Ghost In The Static Interview
Interviewer – Phill Bruce
Interview Date – 1st September 2011
There is a lot of raw talent in the UK but a lot of the time it isn’t recognized. Ghost In The Static is one of those bands with such talent. Hailing from London they have a mix of heavy guitar riffs backed up by some amazing electronic sounds. I got the chance to catch up with Steve from Ghost In The Static and here’s how it went.
Phill - Can you tell us a little bit of a background about yourself and where in this beautiful world you are from?
Ghost – I was born and raised in West London, in Brentford, and moved out to the “lovely” Bracknell in my teens. I was originally into Punk music, then went through Grunge>Metal>Industrial to where I am musically today. Fundamentally when I saw the ‘Rip’ video by Gary Numan, I made my mind up that I wanted to hear more Electronic/Rock Crossover stuff, and that is what led me towards Industrial music.
Phill – What bands were you in before Ghost In The Static?
Ghost – Just a couple of casual rock and punk bands, playing guitar and bass, but neither really got anywhere. Ghost In The Static was the first time I have been a vocalist, and the first time I have felt so strongly about the music.
Phill – What made you call the band Ghost In The Static?
Ghost – Originally we were going to be called Ghost In The Machine, after the phenomena of the same name, where sections of code can appear spontaneously without a human writer. However, after some research, there were simply too many other references entitled the same, and we decided it was important to make sure we were easy to find, and not reminding people of other bands/films etc. Ghost In The Static still encapsulates a lot of what the original name was going to convey, with a slight nod to the digital interference phenomenon.
Phill - At what point in your life did you decide to form your band and why?
Ghost - Ever since seeing the ‘Rip’ video by Gary Numan, I had an idea in my head about starting up an electronic Rock Hybrid musical project, but I didn’t really know what I was doing. I had played guitar and bass a bit in punky and rocky bands, but only at a very casual level…I had no clue about electronic music. I came up with the concept of the dystopian city, the characters involved and of the audio/visual/conceptual relationships between the music, video and text that would add depth to the songs, but the musical side was a mystery.
A few years later, Gareth and Lewis (The 2 other founding members) approached me with the idea of doing a side project from their current band, and so we just jumped in and started trying to write industrial songs, with no experience of what we were trying to do. We just took my concept and said, “What would that sound like?” Before long we realised that we were producing some decent stuff, and that we were really enjoying ourselves in doing so. Then when Lewis and Gareth’s band broke up, it was just a natural step to say, shall we try and do this?
Phill – What has the evolution of the music of Ghost In The Static been since you all first formed?
Ghost – I think with the first album, we were very much writing from a rock perspective, getting the melodies down with the guitars and then adding electronic flavouring to flesh it out. There was nothing wrong with that, but it meant we were more limited in what we could achieve because we were sticking with a familiar format. However, in the writing of the 2nd album, there is a much stronger electronic focus in the music, and we have managed to find a better blend which I think will appeal to more people.
I think overall, we are a much more focused band now, and that we have started to develop our own individual sound.
Phill – What were your ideas initially for Ghost In The Static and have you stayed true to those original ideas?
Ghost – The Initial idea was always to develop a soundtrack for a dystopian future, as well as to create an audio-visual experience, something more than just a band on a stage. The costumes and makeup, the projections, the backstorys and concepts were all part of the idea i had before we had written a single note. The exciting part is that we are now moving into completely new territories with the concept and song writing, so even I’m not sure what will happen next :)
Phill – Who besides yourself is in the band and what background are they from?
Ghost – Well we have Lewis, who is our resident music geek and tech guru. He is the youngest guy in the band, but has tonnes of knowledge about all manner of things. He completed a 4 year degree course in guitar playing at ACM, (where he met Gareth) so naturally he is the lead guitarist in Ghost In The Static.
Lewis’ musical tastes are very eclectic, and he can be found listening to anything from Flamenco, to Swing to Tool, and all of this finds its way into the sound eventually ;).
Then we have the other founding member, Gareth, who comes from a production background, having completed a course at ACM. He is a very tight rhythm guitar player, can be cajoled into playing synth when necessary and adds some growls to the vocals when needed. Gareth is very much a Metal-head, and you can often hear that in some of the faster riff-age and more aggressive tracks.
My Brother Mike joined as a bassist a while back, and brings a lot of energy and presence to our live stage show. He, like Gareth, loves his power metal, and there is part of that showmanship and love for ‘The Epic’ that makes its way into what we do.
Last but not least is of course our most recent addition, Martin. The best way to describe Martin is to quote Lewis…”He F*cking loves drums”. He is an outstanding drummer, he can play to a click, improvise live and most importantly, he understands how drums interact with the other instruments to make a song. He is much more than a tub thumper, and we are very lucky to have him.
Phill – What is rehearsal for Ghost In The Static like and what is the process of giving songs life?
Ghost – We write songs either individually or in sessions with a few of us, and record the ideas as we write them. that can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a few months. Once we get a song into it's final format, we plan which parts we want to play live, and which will be left on the backing track.
Once we have established our live mix of the track, we go to a rehearsal, and run through the new song a few times. It probably takes 3-4 rehearsals before a new song is ready to go into the set, whilst we tweak and add things to the live version to make it the best it can be.
Rehearsals are great fun, and I look forward to each and every one J.
Phill – It seems that there is some magic within Ghost In The Static, can you try to describe this magic?
Ghost – First of all, i hope that is the case, and i hope people do find something in us they can enjoy, be it 'magic' or an emotional connection of some sort. I think the mixture of influences, characters and experience in Ghost In The Static means that we all push each other to constantly improve.
We all agree on a few key principles, that our songs need to be melodic to some degree at least, that the songs have to take the listener on a journey, and that we never release a song we have any doubts about.
Phill – What are your musical influences?
Ghost – The first bands that really got hold of me were Skunk Anansie and Nirvana I think…I then went into Punk, Sex Pistols, Pennywise, The Misfits etc. Then one day I saw Pantera on the MTV Rock show with Tommy Vance (showing my age) and Metal took hold. This continued until I was at University and got into Gary Numan in a big way. His ‘Pure’ album in particular just blew my mind, and left me in no doubt that I wanted to know more about the Electronic genres. From there I inquired more and more and found artists like Celldweller, Zeromancer, KMFDM and Mindless Faith.
It all fed the flames that would later forge Ghost In The Static
Phill – How do you feel the electronic music scene has evolved since the early eighties?
Ghost – Well you have started to see more influences coming into electronic music, from the development of trance and house music, to the urban influence present in drum and bass and dubstep more recently, and perhaps more relevant to us, the alternative scene embracing electronics through new wave, goth, industrial and ebm.
Now, in Industrial alone you have what seems like hundreds of sub genres that all stemmed from a few key individuals that saw the potential in some oscillators and filters. I do think that industrial music is guilty of worshipping a narrow selection of sounds, but there are some artists like Cease2xist, Digital Deformation and The. Invalid who are injecting some creativity and variation into a somewhat stale scene.
It feels the alternative electronic community is in a state of flux at the moment, and that the scene is currently evolving, but who knows what may come next? That’s the fun of it!
Phill – What is the mix of electronica and metal in Ghost In The Static?
Ghost – At this current stage, I would say we are probably hitting 50/50 in terms of the electronic split, guitars are increasingly being used as a rhythmic device, or to emphasize a particular section. It’s something we are constantly battling with.
Phill – In your own words can you describe the music of Ghost In The Static?
Ghost – The soundtrack to a dystopian future, blending the aggression of humanity with the unrelenting power of the electronic. Seriously though, it’s always difficult to categorise, as we are ElectroRock, Industrial Rock, Hybrid, Synth Metal and that’s all pretty much different ways of saying that we use synths and guitars.
Perhaps we should have a new genre name…dystopi-rock?
Phill – Where do you see your band in five years and what are your hopes for the future?
Ghost – In 5 years time, I hope to see us at the crest of a wave of new UK industrial music, as I see so many talented bands coming out at the moment that are desperate to offer something different from the more EBM focused style of much of Industrial music.
If we can be headlining some shows, playing with the bands we respect and admire, and maybe getting overseas to a few festivals, I would be a very happy man.
I just want our music to get to as many people as possible, and for us to carve our own little niche in the UK scene.
Phill – What are your views on the current alternative scene in the UK?
Ghost –Metal and Industrial both appear to suffer from a surplus of bands that have fallen into the trap of going for ‘trend’ sounds as opposed to finding their own niche. it’s a little stale, but there are some exciting things happening, and I can see the UK becoming a big alternative to the German scene in the coming years.
Phill – Can you mention a few of the bands you respect on the current UK scene and what is it you like about them?
Ghost – There are actually a whole bunch of bands but to pick a few…
System:FX have been brilliant to us, offering us advice and wisdom when we needed it, and I think their mixture of Old School Industrial and Contemporary EBM offers something very different to all the Combiclones out there and I think they are starting to get the attention they deserve.
MiXE1 is one of the most talented songwriters I have ever had the pleasure to work with, I think 2012 will be his year and I can’t wait to hear his new EP.
Digital Deformation, The .Invalid and Cease2Xist have all shown me that there is still room for experimentation and alternative interpretations of modern Industrial and EBM, each one carving themselves their own sound in the UK Underground.
Machine Rox are two the nicest people I have ever met, and are a wonderfully nurturing presence on the Industrial scene in London. They are genuine, honest, and always helpful, so I have a lot of time for them…it also helps that they rock ;)
There are a lot more, but I don’t want to chafe my lips with too much arse kissing :P
Phill – Is there any place or venue you would like to play at and why?
Ghost – I would love to play Infest and/or Resistanz, as I think that is where we could make a big impact. The UK industrial scene has been a little stale over the last few years and if a few of the newer bands can claw their way into the UK limelight via the festivals, I think it would give the whole scene a bit of a shot in the arm.
Phill – Infest has been a melting pot of existing and up and coming talent on the current alternative scene. What positive effect do you think it would have for you to play Infest?
Ghost – I think there is a gap for us in the UK, I am yet to come across anyone that I consider to be similar, and I think as a live spectacle with 5 musicians (and not a laptop in sight) that we can provide a show that people will enjoy for the energy, passion and spontaneity that can only come from live instrumentation.
We are at our best live, and we want as many people to see that as possible, and Infest would be the perfect place for us to do that.
Phill – What new talent is catching your ear at the moment?
Ghost – The aforementioned MiXE1 and Digital Deformation are on regular rotation, I have been listening to some of the remixing done by South African based artist Cyvergence and also listening to the Damaged Gods who provide something quite different indeed ;)
Phill – Without giving too much away is there any instrument or program you wouldn’t be without and why?
Ghost – Quite recently I acquired an M-Audio Venom, and it has some excellent editing software with it which offers so much scope for the future. I am still learning all of the intricacies involved, so it may be too late to make a big impact on the current album we are working on but certainly future releases will find some venom in them ;)
Phill – What was the first program you used that gave you a solid platform to be able to go on to Ghost In The Static?
Ghost – Well when we first started I had an old version of Cubase, but I found it a bit clunky personally. We use Logic at Gareth’s house, where we put most of the materials together, but I personally use Reaper, which I find to be a wonderfully intuitive system to use, and much more user friendly.
However Lewis still uses Cubase for his parts so we have a nice mixture of programs going at any one time.
Phill – Are there any bands or artists that you would like to collaborate with musically?
Ghost – LOTS! System:FX, Digital Deformation and AlterRed for starters, but a collaboration with Gary Numan would be my dream! As it is we will have at least one collaboration on the new album, and we may be able to conjure some more up yet, circumstances permitting. I love working with different artists, seeing how they put their songs together and their different thought processes, definitely want to do more!
Phill – Getting your music to the wider audience can be hard sometimes, how have you done this and is there any country in particular you have targeted other than the UK?
Ghost – It’s very difficult, and not a quick process, at least not in our case. I have tried all sorts of things, radio submissions, ezine articles, freebies, compilations, promo packs, adverts but at the end of the day, the only sure fire way to get your fan base up at this level is live performances. Every time we do a gig, our fan base grows, so we try and put as much effort into our stage show as possible.
So far we have been very UK focused, but we have a few ideas for spreading out into other areas down the line, but as mentioned, its live performances that give us the most joy at this stage, and until we get some offers to go abroad, it will be difficult.
Phill – Do you guys in Ghost In The Static have a motto, if so what is it?
Ghost – not really, but ‘More distortion’ gets used a lot ;)
Take a listen here to "Downer" by Ghost In the Static
Phill – Okay a bit of fun now, how would you design a spice rack for a blind person?
Ghost – The same way I would for anyone else….with a pencil and paper :P
Phill – If you won the lottery what is the first thing you would do?
Ghost – I would probably fund a musical side project with Gary Oldman, Billy Connolly and Gary Numan. That would be awesome.
Phill – If you were a Transformer what would you be and how would you transform?
Ghost – I would be a Michael Bay seeking missile that can time travel and I would only be able to transform by smashing myself against his forehead.
I would then stop him ruining my favourite kids series L.
Phill – You can ask god one question, what question would you ask him?
Ghost – I wouldn’t. I don’t believe in fairy tales, biblical or otherwise.
Phill – If you could speak to one animal what animal would you want to speak to and what is the first question would ask that animal?
Ghost – I would ask a chimp if they really even like tea…
Phill – Thanks so much for giving Grave Concerns this interview, is there anything you would like to add?
Ghost – Just that I appreciate you and Julie taking the time to interview me about the band, and that we are looking forward to the next 6 months and having some new music out J.
Thanks again, good luck for the future
Check out the band on-line:
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