The Wildhearts are getting ready to release Renaissance Men on 3rd May, their first full-length studio album in 10 years.
To coincide with the release of Renaissance Men the Wildhearts’ classic line up of Ginger, CJ, Ritchie and Danny, are to play an 8 date UK tour. This intimate tour will start in Manchester at the Academy 2 on Friday 3rd May and concludes at the Riverside in Newcastle on Sunday 12th May.
National Rock Review recently caught up with CJ Wildheart ahead of the album release to get the low down on Renaissance Men, the band’s forthcoming tour as well as The Wildhearts plans for the rest of 2019.
The Wildhearts have got a new album coming out, which is titled Renaissance Men. It’s going to be released on the 3rd of May and it’s going to be the first full-length Wildhearts studio album in 10 years. I just wondered could you tell us a little bit about what the starting point for the album was musically. Did you have a particular sound or theme in mind for the release?
I mean, it’s 10 years since we’ve made an album and there have been points over the last decade, where we’ve come almost to the point where we were saying yeah, we’re going to do this. But, there’s always something happens and we’re not the most like drama free of bands, you know, we’ve always been quite a volatile group.
I mean we did that Brit Rock tour last year with Reef and Terrorvision and it was kind of the first time Danny’s been back in the band since around about 2005 I think. And we didn’t know what it was going be like, how we were going to go down – you just can’t tell. It went so well that, that’s when the seed was kind of planted that maybe we should make an album.
Just slowly over the course of last year, we were just writing – Ginger was turning up with acoustic demos and you know, we would go in the rehearsal studio and knocking out songs. When we had 10 songs we thought right, let’s demo them up, and see how they sound and we’ll take it from there. And you know, now we’ve got an album coming out. So yeah, it’s all good.
So this record, it’s got a very classic Wildhearts sound to it, but with a little bit of a modern twist. Was that intentionally the direction you were going for with this album?
This album, it’s kind of stripped down, we haven’t layered any of the guitars. Nothing’s double-tracked, no vocals are double tracked. So we kind of went with the approach of when we first started out as a band and you know, when they were recorded, everything was kind of done on the cheap and we didn’t have the luxury of time to spend ages recording and stuff. So you kind of had to be kind of well-rehearsed and know what you’re doing.
As I said, we did demos before we went in and recorded this album. And the actual recording of the album was really quick, it was less than a couple of weeks. We went in there with a real sort of punk rock sort of ethic, we didn’t want to like swamp it with layers of vocals and you know, layers of guitars and overproducing. It’s definitely got a punk edge and it was still like, you know, angry old men. There’s a passion I think with this band and it doesn’t come from being ridiculously successful and living in mansions and driving a Ferrari. We’ve still got a bit of anger and punk in us and it shows on this album.
Obviously, the band it’s undergone many line-up changes over the years. And now you’ve got that kind of classic line of back again with Danny and everything, you know, how does it feel to have everyone back together again? Does the chemistry still feel as good as it did back in the day?
Yeah, it’s good. I mean back in the day, we weren’t well, we were all really sick puppies, you know, there was a lot of drugs and a lot of alcohol and a lot of infighting. I mean we were a dysfunctional band, but that added to the sound, you know, there was a kind of chaos in our sound. We’re quite structured as a band and we have worked out riffs and most harmonies, there’s still an element of chaos to this band.
But it’s nice when the four of us are back together and there isn’t that, you know, we’re all fucked up, you know, not fucking up as well and no there’s an album coming out. But you can never predict anything with The Wildhearts, at the moment everything is really, really good and I’ve got a wooden table here and I’m touching it like a maniac. No, you know, it’s good. And there is a chemistry between myself, Ginge, Danny and Rich. The four of us make this unique sound, which is good, it feels good.
Like we said, this album, it’s The Wildhearts first in 10 years. I just wondered, how long have these songs on the record been around, have they been kind of accumulated over that period or where they all sort of written specifically for the new album?
I don’t know, you would have to ask Ginge. But I mean, I gather from working with him and talking with him, that these songs hadn’t been lying around. And I mean, if they had been, with the amount of stuff he puts out they would have been put out on albums years ago. No, I think, this album was crafted last year and it wasn’t that we have been writing this for 10 years now.
Do you have a favourite song on the record? And if so, which song and why?
It changes, but at the moment, my favourite song is “Diagnosis”. And the reason why I mean it’s got a real kind of AC/DC vibe to it. But it was a hard song to finish because it was quite a linear song, but you know, it needed something just to kind of – it needed a big kick up the ass and then it got that. I don’t know there’s kind of like a quiet power about it and I really like it. And it just sounds like one of those songs you could open a set with. It just rocks with massive capital letters and huge lights. It reminds me of being an 11-year-old kid, you know, discovering AC/DC and all those great rock bands back then
You are going out on tour soon and you’re going to be back in Newcastle on the 12th of May. What can your fans expect from the show this time around? Are you going to go with a big bang with the new album or are you going to introduce the new material gently. What’s the approach?
Yeah, I mean we’ve got so much stuff out there and there’s basically just going to be a bit of everything in the set. I think it’s best for us to cover all the bases. We’re never going to please everybody, but you know, we did a set last year, which was heavy on Earth vs. and a lot of the earlier stuff. And you know, for ourselves as well, we need to bring in new songs and its great. We’ve got a new album out, and we’ve got hundreds of songs we haven’t played with this line-up. So yeah, it’s going to be a bit of everything. So it’s going to be exciting and we’re not going to play Earth vs., from start to finish. There’s nothing to worry about.
Have you had the opportunity to play any of the new tracks live yet, and if so what’s the response been like?
Yeah, we have. Me and Ginge we were doing some acoustic gigs last year and we tried a couple of the new songs acoustically live and they went down a storm. And we just did a handful of shows last month, we did three nights, sort of little mini-festival type shows and a warm up in Exeter and we stuck in “Dislocated” in the set and it worked really well, much to our surprise. You never know with brand new stuff you’ve never played live. I mean, because we’ve paid a lot of songs live as The Wildhearts so you kind of know what doesn’t or does work, but when it’s brand new stuff we’ve never ever played live let alone released, you never know.
Of the classic material which tracks in the set do you look forward to performing the most?
“Everlone”, I love “Everlone”. And “I Want To Go Where The People Go”. Yeah, definitely.
Last year, like you just mentioned you revisited Earth vs. to sort of mark its 25th anniversary. How was that experience for you guys and do you still enjoy performing those tracks after all this time?
Yeah, I mean I love playing songs from that album. I mean it’s one of those albums when we do an anniversary show, it’s just amazing. Just the reaction from the fans, it’s just an event really and we haven’t had a bad Earth vs. show. It kind of makes me want to dance and to stay around for at least another 10 to 15 years so that we can do another one.
I mean, when that record came out back then, did you expect that 25 years later you’d still be doing the same stuff with The Wildhearts?
Ginger and I started the band in ’89 – so it’s like 30 years ago. If someone would have sat us both down and said in 30 years’ time you’ll still be doing this, and you’re still going to be skint and touring Earth vs. we would go like yeah, ok (laughing).
With a career spanning 30 years have you still got that same fire in your belly as you did when you got into the business?
Yeah, the fire is still alive but it doesn’t glow so bright (laughing). When you are young, people at our age don’t have that energy a young person has, and you shouldn’t. With youth, there is a power and energy you get from purely being young. And it doesn’t matter what you’re doing, you have this energy about you and this passion.
Through the fact that we’re all so smart and have grown up to be really handsome men and we know all about life. We’ve learned a lot, we’ve learned a lot from fucking up a lot and the fire still burns. I mean, anyone who saw us last year, we’re all in our early fifties, apart from Danny, but he looks like he’s in his early fifties – there’s still that passion inside us. You can’t pretend to go on stage and make that sort of a racket, you can’t pretend that – it’s just pure passion and it’s still there, but it’s just it’s a lot more mature now and it smokes pipes and drinks fine whiskey.
So obviously there’s been so many changes in the music industry since you guys first started out as you said back in ’89 and the band had to sort of adapt with those changes. I just wanted to hear your thoughts about the current state of the music industry these days for professional musicians.
I think it’s really healthy for professional musicians. Right now, if you’re good and you’ve got something about you there are so many platforms where you can be noticed, and you don’t need to go cap in hand to big corporates, you know, you don’t need to get down on your knees and suck corporate c**k.
Back in the day, there was a formula and there was a way of doing things and you couldn’t go against them and the people who seemed to go against them still had a lot of money being pumped into them. Now you know it’s like winning the lottery and now anyone can kind of get noticed.
One thing I do like about the way technology has advanced is the ability for anyone who knows how to do it is to record music. And they can do it in their home and they don’t need to go into a massive studio – there’s kids out there, they get taught this stuff at school. I think that side of the music industry and that side of music it’s an amazing thing to be able to have the tools to make great music and you don’t need to have huge studios or a massive record deal. That’s only beneficial to serious musicians.
Besides The Wildhearts you’ve released a lot of your own solo material and you’ve got several solo albums. I even remember back in the day coming to see you play with Honey Crack at the Riverside in Newcastle.
I mean, that’s over 20 years ago.
Have you got any plans to revisit your solo work at any point in the future?
I am, yes. I really wanted to get a solo album out this year but with The Wildhearts being so busy and I have a young son and I also have two very elderly frail parents, so I didn’t get around to making a solo album. But after The Wildhearts stuff, it is like the thing I need to do. I’m on a kind of path where my solo albums are getting heavier and angrier, and I’ve got this next album in me and I just really want to get it out before I kill someone.
So in terms of your own musical tastes, what do you listen to when you are kicking back at home?
You know, it’s really hard for me to listen to guitar music now, I have tinnitus so if I stay away from loud music the ringing is bearable. The only time I listen to guitars now is when I’m working, basically recording or playing shows. You know, occasionally I’ll listen to rock music when I’m driving, but I tend to switch off from loud guitars and I’ll listen to everything from pop, classical, blues, and jazz. Anything as long as it’s not too loud and I kind of look after my ears now.
When it comes to music, you name it, I’ll listen to it. And I’m not a snob, I listen to Radio One, Radio 2, Radio 3 – I won’t listen to Radio 4, it bores me, it’s great if I want to go to sleep, I will put it on, but when I’m driving, fuck I want to stay awake. But yeah, when it comes to music I’ll listen to anything.
So we are a few months into this year I just wondered, have you guys got 2019 mapped out, you know, what’s on the cards, what have you got going on until the end of the year.
Luckily enough we have a great manager and we’re booking shows for December now. We are way ahead. I know where we are going and there are some great gigs coming up. Just some really, really good stuff happening this year with the band. But we work way in advance. And we’re already talking about the next album ideas. Put it this way, something would have to go horribly wrong for us to take another 10 years to get an album out.
So we won’t have to wait to 2029 for the next album.
No, I really hope not. I think we got away with it just this time. But no, it’d be nice if we could do it old school and put an album now, nearly every year like the band used to do, that’d be great. And we could do it, you know, I mean it is possible, but this is a good start.