QPR Manager Gareth Ainsworth / From Football Legend to Rock Star

In 2004, singer, football legend, QPR manager and rocker Gareth Ainsworth co-founded a rock band, Dog Chewed the Handle, named after his favourite Terrorvision song. The group enjoyed early success as a well-renowned live act with a huge sound. Then the day job got in the way.

The Cold Blooded Hearts: The Cold Light Of Day

Release Date: Out Now

Interview: Sara Harding

Ainsworth, 40, a former professional footballer, is now one of the most sought-after soccer managers in the UK. After huge league success with Wycombe Wanderers and Wimbledon AFC, Ainsworth was snapped by the struggling Queens Park Rangers and has been hailed as the ‘gaffer’ who saved the West London team from relegation last season.

During his footballing days, Ainsworth picked up the nickname ‘Wild Thing’ due to his rock star appearance and musical ambitions. He began singing with Wimbledon teammates Chris Parry and Trond Anderson and often performed The Wanderer after his Wycombe Wanderers success. The band were subsequently invited to tour the UK but were forced to turn down the offer due to clashes with Ainsworth’s sporting career.

The Cold Blooded Hearts - The Cold Light of Day - Gareth Ainsworth
The Cold Blooded Hearts – The Cold Light of Day (Cherry Red Records)

It was at Wimbledon AFC where Gareth met the team from Cherry Red Records, who sponsor the stadium and are huge fans of Gareth’s talent both on and off the pitch. By November 2019, Ainsworth had formed The Cold Blooded Hearts, landed a record deal and went straight into the studio. The band’s debut album, The Cold Heart Of Day, produced by Yes keyboardist Geoff Downes is released on 23 July 2023.

The Cold Light Of Day has been a long time in the waiting. “Back in the day, our first band, Dog Chewed The Handle, mainly played cover versions of rock classics,” Gareth said. “Then we started to throw in a few original songs, and the audience were soon singing along to them, so that inspired our songwriting.

“It took us 15 years to put the album together as I was busy being the ‘gaffer’ of Wycombe Wanderers and Queens Park Rangers, but it was always something we wanted to do. Fast forward to now, we have become The Cold Blooded Hearts (with my band members Lee-van Sargeant, Chalky and Ron Campbell), and we are finally releasing a classic rock album we are so proud of.”

It was football that brought the relationship with Cherry Red Records for this debut album. “I have football to thank as Adam Velasco, the MD of Cherry Red, has become a really good friend,” Gareth says. “Adam is from Wycombe and is a lifelong fan of the Wanderers, who I ended up managing. When I went to band auditions, I didn’t always mention I was a professional football manager, as I wanted the music to speak for itself.

“So when he found out I was a singer and heard my music, he asked me to record the album for Cherry Red, and for me, this was a dream come true. Their passion and links with both football and music were an absolute fit for me, and we are so proud to be on an independent label.”

Cherry Red also helped by pairing the band with legendary keyboard player Geoff Downes. “We went to his studio in Cardiff and spotted that Geoff’s walls were covered with hundreds of gold discs,” Gareth says. “We were blown away by his producing credits. He has worked with Mike Oldfield and Greg Lake and, of course, produced Yes.

“Geoff was so into the music we had written. Not only did he do an amazing job producing it, but he also asked to play keyboards on the album and ended up performing on nine of the tracks. To have a multi-million-selling artist collaborating on our first-ever album was just phenomenal.

“We wrote some songs around a hook line, and then some we jammed and with Geoff’s piano on top, it was just an incredible experience. There is something for everyone on this record.”

Football or music? Which came first for Gareth? “People often ask, am I a footballer who wants to be a musician,” Gareth says, “or am I a musician who ended up being a footballer? I was always testing the waters with my music, but football ended up taking over. Having said that, football has been brilliant to me.

“But music is in my DNA as my mother was a professional singer in the ’60s. She was a big band singer, and we used to see her perform in front of these massive orchestras and just absolutely smash it. She taught me vocal techniques, how to breathe and how to hit the high notes. But I have to give my dad a little bit of credit, too, because he saw Jimi Hendrix in 1967 in Blackpool and always played me his records.”

“I’d love to have been Jim Morrison from The Doors with his image and sound. But, I have to say my biggest music icons were the ’80s Hair Metal bands like Guns N’ Roses. Any time I stick on any of those songs, it just takes me right back to the best times of my life in the late ’80s.

“When I bought Appetite For Destruction, and I put that needle on the record, and the first song Welcome To The Jungle blasted out, it blew me away. Recently I went to see Def Leppard and Mötley Crüe, and I couldn’t believe they knew my name as I am such a huge fan.”

Music and sport have such a synergy. What songs does he play at the QPR stadium in the build-up to a game? “I let some of the players pick some of the warm-up tracks, and it’s often dance music,” Gareth says. “But if it was all my choice, it would be Jimi Hendrix with Wild Thing, Guns N’ Roses, The Allman Brothers, Def Leppard and Mötley Crüe.

“But the most important song at any match is the ‘run on anthem’ that the players charge onto the pitch to. And as the gaffer, I do get to choose that one song, and it’s The White Stripes with Seven Nation Army. When that bass line kicks in, it’s just the perfect sound to get the team and fans going. It’s now known at QPR as ‘our song’.”

The Cold Blooded Hearts
The Cold Blooded Hearts

It is time for a new England anthem. Would The Cold Blooded Hearts do it? “My guitarist and songwriting partner Lee and I were talking about that the other day,” Gareth says. “I love the idea of writing a rock anthem for the England team, but then we looked back to the days of Hoddle and Waddle. We don’t ever want to do something like that, so watch this space.”

To juggle being a footie manager and the frontman of a band is a tough ask. “The championship is getting ridiculously tough,” Gareth says. “The teams that came down from the premiership and the teams that have been promoted are incredible. But, as always, we as a team are going to give absolutely everything. We are going to have a hard season at QPR, but I’m really excited.

“The music will always be there. We are currently rehearsing, and we have some gigs coming up, plus we are already thinking about our second album. I think, if I’m being honest, that makes the football job a little bit easier as I’ve got something else that I’m really passionate about, and that’s my music.

“If I stay in the game another ten years, I’ve done something incredibly right. And if that doesn’t happen, then I’ve not got a bad gig to pull back on either.”

The Cold Light Of Day is available from Cherry Red Records on Vinyl/Download/CD/Streaming on 23 July 2023.

Gareth Ainsworth will be in Conversation and signing the new album at Rough Trade East on 21st July at 7 pm. Tickets are available from here.

The Cold Light Of Day

  1. High
  2. Love`s Lost
  3. Hollow
  4. Eastern Sunrise
  5. Worth Waiting
  6. Cold Road
  7. Tell Me!
  8. She Ain`t In Love With Me
  9. Grey
  10. Broken Sky
    Bonus Track
  11. Conspiracy Of Silence

Sleeve Notes

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