Ginger Nuts of Horror
Sometimes things just fall into place and you get to interact and interview one of your all time heroes. This is one of these occasions, thanks to Ginger Nuts writer Kit Power's powerful and amazing article:
KEEP IT UP SON, TAKE A LOOK AT WHAT YOU COULD HAVE WON, and the truly mind blowing response to it we took the cheeky chance and tagged Ginger in some tweets. Ginger true to form, being one of the coolest and friendliest musicians retweeted our posts, and kindly agreed to an interview with us. Some of you may not know this, but he is a huge horror fan.
For those of you not familiar with Ginger, he is probably best known for being the driving force behind one of Britain's greatest rock bands The Widhearts, and the unbelievably perky power pop rock bands Hey! Hello!, whose song How I Survived The Punk Wars is perhaps the most honest and helpful song about being a musician ever written.
His fan-funded triple album 555%, so named from how much it exceeded the original funding target, sent shockwaves through the music industry, earning the Classic Rock ‘Event of the Year’ award in the process. Recorded in three sessions with separate groups of musicians and comprised of 30 songs of a whole range of styles showcasing Ginger’s songwriting range. Track by track voting from 555% fans led to the creation of an abridged 12 song version, 100%, for commercial release.
‘Splattermania’ is a love song to the ‘video nasty’ era. Do you think that was a golden era of horror cinema?
It was certainly mine! From Friday 13th until the late nineties was such a magic era of horror for me. I started as a fan at school and ended up being arrested for trading gore videos internationally.
I had a sweet little set up when the paedophile squad hauled me in from a database of a major Dutch exporter. That shows how innocent the whole thing was. I urged them to see the difference between kiddie porn and ‘They Don’t Cut The Grass Anymore’ by actually watching the fucking movies. The only criminal elements in my collection were the acting and the effects.
I’d say the official golden age of Horror started with the Hammer movies of the late sixties and ran through until ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ and ‘The Last House On The Left’. That was the point where world politics started to affect the violent content of movies and splatter was born. And of course ‘The Exorcist’ was filmed slap bang in the middle of it all.
How do you think the horror movies of that era compare to today?
I think CGI has destroyed the major horror film genre but there are still great independent movies popping up now and again that use old school prosthetics and models.
I love blood n’ guts, but I have no interest in CGI effects, no matter how much gore they spill. Unless there was a massive studio cleaning job after the effects I’m not interested. It’s like a CGI cum shot, for me.
When do you watch horror?
Absolutely, whenever I get a great new movie recommended to me. I’ll sit through anything when I’m away from home. I have my spies all over the world that alert me to anything interesting, unique or simply old school gross out. You can still find great movies out there. Usually low budget films with very passionate acting and FX guys that obviously love Tom Savini and Dick Smith.
What do you get from the experience?
A great movie makes me rejoice that the genre is still alive, much like rock music. A lot of heavy music these days sounds like CGI horror to me. Shit, it IS CGI with everything tuned and tightened by Pro Tools. If I hear honest, slightly out of tune but righteous-as-fuck rock music it makes me feel like a kid again, when bands used to play with a true love and artistry for the style.
Horror is no different. I feel like the future is in the hands of experts when I see great new directors refusing to dilute quality for a new, younger, more mainstream audience.
Horror, as well as music, should be widely available with an proud 18 certificate, and leave the watered down stuff to be regurgitated out there for non- connoisseurs.
I strongly believe that horror when done correctly allows us to look at human emotions and fears at their most brutal and honest truth. Is there a specific fear or human condition that you like to see explored in horror films?
No, I just love messy effects. Nothing makes me happier in horror than seeing a slightly shit looking dummy blown to fuck, in slow motion, showering guts and blood all over the set. I can almost hear the entire crew cheering after a Tom Savini kill, y’know?
Psychologically I have no fears apart from the safety of my children and, obviously, that doesn’t interest me in movies. I’ll still watch ‘A Serbian Film’ to see what all the fuss is about, but it’s not made for me.
I still love a good ghost movie or a devil movie, but I don’t believe in either, they’re just childhood fears that still interest me like Mad magazine or Charlie Brown & Snoopy.
For me it’s all about the gore. If it doesn’t splatter then it doesn’t matter.
What’s your take on the ‘torture porn’ aesthetic (Saw, Hostel etc.) that’s become so big in recent years?
Again, I think its audience isn’t a horror audience, the same as a lot of extremely heavy music would make fans of extreme music feel insulted. Torture porn is the equivalent of trust fund kids shouting and screaming in anger. It’s like a child’s view of what horror represents. I’ve watched more of it than I might have because my missus loves that stuff, but I can trump her with a great story and an ending that stays in her mind.
For me horror, again like music, finds it’s own natural level of quality, amid the fluctuations of style or marketing, and that level always falls back to quality.
Which horror movie have you seen recently that you think deserves wider attention?
There are tons of movies I could mention, I really do watch a lot of films. The most recent one was Digging Up The Marrow (2014), directed by and starring Adam Green (director of the great ‘Hatchet’ movies). It’s a mockumentary about a strange portal in the woods that supposedly houses real life monsters. I won’t say anything else than that, other than you should watch it, you won’t be disappointed.
Another mockumetary that springs to mind is What We Do In The Shadows (2014), which is a vampire spoof. I normally hate vampire movies but I loved this.And if you haven’t already, every horror fan absolutely needs to see ‘Martyrs’ (2008).
Can you think of one you thought was over-rated/hyped?
Most of them. To be honest, most of the big mainstream horror movies are such an insult that I either don’t watch them, or watch them and hate myself for it, resulting in my ability to to forget things rendering them non existent. I couldn’t name you any shit horror films as I simply don’t remember them.
The thing that irritates me to the point of violence are shitty endings, of which there are so many. I can’t stand generic audience pleasers. Who the fuck said that a horror movie should leave you feeling good? That just ain’t in the fucking rule book.
Your love of horror movies is well documented, but do you read a lot of horror? If so, which are some of your favourite books/authors?
I can’t read fiction anymore. I don’t know what happened to me. I still haven’t read the last Irvine Welsh book and I adore his writing.
I’m obsessed with autobiographies and can’t bring myself to read anything else. Haven’t been able to for over a decade now. I hope it changes at some point, I used to love reading horror fiction.
I was breast fed on Guy N Smith and James Herbert, and later Stephen King and Shaun Hutson, but real life stories interest me more these days, even if I know very little about the writer going in.
Have you ever been approached to do movie soundtrack work? Is that something you’d be interested in doing? Seems like some of the work you did on ‘Mutation’ would be a good fit for the right movie…
I have never been approached and it’s something that I’d love to do.
I’m hoping that I get the chance at some point, but I fear that people think I’m only capable of stringing together melodic vocal parts and thrash riffs. I’ve got a reputation based on The Wildhearts and a whole host of work outside of that band that a lot of people refuse to even listen to, and that’s where I explore my more musical side.
I’m hoping to score movies one day, and if I don’t get an offer from someone else I’ll just have to make my own movies and score them instead. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve had to take large events into my own hands in order to scratch an itch.
Who are your favourite directors working in horror right now?
I just don’t have the same love for directors these days. The golden era of directors was a 70’s tradition that bled into the eighties but was destroyed by so many shit movies in the nineties. Directors kind of killed the game for new guys to build a reputation on, now that they’ve set up blockbusters as the only means of gaining traction in this business. And as the business and the budgets got bigger the goalposts got narrower, and the market, as a result, has become compromised, with only a few genres creating the kind of revenue that investors are expecting as a return.
Music and movies have gone back underground, and this is where real magic can happen, where the guidelines don’t exist. I’m hopeful that people out there want to make great art, regardless of taste or type. We’ve done it before. We just need some small time heroes to create some entertainment bombs in the dark. It’ll happen.
Has any horror movie ever grossed/freaked you out enough to make you stop watching?
Ha ha, it couldn’t.
Your current Pledge project features I believe your first book – Songs And Words. To what extent is this the Ginger Wildheart autobiography we’ve all been clamouring for for years?
It’s 100% autobiographical, but it doesn’t start when my grandparents met in a shop or some such nonsense, it starts where people actually care, at the very first record by The Wildhearts. It tells my story between 1993 to 2013 - twenty years of being a songwriter/musician - through the songs themselves.
The story doesn’t flinch from the truth, and is very painful to read at times, but I always said I’d be honest if I did anything autobiographical. I hate reading people cutting corners or trying not to offend anyone in their memoirs. It’s the fucking past. We all lived through it and survived. Why not talk about it openly and honestly?
It’s a good read and not for the faint hearted.
Any further book plans on the horizon?
Yes, but all depending on how this one is met by the readers and publishers. If this one is a success then I’ve discovered a new string to my bow and you can bet I’ll be writing more. If people say it stinks then I might reconsider my future as a writer.
It’s something I really enjoy doing, so my fingers are crossed until the jury appear.
There are more musical sides to Ginger Wildheart than you can shake a stick at, which is the purest version of Ginger?
It’s all me. The unlistenable stuff, the pop stuff, the orchestral stuff, I’m a music lover and enjoy all kinds of styles. I would say that I enjoy making music that is harder to listen to because it involves a fresh approach to the sport. Creating ugly landscapes using unfriendly frequencies and discord intrigues me as a musician. It’s more exciting than recording a pretty melody, but no less satisfying when you get it right.
I just record how I feel, and if I nail it then I’ll know.
It seems to me (with my amateur musician hat on) that the Pledge model has finally utilised the power of the internet and digital reach in favour of artists and fans. How surprised were you by the huge success of the 555% project?
I wasn’t just surprised, that definition cheapens how it affected me. It changed my life, my career plans, my relationship with my fans and the way I conduct my business. I can take risks now that I would never have been given the chance to do before. I can change my mind and decide against doing something (like a new Wildhearts album for instance) if I think it will be a lesser version of something that deserves better treatment.
I have no boss.
Actually, that’s a lie. The audience are my boss now, and they decide if I hang or live.
So far so good.
Can you ever see yourself returning to a traditional ‘major label’ approach to album recording?
Perhaps. There are benefits with working with a major label that sit at equal weight with the benefits of being independent. International promotion being a major one. If I’m doing something I can see international potential in then I would do whatever I need to do to make that happen.
So I rule nothing out. Being flexible is how you survive in this life.
If you could pick one of your songs to appear in any horror movie, which song and which movie would you pick?
Oh, I wouldn’t. I’d suggest writing some new music for a movie.
If they wanted to use a song then I’d just suggest they listen to a number of songs i think would be suitable for their film, but I wouldn’t care for any more involvement than that. Personally I’d rather movies, especially horror movies, feature original scores.
Just listen to the amazing compositions in those late 70’s/early 80’s Italian Zombie, Cannibal and gore movies. They were sublime. Incredible soundtracks. I’d be way more into providing an 20 piece orchestral piece than a fast song that fits with the rest of the songs on the sound track - which would probably be fucking shit anyway.
G.A.S.S. was hugely popular with your fanbase. Was it a success for you (however you define ‘success’)?
Success, for me, means survival. And I wanted to find out how many absolute hardcore fans I have, in order to keep the wolf from the door and move forward with confidence.
I would suggest that all musicians do the same. Take some time to find your core audience, who they are, and what they like about you. Anything to make sure that you can’t have the rug pulled from under you by the establishment.
G*A*S*S was another way of discovering what I can do within an entirely independent, and purely digital framework. It would have been beneficial if it hadn’t have paid off, but the fact that it made enough money to record all those songs, pay everyone and live well for the year was a huge bonus. It was as successful as it could possibly have been.
Any plans to repeat the project in future years?
I can’t see why. The mission was completed. It would be like scaling the castle walls a second time, only to find the princesses bedroom empty. I will always take what I’ve learned from G*A*S*S forward with me, and that is specifically what the fans liked most about it.
I have a wealth of knowledge about my audience that didn’t have before and can now streamline things to suit both them and myself. I’m in a great position now, and I’m a very lucky man.
It took a lot of hard work but I could’t have worked that hard without the audience.
And is membership for the past year still open to latecomers who want to get the songs?
That’s the beauty of digital information, membership will be open for the rest of time.
And it’ll take you that long to get through it all.
Support Ginger by joining G.A.S.S (click here) or purchase his music from the links below.
KIT POWER & JIM MCLEOD