After profiling Snake on the blog, I recently caught up with Dunken Francis (aka Dunken F Mullett), another onetime frontman of the early Wild Hearts. In a less than obvious career move, Dunken is now an aikido instructor based in New Zealand. Although, he hasn’t caught up with Ginger since the Silver Ginger 5 tour in Japan, he was kind enough to spare me some time before he jetted off to teach aikido at a seminar in Australia.
It’s a difficult task for me trying to make sense of the early days of The Wild Hearts, there’s a lot of vague information about. What were the dates you were in the band?
As far as I can remember, late 1989 to late 1990? About a year all told.
How did you first meet Ginger and how did you end up getting the singing gig in the band?
I was the front man for Mournblade previously so we were all around the scene at the same time and knew lots of the same people – I can’t remember how I ended up auditioning, but vaguely remember being in a rehearsal studio somewhere (John Henry’s maybe) and we jammed thru a couple of AC/DC songs and a bit of Led Zep and they pretty much gave me the job there and then.
What were your first impressions of the band?
A good bunch of lads although it was obvious from the outset that Dave (Ginger) was the driving/controlling force. I was always a major songwriter in Mournblade but the set up here was a very different – I was OK with it as I was the new boy, but I think in those days one of the problem with the band was that Ginger clearly had a vision but didn’t seem to be able to communicate it very well to the others.
Ginger mentioned that the recording sessions you were involved were ‘chaotic, but fun’, what are your memories of them?
I remember disliking Ric Browde immediately. He has a real ‘fake” American vibe about him and I could tell from the outset he hated the way I sang. It was obvious he wanted more of a big American sounding approach – he produced a lot of the Poison stuff. I’m a cockney so he wasn’t ever gonna get that from me. The vibe in the studio was odd, Ginger drove a ride on lawnmower into the swimming pool on day three, seemingly for no reason. Funny at the time but bloody stupid really. By midweek Ric Browde has pretty much alienated me from rest of the guys. The way he handled recording the vocals was the most unprofessional I’ve ever encountered. Rather than just coming out and saying “this is what we want it to sound like” we just kept doing take after take of the same thing, with him making dumbass sarcastic remarks. In any other situation I think I’d have walked, but it was important for the band. I remember crashing out that night, staring at the ceiling and saying to myself “that’s the end of that then”.
What happened next?
After the Ric Browde incident, I think Ginger was persuaded to get Snake back in as he has much more of a “classic hair rock” voice. Ginger invited me over one day, told me straight, good man, and then we all hung out getting wrecked. An odd night, but fair call to be honest. Ironically, I think if I’d joined the band a few years later it would have worked really well.
Shortly after leaving the band I hooked up with Glen Matlock from The Pistols and Rat Scabies from The Damned, and a very talented Hendrix-style guitarist from the States, Jerod… That’s another story in itself! I’ve never stopped playing professionally – still do a couple of gigs a weeks in bars and clubs around Auckland, and in 2012 Mournblade reformed and did a reunion show at the heavy metal maniacs festival in Holland
You mentioned that you kept in contact with Ginger afterwards, what’s your opinion of The Wildhearts now?
Not really kept in contact, we have mutual friends and we’ve swapped a few messages, he seems to be feeding himself doing what he loves, as do I – a privileged position not many people can claim, so all good. I’ve always liked Ginger’s writing style, a great mix of angry post pop and metal, It’s a shame he’s such a one man show as I think if you could get him working together with someone a bit more experienced – Jim Steinman springs to mind – I reckon he could create something with much more mainstream appeal, without necessarily giving up his integrity. He has a natural sense of theatre that would really suit a big rock opera style affair I reckon.
You’ve been practising aikido for many years; did you ever have to use any of your skills during your time as a Wildheart? Did the band know you were a black belt?
Of course they knew. I train 3 or 4 times a week so had to fit the band and training in around that. To be honest I always try to avoid trouble. The only gig I did with the band was up north somewhere in this rock club. I remember there was a bingo calling machine to one side of the stage full of ping pong balls with numbers on, and some drunken fucktard got on stage and tried to take the mic off me. To be honest, all I can remember is him coming at me, me moving out of the way and giving him a bit of a gentle nudge and him just missing Danny and careering into the bingo machine before falling offstage. No one was hurt, no biggie.
Any more interesting stories you can tell us?
Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Yeah, but none I can tell you here. The house that Ginger lived in can tell you some though. There were a few parties…
Watch the documentary made about the Mournblade reunion above.