Former Ghosts, brainchild of Freddy Ruppert, formerly of This Song is a Mess But So Am I, have landed themselves a 36th place in DIY’s albums of the year list with their sophomore album ‘New Love’. Reason enough to have a chat with Freddy on how the album came about, collaborating with Taylor Swift and tap-dancing during gigs. And do remember to vote for ‘New Love’ in the DIY Reader’ poll, as this ‘New Love’ definitely deserves some more love from you.
In other interviews you’ve talked about the recording process of New Love and Fleurs: that it was basically assembled through e-mails and instant messengers and how much of a control freak you were in the entire process. How much influence did Nika [Danilova, of Zola Jesus], Jamie [Stewart, of Xiu Xiu] and Yasmine [Kittles, of TEARIST] have on the end product, if any at all?
Freddy Ruppert: Yeah, as far as other people’s contributions to both records, they were mainly done over e-mail or instant messenger programs with the exception of Yasmine’s parts being recorded in person. I am a crazy control freak in terms of how Former Ghosts presents itself, its themes, tracklist order, what songs make it on a record, etc. etc. and I do all the song writing. In general I am a really obsessive person and fortunately or unfortunately this is also the way I approach music. As far input on the final end product of the records - it is all based on my decisions. But their input and collaborations on the songs that they work on are extremely important and extremely important to me in putting together the finalized state of the record.
If you actually had the chance to tear everyone away from their busy touring schedules and get them together to record the next album, how would that influence the recording process and would you prefer it over the haphazard way you’ve recorded the first two albums?
FR: I think this would be a very interesting scenario. On this most recent tour Jamie and I were talking about possibly getting together to record a lot of the music in the same room but we will see if this actually happens as that was also originally supposed to be the plan for the last one. But everyone has really hectic schedules. I think if all of us could be together in the same room it could end up being a more traditional collaborative record or it could end up that I show up with all these demos of the songs for the record and then we work from there. Either way I think there would be a lot more input from everyone involved. I think it would be a great experience but I am also not sure if it would be the best way that Former Ghosts functions because of the way that the songs currently get made there isn’t much time to over think things. So I receive Jamie’s takes, and Nika’s takes, record Yasmine’s takes, and then those are all the files that I have to work with. There is nothing else. It wouldn’t be the same if we were all in a room and we could then over think things and say lets record that part over and over again until it reaches this thing. With the way it currently works - the material I get from them is all the material I have along with my material and I’m confronted with that idea and the feeling that ‘ok this is all I have to work with and I better make this work’.
Is there anyone you would really like to add to your list of collaborators, either alive or dead?
FR: I have quite a few friends who I’d love to collaborate with because I love their voices or think they have very interesting voices and it would be interesting to see how their voice fits in this space. I’m mainly interested in collaborating with vocalists. I don’t have very much interest in collaborating with people musically because I’m pretty obsessed with creating much of the soundscape for Former Ghosts. But a list of my dream collaborators that are dead or alive but would be nearly impossible to collaborate with because they are so unattainable to me would be: Nico, Chet Baker, Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Sade, Michael Gira, Taylor Swift, Morrissey, David Sylvian, R. Kelly, Siouxsie, Matt Berninger (ed. A pony and a batch of my best cupcakes for anyone who can make that happen), Aaliyah, Bjork, Liz Fraser, Eve Libertine… The list is really endless.
After your first European tour earlier this year with Parenthetical girls, you posted something on your blog about starting a new project with Zac Pennington (ed. of Parenthetical Girls) and Gareth from Los Campesinos!, I believe the name ‘Crying’ was mentioned. Is there any progress on that front?
FR: So far there hasn’t really been any progress on Crying. Zac has made some musical demos that are really great. I just got super busy with the New Love coming out that I didn’t have time to work on anything for it yet. But I think in the next couple of months I should have some time to get this going. Hopefully. Fingers crossed.
During your gig at the Luminaire in London (which was phenomenal by the way), you did this tap dance – for lack of a better name – during some of the songs, but you’d abandoned it in your last set over here. As a fan of the tap dance (even though I look absolutely ridiculous when trying to copy it) I was wondering why it had gone?
FR: Haha! This isn’t something I’m really conscious of. I think it probably was because on this tour I had to play a lot more of the synth melodies live and I also had to trigger a lot more things from the laptop. Then you add in faulty fire wire cables and faulty sound card issues causing technical problems all over the tour - and my mind was pretty pre-occupied when I was up there on this tour as well as pretty busy. So it probably was just something I wasn’t really aware of if I was doing it or not. So it isn’t really something I’m aware of it being there in a set or not, it is just what is naturally there or not due to external circumstances.
Regarding the Luminaire, they’ve just announced that they’re closing down the place at the end of this year. As it was one of my favourite venues in London, I was wondering how you felt about the place, even if you’ve only been there once?
FR: I loved the Luminaire. That show there was really great. A rally amazing venue, with amazing sound, and friendly people who worked there. Also one of the only venues I have ever been to that has the balls to post this sign all over their walls: ‘Quiet Please. We are a live venue not a pub. If you’ve come to chat with your pals when the bands are on, you are in the wrong place.’ So fucking good. I wish more venues had this attitude or policy. Will be missed.
What was it like on the last tour with the almost full line-up of Former Ghosts?
FR: It was a cool experience. The set also seemed to evolve more and more over the course of the tour. It was nice to experience that - for things to change the more and more we played them and for us to be on stage together longer and longer as the tour went on. Nika and Jamie are also both people that I am very close friends with who have been there for me through some really heavy shit, who I also respect and look up to musically, so it was really great to share a van with them and to be around them for that period of time. Makes it feel less like a tour and more like a shared experience with close friends.
How did the Elvis on his day off-video for ‘Taurean Nature’ came about?
FR: My friend Amir directed it and he also directed the Hold On video. We are both really big Elvis fans and talked about doing some sort of Elvis related video when we had the chance. He went all out and went to the Universal Studios lots and rented out this insane Elvis costume that Don Johnson wore during the 80’s for some movie where he played an Elvis impersonator. He had to put down this insane amount of money as a deposit to rent the suit and the whole time we were like ‘alright, don’t let it rip, don’t spill strawberry milk on it’. I think there is a similar theme so far that has run through most of the Former Ghosts music videos and it usually follows some sort of self punishment.
Is it a coincidence that all your videos seem to figure a bottle of whiskey at some point?
FR: Definitely not a coincidence.
I’ve heard you’ve already started working on album no. 3. How has that been going?
FR: Yeah album number three is in the works. I can’t really say yet where it is going or how it will turn out. I am currently obsessed with small sounds, quiet sounds, drawn out sparse arrangements, lots of tension with no release, no cathartic release, no beats/drums sounds with all rhythms being made from textures, being stuck loving from a distance, and also an obsession with Ted Hughes/Sylvia Plath’s relationship. I’m especially excited to see how Yasmine’s voice will fit in this kind of musical setting. I have also started doing mixing, eqing, beat making, and production for other bands and other people’s music projects which is also taking up a lot of my free time.