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The Duke Talks To Ginger From The Wildhearts

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Couple weeks back, The Duke was preparing an article concerning the recorded works of The Wildhearts. In case you didn’t know, The Wildhearts are one of the bands privileged enough to have soundtracked The Duke’s every fart and tumble since way back when a fella discovers that not only is the old voice getting deeper, and also some bizarre shit of some kind is going on around the genitalia, but also, it’s probably time to start feeling very melancholic for no apparent reason.

In other words, Earth Versus The Wildhearts, which, dig this if you will, was The Best Motherfucking Debut Record Of The Nineties, hit the old CD player just around the swing towards adolescence. That record blew my jaw sideways, is what. Not only were the lyrics as sharp as the kinda implements a man might use for to carve a nightmare bit by bit, but those tunes were enough to have you levitating for days, and probably on account of the music, rather than some Satanic hoopla that just kicked off at the same time, by way of bizarre coincidence.

So anyway, what I did was I flung an Electronical Email to Ginger, being the front-man of these insanely brilliant hooligans, and next thing anyone knows there’s an interview where once there might just have been some shit about “Yeah, this record is great, and here’s what The Duke thinks about it all…” Fuck the hair a man cares about what The Duke thinks, when Ginger himself is willing to yack a little regarding it all.

So first things first, man, as is the wont of first things in general. Before Earth Versus The Wildhearts arrived, a couple EP’s were released, being Mondo Akimbo A Go-Go and Don’t Be Happy… Just Worry, both of which can now be picked up on the one disc, by way of convenience. Some of the best songs these folks ever recorded are slapped on there, stuff like the gorgeous Nothing Ever Changes But The Shoes, or the snarky-as-all-Hell Turning American, not to mention gore-movie appreciation Splattermania.

The Duke – Do you remember much concerning the critical reaction to these EP’s?

Ginger – Yeah, I remember there being a lot of general critical complaint about the mix. We had a huge run-in with a journalist, Neil Jeffreys of Kerrang!, about the sound of the E.P. being a let down. Now I can see his point, but back then we were never going to let anyone say anything negative about our band.

Duke- How long were those songs banging around for before they were recorded?

Ginger – I decided that we were going to keep what I considered to be the best songs for the full length album. Some of those first tracks had been around since our first show (Turning American, Liberty Cap) and some were written more recently (Splattermania, Something Weird), but all had been played live, apart from Dreaming In A.

Duke – Speaking of Splattermania, Mondo Irlando is highly regarded for its incisive critiques of the Cult Cinema. As far as Lucio Motherfucking Fulci goes, what do you prefer, City Of The Living Dead or The Beyond?

Ginger – The Beyond, absolutely. City Of The Living Dead is one of my least favourite Fulci movies because it has such a cop-out of an ending. Bless him, Fulci didn’t always make movies with ultra clear plot lines but he could usually be relied upon to provide great endings, The Beyond being his best, in my opinion. Obviously I loved the drill scene in ‘City….’ (who doesn’t?) but all in all, as far as weirdness, plot, production quality, classic ending and, of course, splatter, for me The Beyond kicks the ass of every movie out there.

Duke – I hear that, originally, you weren’t intending to be the front-man of The Wildhearts at all, that it stemmed more from necessity than anything else. Is this accurate enough? Hard to imagine anyone else belting out, say, Greetings From Shitsville.

Ginger – I can’t imagine anyone else singing either, although I’d still like to get a vocalist! Originally we wanted someone who was a cross between Robin Zander (Cheap Trick) and Jake Burns (Stiff Little Fingers). We searched for over a year for the right guy, then ended up with exactly what we wanted. Me.

That Jake Burns thing got The Duke thinking, for sure. I’d never thought of it before, but now, the similarities between the delivery of, say, Nothing Ever Changes and Alternative Ulster seem rather pronounced.

Any the hell way, following the EP’s and so on, Earth Versus The Wildhearts was released to pretty much universal acclaim, whatever the hell that means. I dunno what they thought of it on, say, Saturn, but on Earth, anyroad, most folks loved the shit out of it, ironically enough. What The Duke has often stated, is that a record can be judged on the number of fast-forwards on there. Earth Versus… has not one of the sons a bitches. It’s like Frankenchrist or Rubber Soul, consistently brilliant from one end to the other, plus most of the tracks actually contain about seventy-three or seventy-four different songs, all seamlessly united under the one heading. More time-changes and such musicology banter than a man can feasibly accept in one sitting without, in the words of, I believe, Plato, getting “Giddy as a motherfucker smacked to the chops on the herbs.”

The Duke – Earth Versus The Wildhearts, far as I’m concerned, is the best debut of the nineties. Do you remember anything especially noteworthy about the sessions?

Ginger – Thank you. The whole recording process had a guerilla approach. We recorded it on ‘used’ tape, in under a week. We always thought we were recording demo’s until the record company decided that the demo’s were worth releasing. We never made demo’s again since that decision, and instead always recorded straight from rehearsal to record. Mick Ronson was my favorite memory of that whole session. He was wonderful, warm and an incredibly gifted player.

(Note from The Duke – Ronson was originally intended to produce the record, but on account of ill health, he ended up simply playing on it.)

Duke – How many of the songs were recent compositions, and how many were ones from, say, the Mondo Akimbo era that you felt needed to be on the record “proper”?

Ginger – Some were older tracks, like I mentioned already, but some were written pretty shortly before recording. TV Tan was Stidi’s audition recording and was quite a new track, Suckerpunch was written during the album sessions, and Caffeine Bomb was written after the album was finished and the record company liked it so much they re-released the album with the track included.

Duke – There were a lot of tracks from this period, Greetings From Shitsville and Down With London, for example, that expressed particularly negative views concerning the capital. How do you feel about the city now? Surely it’s a more optimistic time, since according to NME, at least, the streets are alive with the guerilla gigging and so on. Plus, the new records by The Libertines and Selfish Cunt are fantastic.

Ginger – London still makes me sick, but I love it. I despise the attitude that everyone thinks they have to adopt to live here. People try to behave in a harder fashion than is natural, while they are cowards by nature. Only a coward would change themselves to hide personality deficiencies in a bid to gain the respect of others (in this case, other cowards). I can’t stand tough guys that back down when they push someone to the point of confrontation. That, to me, is a coward and a large, and very annoying part of London.

Duke – The Wildhearts are one of the few bands who consistently release b-sides and such that are as good, in some cases better, than the stuff on the albums. During this period, the likes of 29X The Pain and Shut Your Fucking Mouth And Use Your Fucking Brain all surfaced. Were these leftovers from the album, or was it a case of continuous writing-and-recording between records?

Ginger – I wrote for demand. Luckily in those days there was a lot of demand as there were a lot of singles. I loved having a week to come up with four more songs and teach them to the band. My work nowadays is pretty easy as we don’t get to release a lot of singles.

Between Earth Versus… and the second record, P.H.U.Q, the mini-album Fishing For Luckies was issued as a fan-club-only release. In case you were wondering, what it was, was an eclectic, awe-inspiring masterpiece featuring the likes of Sky Babies, a nine-minute epic concerning the aliens and so on, and the beautiful, Pogues-influenced Geordie In Wonderland. The record was later given a proper commercial release, with a handful of added tracks, such as the brilliant singles Sick Of Drugs and Red Light, Green Light (the video for which featured a red light, then a green light, and so on and so forth until the end), and minus Geordie and the other single, If Life Is Like A Love Bank… I Want An Overdraft (the original video for which was a rather more inventive affair concerning the hardcore sexing).

The Duke – Geordie In Wonderland is one of my favorite songs of all ever, and one that features a heavy Pogues influence. Certainly the intro to The Pogues’ Body Of An American and Geordie are very similar. Is this a correct assumption? You a Pogues fan? Got a favorite record?

Ginger – Yeah, I love The Pogues. So does my 4 year old Son! There is just something so pure and honest about them that makes the quality even more exciting and impressive. My favorite album is Rum, Sodomy And The Lash, just sheer class. Shane MacGowan is a poetic genius. Talented like a gift from God. A few different Gods, in fact.

P.H.U.Q, the second record, constitutes something of a transition with regards the old Career De Wildhearts, is what The Duke would suggest. For one thing, the album is much more aggressive than Earth, and the subsequent battles with record company East-West pretty much derailed the band for a time. The record is fantastic, however, featuring the likes of Just In Lust, In Lilly’s Garden, V-Day and Nita Nitro. Also, I Wanna Go Where The People Go, a motherfucking masterpiece, and featuring one of The Duke’s favorite lyrics of all ever; “I wanna be where the cunts like me are buried six-feet underground.”

Ginger – By the time PHUQ was recorded we had toured a lot and been through a lot more of the trials of the business. The same trials that every band goes through, in fact, but we didn’t handle them with as much subtlety and acceptance as most. And we were very slow learners! We were taking a lot of cocaine at the time, which isn’t very good for band harmony. Add one creative, frustrated, nihilistic, angry young man and you have a perfect recipe for mental instability.

The Duke – You talked a lot in the music press that East-West had effectively “killed off” the record, releasing only two singles, and abandoning the third, In Lilly’s Garden. Have you any regrets about this period, or do you see it simply as a learning opportunity?

Ginger – I never have regrets, never will. Everything is for a reason.

Duke – How exactly did that contract come to a head? There were some heated moments at the end.

Ginger – ‘Heated moments’ is putting it mildly. There was no way that East West could have continued to work with us by the end. We were fucking horrible to the bosses of the company, which is a no-no in this business as bosses like to be called cunts by nobody.

Duke – Following the re-release of Fishing For Luckies, Red Light, Green Light was issued as a single, with one of the B-Sides being the sublime All-American Homeboy Crowd. Where did that lengthy lecture on the usage of the word “fuck”, which kicks in about two minutes into the track, come from?

Ginger – I can’t remember, probably from a tape doing the rounds. There used to be a lot of cassettes that got passed around in those days. The kind of stuff that get’s eaten up and forgotten about daily on the internet would once make it onto records.

A number of compilations were issued following Fishing For Luckies, the likes of live album Anarchic Airwaves and odds n’ sods collection Landmines And Pantomimes. Also issued was The Best Of The Wildhearts, a record that seemed somewhat premature regardless of the quality. The band, of course, boycotted the release. However, a long-form video was mentioned in adverts for the record, a video that would contain all the promos and so on. It never surfaced. Are we ever likely to see such a thing?

Ginger – I am sure that the promo videos will surface commercially in their entirety someday.

So dig this; What happened was that when the band’s third record arrived, the brutal, industrial-tinged Endless Nameless, folks shat their guts out in shock. The melodies and harmonies and so on were all in evidence (especially in the likes of Urge and Pissjoy), but battered fuckless by cacophonous dementia. It’s an astounding record, one that none of the band’s peers in that whole “Britrock” era would have been capable of, or brave enough to even fucking contemplate. It’s much easier to admire, though, than it is to love.

The Duke – When folks look back on the band in years to come and such, how do you think Endless Nameless might be perceived?

Ginger – I always wanted people to look back on Endless Nameless as a courageous state of intent and a “fuck you” to an industry that we despised. We didn’t fear making decisions that appeared to be career suicide. I personally wouldn’t want to be involved whatsoever in an industry that took no chances. I agree that it is an album to be admired as opposed to enjoyed, but it also has therapeutic properties that people often forget until they find themselves in an incredibly pissed off, confused or confrontational state of mind, then the album makes sense. Society has probably somehow benefited a little from that album negating the effects of extreme anger in young men and women!

Following Endless Nameless, The Wildhearts split. For sure, the motherfuckers split up every five minutes, but this right here, this was the first one that felt genuine. And sure enough, it was. What Ginger did was embark on a series of intimate acoustic gigs, and produced a bewildering array of singles and albums. Whatever demons had been exorcised via Endless Nameless seemed to have been successfully kicked the fuck out, and these records, both solo and with projects like Clam Abuse (beautiful acoustic techno pop) and Silver Ginger 5 (roaring, garage rock) once again strung a fella up by the neck on account of shit like choruses and such.

The Duke – Was this flurry of activity sparked in any way by some fear of being forgotten once The Wildhearts called it quits? And do you ever think, looking back on those records, most of which got very limited releases, that shit, man, I shoulda kept those for the “big” records?

Ginger – Nahhh, I write a shit loads of songs. Always did, always will. As long as there’s something to write about there’s a new song. And there’s plenty to write about. More subject matter every year in fact. Let’s face it, the World isn’t getting less eventful, is it? I never really think of being forgotten. I guess that is why I am still in people’s faces, right?

Duke – Did Geri Halliwell ever respond to A Message From Geri from the Clam Abuse record?

Ginger – Not to me.

Duke – Are those solo records ever likely to see a proper release? A compilation or whatever?

Ginger – Everything looks set to be released in 2005 by Sanctuary records. Already, next year is looking like a very busy year indeed.

Without much fuss nor fanfare, in 2002, five years after Endless Nameless, The Wildhearts reformed, releasing the gorgeous The Wildhearts Must Be Destroyed. The first single from the record, Vanilla Radio, hit the UK top 5. It was a sweet motherfucking development.

The Duke – The chart success of Vanilla Radio must have been something of a relief, a sign that the fans hadn’t forgotten, that folks were still itching for some rock n’ motherfucking roll in an era of more melancholic, introspective malarkey?

Ginger – Great rock n’ roll hasn’t and will never die.

Duke – How do you think the success of, say, The Darkness effected the comeback? Do you think they made it more acceptable for a band to enjoy rocking the hell out again, without having to apologize for the fact?

Ginger – We were ‘rocking the hell out’ before, during and after The Darkness’ rise to fame. But they did keep us together, as a band, when it looked like nothing was going to save our spirits. At the beginning of 2004 we were ready to call it a day and The Darkness helped us more than anyone will ever know. Even themselves.

Duke – I hear a live DVD is in the works. How’s that coming along? Any chance of any footage from the solo acoustic shows being included?

Ginger – It is coming along very slowly, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t pick up a breakneck speed as soon as we get an official green light. There will be footage from all kinds of shows, the acoustic ones presumably included.

Duke – So then, when it all comes down to it and such, are there any album’s you’ve made that you feel particularly proud of?

Ginger – I love Endless Nameless. Always will. It is the very essence of The Wildhearts, in spirit if not in sound. I also have a soft spot for the Silver Ginger 5 album, as that was a very productive and happy part of my life. And I always love the next album!

A new record, a live album no less, has just been released. The Wildhearts Strike Back (“a great album that harks back to when live albums used to be 100% live”) can be grabbed via the links underneath.

Thanks folks

The Duke resides at Mondo Irlando

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