Interviews

Interview with Ginger Wildheart

It’s been an interesting year for Ginger. Lots of ups and lots of downs. An album release, and an unrelenting schedule of shows in support of that album, Ghost In The Tanglewood. The Wildhearts played their first show with Danny back in the band earlier in the year (which nobody thought would ever happen), and they’re settling into the studio to record a new album, the first in almost ten years (and the first with this lineup in around 24 years). Amidst all this, Ginger was admitted to the hospital, died for eight minutes, on life support for 36 hours and came out of all that with no voice. Then he slipped on a hill and cracked a rib, meaning he had to pull out of a huge Wildhearts gig in Preston. The (rather splendid) Chris Catalyst from Eureka Machines/Sisters of Mercy/Every Other Band In The World stepped in on guitar/singing duties and the rest of The Wildhearts decided to go ahead with the gig. The first Wildhearts gig ever without Ginger. It was weird but brilliant.

So, are we up to speed? No? I’ll begin anyway.

I spoke to Ginger on a crisp Saturday morning, and he sounds great, upbeat and excited for what the next year will bring. Read on for the exclusive title of his next solo album, details on The Wildhearts recording session, his voice woes and how he feels about dogs.

Interview by Matt Tustin


ANTIHERO: Hi Ginger, how have you been?

Ginger: Very good! Just relaxing with the family this weekend, I’ve got my little boy over to visit, it’s nice to be with family again, you know. Nice to be with anyone again, to be honest. It all seems like things are on an upward swing.

ANTIHERO: Good. I’m really, really glad to hear it. You sound a lot more positive lately, which is really good to hear. I went to the Wildhearts show in Preston which was incredibly strange without you there. Obviously, you were massively missed, but, I think everyone thought that Chris Catalyst did you proud. How did it feel? And how do you feel Chris did, based on the feedback that you heard?

GINGER: I just wanted the gig to go ahead. It was sold out, there’s potentially an awful lot of disappointed people that were travelling and stuff. And I know that any Wildhearts show is about 50% about the music and 50% about the audience, the vibe, and the crowd. So, I knew that, as weird as it was, people would have a better time being there for such a historic event, than making alternative arrangements and getting 20 quid back, or whatever. Also, I’m dead relieved that the lads did it. I’m dead relieved that the audience enjoyed it. To be honest, I knew if anyone was going to be able to do that, it would be Chris, because people love him anyway. I think as a singer, a front man, he’s every bit as good as me. You just cross your fingers and hope that it’s going to be accepted with the right attitude. Our audience are cool as fuck so they made life easy for him. I mean, he was very nervous about it. And, not about singing, but about going in front of that crowd. And I was like, well don’t be. But I, no, I didn’t … obviously, I was hoping that would be the case. And I wasn’t 100% sure, but it’s great to know that the crowd were 100% behind him.

ANTIHERO: A few of us were talking before the show, and I think if anyone else had been announced as the front-man of The Wildhearts, I think the fans would have got very grumpy.

GINGER: Yeah. So, I’m sure they would. But, you know, it’s The Wildhearts, and it has always been a tight-knit community, and Chris is part of that community.

ANTIHERO: Yeah, very much ingrained. It’s been almost four years since G-A-S-S ended, so how do you feel about that period now? Is G-A-S-S Mk. II the end of that cycle?

GINGER: Definitely, G-A-S-S mark two is the end of that cycle. It was a brilliant time, it was like, very few times where you just get to do something that lasts for a year, you know? And a lot of the time, you get a new idea and you can’t really regret it very much, ’cause it’s over in a matter of weeks, anyway. But, if you’re regretting something like this, and you’re in it for a year, that’s gonna really suck. And, I just, it was the first thing we did since moving on from my old manager, and going into management by myself, with my partner at the time, Jane.

It was an ambitious project, I like to start big if I’m going to do something. It’s nice to have an ambitious project to get your teeth into. I’ve never done anything that ambitious. I’d always wanted to, ever since the Singles Club [The ill fated ‘a single-a-month for a year’ project which stopped after five singles], have music available every month. And the last time we did it, it failed. The record company got cold feet and halfway through, they pulled the budget. I wanted to really exorcize that ghost [with G-A-S-S], so it was a great feeling that it all, not only worked out so well but had so many highlights. It was such an amazing year, and people were talking about comparing it to 555%, , and talking about the songs from the G-A-S-S period, that have just become staple songs in my set now, like ‘Toxins & Tea’ and ‘The Pendine Incident’ and ‘Only Henry Rollins Can Save Us Now’ that I would have thought were from an album or something, you know? So, yeah, it yielded a lot of great stuff. And I’m very proud of everyone that worked on that. You know? Andy and Ruth Burrell and Kris Coverdale and Dunc. Me and Dunc would stay up all night sometimes, thinking of those stupid captions for the artwork. Most of the artists that got involved did it for nothing. You know, we didn’t go into this saying like “We don’t wanna pay you”. They were just fans. They would go like, “I’m not getting paid for this. I wanna be involved.”. And then, they enjoyed it. And they gave us more artwork and more, by the end of it, we had more artwork than we needed, which was, we didn’t even know if that was going to be an issue.

It was a fantastic experience, that just went from strength to strength. For 12 solid months…, actually it was about 18 months, ’cause we started a little bit before it kicked off.

ANTIHERO: G-A-S-S was a hell of a thing. Would you do it again?

GINGER: No.

ANTIHERO: No? Definitely not?

GINGER: It was literally every waking hour was spent making sure it’s alright. A lot of people have tried a similar thing, and a lot of people have failed. ‘Cause you have to have an exceptionally good team. You have to have a very patient and trusting audience, ’cause you’re charging them money up front for something they haven’t got yet. But the good thing about everyone that trusted us and got stuck in first of all is, they got all the live stuff, like the podcasts and the diaries and all of the up to date stuff, from day one. And if you joined six months later, it was still the same price. You just got the kind of pre-recorded highlights of the previous months. That excitement of getting brand new stuff every month was everyone’s favourite part of it. We were working sometimes, like the old program ‘Spitting Image’, where they would be making puppets the day before it went out, to keep it topical. Whoever was in the news. We were getting songs mixed and mastered right through the night before the morning of the launch. And every morning, Kris Coverdale would just be like, you know, “Have we got it, guys? Have we got it?”. Then, and we would have it, and it went out, and it … every time you pressed send and it went live again, it was just that massive sense of relief.

But then…. we knew we were gonna get it, anyway. you know? But, it’s nice to be on your toes. It’s a bit like climbing fucking Mount Everest. Would you do it a second time? I’ve done it!

ANTIHERO: How’s it all come along with the Wildhearts recording? Have you been in yet, to record your guitar parts?

GINGER: Yeah. Well, I wanted to go in straight away, with Rich [Battersby] because I mean, we used to, that’s how we used to work, me and Rich used to work close together and rehearse together, and get the songs together. So, I wanted to go in and put my guitars down as Rich was putting his drums down, and get them, put them down live. To give it that feel. We’ve got ten songs so far, and we’ve demoed those ten songs. So, we know the songs. So, they’re very familiar to us.

There’ll be another ten songs recorded, probably, which won’t be as familiar. But that was very much like the ‘Earth Vs The Wildhearts’ album, where we had half the album that we’d been playing live, and then the half of the album that we were writing as we were recording the album. And you listen to it now, you can’t tell which is which. I can’t tell which is which, because a lot of the new songs now feature in the set. It was because we knew some of the songs, it had that kind of organic feel that we wanted to capture on this album. Especially with this album, with this line up again. So, it’s great getting my parts in. Now, Danny and CJ are in there doing their parts, and I’m going back on Thursday to put the lead guitar down. And we’ve still got a lot of time to mess around, writing some new stuff, while my voice comes back.

ANTIHERO: Fantastic. How is your voice?

GINGER: Fucked.

ANTIHERO: Is it on its way?

GINGER: I had the camera up my nose and down my throat, the other day.

ANTIHERO: I’ve had that. That’s horrible.

GINGER: It’s awful isn’t it?

ANTIHERO: Yeah. So weird.

GINGER: So weird. The doctor said there are no nodules, there’s no swelling, there’s nothing that would suggest that my voice won’t be back in like six weeks time. The rest of it is just being patient. I’m not the most patient person in the world.

ANTIHERO: Well no, it’s not what you’re known for, absolutely.

GINGER: No. No.

ANTIHERO: Good. I’m glad to hear it’s on the mend.

GINGER: Yeah. It’ll be back. I mean, I can sing low now, I couldn’t sing anything before, but now I can put a tune together. So, I should be able to start writing again. But, there’s no power there. There’s nothing that, I mean worst comes to the worst, we already did the demos. So, we’ve got vocals. If my voice didn’t come back, we’ve got an album, with vocals, so it’s covered.

ANTIHERO: Well, that’s how you recorded ‘Earth Vs’ anyway, wasn’t it? It was just all demos?

GINGER: Absolutely. And I know the guy that’s recording with us said he had a listen to the vocals, and there’s something about them that we’d never get again, because we’d be thinking about it going on an album, whereas when did ‘Earth vs’, we weren’t planning on any of those initial records to be on an album. That was all demos. So, we just threw ourselves into it. And there’s something about green light fever or red light fever, whatever it is. When the record button goes on, all of a sudden your brain takes over and you think this is going to be it. This is gonna be the album, forever. Whereas ‘Earth Vs The Wildhearts’, it sounded like we were drunk and having a good time, and it’s hard to recapture that. You know? It’s pretty impossible. Unless you, like the Wildhearts, things don’t go as planned, and then you’ve got that beautiful Wildhearts synchronicity born of chaos.

ANTIHERO: The wall of chaos! I like that.

DreamHost

GINGER: No, Born of chaos.

ANTIHERO: Ball of chaos?

GINGER: (ever patient with my deafness) – Born. Born, as in a child.

ANTIHERO: Born of chaos. Right, I get you. I get you. All three of those worked really, really well though. So, where are you now, creatively? Because, obviously, you’re in a Wildhearts headspace at the minute, I would imagine. But, where’s your brain taking you, at the moment? Because, obviously, you’ve just come off the back off Ghost in The Tanglewood, and before that, it was Mutation.

GINGER: Well, funnily enough, this morning, I’ve been putting a band together to tour in February and March to support the follow-up to Ghost in The Tanglewood. Again, something that’s been recorded for a while, and already has all the vocals down. So, we just need to finish off the music and mix it. So, we’re hoping that’s gonna be available soon, so people will receive it by Christmas, and then it’s gonna be on commercial release from February, and we’ll be touring February and March.

ANTIHERO: That’s really good news. And is that all, again, through Round Records?

GINGER: That’s all through Round Records, and it’s, and the tour will be through Round Records. And I wanna do something nice and fresh, so we’re gonna put a whole new band together. It should be good.

ANTIHERO: A completely brand new band, no one you’ve used before?

GINGER: No, I would like to get Emily singing, ’cause Emily’s voice is, for me, is a very much a part of the album. She’s doing all the vocals on the next album, as well, which is called ‘The Pessimist’s Companion’. You’ve got the first, the exclusive of the title. Early to mid-November, it’ll be available for, like, hardcore fans who can get in there early. And then commercial release from February.

ANTIHERO: We’re all be girding our wallets, as usual, then.

GINGER: Yeah. I wanna use a lot of different musicians that I haven’t used before. So, I’m not gonna say who I’d like to use in case they don’t say yes. So, I’ve put the email out this morning, and we’ll see what they come back with. And the great news is, we’re gonna be playing all those old theaters that we did on Songs and Words. That’s the best thing for me, ’cause I love playing those old theaters.

ANTIHERO: I think the Songs and Words, I think, may have been one of my favourite tours that you’ve ever done.

GINGER: I really loved it. Well, it was because, on the back of G-A-S-S, we just had so much confidence on the back of that, that we just thought, well, we can do anything. So we decided to book like a spoken word tour in old theaters that loads, mostly, had never had like a rock guy in the building. And, places where Charlie Chaplin and Houdini had played, you know? And you’re in the dressing room there going, “oh my God, this is where Charlie Chaplin was putting his makeup on before hitting the boards”. There’s nothing like that, in the world of rock. So, I can’t wait to get back there.

ANTIHERO: I’m looking forward to that a lot.

GINGER: Ah, it’s gonna be great. I’m really excited about that. Then, obviously, the Wildhearts machine will be kicking in, when we’ve finished the album, and that will be the rest of the year, from Summer onwards, I’d imagine. With all the festivals, and things.

ANTIHERO: When’s the album due out, do you think?

GINGER: The Wildhearts one? it’s impossible to tell because we don’t know when the vocals are gonna be going on.

ANTIHERO: Are you still in touch with the guys from, say, Sonic Graffiti, for example? Would you do that again? Or do you ever think about going back to SG5, Supershit, or even Clam Abuse, during a mad moment? Or even Mutation? Is there any of those that you’d like to revisit?

GINGER: I don’t know about revisit. I mean, I always said I’d never do Mutation again, and then we’re kind of talking about already doing something with the guys in Mutation for the birthday show. Sonic Graffiti would be great, but it’s just they’re all in America. That would be nice, though. I think the guitar player [Billy Morrison] is going to be over here for my birthday gig, so I’m hoping to do a little bit with that.

I dunno. I’m not really a big one for going backward. I’ve always got too much that I want to do. You know? If I haven’t done something, it’s probably gonna be more exciting than something that I’ve done, and, like, yeah, it was alright. It’s good. Everything’s really exciting until you do it, and then it’s just not very exciting anymore. And I’m an adrenaline junkie, so I like to do things that scare me a little bit.

ANTIHERO: Yeah, always reaching for the next thing.

GINGER: I guess that’s why the Wildhearts works, ’cause even from day to day, I mean, I still don’t know what’s gonna happen. You know? I still don’t know if everyone’s gonna make it.

ANTIHERO: Yeah, I’ve always said the Wildhearts are the most terrifying band in existence, I think.

GINGER: Oh, it’s the most unpredictable group in the world. Yeah, that’s right. There’s a bit of…. I mean not in a ‘trying to blow smoke up me arse’ or talk waffle or anything kind of way, it’s a very unpredictable band, and I think that’s why we like it, after all these years. ‘Cause you’re never quite sure what’s gonna happen. And, anyone who gets disappointed at our antics is just missing the point completely. That’s what Nickleback are there for, stick with someone safe, you know?

ANTIHERO: Nice and safe is certainly boring. I’ve been seeing on Twitter and Facebook quite a lot about Maggie [Ginger’s Border Collie], and she seems to have given you quite a positive boost. Me and my Mrs are thinking of getting a Beagle puppy, once we’re able to, do you think dogs are the way forward?

GINGER: If you like dogs, yeah. I mean, they make doggy noises and they put hair all over everything, and you don’t get out of dog walks. You’re committed, but if you wanna put the hours in, dogs are the best, they’re the most unconditional love you can get. If you treat the dog well, like I say, they’re gonna give you back something that you don’t really get in a human relationship, unless it’s like your own child or something, which is a part of you, anyway. But, you can’t form a relationship with something that you’re not directly related to and get the same kind of unconditional love. Every element of human love comes with certain conditions, it’s just the way that we are. So, that kind of loyalty doesn’t really feature in the human world. Nor do we want it, otherwise we’d behave more like dogs.

So I think if you wanna be reminded that there is unconditional love in the world, and that, you know, you can actually bond with something that’s not even human, then dogs are definitely the way forward. And I’m not belittling anyone’s relationship with their pets of choice, but it’s a different sport, having a dog, to having a cat. Or having a rat. Or, whatever.

Dogs … dogs wanna stick with you, by your side. You know? As long as you feed it, and are nice to it. In fact, they don’t even leave when people are horrible to them, which, unfortunately, armed with all them teeth, you think they would just turn round and eat the guy that kicks them. But … I met loads of arsehole dogs every day when I’m taking my dog for a walk, and that’s just, that’s the owner, that is. That’s not the dog.

So, be nice to your dog, and you’ll get a lovely dog, in return.

ANTIHERO: You seem to be a lot more positive lately and I’m very, very excited for the Wildhearts, and for the next solo album as well. Seems like a great next year, anyway.

GINGER: Yeah, it’s gonna be a great year. That’s gonna begin with the birthday bash…. well, it’s actually gonna begin with the release of The Pessimist’s Companion. My year starts then. That’s when the machine starts kicking in. Round Records are going from strength to strength, we’ve got an amazing team of people. Jane’s a born leader, and it’s a label that people can trust. Because they know it’s affiliated with the band. You know? We pay the group, unlike anyone else who’s releasing our records. And then it’s a brand name, I know our fans like loyalty, they like community, they like things being family orientated. Well, this is everything. Round Records is all of the above.

ANTIHERO: Thank you very much for your time Ginger, I’m gonna let you get off to your son now, but is there anything you’d like to say to the fans, or is there anything you wanna get off your chest before we go?

GINGER: Yeah, thanks for your loyalty. Thanks for sticking around. See you at the birthday bash this year, we weren’t sure we were gonna have a birthday bash this year, so it’ll be nice to have one.

ANTIHERO: And I’ll see you there. Thank you very much for your time, Ginger. I massively appreciate it.

GINGER: Thank you. Thank you, mate.

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