In the first installment of his new blog on Soundspheremag.com Rich Fownes (Bad For Lazarus, Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster and UNKLE) Investigates…how Ginger Wildheart is helping to support some of the most exciting bands on the UK rock scene. The future is bright, the future’s Ginger!
Man, oh man, do I miss John Peel. He is still miles ahead of David Attenborough in the I-wish-he-was-my-cool-uncle stakes. The kind of uncle that would give you a journalistic breakdown of why Napalm Death were so important over Christmas dinner.
In the years since his passing, British alternative rock culture certainly seemed to push the envelope less and less. Imagine how important it was, not only to the British underground rock scene, but to the world at large, to have instant exposure to such extremes of music on the mainest of mainstream radio: BBC Radio 1. It’s no surprise that things got a little stagnant after such a great loss, and the UK’s idea of an underground rock band was The Arctic Monkeys. Don’t get me wrong, I sincerely love a good amount of their work, but they’re about as underground as one of my late-night farts.
Things started getting exciting again. Around 2008 my band, Bad For Lazarus (pictured), started playing shows. For a couple of years previously I had been jobbing as a guitarist, playing mostly festivals, and was pretty out of touch with what was going on inside the toilets. It was such an exciting mind-fuck to see so much experimental amazing music happening all at once. Discovering it all within a couple of months of jumping back into those familiar shitholes. I have nostalgic stories for all of these bands, but in the interest of time: Exit_International, Take A Worm For A Walk Week, The James Cleaver Quintet, Castrovalva, Baby Godzilla, Black Moth, Blacklisters, Rodeo Death Burger, Mother / Destroyer and Hawk Eyes all blew my mind. Each one doing something totally different from the others.
None of these musicians were expecting anything more than to have a lovely gig with their mates. No-one was expecting a John Peel, or music industry-shaped handout into wider society. It’s not something I ever expected to see, it’s like punk without the pretense. A genuine golden age of British underground music. It’s just a shame no-one was pulling it together in any tangible way – look at what Dischord (Records) did for the hardcore and post-punk scenes.
Four years later, those bands are all ticking over nicely, with the sad exception of Take A Worm For A Walk Week – RIP (side note – their final gig is available on Bandcamp. And. Is. Devastating.)
Then a thing happens.
Ginger Wildheart is back and he’s doing well apparently. One of the wise old-dogs that understands the post-apocalyptic non-entity that used to be called “the music industry”, and is willing to move with the times. But no-one is dragging this guy, he is fully switched on. First off I started seeing his new band emerge. I knew these guys from back in the day. Chris Catalyst (guitars) woke me up one day or another around 2006 when my (awful) DIY hardcore band was staying on his floor. A year or so later I met Rich Jones (guitarist as well – man, they have a lot of guitars!) at SXSW. He had been playing in Amen when they were still grotty, nasty, and actually poignant.
My point is, this didn’t seem random. Ginger wasn’t picking slick session musicians. He was picking people I had seen earning their wings for years with my own eyes. Then he goes to Japan, a place that has a pretty rich heritage of embracing bizarre, underground rock music. He could take some, generic, unit (and ticket)-shifting, bland nobodies, and I’m sure his management and agency wouldn’t have been entirely against the idea.
Instead, he takes Exit_International and Hawk Eyes, and gives them the kind of instant exposure (never mind the fun…) bands like us don’t bother to dream about. Then he puts them on his record, pushing them further. He obviously really cares about helping out the next, culture-rich generation, and knows exactly where to look. This morning I woke up to read about him doing the same with Baby Godzilla. I’m getting the feeling that tomorrow someone else equally as incredible and passionate is going to be embraced. He doesn’t need to do this. He’s got the credentials to hog this limelight, but he seems pretty keen to shower it around and share it with these great new bands. He must be as touched as I am at how genuine and exciting they are.
Is this man our new rock-n-roll uncle?
Someone give this guy a microphone and a slot on Radio 1. Let’s get busy!
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…INVESTIGATES DISCLAIMER: Rich Fownes is a thinker of things, man of sorts and self-proclaimed idiot. Nothing he says matters, so don’t hold it against his band or the fine folks at Soundsphere magazine when he says things that you think suck. Onward!