An Interview with Ginger from The Wildhearts
By Victoria Holdsworth
From a Quireboy to being one of the wildest, best-loved front men in rock music, I spoke with Ginger (no other name needed) from The Wildhearts, ahead of their Britrock Must Be Destroyed quadruple headlining tour, with Terrorvision, Reef and Dodgy.
This man epitomises what it is like to be a true rock ‘n’ roller. He has seen it, done it, and nicked the t-shirts to prove it, as he gives me his honest views on The Wildhearts, new music, new locations, suicide and smiles…
Ginger, in your own words, you’re still alive and kicking after all these years. Are The Wildhearts a fine matured wine now, or still a good old pint of snake bite?
[laughs] A festering old pint of cider I think! It’s probably a bit more like methylated spirits, The Wildhearts. I’m not sure what drink we’d be, but it would be still potent after all these years.
The Britrock Must Be Destroyed tour tags say that this tour means you get to prove that you guys were always the best band of this whole bunch, even though no rivalry existed when you were all putting hits out. Who do you think is going to get the most love on the tour?
I don’t remember definitely saying we would be the best band. What I probably meant to say was that I think we will definitely have the loudest fans. I’ve said it a few times over the years, that we certainly have the best audience. We are really proud of our lot, they are certainly vociferous, so we will get the loudest reaction, but we’ll prove it on the pitch, as they say. Finger’s crossed, it’ll be game on!
Do you have a favourite song that any of the other bands perform, or is there one of their songs that you think you could sing better than them?
To be honest, I don’t really know much about any of ‘em. I think I’ve only ever heard that one Reef song. [in a very loud and very gravelly voice, Ginger proceeds to serenade me with the chorus to ‘Place Your Hands’]. I’m sure I’ve heard Terrorvision, but I can’t think that I know any of their songs. Because there was never really such a thing as ‘Britrock’ in the first place, so it’s not like any of the bands hung out with each other or anything. We were all going at the same time, and I think that’s about all we really had in common, back in the day. So I can’t say I’m a massive fan of any of ‘em, but I can’t say that I don’t like any of ‘em either, purely because I haven’t heard them.
So just how did you four bands manage to come together then?
It was our manager’s idea. He had an idea. It’s the sort of thing that a business manager would come up with. Four bands that have slightly different audiences. Usually you would pick four bands that had a lot in common with each other, so you’re effectively playing to the same crowd. It’s certainly a canny move on our manager’s part. It’s selling really well, so he knows what he’s doing.
“Stick around until you get to the punchline”
You released Ghost in the Tanglewood this spring, which has seen you go in a different direction musically, than some of your other projects. What was the reason for creating an album like this for your repertoire?
Country music is just something that I’ve always been in to, and I knew that when the time was right, I would do something that was kind of country styled. However, when you try and sing country in a Geordie accents, it sounds more like folk. So, I don’t know what genre it falls into, but it’s just one of those albums you know you’re gonna do when you’ve got songs that are authentic enough, to stand up to that sort of scrutiny. Basically, they’re lyric heavy songs, because there’s no bombastic guitars drowning everything out. You’ve got to be going through something in your life, which warrants lyrics being that exposed, and I guess you get a bit more philosophical with age, so I guess the time was right to just do something that was a bit more confessional.
On a more serious note, I would like to applaud you on being so outspoken on mental health issues, and about being brutally honest about your struggles. Last year you released a single titled ‘Fuck You Brain’ to highlight suicide prevention and raise awareness. How are you dealing with things at the moment, and what is the most important message you can give anybody who may be struggling with issues not dissimilar to yourself?
You’ve just got to keep breathing. Keep moving. That’s the only message really, because things do change. It’s the way of the world, it’s the way of nature, change is inevitable, and so what seems like it may be there for good, it’s just your brain fuc*ing with you. The only advice you can give to anyone really is to stick around until you get to the punchline. Things do get good! I’ve been through a lot of personal stuff lately, and there’s been a lot of changes in my life, and I’ve changed where I live now, and it’s finally starting to feel good. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s very welcome.
Ginger, you were always much prettier with a smile on your face.
Awe! God bless ya pet. Thank you very much. I like smiling, it feels good.
You’ve got a solo tour coming up this year as well and many festival dates, and you are constantly busy, when do you find any you time?
Well, I just moved to York, so I’ve been finding a place for myself to live. Found this gorgeous old place, that’s a listed building, so I’ve got my guitar tech coming round shortly to help me out with some stuff, because he’s my handy man as well. [laughs] He’s a handy man to all of us really, because we’re all crap at stuff apart from him. I’ve actually had a few weeks off, where I’ve been able to find all that, and plan for the future, and it’s been great. It’s good to work as well though. I keep forgetting that’s what I actually do. I feel more comfortable on stage, than off it. You can forget about it, and forget about how natural it is for you, and then as soon as you get back on stage, and the audience is there, you remember why you do it.
“I’m not really a materialistic sort of person”
Cited by many as being an unsung guitar hero, who knows his axes, what are you using right now and does it beat the old faithful Les Paul?
I’m using Hagstrom guitars now. We have an endorsement with Hagstrom, and they’re really, really great. They’ve just given me a Hagstrom acoustic, that they’ve kind of pimped up for me, and they really are just the best guitars in the world. They stay in tune better, certainly better than a Les Paul used to. A Les Paul, as any guitar playing can testify to, are a bastard for staying in tune, especially the G string, so they’re just a dream in comparison. I’m very proud to represent them. The album is called Ghost In The Tanglewood because it was written and recorded on a Tanglewood, but I have to say that the Hagstrom is better.
You’re also known for smashing a few guitars in your time – which was the biggest instrumental regret?
I never regret smashing guitars! They’re just planks of wood. I’m not really a materialistic sort of person. It is what it is. I don’t really understand why people are materialistic, but I guess it’s just down to lacking the substance within them, but I certainly don’t mind smashing guitars [laughs]. They’re just dead trees!
The question that has been on the lips of many a Wildhearts fan has to be when is the new Wildhearts material going to be here?
We are recording the album. It is written [laughs] and we have been rehearsing it. We will be recording it in November, and it will probably come out around February next year. Next year will be a bring year of promotions for it, and then we’ll be touring the album and stuff. Our manager likes to work bands hard, and we like to be worked hard too, so we’re back now and you can’t get rid of us! So be careful what you fuc*ing wish for!