Search The Line of Best Fit
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TLOBF Interview // Former Ghosts

TLOBF Interview // Former Ghosts

05 August 2010, 16:33
Words by Matthew Britton

As the old adage goes, you should write about what you know. Unfortunately, all some people seem to know are bland platitudes and second hand emotions. The same could never be said about Freddy Ruppert. He started his last project, This Song Is A Mess But So Am I in order to deal with his mother’s death from cancer; merging electronic beats, noise rock and pop sensibilities to back up his heart wrenching lyrics. He’s been spilling his guts ever since, even if the moniker itself is now defunct.

In 2009, he recruited Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart and Nika Danilova of Zola Jesus to help in his new project, Former Ghosts, creating one of the albums of the year in Fleurs. After adding Yasmine Kittles of Tearist to the team, he’s finished the follow up, New Love, a deeper, darker exploration of their industrial sound, and of Ruppert’s frighteningly honest lyrics. Ahead of the album’s release, we had a chat with Freddy about songwriting, piracy and the forthcoming European tour.

For those who don’t know, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and the Former Ghosts project as a whole?
Sure, my name is Freddy Ruppert and I’m based in Los Angeles, CA and I’m basically the main song writer and organizer of the project Former Ghosts. Former Ghosts is mainly an electronic based project that features me collaborating with a handful of individuals including Jamie Stewart from Xiu Xiu, Nika Roza of Zola Jesus, and Yasmine Kittles of Tearist. There is one record out on Upset the Rhythm titled Fleurs, and this year will see the release of the second record called New Love.

You’ve mentioned the contributors that you’ve got in to help you – how did that come about? What was the process of selection for them, how did you go about getting them involved?
I’ve known Jamie for many years. We have been friends for a long time and have always talked about doing a project in this vein together and finally timing worked out that he had time to contribute some things to this stuff. As far as Nika and Yasmine, I’m just big fans of their own projects and just asked them if they would sing on some things and from there our friendships developed.

Obviously, there’s a ridiculous amount of talent involved – what do you think they help bring to your work?
Well, I do all the main song writing but I feel like they all kind of help me keep it together in certain and specific ways and also bring out things in me in specific ways. I feel like I will write specific things with each one of them in mind for certain parts and it has been a complete honor to get to work with people that I really look up to and who are also close friends. I feel like there is a special level of trust between us.

You’ve also just put the finishing touches on your second album, New Love. How do you feel it differs from your first effort?
I think New Love is more depressing. I think overall it is a darker record. I mean what is being expressed in most of the record is a lot darker than anything on Fleurs. To me Fleurs was a pretty hopeful record and I feel like New Love isn’t very hopeful at all. But at the same time I think the songs on New Love are poppier and usually follow pretty straight forward pop song constructions. I think there is a lot more space in the record, a lot more textures. I put a lot more time into constructing it, thinking about it, sitting with it, and feeling it.

About the song writing – all the lyrics sound incredibly personal. How much of yourself do you put in, and is there anything left out?
I put all of myself into the songs. Is anything left out? Probably, in the sense that these are written from my perspective and my experience of things. I’ve always been jealous of and have hated people like David Bowie or Nick Cave who are essentially “story tellers”. I can’t and don’t do that kind of song-writing.

In the modern music industry, it’s a sad fact that the leaking of an album is a case of more “when” than “if”. A lot of the tracks on New Love have been floating around for a while – was that a purposeful decision?
I think maybe the saddest part about albums leaking is that you don’t get to hear it the way it was maybe intended? That is probably my biggest concern. I put a lot of time into thinking about the artwork of a record how it relates to what the record is about and how the lyric sheet is important and how the layout is important, it all ties into what the whole record is focusing on and what the record means to me. I think as far as some of the tracks having been floating around in demo versions for a while, kind of the same thing happened with Fleurs, it’s not a purposeful decision it was just a matter of circumstance due to what songs were posted on the blog at specific times for specific reasons.

Any of the demo tracks from the new album that have been floating around in one version or another are mainly songs that were written right around the same time that Fleurs was finished or being finished and kind of before New Love really began to take shape in the form that it is coming out as now but were included because they thematically work with what the album is about.

And how do you feel about the state of the music industry?
The state of the music industry right now is kind of cool and great and also kind of hectic. It is great that major labels don’t know what to do anymore and are kind of dissolving in certain ways. It is kind of great that you can hear all kinds of crazy stuff you never would have been able to hear before because of the whole blogging world. It is crazy that bands can go on total tours and stuff based around blog hype and so on without having many records out and much record label support etc. All of this stuff is kind of good and interesting and I think it is possible to tear down a lot of barriers between music maker and music listener the way the internet is affecting the music industry right now. On the other hand there are certain elements of it that are hectic and hard to deal with.

When you think about artists that are attempting to make a living off their music you have to realize well, record sales aren’t going to play a huge factor in that anymore. It is going to be based on nonstop relentless touring and making money from shows and selling merchandise and other weird creative stuff. One of the interesting things to see now is that bands are also almost kind of being forced into this zone of licensing their songs to commercials, videogames, TV, movies – whatever. In order to make money to get by, and it’s interesting to see what will still be labelled as selling out and what won’t be. It will be interesting to see what happens with music. It is in a weird place right now.

Of course, to support the album you’ve got a forthcoming tour. The last time you visited the UK was with Parenthetical Girls. How did you find that?
It was great. One of the best experiences of my life. Being on tour with Parenthetical Girls was especially great because I was playing in two bands every night. Playing in Former Ghosts every night is really draining on me and sometimes hard to deal with, but for whatever reason also playing a Parenthetical Girls set in the same night kind of helped even me out. I didn’t feel as crazy as I normally do on tour…. and the UK was amazing. It was my first time being there and all the shows were amazing and it is great to be on such a supportive record label that is based out of the UK. I also got to spend an extra week in London staying with Chris from Upset the Rhythm and it was a ton of fun.

This time you’ll be alongside Xiu Xiu and, for most of it, Zola Jesus. Are there any gigs you’re particularly looking forward to?
Yeah there are a lot of places on this tour that I have never been too so I am especially looking forward to those. I am really looking forward to being in Paris for the first time ever. Also places like Sweden. I am really excited about the whole thing. When I think about all the places I’ve gotten to go to over the past year I feel insanely grateful that I’ve been able to do this and to all the new people and new friends I’ve gotten to meet and all the new experiences. I don’t like doing a lot of the tourist type stuff in new cities. I love the social aspect. I like people. That is what I look forward to the most.

Former Ghost’s ‘New Love’ is out this Autumn through Upset the Rhythm records, whilst Freddy, Xiu Xiu and Zola Jesus will be heading on a European tour starting October 28.

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