Ghost Culture Talks

There's something very exciting going on in the left of centre fringes of electronic music… again! Cycles, that's what they call it. 

Towards the end of last year, our ears were alerted to a certain Ghost Culture from this fringe – he also has a nice fringe too. Out of the London fog came a clearing. Beautiful analogue detroit-influenced electronica underpinned by a finely crafted songwriting aesthetic filled our ears. 

We got excited. We investigated more.  Turns out this Ghost Culture was releasing records on a certain Mr Erol Alkan's Phantasy Sound which feels like the perfect home for these rather fine aural tones. With two very excellent releases on the label already under his belt – the great Mouth EP and the recently release Giudecca EP – we finally found time to have a quick chat with James about his lineage, working with Daniel Avery and dodgy eary recordings.

How did you get into making music?

I've played instruments since I was 11, but making music started to happen when I was 17 – I got Cubase and was trying my best to copy Squarepusher records. 

What was the first song you loved?

That's tough, It might be dreams by Fleetwood Mac but I'm not totally sure

Do you have any dodgy early band recordings lurking in your past?

Definitely, hours and hours of those. You have to make mistakes to realise what you like and what works for you.

What is a ghost culture?

Ghost Culture is my metaphor for superficiality. It is a statement about where I think culture is going if we fail to make sure that our reliance on technology doesn't go too far.

You’ve gone from having a mysterious public image to doing interviews fairly rapidly – were you conscious not to make too big a thing of your anonymity?

I try not to be overly conscious of too many of these kinds of decisions, I'm going with what we feel at the time is right to do.

Does it feel surreal to be asked questions about yourself? Are you tempted to lie?

I guess I'm more interested in what people want to know about the music rather than myself. I will never lie, I will always be myself.

Is London a particular influence on your music? And if so, how?

Most of the music wasn't made in London so I can't say that it is really although I am conscious of wanting to make it sound like it is from England.

We can hear quite a 90s Madchester/ New Order influence on the latest single – does that make sense to you?

People have said this but it wasn't something I worked for.

What sparks a song lyric for you? And do you have a usual writing process you follow?

Usually I will have made all the music and will have written a melody line first, so then it's about fitting in words to that. Lyrics come from situations and experiences that I'll write very basically about and then elaborate on and poeticise to a certain extent if needs be to make them work.

Who’s the greatest songwriter alive, and why?

David Bowie – he's David Bowie. I don't think people really give him enough credit for what he's done for popular culture as well as popular music.

Has the interplay of putting a vocal track on the A side and a clubby track on the b side of your last two EPS been intentional? Do you ever find it hard to reconcile the two styles?

It was intentional, I haven't really ever been a DJ but it was this kind of music that drew me to the kinds of sounds that I use on the A sides 

Did you ever set out to be a DJ?

To be honest no, and DJing is not the focus of Ghost Culture. This is not to say that I don't really enjoy it and don't want to do it because that isn't true.

And do you have any live plans?

Yes and this will be a prime focus for me. It will be a performance, a show. 

Do you write stuff specifically to play out?

When I was writing my album I thought about how every track would sound live and this played an important part in the arrangement and in the sounds I used in each one. 

You worked with Dan Avery on his debut – is it hard to step back when working on someone else’s project?

I was very involved in this album and feel like I wasn't really taking too much of a step back. I wrote this album with him

Have you got any plans to collaborate with any other musicians?

Not collaboration as such but I will be helping a close friend with her music.

What’s coming up in the future? Any idea when we can expect an album?

The album will be out later this year, and the live show is on its way!

What should people think more about today?

'The overview effect' – Some astronauts describe that when they see the earth from space, all of our man-made boundaries, conflicts and divides appear meaningless, and the need to create a planetary society with the united will to protect the planet becomes both obvious and imperative.
Giudecca is out now on Phantasy Sound