Interview: The Ghost of a Thousand

tgoat2Faye recently caught up with Andy Blyth (guitarist) from The Ghost of Thousand before their headline set at Slam Dunk in Leeds, on a delightful balcony under the blistering sun, where they discussed: new album, New Hopes, New Demonstrations; their upcoming UK tour; the UK hardcore scene; and, more importantly, the ‘T.G.O.A.T.’ initialism.

Faye: Hey, can you say you name and what you do in the band?
Andy: Hi, I’m Andy and I play guitar in The Ghost of A Thousand.

F: You’re playing Slam Dunk today and headlining the Dropdead stage, how does that feel?

A: Yeah, it’s good, it kind of feels a bit weird because we’ve played so many shows with bands below us on the bill, so it feels odd headlining. It’s nice to see friendly faces, and I’m looking forward to playing the show.

F: Have you been able to watch anyone?
A: I’ve watched a little bit of some bands, I’ve watched Ruiner and that was pretty awesome. That’s about it, I’ve been busy doing merch and press and stuff, so I haven’t had the chance to watch that many bands, but I will be watching as much as I can. I watched a bit of Outcry Collective, that was well good.
F: So, you haven’t had the chance to go to the Babycakes bar yet?
A: Nah, getting around anywhere is a nightmare, there’s torrents of children. [laughs]

F: You’re releasing your second album, New Hopes, New Demonstrations on June 1st, can you tell us a bit about it? How long have you been working on it for and the direction you went for?
A: We’ve been working on it since early 2008. The direction, I don’t really know, when we started the band we were younger guys, less mature, there were the pitfalls of all the young bands, y’know? You go out, you party, whether that’s a good thing or a band thing, I don’t know. [laughs] But this album, we’re all a little bit older and 2008 was a really weird year for all of us, with personal issues and stuff, I think it’s just a bit of a more mature record, it’s very honest and personal to all of us. It’s got a very sombre mood to it, but it’s still heavy. We were just at a point in our lives where we were writing and didn’t know whether a record contract was in the bag, we had been talking about it for 18-months and still hadn’t signed, it kind of felt like, “What are we writing for?”, we needed that psychological barrier to be broken down, so we had a goal to work towards, like “This is going to be out on something records…” to make it good, rather than being “Right, that’ll do.” Once we had that [a record contract], we really worked hard and began pre-production in September/October and went into the studio in November. It’s very much a more rock ‘n’ roll record, less kind of hardcore.
F: Yeah, it’s a lot more melodic than the previous album.
A: Yeah, it’s got more melodic vocals than before, but it’s not melodic for the sake of being melodic, it’s still raw and it’s still very energetic, but it’s just a bit more mature and a bit more honest.

F: You’ve been quoted saying it’s a lot more “sadder”…
A: It is more sadder, but it wasn’t a conscious thing, like I say it’s just kind of like a document of where we’re all at, we were all going through personal turmoil and it kind of just came through in what we were playing, we just made sad music, I guess. It’s nice to have that as a document and come away and try to be positive, though, rather than let the negativity get to you.

F: Do you think it’ll attract new fans?

A: I don’t know, to be honest, I hope so! It’s definitely a more European sounding, rock ‘n’ roll record, a lot of people have it sounds like Turbonegro, yeah, it does, but it still sounds like The Ghost of a Thousand to me. Like you said, it is more melodic in places and there’s a lot more clean vocals, but that’s because we always wanted to push ourselves forward, it sounds more interesting to our ears, rather than just monotone screaming all the time. I’m sure the next album will be completely different again, we don’t want to get complacent in just doing one thing, we always want to push our capabilities and push our boundaries.

F:  You went to Sweden to record the album, how was that?
A: Yeah, it was amazing, we were there for like five-weeks, then we stayed an extra week because we still had a few bits and bobs to do. It was awesome, we went to see a really good band for my birthday while we were out there, we went to see Henry Fiat’s Open Sore who are like these really old dudes in this awesome Swedish punk band. The scene over there is completely different to here, there’s no sort of trendy, haircut-types, it’s just punk rock is punk rock. Whether you like the more emo side or the more hardcore side, there’s not really a division in people, it’s a lot more unified and the sense of community over there is awesome, it was really good to see a fresh perspective on it.

F: How was working with Pelle Gunnefeldt on the new album?
A: I had a special relationship with Mr. Gunnefedlt, he spent a lot of time with me doing guitars and we just tried everything since we had time. The first album was done in like 12-days, but with this one we did it in five-and-a-half weeks, so we did two-and-a-half/three-weeks on guitars. He had some ideas that we didn’t want to go with, but he did have a lot of ideas that we loved and made us sound really unique. He always envisioned making a really rock ‘n’ roll record, he did all The Hives stuff and that sounds incredible, like real garage bands, dirty rock ‘n’ roll, we wanted to recreate something like that, that’s why we chose him, so working with him was a real pleasure. You’d suggest something and he’d be like, “No, no!”, then other times he’d be forceful with his ideas, but neither of us backed down, so it worked.

F: All of the reviews I’ve read of the new album, so far, have been really positive, that must be nice…

A: So far, the response has been really good. Obviously, reviews are just one person’s opinion, so whether they like it or not doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to appeal to a lot of people, but it is nice to know that people get what we’re trying to do. On the first album, when we were first a band, we were playing with loads of mosh-metal bands and that’s all there was, only metalcore bands, so we started smashing shit up because no one liked us. [laughs] We were like, ‘Well, if you’re not gonna listen, we’re just gonna cause mayhem.’ [laughs] Now it’s like everyone is trying to do the rock ‘n’ roll thing, but with the reviews it’s nice to have some basis to go on.

F: You recently signed to Epitaph, how did that come about?

A: That was like 18-months of negotiations, Peter Ahlqvist, who was the guy in charge of Burning Heart Records, an imprint of Epitaph, he came to watch us play this crap show in London in front of like 10-people and somehow he still wanted to sign us. He’s the guy that’s signed Refused and Millencolin; Millencolin were his baby and made them massive, he also signed The Hives. That was flattering in itself that someone that’s pretty well-respected in the European music scene thought we were worth something. It took us a while to get out of our original contract and sign with Epitaph. Mem (drums) and Jag (guitar) grew up listening to Epitaph bands like Bad Religion, me and Tom (vocals) absolutely adore Converge and now we’re on the same label as them, it’s pretty awesome.

F: How did the name The Ghost of a Thousand come about? Were you always aware that the initials spelt the name of a farmyard animal?
A: [laughs] No, that wasn’t discussed until someone pointed it out after. We were all sat around rehearsal, we had only been a band for like a week or something, and had a gig already booked – crazy, ambitious idea! So, we were like, “Well, we need a name…”, Mem was like, “Well, I like the word ‘ghost’” and back then there were no bands with the word ‘ghost’ in their name, but now there’s quite a few! Then Tom was just like, “How about The Ghost of a Thousand?” At the time, we didn’t really pay that much attention to it, whether it was going to stick or if the band was going to last, it was just fun for us at the time. It kind of stuck and it worked, that was it really, there wasn’t any deep meaning behind it or anything, but we’re happy with it still.

F: You’re from Brighton, some pretty awesome bands have come out of there recently, how do you feel about the UK hardcore scene today?
A: I think it’s good that the underground is so productive at the moment, but at the same time I think it’s a bit of a shame that there’s this copycat thing going on, like current trends come and go, fair enough, but in order to start a new trend, you have to do something different. It’s great that there are underground bands, like Sharks and The Computers who we’re taking out on tour. The Computers are awesome, a rock ‘n’ roll band, and Sharks write great punk rock songs and they’re all 17. If I was that young and that talented, it’d be amazing. It’s a shame that people don’t really look back further than one band, they hear like one band and are like, “Oh, yeah, we’re going to copy that.” or “We want to aspire to being that.”, but those bands (The Computers and Sharks) don’t think like that, they look back three/four generations ago. Unlike, “I grew up listening to my Dad’s record collection, that influences me.” I think that’s a bit of a shame, that’s a bit ignorant. I, personally, am in a band because I love music, I play punk music and I love punk music, but there’s more to what we do than just that. I think on the new album, a lot of my guitar-parts on the new album are Smiths-y and there’s a bit more melodic elements, it’s not from hardcore, y’know, it’s from other things.

F: You’ve got a big U.K. tour coming up in July, what can we expect?

A: It’s a good, strong line-up of three U.K. bands and so many people are excited these days about U.K. music. I mean, you go to a U.K. festival, and there’s like one or two U.K. bands and the rest are American bands you’ve never even heard of, I think that’s a real shame. The great thing about what we do is that it can’t help but sound British, because we are. We hand pick these bands and ask them to do it, it’s not like we got pushed to tour with them, I think that’s important.

F: You’re playing Leeds and Reading this year, are you excited about that?

A: Yeah, it should be great, we’re just really flattered that Mike asked us to play again, I really respect Mike’s taste in music. For him to be like, “I dig your band, would you come and play?” I’m stoked on that.

F: So, what’s planned for The Ghost of a Thousand after that? Do you plan on going to America eventually?

A: We’d love to do that, we haven’t really toured Europe before, so we’re doing a few European festivals in the summer, then we want to tour Europe a lot more, then hopefully go to America, but we haven’t set our ambitions too high. We love touring, we love playing shows and that’s it at the end of the day, whether it’s like a basement show with like 150-kids or whether it’s supporting a big band in front of 5000-people, a show’s a show, and that’s why we make music to play live, we just want to keep doing more of that. If that steadily builds, then that’s great, but we’re not going to be heartbroken if we have to play smaller venues, but I don’t know what people’s expectations of us are. I don’t know if people expect us to be this big sort of rock ‘n’ roll band or whether people expect us to be an underground punk band, but we don’t know that either, so we’ll just see what happens.

F: Change the record, who should we be listening to?

A: One of my favourite bands, Paint It Black, have got a new record coming out next month, I can’t wait for that. There’s a new Plight record coming out soon, which should be awesome. The new Maccabees album is awesome, they’re good friends of ours from Brighton, that’s really, really good. That’s my top three, I’d say.

F: I think that’s about it, do you want to say or plug anything else?

A: We’re doing two free album launch shows on May 31st in Brighton and June 1st in London, so if you’re around come down!

The Ghost of a Thousand’s new album, New Hopes, New Demonstrations is out now through Epitaph. For more info on the band, as well as live dates for their upcoming U.K. tour, visit their MySpace: www.myspace.com/theghostofathousand

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