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 These days it feels like the love has gone and been replaced by paranoia.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.
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.