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Interview: Ghostpoet

With his second album, the tongue-twistingly titled ‘Some Say I So I Say Light‘ seeing release this week, Notion’s Lauren Vevers caught up with the ever charismatic Ghostpoet for a chat about the collaborative processes that informed the record, escaping genre-led pigeonholing and what his dream ‘rager’ would entail.

PlanetNotion: You played a set at Rough Trade for Record Store Day? Did you manage to pick up anything good?
Ghostpoet: No, I didn’t unfortunately. There was stuff I wanted to get but I’ll just have to buy it normally. Record Store Day is great but the beautiful thing is that record stores have stock all year round.

PN: Not a fan of queuing?
GP: Yeah, well obviously the exclusives and stuff will have gone. I am trying to buy a lot more vinyl this year.

PN: How has your sound changed since Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam?
GP: I guess I’ve had the opportunity to work on everything full-time now, which meant being able to immerse myself in music more. This time around I decided to finish in the studio, work with a co-producer and bring in musicians that I 1) admired or 2) knew as friends. The combination of these things resulted in the new album. The only kind of conscious decision I made was to evolve and be as creative as possible.

PN: You’ve worked with a few different artists on this album like Lucy Rose, Charles Hayward and Woodpecker Wooliams. Did you have a list of people in mind?
GP: No, not really. I knew I definitely wanted musicians on it because my production skills are pretty shit really. I released the last album myself so I wanted this one to be a bit more musical – y’know an older record since I’m slightly older. People like Gwilym Gold I knew because we were friends and there are other people I’ve played with on the road. Woodpecker Wooliams came about because originally someone who was going to be on that particular track decided, at the last minute, she couldn’t do it. I had to frantically find somebody the night before it was due to be recorded; it was case of going through Twitter and I was given some YouTube links. When I heard her voice I thought, ‘that’s it. That’s the one.’

PN: So it all worked out well…
GP: Her stuff is quite different from what I do but sometimes you just get a feeling. It was touch and go. I didn’t know if it was going to work out until she came into the studio but it did.

PN: It was fate then.
GP: Hmmm! There was also Lucy Rose who I’d admired through her work with Bombay Bicycle Club and when I heard her own stuff I thought… I’d already written this track and I felt she could be the one for that particular song; lots of it was on gut feeling. Not that I could, but even if I had the potential to get massive names, it doesn’t mean anything unless there’s a real connection. I felt a connection with everyone on the record.

PN: I’d think I’d struggle to say Some Say I So I Say Light after a few beers. Where did the title come from?
GP: I was jotting down little phrases I was getting in dreams. When the album was finished, I needed to put a title to it and that was one of the first lines I was drawn too. To me, it means going down your own path, heading in your own direction and doing your own thing.

PN: It’s great − it’s just a bit of a tongue twister.
GP: Thank you. Y’know, you’re not the first person to say that. I didn’t think about it when I wrote it. I should have realised.

PN: No, I like it that way. So when you’re writing what comes first? Lyrics or music?
GP: It’s always the composition first even if it’s on a basic level. Lyrically, I let the music steer me. I don’t have reams and reams of notebooks filled with words to fit into a track. I think it’s more about letting the music tell me which way to go and tapping into the sound to figure out what the emotion is.

PN: I’ve heard you say in interviews before that you want to differentiate yourself from the idea of being a rapper. Are you wary of being assigned to one particular genre?
GP: I don’t really care. I said that when I was young and naïve. I know that was only two or three years ago! Genres don’t mean anything to me. The idea of being a particular style of vocalist means nothing to me. I just do what I want to do and hope that people like it.

PN: Your music often paints quite an intimate portrait of personal experiences – how much do you draw from your own life? Do you find making music cathartic?
GP: I guess music, overall, is a therapeutic experience. I wouldn’t say that my music is completely about me exclusively; it’s also about the immediate people around me and things that I’ve observed whilst travelling. I have my earphones on a lot so when I’m on public transport, I watch people talking and try to work out they’re saying or what they’re going through. I soak it all up and allow it to subconsciously come out however it wants to come out.

PN: What were you listening to while making the record?
GP: A lot but nothing really that influenced the record. It’s difficult. I do an online radio show once a month and so I take in more music than I used to. I don’t really like the idea of listening to something and replicating it. I just want to do my own thing.

PN: What do you have planned for the rest of this year? It’s just been announced you’re playing Beacons
GP: I’m a big fan of Beacons. I played it last year and it was great fun. There’s more gigging and a tour coming up around Europe and the UK in May/June. Hopefully more festivals and collaborations. There’s lots of Ghostpoet stuff but other stuff I want to do.

PN: Cryptic. Music stuff?
GP: Yes, music bits and bobs. I need to start doing it. I’ve got ideas but none of it is set in stone. It can go any one of many ways. I just hope I can keep being creative – that’s the only requirement.

PN: Here’s one final ridiculous question. If you were going to host a ‘rager’ for yourself and fans, what would it involve? Mechanical bull, open bar… your imaginary budget is limitless. It can be as tasteless as you like.
GP: I would rent an island and obviously it would have to be an island with an air strip so I can get, like, a Jumbo 747 full of people on it. I would have awaiting us on the island an extravaganza! ‘The Island Festival’ I would call it. I’d have headlining…actually they’d all be headliners! I’d have Prince, Daft Punk and Erykah Badu. We’d need some dancing going on so probably Skream and Benga too. It would be sponsored by a rum company because I love rum. There’d be an unlimited amount of rum! In the hotels they’d pump rum out of the taps instead of water. This could go on forever…

PN: Any food? Or just rum.
GP: Of course, food! I’d fly in some TV chefs and we’d build a 24-hour pop-up restaurant.

PN: This sounds amazing.
GP: Well, find me a friendly billionaire and I’ll make it happen.

- Lauren Vevers

Ghostpoet is on tour in the UK throughout May and June. You can catch him on the following dates:

May 18: Coventry – Kasbash
May 21: Liverpool – East Village Arts Club
May 22: Sheffield – Queens Social Club
May 23: Newcastle – The Cluny
May 24: Glasgow – Broadcast
May 25: Edinburgh – Electric Circus
May 27: Leeds – Brudenell Social Club
May 28: Bournemouth – The Winchester
May 29: Manchester – Gorilla
May 30: London – Village Underground
June 02: Leicester – O2 Academy
June 03: Oxford – O2 Academy
June 07: Brighton – The Haunt
June 09: Reading – SUB89
June 13: Guildford – Boiler Room
June 14: Bedford – The Pad

Header photo: Sophia Spring

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