Interview: The Midnight Ghost Train
We just knew we didn’t want to keep making the same type of record over and over. We were sick of doing the same stuff all the time. We wanted to challenge ourselves musically, and also challenge our listeners to expand their thoughts of us as well.
The Midnight Ghost Train have boldly refused to just continue to deliver what may be expected of them for their fourth album Cypress Ave. Instead of another fast stoner rock blaster they have steered their sound into a more considered approach and, at its most diverse, into a few surprising territories. Steve Moss kindly took time out to explain how New York, tap dancing, and James Brown funk entered their creative orbit.
(((o))): During the bands early years, you experienced several line-up changes, but now you have a steady formation which has now recorded two albums. This must really help the development of the band?
Steve: Unfortunately, not as steady as you think. Right after the album was finished being recorded our bass player Mike had to leave the band. We currently have a fill in bass player (Alfred Jordan) for our upcoming USA tour, but we’re working on finding someone full time. It’s always a constant struggle finding people that can really hang with this for the long haul.
(((o))): The new album Cypress Ave. is a notable progression and more diverse in style than previous album Cold Was The Ground, which the main aim seemed to be a statement of intent that the band can indeed rock! Did you have pre-conceived ideas how you wanted the follow up album to sound?
Steve: We just knew we didn’t want to keep making the same type of record over and over. We were sick of doing the same stuff all the time. We wanted to challenge ourselves musically, and also challenge our listeners to expand their thoughts of us as well. We could have made another Cold Was The Ground with our eyes closed, we wanted a challenge though. Something that felt more right to us.
(((o))): How did the song-writing and recording process take shape and evolve?
Steve: Well this album differed from the others because on this record we wrote the album strictly for the recording. All our previous records we wrote more or less on stage, and fit them and molded them to our live show. This record we took a different approach and focused purely on the recording. We still recorded at the same studio as before and recorded mixed and mastered on analog tape, but we just took a different approach then what we were used to with writing.
(((o))): Is there a theme or concept behind Cypress Ave.?
Steve: Not really, I guess imagery wise we focused on The Bronx in NYC, which is where my entire family and I are from. It was just a way to change things up again, all of our previous albums had a country vibe to the photos, highlighting Kansas where we live now. Cypress Ave. is different sounding and so it’s also different imagery, and based on where I really come from. But other than the photos there is no concept, we just wanted to write a bunch of awesome songs.
(((o))): There is a darker underbelly of feelings and emotions in the lyrics, for example in ‘Black Wave’. Was more time spent on the lyrics to compliment the mood of the songs?
Steve: Actually, less time was spent on the lyrics for this album than any other record we did. These lyrics came pretty naturally, and were mostly written about a half an hour before we recorded them. It was literally the band sitting there waiting for me to finish writing, then the second I put the pen down I went in and recorded. I like writing lyrics in a pressured state like that. I feel like my best self comes out at that time. ‘Black Wave’ was actually completely improvised on the spot, that’s why the lyrics for that song seem so personal. The lyrics for this album were definitely the most fun to write out of any of our records. I sing much different on this album so it gave me a much larger range of lyrics to work with as well.
(((o))): Cypress Ave. showcases your love of blues, jazz, and Tom Waits more explicitly. But the most surprising song is ‘Boogie Down’, which features Sonny Cheeba rapping. How did you the song take shape and how did you Sonny get on board?
Steve: Sonny comes from the same city I do, which is how I was aware of his genius hip hop skills. We wrote this cool James Brownish funk song and it just seemed like it would be lame for me to sing over it. So, we thought “hell why not get a rapper” we were all down for it and Sonny was the first person I thought of. He happened to be free and close by the studio at the time, so he came in and laid it down. We had a blast in the studio working with him. It was probably the most fun we had recording.
(((o))): The very effective video to the album’s opening song ‘Tonight’ features some nifty tap dancing. How did the ideas for the video evolve? And who is the dancer?
Steve: The dude dancing is Reggie TapMan Myers. I knew his wife and briefly mentioned that we were looking to do a dance video for the new single. She told me her husband is a killer tap dancer, so we got in touch with him and everything worked out great. Once again, we just wanted to do something different, you don’t see a lot of dance videos for rock and roll, and we really wanted to find a way to make one work. Mixing tap with rock and roll hasn’t been done much before either, so it was fun to mold all these styles together.
(((o))): Your live show already features Tom Waits and Nina Simone covers. Are you planning to delve deeper into your favorite songs for more covers in the live set?
Steve: Yea I think so, I’m currently working on a Lee Morgan cover. We like to throw covers in of things we enjoy just to spice things up, so far fans have taken to the covers we have done really well.
(((o))): Will the live set need any adapting to play some of the new songs? Will you be packing the brass instruments in the van?
Steve: Unfortunately, we definitely don’t have no room for a brass section. But we’re creative, we will find a way to make all of this work really well. We have already rewritten some of the songs to make them fit the live show a bit more, which was a lot of fun and another challenge that we were happy to take.
(((o))): You have a comprehensive North American tour announced. Are there any plans to tour Europe?
Steve: Absolutely, our booking agent is working on putting the European tour together right now. So, keep an eye out for us cause we’re definitely coming your way.
(((o))): Thanks for taking time out to answer the above questions.
Steve: It was absolutely my pleasure.
Check out the dates of their upcoming US tour here: