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The Wildhearts must be in London: Interview with Ginger and CJ. Part I

Interview by Adrian Hextall \ Krishan Singh

Live Photos (C) Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media

With Ginger and CJ coming into London for an overnight trip to do some press before returning to the safety of the north, leaving behind once again the town that Ginger would rather see flattened and built up from scratch again, such is his dislike of the city, we spoke to them to discuss the new album, new tour and the line up that everyone had hoped for reuniting for what we hope will be the foreseeable future.

MGM: The title track on your new album, opens with ‘So Here We Are Again’, which is probably the best way to describe what you’re doing over these last two days. The new album. Everything it just– it does feel right. You guys must be happy with where this is all going at the moment. It feels good.

CJ: Pretty much.

GINGER: Yeah.

CJ: We’ve done quite a few interviews over the last few days. It’s ten years since our last album. It’s been a massive roller coaster getting from our last one to here. We’ve had so many ups and downs, you know. Me and Ginger have fallen out, I don’t know, half a dozen times. We’ve come back together. We’ve done gigs. The lineup’s changing, Danny’s back in the band now. We never saw that coming. And for this album to be coming out, It’s– it feels– We’d be lying if we said we weren’t happy about it!

GINGER: It feels exciting ’cause, you know, one of the things that we got that we didn’t always have is gratitude. I think, you know when you’re being through as many things as we have separately and individually and together, people losing limbs and, you know, getting through stuff that people of our age have to get through. Your parents getting sick and stuff like that. You do get tighter — it just becomes more of a family, you know? Your experiences act as a glue for you and you realize that it’s a more seasoned a bunch of soldiers were getting through a lot, you know. Every day we’re getting through a lot. And then, we never used to have that when we were younger.

CJ: And we appreciate the fact that we got an album coming out. We’re not a world-famous band but there’s enough people that give a shit about what we’re doing and the music we play and make. Yeah, we’re grateful.

MGM: Whatever it is you do, it creates a buzz of some sort somewhere. It doesn’t take much to get a social media machine buzzing.

CJ: Yeah, I mean, it’s a different buzz when you put out new music as a band and it’s been a decade since we’ve done that. You know we always get a buzz when we were announcing live shows or we’re going to do like some anniversary show or this…. this feels new again for us.

MGM: When you took ‘Britrock Must Be Destroyed on tour, every time you were on stage, no matter where you were on the bill, the audience was just up for it, full on. You were with some good bands, Terrorvision for example were a perfect fit against you.

CJ: That was a litmus test for us, because to be honest, we didn’t know where it was going to go. We had no idea.

GINGER: That it went well was…… was news to us as well. It wasn’t like that was something that we thought, we’re going to go out there, we’re going to kill it every night. We went out there hoping that we’d go down well every night. But by the end of it, we’re like “This feels good now”.

CJ: It’s just something that happened I mean–

GINGER: We’re very familiar with each other and we’re very familiar with the material and the people that like us help form a community. So as far as confidence I think we’re happiest up there, playing.

MGM: Looking at ‘Renaissance Men’ and the process of recording the new album. Was it different? Did it just flow easily? It’s the line up that your fans have been asking for for a long time.

[Our review of the album is here: ]

GINGER: I think the reason this line up works is because everyone brings so much to the table. Danny’s bass sound was part of our sound when we first started anyway though. We were all playing our instruments the same. The same background, same loves of music. So having them back. Hear enough bass sound in our music is a bit, it’s just like, you know, oh, it’s back just like that.

CJ: Danny has a certain tone to his bass which kind of fills in areas and it kinda– it’s really aggressive.

GINGER: And which is like, you know, we’ve had different drummers in the band. But you know, this is the powerhouse. The engine. And then, with me and CJ, the vocal style and the way we play the guitar, we may have had a lot of different people in the band but this is the one that seems to gel like organically the best. And even though we probably done less than a lot of the other line ups, we’ve known each other for longer and we’ve known each other better.

MGM: It must make it more comfortable as a result?

GINGER: Well, yeah, the reason why it works now is the reason why it didn’t work in the past. Everyone sees different characters. We just went off in all directions. We all decided that, okay, we’ll reluctantly stay in the band but we’re all going to be like satellites around it. And now I think everyone realises the lifestyle doesn’t interest everyone as much as it did when we were young. No one really wants to get back at the drugs again. And the music’s become as important as I’d liked it to have been back in the day. But it kind of wasn’t at the time because of our age and you can’t do stupid things at every point in your life so you better do it when you’re young.

MGM: The sound on the new album is absolutely massive. It’s got a huge kick to it from the off.

CJ: We know the reason why it’s…..and we’ve spoke about this a few times. We are proud the way we approach recording this album. In the past we’ve always layered stuff. Tonnes of layers of guitars. Lots of layers of vocals. This time there’s only one track of each with the guitars and we never double tracked any of the vocals. It’s a real kind of live sound. It’s really direct and that is basely what the band is… that’s our live sound.

MGM: The title track has a certain fuller feel to it. How did you get that sound because it’s got so much melody in the guitar and bass it almost sounds like it’s played on keyboards.

CJ: Yeah. I mean I think there is a keyboard underneath it. You do have a keyboards here and there, so you might actually be honing in on to the keyboard part. When you strip things down as well you really hear the song. Of course we had that punk rock effort in it. To describe the album that it sounds big, that’s ’cause everything’s so stripped down, you take less sound, the bigger it sounds, rather than putting more in.

GINGER: We always thought that putting more stuff on makes it bigger but it just gives it less character. And I learned that from Devin Townsend ’cause I heard him put a guitar down and it sounded great. Thirty guitars later, it just sounded like what he had originally played. We’ve always been guilty of that. Putting too many guitars down or more than what’s needed. And this one it was a conscious effort to say that we’re putting one guitar where it’s needed.

MGM: You can hear that!

GINGER: And I think you can hear that, it automatically gives the album more character because you actually hear the personalities of the people there.

CJ: There’s more space as well for everything to be heard because you give everything space. You hear everything and what you’re hearing is the band. So it’s hard to know it’s science. It’s an odd thing, you know, the less you put in, the bigger it sounds but it does work if the band know what they’re doing.

MGM: That knowledge comes from experience and it’s something I flagged in my review. looking at what you do now compared to what you did back then. I said that the album had the youthful energy from the debut but it’s also got 25 years worth of experience plus from the four of you in terms of how you present it, what you sound like, what you’re even singing about.

CJ: I mean, for me, when you said the youthful energy, that’s really important because we’re not kids, we’re guys in their 50s but we still have this kind of youthful turf I think–

GINGER: I think on the first album we were pissed off and we weren’t really sure what we’re pissed off about because, you know, there’s a lot of anger in the group. Whereas this album, where we’ve honed in the anger, we’re pissed off about specific things such as the state of the medical profession in this country and that affects some of us directly.

It’s not just someone angry this time. The first time was a bit more like a drunken Scotsman walking around the street at two in the morning. Shouting at the pigeons. Now it’s a bit more of a protest march.

MGM: Definitely.

GINGER: The album covers things that we’re passionate about. We’re not going to sing about anything that we’re not passionate about anymore. There’s just not enough time in the day when there’s too many issues.

MGM: You talk about the things that you’re passionate about. Was Fine Art of Deception a difficult one to write? Lyrically that’s a tough one.

GINGER: No, it was, I had the idea of that song, before me and my ex broke up. And I was writing about how cynical love is these days and how, you know, it’s almost like everyone’s looking over their partner’s shoulders if anyone better looking is coming walking in the room. And love and monogamy is very cynical, you know. People don’t work hard to keep their relationships together and they only realize after the relationship is broken up how easy it would have been just to, you know, look deeper and make an effort to make it work.

MGM: People forget that they need to put some effort in.

GINGER: Put some effort in. Yeah. Everyone is basing their ideals on the fricking television or fricking Facebook, filtered fucking Facebook folders, you know, looking for someone a bit more perfect that smells nice-

CJ: That I mean, yeah, social media’s done a lot to ruin lives… But we use social media. We literally wouldn’t still have a career if it wasn’t for social media. So it’s a double-edged sword, you know. But it also sells a lot of lies to impressionable young people as well. You think that’s the right way, that’s the image and that’s the way you should look but it’s filtered, it’s been doctored, you know.

MGM: Well you only have to see commentary on the post that you guys put up when somebody makes a factual statement about what actually happened in your lives as if they were there at the time.

CJ: What Dunc you mean? [Laughs]

GINGER: There’s a lot of experts.

MGM: It only takes one stupid person to ruin a thread sometimes. A recent one saw you comment about Article 50 and Brexit and within minutes the comments turn into all out war between keyboard warriors who only see their viewpoint. What started as a decent commentary about the number of people who had signed the petition for a second referendum or for Article 50 trigger to be revoked.

GINGER: It was a stupid little thing. A small percentage of those fucking Brexiteers. They’re just cunts. They’re just fucking absolute pig shit thick cunts, you know. They just think it’s a fucking sports game. All about winning and losing. This has an effect on your country. You didn’t win anything. You don’t even know what you fucking won. No one knows what the fuck the outcome is going to be. All we see is “we won you lost”. Fuck off. Get in a fucking car park. I’ll show you who’s going to fucking win and who’s going to lose you cunt. But they went and did it. They hide behind the fucking keyboards and attack you on Twitter. You know, I’m not hard to find. If you want to do it face to face, I’m not hard to find. You can get me. We play a little gigs all the time…

Everyone’s living in a kind of quasi-fantasy world right now. You can be a tough guy on the same computer that you put your photos of your fucking cat or whatever on. And you know, everything is fucking shiny and glossy in your life. And you’re all tough as fuck and your girlfriend’s gorgeous and your fucking breakfast was the best breakfast ever. Tell me, how is that working for you, back in the real world where you got to actually pay real bills or you going to be really out of a fucking home?

Mental health problems are actually affecting everyone. It kills thousands and thousands of people and that’s real. That’s not pretending. You know, at some point, everyone’s going to have to wake up to the realization that we’re not pretending. You can close your eyes and stick your head in the sand as much as you want. When you come out, it’s still going to be fucking apocalyptic out there. You better learn to fucking navigate it. Well, I guess that’s what social media’s doing. It’s driving people back indoors. They’re hiding behind the keyboards.

MGM: We have this problem at work. If you break a leg and you’re going to work, they’re like okay, take a few days off. You go in, your mental health is destroying you, and they’re like no, you can’t go because they can’t physically see, what you’re going through like they can with a broken leg.

GINGER: And we’re so cynical we can go “I can’t see any physical manifestation of your depression, so I don’t believe you.” What’s in it for anyone to lie about something like their fucking depression. Who the fuck wants that you know what I mean? And even people like Ricky Gervais, who used to have such a gloat about it and just used to joke about it on the stage. He’s obviously been affected by either his own ignorance or someone around him suffering and he went and did After Life [NETFLIX]. And he’s getting the best reviews he’s ever had in his life. He just went Bing! Shits real ain’t it. You know?

MGM: We all know the issues the band have had to deal with over the year both mental and physical. On the physical side of course, Danny needed a new leg, something Ginger initially said the reformation and album would help fund. Things seem to be progressing well for him?

GINGER: Oh my god. Yeah I remember that! You know, I’d like to think, he’s got a new leg and his heart is beating, everything is going to be great but I never saw any of the problems. If it was there and everything is falling apart, you go ‘shit!’ So, you know, the really good, healthy thing about The Wildhearts is we don’t take it for granted. If you don’t put the work in. You were going to be the reason why it probably goes to shit.

CJ: It’s great that we get to celebrate that we’re just here, now. We, me and Ginger sitting here, talking about this and then, we’re about to tour with a lot more gigs coming up which are not advertised yet. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes at this band and we’re grateful for that.

MGM: Being up on stage playing the new material will mean a lot to you and the fans. There’s no reason any track from the album can’t be played live. With all of them you can picture the audience singing each one back to you.

GINGER: If it was up to me, I’d play the whole album live but another thing about the kind of democratic way we try to run the Wildhearts is that everyone is putting opinions in and they are as important as anyone’s opinions. And Ritch’s [Battersby] opinion is that we can do two new songs per set, two. [laughs]

CJ: Actually the set master is Ritch, he comes up with the set. He came up with the running order on the album.

GINGER: He’s the one with the rule book that says you can’t do more than two songs from the new album. I don’t know how he got the book, I’ve been looking for that book all over in eight years, can’t fucking find it but he’s got a copy apparently. [laughs]

CJ: The classic thing is that when people don’t know the album and you go on and you end doing too much of the new album, there’s a lull, so you need to get the crowd moving. When we toured Chutzpah!, the album had been out awhile. We went on and we did the whole of the album.

GINGER: I think with Chutzpah! because we’d already done the White Album and then when we’re doing Chutzpah!, we could see the end before anyone else could, because it had just not been promoted and everything was getting scarcer and scarcer. We could sense the end coming.

So, that was almost like a statement of intent so I get what the guys mean when they say we’re playing in front an audience that we want to keep for a few years yet. We’re nowhere near the end at this point. So, you’ve got to play the sing-a-long ones and the ones that are calling responses as well, stuff like that. Yeah, it makes sense, you know. I get it.

MGM: Those sing backs \ calling responses, you have actually got ten of them this time. Take ‘Fine Art of Deception’, you’ve got the ‘Bullshit’ chant in the chorus, everybody is going to be yelling that back at you on stage.

GINGER: I think– We did that one and the Little Flower, when CJ and I did our acoustic residency.

CJ: Yeah we did them over here and Japan didn’t we?

GINGER: They were the first songs we ever played live before the album was recorded and they were great live. And that was before anyone had even heard it.

CJ: You’re right though, It’s a big sing-a-long album.

MGM: It is a massive sing-a-long album.

CJ: It’s filthy, it’s big and it’s got tunes on there. We will be playing them live at some point.

GINGER: Yeah. I think so.

GINGER: To be perfectly honest I’m dead bored playing Earth versus the Wildhearts we’ve kind of milked it now. So then we do just two songs from Earth versus the Wildhearts in the set and I can agree with the two song rule.

CJ: We probably are making a conscious effort to shake it up there this year. We know we can do something.

MGM: Well your 10th anniversary of Chutzpah! ’cause you’ve got that being re-released remastered as well. Presumably you’ll pick a couple off that now to make sure they go in to the set as well?

GINGER: Oh yeah. Mazel Tov [Cocktail]. There was a couple of songs we want to play on that you know.

CJ: I think the set’s a bit broader, it covers a lot more albums from our repertoire.

GINGER: We still need to be careful what we pick. We used to have people begging us to play Sky Babies for years. So we thought ‘why don’t we take a week to learn it.’ Play it live and you see people– people going to– use it as a toilet break — you would say… thanks for that!

Expect then a wider setlist on the upcoming tour, one that looks at all aspects of the band’s career and keep an eye out for Part II of this interview where we look at touring partners Massive Wagons and Towers of London as well as that ‘elusive last song’ that always comes at the 11th hour when writing an album.

Tour dates for May 2019 and ticket info can be found here:

http://www.thewildhearts.com/tour/

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