Interview : The Black Ghosts!
Hey Simon & Theo! Shall we begin….
BOTH: Yes. Please continue.
The most common interview question in the universe, why the name "The Black Ghosts"?
THEO: Cos it sounds great. Some people seem to take it too literally - like we have to sound like a goth band to fit the name, but that's bollocks. We love all things dark - horror movies, gothic (NOT goth) imagery and literature, etc, but that doesn't mean we have to sound like that all the time. We have a dark edge in some of our music and lyrics, but there is light there also.
SIMON: We chose it because it sounds like a psychedelic band name, a street gang name and a horror movie... the holy triptych.
You're a duo… Simon Lord ex. "Simian" & Theo Keating "The Wiseguys"... Sorry for being such an ignorant but who the hell are/is "The Wiseguys" I can't recall ever hearing anything by them/him (Except for an ancient remix of the Gorillaz single 19/2000) & I'm not even sure if it's them/him?
THEO: Well... funny you should know that one, as it's my least favourite remix. There's plenty of other Wiseguys stuff out there, though. If you know it, cool, if not, no matter - it was a while ago, now.
How did "The Black Ghosts" project come to life? On what base did you 2 think you we're going to be a good combination? What does each of you bring to "The Black Ghosts"?
SIMON: We started making tunes together and they just kept coming, after a while we realized we'd created a thing in itself and The Black Ghosts was born. I bring the vocals and lyrics, Theo brings the beats and sounds... but there's no set formula to how we write a song, we both come up with the seed of an idea, and then work together to finish it off.
It's hard to categorize your music under one genre; it's really different style from track to another! Bleep electro-dance on "Any Way You Choose To Give It"", Vintage Caribbean-tribal-rock on "It's Your Touch", Minimal dramatic symphony on "Some Way Through This" & the Bass heavy rock simulation "More Than I Can Say"! Precisely what genre does your music fall under?
SIMON: It's soul music... with electro-psych flourishes, we like listening to all types of music and I think that comes out, though i've never heard anyone describe it as 'Vintage Caribbean tribal rock' before!
THEO: It's just a product of our musical schizophrenia. We find it hard to stay still, and anyway an album should have different things going on.
So are you Mainstream, Semi-Mainstream or Anti-Mainstream (a.k.a. Extreme Indie)?
THEO: None of the above. We believe you can make great pop music without it being generic or tacky. Just good songs, but influenced by all the styles of music we love.
Let's talk a bit about "AWYCTGI" how did you come up with such a malicious upbeat dance number? Is it about a real life experience?
SIMON: Malicious yet upbeat comes natural to me, that'd be a good epitaph "he was malicious yet upbeat". I'm interested in how really positive things can have an underlying threat... it's the same idea behind "We Are Your Friends" - declaring "You'll never be alone again" is not necessarily a good thing, what if they're maniacs?
"AWYCTGI" is basically a love song but says 'i will love you no matter what you do" which i think is threatening and obsessive, like all true love.
Will there be more like it in your future releases?
SIMON: There's no avoiding it i'm afraid.
THEO: Ha ha.
"Boy-8-Bit" a "Crystal Castles" alias? Who is he? How did you come across him? I really like what he did to "AWYCTGI"!
THEO: Crystal Castles??? No way. Boy 8-Bit is his own flesh and blood individual - a good friend of ours from here in London. I've known him for years, and he's really talented, so it was only natural to offer him the remix. He's part of the family.
Tell me a little bit about "Some Way Through This", how can a song be so annoying to listen to and so good at the same time? There's a certain amount of discomfort generated out of listening to it… don't you agree?
THEO: Annoying? Fuck you. (Joke) - I can see how it is quite unsettling in some ways - especially as the strings build towards the end. And Simon's lyrics are quite unnerving - not your average love song. But that was the point of the song. A torch song. A ballad that had an element of passion and psychosis to it. Much more representative of what love / relationships can be.
Who writes your songs? What/Who inspires you to?
THEO: Simon does, of course.
SIMON: I've only fairly recently got into writing lyrics. I mean i've always done it but before I was more preoccupied with the music. I'm inspired by using language in surreal ways and also using the rhythm of words to become part of the music, similar to how rappers make a verse that crosses the beat.
Is your music Negatively Optimistic or Positively Pessimistic?
THEO: Hmm. Good one. I go more for negatively optimistic. I myself can be cynical and negative at times - well, more pragmatic maybe. But ultimately I have a positive view of life and the world, and remain hopeful and optimistic. One's negativity can often come from disappointment in seeing one's underlying positivity being eroded and undermined by the actions of those around you.
SIMON: When i'm good i'm very good, when i'm bad i'm horrid. So it's Positively Optimistic and Negatively Pessimistic dependent on the moons cycle, blood sugar levels and alcohol content.
THEO: Oh yes, blood sugar is very important. Feed us regularly and everything is sweetness and light. I cannot stress how important this is.
I'm feeling the Black & White artwork you're opting for your releases, I think it really suits your project outfit! Who's responsible for them?
THEO: The artwork is by these guys in Paris called Check Morris. I had seen some of their other work for small French labels etc, and was amazed. So I suggested them for our stuff. They said yes straight away, and have produced some beautiful sleeves. The album sleeve is the killer, though. Wait til you see that...
Cross for Justice, Pyramid for Danger, Helmets for Daft Punk, Circle for Studio… What's yours?
BOTH: The black skull.
Are you currently remixing for anyone (future releases)? If yes, who?
THEO: We are taking a little break from remixing at the moment, to finish some of our own stuff - like the mix album we're doing. But this year we remixed Gossip, Trabant, The Whip, Charlotte Gainsbourg etc. so it's been fun. I think there are a few recent ones that are coming out soon, though - one for The Users, another for Frankmusik, and one for SMD's "I Believe".
Would you remix for a super mainstream artist such as Britney Spears if you were asked to? Why?
THEO: If the song was good, and had good musical elements, then yes, why not? It's about the qaulity of the original song, and whether you reckon you could add your own flavour to that. Some artists are cornier than others, but we've all seen a really mainstream artist drop a track that redefines them and that everyone likes.
SIMON: Yeah it'd be cool to use the power a super mainstream artist has over the general public and get them listening to a great piece of music... quite often it's easier remixing a pretty lame track than an already brilliant one.
Blogs writing about new artists & posting their mp3s… Great free promotion or disposable sabotage?
SIMON: I think it's great promotion, it doesn't matter how good your music is you still need to get people hearing it and Blogs are great for getting things out to people. Of course a lot of is disposable and won't last long but the good stuff and proper talent will survive... the important thing is that people are hearing more music and the boundaries between artist and listener are being broken down. I think we're going to go back to a music industry dominated by singles and people will be able to release tracks really quickly, which will breathe life back into the scene and make things more current and relevant.
THEO: Blogs vary as well. There are some good ones that lead the field, and have a real appreciation of music; but then there are a load that just follow the herd, and their only interest seems to be posting whatever's "hot", and then immediately losing interest and chasing the next MP3. But the good ones are a positive thing I reckon.
Having been a part of the music industry before digital media (MP3's, Blogs, peer to peer, etc) went stratospheric, what's your view on the current state of the business? Do you see this change as a threat to your lively hoods or rather something to be taken advantage of?
SIMON: I think it's a really exciting time for music. Ok the whole money issue is up in the air, but that'll sort itself out in time. The biggest frustration in dealing with record companies in the traditional sense is that they are so slow and market records in a very conservative way - things have to go through the machine. Now it seems things are really changing and i think it's going to make the music scene a lot more diverse and interesting, Yeah it's going to be harder to make a living out of it but only for all the sponges who were clogging things up in the first place, for the people that love making music it's going to be sweet.
"Simon" Are you still in touch with your fellow ex Simians "James Ford" & "James Shaw"? I mean after laying vocals on their single "I Believe"?
SIMON: Yes we still see each other, we all live nearby and bump into each other at gigs and parties. I really enjoyed doing "I Believe" - it's one of my favorite vocals.
I'm looking forward to seeing what they do next, I think there's a lot in there that people won't be expecting. I hear talk of a rock opera...
What do you think of their new album "Attack Decay Sustain Release"?
THEO: I like it - it's a really good album. "Scott" is probably my favourite track on there. They only do a few seconds of it live, though - more!
SIMON: I likes it too, it's a banger.
There's no denying your musical pedigree. Would you ever consider resurrecting past artistic endeavors?
THEO: I don't see the point, really. A project / band exists at a certain point in time because that's when it was right to do it, and it finishes for a reason. You have to move on to new things and keep looking forwards.
SIMON: The best bits of my past are still alive and kicking, it's all about moving forward... in a way all the musical energy that was in Simian is still thriving it's just not all being crammed into one record now!
Is "The Black Ghosts" album in the making? Any teasers? Collaborations?
THEO: Yes, the album is done, and will be out next year, probably in the spring. No teasers. One collaboration, but it's un-credited. But the sharper ears will spot it, no doubt.
If I invented a time machine and traveled to 2008 to purchase your album, which month (Hypothetically) would I dial?
THEO: You'd have to ask our label Southern Fried, but I'm guessing April maybe. We just want to get it out there!
Beside live shows, what's next for "The Black Ghosts"?
THEO: No "live" shows, actually - we don't play as a band. We perform by doing a hybrid DJ set, that also has some live FX and vocals. So we will be doing lots more gigs like this, both in the UK and abroad - we will probably be going to Australia and the US in the spring, with a possible Japanese stop-off. Plus releasing the album, doing more remixes, and also releasing a mix album - "The Black Ghosts Mixtape", which will be excellent. And maybe we'll try and fit in some writing of new material as well...
I hope you enjoyed this interview as much as I did preparing for it!
THEO: Yes it was splendid.
SIMON: Super, good show all round.
I'm Honored! Thank you so much for your time, enjoy your day!