The Wildhearts Book

Interview with ex-Wildhearts guitarist Jef Streatfield

16 JULY 2006

Using the number I obtained from Danny, I gave Jef a ring and had no trouble organising a convenient moment to talk. However, this interview almost didn’t get written up, as the recording on my Dictaphone was practically inaudible. But with hours and hours of patience, I managed to work out a proportion of what was said. It’s a shame I can’t enter the whole of the interview because Jef was so friendly and easygoing.

Jef: “Hello, mate.”

Me: “Hello, is that Jef?”

Jef: “It is, yeah. Hi Gary, how ya doing?”

Me: “Hello, alright mate. You didn’t get back to me the other day…”

Jef: “Did ya get my text?”

Me: “No I didn’t, mate.”

Jef: “My phone’s been playing up lately; it’s started to really get on my tits.”

Me: “I see. Ok, I’ll crack on with it then. At what age did you first start to embrace music? What were your first memories?”

Jef: “I got into music really, pretty damn early. My sister’s ten years older than me, and she was always watching Top Of The Pops and all that kind of thing. And I used to sit in front of the telly when I was about two or three years old with a couple of bits of wood and bash the crap out of the telly. I always wanted to be a drummer, ya see. It was around that sort of age I got into Suzi Quatro and that sort of stuff, ya know? Then, later, I came across a Motörhead album and it changed my fucking life. I was, like, ‘Fuck me, I wanna make a row like that!’”

Me: “Can you remember what the first band you ever saw was?”

Jef: “It was Status Quo on The End of the Road tour. That was fucking wicked! It was down at Shepton Mallet inside this fucking great big cattle shed. ’Cause I was down in Dorset, and down there there are hardly any venues, so you don’t really get much chance to go and watch bands.”

Me: “What’s the most fanatical you’ve been towards one of your idols? Or are there any instances where maybe you’ve pissed one of them off?”

Jef: “I dunno actually, I’ve been kinda lucky in that anyone I’ve met that I’ve really liked in music or whatever has been as cool as nuts. With AC/DC, I mean I loved AC/DC, and going on tour and meeting them was great. There’s not one arsehole amongst them. So I haven’t really got an answer for that one, I’m afraid.”

Me: “What about you as a musician, how is it with fans getting you to sign autographs and all that?”

Jef: “It’s a little bit tricky; I mean you could be there all day. I don’t know, I find it a bit weird. I haven’t got that sort of mentality of being a star or whatever – I’d rather just go down the pub and have a natter with ’em. It’s almost a little bit embarrassing sometimes, you know what I mean? When someone’s a little bit too, like – wow. I mean, come on get over it!”

Me: “I guess it’s easy to be like that, but talking to Danny was great as he was so down to earth and easy to get along with.”

Jef: “Yeah, he’s instantly like that. He is without a doubt the easiest person to get on with in The Wildhearts – without a fucking doubt!”

Me: “CJ’s pretty cool as well.”

Jef: “Yeah, I like CJ. He’s a good lad.”

Me: “For Plan A, when you lay down your innermost feelings in songs, I don’t know how deep you get with that sort of stuff, but would you ever explain exactly what the song’s about?”

Jef: “Generally, no. I kinda like the idea whenever I’m writing a song that it’s up to somebody how they want to take it, you know? I don’t like to give too much of myself away; I don’t wanna lay myself wide open. I haven’t got to the point where I’m comfortable with that.”

Me: “What do you think of fans getting onstage while you’re playing?”

Jef: “I think it’s funny, actually. There’s lots of stories, like with Keith Richards when a fan came flying onto the stage. To have someone on a stage when you’re not used to them being up there can be a really daunting experience. Anyway, this guy just jumps up onstage and he doesn’t know really what to do, so he goes flying for Mick Jagger. Then this guy goes for Keith, and he just knocks the guy clean off his fucking feet with his guitar. And that’s your kind of reaction when people get onstage. You go, like, ‘Well, what you gonna do now?’ I mean, there’s plenty of people you could have pissed off in one way or another. I mean, all you’ve got to do is fart in the wrong direction and someone might wanna take your fucking head off. I mean, in days gone past there was a club in Poole I used to go to, and there was a whole load of shit that went on there. People used to get onstage and security used to take ’em out back and beat the crap out of ’em. Once people got wind of that, obviously the security got sacked. But, before that, no one would get onstage apart from the band ’cause everyone was shit scared they were gonna get a good kicking.”

Me: “What’s the strangest ever thing you’ve seen as a punter at a gig or from the stage when you’ve been playing?”

Jef: “I dunno, umm… People stage-diving and everyone moving out the way happens quite a lot.”

Me: “What do you want to see when you go and see a band?”

Jef: “It’s the whole fucking shebang, really. It’s one of the best feelings when you go and see a band and all the fucking hairs stand up on your arms and your arse hairs stand to attention, ya know? For that to happen, it’s quite a special moment. I mean, there’s no way you can mastermind it. It’s one of them things, really. When it happens, its blinding.”

Me: “I mean, it’s nice to see something visually, but I don’t really give a toss if they’re wearing just jeans and t-shirts as long as there’s soul and spirit there from the band.”

Jef: “You see, I’ve never really been into that sort of Kiss mentality of fireworks and bombs and that kinda thing. Its more about the soul of the fucking music.”

Me: “The music’s still great, but it can come over all pretentious, I think, with too much going on.”

Jef: “Yeah it can; it can also look fucking stupid.”

Me: “What are your other loves apart from music, and do you think there’s any better art form for self-expression?”

Jef: “Yeah, I mean art itself is pretty cool for self-expression. Any forms of visual or audio, really.”

Me: “What does music bring to your life, being in a band and everything? If you didn’t have music in your life where would you be now do you think?”

Jef: “Jesus Christ, if I didn’t have music in my life… in all honesty, I probably wouldn’t be alive. It’s a massive part of my life, whether I’m playing it or listening to it, you know?. It can drastically change your mood, totally fucking lift ya when you’re down, and all that kind of stuff – it’s a necessity; it’s like breathing. That’s how I look at music; it is important, it’s as simple as that. Even if it’s all silent and you’re not listening to it, and no one’s talking or anything, and you’re on a train or something like that, you’ve still got little tunes going round your head.”

Me: “I’ve got a rather strange question for ya. Say you liked Gary Glitter, I don’t know, and now obviously he’s been outed as a paedophile, what effect would that have on you listening to his music?”

Jef: “I don’t think it would make a great deal of difference. Unless it was something in the lyrics that years ago you hadn’t fucking realised, ya know? If it came to someone being disgraced, it wouldn’t change the music for me. It would change my opinion of the person fucking greatly, ya know? It was a couple of years ago, wasn’t it, when Pete Townsend got fucking done and his computer had something on it? At the time I was like, ‘No, not fucking Pete Townshend! I mean, that’s a prime example. I mean, I still love The Who and I still listen to all their records. I think as soon as I heard, I went through all their records to see if there was something going on I hadn’t realised. And there wasn’t and he got acquitted anyway, so yeah, yeah.”

Me: “Right, Wildhearts questions. What did it feel like joining the band?”

Jef: “Well, when I actually joined, I didn’t meet Ginger for about two weeks. I just rehearsed with Ritch and Danny. It was a bit of a weird situation. I find it hard to fucking remember to be honest, I just got on with it – I think it was going to be, like, their last tour anyway, or something. I joined in the October I think, and we were gonna do the tour in November, and that was gonna be the last tour. That was the first split-up. That was gonna be the end of it ’cause Ginger wanted to call it quits, and that was what was gonna happen. Then we did that tour and it went down really fucking well, and we all had a great fucking laugh, no fisticuffs or nowt like that. And the next thing I know I was in the studio, and we were doing new recordings and shit so… it was a fucking tidal wave, man, because I’d just come out of a band down south called Schmoozer who weren’t a busy band by any stretch of the imagination. Then, with The Wildhearts, everything went really quick. It was like tour, tour, recording, then you didn’t see anybody for, like, three months, then it all kicked off again – it was all a bit nuts to be fair.”

Me: “Have you got any stories round the time of ‘Endless Nameless’? Didn’t you have a big old party after the ‘Anthem’ video was recorded?”

Jef: “It was pretty cool, ’cause I knew a guy from Mushroom records for fucking years and when he found out I’d joined The Wildhearts he was over the moon for us. And I don’t think he’d thought about it at the time, but when we got sacked off East West I told him and he was, like, he signed us, threw the fucking money on the table, and all that sorta stuff. When we made the video for ‘Anthem’ I think we had a sixteen grand budget or something like that, and a mate of Ginger’s said he’d do the video for, like, six grand or whatever, and we used the rest of it for a party. And what a hell of a party it was. It was about forty-eight hours or something like that. I’ve never, ever had a party since that’s been anything like it. There was just, like, all sorts of naughty behaviour going on. There were people walking out at ten o’clock the following morning; kids were taking cases of beer home with ’em, there was still that much fucking stuff left. We had the entire fucking warehouse and one wall was just stacked with fucking bottles of Jack and lagers and fuck knows what else – it was mental.”

Me: “What’s your proudest moment from being in The Wildhearts?”

Jef: “Doing the AC/DC tour. And then, following that, was a storming gig at Finsbury Park. That Finsbury Park gig goes down as the fucking tip of the top of the list for me, I think. I remember walking up onto the stage and someone flung one of those big inflatable balls up, and I remember doing a big fucking super kick that went way back out into the crowd and everyone went, like, ‘Way-hay!’ And that, for me that was a fucking moment!”

Me: “Did you wanna be a footballer growing up, then.”

Jef: “Nah, nah. I’ve got two fucking left feet, man.”

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

Jef: “Ha, ha, ha, ha. That’s a tricky one. There’s probably one thing I didn’t do when I had the chance, but umm, I don’t know if I wanna tell you about that.”

Me: “Go on.”

Jef: “Everything was well and truly conquered, I think. As for wishing we’d done something, I kinda wish that it didn’t just crumble at the end like it did, The Wildhearts, ya know?”

We then went on to have a long discussion about Jef’s band Plan A, him moving up to Scotland, Danny, and matters surrounding Zealot. Yet again here was another member of The Wildhearts who was an absolute pleasure to talk to.

Read The Wildhearts: Zealot in Wonderland excerpts

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