Henry Lewis spoke to Ghostpoet about the origins of his new album, the importance of side projects and more ahead of his UK tour.
Last updated: 15th Oct 2017. Originally published: 12th Oct 2017
Image credit: Steve Gullick
2017 marked the release of album number four from the brilliantly beguiling London beatmaker and vocalist Ghostpoet. Dark Days and Canapes ventures deep into the social surroundings of the modern world, as well as the brain of Obaro Ejimiwe himself and has resulted in a stellar collection of songs that encapsulate the struggles and successes felt by people the world over.
Throughout the record, autobiographical lyrics are set to delicately constructed, rasping guitar, pianos and live instrumentation with spooky backing vocals and pulsating basslines that hums in your lungs all adding a sinister touch to the album's narrative. It joins a collection of Ghostpoet records where two of the four have been nominated for a Mercury prize, and the sincerity, musical ingenuity and lyrical capabilities displayed by the artist on the album will surely put Dark Days and Canapes up there among his finest work.
This, naturally, paves the way for Ghostpoet's latest tour, where he visits a host of venues, including Manchester Academy 2 on Saturday 11th November, followed by a DJ set at Night and Day Cafe - ahead of this date, and others, Henry Lewis chatted with Ghostpoet.
How are you? Where are you talking to me from?
I'm busy doing bits and bobs, I'm just putting some carpet down in a radio station.
I'm in Margate where I live, I've been here almost a year.
So you moved away from London to Margate, why is that?
I was trying to slow down a little and just decided it was time to move out of the city and try something a little different.
The name of your album Dark Days and Canapes, what does that relate to? The dark days I understand, the canapes not so much?
It's more in relation to positives and negatives, Yin and Yang, there's people with very little and people with a lot of things. It's about the difference between rich and poor, the idea of the poor suffering in a certain way, while the rich are in a position to have hors d'oeuvres and canapes. It's not really connected to a country, it's more the life's sum. The title is more reflective of the music, and I guess a statement.
When you're trying to get across a certain message, and want to make the lyrics, music and meaning express something poignant, can it be quite a painstaking process bringing compositions together?
Not painstaking no. I don't really know what it is, other than not that. I felt like writing a record that is more immediate in terms of its messages and stories. I'm not the stereotypical artist in pain, I have my up days and I have my down days. I like what I like to write and a this was a reflection of the times we are living in.
Looking ahead to live shows, do you have anything in mind to create a wholly immersive experience for the audience, in keeping with the album's themes?
I can't really say, its not something I really...well I do think about the live show a lot really but...I always put on a good show and I'm going to do that again, I don't know what else I can tell you. I'm very much looking forward to doing what I do, which is to play my stuff live in the best way possible.
Any good musician should use the space they perform, to create an atmosphere, that's just basic shit. Some people do it well, and some people don't do it very well at all. I still have a lot to learn, the people who I admire like Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, PJ Harvey, and The National have honed the craft, and I'm just trying to get to that level. As part of the plan with the live show you think about your stage, but ultimately it's about how the audience react to it and how they get involved.
It was extremely well received, and got you your first five star rating - does this give you the willpower to carry on in music? Because at the start of the year a post on your Instagram suggested you felt a bit disillusioned by the entire industry?
Hang on, when did I say that? Sorry, I'm losing my train of thoughts trying to do two things at the same time.
The post on your Instagram said "Felt like giving up and retiring from recording music today. I guess the longer road I chose grows tiresome from time to time..."
Ah ok yeah, that's what I said didn't I?
So what I was asking is now the album has come out and has been received so well, do you feel more validated in your plight?
No that's fair enough, I dunno if I'm honest. The music industry is an industry like any other industry. It's made for certain people to make a lot of money and for other people to make less. I'm not all about the money, but there was a lot of personal shit going on in my life and that's partly calmed down which is good.
Imagine a book that you've brought out on the Monday and by the weekend you're perceived in a way that you don't like, or people aren't buying it or whatever the projections are, people aren't buying your book they're reading it for free online. It doesn't fill you with confidence when it isn't respected in a certain way. I can't speak for all musicians, but creatives work really hard to pay the bills and its hard sometimes staying motivated. It's nice, I've brought a record out and people seem to be liking it which is nice.
I will always love music, and always love making it, I just need to work out different ways for me to be creative. Making music is still rewarding, but I just want to do things alongside it. When you start something, you want to do it for the rest of your life but I have to come to the realisation that it's tougher and tougher to just have a music career and make albums and hopefully tour them and just do that. I'm not stupid, I don't wear rose tinted glasses.
I'm not of the mind that it's going to be like that forever and ever and coming to that. I'm lucky though, I'm about to do the biggest UK tour I've ever done, the biggest European tour I've ever done. That's how it is, it's an industry where you don't know how it's going to be when you wake up tomorrow, but I'm getting older and I want more stability so that's why I'm trying to do other stuff. That's why I said at the beginning that I'm not your atypical musician, I don't feel the need to focus on this one thing.
So you were saying something at the beginning about carpeting a radio station, is this one of your side projects then?
Yeah, so I'm starting a radio station/bar in Margate. We've got a really great space with views of the sea. We've put a radio station in it and a little cafe to front it. I want to do a mixture of music and talk radio and stuff that involves the community, people in the community and people travelling through.
What sort of programmes are you looking to get on there then?
Anything really, if people want to bring stuff to the table then we'll go with, it's not going to be a single thing in particular, I don't have one specific focus for it.
There are people like Idles, Gorillaz and more who this year have released records that are socially and politically aware - are these dark times in fact a catalyst for poignant, powerful music?
It's hard for me to say, but it seems like people are more comfortable with talking about what's going on with the world around them, you could put a few musicians in that bracket, Everything Everything's new album is supposed to be along that lines as well. It seems that people are more comfortable doing it.
It's the artist's job to try and call the times and that's what I've always done and it's cool that other people seem to be doing it. I think people are picking up on a feeling in the air and talking about it, so long may it continue.