The Wildhearts Book

Interview with Danny McCormack

11 June 2006

I was getting more confident as I did these interviews. I was especially looking forward to this one as on the few occasions I’d met Danny, he had come across as a lovely guy. But I wasn’t sure if he would answer the phone nor, if he did, whether he would be well enough to talk. When he answered on my first attempt you can imagine I was more than pleased. Funnily enough though, I expected his first words to be a little more rock ’n’ roll than, “Could you ring back in a couple of hours as I’m taking the dog to the vets?” followed by him giving me a different number to contact him on to the one I’d just dialled.

Eh?! I dunno, these rock ’n’ roll stars and their unpredictable ways.

In a couple of hours… ‘That doesn’t sound like Danny… That isn’t Danny! That’s a Geordie accent all right, but a female Geordie accent.’ Unfortunately, I didn’t tape the five minute chat I had with Danny’s mum, but I do remember her saying, “He always does that.” What she had been referring to was the fact that Danny had accidentally given me her mobile number instead of the one for his other phone. But I had spoken to Danny’s mum – how cool is that?! Try again…

Danny: “Hi.”

Me: “Hi Danny, it’s Gary.”

Danny: “Hi, sorry about that. Did you talk to my mam?”

Me: “Yeah, I just spoke to her – she’s a lovely lady. Are you alright to talk now?”

I explained to Danny what Zealot was about and then we were off…

Me: “What are your first memories of music?”

Danny: “I was brought up round a pub called The Garricks Head. There was an accordion player there and a piano player, and I used to always listen to the jukebox a lot, so I listened to a load of music. Everyone used to say, ‘You can’t be into that you’re too young.’. But with us being around a jukebox in a bar that’s where I got into Johnny Cash and all the chart music of the day, ya na? I used to love Johnny Cash, that sort of stuff. Ya na, Doctor Hook? I must have been about three, four or five.”

Me: “When did you get into playing bass?”

Danny: “I was about eight years old and I got a classical guitar for Christmas. In the pub there were loads of guitars and fancy dress stuff in the store room, and I used to muck around on the piano and got involved with the acoustic guitar. But, like I say, my first guitar was a classical guitar when I was eight. Two strings snapped and I just thought, ‘Oh fuck I’ve broke it!’ But, like I say, the two strings went and I just played bass and put on music like The Sex Pistols, Angelic Upstarts, The Damned, The Clash, Buzzcocks, Stiff Little Fingers. I’d learn how to tune it up and play along to all the records, so had a good sense of timing.”

Me: “So, did you seem to be a natural, you think?”

Danny: “Yeah, it’s just a way of escaping, ya na?”

Me: “Who was the first band you saw and what sort of effect did it have on you?”

Danny: “The first band I saw live was a band called Fuzzbox. ‘We’ve Got A Fuzzbox And We’re Gonna Use It’. They had a singer called Vicky, and I ended up living with her for fourteen, fifteen months. It was the first gig I had ever seen, and it just blew us away. I loved it and thought, ‘I can’t wait to fucking play live,’ and I ended up doing my first gig when I was about fifteen, sixteen for a band called Energetic Krusher. I got called down to audition for The Wildhearts and they were mad times, ya na.”

Me: “Yeah, I’ve got plenty of questions about that. Would you say you’ve ever annoyed, or you’ve ever been pissed off by, any of your idols?”

Danny: “Normally road crews have got the biggest fucking ego. I mean, we were going on tour with The Suicidal Tendencies and we thought we wouldn’t get on, but it was all management bullshit. We got on with them so fucking well. I know they’ve got a reputation at being, like, fucking, ya na, hard to work with, but they were absolutely fucking amazing blokes. You know, really down to earth and really, really cool? I think it’s one of those things; if you’re gonna treat someone like an idiot you’re gonna be tret like an idiot back?”

There was one bloke I knew for a fact I pissed off, he came up to me when I was talking to four or five people. I had no money on us, like – I was fucking skint. He said, “Can I have an autograph?” And I was like, “Yeah, yeah, no problem, mate.” Then he was like, “Get us a drink, you’re fucking rich.” I went, “Sorry I don’t have any money on us at the moment.” But he kept on ganning on and he was getting on me fucking nerves, like. He was talking away like, “You are, you’ve got loads of fucking money, man. You wanker – tight cunt, you’re fucking rich and you’re not getting anybody a drink!” So I was like, “Piss off – go away now.” And he wouldn’t stop, so I just knocked the cunt out. If I had the money, I would have bought the man a drink. Just ’cos I’m onstage doesn’t mean I’ve got fucking loadsa money. Far from it – I was fucking broke. I dunno what was wrong with the fucking idiot! Ya na, I certainly did tell ’im off – I give ’im what you call a Geordie kiss.”

Me: “In The Yo-Yo’s I dunno how much writing you did: the majority of it, part of it…?”

Danny: “Me and Tom did the majority of the writing in The Yo-Yo’s.”

Me: “Ok. When you write down your inner-most feelings in lyrics, is it nice to know that the listener is taking all that in?”

Danny: “I think once you write a song and if somebody relates to it, it becomes their song. Obviously, I know what I’m writing about and I know what I’m feeling, but if somebody can relate to that, it becomes their own thing, ya na? I think that’s the thing about music; it can remind you of a certain time, a certain girlfriend, a certain fucking mood you were in, and that’s how powerful music is – it’s fucking amazing! Music can take you back to remember a certain smell, a certain sound, certain places, a certain time. It’s fucking amazing, that’s why I love music. I wrote a song called ‘Keeping On Keeping On’, that was like one of the first songs I ever wrote. And this girl sent me a letter – she was so fucking depressed… really, like, contemplating suicide depressed, and she said that song – it got her through. That’s the ultimate compliment ever. That’s better than any fucking cash, or, like, anything really. Like I said, she said it saved her life and that’s fucking amazing! Songs have got me through, so I know exactly where they’re coming from…”

Me: “What are your views on fans invading the stage?”

Danny: “I don’t mind it at all as long as they don’t fuck up the pedals or the leads or put the guitars out of tune, else it spoils it for the people who are in the audience. If they get up and do a good stage-dive, and they’re not interfering with the band, that’s fine. But you do get some mad fuckers, ya na? Look at what happened to the guy from Pantera. Fuck me.”

Me: “So what’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen at a gig then?”

Danny: “I’ve seen everything, ya na? I love it, though, when you can read into people’s eyes and see people really enjoying themselves. And that’s the magic of fucking being onstage, man; you can see people just absolutely going fucking nuts! I’ve seen people crying, going ‘Aaaaarrrrrrrgh!’ and fucking losing it, and so emotional that they’re just in another world and it’s great; it’s fucking amazing!”

Me: “I went to The Roadmenders in Northampton… and umm, this is a little bit embarrassing. ‘Caprice’ is one of my favourite Wildhearts songs and it got into that bit where it really builds up, and I just burst into tears. Because I’ve really got a problem with depression, and to me that’s what that songs about, like ups and downs.”

Danny: “Yeah, it’s powerful stuff.”

Me: “When you go to see a band, what comes first on the agenda: the quality of the music or them entertaining you?”

Danny: “When you go to see a band, you just wanna hear your favourite songs. You don’t wanna hear fucking drum solos or fucking guitar solos or people wanking off in general. You don’t need that sort of shit; you just need your favourite songs played loud! And as tight as you can possibly do ’em, ya na what I mean?”

Me: “With The Wildhearts there’s no song I don’t like, but I won’t go to a lot of gigs on a tour because, if you played the same setlist, it would get repetitive.”

Danny: “I mean, there are over a hundred songs; there are plenty of songs to choose from and we change it every other night. And, on the encore, we take every request apart from ‘Fuck off’.

Me: “Do you think there’s any better art form for self-expression than music?”

Danny: “I don’t think so. I mean, even when you’re an actor. With music you get to write your own script out and do your own stunts, ha, ha, ha! It’s the best thing. Music makes the world go round. If you’ve got a pen a bit of paper and a brain and an opinion, put them down.”

Me: “I always love when I meet a bird and they’re into the same music as you; you’ve got, like, a real good bond.”

Danny: “Absolutely. It brings all different people together all in one room. Of all different religions, sexual orientation, personal views, the whole lot! It’s the only fucking form of entertainment or anything in the world that can get all those sorts of different people in one room. You name me one politician that can do that? Fucking none! That’s how powerful music is, mate.”

Me: “What did it mean to you to be in The Wildhearts when you first joined?”

Danny: “I just loved the band. I was only, like, fifteen or sixteen when I heard the first demo. I used to listen to the demo over and over and over again, so I was a fan of the band – I still am. When I went down for the audition, I thought Ginger was taking the piss and I was just going down for a pint, ’cause he knew that I really wanted to get in the band.”

Me: “This is my next question: the audition, wasn’t it seeing The Cardiacs on acid or something? What was it like?”

Danny: “It was fucking fantastic! Absolutely amazing! The Cardiacs are fucking mad when you’re straight, never mind on mind-altering fucking substances, ya na what I mean? I was on top of the fucking Marquee and I don’t like heights! They knew I could play bass; I think they were just testing us out as a person. And obviously I was a good egg ’cause I got the gig.”

Me: “What’s your proudest ever moment from being in The Wildhearts, do you think?”

Danny: “Getting recognised by fucking heroes, and them coming to see you and saying it’s fucking brilliant and that they like The Wildhearts. There’s millions and millions of proud moments. Ya na, I always think of really good things after an interview.”

Me: “Have you got any great stories from being in the band in the early days?”

Danny: “It was just madness, ya na. We were just squatting. We were living off rice and pasta, rice or gravy, or pasta and gravy. And on dole days, we would get some sort of sauce and be really posh.”

Me: “Is that where ‘Greetings From Shitsville’ came from?”

Danny: “Na, that was the flat over the road from where we were living. That place was a fucking dump; you were paying a fucking fortune in rent and you could see the fucking garden through the cracks in the walls. Yeah, it got condemned. I think Ginger got blamed for snapping the building in half or something stupid. I know he’s a mad man but not even he can snap a house in half, ya na what I mean. But where do you start with The Wildhearts? They’re just The Wildhearts! It was a mad band.”

Me: “Is there anything that you regret you did or didn’t do when you were in The Wildhearts?”

Danny: “Well, I mean the money side of it was always fucking questionable. And obviously the drink and the drugs that were all consumed, I seem to get the blame for it all. But I wasn’t in a band of choirboys you know what I mean. Or fucking angels. That’s obviously a regret: getting screwed up on drugs.”

After a lengthy discussion about the book and other members of The Wildhearts, I mentioned that I wanted stories that hadn’t been in an interview before.

Danny: “Yeah, I na. But I’m keeping some back for my fucking book and all.”

Me: “Come on, we want a book from you guys.”

Danny: “I na. Ginger’s a great writer. He’s got a great grasp of the English language, that guy. And there’s a guy that wants to do a book with me as well. I mean everything from UFOs to armed bandits, fucking all sorts to tell ya. We’ve seen a UFO, me and Ginger. That’s a fucking mad story. We went to Seattle to do our record. Me, Bam, and Ginger went over and we bumped into a guy called Tattoo who used to be in the Navy and we ended up going to Mexico. Anyway, we tried crack for the first time, and we were coming down off this fucking crack and I was like, ‘Fucking ’ell this is fucking great!’ We got to Seattle airport, flew down to LA, and then we were supposed to be changing aeroplanes. Well, we didn’t know it was a federal offence to have your own alcohol on the aeroplane. So we were going down the runway and we opened our cans of beer. Brilliant idea, lads: I mean, we were not being right out of order, but they stopped the aeroplane and these suits came on and – 1, 2, 3, 4, off! You can buy it on the plane, that’s fine. So they stopped the aeroplane the motherfuckers!

Anyway, we were kicked off the fucking aeroplane and we think, ‘Great.’ So we said we were gonna sue ’em, and as soon as you say the word sue in America, they lick your arse – it’s amazing. They gave us our own bus from the airport, put us up in a hotel all on them. We ended up going to the restaurant and spending a fortune. Anyway, we were going back to the hotel and the guy that we were with, Tattoo, turns round to me and Ginger and goes, “There’s a UFO.” So fucking blasé, right, as if to say to me ‘There’s a telephone’ or ‘There’s a TV’ – it didn’t matter to him. So me and Ginger were like, “Where? Fuck me!” I’ve always read books, always watched the movies, and always listened to the conspiracy theories…”

Me: “Were you involved in writing ‘Sky Babies’, or was it just Ginger that wrote that?”

Danny: “Ginger wrote that, but we were all reading the same books. Ginger thinks he saw one when he was a kid, or had an experience when he was a kid. But, like I say, this guy was ex-Navy and he’s seen them do formations all round the continent.

I went to bed that night and I had this feeling of well-being. Like realising I’m not fucking mad, it does exist. It isn’t blown-up, it is fucking a hundred percent true ’cause I’ve seen it with my own eyes, and with other people as well, ya na what I mean? We’d be a very big-headed race to think we’re the only people in the universe”

Me: “Right, I’ve just about come to the end. Any last words for me?”

Danny: “I’m looking forward to fucking gigging again. I’ve got my health, got my sanity. I’ve just started with a couple of guys in Newcastle; it’s starting to sound quite heavy, but rock ’n’ roll as fuck.”

Me: “Cool, cool. Are there any numbers you could give me for any members of the band, or wouldn’t you do that?”

Danny: “I can give you Jef’s number. Right, just give me a sec… 0*********9. I haven’t got Devin’s number.”

Me: “I’d like to talk to Mark Keds.”

Danny: “I’ve got Keds’ number. Right, it’s… 0*********6.”

Me: “Could you do me one last favour and give my number to Ginger, and ask him if he could get in touch about doing an interview?”

Danny: “Yeah, I will do no problem, alright?”

Me: “Oh, can I ask you one last question? Are you clean at the moment? Are you alright in that sort of way?”

DANNY INTERVIEW: PART TWO

DEEP DOWN AND PERSONAL

Danny: “I’m absolutely champion, yeah! Bored, but clean and bored, so I think I’d better nip off now and get some drugs, ha, ha, ha!. I don’t even drink a lot now; I was hospitalised twice. The morphine’s great, but the pain’s awful. I’ve got fucking scars where they’ve pumped the morphine into us. It’s like somebody stabbing you basically; it’s horrible, horrible, horrible. I’ve been to rehab, ya na. I’ve got to deal with it every day – I’ve got my demons.”

Me: “That’s like me with the depression.”

Danny: “Well, that was basically why I was taking a lot of drugs in the first place ’cause I was fucking… very depressed. I started self-medicating, ya na?”

I went on to tell Danny all about my problems with depression.

Danny: “The thing with depression, it’s a horrible disease because you’re talking to someone and you’d never think in a million years they’re depressed.”

Me: “I can’t fake being happy; if I’m that bad you’d know.”

Danny: “Well, you sound very similar to me; I’ve got to force myself, and the only reason why I leave my house is to walk my dog. I wasn’t eating; like you say, I lost a fuck load of weight…”

This wasn’t an interview any more, but a chat between two people who had similar experiences with an illness that had affected their lives in a dramatic way.

Danny: “… If you’re that bad, you will find that you’ll have your great days and your bad days. But when you’re, like, at the height of when you’re depressed, take it minute by minute, second by second, hour by hour. Then you can have at least like I had, a half decent morning. If you have, like, a whole day it’s great. Then other days its, like, arrrgh – it’s horrible. It’s like a cloud following ya. You’ve gotta shake this fucking cloud, and then you just find different coping strategies.”

Me: “Well, my Dad keeps on saying to me, ’cause he suffers from it, he says, ‘I just work, work son.’ And I know if you keep your mind active it’s better, but I said, ‘Dad, when I get that bad I can’t even do that. Literally, I walk in slow motion.’ I was so bad I hardly ate anything, and my mate accidentally left a tub of ice cream round my house when he had to go home. And it’s easy, so I just took the tub of ice cream and just sat in bed. And that’s all I lived off.”

Danny: “Well, you can live a while off just that, you can live off just milk. I na ya can’t be bothered to cook, you can’t be bothered to fucking do anything. It all seems like a, deep, big, massive, fucking horrible task. Even a simple thing like fucking cooking or cleaning, or anything to take your mind off it is really, really fucking hard. You’ve got my sympathy there. I must admit, I know exactly where you’re coming from ’cause it takes one to know one, do you na what I mean? Like I say, that’s the reason why I’m talking about it ’cause I know what I’m on about. But you seem alright today, like. You seem to know all about it, you little bugger. Ha, ha, ha, ha.”

Me: “I am indeed, but I tell you what, I gotta go.”

Danny: “No problem mate. Well, any time if you think of any more questions, just give us a ring…”

But I couldn’t go away…

Me: “I think I could write a book on just you alone.”

Danny: “You could do a book on each and every member of the fucking band.”

I told Danny about Bam’s story of the crowd chanting for him at a Wildhearts show, then he spoke of Scarborough.

Danny: “Of course I know. It was brilliant in Scarborough. Everyone was going ‘Danny! Danny! Danny! Danny!’”

Me: “You know that big chant, Danny?”

Danny: “Yeah.”

Me: “That was me.”

Danny: “I got a big lump in my throat. I was thinking, ‘Fucking ’ell, man!’”

Me: “You know who started that chant off?”

Danny: “Who was it?”

Me: “Me.”

Danny: “You’re joking!”

Me: “I fucking ain’t, mate!”

Danny: “You’re a fucking diamond, man. I mean, after the last couple of years I’ve had, everything we’ve been talking about here, it’s been hard, really shit. One minute I was in the fucking band, and then I was in rehab in a hell of a fucking rut. Turn around one minute and it’s fucking TOTP, and then I was cut out of The Wildhearts and back on the dole. I was not fucking well and just so fucking down. I can’t even explain how shit that feeling is. A band you fucking love, you put everything in to it for years and fucking years, and then to go from that to total fucking despair…”

This part of our conversation went on for a good ten minutes, then continued with Danny saying…

“…The thing is, I didn’t go to the doctor; I went to a dealer. That’s where my problems stemmed from, because I was self-medicating for years and years. Until, like, I say, going into rehab…that was, like, a big wake up call. You’re basically locked up. There was lawyers there, there were doctors, people from the streets, army people, teachers, you name it. There’s like homeless people to very well-off people, and everything in between. It just goes to show that, if you suffer from depression or you’ve got an addictive personality, it doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor. It’s got no rules, and it’s hard, and you can either come out of it or you can die, or go to jail, or you can sort it out. But you can get better; just remember, you will get better eventually.

You’ve got to basically try to function with what you’ve got; its survival. You’ve got your own mind and your own body, and you’ve got to get on the best you can with the tools that you’ve been provided with. It’s very, fucking hard, it really is. But then again, nobody sat me down when I was a kid and said, ‘Right, it’s gonna be a breeze, bonny lad.’”

Me: “This is the other thing. Ginge’ wrote that song ‘There’s Always Someone More Fucked Up Than You’, and some people were, like, ‘That’s a shit point of view.’ But it’s not: I’ve got this stupid little problem, and there’s guys out there in the third world without any food, or their families are being killed, and I feel like saying, ‘Wake up you miserable fucking asshole.’”

Danny: “There’s a lot of horrible fucking shit going on in this world, you na. There’s wars going on, there’s fucking famine, you name it.”

Me: “I think it can help, but that still doesn’t mean that your problems aren’t big, in your mind.”

Danny: “Of course not. You can’t just go, ‘Alright, ok, there’s other people that are worse off than me,’ and think, ‘I’ve got no problems.’ It’s your own fucking life and your problems, as well as appreciating that other people have got a bad time as well. You can feel sorry for them and understand, but you’ve gotta put yourself, like… I mean, the doctor always says to me, ‘You’ve gotta stop worrying about other people so much, ’cause I always worry about other people. It’s not being selfish; it’s being sensible. Then, when you’re better, you can maybe help somebody else. I mean, it took me ages to realise that. Like I say, I’ve suffered from it for fucking years, and I’ll probably have it for the rest of my life and all. It’s like battling this drug addiction; I’ll probably have it for the rest of my life, like.”

Me: “Keep on battling, Danny.”

Danny: “Even when I’m not on drugs, I’ll be still thinking about it and regretting what drugs have done to us, and my family and relationships. It’s one of those things where I can’t change it; I’ve gotta come to terms with it and accept the responsibilities and the consequences of it, otherwise I’ll end up back… I don’t wanna be doing that. That’s no way to live. I mean, I’ve died three times, ya na what I mean? Been fucking dead – stone cold fucking dead…”

I told Danny about the time when my Dad found me in my room after I took an overdose, and mentioned that my Mum always worries and phones me a lot more now…

Danny: “Yeah, as long as ya Mum’s alright, ’cause it’s horrible isn’t it when ya look at your Mum and your Dad and think, ‘Fucking ’ell, what have I put them through?’ I’m their baby, I’m their son. And they’ve seen us, like, in some states… I mean, arrrgh.”

Me: “When depression comes along, it can come along for any reason. Or no reason at all.”

Danny: “Absolutely. Like I say, it’s not your fault, it’s a chemical imbalance, and you’re born like that. Some people are born with one arm and it’s in their genes and…”

Me: “It could be hereditary; my Dad has it.”

Danny: “There you go. My Mum suffers from it as well, and that’s just the way it is…”

The intimate way in which myself and Danny had been talking really knocked me back. He needn’t have spoken, nor given his time, to talk about any of it…

Danny: “Do us a favour, right. Nowt to do with the book, nowt to do with the band; if you ever feel fucking down, give us a buzz.”

At that, I was almost crying due to Danny’s empathy and generosity. With a lump I my throat, I just about managed to squeeze out the words ‘Thank You’.

Danny: “Like I said, though, you’ve got my number. Anytime, if you’re bored one day and you think, ‘Fucking ’ell, I’ll give Danny a ring.’”

Me: “I’ve got to say one more thing. This conversation that we’ve had for the last three quarters of an hour has been just about the depression side and everything. Would you mind if I feature it?”

Danny: “I’m only talking about this because I feel comfortable. With other people, I won’t talk about it, ya na what I mean? I’ve not got one thing in my life to hide – I haven’t. Because, at the end of the day, it’s part of who I am; I’ve got nothing to hide. It’s very hard, but stick in there, mate, and I’ll do the same.”

Me: “And you, mate. And that offer about phoning you; I’ll say do the same with me.”

Danny: “If I’ve got credit. I’m literally – I’m not pleading poverty but, I’m absolutely fucking skint!”

Me: “Well, I will be after this call. I’m using my landline, mate. But I don’t give a fuck if it costs me fifty quid; it’s been worth every penny.”

Danny: “There you go, man, nice one. Like I say, I’m here. Alright, bud?”

Me: “Alright, mate. Take care.”

Danny: “All the best bud.”

Me: “Bye.”

Danny: “Bye.”

Need I say more?

 

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