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Track Premiere: Caught a Ghost – ‘No Sugar in my Coffee’

Ahead of the expanded UK release of their debut EP Nightworks next month, we caught up with Caught a Ghost founder Jesse Nolan for a chat about his roots-infused troupe’s – whose membership can swell to up to nine members live -  wonderful repurposing of the past. We’re also delighted to bring you the premiere of a UK release exclusive track, ‘No Sugar in My Coffee’, which features a plethora of percussion including a saw blade, a deck of cards and some spoons alongside a sample of a prison workers’ chant and Nolan’s soulful vocals.

PlanetNotion: You’ve described yourself as an “imperfectionist”. What is it about a lack of precision that appeals to you?
Jesse Nolan: I don’t mean to say that I am not extremely particular and precise about certain aspects of production. On the contrary, when it comes to rhythm, I think of it scientifically sometimes. I like the idea of engineering beats to make people move a certain way. However, I do believe that a piece of music should feel alive, whether it was recorded that way or not. Some of my productions sound like a live band playing together in a room, even though I am playing all the instruments or multi-tracking the instruments with some of my collaborators. When a band plays together, there is unquantifiable energy created by the musicians moving together, and sometimes by the roughness around the edges and the imperfections. I’ve heard the expression “keep it greasy” to describe this phenomenon. Most importantly you have to infuse the performance with energy. If you make a few mistakes you might consider leaving some of them in there.

PN: You’ve taken a lot of inspiration from soul, rock and R&B in your music to date, but was there anyone you were conjuring up particularly on ‘No Sugar’?
JN: ‘No Sugar’ started from a sample that I had found of some prison workers singing, and wanted to build a groove around it. We brought in some singers to re-sing the sample, then we started adding percussion elements. There is a saw blade from my garage in there, a deck of cards, some spoons, etc. I was not trying to evoke anything in particular, but I was listening to Flying Lotus and a bunch of delta blues at the time, which I think shows through.

PN: What is it about repurposing the sounds of the past that appeals to you as a musician?
JN: Obviously every musician is shaped by his environment and influenced by previous artists. I guess because I grew up listening to American soul music those sounds, arrangements, voices and songwriters appeal to me naturally. I feel resistant though to coming off as a ‘revival’ act. I believe that when artistic movements run their course and the culture shifts, you have the obligation as an artist to make your music feel contemporary. That’s why I like the idea of repurposing sounds, like making a collage of previous generations. Each sound, melody, texture has an associative power so you have the power as a composer to take listeners on a journey to several different places and time periods over the course of a track.

PN: It’s featured on an expanded UK release of Nightworks. What exclusive content will the EP feature for British listeners?
JN: ‘No Sugar in my Coffee’ is not available in the US. It’s a special treat for UK listeners that won’t be available in the US until the full-length release in the summer. We’ll also be releasing live versions and remixes gradually so we encourage people to stay in touch and keep their eyes out for new tunes.

PN: Outside of the EP, what do you have lined up for the rest of 2013?
JN: We are releasing a full length album in the summer, then we’ll be spending the rest of the year touring, writing and recording new material. We have several music videos that we will be rolling out over the next few months. In whatever time I have left over, I’ll be producing other people’s records, working on soundtracks etc.

PN: Finally, if you could work with any musical hero, living ordead, who would it be?
JN: Man. That is a really tough one. I know it’s not really surprising, but Jimi Hendrix was what made me want to play the guitar when I was young. I would say he is easily the most influential instrumentalist of the last century, with the possible exception of Charlie Parker. I would really love to spend some time in a room with that guy.
As far as singers, I would’ve really liked to be in the booth when the Jackson 5 recorded ‘I Want You Back’, when Bob Dylan made Freewheelin’ and Blonde on Blonde, when the Stones recorded Beggar’s Banquet, when the Beatles made Revolver, or pretty much any time in the first 18 years of Stevie Wonder’s career. Stevie was 18 when ‘I was Made to Love Her‘ was released. That’s easily one of the best songs of all-time.

- Alex Cull

Caught a Ghost’s Nightworks is released in the UK on April 8 through +1 Records.

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