Ginger Wildheart’s music career is inching towards its thirtieth year and whilst it would be easy to say he’s done it all, Ginger is an ever-developing beast. In this interview, as well as discussing the legendary Wildhearts, Ginger talks about the remedial follow-up to ‘Ghost In The Tanglewood’, writing to heal, and a remixed ‘Chutzpah!’ Whatever your musical tastes, it seems Ginger has a project to suit, so take a read and learn a little about the man himself.
Cover image by Trudi Knight
Hi Ginger, how are you?
I’m good! I take every day as it comes. Today is a good one. I’m thankful for that.
I understand you’ve had to postpone some shows this year due to poor health, are you feeling better?
I’m feeling better every day. Healing is a process that unfortunately takes patience. I’m not the world’s most patient fellow so it’s been a pain in the arse to take it easy. Plus I hate to cancel shows…I really fucking hate that. But I’m feeling strong again so it’s all good from here on in.
You’ve got an impressive CV, including: starting your professional career with The Quireboys; touring with Courtney Love; being in a band with Beki Bondage; and side projects and solo albums galore. Which of those, if you could, would you revisit?
Touring with Courtney is always fun, I’d do that again! The rest I wouldn’t be interested in.
I very much like G.A.S.S MK II – particularly ‘Friends Of Bill’, ‘Petite Mort’ and ‘I’ll Have Another’ – what was the thoughts behind it’s release? Is it a sort of ‘Best Of…’ of the first G.A.S.S?
After the year that was G*A*S*S, we released an album called ‘Year Of The Fan Club’, on which the songs were voted for by a committee. Although it was a great album some of my favourite songs of the project didn’t feature on on it. I always had, in the back of my mind, the desire to release a ‘part two’ collection, hand picked by myself. This is what G*A*S*S Mark II is.
Do you still plan to tour with an all-female band? Talk us through the significance or thought process behind that decision…
I’d love to do that and see no reason why it won’t happen. The idea came about as I was thinking of which musicians I’d like to have with me this time around. Before I even thought about it I’d drawn up a band that consisted exclusively of women. There wasn’t much planning behind it beyond the simple fact that I’m fortunate to know some incredible female musicians. I really love the way female voices work together too.
Celebrating the 25th anniversary of ‘Earth vs. The Wildhearts’ seems crazy to me – is it surreal to you or do you look at it as kind of nice familiar territory to return to?
Well there certainly was never any plan to celebrate 25 years of anything with The Wildhearts, we’re just not that kind of band although having said that, we’re sturdy types so it doesn’t surprise me that we’re still here doing it. We’ve survived a lot over the years, I think we’re close to indestructible now.
How would you say the dynamic of The Wildhearts has changed and how have the tracks progressed throughout the years? What are your hopes for the band in the future?
‘Earth vs.’ was just a great collection of tunes, most of which still feature heavily in our live set. They don’t seem to age and instead have bore themselves into the DNA of most of the band and audience now. I give thanks every day that The Wildhearts are still alive and kicking against the pricks, and I’m proud to walk onstage with these guys. I can’t see that ever changing.
The diversity between the songwriting styles is very prominent on ‘G.A.S.S MK II’, and the difference between The Wildhearts and your solo country stuff on ‘Ghost In The Tanglewood’ is huge. Is it a struggle or a pressure maybe, as someone who tends to release a lot of new music and plays a lot of shows, to write in so many styles?
I would really struggle to write in a similar style, year in year out, to be honest. I’m a huge music fan and listen to a lot of different styles, from very aggressive to very mellow, so it feels entirely natural to let the song choose the style it wants to be born in. I don’t get in the way of that process and just let the music come as it feels natural to do so.
Earlier we talked about how The Wildhearts have progressed as a band, but given the extent of your career both in and outside of The Wildhearts, how have you yourself progressed as a musician and songwriter?
Oh yes, I’m progressing all the time! I’m learning about myself and improving as a player, writer and singer every day. I will never stop learning, that’s where the inspiration comes from and how it remains pure.
What do you think has been the most defining element in terms of that progression? Has it been musical influences? Life events? Or something else entirely?
I think the ageing process is a great source of inspiration. I think about some things differently now than when I was an angry kid, while other stuff I feel exactly the same about. It’s a cliche, but a true one, that unhappy or traumatic events provide the most fertile musical ideas. Happiness is its own reward while sadness comes with surprise benefits for a writer. This is how I’m able to live with depression.
You’ve spoken in previous interviews for your love of country music and music being as a medicine. There are some really uplifting, brilliant tracks in ‘Ghost In The Tanglewood’ which certainly have a medicinal quality to them – with that being said do you find many of your fans from other bands you are in, have been – throughout the years – drawn to your country music for the same reason as you are, as a form of relief?
I consider country music, in its most authentic form, away from the heavily commercial style of country, to be very therapeutic. There’s an honesty in country that couldn’t exist in something like heavy metal. It would rub against the bravado, or sit at odds with the often fantasy nature of most bloated rock music. As I get older I crave honesty in all walks of life and raw honesty in music is as important as honesty in writing or movies, or indeed communication. I have no time for bullshit anymore, on any level.
How has music and depression has co-existed in your life? Do you think there can, perversely, be a positive effect on the music but at the detriment of your health?
I think I’m still writing songs that excite me because of their raw and candid nature. Most of the music I write comes as a healing agent and some of the music I write has literally saved my life. I can’t be too dissatisfied as a musician, regardless of the cruel nature of depression. Writing myself out of a corner has become a more reliable form of therapy than anything on offer in the world of medicine or mental health research. I’m learning that living outside of the system is a more reliable form of treatment and my songs make this possible.
What’s on the calendar over the next few months?
I release the follow up to ‘Ghost In The Tanglewood’, called ‘The Pessimist’s Companion’ this month, with a full commercial release planned for February .
We have The Wildhearts ‘White Album’ remastered package being manufactured as we speak, hopefully for a December delivery [editor note: this is now available] and a fully remixed version of Chutzpah! (parts one and two) will follow that.
I’m currently writing another album of fun pop/rock tunes to be released Summer 2019 exclusively on the Round Records website, which we’ll probably record at the beginning of February. Then The Wildhearts are finishing our new album which we hope to have ready to release in May.
Aside from a few shows in December I won’t be playing live until February/March when I’ll be promoting ‘The Pessimist’s Companion’. We’re playing really old theatres again, as I did on the ‘Songs & Words’ Tour, and I’m really excited about that.
Interviewed by Scott Bickers and Sophie Williams