The latest album from Mutation is III: Dark Black. Frontman Ginger Wildheart and bassist Scott Lee Andrews fill us in on the album, with Ginger updating us on his numerous other projects as well.
Chad Bowar: Sounds like the songwriting process for III: Dark Black was pretty intense.
Ginger Wildheart: To the normal, well-adjusted person the sessions for Dark Black may seem very intense. Both Scott and I have a history of mental health issues, and at the time of writing we were seriously considering giving up. Personally, I was suffering from a debilitating attack of suicidal depression, which I have a long history of. The last thing I wanted to do was make an album. Instead of giving up, Scott and I retired to my caravan in Wales, and got drunk instead.
During the evening we discussed making music that was an accurate, aural report of how we were feeling, with no restrictions and with complete honesty. That is how this album came to be. Scott has a great phrase, “going method.” Essentially allowing yourself complete vulnerability, embracing the dark side of your personality. This is the essence of Mutation.
Scott Lee Andrews: Yeah it was touch and go for day we arrived. I was speechlessly fucked at the same time. It couldn’t have converged more conveniently towards us both just wanting to fuck everything off. What followed was a week of a studious exploration of noise, Cat III horror films and some bad life choices. We survived and wrote a record. We were pretty numb, so the record’s sound stemmed from the fact that heaviness alone would not cut it, it need to have something inherently ugly about it.
Is it challenging to balance writing songs that are so diverse with making a cohesive album?
Ginger: Not really. After all, the intention was to reveal ourselves, warts and all. Once we had a direction the songs came very naturally and very quickly.
Scott: We wrote and completed two songs a day during the session. It was regimented without rules. There were no distractions, and the momentum ran the the session. Both Ginger and I still veered into melody at points. When it came to the final studio tracking and mixing, we decided to push the big red button and let Dave (Draper, producer) totally fuck the record into the red.
Did you struggle with song order at all?
Ginger: Normally I don’t struggle with running orders as I have someone else do them!
That process is often difficult for me, being so close to the songs, but I got very involved this time, and once we had a first song and a last song, the order came very easily.
Scott: As I was involved in the initial drum programming I was wary of the BPM for each track, so tried to introduce some variation to at least force some different flavors when it came to the tracks. I was still getting my head around the home recording process so it was very crude. Consider the technology I had at my hands, it was more like using a 4-track cassette recorder than a DAW. It was rough as fuck.
Once again you had a lot of guest contributors. Do you write parts with them in mind, or match things up later?
Ginger: The song always comes first, then we suggest who would be great for the song. Usually people accept our invitation to appear on Mutation albums, and I’m honored to report that this was no different. I think maybe people like to be part of very aggressive music, without it being a risk to their own commercial success. We have no such concerns, thankfully.
Scott: I had a hit list of about 10 artists who I thought would bring very different flavors, but only two got involved. There’s a few who regret it now. Devin [Townsend] jumped in with two feet and almost broke my laptop thanks to the wealth of musical information he supplied for his track.
Are most of collaborations done remotely, or do they come to your studio?
Ginger: It all depends on many variables, like where they are geographically, for instance. Devin Townsend, for example, delivered his performance remotely, which worked incredibly well as he had time to go off on a complete tangent, taking the bare bones of the song and running away with it.
On previous occasions we’ve had people like Mark E Smith and Shane Embury who were able to come to the studio in the past, and the experience was magical and unforgettable. We’re lucky to be able to do both and enjoy the benefits of both.
You’re doing your debut UK tour this fall. Why hadn’t you played live there before?
Ginger: I honestly never imagined how we could ever do this live. It was never even part of the plan until recently. We recorded a video for “Hate,” which we decided to play live in the studio, just to see what the hell we sounded like. I was very relieved that it sounded amazing, so the next step was to book some shows in UK and Japan. We really want to bring this to USA, which is, in many regards, our musical spiritual home.
Scott: I personally always thought the band would be a huge production experience, and that is me speaking as a fan of the records. Now having to scale the records down, which in places can have up to at least three guitarists doing their own thing, down to a power trio sound was daunting until we heard how heavy we could make it as a 3-piece. The kicker is there’s no traditional bass – I play a Bass VI and Ginger a Baritione.
What was the response to last year’s Hey! Hello! album?
Ginger: It was a nightmare from start to finish, with our second singer leaving as soon as the album was recorded. The resulting album sounds astonishingly complete and assured, and the reviews seemed to concur, but we started working with a label called Red Essential who really screwed up the actual release.
For starters, they produced CDRs instead of legitimately printed CDs, which didn’t get accepted in retail. Then they claimed that a truckload of CDs were broken in transit. They neglected to explain how thousands of digipacks can break, neither did they have any evidence of the damage. Lies, lies and lies. All in all it was a very regrettable experience.
What inspired you to release a folk/country album like Ghost In The Tanglewood?
Ginger: I have loved country music all my life, and songs came very naturally to me, for this time in my life, creatively and emotionally. I seem to continually strive for an honesty in my music that country music, as a creative outlet, fits perfectly. It is, for me, the other side of the coin to Mutation. Brutally honest, pathologically so, in places. Probably uncomfortably so, thinking about it.
What’s the status of a new Wildhearts album?
Ginger: My mind just isn’t there right now. I really want to do something crowdfunded in order to be able to buy Danny, our bass player, a prosthetic limb, as he has just had his lower leg amputated. It’s times like this when wanting to make an album takes on new levels of significance, but like I said you have to be in the right collective frame of mind to make it legit. And we just aren’t there yet.
Are you currently involved in any other projects?
Ginger: No, for now I’d like to concentrate on Mutation and the country stuff. There’s a lot of promotion, touring and planning needed to give them the right chance of finding an audience, and I intend to concentrate on doing just that.
You’ve had a lot of success with crowdfunding your projects. Is that the way the industry is headed?
Ginger: I don’t think so, to be honest. Some bands and artists abuse the crowdfunding medium by ripping off their own fans, throwing the crowdfunding vehicle into disrepute for others. Sometimes labels are needed to save bands from their own greed or laziness, and I’ve found that working with Undergroove Records has been massively inspirational, so I think the future will feature a combination of both.
You donate a portion of the proceeds to suicide prevention charities. Why is that cause so important to you?
Ginger: It’s something that could have happened to me, and might still, and close to that final moment of giving up I think that a sympathetic, impartial voice could be the difference between life or death. Suicide is a huge issue that is still being largely ignored. It affects everyone, especially the people left behind. When those people could include children then education is paramount, but until the governments see fit to invest in research and education, someone like The Samaritans could be the one body that saves a persons life.
For me, this is as big an issue as anything currently being investigated and discussed by authoritative departments. I live in hope that the taboo associated with depression will disappear, and people will be encouraged to open up about this issue.
As someone who has dealt with mental health issues, what advice would you give to someone who may be facing the same challenges?
Ginger: Talk, talk and talk. Make sure you have sympathetic people in your corner, and ditch people from your life who don’t have your back. It’s important for people to feel that this is a common ailment, very common in fact. And it is no more shameful than having asthma. Don’t be ashamed and don’t go it alone. Open up to any kind soul who cares about you, remember that they need to feel included, too.
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Ginger: I want to bring Mutation to the USA! Whether Motorhead, Big Black or Nirvana, the power trio has always been a respected staple in American music, and we’d like to take that mantle and proudly carry it.
Let us deafen and confuse you, using extreme passion as well as extreme volume, and between us we can leave every negative thought or feeling back at the venue. This is catharsis, and in a world as fucked up as ours is right now, a direct shot of passionate, primal noise could be just what you need. Just what we all need.
(interview published June 29, 2017)