Delivering one of the most astonishing debuts of the year, We Have A Ghost is a project which draws elements from contemporary cinema, fused with gritty indie authenticity. Orchestrating from behind a veil of disturbing, atmospheric sonics is Ghost, the anonymous and enigmatic sole member of the project. Ghost graciously took the time to speak with me about his art, his creative process, and on living in haunted houses.
Music is our universal language and can travel you anywhere, anytime you need it.
MB: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. I think we might as well tackle the elephant in the room first. Why have you chosen to remain anonymous?
Ghost: I come from a visual arts background where it’s about the art, not the artist. I want it to be about the music, the work and the experience I create, and about the listener. I also think keeping things secret makes things special between myself and my fans and forms trust. We connect on a soul level here. I think art should speak for itself without leaning on all that is superficial. By removing myself from the equation it brings a certain purity, a selflessness, a state of continued creativity to my work I appreciate and thrive in. I choose to reveal myself through art and for this to be about continuing to create it.
MB: The We Have A Ghost LP has a huge sonic palette. There are bits of ambient, post-punk, synthpop, trip-hop and a ton more. If you could nail your sound down to a single name, what would it be?
Ghost: I don’t know. Ambient-Industrial is probably the closest existing sub-genre, but I venture far outside of that as well. Bandcamp labeled the vinyl release as experimental. I leave the classification to those who are passionate about analyzing, critiquing, and writing about music. I make the music, I learn from you and my audience what it is.
MB: From a songwriter’s perspective, what were your inspirations for the songs on the debut album?
Ghost: It was purely self expression. I’ve gone through a lot of things in my life and have always relied on my art as a cathartic release. In essence, turning something painful or dark into something beautiful. Most songs were triggered by specific events in my life. Some were a result of how I was feeling at the time translated through what I had in front of me to express it. I turned to music because I can express myself in a way I can’t in any other medium. Music is our universal language and can travel with you anywhere, anytime you need it.
MB: Your music really has a cinematic feel to it. Songs like ‘It Is What It Is’ channel contemporary classical composers as well as modern post-rock bands like Sigur Ros or Stars of the Lid. Are you more inspired by artists who created more atmospheric, emotionally-captivating music?
Ghost: Absolutely. I gravitate towards music with feeling and substance. Songs that bring out emotions in me, or heighten whatever it is I want to feel more of. I’m really into soundtracks and post rock for that reason. There is a genre that nails every mood. My output is based on whatever I have in front of me and the spaces I’m in while recording. During the course of the debut album, it was recorded in places I couldn’t get loud, so there is a sense of intimacy, fear and self consciousness in the recordings.
MB: You’re a highly modern artist in that you take advantage of a huge amount of social networks in order to get your art out there. Do you enjoy this closeness to your listeners?
Ghost: I thrive on it. I’ve tried to take that connection as far as I can, and I’m proud of those connections because they are authentic and pure, and the result of good intentions. I’m close with a lot of people now, despite the fact they don’t know my name, what I look like, or wherever I happen to be at the time. And really, those things are meaningless when getting to know who someone is as a human being. It levels the playing field. Social media is generally one sided and narcissistic. I try to show it can be more than that if you put in the effort. It’s been incredibly rewarding as well to try and help others get where they want to go in life and in just being a friend you can talk to in times where maybe you don’t have someone that wants to listen. I don’t have as much time as I used to, but I read every message I get and try to respond as soon as I am able. I also try my best to listen to all the music sent my way. I’ve got a creative and talented audience and I enjoy seeing their progress.
MB: You also have your own Patreon. Crowdfunding has really become a popular source of income for indie artists in the past few years, what are your thoughts on this?
Ghost: Crowdfunding was and is a game changer for independent artists and works well under the right conditions. It reduces the risks involved on both sides, and lets creators see if there is enough demand for their idea to exist, and sometimes the internet ends up taking over and it becomes a major success. I’ve had mixed success in that arena, but I still believe in it, so long as your art is good and you have an established and engaged fanbase.
MB: You’ve had a couple of releases prior to the self-titled LP, available on your bandcamp. Tell us about these releases, and how We Have A Ghost has evolved over the course of all your records.
Ghost: ‘Safe’ are songs I really enjoyed but didn’t fit on the debut album, and some remixes I love from fellow indie artists, Ventenner, Sintellect, and Kier Draven. Initially, when I noticed I was starting to gain an international following, the idea was to release a special version of the album with an additional song in markets I was gaining traction in, including a remix from an artist in that region whenever possible. I ultimately decided against that, since my goal was to widen the reach of my own work and the artists involved, so I packaged it up as an EP which I gave away for free in all markets for a while in exchange for additional exposure.
‘Insomnia’ was recorded over the course of several years while I was suffering from insomnia. I was taking high doses of prescribed sleeping pills, including ambien, which tricks you into thinking you had a good nights sleep because it erases your memory from the night before. It’s an evil drug. (I am not advocating taking drugs to produce music.) When I’d get home from work I would write and record songs to wind me down. I would take a pill during the recording process so that I would fall asleep immediately after. Despite my intentions, what ended up happening is I would make these songs and completely forget I recorded them. I would find them in random places on my hard drive later. I could tell in some of the songs I had lost some of my motor skills as well – so they aren’t perfect by any means. Eventually I had an albums worth, and that’s the playlist I would listen to at night. Curiously enough, it ended up curing my insomnia.
We Have A Ghost is my 1st studio album, with live drums and various live instrumentation. With the exception of the single ’Bon Voyager’ everything else was recorded prior, or during the debut.
MB: Part of the profits from your bandcamp also go to charity. What sparked that decision?
Ghost: It’s 10% through bandcamp, and 25% when I offer paintings. I’d love to be in a position to give more but I have my family and my art to support. I chose MusiCares because they help struggling musicians, and Nordoff Robbins because they heal through music therapy, something I am extremely passionate about.
MB: Do you think an online presence is necessary for an indie artist in 2014?
Ghost: Of course, it’s a hard medium to take on initially because it’s a flooded space and requires people to take the time to stop what they are doing and check the music. Hopefully you build some sort of fan base from that. It’s not just indie artists, major artists promote and have an online presence, but generally speaking, with the exception of Twitter, the artists themselves are not posting or interacting personally with fans. It’s a good way to get your music heard but requires a lot of work and commitment as an indie artist.
MB: What’s up with the haunted house story? You used to live in one, right?
Ghost: I did. It was a room that was part of an old mansion. I loved it there. It looked like the set of the Addams family, but it was the real thing. It was a very inspiring place to be.
MB: Your self-titled debut is being released on vinyl. Do you think physical packages are still important for artists?
Ghost: Absolutely. In my experience, CD’s are pretty much dead, but vinyl demand is at an all-time high. In an age where fans are accustomed to streaming music for free or for a minimal subscription fee, and for those presented with an option to “pay what you want” and opting to pay zero, vinyl and merch is my livelihood. Not only that, but the experience is so much more tangible, and sounds so much better. We’ve become accustomed to experiencing everything in the digital realm, whether it be your photos, your movie collection, or your music. Typically with music you are experiencing it at a much lower bit rate and on headphones which artificially boost (and reduce) certain frequencies, or worse – your laptop speakers. Listening to the debut album on 180 gram virgin vinyl on good speakers or high end headphones is like going to see your favorite movie in IMAX or seeing your favorite piece of art in person. Print and frame your favorite photos, place them in a prominent space in your home. Buy the music you love from artists you believe in, especially independent artists who are in the trenches you discover who also deserve to be heard, and enjoy that music in the way it was meant to be experienced.
MB: You’re working on a double album entitled Ghost Hunter right now. How will the music and art aspects of We Have A Ghost expand for this new release?
Ghost: I’ve been through a lot since I recorded the debut album. It’s as if I am a completely different person. All of this surrounding the music, the true meaning behind We Have A Ghost, the experiences I’ve had with my fans, and in experiencing what it’s like to pursue this by all means necessary occurred after recording this album so I’ve got a lot to say. Somewhere in there you will hear what it’s like to be on the receiving end of this, and it’s intense.
MB: Do you have plans for live shows in the future? Would the visual, artistic elements of your music extend to a live setting?
Ghost: Yes. Hopefully I can incorporate everything I’m about artistically into that setting.
MB: Do you have any other artistic pursuits outside of We Have A Ghost?
Ghost: I started out as a formally trained multimedia artist (photography, drawing, painting, filmmaking), and until I emerged as We Have A Ghost I was doing freelance photography, and making fine art. The idea with We Have A Ghost is to combine all of my talents into one cohesive statement. I see the album format as the ultimate art form. I take my own photos, take care of the visual art, and shoot my own videos.
Other than that, I consider my work with Kolidr artistic. I was asked to help come up with a solution to a very big problem: how to help artists like me survive. Originally the site was for musicians only (when it was RockStar Motel) and I thought we could help a lot more people if we widened our scope to encompass all artists. And these days, everyone is an artist. I wanted a platform to cross promote artists I either respect, or are collaborating with, and now I can pull it off with Kolidr. For example – I can create a playlist of my work and my friends songs – all purchasable, along with another friends photography, again, sellable, plus video and pretty much anything I want to include in there, as sort of a multimedia collage – a ‘Kolidr.’ Essentially making art from other art, while supporting and promoting each artist included in the process. We rebuilt the site from the ground up and rebranded, and relaunched late last year in beta. It’s still very much a part of We Have A Ghost. I am running a contest via Kolidr. I’m asking my fans to visualize what haunts them via a Kolidr and the winner gets a signed test pressing. 5 runners up get signed vinyl. The contest ends August 1st.
MB: Finally, what haunts you, Ghost?
Ghost: The notion I am capable of doing more with my life as an artist.