GHOSTPOET – Interview

Ghostpoet © Emma Dudlyke

Foto-Credits © Emma Dudlyke

Eine Kernaussage hilft einem Album ungemein. Also hat sich Obaro Ejimiwe eine für seinen fünften Ghostpoet-Auftritt I Grow Tired But Dare Not Fall Asleep ausgedacht. „It‘s getting kinda complex these days, we better get our hard hats ready“, lautet sie. Die Angelegenheit ist vertrackt, man bräuchte einen Schutzhelm. „I am alive“, jubelt er zuerst, doch sogleich dreht sich die Stimmung. „I wanna die, you wanna die, we wanna die, they wanna die because of the waves drowning in hate.“ In weiteren Tracks wird er spezifischer, geht es um Überdruck in der vollelektronischen Gegenwart, politische und wirtschaftliche Ausuferung, soziale Ungerechtigkeit, Animosität. Die Lösung? „I want inner peace in my inner being, but I won‘t find it here with all this constant war mongering.“     

Ein Slowthai geht in so einer Situation auf die Barrikaden. Ein Ghostpoet sinniert introvertiert über Ursachen des Übels. Sein Sound ist nicht harter Grime, sein Rhythmus läuft untertourig, sein gesprochenes Wort kommt aus der Flüsterecke. Stilistische Beschreibungen mag er nicht, trotzdem kann er Nähe zum Trip-Hop kaum leugnen. Wenn Obaro an der Seite einer Frau singt, ähnelt es der Machart von Tricky. Die Gaststimmen sind bei Obaro oft andere. Früher kamen Nadine Shah, Mélanie De Biasio und Lucy Rose vor, jetzt sind es Art School Girlfriend, Katie Dove Dixon und die formidable Französin SaraSara, die in ihrer Landessprache referiert. Ghostpoet erzählt im folgenden Interview, warum das so ist. Er wählt seine Worte mit Bedacht, wirkt aber nicht missmutig oder humorlos. Er lässt auch durchblicken, welche Musik ihn im Angesicht der ganzen Spannung auf andere Gedanken bringt. Man muss sich ja auch mal locker machen.     

The first question is simple, but means more than ever – how are you doing today?
I‘m fine as an individual, as one person in billions. I‘m fine, which is a blessing.

The new record took shape under certain circumstances in the UK, overshadowed by what has happened in the country until last December. How are you assessing it now, given that the situation has changed drastically in the last few months? Do you think a new record with different sound and lyrics would be ideal now?
No, because I feel this record holds enough of the perception of the times that we‘re in right now, and that‘s always more so than I expected to be honest. I always make music with that in mind, trying to capture the times and reflecting how I feel about society at large. If you were to say If I was to make an album right now, yeah maybe it would be different, but in terms of that on the new record I think it captures the times in a way that I would write. It‘s about the current state of affairs. It‘s not a postive time for us as a world in terms of my own personal mission of reflecting what we‘re going through as a whole, I feel that I‘ve done that.        

YouTube video

Is personal stuff important as well since you‘re beginning the album with Breaking Cover and words like „I am alive, I want to die, it‘s getting complex these days“. Is it very personal or would you say it‘s got more to do with the times we are living in?
I would say it‘s more the latter than the former. I wouldn‘t class myself as a political artist. I‘m very much aware of events here and abroad in terms of politics and society at large. It‘s important for me to reflect that because everybody thinks that, everybody is part of the cycle, emotionally or politically or socially. It‘s important to talk about it in some shape or form or at least raise the question. There is that element in the record, but I also try to be as personal in my lyrics as possible, always from my own perspective. A lot of it is a mixture of stuff that I pick up through literature or conversation or hearing the news as well as my own life. I don‘t like the idea of being a me me me artist talking about myself. I don‘t really like doing that. I like a voice, to give a voice to other people who may not have a platform like I have.

What was the starting point, which track came first and felt like a stepping stone?
In terms of the first song that was arranged for the record that was the first real solid song completely sung, I would say Breaking Cover was the first song that was arranged. It was a flag in the ground, a springboard for me to be creatively bolder. It changed even from the beginning, listening to it in the arrangement and the encouragement which it holds made me feel I was on the right path with this record.

Ghostpoet - I Grow Tired But Dare Not Fall Asleep Cover

After you‘ve made songs like Trouble & Me, Many Moods At Midnight, Freakshow, Immigrant Boogie and Woe Is Meee on Dark Days & Canapés, did you intend to get deeper into the state of things on the fifth album as Ghostpoet?
Yes, musically and lyrically. I definitely wanted to evolve as an artist, I wanted to write more potent lyrics and I wanted to create music which had even more depth and nuance and layers through it. That‘s what I‘ve achieved on this record. I‘m proud of it and pleased because I‘ve produced it myself as well this time around, that was important for me to give that a go. Yeah, creatively I‘ve managed to dig further and further down this black hole that I‘ve created for myself (laughs). I enjoy making the music that I make and I got to a point where this album I would say is the most concentrated version of the Ghostpoet project. I feel it‘s the truest reflection of what I‘m about.

Sorry to be cheeky, but Is there a moment in life in which you actually lighten up? What do you listen to in brighter hours of life?
Well, currently I‘m listening to a lot of Brazilian music. I‘ve become obsessed by it. It‘s weird what attracts me to it. It‘s specific stuff from the Seventies like samba and bossa nova and experimental psychedelic rock stuff from that era. There‘s a melancholy in this stuff that I like, and there‘s a lightness at times too and a sound of swing. I wouldn‘t say it‘s happy, but definitely flirts with the idea of it. If I was to make a record that was a bit more about me lightening up (laughs)…it wouldn‘t quite be a Brazilian record, but that‘s the kind of stuff I associate with that kind of emotion. But I don‘t know…I enjoy the dark too much, I don‘t really need to switch things….

What kind of artists from Brazil do you listen to? Let me guess; Caetano Veloso, Os Mutantes, Tim Maia and some Milton Nascimento?
Yeah, everyone you mentioned, also Gilberto Gil, João Bosco, Paulinho da Viola I‘ve been into as well, a guy called Sérgio Sampaio…so many, I‘ve always been into it for some reason…it‘s my go-to-music for this…to get through this current time. It hits the right chord for me, so I‘ve been delving really deep into it. I‘ve noticed that it‘s always the stuff made in the late Sixties and early Seventies for some reason. It‘s interesting, on my new record I bring in a Brazilian percussionist, he pretty much played on all the songs. There is something in those rhythms I wanted to have on the record, there‘s a lot of that going on. All the percussion bits are done by this amazing Brazilian percussionist called Alua Nascimento, he‘s a lovely guy.

You can hear him in Concrete Pony in a vocal sample as well. In that song you‘re mentioning modern technology quite a bit, a camera phone, chatting shit fumes, the twitter feeds, emails and digital likes – everything that is representative of our lives now. Do you mention it because you‘re annoyed by what technology is creating or are you a fan?
I think I‘m both. On the one hand I understand, because I have been able to connect with so many people via the internet, it would be impossible in real life. I‘ve been inspired and been able to learn so many things from social media and the internet at large, but at the same time I feel like it‘s..I‘m not sure if it‘s a hindrance in life. I‘m not sure if takes us away from the essence of us being human. The psychological effects of the internet and social media and things along those lines are hard to ignore for me. So yeah, it‘s a love-hate-relationship I‘d say. I need to be part of it partly because of my work, but I wouldn‘t mind getting rid of it all. It‘s something I do daydream about, but I haven‘t been brave enough to just delete them all yet. Maybe one day…

What do you do every Thursday at 8pm in the UK these days? Do you join in?
Is it Thursday today? I don‘t know what day it is….

It‘s Monday. Are you clapping for the NHS carers in three days at 8pm?
Oh, the clapping situation…(laughs)…yeah, I am clapping, but at the same I am very much hoping that it won‘t be the end of it. I hope that the people we are clapping for receive more money because that what they need, be it wages, be it equipment, that‘s what they really need. Clapping isn‘t going to put more money into their pockets. I feel that‘s what they deserve, so I‘m all for the clapping, but I would rather they got pay rises. I think it‘s very important for us to be appreciative of our frontline staff at the hospitals. We can appreciate them more by making sure that they live much more comfortable lives, because that‘s what they deserve for the work that they‘re doing.

Ghostpoet 2 © Emma Dudlyke

Another date. What did you do last December on the 12th? Did you go to the ballot box?
Hm, you‘re throwing all these numbers at me…(laughs)…what happened on December 12th? My memory is terrible.

That‘s the date of the last general election in the UK.
Okay, yeah, yeah. I‘m not going to say how I voted….

It‘s important that you understand, even though I talk about politics and society, I don‘t classify myself as a political artist. I think politics are important to us all and it‘s important to discuss it, but I would not classify myself as a political musician. I engage, it‘s important to vote if you can, and I did. That‘s as much as would say on that.

On the new record you‘ve got a track called Rats In A Sack. You‘re talking about Britain being on a mission, humans in a daze and you chant: Let‘s get out! To me it‘s a song about Brexitmania. Do you feel that in this case you wanted to give a hint in which direction your thoughts on this issue are going?
Well, you know, it is about that, but not totally. It‘s also about the Windrush generation, about people from the West Indies who came over to help to build the country and who were in a state where they were sent back to the West Indies because they didn‘t have any passports or any kind of documentation to prove that they were given a right to stay. But Brexit, I was quite public about Brexit and I wanted to stay as part of Europe, because that makes perfect sense to me. It was and is very topical and important to bring such a thing in, but I‘m not saying this is what you should do as an individual. It‘s writing about the times we are living in. It‘s very much on the back end now because of the pandemic that we‘re facing. But it‘s still very much on table and we‘ll see what happens on the back of that.

This Trainwreck Of A Life is another song on the record, a dark love song in which the artist SaraSara is appearing. She‘s speaking a French poem and is singing too. Why was it important to you to have a poem in this language in here? Is it a) because it works artistically well, or b) because you wanted to indicate that French people are good enough and that people of all nations can live together perfectly?
Yeah, the latter – bingo! You‘ve hit the nail on the head! (laughs approvingly) It was definitely a conscious decision to have Europe on the record in some shape or form. It features a part spoken in French, although it is only representative of a small section of Europe, but they are our closest neighbours. It almost felt like looking out the window for me. I was listening to a lot of Serge Gainsbourg, that was an influence for that song. When I was making the composition for the song, I felt like I wanted to go in a French direction musically influenced by Serge‘s work. I wrote the poem, I wrote it in English, but I don‘t speak French. It so happened that Sara is also a translator, she translates French as well as other languages, I believe. She did it in French and recited it for the record. The greatest thing about music, the blessing that we have as musicians and artists is that we can be creative and do whatever we want to do. Some people do take that liberty and spread their creative wings and others just make formulaic music. I‘ve always tried to push myself forward and I felt – why not open the song with a French poem? And in terms of the programming I purposely put that at the beginning of the B side on the vinyl. The A side ends with Rats In a Sack, which is partly talking about separating from Europe. When you turn it around, it‘s embracing Europe. It‘s something I wanted to do, it‘s a central moment on the record, central to my thinking.

Das Interview wurde von unserem Redakteur Tom Whelan geführt.