CJ of the Wildhearts

until Motley Crue finally get it together again to promote the soon-to-be filmed movie of their epic autobiography, The Dirt, or Travis Barker goes on the road with Led Zeppelin, The Wildhearts are the only active rock and roll band with a past as bumpy and noisy as their back catalogue.

With songs that vary from the hardcore heavy tread of “Shut Your Fucking Mouth and Use Your Fucking Brains” to the downer pop of “One Life, One Love” to the chunky riffing and kids choir of “Do The Channel Bop”, the group has managed to build a reputation as both ’proper’ songwriters and a spirited live act. Kicking around in one form or another since 1989, their 1997 split saw them fracture into about 307 side projects, most of which had a touch of the collective’s charm but none of the magic. Combining a pop-metal melodic sensibility, the aggression of punk, big metal riffs with honesty, humour and great songs, The Wildhearts are one of the only UK rock and roll acts to consistently back up the attitude with the goods.

Despite stumbles in the past, it’s starting to look like the impetus of the band’s reformation is finally going to outweigh their past—when the band was better known for splitting, shitting into pita breads for single covers, trashing Kerrang offices and trips to rehab. Since reuniting in 2002, the original line-up has already been ½-nelsoned by bassist Danny’s drink/drug problems and (semi?) permanent departure. Re-energised by fatherhood and general grown-up behaviour, they seem hell-bent on righting the wrongs of their blown chances and sticking to a prolific release schedule of diverse material, giving the new songs a chance to put The Wildhearts where they deserve to be.

And while the pop gleam of their most recent LP, The Wildhearts Must Be Destroyed (2003, their first LP proper for six years), took a narrow-minded pasting from many rockcentric fans unhappy with its sound, it certainly looks like their star is in the ascendant (again) with their first US LP since 1993’s Earth Vs. The Wildhearts coming out next month.

With CJ (Cris Jagdhar, guitar/vocals) rightfully reinstalled as the better looking Keith to head honcho Ginger’s Lennon, it’s a credit to his abilities, vocals and sheer stage cool that his replacements never really gelled and the band’s best work was produced during the CJ years. Currently in the midst of a European tour supporting The Darkness, Stylus managed to grab a few words with CJ about both him and the band.

What were your main musical influences in picking up the guitar?

When I started playing at 11, I was in love with Kiss and The Police. I have always been into loads of different types of music. I just love to hear good tunes. Habit and a love of touring and writing keep me playing these days.

How is life in Tokyo?

I love it here, I never really felt at home in the UK, as I was brought up in the Far East and Germany because my folks were in the army. I met my wife 2 years ago and she did not want to move to London, so I came to Tokyo. I hate the flying though and the jet lag kills me, but the life here is worth it. You’ve got to see Tokyo to believe it—guitar music goes down well over here. There are many bands that can’t get any business anywhere, but can still do well in Japan. But the Japanese love all types of music, hip-hop is huge here now and it's funny to see many teens here trying to be black.

How do you feel looking back on your band experiences with Honeycrack and The Jellys?

I feel very proud of what we did with Honeycrack especially the Prozaic album. It was a hard time for me, coming out of The Wildhearts, and with the help of bandmate Willy (Dowling), I came out of a bad situation and made a very well crafted album and played with some of the best musicians in the UK.

My time with The Jellys was pure joy, because along with manager Tim Collins we did it all ourselves. I’ve never been in a band that worked as hard as that and I wish we could’ve done better but we tried our best and took it as far as we could.

What's it really like being in the Wildhearts? Pre- and post-recording of TWMBD?

Being in The Wildhearts is like heaven one minute and hell the next, with no clue as to what’s coming next. I’ve been a part of this band for a long time. It was me, Ginger (vocals, guitar) and Stidi (drums,vocals) who formed the band way back in 1988. So much has happened since then—a lot of good and a shit load of bad. These days my head is straight, my habits straighter and I take it a day at a time. I can't speak for how the other guys see it.

What do you bring to the Wildhearts?

I think the twin vocal that I do with Ginger is really important to the sound of the band, as is our playing styles. We play off each other and I think I’m right in saying that when I was out of the band the sound was a little off key. Then again I could be full of shit....who knows? My favourite track recorded with the band so far is “Dreaming in A”, I have good memories of those early days when there was no bullshit to deal with. My favourite track during my absence would be “Urge”, though I hate the album. The production sucks, but we did this track live when we reformed and I really like our version. It’s much more pop sounding.

The Wildhearts were always portrayed as leading a rock and roll lifestyle, do you think that bands need to be broken/damaged/stressed to produce incredible music?

NO. This is a total myth. When people are really fucked up they can't do anything, let alone make music.

Why does the world need the Wildhearts now?

The world doesn’t need any band. Music is not that important and if your music ends up running your life then that’s fucked. People got to relax and just hear it, don’t live it. Maybe make some yourself, it’s sweeter that way.

What is your reaction to long-time fans who were surprised a the lack of usual riff-fuckery on TWMBD?

I don’t mind what people think of TWMBD. What I hate is how personal some people took the way the album sounded. There really is more to life than one style of playing. So what if it is a pop album? I only wrote one and a half songs so you should ask Ginger about the lack of riffs, if you really want to know. If we make another album it may be the heaviest piece of shit you have ever heard or it could be acid bhangra jazz, it doesn’t matter to me. We are a fucked up band with a diverse sound. Just listen to the old stuf—it’s all over the place; some of it good and some of it bad, just like our history. I'm cool with whatever happens to The Wildhearts.

Anyway, if you really want to hear something fucked up just wait till you hear my Japanese band. I’m writing some tunes with a young singer/guitarist over here and we are called PIMP, though things are on hold at the moment with The Wildhearts getting busy with touring and writing. I will be trying to do an album with PIMP later this year.

So what does 2004 hold for The Wildhearts?

We’re doing the European tour with The Darkness which I know is going to be a lot of fun. In March we hit the U.S. for 20 dates, which will be an adventure if nothing else. We’ve never done a tour over there before and I know they’re going to love us. We’ll totally confuse them at the very least. Then another UK tour in April with Therapy?, and depending on how good we feel, there is talk of maybe more touring in May and June. We may record some of the US shows and they could come out as a live album at some point in the future, but this summer we’ll start work on our next album. We’re already writing songs and talking about how we will do this. Hopefully we’ll get some festivals this year too.

The CJ Tour Mixtape

Regurgitator “The Lonely Guy”
Snoop Dogg “Ain’t No Fun”
Bubba Sparxxx “Jimmy Mathis”
Jack Johnson “Pirate Looks at 40”
G Love & Special Sauce “Rodeo Clowns”
Thicke “Oh Shooter”
Manual/Gerling “High Jackers”
Jungle brothers “I Remember”
TLC “No Scrubs”
Wu-Tang Clan “Soul Power”
Green Day “King for a Day”
Phoenix United “Too Young”
Brad “20th Century”
Ja Rule “Livin' it Up”
Reguritator “Black Bugs”
Ganges a Go Go “Bombay the Hard Way”
Prince “Dolphin”
Children of Bodom ”Needled 24/7”

By: Scott McKeating
Published on: 2004-02-19
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