Interview: Ginger Wildheart and Danny McCormack (Part 2)

Here’s the second part of our interview with Ginger and Danny of the (and formerly of the) Wildhearts, recorded at the ABC in Glasgow. The first part can be found here, and in this second part, Ginger and Danny both open up about depression. What a horrible thing it is to suffer from and, despite many attempts otherwise, the frustration with it still being misunderstood by many.

I wanted to separate this section out for several reasons. First of all, and mainly, this is an important topic. Many of us suffer some form of mental illness, or know someone who does. Possibly worse, many people don’t realise that they are suffering and go on doing so when there could be help available. Make yourself aware, make others aware, and support charities – like The Samaritans who are benefitting from Ginger’s recent charity single – who do what they can to help those who are suffering.

If you are in need, you can contact The Samaritans by phone on 116 123 in both the UK and ROI. Other contact methods are on their website.

Thanks. And enjoy Part Two…

A lot of people don’t seem to grasp what depression, as a medical condition, actually is.

Ginger: Yeah, it’s not just feeling sad or glum.

It seems to be famous people opening up – Spike Milligan, yourself, Robin Williams, for example – to get people talking about it.

G: I hope so. Talking about it is the hardest thing. We still have this problem where people are stigmatised if they admit that they suffer from it. The physical side of it is that there’s synapses in the brain that spread information from that one to that one. People who have depression don’t have that – it misfires a lot. It’s not really about getting molested as a kid or anything that you might want to bury or hide. It’s like having asthma – you just have it. It’s still that kind of family secret that’s kept in a locked room. It’s fucking ridiculous in this day and age that people still have to suffer because of society’s demands about what is right and wrong. It’s bullshit.

Danny: Very common is that someone who suffers doesn’t realise that they’re suffering. They sometimes think they’re the only person in the world who feels like that – that it’s just them, not that they suffer from something recognised.

I’ve met people whose reaction to someone being depressed is to say “pick yourself up and get over it”. What’s your reaction to this kind of view of depression?

G: Educate yourself. People can’t help not knowing things. People who are ignorant and refuse to enlighten themselves and learn new things – I fucking despise them people. But for those prepared to learn, give them the links, tell them to go and learn. It’s not pretend, it’s not someone trying to pull a sicky at work. And it doesn’t just affect them, it can affect their whole family. If that’s not worth talking about and taking seriously, I don’t know what fucking is.

The “pull yourself together” thing is the standard ignorant answer that can be fixed with a bit of research and educating yourself. Everyone can educate themselves if they give a shit.

How do you deal with your own depression?

G: Keep busy and don’t die.

D: You have to keep saying to yourself “It won’t always be like this”. You have to get like a mantra in your head. Chances are that further down the line you’ll look back and go “What the fuck was I thinking? I considered topping myself.”

G: I think the most important thing is talking. Talk about your own problem, encourage other people to talk, be the one they can talk to. More times I’m talking to someone’s parent than the kid who’s suffering. The kid doesn’t know what the fuck’s going on. They just feel… wrong. Yet the parents are heartbroken wondering what they can do. Well, the bad news is that it won’t be quick but the good news is that there is good news. It can be dealt with. It’s all about making some kind of community.

If you’re a drug addict or an alcoholic, you’ve got meetings you can go to. There’s fuck all set up in communities for people to go and hang around with other people if they suffer from depression! I spent a week in hospital and the only people I met were other people suffering from depression – it was fucking brilliant! There wasn’t a fibre of judgement amongst us. Everyone was just trying to figure out what was going on. You don’t need a bundle of money going to drug companies, you just need people to go somewhere and meet up.

That’s where the solution lies. Pushing to make it government policy that money is put into research. It can all be done, it’s just not going to be easy, and you can’t have a kneejerk reaction to people not just getting it.

D: One thing that really helped me was my brother working with Adam Ant, who’s bipolar. He rang me one day and just said “Danny, get down the doctor’s. You’re bipolar.” He got me to write down everything I suffered from, all my symptoms, because the appointments are limited to ten minutes. You can’t explain all the shit you’ve had and what you’re going through in ten minutes. So I wrote it all down – four pages – and handed it to him. I said, “I think I’m bipolar” and he said “I think you are, too!”.

It was something just to get that diagnosis. I went twenty years without it. Everyone just assumed it was because I was some kind of tattooed, drunken junkie.

G: Don’t know where they got that idea from.

D: I spent years taking uppers when I was down. Then downers when I was up. Four years ago I got this diagnosis and I could actually start tackling the right demons.

G: I think the worst person to diagnose depression is a doctor who’s never suffered from it. The drugs they give you… I’m on antidepressants and they’re the most addictive thing ever. I’ve come off a lot of drugs in my time and nothing touches coming off this. It spins you right out. The one I’m on now is a booster. It boosts your endorphins and dopamine so they’re healthy. But when you stop them, your brain just goes WAUGH [well, you try and transcribe the noise Ginger made – Mosh] and it’s the most painful, horrible thing in the world. Your brain keeps getting these kind of shocks. You’ll be walking along and just *bang bang* – it’s like you’re being hit by a taser.

Depression just looks like that[Ginger draws a sine wave in the air, up and down – Mosh]. That’s your emotions. And every part of it is as real as the others. Can you imagine? That is as real as that [pointing to peaks and troughs, highs and lows – Mosh]… and your tape recorder’s not going to have a fucking clue what I’m doing right now!

Back to the music for the last question – what advice would you have for a young band going into the music business nowadays?

D: Write the best songs you can possibly write. Concentrate on songs. And get a good lawyer!

G: Yeah, the lawyer’s a good one. Make sure you want to do it. We were talking about this today. When we started off, it wasn’t all about rehearsing and getting better. It was all just girls and music. It was tunnel vision. Long before alcohol and drugs, that was it – girls and music. I don’t know if there’s a standard bit of advice. I look at some kids who want to be musicians and you’re not going to be able to do it. I can see it in your eyes – you’ve not got the fucking passion. It’s a hard thing to do. You can’t be thin-skinned, you can’t do it half arsed or it’ll spit you out. If criticism is going to get you you then you’ll last five minutes in this business.

D: The best thing is to be your own critic. If you pass your own bullshit filter then you’re writing songs that you like.

All pictures by Bukavac Photography

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