The BIG Über Rock Interview: Ginger Wildheart Print E-mail
Written by Rich Hobson   
Sunday, 03 September 2017 04:00

Man of many talents and even more bands, Ginger Wildheart is a musician who should need no introduction to the pages of Über Rock. His project Mutation, on the other hand, might…

 

Ginger Mutation                                                                                                                                      PHOTO CREDIT: Will Hutchinson.

 

Rooted in extreme music, Mutation have released three albums thus far (all reviewed by yours truly on these very pages). The first, ‘The Frankenstein Effect’ in 2012 was a riff-heavy metal mammoth, whilst its sister release ‘Error 500’ revelled in pure grindcore-influenced noise fury, drafting in veteran noisemakers Shane Embury (Napalm Death) and Mark E Smith (The Fall) to lend the project a thunderous pedigree. Now in its third iteration, Mutation has reared its head once again to allow Ginger an opportunity to express the heaviest and most musically aggressive aspects of his psyche.

 

To celebrate the band’s impending inaugural tour of the UK (handily taking place over the Halloween period of October/November), we caught up with each member of the band to give us an insight into the band, it’s extremely twisted members and the plans they have for the band from here on out. First up, the main man himself…

 

Mutation has undoubtedly been one of your most difficult projects to get off the ground, especially in terms of all the palaver with getting ‘The Frankenstein Effect’ recorded, pre-Pledge in 2011. Could you talk us through the journey of the band so far, in your own words?

 

It was something I wanted to do originally, because I’ve always loved extreme music – not just extreme metal but everything; extreme dance, extreme noise… Merzbow, Big Black – anything that sounds different from the mainstream and puts you on edge. I wanted to do something like that myself. The Wildhearts have developed a style that insisted on melody – which is good, I like melody – but I wanted to do something that wasn’t melodic.

 

The first album was just that; I paid for the recording myself and then we ran out of money before we could get it mixed. We tried to make some deals and there were issues with people holding onto tapes because they wanted more money and it was a fucking nightmare. I figured it was going to be a situation where some mixes of the album would get out somewhere and it’d be one of those infamous unreleased albums like Prince’s Black Album. I never thought we’d get to take it live or anything.

 

For the second album, Pledge came along and really gave it life, so we were able to pay for the guy who I wanted to mix it, Kevin Vanbergen. By this point, we were looking to revisit that first album because it didn’t even feature Jon Poole, so me, Jon and Denzil started talking about doing something. I’d always wanted to work with (Napalm Death bassist) Shane Embury, so we went to a studio in Birmingham and we started working on riffs. Somehow we managed to get Hawk Eyes down to work on riffs together and we started banding names around of people we’d love to record with, one of whom was Mark E Smith of The Fall. We went to record the album in Castleford and Mark E Smith turned up – which was mental, because normally these things don’t happen and something falls through at the last minute. Mutation keeps getting its life handed back to it somehow…

 

What made you revisit the project after that initial double release?

 

Mutation                                                                                                                                      PHOTO CREDIT: Will Hutchinson.

 

When we released that second record through Ipecac – Mike Patton’s label – it started getting reviewed in all these publications that I’d never been featured in before. People loved it and one of the people who loved it was Scott Lee Andrews of Exit_International. We talked about how great it’d be to do a third album, so I spoke to Denzil. We weren’t sure at first what it was going to be, but I headed to a caravan that I usually write in and invited Scott down.

 

I was under a real black cloud of depression at the time so when Scott arrived I was ready to call the session off – I wasn’t ready to wipe my arse, let alone write another record! Scott convinced me to head back to the caravan and listen to some music and we started talking about books, about music, talking about what we’d like to see someone do. We realised that nobody has ever really tried to put the feeling of depression, anxiety and all that stuff into music, so we started working on it as catharsis, a way to help people have an alternative to reality. Music has great medicinal qualities and anything it does for the listener is all good. We wanted to do this for us, not just the listener, because as listeners ourselves we really wanted that pathological honesty in music right the way down to the attitude of the whole thing.

 

By the morning, I’d talked myself into writing this album that would tackle these things head on. Now it’s getting reviewed in countries and publications I’ve never been reviewed in before and it’s all been really positive. From that, we decided we should book some gigs and get this going – something which terrified me if I’m honest! But, instead of making the music sound as it does on the record, we decided to go as a three-piece like Motorhead and make it sound how we do as individuals. We tested it out to see if it would sound any good and did the video for ‘Hate’, which was recorded live in the rehearsal studio. It came out great, so we were like ‘right, book the gigs – we’re off!’.

 

How does it feel to finally have ‘Dark Black’ fully out in the open?

 

 

I was worried that nobody was going to get it! I mean, I like it; Scott likes it and Denzil likes it, but we could have released it and people might have hated it. I think the whole mental health thing is becoming destigmatised to a certain extent and it’s getting better to talk about it, so I figured why not make a soundtrack to it?

 

Timing, it’s all about timing. This album just so happens to have dropped when everybody is saying ‘let’s just be honest’, accepting that silence isn’t really helping people and that’s when the album has landed on people’s laps for review.

 

What would you say are the biggest differences between the studio band and the ‘live’ act and how have you worked around issues of having far more players on the record than what you do live?

 

 

A funny thing happened when we were rehearsing and figuring it all out. First off, we haven’t got a bass player – Scott and I both play baritone guitars. Live we will play bass for some songs and stuff, but neither of us actually wanted to play bass for this. It was one of those where we looked at all the pedals we could get that would make noises and work through it. That’s how we’ll do it all – we’ll play the songs and people will recognise the songs if they’ve heard them, but they won’t necessarily be how they sound on the album. They’ll be just as noisy, but a bit more direct as a result of us being a power trio, with the bonus being we can be really loud.

 

Mutation has been one of your more divisive projects in the fan community, especially on record, but whenever you have played the songs they’ve always gone down extremely well. Do you expect that’ll still be the case come this tour - if somebody came along to these shows who doesn’t necessarily like the albums, do you think they’ll get something very new from the live experience?

 

Mutation 2

 

I honestly don’t know. People keep asking what people can expect, but we’ve never played live so I don’t know what to expect just yet! I don’t expect that people who like the albums will dislike the live versions. I think they’re going to love it – but the other way round? I’d advise people that don’t like it not to come. I don’t want anyone to not have a good time. I want everyone at the show coming in with the same idea as we have – to exorcize all this negativity and leave afterwards without it, leaving it all in a pile of blood, sweat and tears.

 

There’s something that needs to be turned around, in terms of mental health issues. This attitude where people look and go “aw, isn’t it sad?”. I read a quote this morning that went ‘people that can get through depression can get through anything’ and that’s exactly it. If you can get through wanting to kill yourself every single day, what can possibly fuck with you? You can deal with anything, your biggest fight is you!

 

That’s what I want with these gigs – let’s just get it out, let’s all be honest. None of us are lying about it, nor are we doing it because we want to be hip because Prince Harry talked about it in an interview or whatever, which is all good, but we’re not trying to ride a mental health gravy train. We want this to be a cathartic experience for everyone. That’s all I can say I’m hoping to get from the gigs – everything else, I don’t know.

 

Are there any songs that you are itching to play live?

 

‘Deterioration’. All we know is that ‘Deterioration’ is going to be the last song in the set; everything that is going to go out of tune will have gone out of tune, everything that can break will have broke, the audience have had almost enough. Someone on a forum the other day complained that the album is only half an hour long… who the fuck wants more than half an hour of this?!

 

Some of my favourite albums are really short – ‘Reign In Blood’ is just 28 minutes. If you feel short-changed because you get 58 minutes of music on the Red Hot Chilli Peppers new album or whatever, fuck off and buy that instead then! Nobody needs more than half an hour of Mutation, believe me! By the time ‘Deterioration’ pops up in the set, we want the audience to be ready to give us every last drop they’ve got left.

 

How are you going about picking the setlists for the Mutation tour? Will it be only Mutation material, or could heavier songs from your discographies creep in too?

 

Dunc asked me the other day if I’d include anything from ‘Endless, Nameless’ or whatever… I don’t know. There’s a Discharge album called ‘Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing’, check that album out. It’s an intention more than a collection of songs, a primal noise that they just keep on making right the way through to the end.

 

 

Because we’re trying to replicate that kind of intensity, I think if we chuck in something that people recognise, like ‘Anthem’, people will start cheering and dancing, which might spoil the atmosphere. Although, there are some songs, like ‘Punk Wars’ or ‘Capital Anxiety’ which just so happened to sneak onto other projects, but in spirit would have been Mutation songs, so who knows – if I get good enough suggestions maybe they could pop up.

 

The Mutation tour happens to run over the 20th anniversary of ‘Endless Nameless’ – is it a fortuitous coincidence or do you have something planned?

 

My head’s not in Wildhearts mode at the moment. I saw Ritch and CJ recently and we didn’t even mention The Wildhearts. We mentioned Danny and how he’s doing, but my head’s not there right now. I’m strictly in Mutation and ‘Ghost In The Tanglewood’ mode.

 

If you could give any one song a Mutation makeover, what would it be?

 

Any song in the world? We already did it! I always wanted to do a cover of ‘Wham City’, because I always loved the melody but thought it needed a blast beat behind it. The original is very different – I heard it again the other day and thought “god, we really took that somewhere weird”. The thing with me is, if I want to listen to noisy music, I live in the world of noisy music. I don’t want to get into the habit of making noisy music melodic, or vice versa, I don’t want it to become a pastiche – Mutation certainly isn’t a novelty.

 

Do you have anything special planned in the way of a stage-show/on-stage theatrics, or is it a meat and (broken) bones affair?

 

On this tour, I think it’s going to be a black and white stage, red lights maybe, a wall of cabs and backlit. The thing is, trying to get away from the show and trying to make an event, an experience, to do that you need to fuck around with people’s sensory experience. The projector idea is a great idea along the line when you’ve got to fill a huge stage with three people, but right now, on small stages we’re fine.

 

What’s your take on bands that have massive productions - obvious KISS fandom aside?

 

I love Rammstein. I’ve loved Rammstein for a really long time. I don’t really get Ghost, with masks and stuff. I get why people like it. And I like Babymetal and stuff – they’ve got some awesome songs, but I’m just not a fan of that kind of heavy metal thing. I like the music more than the group’s approach, but I love a big show – I love fire going off. I love the idea of the cage that Ministry used to bring along, the chickenwire thing, because it was dangerous. That wilful disregard for protocol, of course I love that – I’m an old punk… But right now I’m happy to just be a power trio on a very small stage. Of course, the way it’s going, there’s every chance it’ll end up on bigger stages!

 

Mutation will tour the UK this October/November. The dates are as follows:

 

Friday 27 October - Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

Saturday 28 October - Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton (Ginger Wildheart Halloween Hootenanny IV)

Sunday 29 October - The Deaf Institute, Manchester

Monday 30 October - Stereo, Glasgow

Tuesday 31 October - Riverside, Newcastle

Wednesday 1 November - The Underworld, Camden

Thursday 2 November - The Globe, Cardiff

Friday 3 November - Mike’s Frog Bar, Brighton

Saturday 4 November - Damnation Festival, Leeds

 

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