On Their Past, Present & Future
Questionnaire: Steve Bateman
Self-branding their style of music as 'Deth Grunge' and describing
its soul as "noisy, bluesy and visceral." GHXST (pronounced
GHOST) are Shelley X, Chris Wild and Nathan La Guerra, who look every
inch the rock stars and have just begun to pick-up ecstatic press coverage
in the United Kingdom, with Clash printing: "A New York trio, the
band's output is grunge in the sense of fusing fuzzed-out guitars with
candy-bar-sweet melodies. Oh, and noise - lots and lots of noise."
Artrocker: "The trio cite Jesus And Mary Chain, White Zombie and
Sonic Youth among their influences, and certainly deliver the elegantly
wasted death-cool of a few of those predecessors." And Rough Trade
Shops: "GHXST are a dark crew who take the cold wave underground
technology and dynamic and cloak it in more stabbing, noise drapes with
pulsing bass drums and doomy fuzzed-up synths. Great stuff."
When asked about their influences and origins, Chris explained to
FAMEMAGAZINE: "We grew up with a lot of 90s American rock bands
- esp. the heavy and sexy stuff. Grunge is more of a feeling than a
literal sound for us anyway Shelley and I met in college and had
the crazy dream of moving to NYC to start a noise band. After stealing
Nathan from San Diego, we started GHXST officially at the end of 2010."
With a handful of industrial-strength and razor-sharp material having
already surfaced through the independent labels, Clan Destine, Club.The.Mammoth
and Desire, the group's next goal is to record their full-length debut
album. However, in the interim, their self-produced debut EP, Evil's
Wasted On You, "imagined as a twisted Lynch-esque dream in a 90s
basement party" and their 2011 follow-up EP, No Rest For The Wicked,
which was mixed by James Aparicio (Mute Records, DiscError Records)
and features "six songs inspired by southern gothicism and the
cinematic west, exploring themes of resistance, rebellion and death."
Have both been compiled together by Tip Top Recordings to become an
ultra-limited UK 12" vinyl, EVILWICKEDDESIRE. Following a whistle-stop
tour of England and the release of a stimulating new single, Black Camaro,
which has generated yet more positive publicity for GHXST, I was delighted
when the band agreed to answer a Q&A from Brooklyn
Lucy: Your band have been quite quiet for the last few months. Are you looking
forward to playing gigs again?
Katie Jane Garside: I think I give very obtuse ans
1. To begin with, I really love your band name for its stylish and
aesthetic appeal. So, what's the story behind GHXST and its unique spelling?
Shelley: "GHXST is just 'ghost' spelled with an X 'cause it looks
hotter that way ;)"
2. Can you remember the first demo that you ever recorded as GHXST
and how did it feel to hear the finished song - was it exactly how you
hoped the group would sound?
Chris: "The first GHXST track we finished was 'Flowers of Evil.'
Life was pretty heavy at the time, and I think the song reflects that.
Our recent tracks are closer, but we're always looking for that elusive
3. When in the studio, The Beatles are said to have preferred writing
and recording at night. But, do you write and record in a certain place
or at a set time?
C: "We write at all hours so there's no real set time. But it seems
like the environment has a big impact on our ideas... the initial idea
for the sound of 'Black Camaro' came to us at a cheap motel in California.
Even when we can't travel we try to have in mind the places we've been
and the people that we were there with..."
4. Would you say that you tinker with tracks a lot, or are you careful
to not over-rehearse or overwork them + do you like to have a mixture
of space and tightness in your arrangements?
S: "We're total perfectionists but prob for different reasons...
we try to keep a lot of noise and rawness in our music, but we also
like to control all aspects of the writing and production. And like
they say... you never really finish a song, you just give up at some
5. I read that you use bass synthesisers onstage and do a lot of
drop tuning with your guitars, but I wondered if you feel you have a
strong bond with your instruments / see them as another voice that intertwines
C: "Yeah, I've always felt there's something sublime about an electric
guitar... my first was an epiphone SG, and I've pretty much played SG's
since then. When I moved to NYC I scraped up the cash for a black '96
Gibson SG. By now I know all the feedback points on it by heart... it's
perfect for the feedback and noise that we do."
6. Have you ever been inspired to create sonic textures / interesting
sounds using any unusual production techniques or objects, and what
has been your most experimental song to date?
C: "These days, we try to take a simplified approach to songwriting
- start with a guitar hook and beat, then add vocals and maybe a bassline
to finish it up. Often the flourishes are in the noise or effects...
we wouldn't claim to be an experimental band at all, but we always end
up breaking some rules along the way."
7. Growing up, did your family and friends influence your musical tastes
+ is there an artist / group that you wish you had discovered sooner?
S: "My dad played a lot of country music growing up, so that was
my first taste of American guitar blues. But as a kid, i was also majorly
into 90s alt rock and pop radio so i also got a heavy dose of teenage
angst. Man, it was a pity no one showed me JAMC back then, 'cause i
would've been sooo obsessed."
8. Are your record collections alphabetised + what's the most surprising
LP in each of your collections?
C: "i have a small, unsorted record collection stored back in California
- mostly classics. Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison is probably my favorite
9. Have you ever had a favourite 'secret' track, which comes after you
think a record has actually finished?
S: ""Evil Dildo" from Placebo's "Without You I'm
C: "White Zombie - the hidden track from "Astro-Creep""
10. Lyrically, do you think it's important for songwriters to be able
to write in different voices / role-play, by putting themselves into
someone else's headspace + is there anyone who you would like to see
publish a book of their lyrics?
S: "Yeah, totally. i try to write from personal experiences but
often through the voices of different people that i feel a connection
to. Sometimes i write through a guy's perspective just cause i think
human emotion is not always gender specific. I'd love to see Brian Molko
or Jim Reid publish their words."
11. Michael Stipe once revealed that if the musicians in R.E.M. hadn't
sounded the way that they did, that he would've "probably sung
in a different way." Do you think GHXST's sound has had a similar
effect on your approaches to singing?
S: "Yep, i grew up singing in choirs and a bunch of acoustic stuff,
so i think there's always a bit of soul and lightness to my vocals.
But put through a harder, noise rock context, the vocals have a really
12. When playing live, do you find yourself visualising a lot onstage
/ getting lost in the music?
C: "Playing live is always volatile since it all depends on having
a connection with the audience. When it works, it's the most incredible
and humbling feeling... to me it's like an existential transcendence,
like we're all part of something greater."
13. In Strummer, Jones and Simonon, The Clash are regarded as having
one of the greatest frontlines ever, due to the sheer energy that they
displayed onstage, their interaction and the spirited passion with which
they delivered each and every song! So, as touring and putting on memorable
shows has become more and more important for musicians in recent times,
I wondered which acts for you, boast some of the most exciting and compelling
frontlines in the history of music?
S: "Haha, Placebo shows always blow my mind. They've got such a
unique sound and X-factor. The Kills are also amazing live, esp. when
it's just those two."
C: "Oh man, Jane's Addiction is definitely one of the most killer
shows i've seen. It's great that they're touring again, Dave and Perry
14. Did you always plan to release a couple of EPs prior to a debut
album, by way of an introduction to your music and to also document
the evolution of your sound?
C: "No, we just wanted to record music and put it out there - and
since we were new, EPs seemed like a good way to just share your music
on a smaller scale. We'd love to do a proper debut album soon, we're
actually writing and recording new stuff now..."
15. Lastly, this is a long-running question for fun, which would you
choose out of chips (french fries) or cream buns (pastries)?
S: "Haha, a lo-calorie chocolate cream bun! thanks ;)"
A very special thanks to Shelley + Chris, and to
Giovanna @ Sure Shot PR, for all of their time and help.