Ginger is one of the finest songwriters and performers that this nation has ever produced as well as one of our most prolific musicians. We caught up with him to discuss the new album from Mutation, the most extreme project that he’s ever been involved in – and they definitely amp up the intensity on new album Mutation III Dark Black. We also hear all about this latest album and its creation as well as his upcoming new solo album and tour, his career highlights, watching Sepultura on acid, The Wildhearts and the appeal of country music.
The new Mutation album, III Dark Black is out now. Is this the heaviest offering from Mutation yet?
I don’t know! I depends on what your classification of heavy is you know. The first two albums had moments that put people off which I always consider to be a good thing! It all depends on what your take is on what constitutes heavy in your life but it’s certainly direct!
How did the album cone together. You worked with Scott Lee Andrews from Exit International and Jaws Of Death on this one?
Yeah, well me and Scott were going to write together and I was going through a real bad patch of depression at the time so I called the writing off but he visited me in my caravan in North Wales so we said, you’ve made the journey now, let’s go and have a drink and during the course of the evening, we were talking about, wouldn’t it be good if someone made a really honest album about mental health issues. Me and Scott shared a history of having mental health issues. It just transpired that we couldn’t think of a single album where someone had been so brutally, pathologically honest about it, even down to the sound so we just thought this is a great idea, and then we started writing the album.
Was making the album a cathartic experience?
Absolutely. There’s nothing better for somebody who’s a bit nuts to hang out with someone who’s s bit nuts so me and Scott were kind of a support group for each other and there was a lot of support for the album from the guests that we asked to take part, got back to us and did perform on the album. It was just a magic time because we knew we had a reason for this album to live and a lot of the time that’s my modus operandi, an album has to want life for me to go through the whole process of making it which is often a long, drawn out and pain in the arse process but because this want seemed to have wings, it was easy.
As you said, you’ve got quite a few guests on the album from Motörheads Phil Campbell to Givvi Flynn to Paul Catten from Medulla Nocte. Did you have these guys in mind from the start or did it fall into place when you were making the album?
How it happened is, you’d write the song and then you’d think, you know who’d be great for this song and then you ask them and touch wood, people tend to say yes! I think it’s because it’s something that’s fairly uncompromising and non commercial and it saves them having to do that with their own music sometimes, obviously committing commercial suicide in the process, we don’t have such concerns, we don’t really care! So they get to shout on our record to save gaming to do it on theirs.
You’ve also got your old pals Jon Poole and Devin Townsend on the album. It muddy have been great working with them again on something so different?
Well it’s always great to work with those guys, they’re my favourite bald people in the world! Devin was someone I always wanted to work with him on this but because he was in Canada, it was always remotely and it gave him a chance to get to know the songs and then run away with it if he had been able to come to the studio, it would have been a completely different experience and an entirely different performance so I love what Devin did because he had the comfort of doing it at home and Jons my kind of evil twin and any chance I get to hang out with Jon is a good excuse.
With Mutation, in the past you’ve also worked with great musicians like Shane Embury from Napalm Death, Merzbow and Mark E Smith. Who has been the most memorable guest you’ve had so far?
Oh Mark E Smith without a doubt! We were in the studio and he came down and made it his own. When Mark E Smith puts his stamp of authority on things, things get really fucking weird. He came down and it was just a catalogue of amazing experiences from him jamming the lyrics of the song he was singing into Paul from Hawk Eyes mouth thinking that would enhance his performance or something! He did an interview about the album after and called me a psychopath and when Mark E Smith calls you a psychopath, you’re doing something right!
Who would you love to feature on a Mutation album in the future?
It all depends on the music. It’s impossible to tell until the songs written. There’s billions of people I’d like to work with but it’s one of those time and a place things, if something sounds like it needs Mike Pattons voice on the next album, I’d love to work with Mike Patton. If something sounds like it needs vocals by Al Jourgensen, I’d love to work with Al Jourgensen. There’s many people I’d like to work with.
Will Mutation play live in support of the album?
Yes. Yes we will, it’s something that’s always scared the living bejesus out of me, the idea of playing this music live and I had no idea if we were going to be a good or a bad live band so when it came to recording the last video for a song called Hate, I decided to do it live in the rehearsal studio, just to see if we were any good. We’ve started looking at dates in the U.K. And Japan and fortunately we are very good! It was nice to find out we are a decent band and we can’t wait to take it onstage.
Will that be later this year?
Yeah it’s going to be from October onwards, onwards being how many gigs we can get around the world and there’s a fair bit of interest around the band as we’ve never played. From October until the next album, there’s going to be a fair bit of activity from the band.
I’d imagine Mutation to be a very intense band live and I’m looking forward to checking the band out. What has been the most intense gig you’ve ever seen, both sonically and in terms of atmosphere?
Oh, the most intense gig I ever saw was probably when The Wildhearts first started and Sepultura were playing the U.K for the first time I believe in support of the album Arise and we a,ways took acid, every time we went out we took acid and went to a gig or a club or whatever and Sepultura was no different, we took acid and looked at the stage and it looked like a bunch of crappy backdrops hanging all over the place, really cheaply done. Then the lights went out and it suddenly turned into a portal of hell and they were the most incredible and intense live experience ever and it was just one of those religious, out of body experiences. So much so that after the gig, we had to go and chill out in a graveyard, it was so intense!
What else are you up to musically for the rest of the year?
Well I’m going to concentrate on promoting Mutation and then at the beginning of next year, my new solo album Ghost In The Tanglewood comes out. That’s more country and folk influenced and I’m going to be promoting that next year, between that and Mutation that’s where I want to concentrate on.
Will there any more material from Hey Hello! in the future?
Not really, just because I want to give Mutation and the solo thing the best chance possible so I’m just going to concentrate on them for the time being and know that I did everything I could to get to find it a suitable home.
The Ghost In The Tanglewood album, Will that be in a similar style to the Howling Willie Cunt album you did a few years back, that style of country?
Haha, No! Nothing like that! It’s a very emotional record, there’s not a lot of emotional depth in the Howling Willie Cunt album but this one its very heart on your sleeve kind of stuff. It’s very confessional, it’s revealing and it sees me in a very vulnerable place because you can hear the words, it’s not masked by banks of guitars and volume so you’re kind of opening yourself up and I’ve very proud of the lyrics of that album and its nothing like Howling Willie Cunt!
With the country music, was it the storytelling aspect that appeals to you about it?
Yeah, it’s the fact that the men who sing country show their vulnerability in a way that you wouldn’t really think when you looked at them and you can be so self assured you can actually open yourself up and be vulnerable or declare your love for someone. It’s the kind of genre where if you’re not going to be honest, you’re probably going to get found out and that really appeals to me because I’ve always considered myself to be a lyricist as well as a songwriter. There’s not that many lyricists around, certainly not in rock music and it’s something that I’ve never really been been credited for because in the genre that The Wildhearts exist in, no one listens to the words, they just want to dance so it’s the first time I’ve really got to flex that particular creative muscle and I’m really looking forward to people hearing the lyrics for that album. They’re something I pride myself on and I’m very proud of the lyrics on this album.
What have been the most memorable moments in your career so far? I heard you played with Cheap Trick once, that must be up there!
There’s been a lot. I’ve had a very bizarre, charmed life. Yeah, Cheap Trick that was great, there was one gig with them where I was given the job of reviewing it for Kerrang! magazine and as I was in the balcony already watching an easy five out of five gig, Rick Nielsen spotted me in the balcony and went hey it’s Ginger Wildheart so I gave it ten out of five at that point! Playing Overkill onstage at Hammersmith Odeon with Motörhead, that takes some beating. There’s been a lot of charmed moments. I’m just so glad that a lot of bedroom wall actually turned into friends, unfortunately I can’t call Lemmy anymore, whose number I was able to ring if I was in tow. I’m happy to say that Lemmy was always one of the fastest people at getting back in touch, fastest people at replying. All the posters on my bedroom wall came to life in a pretty spectacular fashion. I’m glad I got to meet them all and extra glad that none of them were dickheads apart from Kiss!
What inspires you to keep on creating some much vital music this far into your career?
Just getting older really, it’s the same world you’ve been writing about for years but your perception changes with the years. That’s really what still inspires me. There’s often lots of bads and goods, I get really frustrated by human beings and how gullible they are, so that’s a source of constant inspiration although I wish it wasn’t so my disappointment at being a human being provides no end of miracle inspiration.
Which song are you must proud of writing?
I don’t know that I am really. Single songs that I think of, it’s usually for someone else. To lick the good ones and the bad ones, I’m just trying to give birth to these weird looking little babies. None of them really stand out as any others, I have to say really.
You’ve got a short sos,o tour coming up. Will you be playing songs from all eras of your career?
Yeah, with the solo stuff, cos it’s acoustic and it’s me and Jase Edwards, we have kind of a telepathy as we’ve played so much together so those shows can, and usually do, go off on a tangent and it’s so much fun to be that close in proximity and volume to the audience so I love them, I love those gigs. They really remind you why you do this.
What song did you love playing live the most, if you can chose one?
To be honest, I don’t like playing any of them live. Just thinking about it now, I hate them all until I play them and then people start singing along or you have that communication and that contact and then it’s not a song anymore, it’s a vehicle for you to communicate with people and it happens every single time. Playing with The Wildhearts, there’s some songs I could happily never, ever hear again, let alone play but we play them and the audience makes it all worthwhile so I don’t particularly enjoy playing any of them but there are a lot of them that I love the audiences reaction to.
With The Wildhearts, what were some of the highlights of being in that band over the years?
There’s wasn’t as many highlights as I would have liked, The Wildhearts was often a constant source of frustration, we got involved with a lot of people who weren’t very experienced and made a lot of bad decisions on our behalf, obviously the band all got into drugs which was a very regrettable experience. Unfortunately there’s not a lot of highlights in The Wildhearts career, sorry that a bit of a downer reply to that question!
Finally, have you got a few words for all your fans out there?
Thank you so much for keeping the faith after all these years. They’re the reason why I do this. I never, ever take them for granted and I love them all so much. Thank you for coming to the shows that you’re going to come to, I know that you are and I can’t wait to see you again.