Last week, NHC MUSIC sent roving reporter and interviewer (among other talents of course, juggling, LARPing, stuff like that) Jim Marshall out to interview the legend that is Ginger Wildheart. It was a bit of a joy for us to finally meet the man as we have just missed him the past couple of times he has been up this neck of the woods. Anyway, I could ramble on here but let's get right to the interview itself, it's an absolute cracking read, thanks again Ginger!
Jim Marshall: Aye, we’ve been giving your album Ghost in The Tanglewood a good listen to.
Ginger Wildheart: Oh, great!
JM: Really enjoyed it. You’ve got a lot of [guitar] slides in there and you’ve got an Americana type vibe coming through. I had bought a Wildhearts album when I was a kid and I was wondering if it’d be along a similar vein but that’s just me hopping between time periods comparing.
GW: well, I mean, The Wildhearts it’s got a sound even if we try mix it up a little bit in the studio, we have a definite sound that people expect, and this one I wanted to get away from the bombastic guitars and have the lyrics. Give the lyrics some air to breathe. Because a lot of the time you write a lot of lyrics with The Wildhearts and people just go, like, “I like that one cos it’s fast”, you know? “that ones got a great riff in it.” So, I wanted to do something that was stripped down, so people could actually check the lyrics out.
JM: Definitely payed off, ‘cause its very packed with imagery. Daylight Hotel for example. I was wondering is that about a hospital?
JM: Yeh? I just really liked the way you put that forward [without being too blatant]. I was also wondering, seeing as we’re talking about lyrics, do you get into a particular state [of mind]. I know certain people, like an artist I like Robert Rauschenberg, he listed one of his inspirations as “Jack Daniels”. So, I mean, not necessarily in terms of using substances, or anything like that, but is there a particular way you like to be when writing?
GW: I’d say one of my main influences is unhappiness. It breeds music, you know? I find happiness can be its own reward. You don’t feel like going and doing anything; you’re just happy being happy.
Lindsay Conn: Its like that song where you’re talking about the blues and how that’s always there for you.
GW: That’s not one of mine that’s a guy called Steve Earl. That’s why I love that song ‘cause he wrote about the Blues like it was an old friend who comes ‘round to visit and doesn’t stay forever, you know? So, you just…. you’ve got a relationship with this thing. You know? I’m lucky in as much as I’ve got an illness that kind of, you know, it’s…I dunno what to call it. Depression is one of the names for it but it’s almost like a nickname for it. I don’t think there is a blank one name fits all for like, feeling like you just wanna fucking not be here anymore but I was also given this gift of being able to put my feelings into songs. So, I feel like it gives me a lot of inspiration, a lot of material. I find it hard to complain about it really, even though it’s a pain in the fucking arse.
JM: You’re getting something from it almost like no pain no gain?
GW: Well you’re writing from a place of authenticity. You know where you are. You know that you’re on a standard, on the turf; but the pay off is if someone else benefits from it or finds comfort in the song or…solace. I hear that a lot, especially with this album.
JM: Build your courage [Golden Tears]. It is very uplifting but its punctuated with these wee melancholy bits and that’s maybe, I dunno, as you say the realism in it?
JM: I had written a dissertation about the relationship between depression, mental health and creativity and from what I found is that you could put that energy maybe into anything but for yourself is that [music] something you feel is a type of solace, a type of comfort or is it a case of you just have to?
GW: Both. You know, I think. I’ve been part of a panel recently talking about mental health and they were saying they gotta stop glamourising it as being, like, a source of inspiration but I can’t lie it is my inspiration. It fuels everything that I write. Even if I write a song about not being miserable and getting out of it like…fucking… black slaves writing in the 20’s. Oh yeh they didn’t write about…they weren’t moaning they were talking about when it gets better. You know? And that’s part of my therapy. I find that is part of the counceling of being able to write… or any artform really. You know? Melancholia has got a genuine place in music. I used to fucking love Arab Strap and that’s some fucking sad fucking stuff there! but it felt great! The way they fucking just went there, while other people were dipping their toes in they were just going fucking *makes diving motion* clothes on fuckin’ head first. You know what I mean? Do it or fuckin’ get off the park.
JM: It is one of those things you can’t come into it half-heartedly. You need to be opening the doors to yourself. Musicians are seen as a source of power yet its very much about being vulnerable and I think that’s a strong element in your music.
GW: I think that’s powerful in itself. To be open and for people to be able to identify you. Instead of being this untouchable fucking deity that people used to associate rock stars with. Rockstar’s now have got to be like a “healthy” role model and if you’re not going to be a healthy role model then your fucking times up mate. Get a time machine and take yourself back to the fuckin 60’s or whatever. Now the bullshits over you know there’s no fuckin’ time for it people need some real guidance or just to be able to relate to someone who’s not bullshitting just to get a few extra sales or to cash in on a trend. Mental health issues being a trend I think is probably the biggest tragedy in the history of exploitation.
JM: Perhaps then you start getting people as you say exploiting a mood disorder that maybe they don’t have when there’s other people that could be doing with that help? Could it be the que, so to speak is filled with people going “that’s me!” when there’s other more genuine cases? Or worse people feel they can’t be creative unless they’re suffering so they make themselves suffer?
GW: Which is like the old you know “you can’t create unless you take drugs.” That used to be the thing when we first started. And you’re like if you’ve got no talent you’ve got no talent on drugs. If you’re not really in a place of genuine suffering you’re going to come off like a fuckin snake charmer. You know a sort of snake oil salesman, you know? Everyone can see through that. And people singing about sadness and the blues and its like…it’s over you know? And personally, I need things to be real.
When I was a kid I didn’t mind I liked Kiss, you know? I liked fantasy and stuff. And then I, you know…heard whoever. Ramones or Motorhead or something and then it all sort of got a bit more real. And then as I’ve been getting older and really appreciating lyricists more than people who pen a nice tune I need it real. I mean, movies now have got people really shagging in them! Entertainment has got to have that sort of realism in it as well and it’s time now for us to get rid of the fucking swords and dragons and get to the fucking real stuff.
JM: Get into that authenticity!
JM: Do you feel like Glasgow is one of those more authentic places? In my experience growing up here I feel like people will always spot a bullshitter.
GW: Oh yeh. I’ve always…I’m from the North East…we always heard, you know, from being a kid you always hear like *laughing* “Geordies are just Glaswegians with their brains kicked in.” and we’d say the same thing about Glaswegians. So, I did identify with that certain level of realism when I came here and I’ve always come here and almost needed that. Like I plug myself back into Glasgow and get that… fucking real juice. And you’re right it doesn’t exist everywhere! You know? And people like me fucking need that shit like oxygen. I need to know that some people really are...you know being honest with themselves. Its always been a fairly pathologically honest place Glasgow, whether you wanted the fucking truth or not. You know what I mean?
Lindsay Conn: Aye!
JM: *laughs* yer getting it!”. Maybe that’s why that’s a phrase “you’re gettin’ it!”
GW: Yeh I Fuckin’ love that
JM: It’s a nice city in the sense that it can be so friendly but as you say people will tell you straight.
GW: Oh aye.
JM: If they think it’s shit, it’s shit. But It’s not necessarily in a bad way. They’re just letting you know personally it’s “no’ fur me” or “personally I think that’s magic” or “am no’ usually into that but I love what you’re doin’”. You get a lot of nice compliments ‘cause it is truth.
GW: It is. Yeh yeh. Or just bypassing the fucking bollocks so you’ve got more time to drink! You know what I mean?!
JM: And do you still drink?
GW: oh yeh. Yeh yeh. I’ll never stop drinking. I have moments where I wish I could stop or I’d like to stop but I fucking need some escape from reality. You know? And I’ve given up all me vices. I’ve given up crack and heroin and strong alcohol like absinthe stuff like that. I can’t just…The idea is…. Having to deal with this lot when you’re sober?!
LC: *whispered with a tone of harrow* fuck that
GW: If you can then good on you. If you don’t need to. I need something to fucking dull the edges every now and again. I don’t drink for breakfast anymore.
JM: a bit of water on the fire maybe? *makes steam hissing noise*
GW: Yeh! Yeh yeh. I feel things deeply and sometimes too deeply and I need a fucking ...few drinks.
JM: I think we can all relate to that.
LC: Yeh definitely. Especially when its “oh I wish I could stop” but actually a good drink is what you need.
GW: I get that a lot when I think “a year off is what I need” and within 48 hours of giving up I’m just like “what I need is a fucking drink. Not a fucking year off.” What the fucks a year off going to do?
GW: I went to New York another place where you get the truth. And I love that. And I gave up for a year and half while my misses was pregnant. When the baby was born I just kept going. I was waiting for a sign or some reason for doing it. Horrible. It’s a fucking rotten world sober. Full of people who resent being sober or didn’t really need a drink in the first place. And AA, for me, was the worse thing that fucking happened ‘cause you’re forced to get into this sort of pseudo-fucking-religious nonsense that’s all just based on buddist religion anyway, with a little bit of Christianity thrown in there and then a big fucking money pot. They’ve got rich people funding this or that and you’re like I can smell the bullshit miles off. Some people do have a problem with the drink and do need it but man if you can forge a relationship with it you should drink... some people should fucking drink. The worlds a safer place.
JM: It’s weird talking about that and being in a church.
GW: Theres a lot of weird things about being in a church. I don’t frequent these places. I did used to like going to a church on acid I used to like go into churches “this is fucking mental. This is intense as it gets. Fucking... I’m the devil in a fucking church” well the devil was an angel, wasn’t he?
JM: well yeh!
GW: It’s all bollocks isn’t it?
JM: My favourite moment was wearing a Slipknot hoody with a pentagram on the back going to church with my mum when I was about 14. With everyone sliding away waiting for the lightning bolt.
GW: I was on a train with a couple of religious people who I didn’t know, there was a woman there, but I was wearing an exorcist t-shirt, which is pretty fucking horrible, and she started crying and I was like “is she all right?”. And the guy went “yeh she’s just really upset about your T Shirt. Have you got another T shirt?” “I haven’t mate I’ve only got this one” “Can you turn it round?” and I went “yeh yeh yeh” and turned it round but I didn’t realise on the back which had become the front it said “Your mother sucks cocks in hell”
GW: the look on her face. “he is the devil”
JM: Your mother sucks cocks in hell I think is the perfect way to wrap an interview in a church up. *still laughing* Thanks so much for that that was fantastic.
GW: no thank you. I just hope there’s a bar
- Interviewer was the excellent Jim Marshall