Interview: Ginger Wildheart

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We here at We Must Obey have not been immune to discussing the state of the British rock scene, and particularly when linked to the state of the mainstream rock press in this country. It therefore didn’t go unnoticed when Ginger Wildheart, a true stalwart of British rock music for the last 25 years, had a good few choice tweets aimed at lazy journalists and bands alike. Needless to say, when the main man behind The Wildhearts/ Hey! Hello!/Silver Ginger 5/Sonic Circus et al, put out an open invitation to answer questions on the matter, we seized the opportunity. To prove we’re not shy of the subject, we put some questions to Ginger to further discuss these points. Expect raw honesty and unflinching dialogue as we get into what angers Ginger most about how things operate within the scene today.

Do you think there is still a limited understanding of new models of releasing music, e.g. PledgeMusic, Bandcamp, Kickstarter, that is present in music media today?

Absolutely. People using Pledge sometimes think it’s a shortcut to making fans and an alternative to putting in the hard graft needed to fully establish your band. It’s not, it’s a pre-order scheme. You work to your numbers.

And people using Kickstarter sometime assume that it’s a charity from which huge donations arrive to pay for you to be a rock star. Both approaches are wildly inaccurate and certain career termination for the uninitiated. Bandcamp, Soundcloud etc, can also be misleading as bands sometimes mistake bedroom recordings, fit for the ears of friends only, to be a magic carpet to international success. Beginner demos shouldn’t be sent out to people who can help you. Play them to your friends and let them choose the best songs to record at a high enough standard to be presented. 

How, in your opinion, has coverage of British rock music in the mainstream rock media changed since the 90’s?

Yes, about 100%. Media coverage is an utter sham these days. Too many editors have their heads in their arses, while trying desperately to insert their heads in the arses of the dozen big bands they favour. Magazines in the 90’s used to actually make bands and scenes a success due to their tireless support. These days it feels like the love has gone and been replaced by paranoia. The modern rock media plays it so safe today that I, for one, will be toasting their demise with the same glee that I celebrated the death of fat, greedy, clueless record labels.
 
You attribute ‘lazy journalists’ as one cause of the decline in interest in underground music – please discuss further

Journalists aren’t getting out to enough smaller gigs, therefore the underground live circuit is suffering, and small bands are finding it harder and harder to get noticed unless they start dressing up in identikit clothes and accessories, like neck tattoos and flick fringe haircuts. Magazines should be championing bands that pride themselves on being unique and celebrating difference instead of pushing bands into a desired sound and shape. I blame the editors and advertisers, but journalists should also be actively pushing bands that deserve a break. It is, after all, their future too. 

Its fair to say the internet has changed the way we discover new artists, but do you feel this is for better or worse?

The internet has just made things easier, which isn’t always better. Bands need to work harder than just sending bedroom standard recordings around and hoping for the best. Get out and play, and if your audience is small then fucking work harder. Bleed. Break yourself. Make a difference and make people take notice. Don’t be just another link to another lame version of a song that hasn’t been played live enough. Be killer live or consider another vocation. 

The time for pussyfooting around is over. You need to keep your scene alive or you won’t have one. 

Hey! Hello! – How I Survived The Punk Wars (official video)

The track ‘How I Survived The Punk Wars’ was an authoritative warning to bands not prepared to put in honest work for their success. Do you think such bands are as much to blame as the magazines, the blogs, the internet as a whole, etc. that cover them?

I dislike laziness in any form, whether it’s bands, journalists, radio or even artwork. It’s as if people are content to be merely better than the worst thing around. That just isn’t good enough. You have to work to be the BEST, full stop. You need to be better than Foo Fighters not just better than Cider Joe And The Carpet Smugglers.

Where do you see underground music heading without some sort of intervention?

Without some passion, invention and support it’s over. Plain and simple. Now don’t get me wrong, I believe that all these things exist in abundance, but no-one should forget that these are the essential ingredients needed to float this boat, and without all three you are effectively starving the scene of colour and quality. Underground music needs a community, otherwise it’ll lose the power it needs to get attention and change people’s fortunes. Starve it and you starve yourself. 

And where do you believe things need to change?

Bigger bands and artists need to do their homework. Discover and take small bands out with them. Listen to your fans for what is going on in tiny venues. Magazines and radio need to devote more time and space to promoting small bands. Like I said it’s their future too. And smaller bands need to work harder to kick arse and make this happen. No one is going to get excited by deadbeat bands that all sound the same, y’know? Copy your record collection, and if you still sound like everyone else then you need a better record collection. 

Do you believe the success of PledgeMusic releases, including ‘555%/100%’, point the way forward as a future model of releasing music and generating income for artists?

Only if they have an already existing fan base, otherwise they’re trying to eat before they’ve worked for the money to buy food. Be smart, work hard, get dirty.

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Finally, going back to your music, you’re busy touring with Courtney Love as well as promoting the Hey! Hello! and Mutation releases – what else do you have planned ahead in your busy schedule?

When I get home from this, incidentally amazing tour, we take the Ginger Wildheart Band into the studio for our first proper album together, which I hope is going to really change the way people approach rock albums. Me included. I hope to really raise the bar on every level with this one. Then I’d like to write and record an acoustic album, something that people have been asking me about for years. 

After that who knows? All I can tell you is that I don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. This is my time and I plan on using it well.

I’d like to personally thank Ginger for answering my questions. Hey! Hello!’s self-titled debut album is now available at iTunes.

Peter Clegg

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Hey! Hello! – Black Valentine free for limited time!

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It’s Valentine’s Day, and to celebrate, Hey! Hello!, the new project by The Wildhearts and all round solo genius Ginger and Victoria Liedtke, have presented a Valentine’s Day gift with a name-your-price download of the track ‘Black Valentine’. As usual, it’s a quality pop rock gem with great interchanging vocals between the two. But be quick, it’s for a limited time only and won’t be as cheap as you like forever! Head here for the catch.

‘Black Valentine’ is taken from the forthcoming album ‘Hey! Hello!‘, which will be released soon through PledgeMusic. Any of you non-pledgers will be interested to hear a commercial release of the album is to come in April. More info via Hey! Hello!’s Bandcamp page.

Peter Clegg

Ginger – 555%

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Ginger
555%/100%
Round Records/Pledge Music

Whilst baking those buns I posted about a few weeks back, I finally found the time in my schedule to consume in full the fan-funded album that was one of the big success stories of the summer. Yes, Ginger Wildheart, yes he of Wildhearts/Silver Ginger 5/Sonic Circus et al fame, rolled out a grand plan that fans got fully behind through the PledgeMusic platform, and there was no looking back. The budget way exceeded what was required to produce the record due to the huge number of donations. The project got bigger and bigger, as did the media frenzy, and when it even threatened to bother the top 10 of the officious album chart, ignorant journos were proclaiming how this ‘little known musician’ was taking on Coldplay and Rihanna, and winning – overlooking Ginger’s considerable success in the 90s with The Wildhearts, a time when being in the charts actually meant something.

Still, not to detract from the main focus here; is ‘555%‘ any good? Of course it is. Ginger has long been one of the UK’s unsung songwriters, with an unflinching knack of writing a chorus and a eye for a deft melody or two. The fact that its hard to really single out a duffer on any of the three CD’s Ginger and friends crafted for this album tells you all you need to know about what a stunning achievement this is.

That’s not to say ‘555%‘ is 100% perfect, but with an album like this its hugely important that it possesses a number of standout tracks as its anchors. From the get go, these are aweighed innumerably, with the straight up infectiousness of ‘Forget About It’ and ‘I-N-T-E-R-N-A-L Radio’, to the lengthier tracks like ‘Deeper in the Arms of Morpheus’ and the contemplative ‘Time’, which uses the quarter-hourly chimes church bells traditionally use as its underpinning riff.

Ginger Wildheart – I-N-T-E-R-N-A-L Radio

Arguably the second and third sets of ten tracks aren’t quite as strong but still contain their fair share of stonkers, including the sunshine of ‘Just Another Spinning Fucking Rainbow’, the rallying ‘Begin from Within’, and disc 3’s ‘Beautifully Blissfully Unsettled’ or ‘In Vino Veritas’ and right the way through, its an entertaining two-hour plus ride that all those who bought a ticket should rightly be thrilled to be a part of. The variation in each track and its lack of compromisation is a beholden joy, with Ginger more than ably helped by a supporting cast including Willie Downing (Jackdaw 4), Chris Catalyst (Eureka Machines), Ritch Battersby and C.J. (The Wildhearts) and Victoria Liedtke. Yes, its an assembly, but one that Ginger has been able to call upon for years and its cohesiveness shows. You can’t buy that kind of collaborative experience.

Unfortunately, ‘555%‘ is no longer available as per the rules of the campaign, aside from a triple vinyl release from Ginger’s official store, but it is available as ‘100%‘, its commercial underbelly, which features four tracks from each set of ten as voted for by the fans, including many of those tracks mentioned in this review. If you were lucky enough to get hold of ‘555%‘ in its purest form, then treasure it – for the rest, only ‘100%‘ will have to suffice,

Peter Clegg

Buy ‘555%’ here (3xvinyl) or ‘100%’ here (CD)

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