Jean-Marc Lederman & Frank M. Spinath of Ghost & Writer
The new GHOST & WRITER album 'Red Flags’ now is close to being released in Europe as well. We had the pleasure to talk to both members about the new album and lots of other things GHOST & WRITER related…
Reflections of Darkness (RoD): The new album has just dropped, but enough press reactions about 'Red Flags' kept coming in already before the album released. Are you pleased with what's been said so far?
Jean-Marc: It's exhilarating to see that ‘Red Flags’ is not only so well received but also that the reviews are deep and do plunge into the records to extract the dimension we think we put in. It feels good to see that the press enjoys getting into what we've done and appreciate how much we thought about it and try to come up with something we think is rich in emotions.
Frank: We are delighted, really. I understand that everybody is living fast-paced lives, yet much of the great feedback we got suggested that people had really dug deep into the songs and had taken their time to listen. That's very rewarding!
RoD: The album again is being divided into two chapters, one containing the original material, one remixed versions of the songs. That's quite uncommon practice filling an album. Why choosing this way instead of putting a few more new tracks on the disc?
Jean-Marc: Every album is real hard work and 8 tracks is a good number to concentrate on and make sure there are no fillers on our side.
Frank: It's a double-treat, because this way both the listeners and also we experience two sides of each story. The fact that we work only with musicians who we like and admire ourselves also guarantees that this is not your ordinary remix overdose.
RoD: Is there a consistent storyline permeating all the album tracks, or is it rather like each one is a small story with a greater theme connecting them all, thus, would you call it a concept album as it is?
Jean-Marc: The “funny” thing is that there is not really an overall storyline per se, only life going on and how we feel at the precise moment we do a song. People may think it's a film noir or a cinematique description of a few concepts but it's more than that to me: it is actually a honest description of how we both felt at a certain time and how life was affecting us and what's on the track is a reflection of what was going on going thru our artistic filters.
RoD: Prior to the album release, you gave away the single 'Never Take Fire' for free. Is the song in any way representative for what the album stands for, or what is the reason you chose this one in particular?
Frank: In the chronological order of the tracks on ‘Red Flags’ (as reflected on the US version), my mood spiralled downward from an almost playful spar with the challenges of life to a more aggressive frustration. ‘Never Take Fire’ signals a turning point as anger turns into despair. After that, the main character is no longer seeking salvation and the lyrics in the tracks on the second half of the album gradually dissolve from bleak to plain nihilistic. Musically, ‘Never Take Fire’ has always been one of my favourites on ‘Red Flags’, both in its original version and also in the beautiful "secret" remix.
RoD: For the artwork, you worked with Claudia Schöne. Did you give her any directions on a basic theme for the artwork or was all of it the result of a creative process ignited by the music?
Frank: We have been working with Claudia Schöne (www.guiding-light.de) from the very beginning. She is a long-time friend and excellent complement for the artistic work in the realm of photos and artwork. We work very closely, and through our friendship have no barriers when it comes to ideas and ways to make the artwork as personal as possible. That said, there is not much need to give her directions, since she is so involved in the development of the songs. Usually, she is the first person to hear a new track once the vocals are recorded and JM has given his thumbs-up about a vocal idea.
RoD: The first songs on 'Red Flags' present the listener with very danceable material with an aggressive stance, while immediately afterwards the moody 'Never Take Fire' comes up. It appears like the natural highs and lows, a person is going through naturally in the course of their live. Is that a result of the personal circumstances these songs were created in?
Jean-Marc: Yes, life cuts you wide open and it transpired into the songs. It just happened that things seemed lighter when we started the album and went from “a possible ok” to “real bad” near the end of the recordings. Music to us is not a job, we have jobs, this is an opened up diary where you can see, feel, hear, imagine what goes up with our lives. Doesn't mean the songs are transparent and we are lost sailors on a demented sea, we're artists so we interpret things, but I would say that the album is indeed somehow rather transparent.
RoD: There's the so-called “Secret Rework” of 'Never Take Fire'. I've been wondering all the time who the remixer might be. Sound-wise it's a lot like something Daniel Myer would do, or is that too far off already. Any hints on how close this is to the truth?
Frank: The stellar "secret" remix that is included on ‘Red Flags’ was created by Ben Lukas Boysen of HECQ. When we began to think about a possible single release, our label suggested reworking this remix to enhance its straightforwardness. We agreed, and Krischan Wesenberg of ROTERSAND put the final touch to it, hence we now have the original "secret remix" and the "secret rework". It's a little confusing, I must admit.
RoD: How much of an inspiration was eponymous chess opening in creating the lyrics for ‘Gambit’. I mean there are parallels, at least for me.
Frank: ‘Gambit’ is about a couple that acts out erotic fantasies in playful yet in part scripted ways. It's a blend of strategic moves and incertitude, and it involves giving away or letting go of the partner. As you pointed out, in chess a gambit is an opening in which a player sacrifices material, usually a pawn, with the hope of achieving an advantageous position. Gambits are often said to be “offered” to an opponent, and that offer is then said to be either “accepted” or “declined”. To me that was the perfect metaphor for my playful couple.
RoD: It was quite a surprise for me when I reached the end of the remix part on the album with the rendition of '(Do I Have) Your Word'. It's not what you'd see coming. I couldn't dig up any information on an artist named Titanic Moon, so is there really another remixer behind it, or did you do the track yourself?
Jean-Marc: Frank came up with the idea of using a big band type of sound and it happened that I was working a few months ago on an old free of rights jazz tune from 1928. Frank sang on it, we edited the track and there you have it: an eerie jazz track that seems to come straight off the movie ‘The Shining’.
Frank: When we had finished the remix, we needed a name for it, and I remembered stories about the musicians on the sinking Titanic. According to reports, the band started playing music to help keep the passengers calm as the crew loaded the lifeboats. Many of the survivors said that the band continued to play until the very end. None of the band members survived the sinking and the story of them playing to the end became a popular legend. I felt that this was just the right composure to associate with the ending of our album, so I suggested to use "Titanic" in remix label. And since JM is the ghost in GHOST & WRITER, he wanted something to reflect "night". (laughs)
RoD: Has work on a new album already started?
Jean-Marc: Yes, it has, we're already going through possible songs and atmospheres. We don't know where it will lead us. Most of the times, I must confess, I'm not able to take a song where I want but I'm more taken aboard a song that came down to me by surprise. After all these years I'm still more a slave of the music I hear than a composer who can sit down and say: ok, the next song will be in C and it will go “tata taa ta tataaaaa”. When adding up layers, I merely follow what I think I hear when sounds intertwine. Mind you, it's hard work :)
RoD: I know there may be some difficulties in getting both of you to the same place at the same time, but will we ever see something like a tour of GHOST & WRITER. I think people would love seeing you live some time
Jean-Marc: It's something we're discussing of course but, as you say, it's complicated geographically and also job wise. But even though I personally hate playing live, I think we need to if we want to give GHOST & WRITER a real chance to be heard.
RoD: How would you take it live if it were to happen. Any ideas on how a G&W live show could look like?
Jean-Marc: That really depends of the circumstances but I don't see how we can escape coming with movies and projections...Personally, I think a few screens and some 3D mapping would be great assets.
RoD: That's it from me. Anything, you'd like to get off your chest?
Jean-Marc: I'd like to thank the following we seem to build up right now for giving us that special place in their heart.
Frank: Thanks for listening with receptive ears and minds.