THE GHOST OF A THOUSAND
Andy Blyth and Jag Jago on their stunning debut album, flying the flag for British punk-rock and cruelly abusing passed out bandmates...
Photo by Gemma Shaw
Having spent the best part of 2006 turning all manner of heads with a series of explosive support slots, The Ghost of a Thousand cemented their position as one of the most exciting new acts to emerge from the UK in years when they unleashed their remarkable debut album This is Where The Fight Begins (out now on Undergroove) in late February. Garnering widespread acclaim from critics and hardcore purists alike, This is Where The Fight Begins has placed the young Brighton-based five-piece alongside Gallows as conclusive evidence that the British punk-rock scene is finally showing signs of a long overdue renaissance. Highlighted in the recent Rockmidgets.com 27 Tips For 2007 feature, the band have continued in the same vein as last year with an unrelenting touring schedule, having spent the best part of March on the road with Florida hardcore mob Poison The Well. Dan Jones caught up with guitarists Andy Blyth and Jag Jago before their London show in the sprawling Islington Academy complex to discuss their stunning debut album, flying the flag for British punk-rock and cruelly abusing passed out bandmates...
How's the tour been going so far?
Andy - It's been awesome. It's been really good to play with a band that we want to watch every night.
Jag - The thing is we only got the tour two weeks ago?
Andy - Yeah, it was confirmed really late but it's been a really good turn out. We've had a lot of fun, all the other bands have been really nice.
Does London feel like a second home to you guys now? It's not too far from Brighton and you've played loads of shows around here recently.
Andy - Yeah, we always get a good response in London. We've had some really good shows here, at the Camden Barfly with Boys Night Out
Jag - At Koko as well
Andy - Koko for Club Kerrang! which was good. Yeah, it's definitely a favourite place to play
Jag - It helps being so close as well
Why are so many good bands coming out of Brighton right now? It's one of the best places in the country right now for heavy music
Andy - I think there are a lot of creative people in Brighton. There seems to be some good little venues and there are a lot of people into heavy music and everyone kind of knows each other. It all comes from that really.
Ok, looking at the origins of the band, how did you get together? Was it through the Brighton Institute of Modern Music? Can you give me a little history behind the band's beginnings?
Jag - Basically, my brother Mem (Memby Jago, TGOAT drummer - DJ) and I have always had the idea. We've always been in bands before but we've never really met the right people until we moved down to Brighton. Like you said there's a really healthy heavy music scene down in Brighton and the music college is a great place to meet people.
It was when your demo got circulated when you really started to catch people's attention. It got a really good review from Rocksound magazine, was that when you realised you could be onto something special?
Andy - I don't know if we thought we had something special. We were just happy with the way the songs were sounding and I think we always done what we've done and the success has been a nice surprise [laughs]
Jag - Yeah, I guess we were just lucky we played the right gigs. I think it was the Rocksound gig that we did?
Andy - Oh yeah, that's when we got our first Rocksound review with a band called The Mutts I think, an all dayer thing. They gave us that write up about the demo and a few more people got their hands on it and it started from there really. That's when the interest started.
You've now got a deal with Undergroove Records, how did that come about? They've got the obvious connections with Rocksound...
Jag - Yeah, I think it was from that gig really
Andy - Our demo got given by them to Darren Sadler at Undergroove and then he got in touch with us and we decided to work together and now the album has come out.
The album was recorded back in August wasn't it? You must have been chomping at the bit for its release in February?
Andy - Yeah it was originally going to be released in October, then it got pushed to December, then it got pushed to January, then it got pushed to February. But it's a great relief now that it's actually out in the shops now and that we've had a good response from it.
Jag - We're very, very proud of it actually. Considering we only spent thirteen days recording it.
Was it a mix of tracks from the demo and one's you'd written afterwards?
Andy - All the songs off the demo are on there and we re-wrote some like 'Black Art' (storming album track 'The Black Art Number One' – DJ) . Then we had a few new songs that we recorded on there...
Jag - We'd never played them before!
Andy - Yeah, there was one song on there that we'd written just before we went into the studio and we'd never played it live. But we had just those ten songs, recorded them and came out with the album.
So, tell us a little about the record, how would you describe it if you were in sales? How would you pitch it? Why should people pick it up?
Jag - I think it's an album you could really say is a punk-rock album. There are a lot of bands that claim to be a punk-rock band but they don't carry the attitude. Even with the sound of the album sonically, it's very raw.
Andy – It's got a live-ish feel to it even though it wasn't recorded live. Everything was done separately but it's still got the essence of the band and what we're about. It's all about playing live for us so we wanted it to sound like our show.
Lyrically what would you say are the themes of the album? I read into it that it's about being tired of the hardcore and punk scenes and the certain types of bands that are around at the moment, would you agree with that?
Andy - Yeah, a lot of the lyrics are about being frustrated with the heavy music scene we seem to have at the moment. A lot of the lyrics are about relationships and issues…
Jag - Not love songs! [all laugh]
Andy - Issues that surround people of our age who are into this kind of music. About making the most of what you've got and having a good time.
Jag - It's about being passionate about what you do.
Not every band gets Converge's Kurt Ballou to mix their debut. That must have felt great when he said yes. Did you really just send him the demo?
Andy - We originally contacted him and he said something like "I only want to work with bands that I'm into". So we sent him our demo and he got back saying "I definitely want to do this project". We recorded that album in England and sent the hard drives over to him and he mixed it in Salem (Massachusetts, USA – DJ )
Jag - In God City Studios
Andy - It's awesome to have his stamp of approval really because he's a big name in hardcore music.
We've already covered this a little bit but your album has received some fantastic press, Kerrang! have very publicly got behind you, that must feel great? Was the Koko show (part of Club Kerrang! – DJ) one of your biggest yet?
Jag - We did the Aiden tour...
Andy - Yeah, we did the Aiden tour and we did a sold out gig at the Birmingham Academy which is like 1,500 people, but Koko was the biggest and just felt like the best gig we've done. The response was great, and the fact that Kerrang! have got behind us is awesome.
I think it's really good that recently they've really got behind yourselves and also Gallows. You get a lot of comparisons to them, is that something you mind?
Jag - No, I don't think we would have got as much attention or praise had Gallows not been there first to open doors for bands like us. They're doing the same thing, they're one of the few band's who are punk-rock. If they didn't get the attention then people wouldn't care about our band as well.
Andy - I think there's only really us and them doing this sort of thing in Britain at the moment. It's definitely good that there's another band doing it, it gives us hope.
You've toured with some incredibly varied bands, The Sleeping, Aiden and the Abominable Iron Sloth and McQueen, is it a case of just getting your name out there at the moment? You mentioned earlier that this is a great tour because you're playing with a band who you want to watch every night, I'm guessing that wasn't the case with, say, McQueen!
Jag - No comment! [laughs]
Andy - It's very much a case of us playing shows and no matter who it's with there's always going to be kids there to see you and that makes you feel great about it. They're there to see your band and it inspires you to put on a proper show and we have so much fun playing live so it's just great to get out there and do it. We've had some hard times. Like the Abominable Iron Sloth tour we didn't get a particularly good response, but it was a good experience and we learned a hell of a lot.
Jag - Like playing 14 shows in a row without days off
Andy - At least we were getting our names out there.
What would you say are the best and worst and shows you've played? You mentioned the Koko gig earlier…
Andy - Koko was probably the best. We did a show in Middlesborough that was pretty damn awful. We had a day off on the McQueen tour, and everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. The PA was rubbish.
Jag - Guitars weren't working, straps fell off, I feel over
Andy - Kids giving us sh*t!
Jag - Kids just standing there and giving us racist abuse
That's awful, but changing the subject to something cheerier then, what's the funniest things that have happened to you on tour so far?
Andy - Our singer once passed out and we drew phallic symbols on his face. I ripped the door off the bus last night but that wasn't funny.
Jag - Tom (Lacey – TGOAT vocalist) does have the tendency to just pass out
Andy - We like to party after shows and we don't really know when to stop which can be a problem. It can be 5am in the morning and we're still drinking away and doing whatever and he sometimes just passes out, so we like to pile things on top of him and see how long it takes for him to wake up
It sounds like a real life game of Buckaroo!
Andy - In a travelodge…
Jag - We put two bins on him
Andy - Telephone, lampshade
Jag - Drum sticks…
Andy - Erm, it was funny at the time! [all laugh]
Andy - I think maybe the fatigue of the tour tipped us over the edge! We like to party as much as possible but we did the Boys Night Out tour and I don't think there was anything too horrific.
So, it's been six months since you recorded the album, you said that you used all of your ten tracks you had at the time on it, have you had time to write any new tracks since?
Andy - We're working on it at the moment aren't we?
Jag - Yeah, we're definitely working on the second album
Andy - We want to make a definite progression. We don't want to just record the first album over and over again. Rehearsing for this tour we rehearsed the set and aired new ideas.
Would you like to take your time more on the next record and experiment more?
Jag - We'd definitely like to have more dynamics in. Experiment with sounds, different guitar amps, different drum sounds. Because this album is pretty much all rock'n'roll garage sound, so we'd like to do more.
At the start of the year you had a live session at Maida Vale Studios for Radio 1's Rock Show, how did that arise?
Andy - Dan Carter (Radio 1 Rock show host - DJ) actually had our first ever two track demo. We did that one, then we did a three track one which got all the attention. But he had our original two track demo and thought we sounded like Snapcase so he's been a fan since then. Obviously he has his Radio 1 Rock Show now and he helps us out a lot, so he got us in there and it was an awesome day.
What have you got planned for the next six months?
Andy - We're always looking to do more tours. Obviously we're going to work on new material for the second album.
Jag - Play Download hopefully…
Andy - Try and live up to people's expectations really. Now we've had this press we feel we have to live up to it.
(The rest of the band walk into the dressing room to get ready for their soundcheck)
What would you see as the long term aspirations for The Ghost of a Thousand? Where would you like to see yourselves two years down the line?
Memby - Headlining Glastonbury! [all laugh]
Andy - In the Bahamas with loads of naked chicks! [all laugh] No, we want to do all the festivals and see where it takes us.
Jag - We just want to try and build a loyal following. If we could pack out a Barfly venue that would be great
Andy - It's just a case of self promotion and pulling a crowd
Jag – To just carrying on what we're doing