Big Up Podcast 40 – Ghostpoet

If you’ve heard a Ghostpoet song once, you know who we’re talking about here. There is absolutely no way you could’ve not taken a note of his unique style, surprisingly deep and thought-provoking stream-of-consciousness-like lyrics, presented in lazily melancholic vocal manner. Undoubtedly fans of Roots Manuva and Mike Skinner are converted instantly, but that’s only the obvious layer of resemblance Ghostpoet’s sound carries. The new album Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam is as deep and centered as it is versatile. No wonder Gilles Peterson is presenting Ghostpoet to the world via his own label and synonym to “quality music” – Brownswood Recordings. Ghostpoet (Obaro Ejimiwe) took his ever-so-precious time to not only record an exclusive mix for us, with an impeccable selection of his favorite beats, but also picked up the phone to answer a few questions before he went deep into touring, blowing up, and becoming the next new thing.


Let’s talk about GHOSTPOET:

How are you? What have you been up to today?
Ghostpoet: I ran off to Coventry today, that’s in Midlands in the UK. That’s where I’ve been living for 7-8 years before coming to London. That’s where my live band resides, I went up for a rehearsal up there, as we have an acoustic session for a radio tomorrow. And I had a couple of interviews as well, and after this one I’m going to chill out and relax with my misses. That’s it.

What has your musical and emceeing journey been like?

I was interested in writing when I was about 13-14. I was intrigued by the idea of writing to music. I don’t know why… It’s not like I come from a family with musical background or anything like that. It was just a case of wanting to create something musically. And writing was the easiest way for me to get into it: just take pen and paper and off you go. So that was my first avenue into music: writing for myself. I didn’t think of pursuing it on a professional level. I then went off to a University when I was 18 and started to get more into writing, and UK grime music, so I became more of an MC than a rapper. By then I was listening to all sorts of music, but I started experimenting with grime, and musically I’d say that was the starting point for me. And after that it was all experimentation really. Trying to work out how I want my music to come across, what I am trying to say musically, sonically and lyrically… And I’m still learning, I don’t think there is an end point. It’s a constant journey to creativity.

What were the very first raves you’ve been going to?
I wouldn’t say they were raves as in the 90’s acid house raves, they were more raves that incorporated bashment, hip hop, grime, old school garage and dance, house. For a couple of years I was doing my own nights as well, putting on that kind of talent for the Coventry locals and university students.

Oh yea? What were some of the acts you were listening to?
DJ EZ, which is a big old school garage DJ, Wiley was doing a grime thing .. Dizzee Rascal, Heartless crew, MC Skippa D, lots of jungle DJs, dnb DJs… It was a mixture of different people. It wasn’t as rich in tapestry as London, but it was definitely a lot of good acts that came out to Coventry while I was there.

Cool cool. Let’s talk about your album. Is it entirely self-produced?

Yes, I’ve written and produced it myself. I did have my live band play on a couple of tracks. And I was self-taught really. It was all about just trying it out and seeing what works, and using the power of internet for YouTube tutorials, and getting tips from Computer Music and old music magazines. So yea it was fun just working it out as I go.

And how did your relationship with Gilles Peterson start?
A friend of a friend recommended my music to Brownswood through MySpace, and they got in contact. I sent a few demos, and was asked to meet with them; Gilles was there as well. It was quite natural, it wasn’t a corporate kind of thing. He just liked the music and thought we could do something together. And with Gilles being a great tastemaker, who champions so many different genres of music, it made sense for me to get involved.

Absolutely. On your album, how real or fictional are your characters?

It’s a mixture of things that I may have experienced, read about, that I’ve seen or heard in my life or in life of my friends and family, or just the word outside my window… I wouldn’t be able to say what percentage of my life is in the album, it’s different from song to song.

Then I’ll ask you about a certain song. “Runrunrun”
There’s elements of me in it, like the struggles of being an older brother. It’s a combination of my own struggles and struggles in the world around me, not in a sense of a social commentary, like a politician. But more observing really, and in terms of the emotional feeling of the track. I try to connect lyrically with the feeling that I try to produce in music.

Makes sense. It must be very inspirational living in a place like London.

Yea, it’s London and Coventry both. A lot going on here, lots of different things, different cultures, different personalities and ways of doing things on a fun level as well as professional level. Different types of people going on about doing things differently. A lot of inspiration in both places…

Do you think you’d be able to write same kind of music living somewhere else? Let’s say on an island somewhere.
I try to create music which anyone could relate to, whether you live on an island in Jamaica, or in a bustling city like London. Maybe the sound would be different, possibly. But not lyrically… Life is life. Wherever you live in, you’re living a life.

You mentioned in one of the interviews that you started writing beats for your lyrics out of necessity. If you had a choice now to stop writing beats and just write lyrics, would you do that?
It’s a good question… I think no. Because it’s become too intertwined now. I need my sound, or elements of my sound, to make the lyrics and songs that I produce. I think I could definitely incorporate other productions, but it would still have to be wrapped around my sound. The problem I always had in the past is that people couldn’t quite get what’s in my head. You never can. Doesn’t matter how far I go, that’s always gonna be the case. Plus I enjoy both equally. It would be a shame to let one go.

True. Do you deejay as well?
Not professionally, but I can put a set together. People have been asking me for mixes, which is cool. I wanna be deejaying out more, but I want to make it right. As long as it’s right, and I’m comfortable with the way I’m doing it, then yeah, I’ll deejay.

You’re going on tour with Jamie Woon soon, is that right?
Yeah, I will be performing my music live. That should be fun. Jamie Woon has been around for a while, I’m pleased for him, that he’s doing well, ’cause he’s a really talented guy. And a very nice guy as well. It’s always nice when a nice and talented guy gets through. I wish him all the best.

If you could control all elevator music in the world, what would you play?
I would play Afrobeat. Because it makes you happy.

What do you need to have in the studio to create music?
Midi keyboard, a pad, and a pen. As long as I got that I can do anything really.

What’s happening next for you? When can we hear the next album?
Next one?! The first one just came out!!

We just can’t get enough!
Haha, thank you very much! I have lots of ideas, but I’m not in a rush. I want this album to come out and get into people’s conciousness as much as possible. I want to get more life experience, more fuel to create. I feel like a lot of people are churning out like a factory, but it’s important for me to let it simmer nicely, before bringing something out. Music always pushes me in a direction it wants to push me, so when it’s time I’m sure it will let me know.

Good philosophy. Is there any question that I haven’t asked you but you always ask yourself?
That’s a tough one… [pause] I guess it would be “Can I still do it?” if that makes sense… Every time I make a track, I think, “Can I still do it?” It’s a wierd feeling, making music. It’s not something educational, when you learn it and then you know how to do it, and can do it over and over again… I guess I just doubt myself.

But do you feel satisfied after you’ve finished a song?
Yes, I guess… But it’s almost like a need to do it, more than a satisfaction thing. It’s like something is telling me that I have to do it, that I have to create music. It’s not a formality, when I’m making music. It’s not like I have to do this genre and use that sound, it just flows… Instead of thinking about it, I just do it.

Anyone you’d like to Big Up?
All the people listening, and passing on my music to other people. All the comments on twitter, facebook, blogs are really appreciated. I want to thank everyone, because that keeps me focused and creating. The idea of people liking my stuff is really really appreciated!