Hello and welcome to the first of, hopefully, many Album of the Week columns here at Light In The Attic. Each week we’ll showcase a new album getting bandied about the office. We’ll “sit down” with an assortment of bands and pick their brains on the inspirations, the ideas, the concept, and the processes that went in to these pieces of work. We hope you enjoy.
We’re starting with a favorite band of Techmonkey Noah: The Black Ghosts. Theo Keating (The Wiseguys) and Simon Lord (Simian) came together in 2006 to form The Black Ghosts. After releasing a series of EPs over the course of the last few years, the two are set to release The Black Ghosts on July 8th. We sat down to find out their thoughts on the current state of electronica, the return to 8-bit, and just what goes in to making an album this enjoyable.
Light In The Attic: In making this album both of you guys are coming from completely different bands, how did this affect the sound of the record? What did you draw from Simian and The Wiseguys (and conversely, what did you leave behind) in the creation of this album?
Simon: It meant we could combine the best bits of what we were doing. I drew on my past of writing songs and lyrics and mixing them with electronic sounds.
Theo: It’s hard to say, as things like that are never conscious – that’s the stuff other people notice and comment on. So I’m sure this album does have echoes of The Wiseguys in some songs, and my Touch’e stuff in others. It’s all just part of one’s “style” or whatever. It all gets filed away in the brain somewhere – the good stuff you learn gets distilled into new projects, and you bin the stuff that didn’t work.
LITA: Where do you think this self-titled LP fits today in the genre of electronic/dance music? I mean, it’s a very accessible album and I can imagine that there will be a lot of crossover in terms of audience. I just wonder what you see this album as: a dance album, a club album, etc.?
Simon: I don’t think it sits in one category. We are both into lots of different music and in making the album we wanted to try out different styles. What was important to us was that each track has a really strong song and character, something that would last. To us it’s an album of pop songs.
Theo: We didn’t set out to make a particular album of one style or another. We just made a bunch of songs, of whatever type appealed to us on that particular day, and then realised we had an album’s worth. There is a common thread in that Simon’s songwriting is very distinctive, and my production sounds like me – but other than that we just wanted to make a good pop record. ‘Cos “pop” needn’t be a bad word.
LITA: What were the inspirations for the album? What most influenced and defined this album for you?
Simon: Making the album I think my biggest influences were Jamie Lidell’s singing and Thomas Mars from Phoenix’s lyrics. Each song has it’s own atmosphere and draws from different places too numerous to name, but those two I mentioned were in my mind over the whole project.
Theo: For me there weren’t any particular musical influences. It was very much a product of all my different tastes. My influence or motivation was more from within myself – to make the best record I could.
LITA: Is there an 8-bit component to this music? I thought I might’ve heard a little old school gaming system on “Anyway You Choose To Give It” and “Repetition” but I might be completely wrong. Either way what are your feelings about the 8-bit surge in electronica these days?
Simon: I’m up for using anything to get a good sound, but I’m not into people who get fetishistic about where the sound comes from… ‘I only make music with the chip from the Commodore 64′ etc is really missing the point.
Theo: No there aren’t any “deliberately” 8-Bit sounds on there as such. Some synths may be reminiscent of that sound but it’s not a conscious inclusion. We aren’t chip geeks. Using that stuff can be good – if it’s done well – but is rarely as innovative or interesting as the music of the original game music composers like Rob Hubbard etc. They pushed the limits of those chips cos that’s all they had, so it wasn’t a gimmick to them – it was that or nothing to get all their music from.
LITA: You guys seem to be huge proponents of the remix in terms of your music (like the amazing Wajeed mix of “Some Way Through This”). How do you see the re-emergence (if you can even call it that) of the remix affecting music today? Is it making the idea of musical genre less relevant?
Simon: Yeah genres are definitely less defined than they used to be, I think it’s great if people are more open about what they’re into. I’ve never been one for belonging to a particular tribe. But people still need to learn to write their own tunes! You don’t want to get famous doing remixes then find you can’t write your own tunes!
Theo: Remixes never went away for me! A good remix can take a song into new areas – to different audiences – but one has to be careful. I think we may have been guilty of having too many remixes done at the beginning. We got a bit over-excited and asked all our mates in one go! But now we are a bit more strategic with it.
LITA: What else are you guys working on the side right now? It seems like you always have a million projects.
Simon: I have a solo album coming out called ‘Lord Skywave’ on This Is Music records. It’s quite eclectic – part electronic, part classical (!?), part song. I’m also working on some tracks with two producers from LA called the Flowers of Doom. Busy, but I want to make time for starting some proper hobbies, maybe fencing or writing a novel.
Theo: It’s always good to have a few different things on the go, as ideas from one can often feed into another, and it’s a great way of trying stuff out. It also exorcises and creative demons that may not be right for one particular project. Plus as one thing quiets down into a writing phase (or a break!) you can pick up again on one of your other ones, and try out some completely different stuff. That way you keep yourself from getting bored or bogged down in one sound.
LITA: What’s next for The Black Ghosts?
Simon: Filling up our minds and ears to breaking point and then turning on the recorder again.
Theo: Taking a massive deep breath. Letting it out. Then back to square one and beyond….
DOWNLOAD: The Black Ghosts – Something New