen at the chemist just ’cause you’ve got a headache.”
“All I’m trying to do is, you know, help remove the taboo.” he adds with a sigh at what is clearly a battle for him.
Whatever he is doing, with the support of people around him, seems to be working. He’s back working hard again and with the December Birthday Bash show rescheduled, Ginger has attracted quite a stellar line-up to play on April 1st at The Forum in London’s Kentish Town. Of the bands playing, most will come as no surprise to Ginger’s fans as he’s been championing each and every one personally but to understand why those bands, we delve a little deeper into his choices and musical tastes.
“If I happen to hear them at a party, I just get in touch with them and if I like what I hear and we all became friends, I ask them to do gigs like this, which I think is good for them, because it’s a bigger gig in London, than they are probably gonna play by themselves. I want all that audience to, you know, transfer to these bands and hear what I hear.” Enthused and energised about a topic he’s personally invested a lot in he explains how it worked for others in the past. “We did a tour with The Wildhearts and we took Eureka Machines out with us. And they did a tour without us and then found out that they were selling out their first Glasgow show, and I felt like a proud father really. I want just to help in any way really. So, I won’t change. I haven’t changed since I started this. New bands excite me; they did even before I was playing music.”
Ginger’s influence on the success of these new acts cannot be dismissed easily. With a fan-base that does hang onto his every word, his seal of approval can make or break a new act on the scene. It’s well known that Eureka Machines were on the verge of calling it a day before the aforementioned tour. Then their own tour sold well and the third and fourth albums have sold extremely well through the same medium Ginger favours (PledgeMusic). He really seems to have the mildest touch [I MEAN SERIOUSLY, TRANSCRIPTION PEOPLE….. MILDEST?]. SO, anyway, with Ginger’s MIDAS touch, the acts that get that support must be extremely grateful as it acts as a great profile raiser for them.
“I do like bands who are gonna carry the torch,” says Ginger. “I want to direct people to some new bands. That’s what we’re supposed to be doing; we’re supposed to be helping each other.”
“But my god,” he continues, “you won’t see bands better than any of those bands. I mean, there’s five groups there that are fucking great. I’m not just saying that ’cause I made two of them [GWB and Hey! Hello!] , but there’s five fantastic bands there. You’d be hard pushed in finding that much music that is worthy of really falling in love with. I mean, great songs, great sense of humour, great work ethic in every group. And I think people should be proud of producing these things in back-border villages that don’t even get exposure.”
Of the bands on the bill, one of the key ones that a lot of people will be there to see is Hey! Hello!, the revamped line up that has just finished the second album, ‘Hey! Hello! Too’. Aside from the YotFC release, I assume that HH is a huge focus for Ginger.
With a laugh he says; “I do too many different things, because I don’t like to have a main focus, ’cause that is an invitation to disappointment. And I don’t wanna put too much pressure on something to succeed. And it will do whatever it does, you know, subject to how much work we put in, and how much luck is on our side, and there are variables in this business that everyone needs to accept at the kick-off. But I am 100% into it. I am writing an album now that I’m gonna record in March. I’m 100% into that. Whatever I’m doing, I’m just 100% loyal and focused on that, and that’s the only thing that matters. So, you know, Hey! Hello! Too is coming in April. I’ll be completely and totally absorbed in that at that point. And then we got a bunch of other stuff that I’m doing this year that I’m gonna be completely absorbed in that time as well.”
For those people that have heard some of the new material and as I write this, the listening party for the new album is tonight, the energy in the Hey! Hello! is reminiscent of the energy and buzz that first surrounded The Wildhearts when they burst onto the scene with that seminal début in the early 1990s.
“I was there when The Wildhearts were rehearsing our songs that were marked for the first album and that energy was in the room Everyone wanted to be a part of it. After we finished rehearsing, we went to the Pope [Personally I think it should read as The Pub… but what do I know transcription team, sometimes this just gets embarrassing!] and then we went to someone’s house, and stuff. And now, we’re like that. We like hanging out, we like going, you know.. eating Japanese food together, even if we’re not doing anything. We enjoy each other’s company, and I love the guys and the band. I hope we can keep this amount of love for what we do, but, you know, I’m not gonna curse it with the luck The Wildhearts had. Right now, we’re in the honeymoon period, and it feels good.”
“And we got Frank Kozik again to do the artwork, which is another thing that makes me very happy. And it’s called Hey! Hello! Too! – lovely use of the English language because it is also Hey! Hello!, with a different singer.”
The name of the band cannot be changed even with the introduction of Hollis Mahady on vocals for the simple reason that it was thought of by Ginger’s son Taylor.
“Yes, it was little Taylor. He came up with a name when he first heard the music, and I said: ‘What do you think a band like this should be called’ and he said ‘Hey, Hello’. And then we released the album in America, and it was just about to go into the shops and I said, you know, everyone is looking at the Hey! Hello! name. ‘Where did you get it from?’, and he said “I stole it”. You know, when a kid’s like 4 years old, you ain’t watching the programs they watch, maybe there’s a program called Hey! Hello! on the telly, and we’re gonna get a fucking huge court injunction over it. And then I said: Okay. Where did you steal it from? And he said: ‘The Ramones! Hey, hello, let’s go’. And that just made the name 10 times cooler than it was before. I’d never change the name.”
In addition to the April 1st show, Ginger is going to be doing three solo sets at Camden Rocks Festival in June, he plays the main stage at Ramblin’ Man festival at Mote Park, Kent and promises a very, very , very special show indeed. He’s also looking to book venues for an electric tour leading up to Ramblin’ Man, which will then be followed by an acoustic tour.
“The acoustic tour is not going be the same as Song and Words. I’ve done it once. The more I think about doing it again, the more I think I’d rather do something I haven’t done. The three shows at Camden Rocks are all gonna be half an hour long. That’s going to be purely acoustic. The songs are gonna be lifted by the voices by the people in the audience, and so it’s a good idea to bring along your loud hailers, and bring on your football terrace voices, and we’ll make three very different shows. The Main Grains are playing just after us as well so it will be nice to see Danny [McCormack – former Wildhearts bassist] again, after a long time. But that’s gonna be fun. I still don’t quite know what I’m gonna do, but I know that the audience will make it brilliant.”
And with that we wrap up. Forty fascinating minutes that bring us back up to date with everything that’s going on in Ginger’s life. An electric tour, and acoustic tour, Ramblin’ Man and those three special Camden shows give us, the fans, almost too much to look forward to.
See you there!