Interview with CJ Wildheart (The Wildhearts)

The Wildhearts are back on the road. Guitarist CJ Wildheart chatted to Mick Burgess about the tour, his solo album Mabel and his devilishly hot new chilli sauce!!

You’re due out on tour with The Wildhearts in April. Are you looking forward to getting back on the road?

We can’t wait to get out on tour again. The Wildhearts are not one of those bands that are always working together as we all have projects outside of the band that keeps us all very busy so it’s always exciting for us to get together for a tour again. There’s nothing boring or predictable with this band there’s always anxiety, excitement and whatever with us to keep things interesting.

Last year you toured to celebrate the 20th anniversary of your Earth vs The Wildhearts album. What have you got planned for the tour this time?

I think we’ll probably play more from Chutzpah our last album. We’ll mix things up a bit and we’re looking to do things we haven’t done in a while and we’ll keep in some old favourites. As much as we need to entertain the fans we need to entertain ourselves too. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of surprises in there.

You’ll be in Newcastle on 13th April. This must be a special show for the band with this being Ginger’s hometown?

I know Ginger has fallen in and out of love with Newcastle over the years. When me and Ginger put the band together there was me the only southerner amongst all these Geordie guys. I had a real crash course on the Geordie culture and I’ve never forgiven him.

Does Ginger give you the guided tour whenever you’re up in Newcastle?

The first time I ever went up to Newcastle there was a bit of a culture shock with me being from London but you know what this is such a great place and the people are so friendly that it’s difficult not to love the city.

Have you grown used to his accent?

It took quite a while, I can tell you. When he’s down in London though it’s a lot softer. He hasn’t really got that strong an accent as I’ve heard some Geordies who have really strong accents especially when they’ve had a drink or two. I’m talking about the girls there too, not the guys.

Joining you on tour is Hey Hello. This is actually Ginger’s side project. Will that seem a little strange watching him be his own opening act?

To be honest with you I’ll probably be on the bus having my dinner. Ginger has supported the Wildhearts a few times and he’s supported himself at his own gigs too so this isn’t unusual for him. I don’t know where he gets the energy from. I wouldn’t want to be my own support act. I think it’s a brave band who decides to support us.

The main support band will be Finland’s Von Hertzen Brothers. This is a totally inspired choice and they are totally different to The Wildhearts. Who’s idea was it to add them to the bill?

I’ll have to put my hands up here. I’d never heard of them until someone emailed me and told me. I thought they were a Rap band at first. I’ve since done some research and they are very good and very different to us. Ritchie and Ginger loves them so it must have been one of those two who suggested them for our tour. This will be a really good show for the fans.

You founded the Wildhearts with Ginger back in 1992. How do you feel when you look back over your career?

Old, bitter and twisted!! No, really. It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long as it’s passed by so quickly. Me and Ginger have been through a lot with The Wildhearts and not all of it brilliant but a lot of it has been great. That’s life, you take the rough with the smooth. The fact that we are still working together says a lot more than anything else. I feel pretty pleased with what we have achieved looking back at our career.

It’s been a rocky ride along the way. You left in 1994. What happened there?

I actually got kicked out of the band in 1994. Me and Ginger have rebuilt our relationship over the years but in the mid ’90’s the band was quite ill. It wasn’t a happy place to be in. Something had to give and I was part of that giving process. In around 2000 we decided to put the band back together as a lot of water had passed under the bridge and it’s worked out pretty well since then.

You’ve been involved in projects outside of The Wildhearts including Honeycrack that you formed with Willie Dowling from The Wildhearts. You made one album Prozaic (released 1995) which got some great reviews. What are your memories of making that album?

That was a really, really good time for me. To leave the Wildhearts and go on to work with Willie was just great. He was such a talented musician and I learned so much from him. That’s when I started getting into the recording side of things as well. The Wildhearts is the band that put me on the map but Honeycrack made me understand there was more to me than just sex, drugs and Rock’n’Roll.

You got to tour with Alanis Morrisette on her Jagged Little Pill tour. How did you end up getting that tour?

She saw one of our videos on MTV so we were handpicked by her. She must have thought we were cute guys or something. She got in contact with our manager who got in contact with me and I thought it was a joke at first but we ended up on the tour.

How did the shows go?

The tour was incredible. Alanis was very young at that time, she was something like 21 but she was lovely, just the most humble, friendly person you could want to meet. Taylor Hawkins from The Foo Fighters was her drummer at that time and he loved our band and he even got up with us and played with us at sound checks which was a lot of fun.

You seemed to get off to a flying start with great reviews and high profile support slots. What happened to the band? Why was there no follow up?

I think sex, drugs and Rock’n’Roll got in the way and we stopped thinking about the music.

Moving to the current time, you are working on your new album right now. Why have you called it Mable?

I keep chickens and my favourite chicken is called Mable. I’m a big Weezer fan and they always have strange titles so I thought it sounded like a name Weezer would use. I just love the name and it means beautiful as well.

It’s been 7 years since your last solo album 13. Why has it taken you so long to work on the follow up?

Because I’m really rubbish. I’m just very slow at writing and recording. I’ve done three Wildhearts albums since my last solo album but then I retired from the music business for three years. I needed a break from music and needed to do something normal. I got my first proper job and started my own cleaning company in London. People thought I couldn’t do it but I did and now they think it’s the most Punk Rock thing I’ve ever done. I’d hit 40 so getting a proper job must have been my mid-life crisis. It was the most important lesson I’ve had in my life and it grounded me and made me realise I could do anything I wanted to do with my life. We then moved up to Yorkshire, to Knaresborough as my wife’s family is from up here and I decided to return to music.

What sort of direction are you heading in with this album?

My album is quite quirky and it has an off centre sound but there’s plenty of great melodies on there and the music actually suits the title “Mable”.

You’ve decided to fund the album through Pledgemusic. Why have you gone down the crowd funding route?

Would you sign a 46 year old has been? To be honest with you the music business is changing so much that you don’t need a record label to sell to your fans. You need a label to break a band. If you’re selling directly to your fans you can go straight for the jugular and cut out all the middle men and fat cats who just rip off the artist. We have a really loyal fan base and Pledge works really well for that. If I was a new artist then I don’t think Pledge would be the way for me to go as you do need a fan base for it to work. I think Ginger paved the way for us with Pledge Music as his campaign was so successful and his album ended up getting high up in the charts which is incredible for a self-financed album.

Seeing as though you reached your funding target on the day your project launched I assume you’re pretty pleased with the fans reaction?

You have no idea how happy that made me. I thought it would take me at least 3 to 4 weeks to get fully funded. To get there in 3 to 4 hours was amazing. To feel all that love and to think what I’m doing is so well liked is fantastic.

You’re not only producing a new album but also a chilli sauce called Devilspit. Is this your own recipe?

I’m not Richard Branson or anything I’m just a small business man who happens to be a musician and I’m in such a privileged position to be able to do these things. The chilli sauce is a combination of my own recipe and a company called The Chilli Devil based in Hull. We worked together and came up with this perfect combination of beer, barbeque and chilli sauce all in a bottle. I think it’s amazing as I’m a massive chilli head.

Will you be selling it on the road?

I will be selling it on the tour and also through Pledge Music. I’m also going to bring out an extreme version of the sauce for those who like things so much hotter.

If this goes well do you hope to produce different varieties?

I’m hoping to develop another chilli sauce soon and will also be doing a cookbook so there’s a few things on the go with my chilli project.

The last Wildhearts album Chutzpah was released in 2009. Are there any plans for a new record any time soon?

You can never say never with The Wildhearts but I can say that there will be a new album within the next 10 years!! We will make another album and we will tour again and we will probably fall out again but that’s life.

With the Wildhearts on tour, your own new solo album and chilli sauce coming out. Do you have any plans for anything else this year?

There’s always a sign for something. I always make time for my wife and you should always make sure you have time for your loved ones as without them you are nothing. They always come first, then the chickens and then the music.

The Wildhearts UK tour supported by Hey hello and The Von Hertzen Brothers starts on 8th April at The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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