For Ginger Wildheart, 2023 was a year of increasingly desperate lows, followed by a moment of intervention that probably saved his life. The 58-year-old has spoken many, many times of the depression and mental health issues that on more than one occasion caused him to consider suicide, and back in the summer, his inner demons were shouting again, louder than ever.
“The mental health system in Britain is a very dangerous joke,” Ginger wrote ominously on X/Twitter. “I’ve been chucked about the system and shat out the other end. Again. And for the very last time.”
On July 29, another dispatch stated: “Sectioned. Suicide watch. That might be me for a while.” Two days later, a follow-up confirmed that Ginger was “in a good, safe place receiving treatment. Finally, I’m surrounded by sweet patients and kind staff. My friends and family have been immeasurably supportive. My supporters continue to be my rock. I miss Maggie [his beloved border collie] but I wouldn’t be anywhere else right now.”
A September 8th update revealed that despite the rescheduling of that month’s concerts, Ginger was “healing well and looking forward to seeing everybody soon.” He accepted some questions, informing a fan: “It was a close shave, but I’m rid of all my triggers and demons. I’m just working on a positive mindset now, so far so good.”
The Ginger that speaks to Classic Rock via a Zoom call in late October, parked up during the drive to a solo concert in Southampton, appears clear-headed and contented, free of the fog of what he calls his “head nonsense”.
“I was lucky enough to put a pause on my life,” he explains. “I think that if everyone could go to a psych ward for a couple of weeks, the world would be a better place. Sometimes it’s healthy to take a pause but unfortunately people are too busy, can’t afford to do that or just forget how important it is. But I took a few weeks off and things have been great ever since. Everything is joined, every candle lights another candle.”
Touring a series of solo unplugged shows of Wildhearts material that continues into 2024, was not only “grounding and humbling”, he reveals, “it’s also brought my mojo back. I’m writing like a motherfucker again.”
Prior to his re-set, Ginger had known he was “pregnant” with an album though “it wasn’t showing any signs yet”. Coming out of hospital, he adds, “I started playing again and my waters broke.”
As his own fiercest critic, Ginger is surprised by the quality of the ensuing material and can already imagine the fans singing the choruses back at him. “There’s a more philosophical view on things, instead of just being angry,” he says. “The anger is there but there’s an acceptance. The thing is that you can’t change the world, but you can change how you react to it.”
Expect a new album next year recorded by an incarnation of The Wildhearts that features no other members from their classic permutation. Ginger credits the persistence of his son, Taylor, for nagging him into breathing life back into the group. “Thank you, Taylor,” he smiles.
Despite his decades of investment in The Wildies, also the fact that their reunion albums Renaissance Men and 21st Century Love Songs (released in 2019 and ’21) were so rapturously received, it wasn’t an easy call to make. “I don’t know how much people know – or care – but last time The Wildhearts became untenable,” he sighs. “Without digging too much into it, and I certainly don’t want to get personal about anyone, it was very toxic for everyone.
“By the end of the band, I was no longer really involved,” Ginger continues. “I had left a year earlier. I was effectively a paid session man, singing my [own] songs.”
Ginger is unrepentant when asked whether he considered re-hiring any of the former members, and if from this point forward The Wildhearts is himself accompanied by whoever he picks to be in the band.
“Like Mark E Smith once said about The Fall, if it’s me with my grandma playing the bongos, it’s still The Fall,” he chuckles. “I did ask Ritch [Battersby, drums] but the last ending had been so ugly, it put him off. Danny [McCormack, bassist] was sacked by the management, and as for CJ [guitarist and co-vocalist], we’ve known each other for so long that it was time for a break.”
At Classic Rock’s press time, Ginger was still keeping the identities of the newcomers under wraps. When we ask whether they are people that we might know, just for once the reply is slightly cagey: “Some of them, yeah.”
So what does 2024 hold for Ginger Wildheart and also The Wildhearts?
“For me, I’m going to enjoy it all,” he replies. “I want to have a year in which I soak up every experience. With The Wildhearts it’s all about the community and they will get what will turn out to be their favourite album. It’s certainly my favourite.”
Ginger Plays The Wildhearts dates continue throughout January, February and March. Full details and tickets.