Zealot through the looking glass: Gary Davidson on his Wildhearts book, writing and depression

Gary Davidson, author of Zealot In Wonderland, with some Wildhearts press cuttings“In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.”
–  Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

“I’ve been loved by the sweetest and hated by heroes.”
– Geordie In Wonderland by The Wildhearts

The first time that Gary Davidson met The Wildhearts’ frontman, Ginger, things did not go well. It was April 1998, and Gary was at a Backyard Babies gig in London, when he spied his hero in the bar area. After tapping him on the shoulder and declaring “I’ve waited ages to meet you!” he went in for a handshake, only to send Ginger’s drink flying – a cue for the off-duty musician to storm off.

“What a fucking first meeting,” says Gary, as I remind him of the incident from his book, Zealot In Wonderland.

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Zealous guy: Author takes a fan’s-eye view of The Wildhearts in new book Zealot In Wonderland

Zealot In Wonderland by Gary DavidsonThe first time I met Gary Davidson, at a Silver Ginger 5 gig in December 2000, he was a pain in the arse. All these years later, this sorry tale (“whoops and sorry,” in fact) is recounted in Gary’s first book, Zealot In Wonderland.

This 350-page confessional, written over 10 years, details the ups, downs and inside-outs of his Wildhearts fandom – from his discovery of the band in 1992, to frontman Ginger’s game-changing PledgeMusic campaign, which kicked off in 2011.

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Bring me sunshine: Ginger and the Scorchers live at the Underworld, London, 19 Sept 2007, plus Warner E. Hodges live in Brighton, 20 Sept 2007

Ginger and the Scorchers live at the Underworld, London, 19 September 2007“Who’s the guy on guitar?”

“Warren Feeny.”

“Fuckin’ show-off.”

The post-gig piddle is usually a good chance to overhear some opinions. Men’s mouths are never freer than when they’re standing side by side with their comrades in urination, having just drunk beer and witnessed live rock ‘n’ roll. If Prime Minister’s Question Time was held in the bogs of the Camden Underworld on a Wednesday night, we’d get to find out what was really goin’ on.

The show-off in question is actually Warner E. Hodges, a founding member and mainstay of Nashville’s finest rock ‘n’ roll outfit, Jason and the Scorchers – the band that, in the early ’80s, put a steel-toed cowboy boot up the backside of country music, opening it up to the post-punk generation and making cult heroes of the band’s members, not least Jason (Ringenberg) and Warner.

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Pray for me mama (I’m a Geordie now): In the studio with Jason Ringenberg and The Wildhearts

Jason Ringenberg and The Wildhearts, Blackwing Studios, 20 May 2001It’s like something from a movie. A fantasy sequence in High Fidelity, perhaps?

The camera, in a low shot, glides through the studio door and into the control room. On the floor lies Danny McCormack, curled up in the foetal position, purring like a cat. Pan up over a table strewn with empty beer cans: Special Brew, Guinness, Tennent’s Super, K, Becks.

Nearby, there’s a tray of stewed coffee and a stack of unused mugs.

Tilt up to see Ginger sitting in the producer’s chair, with the engineer they call Fully at his side. They’re both rocking backwards and forwards in an excited fashion. Pan right. Stidi is sitting forward, resting his elbows on his knees. He’s bouncing up and down like someone just lit a firework near his backside. All eyes face forward.

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Bouncing back: A chat with Danny McCormack and Neil Phillips of The Yo-Yo’s, 24 September 1998

Danny McCormack and Neil Phillips of The Yo-Yo's, live at the Garage, London, 24 September 1998“Sorry, but you can’t take your drinks outside.”

“Okay, fine, we’ll go back in.”

Danny McCormack – attempting to lead me, Tara and Yo-Yo’s guitarist Neil Phillips past the Garage’s front-door security to the pub for an interview sesh – turns on a sixpence and marches back inside… straight through the backstage door and out the rear exit, drink still in hand. Something about the unruffled, unthinking way in which he performs the manoeuvre tells me he’s done this 1,000 times in 100 venues. I’m impressed and amused.

Just five minutes before, the Garage’s overzealous security had asked me and Tara to leave. When we told them we had permission to be there, they moved on to hassle Danny’s brother, Chris. It seemed to be a case of shoot first and ask questions later. Probably a London thing.

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