It’s been a riotous three decades for The Wildhearts. Line-up changes, reunions, hits and misses have all been sound tracked by some of the most exciting music to have fuelled a deeply passionate fan base. Reconvening their classic line-up for the first time on record since 1995 for this year’s ‘Renaissance Men’, Ginger, CJ, Danny and Ritch are back at their very best. We caught up with the lads at Ramblin’ Man Fair festival to talk ancient history, and present future. In love with the rock and roll world; Eamon O’Neill.
Hi Guys, how are you guys?
Danny: Top of the pops! Brilliant!
You’re here at Ramblin’ Man Fair; are you looking forward to playing today?
Ginger: Always. I did it before [in 2016] with a solo band I put together for one tour, and it was good. I don’t know what we did, but I think we did one Wildhearts song in the whole set or something. I don’t know what the audience were expecting, but they looked at us like we were trying to palm some music from Mars onto them. Because we were just playing solo stuff they hadn’t heard, the reception wasn’t great. I’m sure it’ll be better for The Wildhearts because we’ve got more of a name, but that stands to be seen!
The Wildhearts are one of those bands that have an incredibly loyal fan base; what does that support mean to you?
G: It means everything.
CJ: Our fans are the reason why we’ve kept going. We had an album out [‘Renaissance Men’] about two months ago, and it charted by fan power, not hype and big adverts.
Going right back to the beginning, and it’s thirty years since the band got together, isn’t it?
G: I don’t know! If someone tells me that, I believe them, because I believe everything that anyone tells me.
CJ: I think it’s a bit longer. Ginger was in the Throbs, then it was just me and Ginge and Stidi for a bit. We didn’t have a bass player.
G: We had Turkey Neck John who stood in on bass who played for The Strawbs.
CJ: He used to play with David Essex as well.
G: Is that right? He was doing it with us for a bit while we found a singer. Then we auditioned singers for about a year and a half and never found a singer, and in the end me and CJ were so sick of doing these three songs that we had on a demo that we said to ourselves; “Let’s go and do three more songs so we’ve got something fresh to audition people with”. And then there was the argument about who’s going to sing on it; “Well YOU sing, you’re the better looking than me!”, and then; “Well I’m not singing on it, YOU sing on it, you’re more well-known”. Anyway, between us we agreed to just sing in harmony.
To fill the sound out?
G: No, that was only to get a singer! And then we got signed on the strength of this demo that wasn’t supposed to be.
CJ: It was just pure luck, really.
One of the band’s earliest TV appearances was when you appeared on the James Whale Radio Show on ITV, billed as The Wild Hearts.
G: Was that the TV show that we played the intro and smashed all the gear up? We went down and did the sound check thing and it sounded terrible. “All right guys, we’re going to be on telly, we’ve got two choices; we can play a song and sound awful, or we can just play the intro and smash all our gear up!” And we started to smash all our gear up and they just cut straight to adverts, and then they came back and they went; “Oh, powerful stuff; The Wild Hearts!”
The first EP followed soon after, and press championed the band as the leaders of something they were calling ‘Britrock’.
G: [*Makes spitting sound] Does someone else want to mention anything?
R: I wasn’t there then!
G: There was no such thing as Britrock. There was a bunch of bands, and we were the best of the lot. That’s how we did well. We were the best bands, and a few people in magazines sported us, a few people didn’t, but we did it, we made our success on ground level. We played the pubs that we were allowed to play and we thought; “We’ll just rise above pub level, fill up the pubs, and then we can go to the next level”, and everything was done kind of, almost with military precision; we just wanted to sell out the level that we were on and then rise to the next level, and that was all down to the fans.
It was down to the killer songs too though, wasn’t it?
G: And the passion between the band too. I’ve been in a lot of bands that have catchy songs because I’m writing them, and they don’t always strike a chord with people. And it’s nothing to do with the players; there’s some great players that I’ve played with, but there’s something about the sound that The Wildhearts make that strikes a chord with people. Even now, when we play in front of first time audiences, a lot of the times they’re going; “Look, it’s a Northy; where have this lot been all of my life!” The answer’s usually; “Well, you weren’t born!”
The band have never been short on songs, as was quite clearly displayed when you readied two albums at once; ‘P.H.U.Q’ and ‘Fishing for Luckies’, in 1995.
D: It was supposed to be one double album, and the record company just weren’t having it. They gave us the rights to ‘Fishing for Luckies’ and we sold it through the fan club, and it got good reviews, so they had to buy it back off us. They paid for the studio time, gave us it for nothing, and then they had to buy it back. They smelt money.
R: A lot of the songs were too long, and it was too uncommercial [to the record company] so they were like; “Oh we’re not sure how we’re going to market it” and everything. And then of course, we put it out ourselves through the fan club and it got amazing reviews, and they were just like; “Oh shit, we fucked up here!”
G: “If the magazines say it’s good, it must be good” – because they couldn’t tell themselves.
CJ, you and the band parted ways around that period, but does it amaze you that you are all together again, all these years later?
CJ: This is the line-up people love. They all say it’s like the classic line-up, and I think the fact that we’re all sat here together talking to you, says it a lot really.
There band have been through a great number of line-up changes over the years.
CJ: Even to get to this line-up in the early days we went through a lot. We had a couple of bass players, we had maybe one, two, three drummers, we had two singers, so even to get to this stage there were people coming in and out of this band. But we seemed to settle when the four of us were in the band.
G: I think it’s like anything in your life as well; you can see things clear enough from a distance, you know? And when we had this line-up, this was the line-up we should have just kept. And then drugs came in, CJ and me were fighting, and then we got Jef [Streatfield, 1995 - 1999] in. Jef was always a little bit too clean for this band. He was a good enough player and everything, but we had to kind of style him and say; “Get rid of the long hair”! He’d been to Wildheart camp, and that’s why he didn’t last very much longer after that. It’s not for everyone, this band!
Danny, you stepped out to sing one of your tracks ‘Anthem’, which was the lead single from next album ‘Endless Nameless’.
D: I thought it was going to be a b side, but it turned out really well, and then it was the single. I’m the bass player standing on the left, and then all of a sudden, I’m in the middle feeling daft on Top of the Pops thinking; “What the fuck am I doing?!”
What does it mean for you to be back in the band Danny, after your well-publicised personal problems?
D: Ah I fucking love it. It’s brilliant, yeah. I’m remembering all the gigs now because I’m sober. It’s much better. I’m really appreciating it. I’ve had a lot of complements about the sound, and my playing as well.
R: It’s nice to have been able to do the new album as this line-up, and capture it, because like you were saying, there’s been so many changes, and it’s nice to actually have something to show after so long. And it’s sounding like the band from the best period.
So what’s happening going forward for The Wildhearts?
CJ: We’re venturing into other countries again. I mean, there’s life in this album, and we think that this album will be a good gateway into other markets. We’re not going to like, take over America or anything like that.
G: We might do!
CJ: Well, right now, we’re just thinking of Europe.
G: Wherever Ginger’s allowed to go to!
Finally, you’ve a Bloodstock appearance lined up shortly; what can we expect from that?
CJ: Yeah, we got it, it’s great. We killed the band that were supposed to be playing. I’ve looked at some of the bands on it, and we don’t need to tailor our set. We’re heavy enough straight away. The thing is, it’s rock music; it doesn’t matter if it’s punk, metal, whatever; it’s about passion isn’t it? That projects off the stage, and we’re not going to start doing double bass drums everywhere, and wearing spikes and spitting blood, and burning a church or whatever.
G: Yeah, you can’t burn them now, they make them of stone. It’s only the old ones you could burn.
CJ: I’m going to sacrifice a goat on stage and make everyone a curry afterwards.
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The Wildhearts 'Renassiance Men Part II' tour heads out across the UK in October. For tickets, click here.
The Wildhearts 2019 Dates:
Sat 5th October – Brighton Concorde 2
Mon 7th October – Chester Live Rooms
Tue 8th October – Hull Welly
Thu 10th October – Holmfirth Picturedrome
Tue 15th October – Cambridge Junction
Wed 16th October – Bath Komedia
Thu 17th October – Southampton Engine Rooms
Mon 21st October – Wolverhampton KK’s Steel Mill