The Wildhearts main man tells us about the guitars he’s loved, lost and been reunited with as we pose the 10 questions we ask everyone
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1. What was your first guitar and when did you get it?
“It was handed down to me by my cousin and it was an old battered Spanish acoustic with cat-gut strings. Proper cat-gut before they turned into nylon. I didn’t know how to tune it or how to play it but I wrote my first song on it and I actually still remember the song. I fell in love with the idea of how it felt to make a sound out of something, and I guess the obsession started from there. Not just with the guitar but with writing on the guitar.”
2. What’s your first guitar playing memory?
“My first big one was getting my first electric guitar – a crappy-looking Hondo or something – and just plugging it in. For years I had been playing with it jammed against the radiator because that is how you amplified the guitar before you could afford and amplifier!
Then I got an amplifier, a piece-of-crap five-watt thing. But I remember just pluggin it in and really, truly thinking that I had the power. I had the power to annoy my parents!”
3. The building’s burning down – what one guitar from your collection do you save?
“I would probably pick up my acoustic because I would want to write a song about the fire and I wouldn’t really bother doing that on electric. It’s a Tanglewood; a big, old Johnny Cash-looking thing with mother-of-pearl binding. It’s beautiful – it has become a real good friend to me.”
4. What’s the most expensive guitar you’ve ever bought?
“A Fender Coronado. I had a grand left in the bank when I was battling with drug addiction and I looked at this grand and I thought: that is going to last me a few days or I can go and buy a really good guitar with it.
I bought the Fender Coronado and I was pretty proud of myself. I still could have sold it for drugs, but the gesture was enough to make me realise I was at least trying.”
5. What’s the most recent piece of gear you’ve acquired?
“I sold all of my guitars to go to New York and I’m now in the process of buying them all back again. The last guitar I bought was a New York taxi-coloured Dean semi-acoustic. I couldn’t find another one like it anywhere and I started to really miss this guitar.
The owner got in touch with me online and said, Do you want to buy it back for what you sold it to me for? That is probably the most welcome purchase I have had in a while, because it’s a f**king beautiful guitar and it’s covered in my blood. I don’t tend to miss guitars very much, I have broken so many of them in the past, but this one has a special place in my heart.”
6. What album that has most inspired you as a guitarist?
“Rocket To Russia by The Ramones. It really inspired me as a guitar player, a writer, a musician and image-wise as well. To this day The Ramones still inspire me.”
7. Beatles or Stones?
“The Stones. The Beatles haven’t got Keith Richards in them.”
8. What’s the worst thing that ever happened to you on stage?
“We did an acoustic support slot with [Lemmy’s rockabilly band] The Head Cat recently in Berlin. There was me and a friend on stage with acoustic guitars and thousands of Motorhead fans. To say it went down badly would be doing the nightmare an extreme disservice. It was f**king horrible. It will be the last acoustic gig I’ll ever play. It just put me off playing acoustic. It just put me off playing acoustic and put me off playing in Berlin.”
9. If you could have a drink with any musician, dead or alive, who would it be?
“I would love to have a drink with Keith Richards while he is around. Part of me is quite relieved that it hasn’t happened in a way, because I would hate to be disappointed. But I would love to share a whisky with Keith.”
10. Is there a myth about you or your guitar playing that you’d like to set the record straight on?
“That all I play is heavy rock. I can count the metal bands on one hand that I like. I don’t know why people always get disappointed if I do stuff that isn’t just riffs. I would love for that part of my reputation to be destroyed. I like country more than heavy music.”