The Wildhearts kicked off their current tour in Glasgow on the 14th of December, making the show my birthday gig for this year. The icing on the cake was getting to spend some time backstage at the ABC with one of rock music’s most prolific and hardest-working men, Ginger, as well as grabbing some words with former bassist Danny McCormack and drummer Ritch Battersby. Ginger is a very open individual, speaking his mind quite freely and I discovered the same of Danny.
In this first half of the interview, we focussed mainly on what makes the band tick, and on their music. Part two, which will follow soon, details the latter half of the interview where I talked to both members about their individual battles with depression.
As we began the interview, Ginger was signing dozens of photographs which were to appear on the merch stall, available for a donation which would make its way to The Samaritans.
First question… do you ever stop working?
Ginger: Not when I can help it. I don’t like to stop working. Time off gives evil thoughts the chance to dominate. I like to keep myself busy so I don’t actually think about anything, other than about the task at hand. That works best for me.
The last time I interviewed you was around 22 years ago in Bradford Rios. You were touring some little album called Earth Vs… Does it amaze you that over twenty years later you’re still with most of the same guys, doing the same thing?
G: When we first started out we didn’t have any ideas other than “finish the album and go back on tour”. There was never a thought of being able to do this for twenty years or more.
Danny: If someone had said that in twenty years time we’d still be playing in The Wildhearts… nah.
G: If you have a long term plan in this business then I think you’re guaranteed to be disappointed. You do it because it feels right. We’re doing another album as The Wildhearts next year because we want to get Danny’s leg sorted out. That, to me, is a proper Wildhearts move. There’s a reason for it. We’d never do it just to cash in, or just make a copy of the first one.
Ritch: It’s never been about the money. Ever. It’s just what we wanted to do.
G: Especially if you’re brought up in South Shields where there’s not a lot of opportunities. Like bands like Angelic Upstarts who played music and got out – we thought “We could do that! We could end up playing that London!”
I remember the old singles being the best value for money of any band. Always three or four B-sides and different ones on every format – 7″, tape, CD…
D: That’s because he can write stuff in his sleep!
G: When we were doing Endless Nameless we were with Mushroom Records we were constantly being asked if we could get a remix done instead of putting a new song on a B-side. Why would we pay someone when we could just go and write another song? One person did a remix – I think it was of “Anthem” – and it was fucking dreadful! We’re just one of those bands that’s done things a bit differently from other people. We’ve never set out to be purposely different, it’s just our idea of fun isn’t everyone else’s.
You’ve got so many projects – your solo work, Silver Ginger 5, Hey Hello… Do you come up with a song and feel it fits one more than another, or do you focus on one at a time?
G: I tend to write to order, whatever we’re doing. For example, I’ve just finished a country album and it’s easy to get a country album wrong if you want to put in some heavy guitars or a solo. You’ve admitted that you don’t know the genre well enough to tackle it. Then we think about a Wildhearts album because of Danny’s leg and all I can hear in my head is Wildhearts music. I can hear the album that we’re going to make which, to me, is going to have a very definite sound. I’m not someone who sits around with tons and tons of spare songs.
I couldn’t write you a ballad now because my head’s in writing punk. Mind, we could polish a ballad up. We’ve been known to be fairly melodic in our time.
R: “Bad Time” is one of our best songs.
G: One of the things we never got credit for is being a good group, good players. We could do a Def Leppard ballad if we wanted. We just don’t want to!
I mentioned Silver Ginger 5. There’s a “Wikipedia rumour” that you’ve written a whole album of material just not had the chance to record it. Is this true?
G: We did write a Silver Ginger 5 album. We went away and there was me, Conny and Jon and we didn’t have a drummer. We went to this knackered old cottage in the middle of fucking nowhere. We effectively wrote an album’s worth of stuff but it’s never been recorded. It’s not a DAT or anything. It’s just a bunch of stuff that we’ve forgot.
Right now I can’t see any reason for why I’d do a Silver Ginger 5 again, but never say never. It was good at the time. Dressing up as a cunt is always fun – I enjoyed it. But I can’t see why, unless it was a charity thing. Say if Conny got sick and we felt we could do something to help him.
I gather the opening band tonight, JAW$, is a bit of a family affair?
G: Yeah, it’s my son’s band. I’m playing drums. The letters stand for something – J Adams Wildheart… and something starting with “S”. I’m not even sure if he knows. A dollar sign? “Shit”? I dunno. We’re going to go to Chris Wright’s place in Jarrow [Viking Tattoo Studio – Mosh] and we’re both going to get JAW$ tattoos. It’s his first tattoo and I’ve told him not to get it somewhere like his arm where he’s going to be walking around with his sleeve rolled up. Just get it somewhere incidental like the top of the ribs… won’t hurt at all…!
I wasn’t aware that you played drums until I saw you in the video for “Fuck You Brain”, your charity single with Ryan Hamilton. How did that song come about?
G: Typically, it was an idea that went wrong and just ended up like that. There’s a guy called Jason Bowld [ex-Pitchshifter, stand-in with BFMV and more – Mosh] who played drums on CJ’s album, and Dave Draper’s [producer at Tower Records – Mosh] dying to get me and Jason to record. So one day he calls and says “Jason’s in the studio, why don’t you come down and do something?” So I’m all for it, we’ll bring Ryan in and do something. And everything went to plan… except Jason didn’t make it to the studio so I did the drums myself!
The rest is all about the fans who get behind causes like this. It’s raised about ten grand already for The Samaritans – it’s all about suicide prevention and mental health awareness. They do a great job, especially this time of the year. They’re very pro-active and want me to get involved with stuff next year.
D: Is this “Fuck You Brain”? That song’s mint.
I honestly think it’s one of the best tracks I’ve heard from you in the last few years.
G: Typical. You just shit something out in the morning and everyone thinks it’s genius! Spend a month working on something and it’s… yeah, whatever!
Header image by Bukavac Photography