Thursday, 26 September 2019

The Wildhearts: Ginger Turns Out To Be A Really Nice Guy (Despite Everything I've Heard)

Originally published in American Music Press (June 1994)
Interview by Devorah Ostrov (with help from Michelle Castro)
Written by Devorah Ostrov

The Wildhearts circa 1993
Photo: Steve Double
The Wildhearts combine the attitude of the Stones with the drunken camaraderie of the Faces and top it off with a ton of adrenalized rock 'n' roll! The group is already somewhat of a household name in the UK, where they issued two enthusiastically received EPs prior to last year's brilliant full-length LP, Earth Vs. the Wildhearts on EastWest Records.

Kerrang! magazine gave Earth Vs. the Wildhearts 5-K's, calling it "a dizzying slap in the face for us all." And now (finally!) with the album's US release, the band is poised to be just as huge over here. When Live 105 picked up the "Suckerpunch" single (a three-minute Nine Inch Nails-style rampage) it quickly became the station's #1 most requested song.

Earth Vs. the Wildhearts - cover option 1
(EastWest/Bronze Records - 1993)
However, when it came to interviewing guitarist/lead singer/songwriter Ginger, I had some initial misgivings. "Ginger is a stroppy git," insisted one journalist. "Ginger's out of his box," alleged a second. "Ginger throws tantrums." "Ginger won't do interviews." "Ginger believes in UFOs." "Ginger's from another planet."

I don't actually understand a couple of those comments. But just because he claims to have seen a perfectly normal watchband jump up and down doesn't make Ginger "crazy." And just because he might have seen a UFO doesn't necessarily mean he's "odd." And when he doesn't call when the record company says he will, I don't automatically think he's "difficult." Well, OK maybe I do. Just a little.

When I eventually get Ginger on the phone, he seems like a nice enough fellow. "Sorry about being late and all," he apologizes. "It's been such a hectic day. The thing with the Wildhearts is that things change every second of the day. We never know what we're doing from one moment to the next!"

I decide not to waste time with small talk and dive straight in...

 Poster publicizing a 20th-anniversary
gig for Earth Vs. the Wildhearts
(using cover option 2)
Q: So, what's all this business about your being a madman?

Ginger: I think [the British music press] are just desperate for an angle. They try to invent a personality to write about. The thing is, I haven't actually met a lot of journalists, just these people who pretend to be journalists. A good journalist takes a point and elaborates on it; takes the ball down a different way. But a lot of journalists are too involved with themselves and their own opinions. No, I have no problem with journalists... I'd just like to meet a few.

Q: What about the watchband incident?

Ginger: That's something so weird I don't like to think about it. There was this sales display on the street [in Mexico], and a watchband just jumped up and the two straps slapped the table!

Q: It wasn't a trick?

Ginger: It could've been, but we were looking at each other like, "Did you see it too?" And the [vendor] was doing something else completely.

Q: And the UFO? I read one account where the writer took you to a regression therapist...

Ginger: Yeah, but I couldn't get back there. I saw a UFO when I was a kid. I can't really say for sure that it was a UFO. I just seem to remember that it was. It's confusing to go through life with something unexplainable, where you can't really remember what happened. It was just weird. I dunno how to explain it. I don't want to.

Kerrang! interviews Ginger just before the release of Earth Vs. the Wildhearts
Q: OK... "Suckerpunch" is getting quite a lot of radio airplay over here. Is that the track you had planned to release as a single?

Ginger: No, not at all! We don't write singles; we just write songs and they get put on albums. They can put out any song we do, and it would be good as a single. I don't get singles, anyway. Why not just buy the whole album?

Q: What about in terms of an MTV video?

Poster for Ginger's 50th birthday bash
at the Forum - December 17, 2014
Ginger: I don't understand MTV either. Even when a band like Rage Against the Machine "rebel" and take their clothes off...

Q: MTV is there!

Ginger: Exactly! It's on film. You can't rebel and say you hate MTV — because you're on it. You're doing videos! We just try to make an entertaining two- or three-minute piece of film, and not another boring video where you look like you don't even want to be there: "Oh, the weight of being an artist." Yeah, piss off!

Q: I figured you weren't a fan of the channel when I heard "Weekend" [from the "Don't Be Happy" EP: "Crawled out of bed and then I turned on MTV again/ To watch the same songs I can't stand..."].

Ginger: Wouldn't it be great if MTV showed great stuff all the time? MTV is such a big thing. Instead of getting all pissed off at it, people should get involved from the inside and use it to say something creative; make a cool cartoon video or something. Don't take yourself too seriously! Take life and your beliefs seriously, but not videos. Videos are stupid!

Q: While we're talking about your lyrics... Is it better to be a "Headfuck" girl [as in: "She's the kind of girl who'll break your mind/And make an easy meal of the sensitive kind..."] or a "Miles Away Girl" [as in: "Her head's up with the stars because she knows that's where she's headed/The good guys think she's different, the rest just think she's weird..."]?

Ginger ends it all 
on the cover of Kerrang!
Ginger: A "Miles Away Girl," definitely! Maybe... It could depend... But yeah... Of the two, I'd recommend the latter.

Q: Let's talk about some of the other songs on Earth Vs. the Wildhearts... "Everlone" is one of my favorites! What's it about?

Ginger: It's about being an outsider and not fitting in anywhere, being alone — really being alone.

Q: Are you making a reference to the New York Dolls in the first verse? ["Life has teeth, it bites the feeding open hand/You wanna be in a band?/I got to feeling, I got too much too soon..."]

Ginger: No, that's the pressure the band gets from the record company. Everything must break instantly; make millions from the debut album and first single. It's just however [the record company] can sell you — are you a Bon Jovi or a Lemonhead? They'd don't want to find out enough about the band to actually sell it properly.

Q: What about "Loveshit"? You take a fairly hostile stance against relationships in the lyrics. ["Sign your name on the dotted line, it's time for you to s-s-s-suffer/You're gonna wish you'd changed your mind in three weeks' time/'Cause then you'll find that one lover's like another..."] Is that how you really feel?

Part of Hunt Emerson's illustration from the Earth Vs. the Wildhearts CD
Ginger: Yeah, people are scared to be alone. People think that they can only be happy with a partner. So, you have these relationships where one person is always giving more than the other and you're lying to each other. Stay single! Have sex! Wear condoms! Just have fun!

Q: Which kind of leads into "Love U Til I Don't"...

Ginger: That was written for a certain person about a certain relationship. It's about someone who wants to change you to fit their ideal, but you're pretending that someone is something they're not. The truth is gonna come 'round at some point.

EastWest advertisement for Earth Vs. the Wildhearts
Q: Earth Vs. the Wildhearts is dedicated to Mick Ronson [who died of cancer last year] and he plays guitar on "My Baby Is a Headfuck." But wasn't he supposed to produce the album?

Ginger: He was originally going to produce the album, but the record company apparently didn't want him to do it. When we found out he wasn't going to produce, I told him, "I've got this song that I wrote with you in mind, and I would love for you to play on it." I didn't know what he was gonna say, but he said he'd be honored. He was the most wonderful man I've ever met, and probably ever will meet in this business. Absolutely amazing!

Q: Will your two previous EPs ever be released in the States?

"Don't Be Happy...Just Worry" EP
(EastWest/Bronze Records - 1992)
Ginger: Probably not. They're just demos; everything we've ever recorded has been demos. We've never gone in thinking that what we're recording will be taken into your home and played on your stereo. Although we are confident that whatever we record will sound good, we just have fun fucking around!

Q: That's too bad. Some of the songs on those EPs are wonderful! "Splattermania" for instance... It's obvious you're a connoisseur of the genre.

Ginger: Yeah, it's one of my favorite subject matters!

Q: Is it true your house was raided, and your video collection was confiscated?

Ginger: Yeah! In this country, splatter films are totally illegal. But it's all just dummies and ketchup! I mean, don't watch them if you're offended. I've seen porn films where the girl is drugged up to her eyeballs, being fucked by some guy that she doesn't want to be fucked by — those things you can buy! There's no logic to what is banned and what isn't. They took my copy of Soldier Blue, which is about the land being taken away from the Indians. It's an educational video! You can rent a version with the atrocities cut out, but the atrocities are the whole point of the film. I must admit, there are more important things in my life now than legalizing horror films. It used to be a big deal to me. I used to get really frustrated about it. But what can you do?
Ginger stars in this classic Pandora Peroxide cartoon by Ray Zell
(used with permission)
Q: I also want to ask about the song "Turning American" [from the "Mondo Akimbo A-Go-Go" EP]. Someone said you're having a go at Spike from the Quireboys. But another theory is that you're condemning things like Taco Bell popping up in London...

Ginger: It's definitely not about Spike! It's about people who change the way they are in order to fit into the "American dream." And that just doesn't happen in Britain. By nature, English people are hard workers and heavy drinkers. The only people who don't drink are dead or have "turned American." Actually, what inspired the song was, we have a breakfast cereal here called Rice Krispies with these three little pixies on the box...

Rock City Vs. the Wildhearts
Poster for the 20th-anniversary performance
Q: Snap, Crackle and Pop!

Ginger: That's the one! And now they've got American accents.

Q: But they are Americans.

Ginger: They're not the same! Now they're saying "Dude." We don't do that! And I'm not in any way anti-American. All you Americans notice that song, but if you listen to the lyrics it doesn't even mention Americans or the country. It's just a personal view on the way our country could go.

Q: Since no one over here has seen the Wildhearts, could you describe what the live show is like?

Ginger: The album times a hundred! The band is a live band. We're much better live than on the album.

Q: What music do you like to listen to? I know you like Redd Kross because you put their tape on during a Kerrang! interview.

Ginger: I like Redd Kross. I like music with a purpose. I don't like bands that are just superfluous.

Q: What about Hanoi Rocks?

Earth Vs. the Wildhearts
Kerrang! magazine's 5-K review
Ginger: I loved Hanoi Rocks! We used to follow whole tours. My flatmate [writer/ cartoonist Ray Zell] was best friends with Razzle [Hanoi Rocks' drummer, who died in a car accident]. You Americans have got some good bands now. You've got White Zombie. I love White Zombie! They're like a different side of us; they're doing the same thing as us.

Q: They're playing out here soon.

Ginger: You must go! Beg, steal or borrow a ticket! And tell them Ginger sent you.

Q: One more question... Why does Earth Vs. the Wildhearts come with a cute cartoon cover as well as a creepy cover of bugs and barbed wire on someone's face?

Ginger: That's me!

Q: That's you under the bugs? They're not real, are they?

Ginger: Yeah, they are!

Q: You put a live scorpion on your face?

Ginger: Yeah! Even the keeper said he wouldn't put a scorpion on his face. Anyway, I figured some people wouldn't like the bugs, and I didn't want to force it down their throats. So, if you like listening to it and it's personal to you, then pick the cover that you want.

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