Black Ghosts: Skeletons in the Studio
- Words: Ali Gitlow
The Black Ghosts’ Simon Lord and Theo Keating have got skeletons in their closets… in the form of hoodies and gloves printed with skinny white bones. They’ve also got a supernatural amount of experience under their own pasty skins. Signed to Wall of Sound as The Wiseguys, Keating (a.k.a. DJ Touché) was responsible for such massive tracks as “Ooh La La!” and “Start the Commotion” (tracks heard in Zoolander and ads for Budweiser and Mitsubishi). And any electro-house fan worth their Day-Glo sunglasses is familiar with Justice’s career-defining remix of Simian’s “Never Be Alone”–that’s Simian ex-frontman Lord on vocals.
When Keating started to record his last DJ Touché record, he sought out Lord to do guest vocals. A mutual friend delivered a few one-minute taster tracks to the former Simian member, who quickly returned them with lyrics. “They weren’t even meant for him to write to!” Keating exclaims. With the help of ye olde internet, the guys were working together immediately. “No time was wasted sitting around in studios while one guy is programming and the other is bored,” Keating describes. “It was probably the most painless way to make a record.” All that was left was for the duo to bond on tour (which they did, over Japanese horror flicks).
The Ghosts’ eponymous album is a refreshing, neo-gothic update of ’80s sensibilities; it boasts a collaboration with Blur’s Damon Albarn and a suite of clever remixes from Switch, Kissy Sell Out, and Fake Blood (rumored to be Keating’s side-project). The Black Ghosts is rife with Lord’s spooky lyrics, which bob up and down over ghostly 4/4s, as on “Any Way You Choose to Give It,” where he beseeches “Please appreciate the limits of the flesh/The spirit will not rest, will not be satisfied with anybody else.”
“I just try to show both sides,” says Lord of his grim couplets. “To me that’s a lot more interesting than making candy floss for 12-year-olds to dance to. I like songs that are a bit ambiguous.” This is particularly evident on the epic electro of album starter “Some Way Through This,” on which Lord gloomily whines, “If this house was on fire/Would you tell me your desire?/If my hands were ’round your throat/Would you tell me what I need to know” in a way that could be read as sexy or creepy… or both.
While the Ghosts have managed to differentiate themselves sonically, it must be hard competing with other rising hearts of darkness such as Black Keys, Black Lips, Black Kids, and The Blacks. Lord is undaunted, calling for them to band together into a coven of pop noir. “We should have a reunion, all the ‘black’ bands joining. A conference,” he says mystically. Daaark.
More on The Black Ghosts
Video: "Repetition Kills You
Feature: Interview with Simon Lord
Feature: Interview with Theo Keating
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