INTERVIEW: GHOSTPOET

Having released a critically acclaimed debut album, signing to Gilles Peterson’s label Brownswood Recordings and being nominated for a Mercury Prize, Ghostpoet’s career started in a full on sprint. For some, this kind of success at such an early stage could threaten a crazed public masturbation episode, but not this guy. Newly signed to PIAS records for his sophomore album there’s no reason to slow down.

 

I had researched previous interviews before our meeting and this is what I had learnt. With no interest in poetry despite the name, Ghostpoet has no ulterior motive but to deliver his inspired observations through music. Questions like, “what genre would you define yourself as?” or “what is your main inspiration?” have no place with an artist like himself. With a dislike for categorising labels or themes that would marginalise his music, he prefers to stay indefinable to reach as wide an audience as possible.

 

On meeting Ghostpoet, with the words of Lianne La Havas, “he’s always thinking,” rattling around my head, my questions felt threatened by his calm, intellectual demeanour. However, with all the time in the world for us, he gave his full attention as we talked Brownswood, the second album and being star-struck. His answers were short, sweet and concise, unfazed as I jumped in at the deep end.

 

EA: If you could change one thing about the UK music industry what would it be?

G: Not much. I don’t think I would change anything because it is meant to be that way. Everything goes through its ebbs and its flows. And maybe if it were different maybe I wouldn’t exist. For me, it does its thing and I’ll do mine.

EA: Do you think you share the same ambitions and goals as the business side of your music team have for you?

G: We share similar goals. We want to achieve something good. I think it boils down to your team, who you have around you. Some people are more money motivated than others. I am lucky with my team that people around me want me to do well in what I am doing which is music that I wholeheartedly love. That’s what is important to them. Well I hope that’s what is important to them.


EA: What initially made you choose Brownswood as your label?

They approached me really and were the first label that showed a real interest in what I was doing and willing and ready to put their resources into what I wanted to do. Gilles Peterson is an amazing character. The label is very much a family spirit, which is important to me. Obviously music is a business and I want to make money, but I don’t want to be in a situation where I feel like I’m being pushed into things due to money motivated reasons. That hasn’t happened at Brownswood which I’m happy about.

EA: You’re on to your second album, does having more resources and more of a profile make it easier, or does the pressure outweigh that?

G: I don’t feel any pressure because I’m still just making music for me at the heart of it. I want people to listen; I want as many people to listen as possible- here and on mars and Pluto and all the other places. But if I think about everyone that is going to listen to it, that is going to creatively affect what I make so I can’t. I don’t feel pressure really. I have a bit more of a profile, I don’t really think of it in that way, but more doors are open to me. It’s nice that people have listened to my album and heard it that helps when I’m trying to get to people. It’s a good place to be in.

EA: Is there going to be a different theme to this album?

G: Not really. Just life. Still living life and that’s what I hope it is going to be about. Not really my life, just life as I see it. Observations and new people I meet. Conversations and news and so on and so forth. That’s me. I don’t want to make a concept album, or something you can only listen too in a museum. I’m not bothered about stuff like that, I just want to talk and hopefully stuff will stick on the track.

EA: Do you ever put a political message into your songs?

G: Political songs and stances are important and everyone has to have an opinion but musically I want to be a blank canvas for people. I feel to a certain extent when you go down a political route you alienate people and I don’t want to be put in a box or a niche. I just want as many people as possible to experience my music.

EA: What’s the most exciting piece of equipment you have recently bought

G: I bought a machine…. I’m going to say that to make it easy. It’s actually called machine and it’s a sampler of sorts and you can connect it and use it with software. It’s interesting because it makes me able to manipulate music in a way that I haven’t before. Without going on and being too nerdy, that’s it.

EA: You shut yourself off when you’re writing. Does that mean you stop listening to music?

G: In the past it has been but now I do stuff like DJ-ing and Radio so I need to keep listening to music so I can have stuff for my shows. However it is getting to the point now that I am going to have to try and distance myself. Before I was literally working and making music so it was much easier. It’ll be tricky but regardless we keep moving forwards.

EA: Who are you listening to at the moment?

G: Incognito. Listening to their album called Jazz Funk. A Canadian trio called Bad Bad Not Good. They’re young ones, students. Still listening to Submotion Orchestra and lastly Jakwob’s new mixtape.

EA: Is there any music that you love that would surprise people?

G: I used to really like this hardcore metal band called Sepultura. It’s a Brazilian, death metal hardcore band. I wouldn’t expect people to be surprised as I listen to everything.


EA: What band would you most like to see reform?

G: Late of the Pier. I really want them to come back. Come back Late of the Pier!

EA: You were in a grime collective at University, do you still listen to that music and is it still an influence?

G: Yeah I still love that music and yeah it’s in the mix.

EA: What were you studying at University?

G: Media Production. I wanted to be an editor. A video or TV programme editor, but it didn’t happen because of life.

EA: What’s been your best recent cultural experience?

It’s a bit naff. The subject isn’t but the context is. I went to the cinema and went to see the Marley film and it was brilliant. I found out so much about Marley that I didn’t know and it was really well put together. The interviews were great and there was a lot of unseen footage and the music was amazing. I want to go see it again.

When was the last time you were star-struck?

I don’t really get star-struck. I observe everyone but I become more observant of people that I admire. I went to the FA Cup Final and saw Damon Albarn. I don’t want to talk about the football I’m depressed about that but Umbro invited me down and he was on my table and that was mad…

EA: So you were just observing his movements…

G: Not too much. Come on that’s a bit scary and creepy. I was watching Damon Albarn eat…. But it was mad to see him in the flesh talking and eating. I thought he ate gold nuggets or something.

EA: Where’s your favourite place to be in London?

G: East London. I live in Dalston and have got a bike and love just riding around when I get a chance and doing the typical East London things. Coffee shops and hanging out. It’s pretty cool because I’ve never lived in East London before and it’s a nice vibe. Because I’m away a lot it’s a nice place to come back to and gather my thoughts and do my music.

EA: What are your plans for the future?

G: Just try to write the next album…

EA: Are you working with any interesting people?

G: Possibly. Maybe.

EA: Trying to keep it ambiguous….

G: Yep. Just creative stuff. Bit of radio and trying to do that more. Expanding my creative field as much as possible. I got some relatively big news coming up soon, touch wood, so we’ll keep working from there.

(Ghostpoet recently revealed he’d signed a worldwide deal to PIAS Records)

EA: Any festivals you are excited for?

Yes all of them. It’s a good vibe when it’s festival season. We’ve got simple things in Bristol today then we’ve got Greenman, Camden Crawl in Dublin, Soundwave in Croatia, couple in France. Few more in the UK, Beacons. Looking forward to it.

For more information on Ghostpoet and tour dates check his website: http://www.ghostpoet.co.uk/

Words: Emily Ames

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