Ghostpoet’s third LP, Shedding Skin, was released early this month (2nd March) and we were lucky enough to catch up with Obaro Ejimiwe, the man himself, about the album. The conversation was made all the more interesting by the odd interjections of “come on Oscar!” – matched with responsorial yelps of endorsement – as the we discussed his new material whilst he took his enthusiastic pup on a walk through his local South London surroundings.
The new album sees a move away from the more electronic sound of the first two, becoming instrumental and even orchestral in places. How did that progression come about?
I was experimenting with this stuff on the last two records. I had tracks that incorporated guitar, bass, drums, strings – it’s always been there. It’s just that this time the stars aligned for me to create a concentrated version of the ideas I’d been playing with over the last two records. I’ve always wanted to do a band style record but it just wasn’t the right time for me to do it. So that’s kind of it really. It’s been a conscious decision over the last two records and with this one I just felt like, why not? I’ll just do it and see what happens.
How musical are you yourself, in terms of actually playing instruments?
Ah, I’m rubbish. Rubbish! I make music myself, I make the demos but it’s always rudimental, it’s not very good. I don’t know many chords, I have to just painstakingly layer notes into something that represents a chord, and I can kind of play chords on keys but I don’t really know where they are, I just kind of do it.
So how did you create the full band sound on the album?
I had my touring band – they were the guys who I called upon to record the parts and to flesh out and develop the demos. I’m just really lucky I had great musicians to call upon, they definitely made it a much easier experience.
You’ve had a really positive response to Shedding Skin; how has that recognition felt?
Weird. The last record didn’t really do much – it didn’t really have a buzz, and this one feels like it has so far. I just made it, not really thinking about how it was gonna be received – I just made it because I enjoy being creative. It’s really nice that people have received it so well, and the reviews have been overall pretty good. But I was prepared for if it didn’t go well, you just have to keep going. So you know, it’s really nice – I can’t complain that it’s weird.
You’re quite a twitter personality…
Twitter personality! [Laughter] Oh gosh.
So how important do you think social media is for putting out music and interacting with fans?
I dunno, everyone’s different. I’m just a nerd, I was a very early user of Twitter and Instagram and all those things. At the beginning I was just using it for myself and my thoughts, not as some sort of promotional tool. So I think people are a bit more forgiving of me when I do promote cause it’s not what I do the majority of the time. I think it’s different for different people. I run all my social media. My label helps out with the Facebook posts but I do everything mainly myself cause it’s just how I feel, I don’t want a machine talking for me.
The album artwork is one of your own skin cells. Where did that idea come from, and does it have any particular meaning for the album?
I thought to myself, okay I wanna call it Shedding Skin, what can I do to represent that? I didn’t wanna do the obvious – a hyper close up of my skin, or some kind of snake skin image. So we were brainstorming, looking at Google for images to do with skin, and we came across these shallow biopsies – which is what you see on the artwork. So we thought, this is amazing. They look so artistic, they look like paintings.
And we thought, how about we look into me getting my own skin cell on the artwork? And that’s kind of how that came about. I contacted the people who got me involved with medical experts through the Body of Songs* project I did (http://bodyofsongs.co.uk ) And yeah! I did the shallow biopsy, and they took a little piece of my skin and created the skin cell sample. We didn’t touch it in terms of the actual design. It’s still the original colour and you can see all those bits where it’s smudged on the actual glass the skin cell was on. So we literally just placed it and put in the title and that’s it.
You’ve been heavily involved in the videos, and the visual element of your music. How important do you think the visual aesthetic is when it comes to bringing out an album?
So important, really really important. It’s an extension of your creativity. Other than live, it’s the only way people do see you, or see things that represent you. It’s so important, I’ve never liked the idea of leaving it to somebody else to make up their own interpretation of my music. It’s great to have that, but on the video I think it’s important to represent me as an artist.
Are you looking forward to going on tour?
Yeah, I love playing, and the live set’s developed. It’s been really interesting playing with the band, and I’m just really looking forward to playing the songs live!
Ghostpoet will play London’s Electric Brixton on the 9th April.