What do you do when you love a band so much? You write a book about it of course!
Gary Davidson has just released “Zealot In Wonderland”, a book based on his love of the musician Ginger Wildheart, frontman of The Wildhearts as well as many other bands. The book also tells of the story of Gary himself over the years, and everything that he has gone through. I spent some time recently chatting with the new author about his book, his love of music as well as his own dealings with mental health.
So Gary, care to give us a few words about your good self?
Good? Yep I’m good at the moment. Happy, happy joy joy! Listening to new and old music like it’s not going to exist tomorrow. I’m 44, damn good looking and… ha ha! What do ya wanna know?
Ha ha ha. Sounds like a dating intro lol. So, let’s talk about this book of yours “Zealot In Wonderland”. For the uninitiated, what’s it about?
Well….me! Ha, ha, no. Well, kind of yes but with a huge splash of Ginger, The Wildhearts and depression thrown in – and a lotta funny shit that’s happened to me over the years at gigs. I do get myself into some silly situations, mainly fuelled by music, alcohol and a drive to not miss out on anything.
I started out with the intention of “Zealot” being about The Wildhearts, yet a few sentences in ‘I’ and ‘me’ soon popped up. At times I have questioned whether anyone would give a shit about my life soundtracked by the greatest band that ever was/is – at those times I’ve always told myself if someone else had written something along the same lines as “Zealot” I would love to read it!
It’s also about fanaticism. Don’t think you can get more more fanatical then writing a book about your fave band; or covering your body with tattoos of said band. I’ve done both! Shit, I sound like some kinda weirdo stalker now. Come to think of it…… Ha ha!!!
A huge buzz for me is the fact that Ginger has read and enjoyed it. It’s been a long journey. Ryan Jarman (The Cribs) writing the foreword was also lovely. Got to meet him in person to say thank you as well.
I started writing in 2005 and stopped in 2012. When I started I was of course still going to see The ‘Hearts and Ginger play live and listening to new albums released; and we all know that’s a lot of albums!
The book starts in ’92 when I first saw The Wildhearts, so I was writing from ’92 – what I remembered anyway – then if something happened in present time I would also jot it down. My head didn’t stop spinning with Wildhearts/Ginger for seven years. Not that it’s stopped now. So much funny interesting stuff has happened since 2012 that I find it hard not to keep on writing about it. But I’ve got to for my own sanity.
I started of interviewing members of The Wildhearts and associated bands with the view of those interviews going in the back of the book. The interviews happened (great interviews they are too) but it soon became apparent that “Zealot” would be “War and Peace” length if they featured. I decided to have a website to run alongside “Zealot” with the interviews on there, along with some other nonsense that flowed from my pen after the completion of “Zealot”. You can buy it on the website too.
So what was it about Ginger and The Wildhearts that appealed to you?
The riffs, changes in tempo, and bare to the bone lyrics and lyrical juggling. The “Mondo” EP (The Wildhearts debut EP) hit me round the head like a sledgehammer, yet at the same time gave me a warm friendly hug. And of course Ginger’s lyrics.
Just noticed I’ve mentioned lyrics three times (four now) in quick succession. We all know that Ginger has a way with words, and that struck me I think more than even the music and melodies themselves. I suppose a combination of all these things just clicked something inside that no other band had quite managed to up to that point.
When depression hits I’ll stop smoking and drinking alcohol – though occasionally I’ll drink to drown my sorrows. I associate drinking and smoking with having a good time and socializing; two things that never happen when the dog bites hard. Now I’ve just opened my first can of falling down water, as 120 copies of “Zealot In Wonderland” have just landed at Wildhearts Cottage! I’ve just played Ginger’s ‘Casino Bay’ from the album “Market Harbour” whilst opening the boxes and feeling elated after a long journey. 12 years in the making and my baby’s finally arrived!
So I gather it’s fair to say that they’ve helped soundtrack your life for you?
Certainly. As all music does, but for me not to the same degree that The Wildhearts have. It’s all in the book I guess. From my first sexual experience, to the ultimate highs and the lowest of the lows.
So let’s start touching on the other subject mentioned in your book, that of you and your mental health. When did you start noticing aspects of it creeping into your life?
“This’ll be the most disjointed interview ever!” That’s what Jon Poole said to me when I started interviewing him way back when for “Zealot”. I’d had a few before the interview and got my questions all muddled up. Good times, good times! So, next question? By the way am I allowed to be drunk while under interrogation?
Ok mental health. In secondary school never really had many friends and was incredibly shy and insular. Don’t get me wrong I wanted to have friends but it pained me to actually talk to people. My confidence was none existent. I think this lack of confidence was through me not grasping maths, English – you name it I just couldn’t take anything in I was taught. I dreaded the moment a teacher would point and say: “Gary, what do you think about that?” “Do you know the answer?” 99% of the time I didn’t. Made me feel as thick as shit and dumb-ass to boot. Of course, looking back I know I’m neither. Ok I’m still pants at Maths but I now know that ain’t what life’s about.
When I left school I got a menial job and felt a little better as I didn’t having to sit in-front of a teacher babbling on about shit I didn’t understand and didn’t even wanna. I’d been a forklift driver since ’89. In 2008 after becoming stressed and anxious – which lead to depression – and quitting every job I ever had I ended up being a cleaner. Some people say lowest of the low, but fuck ’em! I’ve finally found something that I’m comfortable and happy with. I see an immediate result and walk away from the job with no worries. And you know the best bit of all? The best bit is I get to listen to music through my headphones all day!!! How cool is that? I’ve been known to play a mean Wildhearts riff on my vacuum tube on many occasion.
Yeah, I think a lot of people use a person’s job as a measure of happiness or status. There’s a lot of “if you don’t earn £X you can’t buy Y which means you won’t be happy”. There’s something good about just knowing you’ve done a good job.
Spot on mate! Music brings me the most happiness in life! Touching on the ‘All Things Ginger Wildheart’ ‘community (a Facebook fan group), I’ve made so many gig buddies. Wonderful people every one of ’em! People often ask me if writing my experiences in “Zealot” had been therapeutic. I’d love to answer yes – but no. No because I was writing about my past experiences. Writing my feelings down at the time of being depressed has sometimes helped and I should do it more often. Unfortunately being under a dark cloud makes me wanna do fuck all! Normally all I do is listen to music. When depressed I watch utter sit on TV!
The only thing when going into my experiences with depression while writing “Zealot” did was make me realize how much quality time I’d wasted. Last year I left the house four times. I missed so many gigs I’d bought tickets to the year before. Every time one had passed I’d rip up the ticket. Fucking depressing in itself. When the depression lifted in February I grabbed life by the balls! I’m on such a high at the moment it’s untrue! Oh yes!!! I don’t touch on depression in my book, I tell just what I’m like when locked inside my house (bedroom) for so long. There’s a little humour thrown in there too. I’m a man that likes to have fun and be happy. I really am! Lovely to be in that head-space again.
Shutup!!!! Sorry not you… “P.H.U.Q.” has just ended. “Don’t worry ’bout me, don’t worry ’bout me I’ll be alright” (a ‘hidden’ Wildhearts track at the end of that album that’s been a fan favourite). I always am in the end. This too will pass.
Tell you what though this chat has been lovely. Has it ended? I’m all for another question.
Don’t worry it’s still ongoing lol. I know I’ve made a lot of friends from online groups. I’ve been able to be pretty open about how I am and I think the anonymity helps. Have you found it easier?
I’ll be honest, not really. I don’t tend to post on the ‘Net about any issues I’m having. It’s wonderful to see others are though and I sometimes reply to them with a few words that I think may be of comfort. That being said, in March, I think it was, I posted on my Facebook wall a photo of myself in the grips of depression (full beard and bloated) and alongside it one of me all happy as of now. I wrote a little piece along with it. I did it because…why the fuck not?!?! If I had a broken leg and posted the before and after it would be more than acceptable. I just wanted people to see how shit I looked when depressed, ’cause they don’t normally see that side of me. But more than anything if just one person took some comfort and felt less alone from that post it would be worth it. I’m looking for it on my timeline now. You wanna see it?
“I thought for a good week about making this post. But why think? If I had a broken leg and posted photos of my recovery, all would be fine. So… what a difference six months makes. Yes the Grizzly Adams’ lookalike is me; me in the grip of depression. I’ve suffered from depression since my late teens. It’s a fucker of an affliction. Strips you of body mind and soul until you are not you anymore. You are an empty vessel. But I’m happy now – look at me happy all smiling. You’ve probably never seen the Grizzly Adams’ impersonator version of me; he likes to stay indoors and gain 3 stone and throw money down the drain. Anyway happy times now. If you think one of your friends may be depressed and hiding away; don’t be a stranger – your knock at the door or ring of the phone could be just the motivation and force needed to stop them becoming Grizzly Adams too (sorry Grizzly, I’m sure you’re a lovely happy go lucky guy). Valor my friends… :-)”
It’s a good post mate, and was good to see people respond to it accordingly. How did it feel to make a ‘confession’ like that?
The response was lovely. I felt really open. Kinda naked online. I’d been thinking about making it for a while and always pulled back from doing so. Then I thought why the hell not? Glad I did now. We need to be open; we need to chat. Nothing is gained from keeping so much shit in your head. NOTHING!!!
That’s certainly true. So, when you feel the dog nipping at your heels what is it you try to do to keep it at bay?
When I feel it nipping? I fucking hate that feeling!!! When I get a little down or perhaps in a mood; as everyone does, I wonder if it’s the dog or just a mood. It scares the living hell out of me! I know the triggers so try and keep doing what I normally do and fight through it. At times I’ve managed to do that and come out the other end. On too many occasions that dog had ripped me to shreds and fed on the carcass. Think he loves the taste too. He can fuck right off though as I’ll be back stronger than ever having gained experience through past encounters.
I’m on my last beer now. I’m enjoying this so much Scott. Thank you for giving me this opportunity.
Pleased you’re digging it man. Sometimes it’s good to shoot the breeze. Going back to the book, how does it feel to know it’s done and out there
As we speak I’ve just received a tweet from Ginger saying that he’s enjoying it. Like any art, creating is one thing but the real joy is from others getting something from your work. I’m proud of it and I hope the reader will enjoy. I’ve reached my goal and I for one am enjoying the victory!
That’s amazing mate. I bet you’re made up about that?
Speechless… for once. Ha ha!
So is that it? Want some last words from a happy man?
Yeah man, go for it! It’s all yours…..
Last words? Sounds final. It’s not. I’d just like to say thank you for this opportunity. Thank you. I’ve opened up because someone had an open ear (you). Someone non-judgemental. Please buy my book “Zealot In Wonderland”! It’s pretty good if I don’t say so myself. I hope the reader takes something from it. Something they pass onto someone else. Paying it forward and all that. Valor and never ending riffs, Gaz Wildheart.
Thanks to Gary for a fun and honest chat. It’s cool to get a positive story after someone has gone through a tough time. You can order his book as well get more information from the Zealot In Wonderland website.