The Wildhearts Book

Interview with Early Wildhearts Drummer Bam

15th May 2006

Contacting drummer Bam through his band Bubble’s web page, I explained what I was aiming to do with Zealot and he got straight back to me with his contact number. It took me two weeks to build up the courage, but eventually I called.

Before this interview took place, I had stupidly phoned Bam at 5.00am the very same day. Seems I got a little confused with the time difference – whoops. Under the circumstances, he was extremely polite and we decided that when I got home at 11.00pm from my late shift at work it would probably be a more reasonable time to call.

Beeeeeep… beeeeeep… beeeeeep… beeeeeep… beeeeeep… “Hi, you’re through to Rock ’n’ Roll TV, please leave a message.”

Typical, I knew this was all too good to be true. “Alright Bam, it’s Gary. I said I was gonna ring you for this interview we set up. Are you there?”

Bam: “Hello.”

After an inward sigh of relief, I spoke to a one-time Wildheart: “Hello Bam, can you hear me alright?”

Bam: “Yeah.”

After explaining in more detail what my book was all about, we cracked on.

Me: “Are you still in contact with Ginger? Do you talk to him now?”

Bam: “Occasionally, yeah. We were brothers in arms for a while there; we stay in contact now and again.”

Me: “At what age did you first embrace music; which bands or songs?”

Bam: “You really wanna know? The first song I ever remember singing to myself was when I was a little kid; it was a Beatles song ‘She Loves You’. That was the first song that went through my head – yeah.”

Me: “How old were you then?”

Bam: “Fucking ’ell, about five.”

Me: “When did you first start thinking you might wanna be in a band?”

Bam: “I suppose I first thought about joining a band and all that stuff when my cousin Billy was a drummer. I used to look up to him ’cause I was the eldest in the family and he was older than me and I didn’t have an older brother, so he was kinda like a brother. He was a drummer and always had gorgeous girls hanging round him and all that stuff, ya know? Like David Cassidy or something. It was the seventies and he used to take me out on the weekend to his rehearsals and stuff like that. It sort of got me into it, ya know?”

Me: “Do you remember the first band you saw, and what effect did it have on you?”

Bam: “I don’t know about the first one. Like I said my cousin Billy used to take me to gigs. He took me to a fucking Faces rehearsal. It was a horrible place; I remember ’aving to piss in the sink and being really fucking embarrassed. I didn’t know who The Faces were, and it was right at the end I think, before Rod split: that was a lasting impression. I haven’t been able to fucking piss in a sink ever since.”

Me: “Actually it’s quite bizarre talking to you though, as when I phoned you at five in the morning you were umm…”

Bam: “Fucking well asleep I was.”

Me: “And now it’s like twelve at night, I’ve just got in from work and I’m fucked!”

Bam: “I’ll sleep through a fucking earthquake me. She [Bam is referring to his wife Share] woke up and went, “Who’s phoning, he keeps phoning and hanging up.”

Me: “Anyways, what are your views on band and fan interaction… like an artist’s privacy?”

Bam: “What, the sort of dynamic between band and the fans?”

Me: “Yeah.”

Bam: “Again, when I was with my Cousin Billy he took me to see this drummer called Buddy Rich, who was a jazz drummer, at Ronnie Scott’s club down in London. After the gig, I waited outside for Buddy’s autograph… It started raining. I kept waiting and waiting and he came out the back door and he just sort of brushed pass me and went, “Get out the fucking way kid!” And he fucking pushed me out the way, you know what I mean? I’d been waiting out there for an hour and a half in the fucking rain for his fucking autograph – and that destroyed me. I think that sort of stuck with me. I mean, I can only talk for myself with fans; I always try and fucking give ’em what they want. When you spend some time with them you can tell whether someone’s really into it or they just want an autograph to sell it on fucking eBay or something.”

Me: “I can understand sometimes if you’re a member of a band and you’ve been there for hours, you’ll get a little fed up and stuff, but I dunno, you gotta…”

Bam: “’Cause that’s part of the fucking territory, ya know what I mean? At the end of the day it does get to the point where you’re exhausted and you just can’t deal with it, so you have to like disappoint someone. It’s unfortunate but sometimes that happens. You try not to, ya know what I mean?”

Me: “Have there ever been any occasions where a fan has really pissed you off?”

Bam: “I remember one specific time when there was this guy and he had like fifteen copies of one album and like ten copies of another… and he’s like, “Can ya sign ’em all?” It’s like why? Can’t I just sign one? You only need one dude, ya know? It was pretty obvious he was just gonna sell ’em on. I was just like, “Fuck off, mate!” Then I just walked away. I went out of the club and was loading more gear and there he was again hassling Share. It was at a Bubble gig, actually. He had a big pile of Vixen stuff for her to sign. I walked up and said, “Look dude just…” – I’m not gonna name names, but I know who the guy is and he’s really annoying. He’s just one of those guys whose kinda outta control, ya know? Obviously some fans are gonna be fanatics, but you just kinda gotta deal with it. You just have to humour people and then go, “You know what – fuck off!” It just gets crazy, especially if ya haven’t got roadies. So you’ve got to get everything out and deal with that. I’d rather spend my time with some other fans that haven’t got anything signed.”

Me: “As a fan of music, even though I can take what I want from the lyrics of any artist, it’s always nice to know the original meaning behind them. Do you think it’s wrong for a fan to probe an artist for their meanings? Do you write the lyrics in your band Bubble?”

Bam: “Yeah. I think that’s fine, ya know? I think sometimes as a writer it’s sometimes hard. There’s different ways of writing a song, I find anyway. I mean everyone’s different but different songs come to ya in different ways. Some you have to really think about ’cause you’re actually setting out to write something; about something specific, and other songs, for me at least anyway, lyrically they just come in one big gush. It’s almost like I’m not writing them – they’re just coming out. When it’s like that it’s kinda harder to explain what it’s about – it’s more about a feeling than being about something, ya know… It’s fine for fans to wanna know your original intent.”

Me: “There are a lot of bands around at the moment who encourage their fans to get onstage with them. What are your feelings about fans trying to get onstage while you’re playing?”

Bam: “The dividing line?”

Me: “Yeah.”

Bam: “I suppose it just depends on how pompous you are and how big your fucking ego is, ya know, at that specific moment in time. I mean, in Bubble we’ve had loads of fans on the stage; we’ve encouraged them. I remember playing The London Underworld and fucking dragging them all up onstage at the end – it was fucking a hoot, ya know?”

Me: “What’s the strangest or weirdest thing you’ve ever seen or done at a gig?”

Bam: “I remember dancing and going for it once at an Iggy Pop gig, just down the front row in the pit, just going ape shit. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to an Iggy Pop show, but basically he doesn’t stop in between songs. So I danced till I was sick, I literally threw up. Just bounced around screaming me head off till I threw up. It’s one of the few gigs that I’ve actually turned into a real fan, that’s maybe what you’re looking for. That was the one gig where I totally lost any sense of being an artist or a musician. He got me, you know what I mean? He had me eating out of the palm of his hands – I went fucking mental!”

Me: “Why do you think that was? Is there something you could pinpoint that made you feel that way?”

Bam: “If I could bottle it, I’d be fucking rich.”

Me: “That’s what I’m trying to get across in this book I’m doing ’cause I just find it really interesting you know, the fanatical side of it and how you really do become obsessed with a band.”

Bam: “It’s pretty wild, ya know? You just lose control. The other gig that did it for me was Led Zeppelin in 1979 at Knebworth, which is a big outdoor festival. They had The New Barbarians opening for them with Keith Richards, and that was a really good gig; that whole thing was fucking mental. It wasn’t the same kinda music as Iggy Pop, but the music and everything just totally had me. Kept me fixated ya know?”

Me: “What do you think is more important, the music or entertainment? What I’m saying is, a band can be fucking great, the songs can be great, but onstage they don’t do anything visually.”

Bam: “I think it’s all part and parcel of the same thing; there has to be a balance between one and the other – otherwise you might as well just sit at home and listen to a record, or your, what is it nowadays, an iPod? I’ve seen bands, they go up there and lark about, they’ve all got make-up on and god knows fucking what, and chicks with their tits out and they sound fucking horrible – sorry, mate, that just doesn’t cut it. I think they’re both important.”

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

Bam: “Music’s pretty powerful, there’s not much that comes close to being onstage and having an audience and getting them going. That’s a pretty… religious experience.”

Me: “Right, I’ve got some questions now about your time in The Wildhearts, if that’s alright? Can you tell me about when you joined them?”

Bam: “I was over in London and my friend Rick Browde, who’s a record producer, he was producing The Wildhearts’ demo, and er… I was in town one day and Rick phoned me and said come down to see them in Soho. So I went down in this basement studio and that was the first time I met CJ and all those guys. The Dogs D’Amour had just broken up – the band I was in. Then I got a phone call from another producer called Mark Dearnley who’d also worked with the Dogs. Mark phoned me up and said, “Look I’m working with the Wildhearts,”, I said, “Oh yeah, I know them. Rick did ’em and blah, blah, blah.” Then he’s like, “Did he give you a cassette. They need a drummer.” I’m like, “Fucking bring it on, send it over!” So he sent me this cassette; I still remember getting it in the mail. I was living in this apartment in West Hollywood, it was a lovely apartment actually. It had a sea water swimming pool and I was faced every day on Jack Daniels with my next door neighbour… Anyway, I got this cassette and I remember playing it really loudly on the fucking balcony; and it’s like a tiny courtyard apartment, ya know, waking everybody up. Straight away I just thought this is fucking great; it was a demo of ‘Turning American’ and maybe ‘Nothing Ever Changes’, I think. And it also had ‘Church Of The Broken Hearted’, I think. So yeah, Dearnley sent me the tape, then they sent me a ticket, then I went over there and sort of auditioned, ya know? I went to London, hung out for like ten days, we booked some studio time and I went in and jammed with ’em. Ginge’ was like, “Yeah you’re fucking great, do ya wanna do it?” And I’m like, “Yeah I fucking wanna do it!” So then I flew back to LA, sold all my shit, got on another plane and came back to London and that’s it.”

Me: “Do you have any stories from around then that you can reveal?”

Bam: “Just copious amounts o’ hashish… yeah, those guys were like, I mean I’m not saying I wasn’t, but fuck me man. We got the record advance and the first thing Danny did was go out and come back with a block of hash the size of a house brick.”

Bam, impersonating Danny, put on a pretty impressive Geordie accent for authenticity: “This should de us for like three weeks.” “Three weeks, it’ll do us for like three years ya cunt… you tryin’a kill us?” was Bam’s hilarious reply. Danny, “Better get some whizz to go with that.” He bought a great big fuck-off bag of whizz to go with that as well. It was crazy, man; everybody was really going for it, ya know what I mean?”

Me: “Did the band have the feeling it was gonna happen for them? Did they think we’re gonna be a big popular band?”

Bam: “Well, we all desperately wanted to be popular – we knew we had a lot of problems surrounding us. I dunno, there was just a lot of management problems and communication problems with the record company, it seemed like. This guy at the label he wanted it to sound… he kept saying things like [Bam puts on this airy-fairy voice], “It should sound more like Pantera; the guitars need to be more like Pantera.” “Well we’re not fucking Pantera, dickhead – fuck off and leave us alone!”

Me: “Did you stick to your guns; like, you wouldn’t change for anybody?”

Bam: “Yeah, I think Ginger knew what he wanted and more power to him, ya know? At one point they sent us to Seattle to remix it with Terry Date who did Soundgarden and shit. Me and Ginge’ were in the studio on and off for a week – I dunno, it just all seemed like a waste of money to me. It’s one of those things that labels do so they can have some power, I suppose. They really think they know best, but I really believe they don’t know shit. The Wildhearts had a lot of run-ins with the label. Ginger, I love the guy you know, but he’s got one fatal flaw: he will speak his mind, at any given time, night or day. You can’t deal with record company people like that, ya know? You can’t stand up and go [Bam doing a great impression of an angry Ginger], “You are not fucking entitled to an opinion on my fucking music you cunt!” It doesn’t go down too well, ya know what I mean?”

Me: “But he still does.”

Bam: “Well he always has and that’s just Ginge’, ya know.”

Me: “I admire that though.”

Bam: “So do I, yeah.”

Me: “Well, he’s got everything going on now though, a record label and everything, which is what he’s always wanted.”

Bam: “Oh good, I hope it makes him happy. I just want the guy to be happy.”

Me: “What would you say was your proudest ever moment while being in the band?”

Bam: “I remember walking onstage once… my proudest ever moment, Ginger will kill me for this. I remember walking onstage, I think it was Cardiff. Before we were going on, Ginge’ was in a downer mood and he was saying, “They’re gonna fucking hate us, I know they’re gonna fucking hate us!” Anyway, we walked onstage and the first two rows started going “BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM!” So we were all fucking gob-smacked, and Ginge’ just turned and looked at me – he was like, you fucking cunt!”

After I’d managed to stop laughing at the scene in my head, I asked Bam: “I bet you loved it though?”

Bam: “I was laughing my head off. I could hardly play the first song which was ‘Turning American’, I was laughing my bollocks off.”

Me: “That’s a great story.”

Bam: “The look on Ginger’s face, he was like, ya know? ’Cause before he went on he was like, “This is gonna be a terrible gig,” and the poor bastard had to walk on to the chant of “Bam, Bam, Bam”, ya know? So that done his head in; but that was the only time it ever happened. We had a lot of laughs; we had a lot of good times and all that.”

Me: “Is there anything you did or didn’t do that you regret?”

Bam: “No not really, if you ask anybody who knows me they’ll say there’s nothing I didn’t do. I don’t regret any of it – I was on number eleven at all times; it was like Spinal Tap for real. I remember one time opening up for Wolfsbane and I got an abscess on one of my teeth, and that morning my face just blew up like a fucking tennis ball – I looked like a right cunt. I remember banging on my fucking tour manager’s door in the hotel at six in the morning with this huge face. He drove me down the hospital and they sent us to this dentist. This big Scottish lady come at me with a pair of pliers and pulled out me fucking tooth. And believe it or not, I was like, “I love you, thank you.” Straight away the release was amazing; she shoved all this cotton wool and bandages in the hole were the root was. That night I had a gig, so I played the gig and three songs into the show the string out of the fucking bandage started coming out of the hole and going down my throat and choking me. So I was choking on this fucking bandage, and I managed to finish this song and pull out the bandage and there was about two foot of it in there; fuck knows how they got it all in, ya know. It tasted horrible ’cause it had all the pus and shit on it. I pulled this thing out and Steve Danger, the drummer of Wolfsbane, was standing at the side of the stage just like with his mouth open going, “What the fuck!” And suddenly this blood just started gushing out of my face, just pouring like a tap. Ginge’ started the next song, so he didn’t even turn round and I was like spitting blood and pus, it was going all over the drums and there was like loads of it, man – I must have lost like a pint of blood! And poor old Steve Danger was like, as I came offstage, “You’re like the fucking devil man, I’m never coming near you again!” And my drum roadie shouted, “I’m not cleaning your drums, you might have Aids!” It was a really good night actually, that signed, sealed, and delivered it. After that night they thought I was mental, ya know, playing ‘Love You ‘Till I Don’t’ spitting blood”

Me: “How important is it to you to look cool onstage and keep up those rock ’n’ roll traditions?”

Bam: “Well it’s all changed now; you can go onstage wearing torn jeans and just look like the fucking postman and nobody turns a blind eye do they?”

Me: “Does that matter?”

Bam: “I dunno. Personally, do you want something to look up to like heroes or icons, or do you want the band to be the same as you, like the man on the street?”

Me: “It’s a personal thing ’cause sometimes I do. It’s nice to see, like Kiss or whatever and it’s entertaining and it’s great, but I love to see bands up there sometimes that are just… ya know? As long as the fucking music’s good and they do entertain, they’ve gotta move onstage obviously.”

Bam: “I think the bottom line is it’s all good; variety is the spice of life. I guess it’s good to have a band you can just walk up to and approach very easily; for some kids that’s great and other kids enjoy the fact that they can’t approach the band; the band’s been whisked off and they’re secretive and blah, blah, blah, a mystery thing, ya know? I guess it’s just a matter of opinion really, ain’t it?”

Me: “Shit I’ve run out of questions, mate. I’m trying to think of something really exciting to finish off with… any last words?”

Bam: “Long live The Wildhearts!”

Me: “Yeah, well… they’re on and off and on and off, but they’ll always be an ongoing thing. At one point Ginger said he didn’t want to even hear the name again when things went tits up for him.”

Bam: “When you do something and you pull your whole heart out, I mean Share and I have done it with Bubble. When you put your whole heart and soul into something and you really believe in it a hundred and fifty percent, you really slog and sweat for it, you know what you want and you know in your heart of hearts, you know it’s fucking good! That’s the worst thing, when suddenly you don’t get maybe the success in terms of exposure, whatever you wanna call it. Not even financial, but more just in terms of people hearing it, people getting to hear what you’re doing. That’s what’s important; it’s not in the money, it’s just like getting people to kinda share in your emotions. If that doesn’t happen to the expectations that you’re having it can be quite fucking blunt, it’s kinda hard to get over.”

Me: “Yeah, it’s kinda like me doing this book. I mean, if everything goes alright and I write the whole lot and I just can’t get it out to anybody to read, it’ll just… I mean I’ve enjoyed doing it, but fucking ’ell you’d be missing a whole something.”

We then had a lengthy conversation about publishing on the Internet and getting a publishing deal before Bam came up with this revelation.

Bam: “Share and I have got a book coming out actually, called Punk Knits.”

Assuming I had heard Bam wrong and feeling rather puzzled, I replied: “Have ya?”

Bam: “It’s actually a knitting book.”

What was he on about? I checked my calendar to see if it was 1st April and then asked: “A… knitting book?” [Just to make sure I hadn’t misheard.]

Bam: “Yeah, a punk knitting book. It’s got all these designs, but not like old lady fucking knitting, it’s like skull and crossbones and fucking crazy shit.”

Me: “That’s cool. Ha, ha, ha, why not?”

Bam: “Yeah, it’s all mad fucking knitted stuff. We’ve got all of our rock star friends here in Hollywood to be the models, so it’s got a good crazy twist on it.”

Me: “You know, I think I’ve just found the end of my interview with that. Am I allowed to put that bit in?”

Bam: “Punk knitting; it just doesn’t sound right, does it?”

Me: “I think it sounds just great!”

Bam: “The fucking juxtaposition of two things that just shouldn’t go together: punk rock and knitting.”

Me: “That’s how it works… it works.”

Bam: “Its funny man, we’re trying to distribute them in America. You can go to Punkknits.com.”

Me: “You’re keeping busy – how do ya find the time?”

Bam: “Today right, I just sold fucking twenty designs to this jeweller. He also makes porno movies; that’s where he gets his money from – porn. He’s gone into the jewellery business, he’s opened up a fucking sweat shop in Indonesia where they’re carving skulls out of silver and shit. He’s coming round in about ten minutes with a fucking porno queen to give me a cheque and a fucking blow job – it never stops man!”

On that note we said our goodbyes. I hung up and hoped all my other interviews would go as swimmingly as the one I’d just had. Cheers, Bam!

A little while after the interview, I devoured a king size Pot Noodle, had a wank over some cheap porn, then went to bed as I had to get up early the next morning to go shopping for bread and ham slices to make up my packed lunch for work.

Eh, Bam? Top that for a crazy rock ’n’ roll lifestyle?!

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