|The Ginger Wildheart Band (Guest-starring Ryan Hamilton) - Uber Rock Interview Exclusive|
|Written by Rich Hobson|
|Sunday, 28 August 2016 03:20|
There wasn’t really a particular moment that spelled disaster for rock ‘n ‘roll. If you’re one of the enlightened (and hey, you’re on Uber Rock so you’re well on the way even if you aren’t!, you’ll know that the whole “rock ‘n ‘roll is dead” statement is utter tosh, perpetuated by increasingly irrelevant former-glory stars who have spent far longer cashing in on whatever you could call their “glory days” than in actually staying abreast of the current musical zeitgeist. Then, Lemmy died and it all got a bit hazy. See, whilst we accept that you’d be hard pressed to look at the rock world and not find great bands putting up the good fight in rock ‘n ‘roll’s never ending quest to reign supreme as the de facto musical genre for the disaffected, when you get talking about legacies and the ability for bands to make a mark on the world now, things get slightly more difficult.
Blame globalisation, blame the increasing prevalence of niche scenes and music genres, blame Gene Simmons himself - blame whatever you want. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter, because the one thing we know is that whilst rock ‘n ‘roll is in rude health in terms of bands, the availability of true icons the modern music world is something of a rarity, a dwindling resource. But, there are exceptions. For every Simmons, every Oli Sykes and every Bieber (which is to say, every overinflated fatuous ego), there has to be a counterbalance. When it comes to pure rock ‘n ‘roll spirit, pedigree and down-to-earth pragmatism, you don’t get much more iconic than Ginger Wildheart. From the chart-storming glory days of The Wildhearts through to Rock Chart peaking debut by Hey!Hello!, Ginger is a figure who has more than earned his status of a leftfield icon for the ever progressive state of rock ‘n ‘roll. It doesn’t matter if its crowdfunding, direct fan-to-band content or just constant Twitter and Facebook Q&As, Ginger has been at the forefront of some of the biggest zeitgeist shifts in the music world in the past couple of decades.
Joined on his current tour by a global team of rock ‘n ‘roll troubadours, namely rock ‘n ‘roll pirate and Electric Boy with a personality to match Conny Bloom (taking up guitar duties), long-time collaborator and renowned noisenik Denzil (as ever beating the ever-loving shit out of the drums) and super-cool neo-Ramone Toshi (providing a thunder-rumble bass). With a motley crew every bit as distinct as the iconic bands of old and just as dedicated to pushing the envelope of the rock ‘n ‘roll as the main man himself, it’s fair to say that the opportunity to throw questions at the whole band (plus the fantastic Ryan Hamilton) isn’t one to be balked at.
How’s the tour going for you guys so far?
Ginger Wildheart: Great!
Ryan Hamilton: We are having all of the fun.
Any particular highlights?
Ginger: It hasn’t been that kind of tour, where there’s been highlights and lowlights. It’s all been a steady even keel of good times, good bonne amie and friendship. We’re all on the bus together, so it’s good we’re friends as that could be awkward! A big travelling family.
This line-up is pretty interesting as it represents your career both now (with Denzil from the Ginger Wildheart Band, Toshi from Hey!Hello!) and old (with Conny Bloom from Silver Ginger 5, will you be doing anything studio-wise with these guys?
Ginger: I haven’t got a clue! At the moment it’s for this tour only, because we’re on tour. I thought that with this one of two things were likely to happen - we’d get along really well and play really well, and the second one was a distant possibility that we’d sound shit. We sound great and I’m a big fan of making records, so it’d be great to make a record. Because all of the set is geared towards a formula rock sound, I think it’d be really interesting to get us all into a studio and see what comes out.
The set list is pretty Silver Ginger 5 oriented, do you think you would be looking to do an anniversary tour or similar for that in future?
Ginger: Not really. With Silver Ginger5 I wouldn’t want to get anything going without the four people who are on the album and the drummer is in Florida. He plays with The Dwarves occasionally and KMFDM and he doesn’t spend any time in this country.
Conny Bloom: We keep talking about recording it in Florida so we can tour America.
You’ve had Stidi and Danny play with you too on this tour, is it strange to be playing with them again?
Ginger: It was fun! I can’t be bothered with grudges and people who hold grudges, it was just nice to be able to hug each other again and remind each other how much we’ve been through and how far back we go. I’ve known Stidi since I was a kid and I’ve known Danny since he was a kid, that we’re all still alive is great. Am I in a hurry to get in the studio with them again? Of course not.
Conny Bloom: I was sitting in the lounge of the bus, when these guys came up and the whole fuckin’ lounge just exploded.
Denzil: The energy just changed.
Conny: It was nice, and people loved it.
Ginger: It was great and it was nice that people made up and we could get past whatever it was we fell out over.
You’ve also got Mutation rearing up again, how’s that all coming along?
Ginger: It’s finished! It’s got Phil [Campbell] from Motorhead on, got Devin Townshend and it’s mostly written by me, Scott [Lee Andrews] from Exit_International. It’s the third album in a three-part trilogy of noise. I’m happy to say it’s being mixed by Kevin Vanbergen again, who mixed the first two. It’s the most upsetting of the three, very disturbing in parts.
Does this one have a “theme” like the other two, thrashy for ‘Frankenstein Effect’ and grindcore for ‘Error 500’?
Ginger: It’s very… uncomfortable.
Does it have the same set-up as the other two, with multiple guest musicians or do you have a set band for this one?
Ginger: The plan was always to get different people in. The original plan was to get so many different people in that the project could even carry on without me, that’ll be the whole point of it mutating into something else.
And do you think you’d be able to tour with it?
Ginger: Talking about that’s like talking about the next girlfriend you’re gonna have, or the next flat you’re gonna move into. My head’s so far away from that right now. All questions tend to be met with a general bemusement unless it’s the tour we’re currently on. I tend to invest myself 100% in what I’m doing, meaning I don’t think about other stuff I’ll soon be doing.
Ryan, is this your guys’ first time in the UK?
Ryan: It’s this project’s first big tour. We did a really small tour earlier this year - I count it though, so this is our second.
Rumour has it you’ll be playing the Halloween Hootenanny?
Ryan: Sadly not.
Ginger: In regards to the Halloween Hootenanny, we were talking about it earlier today and unfortunately it’s a definite “no”.
Ryan: It’s a long drive!
Ginger: I mean, the Halloween Hootenanny tends to be a separate entity anyway. But, we’ll be getting this tour out of the way before we get anything else on sale.
You guys are also doing festivals at the moment too.
Ryan: Ginger is…
Ginger: I really pushed to try and get Ryan onto Ramblin’ Man and there was talk that they were going to have an extra stage, because they’d got all the bands they’d got booked on the two stages they’d got. They couldn’t do it, but I think they will next year. Which is a shame, as I think we break up after London…
Ryan: It’s gonna be a sad day, like summer camp is over.
What are your plans for the rest of the year then?
Ryan: Well, we’re actually back in the UK in September to record a new album and it’ll be the first album as a band, not just as a solo guy trying to get all of my friends playing the instruments. Maybe I could sweet-talk some of these guys…
Will that be out later this year?
Ryan: There’s a Pledge right now that people can get on to pre-order the new album, and those people will receive it before the end of the year, officially.
Funny that you mention Pledge. Ginger - one of your other projects this year is the “acoustic album”, which will be released through a record label. Is it strange to go back to working with a label after fan-funding?
Ginger: It’s not actually acoustic! It started out being termed “the acoustic album” and I play acoustic on it and I’ve got someone else playing electric, so I don’t actually play electric on it. I’m a bit done in with the whole fan-funding thing… It’s great and it’s a great platform to use, but I’m just a bit over it for the time being. I just fancied working with a label and seeing what good it is and if they’ll do a good job. It’s not just making the record - there’s a lot of things that go in to making an album with a fan-funding forum and when you finish the album you’ve got to promote it and manufacture it and that’s when it starts getting… not boring but run of the mill. I’ve not got any marketing or promotional training so we do what we can. It’ll be nice to work with a company that do have departments for promotion and marketing. It will be nice, I’m looking forward to seeing how different it’ll be.
Conny: They’ll have to come up with a good deal though. That’s the way I look at it, record companies don’t do much nowadays. It’s tempting when they say “we’ll put up this money so you can record an album” and that’s great, but then they want the money back of course, then there’s nothing else. They don’t necessarily do as good promotion as you could do on your own - if you do the whole thing on your own like I did on my solo album, we had this person come in and do the promotion and we got to pick and choose who we wanted for the gig.
Ryan: It’s tricky because, with the whole fan-funding thing like PledgeMusic, like every other cool new thing, eventually the big rich guys want to get involved then it becomes less grassroots and more corporate. It doesn’t feel the same - I remember two or three years ago, the bands were smaller. Now some of our musical heroes are on PledgeMusic – Cheap Trick did a Pledge.
Ginger: It wasn’t even Cheap Trick, it was their record label!
Ryan: It’s a tricky thing.
Ginger: As Ryan said, as with anything there’s a honeymoon period, then the wallets start sniffing around and it turns corporate. Everything turns corporate in the end, if you let it. Fan-funding is no different from the record labels they were purporting to replace.
Denzil: I’ve noticed some pretty sizeable bands on fan-funding not doing too well lately.
Ginger: Because they’re pre-orders, like Ryan said, when I did my first Pledge I thought “this is the perfect format for small bands” with not so much fans funding things as pre-ordering an album and getting all these great bonuses added on. Now it’s turned into “someone’s boots for sixty grand” and “executive producer credit on the back” for $10,000. Some poor fuck’s getting some boots that probably don’t fit and executive producer is a load of nonsense.
Conny: You’ve been a great example for kids and other bands. That the whole Pledge thing can really work out. When I started doing the Pledge thing on my own in Sweden and I was talking to the Swedish Pledge guys about how it’s going to work. They said “you’ve worked with the king of Pledge - Ginger!” You’re like a role model for them.
Ginger: For how it could be. I wish more bands had taken the DIY side of what I did on my first Pledge campaign and have an artist to fan relationship, breaking down that wall all together. They are technically your boss, you’re just lucky enough to be on that side of the photo pit. I wish I could say a lot of bands have followed what I wanted to do, but they haven’t and they’re charging a fortune and in a lot of cases even releasing the album before the people who actually pledged even get a copy. I’m like “guys! This isn’t what I said it was! It was supposed to be for the fans, not extorting them!” I don’t think people are using it the right way now.
Ryan: I think the future is, Ginger did his G.A.S.S. thing, basically following the fanfunding concept with something like that. I think if bands are really smart, they’ll create their own thing and take the good stuff from three years ago and implement it that way. Then you know how many people are really into this. That’s really important for an indie artist, to know that I have a number of people that will help support me put food on the table. It’ll be interesting to see what happens post-Pledge.
Ginger: It’d be great because then you don’t have a middle man. A broker in the deal between you and your fans. It’s directly between them and the fans and that way it’s all down to them. They can’t blame someone else if they’re doing a shit job. I’d like to see bands have a direct band-to-fan relationship and the shit bands can be weeded out and shown for the shysters they are. Some of these guys are even more corrupt than the management we used to hate. There’s great artists out there, but fan-funding isn’t being used only by great artists.
How do you think fan funding affects a band’s ability to get music out on a global scale? The internet is supposed to be the great equaliser, but ultimately it seems that you’re not necessarily going to get exposure outside of your own territory…
Ginger: The market’s really saturated. There are hundreds of thousands of bands using fan-funding now. One of the things that you get with a label, is a clause guaranteeing international promotions. With fan-funding, you can’t necessarily get that.
Conny: It’s the same with booking agents. A friend of mine, who used to work for Live Nation, is doing mine now. One of the big things with working with a record label is they can get you on with some of the truly big bands, but what are the chances? There’s a big risk.
Ryan: There’s almost a ceiling that you’re never going to get past, doing what we do.
Conny: But that’s okay! To them, the only reason is “okay, we can probably put you on…” but you’re in with all of these other bands that are more important to them.
And in terms of global exposure, how do you think bands fare these days? We had a discussion basically saying that this decade is really struggling to produce “Big Name” bands and part of that could be because globalisation of the music scene means one band big in say… the UK might not be so big in the US or Japan.
Ginger: Well you’ve got a global team here, quite literally! Again, part of that, it’s do with the size of the monster. These huge festivals that charge people as much as they would to go on holiday, what they work for all year, and there are far too many bands on the bill to do them all a favour. It’s a great thing to say “I’m on the Megafest this year, check me out but only if them, them, them and them don’t clash”. The size of the monster means he can’t feed all his kids. It’s killing the rock scene, they’ll get swallowed up more likely than being the band of the festival, especially as they are paying so much for the headliners. The future could well be the small festivals, as you can get a ticket and go for a week in Greece. The headliners are a bit smaller, but it doesn’t matter because everyone’s pissed when the headliner comes on and you can have a band like The Wildhearts or the Electric Boys headline. The whole bill is stronger and bands have more of a chance of being seen by 50 people than not being seen by 50 billion people.
Denzil: And you can see more bands at these smaller festivals because they stagger it.
Ginger: There’s fewer bands. Like 2000 Trees. It’s no surprise that the boutique festivals are starting to gain traction. It’s cheap enough that if it’s pissing it down you can afford to go home and not lose half your wages for the year, and you can do three or four for the cost of a big one. Rock music has always been exciting when it comes from nothing, you know. Nirvana coming from Sub Pop then just exploding, people love the idea of people coming from nothing and that’s what we need to get back to. Huge rock died in the ‘70s, just because there’s a few examples like Rammstein or Babymetal, they’ve got a fortune behind them make no mistake. It’s not grassroots at all.
Ryan: One thing that’s scary to me, is that all the “real” rockers are getting to an age where they’re getting older and dying and one by one we’re losing the real examples. What are we going to be left with? Keith Richards is going to live forever, but who are my kids going to look to? Justin Bieber? That terrifies me. The state of Rock music right now, it’s a strange animal.
Is there anyone you think *is* priming themselves to be the next big thing?
Ryan: Besides me?
Ginger: It’s convenient that we’re all in a room here, but great line ups like this and putting big shows in small venues - that was the whole point of doing this - if more bands started doing that than feathering their own pockets, thinking about the night out rather than the pay packet and put great bills on and great festivals where it doesn’t cost a fortune for a beer and is run by a corporate entity giving you ten percent tax after you buy a ticket, that’s something that I think is honourable and is worth being respected. More of that would be nice, for the punters and for the band.
Conny: It’s nice to be playing these small places. I know you’ve been playing some really big places, and with Silver Ginger 5 we did. It’s for the fans, get up close and more intense.
Ginger: If you try to do something unique, something that doesn’t cost a fortune to put on but feels like its great value for money and a night out, and everyone loves it. Everybody goes away happy and you can make some money and actually have a bus and things like that. There are ways of doing it, your imagination is your limit and if you have no imagination there is no money to be made.
You can find the Pledge for Ryan Hamilton’s new album via the following link http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/ryanhamilton
Ginger’s Round Records Records Pledge site can be found via this link http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/round-records?referrer=project10742
Some other links you might want to bookmark are;
The photography used in this interview is courtesy of Stephen Curry http://www.futureproofphotography.co.uk/music.html