It may look like The Black Ghosts are rookies to the dance-electro scene, but they’ve been around longer than you think. Both vocalist Simon Lord and programmer/multi-instrumentalist Theo Keating know a thing or two about being in a band. Lord comes from the now-defunct Simian, who are better known for Justice’s remix of the band’s “Never Be Alone” and for spawning Simian Mobile Disco after the band’s split, and Keating comes from hip-hop beat makers The Wiseguys. Still, as Keating insists, The Black Ghosts are a band of their own.
Celebrating the recent release of their eponymous debut, The Black Ghosts are now busier than ever. Keating takes a second to chat about The Black Ghosts’ history, life as a DJ, and the meaning of the term “band” in today’s music community. It seems that when the music press mentions The Black Ghosts, they always seem to mention Simian and The Wiseguys. Do you see this as a way for the music press to compare your bands, both past and present?
The Black Ghosts is its own band. We have our own style and sound. Our sound is very different from Simian and Wiseguys. I think the media always mentions those bands because it’s pretty hard not to. Those bands are a part of Black Ghosts because that’s where we came from, so it’s almost impossible not to mention them. I don’t think they are comparing us, but they kind of have to mention Simian and Wiseguys.
There’s an obvious emphasis on sound and song structure for the Black Ghosts. Could you describe the songwriting process?
It’s actually an interesting process. As much as we write together as a team, we tend to work independently a lot. Simon is in charge of writing lyrics and I’ll write the music to back it up. Sometimes I’ll put down a very skeletal version for a song and work on it until I get it where I want it or Simon wants it or where we both want it. I’ll show Simon a version of the song and he’ll write to it. Or sometimes Simon will come in with a full set of lyrics and we can work it together.
Is the recording process the same?
Yeah, it could work the same sometimes. I’ll record a basic version of a song and give it to Simon and he’ll write to the beat. We don’t even have to record together because he can record his vocals separately. Like I said, we work together, but apart sometimes.
You also DJ, too. How does that play into your music?
Being a DJ helps me know what works and what doesn’t work. I get to see what the crowds like to dance to. So I know what the crowds want and I give it to them. I could take that and apply it to our music. I already know what people want to dance to, so I think about that when I write our songs.
And as a DJ, I have to stay on track of everything that’s new and exciting. So I’m always hearing new sounds, some that I like and some that I don’t like. So I’m always surrounded by music.
The Black Ghosts are not a traditional band that audiences are used to. Your sound is heavily based on electronics, laptops, and other music hardware and software. Do you consider The Black Ghosts a band in the same vein of traditional bands backed by guitars, drums, bass, etc.?
To me, music is music in any form it comes, as a two-man band, a full band with a singer, or whatever. That doesn’t matter. You can have a full band and make bad music, and you can have two guys, a laptop, and some programs and make great music. The same thing goes for performing live. You can have five guys onstage and bore the shit out of your crowd, and you can have one guy and some turntables and kill the dance floor. It doesn’t matter the amount of guys in the band or the instruments you use. What matters is your music and your connection with the fans. Band is such a loose term today. Saying that digital or electronic artists and music aren’t real is wrong.
Do you see the future of music going toward a more digital front in regards to songwriting?
I think a lot of artists nowadays are adopting more electronic-based music. I mean, I don’t think Timbaland would be making the beats he’s making now without listening to dance music. I think dance music is getting popular, which is a good thing, and we’ll be seeing a lot more artists using electronic music in their own music, even if they’ve never used it before.
A lot of DJs and producers are relying on electronics and laptops and hardware and software to make complicated music. That doesn’t take away from their abilities to make music. And it doesn’t make them not a band. You don’t need a guitar to make good music these days. You just need to want to make good music.