FOREWORD: I took my eleven-year-old son, Johnny, to see demonic English rockers, the Wildhearts, at Philadelphia’s South Street club, Theatre Of Living Arts, in February ‘04. They were opening for grateful nouveau rich proteges The Darkness. Though my son kept me from enjoying a guaranteed night of post-show debauchery, I still had a helluva good night throwing back Heinekens at the densely populated stage left area. Over the phone during our interview weeks before, Ginger giddily warned the public, “We’re gonna stick to your shoes like dogshit.” A self-titled ’07 album followed. This article originally appeared in Aquarian Weekly.
Passionately encapsulating the lethal rogue excess of over-the-top arena rock and flashy glam-metal, protean English wunderkinds, the Wildhearts, hope to finally gain major stateside approval with their ruffled ‘70s-bound shuffles. Tempestuous mainstay Ginger (a.ka. David Walls) originally formed the Wildhearts when former band the Quireboys kicked him out for unruly behavior. Instantly, ‘93s long-play debut, Earth Versus the Wildhearts, took Europe by storm, profoundly influencing forthcoming riff heavy Brit-rockers Dogs D’Amour, Yo-Yos, Senseless Things, and Sugarplum Fairies.
Critics labeled the riff heavy combo’s filth and fury ‘bazooka metal,’ declaring ‘Metallica Meets the Beatles’ in one headline. Though the Wildhearts and their worthy successors never found American fame, ten years hence platinum upstarts the Darkness have made tousled long-haired glamorous rock fashion accessible again, convincing Ginger to re-form his virile outfit “for the millionth time” to open well-received US tours.
“We just rip off our favorite bands from Cheap Trick to Metallica. It’s all good big guitar riffs and choruses and nice melodies. A fine mix of piss and vinegar,” blurts Ginger.
Shacking up with former Fluffy drummer Angie Adams (guitarist in new-sprung Darling), Ginger sired two children recently. Though less reckless and more sober, he remains tenacious, bringing the noise both on-stage and in the studio.
Quelling numerous changes and surviving a mid-‘90s descent into drug hell, the classic Wildhearts lineup (ex-Tattooed Love Boy guitarist CJ Jagdhar, bassist Danny Mc Cormack, and drummer Andrew Stidolph) has thankfully resurfaced for ‘04s celebratory The Wildhearts Must Be Destroyed. Resonating with good time bohemia best epitomized by the cocksure encore “Top Of The World” and the toxic hardcore scramble “Get Your Groove On,” Destroyed tears through major cities like the leathered barbarian bikers depicted on its brilliant apocalyptic cover. Therapy screamer Andy Cairns and the Darkness’ Justin Hawkins (who’d befriended Ginger over time) make appealing vocal cameos.
A walk through Ginger’s spicy past uncovers the veritable madman fulfilling a party hard prophecy Andrew WK would appreciate. Earth’s cunningly expletive follow-up, PHUQ, which Ginger describes as “a cacophony of sonic mayhem” and “the noisiest album you’ll ever hear,” kept the momentum going.
Next, Endless, Nameless earned Ginger’s acute disclaimer “don’t play in the dark ‘cause it’s quite scary.” ‘98s b-sides and unreleased tracks compilation Landmines & Pantomimes pre-dates the recent fantastic Gearhead scrap heap Riff After Riff while the fanclub-only Fishing For Luckies collects long experimental tunes.
Released only in Japan as a semi-solo set, the one-off Silver Ginger 5’s Black Leather Mojo gathers a great batch of gritty originals and offers spirited interplay and solid production. The tossed-off medley “Cheers” (from Gut Records obscurities compendium, Coupled With), which encrusts jazz musician Bob James’ Taxi theme with the uplifting jingle “When Everybody Knows Your Name,” may be the Wildhearts most exuberant pop exultation.
After many road bumps, you’ve reassembled the classic Wildhearts lineup.
GINGER: We’re all good boys now, and professional. We used to put cocaine on the corn flakes in the morning. It was a steadier diet of crack and heroin and, of course, ecstasy. It got too expensive. When being drunk occupies more daily hours than being sober, then you’ve spent a whole part of your life pissed.
Did your parents offer any formative influences?
GINGER: My parents were into Tom Jones, “Gentleman” Jim Reeves, and Shirley Bassey. But the generation gap was wider then. Kids are brought up now on parents Sex Pistols records. But I did get into Abba and my love of melody got me into glam-rock by Sweet and Slade. That set me off for life. It was exciting music in ’73 after everyone got over the hippie movement. They were the most ugliest guys you ever saw – with lipstick – on the telly. Shit. It looked like fun. I used to absolutely fall in love with bands hook, line, and sinker, like the Starz, Cheap Trick, Angel, Sparks, and Babys, even Eddie Van Halen, who’s really pop.
Destroyed’s sparkly glitter anthem “So Into You” reminded me of Sweet.
GINGER: To me, it’s a mixture of homage and lip service to educate fans as to what to buy. Some bands rip us off but don’t admit it, which does nothing to further the education of rock and roll. I openly admit I’m an absolute plagiarist, but I shop at all the best stores. I’ve got really good roots I’m not afraid to expose in public.
You mention Elvis on three of the first four Destroyed tracks.
GINGER: Elvis managed to waggle his way in so it all falls into some weird synchronicity. I came from the generation that watched his movies Saturday afternoon. He was hardly a rock star to me then. Elvis was going down while Muhammed Ali was moving up when I was a kid. I liked the big white suits and Vegas shorts. Everyone says you’re either a Beatles or Elvis fan.
I thought that was Beatles or Stones fan.
GINGER: Right. But the Beatles were only around for a short time – the period it takes Def Leppard to record an EP. Yet they did all that work. But the durability of the Stones, who were most likely to die before age 21, is remarkable. They stayed through thick and thin. I didn’t know John Lennon was so into heroin. I’m reading the Stones book, Off The Record. They were scoring for Lennon all the time. I was thinking, ‘Lennon was a smack head!’ He’s singing ‘I’m so tired/ my mind is on the blink,’ you think, ‘fuckin’ hell, he’s a junkie.’ Yet you still get a wholesome image of the Beatles.
At least they weren’t dreaded insecure “Nexus Icon’s.”
GINGER: That’s about people that love themselves as much as they think the audience does without realizing the audience have bills and work on their minds instead of idols. Even Ali and Elvis had weird mother fixations. They crave attention due to psychological childhood problems and probably had bad parents. Shit! I sound like Korn. We’ve got the benefit of hindsight watching ‘70s rock stars die in hotels sad and lonely on heroin or turned into a big fat version of themselves losing their wives and cars. It’s silly prancing around in a video charging a fortune for tickets while claiming you’re not a rock star.
For the grungy anthemic declaration, “Vanilla Radio,” you snub your nose at the formulaic fodder increasingly assaulting conservative mainstream airwaves.
GINGER: Bland beige crap radio forces the public to want it. It’s obvious the record buying majority allow rubbish to proliferate. I was a Jason & the Scorchers fan in the ‘80s, but couldn’t find their records. Meanwhile, Milli Vanilli was on every store’s racks. If the public wants mincing miming boys, they’re gonna take you right to hell.
In ’02, you recorded the rootsy “One Less Heartache” for Jason’s solo disc.
GINGER: He’s one of the most influential and lovely men in the business. There’s a lot of dickheads. When you meet someone like Jason, you’re like, ‘Fill my tank with goodness. Give me some fuel to get through this barrage of assholes.’
Why was your current Top 20 Brit hit, “Stormy In The North, Karma In The South,” only made available on Gearhead’s Riff After Riff comp?
GINGER: On Must Be Destroyed, I wanted to concentrate choruses to get a big anthemic vibe and “Stormy” didn’t have that. Plus, I wanted a 30-minute album, which takes balls in an industry of testosterone-fueled kids complaining how mom and dad hit them. So “Stormy” didn’t fit the theme. But I shouldn’t have been so possessive and put it in anyway.
But the sentimental monogamy ode, “One Love, One Life, One Girl,” goes against that thought.
GINGER: We thought, ‘Oh fuck, sounds like the Police! Could we get away with it?’ Yeah, if we admit it sounds like the Police. And it’s got that early U2/ REM vibe which is cool as fuck. It was just us bearing our sappy pop souls. There’s something deliciously hideous about pissed off blokes singing nice pop songs because pissy rap-metal Linkin Park songs are from the most well groomed, well grounded, happy band you’ll ever meet. They scream like their house is on fire and we’re four pissed off Northern guys singing ‘bout sticking with your girlfriend. There’s irony there that tears the fuck out of me.