Having produced in the ‘Hurt Kingdom’ one of our favourite records of last year and then further whetting our appetite over the summer with the demo of ‘Dancing With Epileptic’ (see below) we thought it was about time we caught up with Jon Stolber, the driving force behind To Bury A Ghost.
1. Where did you get your name from & what does it mean?
I quite liked the idea of naming a musical project after how I personally approach music – The name sort of comes from the idea of using music as a form of catharsis, emotional or otherwise. Loosely speaking I guess the name originates from the notion of burying the ghosts of the past, as it were. It could however be argued that perhaps it was just my subliminal love of tea coming out as To Bury A Ghost as an acronym becomes TBAG. Surely it’s just a matter of time before that PG Tips sponsorship deal offer comes through…
2. Describe your sound for us & who would you say were your biggest musical influences?
Big musical influences? I grew up listening to a lot of classical music…Stravinsky, Pendrekki. Like so many others – I would have to say Radiohead are a huge influence. I am a bit of a geek ‘head’ fan boy I’m afraid. “The Bends” had a huge impact on me when I first heard it; I started to experiment with my voice beyond simply backing / serving the music.
Since my teenage years, Radiohead have always retained my interest throughout their impressive & expansive career. ‘Kid A’ is probably my favourite record of all time. They seem to just write for themselves yet still sell records & retain commercial appeal, which in this day and age is unique talent to wield.
3. And what about non-musical influences?
Cinematography is a huge influence really, I tend to try and capture atmosphere with a lot of the music I write. Generally it’s the darker, claustrophobic existential stuff that appeals to me, Terrence Malick, Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch….the more surreal, darker, morose auteurs. Interesting nevertheless. As a consequence of this, I don’t expect to be invited to play any weddings or children’s parties any time soon.
4. Music can be a fickle mistress, what is your biggest high & low as a band so far?
Biggest high would be a tie up between meeting childhood hero Steve Lamacq at the BBC Introducing Abbey Road Masterclass back in January or perhaps my first listen to the final Mix of ‘Birthday’ when I received it back from the studio.
I was blown away how something so small I’d written and pieced together in my bedroom had catapulted into something so much bigger than I really imagined it would. I don’t know if it was just a happy accident, but at the time it seemed a eureka moment, the first time it felt like I was perhaps doing something with potential…something worth pursuing. For me there is no greater buzz than making music you enjoy listening to.
As far as low points, for me – the first tour to promote the first record was a major downer that almost turned me off making music all together. It was a pretty impressive buzz kill to counter the excitement of making the EP and all the lovely reactions it had received. For the next record, it’s my intention to do things differently, although I’m not sure how!
5. What one fact about the band do you most want to share with the world?
The first record I ever owned was by sung Worzel Gummidge on vinyl. It was some sort of children’s educational peon to “never ever talking to strangers.” My Dad brought it back home from work. I have no idea why they would be giving such a thing at work but there you go. Most jobs I’ve ever worked at people mostly bring in cake. I think there is a lesson to be learnt in all this somewhere. Perhaps that lesson is, don’t accept Worzel Gummidge Records off strangers at work. Perhaps I should dress up as a big bear and release that as a record. The circle will be complete.
6. The old model of record demo-do gigs-get signed-make millions is pretty broken these days, what’s your plan to deal with this?
I find it curious, that the old music career model is clearly indeed broken, yet its sill used by so many in the industry as a yardstick for measuring bands success. It’s a really fascinating dichotomy. Given the state of things, artists pretty much have to redefine success these days.
DIY’s a bit like throwing a pebble into the ocean. I’m pretty much happy just to keep slowly building any sort of genuine fan base, but I suppose it depends on how you validate “success.” Success is totally subjective at the end of the day, and chasing it is akin to chasing your tail. In this day and age, many are making a record at home. Very few are making a career out of it. Brutal truth is, most of my musical heroes never made a penny, and are unsigned. My advice is to leave the ego at the door and make music you enjoy. Make your own world, where you can be a success. Be a little person making a big noise. That’s enough ambition for most.
7. We journalists like to use easy labels to describe bands, what’s the worst thing you’ve seen yourselves described as?
Never give away weakness! To be honest I’m always amazed any one writes anything at all.
8. We’re loving what you do but who’s floating your boat right now?
I’ve had a sneak peak at our good friends Eaststrikewest’s new record due out soon, and it’s pretty special [Seriously, it really is. Go listen – Ed]. I recently have really been enjoying James Blake’s first record too – reminds me of the equally very very fine Ben Christophers.
9. What’s up next for you guys?
I’m in no rush to release a new record just yet. The next release must be a step up from the previous; so want to concentrate on writing & recording new material. I am debating whether it would make more financial sense in the current climate to record the next release mobile. The home recorded demo I recently popped online has gotten a surprisingly positive response. It was really refreshing to be able to work on it at my own pace, & not worry about spending cash on studio time, rehearsals and non recoupable printing costs. I like the idea of delivering a track online the moment it’s finished. However, half the fun of making music for me is working with an amazing, like minded producer in the studio. I suspect I’ll have to come to some sort of compromise between the two. Song writing and sound engineering are two completely different skills at the end of the day, both of which can take years to master. I don’t want to see a further decline of studios. They are magical places. Home recording is no substitute.
It’s likely I’ll keep popping demos up at www.Soundcloud.com/toburyaghost leading up to Xmas to remind people TBAG exists, perhaps ask people to help decide what tracks they want to hear reworked with a full band. The plan is to get an 8 track album released some point in 2012. I’m mostly looking forward to working with full string sections on the next record. It was the most fun part of the last record, and I’m writing the next record with them in mind really…anything to try and grow beyond the simple stale regular band format really.