By Tamsin Mathias
Last night, I had the pleasure of having a chat with CJ Wildheart to talk about all things Wildhearts, and chat about CJ’s solo albums, favourite bands and hot sauce!
It’s not long now before the new album drops, and Dislocated is such a huge track and Ginger’s voice sounds amazing. The riffs are so huge and the chorus is extremely melodic and it’s quite frankly, up there with some of the best things the Wildhearts have produced.
I asked CJ what were their influences as a band and have they changed over the years, or have they always been influenced by the same people?
CJ said: “Ginger and I started this band a long time ago in 1989, so that’s like, 30 years ago, but Ginger and I are both massively into pop music, massively into punk and riffs, so we wanted to have a band that had everything in it, so like punk riffs, rock and roll, bit of metal, lots of pop, and it’s always been our mantra to kind of like, put it all in there, and we’ve always stuck to our guns.
“I think on this new album we’ve brought out more of the punk and we’ve stripped everything down, and there’s not layers and layers of vocals or layers of guitars and it’s all kind of like a live-ish sound. Yeah, angry music for disillusioned old people.”
I also asked CJ if there were any new bands that have popped up recently that have caught his eye, that he’d maybe like to share a bill with.
CJ laughed, and said: “You’re talking to the wrong person! You’ll have to talk to Ricthie and Ginge. I’m not that impressed by musicians, but I love a lot of music. I’ll play with any band as long as they’re good and they’ve got good songs, I don’t care who they are.”
Interested to know more, I asked CJ what his favourite band would be to play with if he could choose one. He said: “Well, back in the day I would have loved to have played with bands like Fish Bone or Bad Brains, very early Metallica,” pausing for a laugh, he said: “when Cliff Burton was in the band when they were good! And, early Sepultura.
“I mean, I love a lot of hip hop as well, but I’m not in the right band to be playing that kind of thing!
“But when it comes to music, me personally, I’ll listen to anything and everything. I’ve never been a snob when it comes to music.
“Ginge loves country and western and it’s never really spoken to me as much as it does with the rest of the boys in the band, but I guess they’re cowboys and I’m an Indian, so what do you expect?”
Danny has been back in the band for a while, and we know that CJ and Ginger have had some complications with their relationship over the years.
I asked CJ, what is it like to be back in the band with them both, and what does he think they’ve have learned over the years?
“It’s great having Danny back in the band,” he said “I mean he was in the wilderness for a long time, and I’d be lying if I said we weren’t nervous about bringing him back, but we brought him back last year and we did the Brit Rock tour which went really well.
“It went better than any of us thought it was going to go and that kind of cemented it for us and thought we really should do an album, and people seemed to really like this lineup.
“I mean, Danny does have a very distinctive bass sound and he does bring an extra aggressive edge to our sound. And, we still have something to shout about – we’re not a band that are going to turn into hippies and get mellow, start singing about loving whales and hugging trees, but with the current climate and all the shit going on in the world, it’s perfect for a band like us because we like screaming and shouting.
“As far as learning is concerned, I think we’ve learned nothing over the year,” CJ laughed. “I mean, we were fuck ups and we had the world at our feet and we destroyed it with drugs and generally being rock and roll muppets, but we kind of learned from that. We appreciate that we can still go out there and do it, and there’s enough people who give a shit about the band, so there’s worse things we could be doing and there’s worse jobs we could be doing as well.”
I saw the Wildhearts at the Brit Rock tour with Reef and Terrovision in Bristol last year and I know just how well it was received by fans.
CJ said: “It was good! I’ll be honest, I didn’t know anything about Reef, I knew one song. Terrovision I’ve known for years and they’re friends of mine, and the Reef guys are really nice guys. The bass player Jack said we’ve met a few times but I cant remember! It was back in the day when I was a bit hyperactive.”
Speaking of the Wildhearts and how the friendships have been up and down, I asked CJ if he feels that redemption is something that everyone can achieve?
He said: “I just put it down to growing up basically. The thing is with a band like the Wildhearts, we were all really strong characters and we still are, and when you fuel those egos – because all people who want to get up on stage, whether you’re a model, a musician, artist – whatever, if you want to get up on stage you’ve got to have an ego, especially if you want people to pay money to watch you on stage.”
With a chuckle, he said: “There has to be something wrong with you to think that you are so much better than all the other people that someone’s gonna pay money!”
He continued: “Add to that, we were young and with our lifestyle, it was going to cause massive fall outs, and me and Ginger have fallen out routinely over the last 30 years, but it’s part of our relationship and it adds to the chemistry with the sound. If we got on with each other like the Osmonds or something then … we’d sound like the Osmonds wouldn’t we? I mean Crazy Horses is a good song don’t get me wrong but Long Haired Lover From Liverpool is just a bit .. yeah .. it’s not really our sound is it?
“But yeah, I think it’s just growing up. Once you grow up you learn about each other’s personalities, you learn when friction is building and you do something about it, and you do it in a sensible way and hopefully, I think we’ve all kind of grown up. But as far as redemption goes, nah – we don’t need to be redeemed. Haha!”
I’m a massive fan of CJ’s solo albums, such as Mabel, Robot (the review of which you can read here), and more recently Blood, which was released in 2017. All three are amazing albums. So, what I wanted to know, is if there are any more solo albums coming our way in the near future.
CJ said: “I really really wanted to get an album out this year, but with how big the Wildhearts are and all my commitments outside of music, I just don’t have the time to do a solo album this year, but it’s inside me, and as soon as I have the time there’s definitely a few solo albums on the horizon. I won’t stop doing that.
“I wasn’t expecting the Wildhearts to even do an album and get so busy! The good thing about the Wildhearts is when everyting kicks into gear it’s our main band and the Wildhearts have to take presidence over everything else and it’s great. I’m not complaining!”
I come from a county in west Wales called Pembrokeshire, and there are a heck of a lot of Wildhearts fans in my neck of the woods. I know there are a few Honeycrack fans out there in particular, so I wondered if CJ thought a Honeycrack reunion would ever be a possibility, or maybe even the Jelly’s?
Rather certainly, CJ said quite frankly, no. He said: “I think that boat sailed a long time ago. Willie is off with Jon Poole in Dr. Hook – they’re session musicians doing that. But it’s kinda nice because Willie has been in the Wildhearts, and so has Jon Poole.
“We could have done a reunion maybe ten or fifteen years ago, but all members of that band are off busy doing their own thing, and we only made one album, so as much as I love that album, I don’t think we were around that long enough to really warrant anyone giving a shit about us.
“I love the album, it’s a great album, but we were only around for a couple years.”
And the Jelly’s?
“No,” he said with a laugh. “That could have happened this year, because I think it was the 20th anniversary of the first album [Welcome To Our World] and we could have done something, but the Wildhearts got busy again and my free time is so limited that I don’t want to be making music all the time and doing gigs all the time.
“One of the things about getting older is you realise there’s so much more to life than just playing music and touring, and I love being in a band but I love my son as well and my girlfriend, and I love hanging out with my family. It’s all these things I can appreciate in my life and it’s nice to be able to do it all rather than just concentrate on one thing.”
Being a parent, I knew the answer already, but I still wanted to ask. I asked CJ, did he find becoming a dad changed him?
CJ said: “Yeah, massively. It was the most momentous occasion of my life. I became a dad when I was 46 so I believe it’s quite late to become a dad, and for me it was just saving the best till last. My son is everything. There’s nothing on this earth that can compare to him. Not even the burning down of some old cathedral!
“I don’t give a shit about it. I’m really sorry for an old building but that’s all it is and nobody died, and that’s all that matters to me. And I wish all these billions of euros could help out the homeless or animals.
“I just don’t get the outpouring of grief over a cathedral burning down, and there’s so many more things that people should be heartbroken about. Buildings can be rebuilt, and nobody was killed or injured and that’s all that matters, but people are talking about it like a dead grandma or a mother or a child or something and it does my head in.
“They want a spire, well I’ll design them a spire. It’ll be a big middle finger sticking up in the sky.”
Once I’d got the giggling out of the way, we got back to the Wildhearts. I asked CJ, is there anything he hasn’t done that he wants to do?
“Become successful – that would be amazing. We’re like the best kept secret as far as rock bands are concerned, and it’s amazing how many people haven’t heard about us.
“We’re always tipped to do really well but somehow we manage to ruin it! I think the perfect ending for this band would be for us to carry on for the next ten or fifteen years, release another six or seven albums, and actually get some sort of worldwide success.
“I mean, we’ve persevered for so long, and after 30 years me and Ginger are still working together and we love our new album. I think if there is someone up there that could look down on us and say hey, it’s your turn to shine, that would be absolutely amazing.”
I asked CJ, what would he class as being successful.
He paused for a moment, then said: “I’m looking at my car and thinking if it was an Aston Martin that would be nice!”
Taking more of a serious tone, he said: “I worry about paying my mortgage, I worry about paying my bills and just general living, and it’s a level of being comfortable where that stuff becomes secondary and that would be success for me.
“I’m not talking about becoming a multi millionaire or selling millions and millions of albums, I’m talking about us connecting the dots. No one really knows who we are in Australia, no one really knows who we are in Europe. Our main market is the UK and Japan.
“We could have markets all around the world, I mean South America is a big place and we’ve always wanted to go there, and people mistake die hard fans with success. We have the most die hard fans in the world I think, I mean they’re so ‘gung ho’ for the band, but one person shouting for the Wildhearts doesn’t equate to a million people buying our albums.
“Every band and musician wants to tour around the world and they wanna play infront of lots of people. Nobody starts a band and says they’d be happy just to play in front of ten people, and we’ve got a lot of dots to connect, and the fact that we’ve been around for so long and we’re still doing this, I think it’s amazing, and if we can connect all the dots I think it would be wonderful.
“We’ve got good management, but we’re way too old to spend months and months touring trying to break new territory. We can’t go off and tour on the back of a van, we’ve all got committments, and we’re just too old for that sort of tour, but we have a really good management company behind us, and they’ve opened doors for us and we’re gonna go out and go back to markets we’ve toured before but haven’t toured for a long time, and just dip our toes in those ponds and see where it goes. But this isn’t the X Factor, and we haven’t got rose-tinted spectacles on or like ‘Yeah we’re gonna take over the world, we’re gonna be like Motley Crue!’ “
So, summer is coming up, which means it’s festival season. I wanted to know if festivals were more CJ’s thing, or if he prefers a smaller crowd.
He said: “I prefer playing medium sized gigs, like 1,500-2,000 capacity gigs are my favourites for a couple of reasons. The main reason is the sound is always good and the equipment is always good, and the second reason is we normally have a tour bus with a hotel and we have showers! I mean it’s great being a punk rocker and that, but I don’t think it’s posh wanting a shower after you’ve been sweating on stage for an hour and a half.
“Festivals, I don’t go to them anymore, I can take it or leave it. They’re a lot more ‘gung ho’ festivals, because you kind of just turn up and play and then we kinda fuck off. They’re a bit impersonal.”
I asked CJ what his favourite UK venue would be, and where he likes playing outside of the UK.
CJ said: “The Forum in London, definitely. It used to be called the Town and Country Club back in the day and London’s always been the nearest I’ve got to a home city. It’s the longest I’ve lived anywhere in my life and it’s always been my venue, and anywhere in Japan I’m happy to play!
“I like playing America as well. Unfortunately we can’t get to America at the moment, it’s off the cards.”
Intrigued, I asked CJ what is so special about Japan?
With an immediate answer, CJ said: “The food, the culture, I mean, it’s just so different to anywhere in the west, and the first time you go there it’s just so magical and eye opening and it takes your breath away. You can tour anywhere, and although the food and the terrain slightly changes, you basically know what you’re in for, but the first time I went to Japan was just a culture shock, and it stays with you. It never gets dull, it never gets boring, and the people are always lovely. You get treated so well out there.”
Lucille has always been a guitar that has intrigued me. Not only by it’s glorious shape and sound, but why it has been with CJ for such a long time.
CJ explained: “In the really early 90s we had a deal with Gibson, and I didn’t own a guitar at that point, so we’d be out doing shows or rehearsing in the studio, and Gibson used to lend me guitars.
“We did a gig in about 1990 at the Marquee Club, and they lent me Lucille, and I used it a couple of times. When we eventualy signed a record deal to Atlantic, I was given £1,000 and I went to Gibson thinking I’d get one guitar and they sold me four guitars, and they sold me a Les Paul, Lucille, a Les Paul Junior and an acoustic, and they’d never had an endorsement deal with someone who didn’t have a guitar!”
CJ is also known to be a fan of hot sauce, and for a long time has been selling his own hot sauces. I wanted to know where the idea originally came from.
He said: “That’s from my mum! My dad’s Indian and my mum’s from the Seychelles and so I always had spicy food, but my mum was always a chilli fiend, so she always used to make her own sauces because the stuff she got in the shop was never hot enough, and I just grew up with her always putting hot sauce on her food, and eventually I just started copying her and realised how much I like it, and I have hot sauce or chilli or chilli flakes on everything. I very rarely have a meal without chilli on it.”
“Cornflakes!? I don’t eat cornflakes. I’m a coco pops man.”
CJ has recently had a few new tattoos done and they all look amazing. I asked CJ about his new found love of tattoos, and if they all mean something to him.
CJ laughed, and said: “No, I get drunk and I just go into the shop and decide I want a tattoo!”
He continued, saying: “Nah, they all mean something. I had little tattoos and had my first little one when I was 16, but I’ve got heavily tattooed in the last couple of years.
“I got approached by a friend of mine who is a tattoo artist, and said do you want a tattoo and I said well I’d only get tattoos if something major happened in my life – and then my son arrived! So, I got a half sleeve done for my son, and I felt really unbalanced just having this like half sleeve on one arm. I felt like a footballer or something so I was like, I’m gonna have to do something.
“I love the whole tattooing experience, I find it really relaxing, and I’ve been slowly adding more and more tattoos as I’m going along. Most of them – about 80% of them – are directed toward my son. I became a dad at 46 and I started getting heavily tattooed at 48 so I’m really slow at catching up.”
I asked CJ if there’s anything he wishes he was asked during an interview that people NEVER ask him.
He said: “I’ve been asked every single question, but I like stupid questions, like trivial questions. A lot of artists want to get really deep, and I don’t talk about politics and very rarely talk about heavy things because everyone experiences those, but I do like trivial throwaway questions.
With that, we decided to go for a few trivial questions, and determined that CJ’s favourite colour is black; if he were to have the same meal every day for the rest of his life, it would be either curry, or a margherita or pepperoni pizza; he prefers Pepsi because Coke tastes like shit; and 7up! is better than Sprite; single malt whiskey is his favourite alcoholic beverage (which he only drinks on his birthday) and his favourite crisps are pickled onion Monster Munch, which he likes to eat on the beach with his girlfriend whilst sipping on a mini bottle of wine.
To finish off our interview, CJ and I talked about how the upcoming tour was going to be fantastic and exciting and all things wonderful.
CJ said: “For any musician, if they get fed up of playing live then they forget the whole purpose of why they became a musician, it’s the carrot isn’t it, it’s the reason why we make albums, it’s the reason why I’m talking to you. Ultimately it leads to playing shows and going on the road, and if you stop loving playing shows then you stop loving life.”
The new Wildhearts album, Renaissance Men will drop on May 3rd, and is going to be an absolute belter of an album. They’ll rock you like a boomerang.
Make sure you pre order it now by clicking here!!
Interview conducted by Tamsin Mathias