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 These days it feels like the love has gone and been replaced by paranoia.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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Scott Sorry leaves The Wildhearts

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Yesterday the Wildhearts announced the news that bassist Scott Sorry has left the band after five years. Scott issued the following statement:

“Throughout my career as a
musician I have never been more proud to be a part of something as I have in The Wildhearts. I’ve had the honor to play with the most talented musicians/songwriters that I could have ever dreamed of. The only thing I love more than being a Wildheart is my family. With my oldest son being diagnosed with Autism, I
need to give them the most stable environment possible.

Unfortunately, that stability does not include me playing in a band across the ocean in a different country. So with much respect and a heavy heart I am bowing out of my favorite band. I just can’t commit to the time the band would need from me anymore. I love those guys like brothers and wish them and you all the best. I’m sure I’ll see you all again as retirement doesn’t
really stick well to guys like me,
but for now I bid you a fond
farewell. Thank you for everything.

Sincerely Scott Sorry x”

Normally we don’t comment on band departures or line-up changes because a) they’re ten-a-penny, and b) we just don’t have the time to report them all. Any of them. But seeing as though a) I have more spare time this week, and more importantly b) The Wildhearts are one of my favourite bands, I wouldn’t want to pass up this opportunity to express my sadness at this news while at the same time applauding Scott for his contribution to the band and for his amazing decision to take the time to look after his family for a while.

Despite being a relative latecomer to The Wildhearts, they have always held a place of high regard in my life, and indeed, it was the last Wildhearts album that Sorry featured on – ‘¡Chutzpah!‘ – that ranks among my favourite of all time, moreso for its personal importance it had for me at that time in my life. There was something about that record that raised spirits. Indeed, I often feel that the last few years of the Wildhearts have been a golden age for the band, so often overlooked for their drug-fuelled glory days of the 90s.

The rest of the band have announced that ‘Random’ Jon Poole, currently bassist for Ginger Wildheart’s solo venture, will fill the vacant role. The band are still scheduled to play a sold-out Christmas show on December 17th.

Once again, we wish Scott Sorry all the very best for the future, and hope he gets the very best out of his time off the road and with his family. Based on that last paragraph of his statement, this won’t be the last we see of him.

Peter Clegg

Ginger Wildheart wants you to pledge again!

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[For reasons already explained, you’ll have to excuse my tardiness in posting this…]

Off the back of the incredible success of Ginger’s triple-album ‘555%‘ album, Ginger Wildheart has returned with a new video message announcing a second Pledge Music project – and this time, it’s a three-pronged assault!

The entirely fan-funded ‘555%‘ was released a couple of months back to widespread acclaim, and was outselling chart fodder such as Coldplay and Rihanna in the midweek chart! Now he’s after your support again with a different kind of beast. The first project is ‘Mutation‘, a two-album initiative that began back in 2011, but put on hold until now. ‘Mutation: The Frankenstein Effect‘ is album number one, with an as-yet-untitled second ‘Mutation‘ album also being brought to life as we speak. Also in the works is another new project, a pop-rock band called Hey! Hello, featuring Ginger and singer Victoria Liedtke, expected to feature ‘big choruses, big (noisy) guitars and big smiles’.

More information can be found at the project’s official page on Pledge Music, where a range of donation options are available in eventual return for the album and various other things. In the meantime, check out the launch video for the project below, filmed by the incomparable Ash Pears of AshTV, in which Ginger details exactly what to expect from this latest endeavour.

And in a further update, Ginger’s now annual birthday show has been announced at the London Kentish Town Forum on Saturday December 17th, and will be headlined by The Wildhearts! This is the first show the band have announced in three years, and will be the ONLY Wildhearts show this year and indeed for some foreseeable time. They’re selling like hot cakes, so get on it! Quick!!!

Peter Clegg

The Wildhearts – Rooting for the Bad Guy


I could well analyse the whole album as far as calling it under-rated goes. Although it was well received and charted at number 55 upon its release, I personally feel this may well have slipped under a few people’s radars, especially when you consider The Wildhearts’ classic record ‘Earth vs. The Wildhearts’, their plethora of classic B-sides, numerous tales of drunken and debaucherous behaviour, and more recently, their resurgence with the album ‘¡Chutzpah!’, as well as Ginger’s ever cracking solo career. Hence, it makes perfect sense to cover this article in my as-yet-unnamed series on the songs and records we consider underrated (the first being the homage to AC/DC’s ‘Ain’t No Fun (Waiting Round to Be a Millionaire)’). That and the obvious reason that ‘The Wildhearts’ was a kick-ass riff fest from start to finish.
It’s the album’s opener I’d like to focus on, ‘Rooting for the Bad Guy’. A paean to some of fiction’s most (in)famous and celebrated villains, it’s a lyrically simple monster that eats through great riffs like the Cookie Monster chowing down on cookies. It bursts straight into life with maining Ginger declaring over a crunchy riff: “Wyle E Coyote, Cybermen/Tony Montana, Yosemite Sam/Sylvester the Cat, The Triffids, The Fly/Put ’em in lights, put ’em in lights”. It’s a riotous romp for villainry. The verse formula repeats again, citing more famous bad guys, before reaching the lifting melodic chorus, with Ginger, fellow Wildhearts mainstay CJ and bassist Scott Sorry all “rooting for the bad guy”.
Following the initial run through of verse 1, chorus, verse 2, chorus, it plunges into a lengthy middle section which extends the song to its monstrous (by rock anthem standards) eight-plus minute length. The riff gets heavier and it’s smashing your face in, before a more melodic section comes in (I’m sorry, I’m no guitarist, so don’t expect me to get into too many technical terms). This gradually builds and builds until the triumphant final chorus, before hastening towards the finishing line.
The Wildhearts – Rooting For The Bad Guy
As far as rock goes, this is the heavy beast that every rock band looking to write kick ass tunes should aspire to. Real rock ‘n’ roll isn’t afraid to getting people to rock out, and doesn’t take prisoners. This song is no different, being uncompromisingly heavy and melodic at the same time, without needing to downtune to sound tougher or anything like that. The Wildhearts always know how to balance the rough and the smooth, and I’ve lost count of how many songs are trapped in my head ‘cos of their inch-perfect choruses.
But to look into this song far deeper, it’s this couplet, tag-teamed vocally by CJ and Sorry, which grabs my attention the most when I’m not rocking out to it:
“Here in the dark when the hero is cheered
I give my heart when the villain appears”
Now who, as a child, didn’t watch cartoons and kids TV programmes without having even a tiny bit of sympathy for the doomed-to-fail nemesis? There’s always an appeal of watching Wile E. Coyote’s unsuccessful attempts to capture Road Runner; a desire to finally see Tom catch Jerry and pound that little bastard to within an inch of his life. Who didn’t admire Tony Montana’s last stand, fighting with literally every last drop of blood as he was riddled with bullets in ‘Scarface’s finale. Things would be much poorer were there no Yosemite Sam, Chupacabra, Bonnie and Clyde, etc.
Bad guys back in the day oozed so much appeal that you could help feel a little sad when they met their eventual demise, such illustrious characters they are. Maybe I’m a little out of touch, but they really don’t make them the same way these days, do they? There’s gotta be a reason why they all want Tweety Pie crucified and the Thunderbirds Kentucky-fried, as mentioned in the chorus and it’s probably what we’re all thinking. All the best programmes have bad guys that defined them, and this song screams out what we all thought in our head, as we sat down, watching them silently with crisps and lemonade, or if you’re a bit older, beer.
On a personal note, with twins on the way, I can’t help but feel starry-eyed for them when I look deeper into those two lines. Right now they resonate stronger than they normally would. I’d love for them to have the same love for action-packed programmes and quality music as I’ve experienced across my years. There’s a rich world to be experienced below the mainstream and I hope they grow up as enriched by it as I and I’m sure many of you are.
Perhaps the song’s length – it hovers around the nine-minute mark on record – is the only thing denying it from being a regular fixture on any rock pub/club’s jukebox. Or maybe indeed that this record is relatively overlooked altogether. But like ’29 x The Pain’s ode to the bands that influenced Ginger’s musical upbringing, ‘Rooting for the Bad Guy’ is a fitting tribute to the bad guys of our yesterdays. Put it in lights, put it in lights!
Peter Clegg