We could record as a three-piece, as long as it's got this level of honesty, which is what we are all looking for in our music. No fucking unnecessary posturing. I can’t be arsed with posing, I’m too fucking old for it . . .
Two shows into their live career and Mutation rolled into Manchester. I spoke to Ginger Wildheart and Scott Lee Andrews about the band and the challenges that they have faced in bringing this previously studio-based project out into the live arena.
E&D: First tour for the band. Two shows in before tonight’s show in Manchester.
Ginger: Aye. Two shows ever!
E&D: I remember you posting on twitter about rehearsals being a bit difficult. Have things calmed down at all?
Ginger: You mean rehearsals? Yeah, it was a rotten time, because we were at my house with my ex missus. It was a bit of a pressure cooker of an environment, especially as everyone was staying there. Some of us are more hygienic than others; and with things difficult between me and her it just got a bit unpleasant at times. I knew it would, but I hoped we could escape it before it got too bad. We are doing this on such a small budget we all had to stay together and work through it.
E&D: So how have the shows gone so far?
Scott: Yeah, they’ve been really good considering it’s the first time that this studio project has entered the live environment and not having had that play some shows, record and album experience. It’s quite unusual to be three albums down the line and have to start turning up live, but the reaction has been great, really good. Yeah.
Ginger: The main difference between this and a lot of the projects – especially for me, I don’t know about anyone else – that I do [is] you can do other projects and take them out on the road knowing that you can fall back on a few fan favourites to keep the whole thing light. This is not that kind of thing; there are no old songs, no Wildhearts’ songs in this set, and there is no talking either. So it’s nice and uncomfortable; it’s strange for people, which is exactly what we wanted to achieve.
E&D: And you have Damnation Festival, which for you will be a totally different environment?
Ginger: Yeah, I don’t play at metal festivals so it will be weird. The Wildhearts once played at a metal festival in Germany and I think there was more people on stage than in the fucking crowd. We were never really a band that crossed over. The indie press considered us metal, but we were never a band that appealed much to the metal audience because we had a lot of tunes. We didn’t have guitar solos. Mutation haven’t got tunes, which is metal-ish; they might like that, but there is still no solos so who knows what will happen.
Scott: There’s volume, its harsh, it’s not designed to be fun in any way. We’ve never set out to be genre specific, it’s just heavy, like a force of nature. It’s not what people would traditionally call metal, but it shares a few things with it. It smashes you in the face with a brick, that’s for sure.
Ginger: It will be interesting to see how it goes down. It could go either way. I’m really looking forward to it. They could love us or they could really fucking hate us, but were prepared for both I think.
E&D: This album was done quite differently to the previous two. More of a band effort than a big ensemble piece. How was it keeping it along the same lines with that different way of working?
Ginger: There was never a plan to sound like a band. We honestly didn’t plan for it to be an album, to be honest. When we decided we were just going to try and capture the feelings that we had that made us not want to make an album, and use them to make album. I guess that gave us the cohesion that in turn made it sound like a band. Each song had a kind of style, like it was following a manifesto, but no, I can’t honestly say that there has ever been any kind of plan behind Mutation. It’s just been a very organic thing. Even the live sound, how can you do all of that as a three-piece, and I was like “I haven’t got a clue, buts let’s give it a go and see if it works”. That’s the spirit of Mutation, that kind of “well, we’ll do it anyway”, and it works. It’s just having the balls to try it.
E&D: Whenever a Mutation album has appeared, there has also been another more mellow or melodic album appearing around the same time. First it was Hey! Hello! And now Ghosts In The Tanglewood. Has that been done on purpose that you have that lighter opposite to the darker sounds of Mutation?
Ginger: No. Again it’s just one of those things that’s happened. I’ve always liked a lot of different types of music and ideas. With the Wildhearts in the early days, I was hoping to combine everything I like into one group; but I realised it doesn’t work like that. I’ve got a very eclectic taste and you can’t just lump it all together into one band, so now I’m a bit more. . . I’m not sure sensible is the right word. . . but a bit more logical about it, and I’ve made an extreme album to satisfy my more extreme tastes in music and for the fans that like more extreme music; and then I’ve worked on something more melodic for those that don’t like noise at all; and the jury’s still out on whether that will work. I just like a lot of different things, and at my age that’s what keeps me interested. I should be getting bored by now, and I’m really not.
E&D: You said you should be getting bored by now, so do you still get that kick out of it every night?
Ginger: I wouldn’t bother if I didn’t. I’m not sure that anyone could really do this if they didn’t. We are certainly not doing this tour for the money. We had intentions to make something that was brutal, and we weren’t going to be happy until it was.
Scott: The cathartic result of this is a big part of it. It wasn’t necessarily a nice album to make, mentally. That kind of reflected, as Ginger said, with the rehearsal period we had; it couldn’t have gone more method. It got pretty fucking dark and it got us back into that place again; and it might be perverse to say, but it almost put us in the right frame of mind to come out on tour and do what we’re doing here.
E&D: You have announced some shows with CJ at the end of the year, and after the year begun with the rescheduled Wildhearts’ Manchester show, 2017 will have gone full circle for you. You said in the Songs and Words show that the Wildhearts always came at a personal price, so what is it that keeps bringing you back?
Ginger: Age I guess. Being our age, being through what have been through and still being alive. I get on the phone to CJ and we start chatting, and we talk about an acoustic gig, which becomes a couple, and now it’s a full blown tour. Again it’s that organic thing where it just seems to happen around me without much planning. Those shows are selling out as well, so there is obviously an interest in it. It’s Christmas – we should do something nice at that time of year.
E&D: After the public fallout with CJ, similarly to the fallout with Danny when he left the band, I think fans are just happy to see you all back together again.
Ginger: I think the Wildhearts to some extent have got very little to do with music to be honest. I think it represents so much more for some people. It’s not the performance that gets the response, it’s the memories and the occasion, the event. They’re not waxing lyrical about chord structures and the like, it just doesn’t work like that. It reminds them of being younger and thinner, and more hair and whatever. It’s like it doesn’t really belong to us any more. We’ve been going so long now that its public property, which is why this tour is really exciting – we don’t really know if anyone is really interested in these shows, and if they do whether they are going to like it or how they will respond to it. I know how they respond to the Wildhearts; they’ll be remembering things like “this is where I and your mum met”, and that kids have now grown up and have come along with them. That’s why I’m doing this, to get out of that safety net for a little bit; the Wildhearts is a family affair – this is for the nutters in the family, the ones that no one really talks to.
E&D: You mentioned about the fan base and recently they have become almost support groups for everyone. You’ve been very public about your battles with depression, but do you now feel that people expect you to be open and that you’ve lost your privacy at all?
Ginger: They’ve really helped me; this whole community really came together and helped me so much. They’ve made friendships through the group. It’s a strange one. I hope I help them as much as they help me; there’s never been any pressure; they’re is literally nothing I would rather spend my time doing than helping anyone going through a bad time with any mental-health related issues. I know what it’s like from this side of it; just being able to do anything for anyone is such a huge fucking honour; its not a pressure at all, it’s great.
E&D: Like when the Manchester show was cancelled at the end of 2017, the Wildhearts’ Facebook group clubbed together to raise money for some fans that had lost money on flights and hotel so they could come back over for the rescheduled show. I’ve never seen anything like that?
Ginger: Its evidence that there are some good people around. For the most part, people are fucking rubbish; but there are a lot of good ones, and a lot of the good ones you will meet are because of music. A love of music introduces you to a better type of person than a love of football or cars. I could be wrong, but its certainly worked that way for me, and I don’t know how many footballers can say that people cry when they walk onto a pitch. . . unless they’re playing shite. It’s a different emotional involvement anyway.
E&D: One last thing around mental health. It has become massive news this year, particularly with the deaths of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington. Do you think it’s more prevalent, or are we just hearing more about it?
Ginger: I guess there’s more celebrities dying, and that is getting people talking about it, which is the main thing. I remember the odd one or two when I was a kid, but nowhere near the glut of people taking their own life that it seems to be now. The fact that it is not getting better must mean that it is getting worse.
Scott: There was a video of Chester put up from a couple of hours before he died, and he’s with his band and family having a fucking whale of a time, and there looks a genuine smile on his face; and within 24 hours. . . he’s gone.
Ginger: That urge to do it from getting an attack and then doing it is really quick, from my own experience and people I’ve spoken to. It’s a case of someone saying “put the kettle on, I’ll be round in ten minutes”, and by the time they get there it could be too late. It’s that thing that it’s an immediate urgency to do it because the world would be better without you. That’s a mental illness by definition, and I don’t think that changes if you are homeless or a world-famous musician. People are happy and sad, and I don’t think that that has anything to do with it. It’s a plague that kills.
E&D: I think that’s what makes that group so special, that everyone supports each other so much and days can go by without any mention of the music.
Ginger: As long as people are good to each other, that’s the main thing. There’s nothing more inspiring than that. There’s nothing more of a payback than that if they’re looking after each other when you’re not there, and your hearing about them doing nice things for each other. Well keep doing that and I’ll want to stay here. That’s what I need to see people doing, and if I’m part of a community that’s doing that, fucking hell, what an honour. Maybe when you get a little bit famous you get that further removed from your fan base so you’re not a proper community. You’re aware of a fan base, but not part of a community. Luckily that’s not the case for me. I know I’m part of a pretty special team. Just be fucking nice to each other, and it becomes an inspiration. It doesn’t seem that difficult.
E&D: Mutation has always been released via a Pledge Music campaign that’s grown massively since you first used the service with your 555% album. Do you think it still serves the same purpose as it did when you first used it?
Ginger: Nah, nowadays it just seems like an easy route to making a few quid. It’s removed a lot of the imagination that bands used to have of how to sustain yourself as independent musicians. Now everyone just goes along the Pledge route. These albums are not generating much money; they are not getting any promotion because they are spending all of the money recording them and then not going out and touring them. If anything, it’s killing some bands that it’s supposed to be serving because the bands are getting fucking lazy and can’t be arsed getting in the back of a van. We’ve been doing this a long time, and were in a van for this tour. Pledge isn’t a means to an end, Pledge is a way of keeping in touch with and involving your fans; but if you are not out there creating a fan base then you might as well go back to the drawing board and put some work in. Pledge is making a lot of people lazier, and there’s a lot of cunts out there that are steering people’s campaigns and then taking a percentage like they’re some kind of fucking guru. Its unearthed a lot of worms. If you have a fan base and you stay in touch with them, then Pledge can be an amazing thing; however, if you can’t be arsed getting the money together yourself, you can also bum it off people on there to make your £3,000 to make a record. . . or you could just get a fucking job.
E&D: Do you think its gone the same way as something like Record Store Day? It used to be a place for cool things and now its just been overrun by major labels’ artists like Black Sabbath (and many more)?
Ginger: Sabbath are doing that because its easy. Some of the worms I mentioned used to work in record labels and now they can’t be arsed doing a lot of the promotion that took time, imagination and teamwork; they just go straight to Pledge and flood the market with, not even Pledge campaigns – they are pre-orders. So they are using it as a springboard and have taken away that whole side of what it is there for. When anything becomes successful, it gets fucking corrupted because as soon as you can make any money from it, these fucking cunts come in for a sniff and try and take it over. Soon enough it will be full of things like Black Sabbath and Robbie Williams, where it used to be a springboard for mid-sized bands. Even the whole relationship with Pledge has changed. We used to get people who were almost part of your team, tied to your campaign. Now they are juggling any number of campaigns at a time. All I see when I go on there now is tons and tons and tons of shit that just looks boring. No one looks like they are putting any effort in; there’s no intelligence, no imagination or video updates, just a bunch of “give me some money” and “give me some more money, I’ve got a fucking coat you can buy, and you can have an executive producer credit on the album for doing fuck all, just give me some money” statuses. Fuck Off! But then again, if your fans are falling for that shit, and they are that easily parted from their cash, then maybe they should be. Keep some wanker in a fucking castle.
E&D: What plans do you have for 2018. Will we see more from Mutation?
Scott: I hope so
Ginger: Much more. I don’t even know what you do with a band like this. I do know that two gigs in, people seem to be liking it, “touch wood”. People seem to be enjoying it. I’d like to think that loads could open up for a band like this.
E&D: And other projects?
Scott: We will always be busy doing something. That’s why this project is so handy. The stuff I do is not as heavy as this, so I kind of really needed to do this, very much like Ginger. The other stuff is more poppy and its good to run the gamut of my musical tastes. It doesn’t mean I’m jumping on a bandwagon, it’s just a very authentic piece of art that we are trying to create. Hopefully that authenticity will show. We’ve both come at it from the same angle; we both wanted to do something massively destructive, especially with the new album and it being the first time we have played live. It does change the dynamic of the two of us doing demos together. You could have the three of us in a room writing together instead of an album we have to pick apart to play live.
Ginger: Yeah, we could record as a three-piece, as long as it’s got this level of honesty, which is what we are all looking for in our music. No fucking unnecessary posturing. I can’t be arsed with posing, I’m too fucking old for it; but I do love a pathological honesty in all things in art, be it movies, music, books, paintings. Whatever I do next year will just follow that logic really. I think Scott’s the same. Honesty or death.
E&D: Could you see yourself doing a Mutation all-star show like you do with your birthday bash, with all of the different musicians that have guested on the albums?
Ginger: No. Mutation is something I have to get my head around to do it; and as a live anything, even if we just turned up for a DJ set, it would have to be just the three of us. I wouldn’t even want a single guest ever getting on stage with us. We haven’t really talked about this, but for me, its very much a three-piece. We don’t need anyone else up there anyway if sound check is anything to go by. There’s not any fucking room for anyone else either, and how are we going to feed them?!
Scott: The thing is, I’ve envisaged Mutation live as a like a Nine Inch Nails set-up with keyboards, samplers, a couple of guitars creating that size of noise, and then it was like “fuck it, lets do it as a three-piece”. Then just try and unravel that. Try and sound that size with half the amount of people is quite an interesting experience and experiment. I think it shows that when you see three people making that amount of noise, it’s effective in its own unique way.
Ginger: Without trying to sound like I’m showing off, it is fairly impressive. I used to love seeing Motörhead and thinking “that’s an awful lot of fucking noise for just three people”, an awful lot of space being filled by it; and it’s that spirit we are trying to embrace and take forward. And you know what? We are doing a pretty decent job of it so far. We definitely don’t need anyone else cluttering up the place, making it all look messy.