Michele Hewitson Interview: Gin Wigmore

By Michele Hewitson

Singer-songwriter Gin Wigmore won four Tuis at the Music Awards. Photo / Paul Estcourt
Singer-songwriter Gin Wigmore won four Tuis at the Music Awards. Photo / Paul Estcourt

You don't want to look like a minga!" said Gin Wigmore, the singer and songwriter who won four Tuis at the music awards on Thursday night.

She meant herself, not me, about the minga, so quite right too, although I'm not absolutely sure what one would look like.

She is a rock chick, so it matters what she looks like. On Tuesday she was getting ready to have her picture taken in her room at the Langham Hotel. She'd dumped her open suitcase on the floor, just inside the door.

"Sorry about the knickers," she said when the photographer arrived. When I arrived she was standing on a chair, peering at herself in a mirror. What, no full-length mirror? "I've been f***ing downgraded!" she shouted.

There was a considerable amount of rock chick faffing about. She had to have her hair done. This meant having fake bits of hair (that is, it is real hair, but not her real hair) of varying shades of blonde attached to her own hair, which is varying shades of blonde, and then mussing it up.

I couldn't tell the difference, but what would I know? Anyway, I'm pretty sure she didn't look like a minga, which I'm pretty sure is what we used to call a huckery mole when I was at school.

She won't be photographed without hair and make-up, her record company said, and she had a tight schedule. Would we consider using promo shots? No. Couldn't she just put on a bit of slap? No.

She was wondering what to wear. I asked why it mattered. The make-up person said earnestly: "It's Gin's image."

Gin said, mock earnestly: "Yes. It's very important. You can't go round looking like a rag." She was wearing ripped jeans that might have looked, to an old person, like a rag but which are the image, presumably.

She said, "this is the cool bit," and began opening boxes of Dead Ponies jewellery, tossing the bags, the boring bits, on the floor, and draping the cool bits about her body. I shoved a charm bracelet on her arm. She said, playing up being the star: "The journalist is dressing me."

The journalist was hoping that if she helped dress the star, we might get to an interview, some time. She gets loaned this stuff for her tour.

She said, later, "can you put the dates of my tour in?" No. It's not an ad. "Thanks love", she said, "I appreciate that."

She wasn't a bit offended, but she'll certainly give it a go. She thanked her mother at the awards: for putting up with such a rat bag. She is a rat bag.

But as she was nice enough not to mind that I forgot to ask the obligatory questions about musical influence and whatever else you are supposed to ask rock chicks, oh, all right: her tour starts on Saturday, in Auckland and ends on October 19 in Dunedin.

That's her free ad. She likes free stuff, and who, at 24, wouldn't? She had two frocks from Trelise Cooper for the awards. "Free! Lucky, eh? I'm going to take it while I can because maybe in a few years it might go down the drain and I'll have no free clothes." But, Trelise Cooper? Isn't she a bit ... "Mummy frou-frou? Not any more. Well, I like to think so because I'm wearing it! It's mean and gritty and it's tough, but it's also very sexy."

That might do for her image. She was in a bar fight, in LA, in 2009, with a bloke. Blood and booze and cupcakes were spilt.

Cupcakes? It was her birthday, she had a cupcake tower. Now that's not a bad image: mean and gritty and tough and sexy, but with cute cakes.

Still, how did she even know how to fight? "Oh, everyone knows how to do self defence, you know. I mean, hey, if someone whacks you, you're not going to take that." She doesn't make a habit of it. "I wouldn't say I like to fight! Ha, ha. I don't go out on the streets of Auckland looking for a punch up!"

But, really, don't annoy her. She gave me a good whack on my way out. I'd tsked, for the second time, about her suitcase: "That suitcase really is a disgrace." She said, tsking back, "you're lucky you got invited into my room."

To rub it in about her "downgrade" - a perfectly nice room as well she knew - I said, "if you call that a room." She likes to be the cheeky one, so I was asking for it. I asked an old person's questions, about her tattoos: Was she going to like them when she was 80? She said she'd probably be dead when she was 80 and looked at me as though I was 80. She said, "you should get some. It sounds like you're a bit jealous."

I was looking, I wouldn't have said jealously, at the big tattoo on her upper arm, of her parents dancing. Her father is a skeleton: "Because dad passed away." What does her mum think? "She said, 'you're bloody mental!"' She has ribbons and pistols on her other arm.

"I like pistols. I think I was probably a cowboy in a past life." She really believes this. "Yeah. Of course. I love all that stuff. I'm petrified of dying so I want to know that there's another one later." She has always been scared of dying and is scared of the dark and still has a night light if she's at home alone. "I think the bogey man's going to come and get me."

I suggested she might see a therapist and she said, "I think there are too many things to therapise me about! And I do think you've got to have an element of accepting who you are." I thought, but didn't need to say, that thinking you were a cowboy in another life might be a bit dottier than accepting who you are. She said, "I'm not completely bloody bonkers."

She is not, despite her former life as a cowboy, remotely bonkers. She's ambitious, a perfectionist and utterly serious about her career.

She gets the final say on anything to do with her music, and her image, and down to the font on her publicity material. She wouldn't put up with anyone telling her what to do, or sound like, or look like. "No. F*** that."

She has always liked to have things her way. She drove her entire family to counselling because she was "a horrible, horrible teenager", especially to her mother who was "the enforcer of discipline ... and I've never liked discipline and I've never liked being told what to do". You can guess how well the counselling went. "We had to look at colours! I said, 'this is shit."'

And yet she is amazingly disciplined. "Yes, I am. But only when I tell myself to do something. When someone else tells me, no thanks." She is amazingly disciplined, to a point. She said, "have you ever done Bikram?"

This is some sort of masochistic carry on, done in a stinking hot room. She's just done five days of this yoga. So I thought she must be a dedicated fitness nut. Was she going to get drunk at the awards? "Of course I am! Well, that's a stupid question." I thought she might have gone all yogic. "No. F*** that. That was last week."

She does things to extremes but "only for few days, then I give up." She said, enthusiastically, "I like to enjoy a hangover, don't you? It's really good fun. For some reason you feel like you've worked really hard the night before and you feel like you've got the excuse to watch films and eat shit food. Brilliant."

She had a thought: "I might do some press-ups today." She'd covered every spare inch of floor space with her stuff, so God knows where she'd do them. I wasn't going to suggest that if she tidied her room, there might be space. That would be telling her what to do and she likes to do the telling.

An instruction was issued: She wouldn't be photographed by the pool. Photographers do, apparently and frequently, ask her to lie on sun loungers, next to pools. Really? "You'd be surprised. It's, like, 'no'. It looks lame. So, yeah, that's in the brief: No shots by the pool."

I was wondering what else was in the brief. I'd read that in LA she had a project co-ordinator whose job it was to provide her with fairy lights and incense and who once, to calm her nerves during an interview, provided kittens for the artist and the journalist to play with. The kittens were nuts.

"It was awesome." She must know the kittens were nuts. "It was brilliant nuts." It would be really bad to get blase about this sort of nonsense, wouldn't it? "Oh, totally. Then you've lost the plot."

The complaining about the hotel room was just playing up being the diva. "I love it! I love it because I'm really not the diva." Was she sure? "I really think diva is funny because it comes from experience, I reckon.

I mean, when you first start out ... I've played some really bad clubs ... You know, those really gross, sticky carpets and they care more about the pokies than about what you're playing and you're getting changed on the stage, pretty much, with a little towel around you.

So it's not very glamorous. So you kind of move on and you do better shows, so you don't go back to that. And I guess that's where those kind of things come from: I need this dressing room and blah, blah, blah. So I guess, maybe, those things could be construed as ..."

A bit demanding? "I think it's just work requirements, like a promotion in any job, you know."

But there is all that fluffing with the hair and make-up. She's not a particularly girly girl. She likes surfing and beaches and ripped jeans and boots. "Yes, well, I do like it because I know it's got to be done. You just feel better when you look nice. I think it's funny with guys.

They're always , like, 'oh, baby, don't wear make-up'. And you know as soon as you've got make-up on and your hair's done, they're like, 'wow! You look so good!' Of course I f***ing do, because I've got nice make-up and nice hair!"

It was here that she said, "you don't want to look like a minga!" Or a diva, presumably - although she can play that part well enough, and why not?

Where's the fun in being a rock chick if you don't get kittens and free stuff or to whack the odd journalist?

- NZ Herald

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