UK electro industrial metal band Ghost In The Static has captivated our and the genre’s ears for quite a while now with their vibrant and striking sounds. Their music is powerful, thoughtful and loaded with irresistible hooks and melodies alongside exhilarating and intrusive direct intensity. They stand as one of the bands at the fore of UK Industrial music and with their recent Infection EP’s one which is giving it a new heart, something their new album later in the year is promising to endorse and beat louder with. Long overdue we finally got down to grabbing some of band founder and vocalist Steve Fearon’s time to find out more about Ghost In The Static, their music, and more.
Hi and welcome to The Ringmaster Review. Many thanks for talking with us.
Firstly could you introduce the band?
We have myself, and the main vocalist, Gareth who is our rhythm guitarist, Lewis who is the lead guitarist and synth player, my brother Mike who is our bassist and Martin our Drummer.
How did Ghost In The Static begin?
The origins of the idea behind Ghost In The Static came about in about 2003-4 when I was still at uni and I began working on the idea of a music project with a deep universe within which it would sit. Me and my good friend Marcus used to brainstorm ideas about the storylines that could be involved and what the music would be trying to evoke.
However neither of us really knew anything about recording or programming so it stayed a mostly theoretical project.
I kept the flame of the idea within me for years afterwards but never really acted on it until Lewis and Gareth (who were playing in another band at the time) suggested it might be fun to actually try and make some Industrial Rock music.
Despite knowing next to nothing of the processes involved, or the techniques used by many Industrial musicians, the writing process was very easy and I think we had the majority of ‘Prophecy’ (opening track on Open Eye Dreamer Part I) down after the first session.
So industrial metal has not always been the area your music has been based in?
Not really, we have all come at this from other projects, and have differing influences. We have to a large extent all come from a more mainstream alternative (oxymoron?) background with Metal and Punk, but have all gravitated towards the variety and challenge that electronic music can provide.
Many industrial metal /electro bands only have a full line-up for live shows, the studio work and creativity coming from one or two members. What is your set up in both areas?
Originally the band was built around me, Lewis and Gareth, with Mike and Martin effectively coming in as live members.
However, over the course of writing ‘Fallout’ (our 2nd album due 2nd half 2012) we have involved them more and more to the point where Mike comes into a lot of the writing/recording sessions now and Martin creates midi files for the drums to help create a more accurate and live feeling sound which has had a big impact.
Everyone also gets a say in the mixing process so I would say at this stage it is as collaborative an effort as we have ever had, and the plans for album 3 intend to develop that even further.
Your music has echoes of the likes of Gary Numan, Celldweller and Suicide Commando but where does the harder edges sounds come from, thoughts of Fear Factory and Rabbit Junk come to mind but you are quite unique in that area. Does this side basically come from your work/tastes before Ghost In The Static?
I would think that is fairly accurate. Whilst we have all listened to FF previous to GITS, I would probably say it would be bands like Metallica, Tool, Disturbed & Rammstein that give us the heavier inspiration, certainly on the riffage side of things.
Definitely. Long before the music was written, we had a very strong vision of what we wanted to achieve.
We wanted to create a musical landscape that could take the listener out of their seat and into a new reality.
Movies were a big inspiration, and we wanted to capture a bit of that by having a cinematic style to our music, and our first album was very much built on the concept of each track being a scene in a larger tale.
Our approach to live music has always been to make it into a real show, with our costumes, face paint and projections. We wanted to recapture a bit of the wow factor that has been lost in recent years with so many bands wandering onto the stage in band shirts and jeans.
Everything we do has a lot of thought put into its purpose, desired effect and quality, and we hope that comes across.
..and it has always been like that, that thought and intention the seed from day one?
As mentioned earlier, the rough idea and vibe had been developing for a long time, and before we even sat down to write the first song we had discussed what we want to achieve and how best to do so.
One of the things that keep us focused is the depth and planning in every track.
How has your sound evolved to your mind since the beginning?
I think as we have learned more about production/mixing and electronic music in general, we have improved at being able to blend the rock and electronic aspects in a more effective way. We are not interested in being a synth metal band or an EBM band with guitars, we want to use the most effective tools in the right situation, and with each song we write we get a little better at developing that blend.
Also the musicianship of everyone involved has improved from the first album to the next; everyone has more to offer now in terms of what we can achieve in new tracks. I think vocally we are all much stronger now than when we started, and the mastery of our instruments is something that will only get better as we go.
Same question but regarding the actual songwriting?
Well the first album was essentially planned out like a script due to the conceptual nature of the tracks.
Certain tracks had to be big and fast and others slow and subtle, in order to reflect the mood we wanted to convey at that part in the larger story.
However we took a break from that approach on the 2nd album, which whilst still deeply embedded in the concept, took a more freeform approach.
We intend to return to a stricter concept album from album 3, albeit with a more organic approach to song writing, as we are intending to write a lot of material in the practise room as opposed to sat by a computer, which will be an interesting change!
We came across you by your debut album Open Eyed Dreamer Part 1: Revelation, though I believe you had an earlier track out? Tell us about the theme behind the album?
Open Eyed Dreamer Part I: Revelation was our first full release, we had put out a couple of demo EPs (Fatalism being the main one I can recall) but really this was the first ‘finished’ article.
The theme is built around my love of dystopian sci-fi, and post-apocalyptic struggle. In a future where invisible powers control every aspect of human life, one man wakes up one morning and finds he suddenly understands the system, and can see the puppet strings everywhere.
We allude to chemical controls, curfews, martial law, and corporate governance.
There are a lot of political undertones to it, perhaps in my clumsy way to emulate Orwell or Philip K Dick, but I feel there are a lot of parallels within the concept to the way this country is run, in fact as time goes on, increasingly so.
From the album and as shown from subsequent releases there is a lot of thought and planning behind the songs lyrically, musically and their union. What comes first generally, words, music or the concept idea?
Concept always comes first.
When writing a new track, I will usually already have a rough idea of what I want to convey within the track, be it a protest to authority (‘Lost’*, ‘Hope’ or ‘Resistance’), a introspective character monologue (‘Forlorn’, ‘Journey’ or ‘Judgement Day’*) or a more plot based scene setter (‘Pursuit’, ‘Change’ or ‘IWTMT’*)
Usually the music will then come into it, and finally the words.
*denotes tracks from the next album :)
How does the songwriting process work for you?
For me personally, it will usually start with an intro, be it a guitar riff, synth progression or a rhythm.
I tend to put a lot of thought into how a track will start, as I often find if you are going to hook someone into the world you are creating, you need to build the atmosphere.
Then I work section by section as it comes to me, it is usually a quite natural process, with one idea flowing into the next…but it isn’t always that easy.
Things will work slightly differently going forward as we are trialling the idea of ‘jamming through’ song ideas in a practise studio in an attempt to keep things fresh and give album 3 a more organic and different vibe to the coming album.
Musically it is a full band involvement in the creation of a song?
It is nowadays yes. Quite often it will start as an idea, progression or riff suggested by a band member, and then we will throw ideas at it as a unit.
We have the motto ‘give it a try’ and we have had some hilarious, horrific and genuinely surprising ideas come up from the most random suggestions, but it keeps the process democratic and keeps things fun.
What inspires your creativity and ideas?
There are probably 3 main areas that influence my personal approach to writing:
- Personal Experience – First world problems am I right? Some songs I write to channel some frustration, same as most people I would imagine, although I try to hide my personal agenda or emotion behind a concept-relevant façade.
- The World – in particular politics, war and religion. There are a lot of things going on in the world that are so blatantly greed or power driven that I channel my frustration into giving it form in the Open Eyed Dreamer’s world.
- The Future – I have a fascination with what is around the corner. Channelling my love for films such as Equilibrium, The Matrix, Logan’s Run, Soilent Green, Akira etc into exploring this desperate world.
As you say you bring a definite Sci-Fi flavouring to the songs but find relevance with reality and our world. Is that a defined aspect to your writing and think we connect to that easily because our lives and world is becoming more like a science fantasy?
I think dystopian sci-fi has always been linked to what was happening in the real world. Was Orwell’s 1984 really predicting the CCTV nation we have become, or did he simply interpret correctly the way the country was headed?
Books like ‘1984’ and ‘Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep’ deal with the reality that our decadence and apathy will lead us to a shallow and limited existence at the hands of a ruthless ruling class.
Were they wrong?
A lot of bands bring their political opinions/agendas etc directly to the listener whilst others address things with a more dare one say artistic and welcoming substance. You are in the latter camp with any ideas and opinions you wish to present. Is this deliberate or just the way you naturally are?
There are plenty of people I would like to grab and shake until they saw things the way I did, but I know from political doorknockers, evangelists etc that if someone TELLS you something is wrong/right, the initial reaction is to tell them to do one.
No one wants to be told, they have to discover it for themselves. The problem is that this country has been in an apathetic slumber for so long that people don’t dig for the truth anymore, they just taking the easiest to reach approximation.
We simply try to provide a few questions, in the hope that it will lead the listener to ask more themselves.
The biggest tragedy of our generation is that we have stopped asking questions.
That’s why journalists are more interested in what Cheryl Cole has to say than the hundreds of thousands dying in the Middle East or the covert dismantling of the NHS.
‘Not Enough’ was one of the first songs we finished for ‘Fallout’ and I think it was a sigh of relief. OED Part I was a lot of hard work due to our inexperience, and the amount of ideas we were trying to convey.
We decided early on that we weren’t going to plan this album to the same extent, and were just going to focus on writing strong individual songs that fit into a larger theme.
‘Not Enough’ was us basically saying ‘let’s write a straightforward, riffy barn stormer that will be fun to play live’.
In terms of the concept it’s a look at the world after the apocalypse, and thinking this is all we have left now…and it’s not enough.
In terms of the meaning behind the lyrics, it is the idea of looking around you and saying ‘No, I am not happy to just work a dead end job for 60 years only to have the banks squander my pension, No I am not happy to vote for a political party and then have them change their promises as soon as they are elected, No I am not happy to see schools and hospitals closed and sold off to fund the building of nuclear warheads’.
The track is accompanied on the release by remixes of the song by the likes of Cyvergence and Witness The Apotheosis. Was the addition of these tracks always in mind or came about from the great work these people did?
Cyvergence had remixed us before, and he is an amazing producer, so it was always hoped he would get involved. Witness The Apotheosis I had spoken with previously when myself and Mike were producing the ‘Incoming Fire’ Podcast for Grave Concerns Ezine, and they showed an interest in getting involved. I knew that they had a very original sound to them and were very creative so I knew they would come up with something very different.
You made the lead track a free download off the release rather than the additional material. Seems over generous, what was the reasoning and do you fear it makes the other tracks seem more important?
I must confess that was my mistake! I made the EP as a whole available for free, but didn’t make all the individual tracks free, meaning you could get all of them for free, but only ‘Not Enough’ individually for free.
So it wasn’t my intention!
The idea was always to use the ‘Infection’ EPs to remind people that we were still around, and to keep us in the forefront of the scene as much as possible whilst we finished ‘Fallout’.
Vol 2 followed early this year comprising of remixes of the song Saviour, this a complete free download release. Tell us about the actual song they are covering?
Well ‘Saviour’ was a track we wrote for the ‘Electronic Saviours Vol 2’ compilation, but we decided to update it and give it a different mix and use it on the album (hence the ‘Ghost Mix’ on the EP).
This one has a very aggressive, dance vibe, almost early Rammstein like, and has me taking a more aggressive approach with my vocals.
Lyrically it is all about finding strength within yourself, and not relying on family/friends/God/Government to do everything for you.
As you said you are working on your new album.
Yes, we will be releasing ‘Fallout’ later this year, we are just in the final stages of the album production, with our good friend Steve Alton of System:FX coming as us Co-Producer to help us make the tracks the best we can.
We shall be announcing the launch date VERY soon and will be releasing it on digital and CD formats on my label Static Distortion Records (http://staticdistortionrecords.co.uk).
This album is a more immediate and sustained attack of an album, with each track playable in its own right.
We have eased up on the storytelling for this album, preferring more of a general vibe to a specific story before returning to a heavily storyboarded album 3, due in 2013 ;)
I think there are a number of tracks that will surprise people, a couple of vocal cameo’s from some of the UK industrial scene’s hottest artists, and some really catchy songs on there, so there is a lot to look forward to!
Will it have some sort of theme or concept too?
This album is a themed release, each song has a vibe, and general feel to it, without being tied down by specifics. This is a much more easily accessible album than OED Part I in my opinion.
You are on Static Distortion, your own label. Tell us about the idea behind the label?
Well, I have always been interested in the workings of the music industry, and I get frustrated by the rather blinkered approach that a lot of the big labels have these days.
I wanted to create something that was up to date, community based and focused on trying to bring alternative electronic music to people beyond the narrow confines of industrial.
Was the starting your own label forced upon you simply to get your music out there or is it the natural next step in your ideology as an artist and musician?
Well its true what they say these days, every band is effectively a record label if they sell their own music. But I saw an opportunity to gather together several artists and get us pushing together in the same direction. Cross promotion and word of mouth is the best way to promote music unless you have a million pound budget per album to spend on bribing radio ‘gatekeepers’ to play your tracks on mainstream radio.
I love music, and I love working with talented driven people, and I believe my skill set allows me to help those around me. All I did essentially was formalise this ideal and call it a label.
Do Labels have a future? Not in the traditional sense, I think most people can see its going to be more about building relationships with customers than selling them products, and when the industry changes I intend to make sure my artists benefit from the music ‘renaissance’ that I believe is coming.
Apart from the band, who else is there on the label that people should take a deep interest in?
Well at the moment I am fortunate enough to share the label with 3 other artists J
MiXE1 is a well established artist with an unmistakeable sound and is possibly one of the best songwriters I have ever had the pleasure of working with. He blends the raw energy of rock music with the power and majesty of electronic music. We are lucky enough to have him featuring on a track in ‘Fallout’.
He has an EP due out on June 16th titled ‘Module 02’
Digital Deformation released one of the best independent albums of last year ‘No Signal’, and is a real creative force in industrial music. He can find melodies and rhythms where no one else would, and weave them in an organic and powerful statement of political intent.
He is currently working on the follow up to ‘No Signal’ and its sounding HOT!
Finally I come to our most recent acquisition, Digital Diktator!
Based in Slovenia, these boys have a similar love of sci-fi and concept albums and have produced their first EP in quick time!
They have a real sense of atmosphere and scale, and they will be going places before long.
Their EP ‘At The End Of The Universe’ is available from May 4th.
I am also in negotiation with some very exciting artists at the moment, so watch this space!
All of these releases are available at http://staticdistortionrecords.co.uk
You have big gigs coming up I believe, can you give some details?
We are fortunate enough to be supporting Dreams Divide on the 5th May at Electrowerkz in London, which is great as we are big fans, and Synchotrax Promotions are one of our favourite promoters.
We also are playing as part of the Music 4 Mental Health Festival in Reading on May 19th which is for a good cause and has a big line up of awesome acts.
Other than the album and events what is next for Ghost In The Static?
Once we have ‘Fallout’ released and have tired of whoring it to everyone twice, we will be writing and recording ‘Open Eyed Dreamer Part II : Ashen’
In terms of the timeline involved it goes: OEDPART I > OED PART II > FALLOUT
but we like to be difficult. How does the world go from a faceless dystopian city in OED Part I to a post-apocalyptic wasteland in Fallout? You will have to wait and see ;)
Again a great thank you for talking with us, it has been a pleasure.
Would you like to leave us a last thought to get our minds into?
Just the usual musician/label thoughts really…
If you like an artist, buy their music, support the little labels, and go to gigs.
Everyone complains that they don’t hear enough new music or new directions but they are out there, you just need to spend some time looking around!
We will continue to develop the Ghost in The Static Universe, and push the envelope for Electronic Rock music, as we believe it’s a genre that is woefully under explored.
Come explore it with us!
…and finally you know we have a kind of problem with remixes here haha, their purpose etc, so would you like to end by explaining their validity and what we are missing in trying to understand them?
Well Remixing is a nice way to get other artists introduced to new audiences, and to show how a song could have been made if it went in a different direction.
Its not always done right, but the best re-mixers can take a song and turn it into something beautiful…we have had several remixes done where we complained that it was better than our original version *shakes fist*.
Read The Infection EP review @ http://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2012/04/16/ghost-in-the-static-the-infection-vols-1-2/
The RingMaster Review 29/04/2012