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Stereoboard Talks 'P.H.U.Q', Fans And The Future With Ginger Wildheart

Wednesday, 09 September 2015 Written by Laura Johnson

There’s a “Wildy fest” going on in the World’s End. The place is packed with Wildhearts tour t-shirts, slapped across the backs of the young and, well, not so young. The band still has die hard fans and they are out in force to see their talisman, Ginger, play a career-spanning acoustic set as part of Camden Rocks.

These people that have stuck with the band through eight studio albums and a couple of decades, something that would leave most exhausted by the time they were 50. But not Ginger. This Geordie has an insatiable appetite for music.

His arsenal also features records with Clam Abuse,  Supershit 666, Silver Ginger 5, Brides of Destruction, Howling Willie Cunt and, more recently, Mutation, G.A.S.S and Hey! Hello!, now fronted with Hollis J of Love Zombies.

In September, though, the Wildhearts will hit the road to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their sophomore album, ‘P.H.U.Q’. Ginger pulls no punches about the tour. The sole reason the hellraisers keep resurfacing is because of their loyal fanbase.

“I do it purely because the fans want me to,” he says. “I’ve got no interest in making a new Wildhearts album. I don’t see anything admirable about doing just one thing for the rest of your life,  I know some bands enjoy that, the Manics being one of them and Therapy? and great, good on them, but for me, it’s like marrying your first girlfriend. I ended up with my woman by playing the field a lot and I’m the same with projects.

“The Wildhearts is something that I do in a position of service because the fans love it. Twice as many of them turn up as they do for my solo things, but why shouldn’t I give them their favourite album, or whatever. But I’m over being in the Wildhearts. It was the ‘90s, you can’t go back, nor would I want to.”

So, why celebrate the anniversary of ‘P.H.U.Q’ then? It was 20 years ago that the the Wildhearts’ sophomore album was in the top ten of the UK chart. But, apart from its mainstream success, does it hold some special significance that makes Ginger yearn to return to an era he seems to want to leave behind?

“I wouldn’t say special significance,” he says. “It’s significant in as much as it was the first time I actually fell out with the record company and learnt to hate my record label. They were trying to market us as a singles band, and I didn’t want to be a singles band. I was brought up with album bands, Motorhead, AC/DC and the Damned and I wanted to be an album band. So, I made a conscious decision to go away and take the band to a horse farm in Wales and write a double album, present it to them and say ‘this is proof that we’re an album band’.  We had this glorious double album and they turned the idea down. They took all the long songs off it, and that’s what ended up on ‘Fishing For Luckies’.

“They wanted a hairy Boyzone. It was so far from our manifesto. We didn’t even look like a pop band, let alone sound like one, let alone act like one. And by the time that album came out it was Oasis mania, and my dreams of being an album band just drifted away because everybody just became singles bands. If I’d just got my way I think that second album would have been a vast improvement on the first album. What they wanted was to recreate the first album, thinking that was the way to go. It would have been a significant thing in our career, releasing a double album as our difficult second album, I think it would have pushed the band further than ‘P.H.U.Q’ actually did.”

It was this bureaucratic shitstorm that led Ginger to his great realisation, that he’d have to go it alone to get things done the way he wanted. His dream was to have complete creative control, absolute autonomy from the corporate side of the industry and make his own mistakes before turning them into musical gold.

“It was the first massive disappointment, legitimately the first time that I went: ‘Oh shit, this is not the dream that I thought it was gonna be. I don’t get creative control.’ And that kind of almost made me the person that I am. I suddenly had designs to do everything DIY.”

It was in 2012 that Ginger was able to fully embrace his DIY ethos, when he joined forces with Pledge for his ‘555%’ triple album. “I thought you had to rely on labels and outside support,” he recalls. “Then I got this offer to do this album with this tiny little company called Pledge. That first Pledge album changed everything. Nothing, more importantly, than the relationship with my people. I still feel uncomfortable using the word fans, because they’re more like my boss than my fans. They’re in charge, the audience is in charge and they showed me that I could do this independently of everyone. So, since then I’ve been developing more ways of seeing how independent you can go.”

He has since taken things one step further with G.A.S.S. The project resulted in fans being treated to a new single, along with b-sides, every month for a year. G.A.S.S also saw him record Honour, a collaboration with the frontwoman everyone loves to hate, Courtney Love, who he toured with in 2014.

“Trying the G.A.S.S. thing last year [let me] find out how many people would want digital releases as opposed to hard copy, which is obviously a lot cheaper. And how many people are hardcore fans that I can rely on to pay the rent should everything go to shit - something that all musicians should know. Who are your core fans? I’m still continuing to find out how to do it. Like booking our own gigs for the Songs & Words tour, taking it to lovely theatres where people get to sit down. And that’s what I’ll continue to do until I die, explore different avenues of being independent. For myself and for future young musicians.

“I think it’s important, if you’ve got as much experience as me, to pass it on. I’ve fucked up in every way that you can possibly fuck up, so I’m a good teacher ‘cos I can tell them what not to do. But that’s my main concern, showing young musicians how to work outside of the corporate trappings and outside of the mainstream. You can do it all yourself, instead of paying a fortune for a manager and this and that, employ your friends and your family.

“Get people whose vested interest is the same as yours - to make this work! And then that love and passion behind it will project to your audience. You’ll get an audience that are that passionate about what you do that they want you to succeed. You can sign a major deal, have a million people buy your album and they might all fuck off tomorrow. It happened to the Darkness. I saw that rise and fall over a period of months. It wasn’t a real audience. My audience are there until I die or they die.”

When talking with the legendary frontman, he appears a wonderful contradiction. An artist possessed with ambition, who is always thinking two steps ahead, yet always keeping a foot in the past, whether with a reunion tour or his forthcoming memoir. Which leaves you wondering, is the history of the Wildhearts a part of his life that Ginger looks back on fondly? Or one that he endured out of necessity?

““I look back on it as a form of torture, a very effective form of torture,” he admits. “Cringeworthy some of it. I’m embarrassed. Some of it I’m writing and I’m crying and then other bits I’m laughing ‘cos it’s so ridiculous how wrong everything went and how clueless everyone was: the band, the management, the label. No one had a fucking clue what they were doing and there’s twinges of frustration that that could have so easily been avoided if one person had their shit together. But we didn’t, and that’s the story. And I’ve got no regrets, although it’s frustrating to relive it.”

So why do it? “The thing with The Wildhearts is that I never remember quite why I’m doing it until we walk on the stage, and then it’s all apparent,” Ginger says. “The cheer is ridiculous and the audience are amazing. I think that’s purely why I do it. It’s not because I need to play that style of music. I really don’t want to. I don’t want to copy an album I did 20 years ago. What could be more boring?”

So, after releasing 36 songs in a year with G.A.S.S and having a plethora of other side projects on the go, is there much left for Ginger to do?  

“Oh, so much,” he laughs. “Everything you do influences the next thing to do. I’m always halfway through a project when I’ve already got the next two things I want to do planned out. I always work two ideas behind what I’m gonna do. I want to have something to do at all times. Have a plan and be flexible, so the plan can change for a better idea. Oh, there’s so many things I want to do. And I will do, goddammit.”

The Wildhearts Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows

Thu September 17 2015 - NOTTINGHAM Rock City
Fri September 18 2015 - MANCHESTER Academy
Sat September 19 2015 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE O2 Academy Newcastle
Sun September 20 2015 - GLASGOW O2 ABC
Tue September 22 2015 - LEEDS O2 Academy Leeds
Wed September 23 2015 - WOLVERHAMPTON Wulfrun Hall
Thu September 24 2015 - BRISTOL O2 Academy Bristol
Fri September 25 2015 - LONDON O2 Shepherds Bush Empire

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