Ginger Wildheart - Uber Rock/Camden Rocks Interview Exclusive Print E-mail
Written by Jamie Richards with Hywel Davies   
Sunday, 15 June 2014 03:00

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Some people need little introduction, Ginger Wildheart is one. I was lucky to witness The Wildhearts live as long ago as 1991 (I think): they had no recorded material available at that time, they were supporting Wolfsbane on some UK dates, and they were fucking brilliant. So brilliant in fact that me and a couple of pals went to catch them a few days later at their next gig, over the England/Wales border at a dodgy nightclub in the Herefordshire countryside.

 

I admit now that I am not the Wildhearts/Ginger completist fanboy that a lot of the Uber hierarchy are, but I have a long standing admiration for anything and everything the man puts his name to, plus I have seen him live any number of times, including that famous day in London when The Wildhearts supported the Sex Pistols; and this is why it was a somewhat daunting moment for me to actually meet up with the man, all proper like, not just outside the back of a gig venue for a slap on the back and an autograph. Oh no, a proper bloody interview, with comfy sofas and everything!

 

So, inside the confines of the designated ‘press’ area for the recent Camden Rocks festival, which is actually a swanky rock bar with a guest book, expensive Japanese lager, and unfeasibly small toilet cubicles, I finally come face to face with a man many of you who visit these hallowed pages would genuinely call a legend; a genuine, bona fide, fuck the mainstream I won’t do what they tell me hero.

 

To my left I am flanked by my colleague for the day, Hywel Davies, frontman with Welsh band Dead Shed Jokers, and directly opposite me, on his own comfy sofa is the man himself, resplendent and polite, and looking great for his forty nine years. He speaks with friendliness and passion, and is as enthusiastic about making music, and indeed listening to other people’s new music, as he was when he was a teenager. Just like all of us in fact; how reassuring. I set the tone by enquiring that could it be the fear of being pigeon-holed for the success he had twenty years ago that maybe propels him to continue to be so prolific...but before that I apologise for not being a "proper interviewer..."

 

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Ginger - Well, I’m not a proper interviewee, as you might’ve known...

 

Jamie - I guess what I wanted to ask is…you’ve out-lived a lot of artists who were around in the early '90s, and even some of the ones that are still around in one form or another seem to be part of a ‘nostalgia’ scene. You seem to continue being an ‘artist’, you keep creating, is it a determination to not just be labelled by what you were doing twenty odd years ago that drives you?

 

Ginger - Listen, I reckon it’s all down to your record collection - if you’ve got a record collection that’s all fuckin’ Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin, when you say about where we come from in the late '80s, early '90s, then if your record collection is all that…well, look you’ve got aspirations probably beyond your skills, really. My favourite records are from bands like The Damned and the Ramones; people that are on my level of skill, and of my achievement. So, I’ve got a very practical idea of what success is for me, I don’t wanna be an arena band, I was happy having an audience, I filled a room whatever the fucking room was.. Look, the point I’m trying to make is the bands I got into didn’t last like one, two or maybe three albums…they last like fuckin’ twenty albums. One of my favourite bands is Sparks, and they’re still releasing albums, and they still fucking blow me away…so, I don’t see any reason to stop doing what I do when bands that I’m a fan of are still kicking my arse! It’s all down to who your favourite groups are really…

 

Hywel - I guess it’s also about what you wanna say, as an artist…

 

Ginger - Yeah, what your message is, if your songs are all about fucking rock ‘n’ rollin’, then you’ve a limited life really. But, if you’re reporting on the human condition…well, you’re good for a fuckin’ life time really, it changes a lot...

 

Hywel - As an artist, how do you think the Pledge system may have affected the way you write? Do you think you would be writing the same songs if you were with a label?

 

Ginger - Yeah, you know what, people like me don’t get signed, I’m a fucking liability and we’ve said it in the songs. I’m the worst person in the world to sign, to invest a load of money in. The fans, they’ll invest a load of money and they don’t give a shit - they just wanna hear what I say. But the mainstream, the corporate world, they don’t like me - I’m way too fuckin’ interesting for them. The Pledge thing, I wouldn’t have been able to do those albums without. I wouldn’t have written the songs. The '555' pledge was different, I had been writing a lot of songs in New York, but since '555' I’ve been writing to order, and I never would’ve done that, cos there wouldn’t have been a record company who wanted to order a fuckin’ album from me anywhere. And I think if you’re a singer in a band [he nods to Hywel] not just you but any singer, and band, then I think you’ve gotta do a lot of work before you even get a fan base, and then to service that fan base you gotta ask yourself, how much do you wanna give away?

 

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Hywel - Do you think you service yourself or the fans?

 

Ginger - The fans, always the fans. Ever since the Pledge thing I realised I’m in a position to service the people that wanna hear my music. I talk to a lot of artists and musicians who say, first and foremost it’s about me (them) and that’s where we differ, where we argue. It’s not about me, I’m lucky enough to have a job that gets funded by people who wanna hear the next song I’m gonna write, for me…that makes me wanna write the next fuckin’ song. If it was left to me, I’d get one album out every two years the way it normally works.

 

Listen, Pledge is great but there’s so many bands using it wrong: see, Pledge is not a bank, Pledge is a broker, a middleman who takes a commission…the money comes from your fans, and if you’re using your fans as a bank then good fuckin’ luck to you because, well, you won’t get much luck. The fans are not just an ever-giving source of revenue, you’ve gotta give them something you believe in. And it’s not just about the music, it’s never been just about the music for anyone who’s ever been into a band, not in the history of emotional investment. Alright, you get corporates who can pay for things to work, like get it on the right advert or whatever, they might sometimes lose their investment but it doesn’t matter cos they’ve got fuckin’ Nickelback on the label or whatever, it’ll cover it…but this, this is a direct relationship and you’ve gotta give them something more exciting than just a bunch of songs. Now, the middleman [Pledge] is a safety net, but if you’ve got fans who really respect you then you can sometimes go direct.

 

For instance you can say "I need me rent paid, let’s get a gig together," and 500 people turn up in fuckin’ Manchester or wherever. But then if you turn up and you’re shit, forget it because they ain’t coming back, but if you give them the best night out of the year, you all walk away with a fantastic deal….and that’s basically how it started before businesses got involved….

 

[By now the two of us are being washed along, hanging on the great man’s every word, questions have gone out the window, Ginger’s musings are simply too engrossing to be interrupted with anymore of our infantile input…]

 

Ginger - …the guy would walk into town with a guitar, get his bed for the night, some food…maybe a piece of fuckin’ pussy, and he’d leave the town the next day. He didn’t walk away with any money but the travelling minstrel was serviced, everyone in the town was serviced with a great night out, and that’s still the job we do today, regardless of the fact that fuckin’ businesses have turned it into some financially beneficial thing.

 

Look, the '80s fucked everything up, everybody started believing in how fuckin’ pornographic it all went, how distorted the fuckin’ message was, to the point where there was a famous conversation between two very powerful record company executives and two managers that went "you know this would be a beautiful business if it wasn’t for the artists," and that’s all you need to know about the corporate world. They are the fuckin’ parasite, the corporate world, and everyone started getting fed by the parasite. We are the end of the story, the musician, I believe that, and all I wanna tell anyone is to realise your importance. And if you’ve got a fan base that can pay your rent for a year, and I’m lucky enough to, and to do this under the radar and still make a living…..and nobody fuckin’ knows. NME don’t report on it, not that I give a fuck, and every now and again it leaks out, maybe it’s a slow news week at the Huffington Post and they say "there’s this fuckin thing going on…" But that ain’t the fuckin story, the story is I’m a travelling minstrel who just doesn’t wanna fuckin’ die, I wanna keep playing music and I’m figuring out a way of doing it, and Pledge ain’t gonna do it for you. My thing is don’t rely on fucking anyone; just provide a service for the people that want your music.

 

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Jamie - I guess the thing is though it’s almost inevitable that bands have to get involved with businesses on some level at least in order to reach potential fans in the first place?

 

Ginger [somewhat poetic in his disagreement] - Well, that’s never changed since time immemorial…since the invention of a Transit van. You get in the back of your van, with your gear, you make a fuckin’ Tetris shape around your amps, you wake up in the morning, you can’t stretch your fuckin’ back, there’s some guy wanking in the corner, somebody’s puked in another corner…it stinks of farts in there, and you get your fans that way. For me it’s still the only genuine way of getting a fan base: you get to know their faces, you know their names, and they come up and say "hey" and they’re happy to see you. You’re both exactly equal: okay, you’re on this side of a photo pit and they’re on that side…you accept there’s gotta be a photo pit…

 

Hywel - You form a bond?

 

Ginger - Yeah, you form a bond, and people know….you can’t fuckin’ bullshit them, fans get bullshitted to a lot. And people come and go, literally thousands of bands every year, and they’re gone never to be heard of again because they got it wrong, they didn’t realise that they’re not above their crowd…they are their crowd. You’re privileged to be in that job, and you try to make them feel privileged to be a fan of your band. And they’ll go around telling everyone like "hey, how’s your band treating you, shit? My band’s treating me fucking great!"

 

Jamie - Our appointment today with you was slightly delayed, which we were actually pleased about because it meant we could catch Exit_International….is that where you were, watching E_I?

 

Ginger [reassuringly enthusiastic in his response] - Nah, I got here today and looked and there’s clashes, so I gotta favour the bands I haven’t seen before. Now Exit I love dearly but I’ve seen them fucking tons of times, we’ve toured together and I will see them again, I have been to see two bands today who I loved…

 

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Jamie - It’s amazing to know that you’re still enjoying it, when so many people in this press building couldn’t seem to care about seeing the bands…

 

Ginger - Mate, fuck me, of course, I don’t know why that surprises you.

 

Jamie - Not so much as surprised, just warmly reassured I guess, haha.

 

Ginger - I’ll tell you, I’m a fan, and in this business and if you ain’t a fan you’re gonna run out of thing to like, I’ve seen it time and time again, and I’ve been doing this professionally for twenty years, and for a long time before that, and I’ve seen a lot come and go even then. And I’ll tell you why they went, it’s because they didn’t have the love, there was no fuckin’ love in it for them. They were all about fuckin’ ambition, and commerce, and fuckin’ skills…

 

Jamie - You gotta live it...

 

Ginger - Yeah man, if you ain’t getting a hard-on about music then you ain’t looking hard enough. I gotta lot of people that I talk to, I’m on the radar and they send me every fuckin’ thing: I got sent a band called Closure in Moscow, the album is fuckin’ insane. Whatever I did this week I just had that on loop….and if I don’t get that, then I’m fucked.

 

Jamie - It’s very much the same thing for us guys…

 

Ginger - Yeah, it’s very much the same thing, we are the same thing, we’re EXACTLY the same thing. I’m lucky enough to do this, you’re lucky to do this ….whatever, we’re exactly the same level, the same person. You gotta find something to love, if you ain’t in it to love then you’ll get chewed up, spat out and shat out…and most people get fuckin’ shat out, they don’t even get the honour of being spat out, mostly because they were full of shit in the first place and their whole manifesto was shit. NME can champion fuckin’ bands with cheekbones or whatever, but I’ve been doing this twenty odd years, I look alright haha…but so what, I mean Frank Black for example, not a gorgeous man but I will worship whatever that man does...

 

Hywel - The Pixies' new album was astonishing, he obviously has love and integrity for it…

 

Ginger - Yeah, I prefer the word love to integrity… but yeah.

 

Hywel - I mean what he does is innate, he couldn’t not do it…

 

Ginger - Yeah, it’s what he does. And at the end of the day if you’re a musician who’s doing something that you couldn’t not do, and you’re given chance to do it…and even make some money on the top to feed your family….and you’re still a miserable cunt, fuckin’ GET OUT! Give someone else a fuckin’ chance.

 

It seemed a great point on which to say our goodbyes (plus the press manager was tapping his watch at me). As a final footnote Hywel does mention to Ginger that he actually sent him his own band’s album a year ago which he had kindly tweeted about, and, although we shouldn’t have been surprised by now, we are pleasantly because he distinctly remembered it….what a man. Hats off to Ginger Wildheart, and here's to the next twenty odd years!

 

[Thanks to Trudi Knight Photography: http://www.bandsonstage.co.uk/]

 

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