‘Tis the Season (to Ghost, or something)

Ghosting SeasonThere’s a new sound on the block, I spoke to Gavin Miller and Tom Ragsdale (aka “the artists not currently known as worriedaboutsatan”) to find out more about their move across the pennines, their mixtape-making fanbase and how technology can actually be pretty damn complicated at times…

At the start of 2011, Gavin Miller and Tom Ragsdale found that they were making music that didn’t fit comfortably under their worriedaboutsatan moniker – less down-tempo glitch and more of a foot moving house-techno hybrid, Ghosting Season was born!

With ‘just’ guitars, keys, drum pads and loops and “something like an electric cello” they’ve had one hell of a year, especially when you consider that they’ve only really existed for the latter three quarters of it. I’ve been to a few of their gigs this year, they’ve blown me away every time. I’ve been lucky enough to chat to them a few times, before and after shows, so got in touch with them at one of their London gigs to ask them what they made of a momentous year.

Blending ‘dark atmospheric techno, with guitars and a healthy post-rock influence, – or “techno with a bit more” as they call it – has spawned a very well received ‘Far End of the Graveyard’ EP (within five minutes of hearing it on BBC 6music, I’d downloaded it) and a string of mini-tours up and down the UK. They’ve been met with excited crowds, high profile support slots and some “batshit” fan made mixtapes.

Ghosting Season recently decamped from Leeds, to the spiritual home of The Fugitive Motel, Manchester. They found a music scene that was “less about the guitars” and more open to experimentation, if only because of its relative size. The move has acted as an exorcism of sorts of the rockier leanings that the Leeds scene held, a jump that was a better fit musically. Fitting with a desire to find out “what else you/[one] can do,” a change, as they say, is as good as a start.

Despite its nerdy, socially awkward reputation, techno is quite an intimate and welcoming scene, with enthusiasts evangelising over a favourite drum loop the same way they might a train serial number. So still pretty nerdy, but at least you can dance to it.

Ghosting Season tell me it is a nice scene to be part of, especially now it is shaking off its ‘facelessness’. As the guys point out, they have a lot of shiny electronic kit on stage, but they don’t hide behind it, they think like a rock band, tour like a rock band, soundcheck like a rock band. If you’re picturing huge piles of Bolivian marching powder (like a rock band), then they mean it more in the sense that they “still feel like they’re 18 years old and playing Deftones covers,” they definitely have a sense of wide-eyed amazement at getting to do this for a living.

‘Hiding’ has given way to something more theatrical. The live setting, they say, needs to be engaging. It isn’t enough to be a couple of guys stood behind their laptops, you might as well stick on a mix CD otherwise. This is the rock band attitude that spills over in to the Ghosting Season sound. But without a drummer someone, or something, needed to play the drums, unwilling to alter the dynamic as a creative duo, this has left them adrift in the ‘dance’ camp.

It is undeniable that without live drums (occasional drum pad cue notwithstanding) their sound has been shaped by the dynamic; facing off against each other feeding off the energy that builds between them, as much as from the audience. They blend the sort of cerebral techno that would usually have me sat in bedroom stroking my beard and the more visceral beats of house.

This change wasn’t a conscious step they assure me. they “stumbled across” their formula. worriedaboutsatan were making waves when it wasn’t known for electronica to blend the atmospherics of post-rock with the ‘immediacy’ of house, they insist once more that they “stumbled” in to a happy situation, it was they say “serendipitous,” indie kids getting in to dance – house and techno.

In August, at the Old Blue Last in London, a healthy audience gathered up stairs to see Gavin and Tom almost crowded off the small stage by their kit. I was stood next to Andrew Hung from Fuck Buttons (embarrassingly I was wearing a Fuck Buttons t-shirt, worse I pointed this out to him. Gracious and friendly as he was, Andrew didn’t ask me to be his mate). Ghosting Season worked the room like seasoned pros, ebbing and flowing with the beats and atmospherics in just the right way heads were bobbing left, right and centre, people were dancing, high praise indeed from the East London hipsterati.

For a year that has gone from strength to strength, when pressed for a highlight, the pair are too bashful to give reply, but the excitement of playing with a hero, Shackleton, gets the better of them. They were also “pretty chuffed” to support Apparat at the Scala and finding that not only had a crowd turned up early enough to see them, but actually specifically to see them, and what’s more, were lapping them up. Understated as always, the band said that this was a “massive highlight.”

That was mid-point through a fast and frenetic 2011, and they freely admit they’ve been taken aback a little by the ground they’ve covered, the positive reaction from the press, and – most gratifyingly – the audiences at their shows.

Later in the year, I saw Ghosting Season at the first London Fields night, supporting Max Cooper. There were a whole lot more people there that evening, and a great deal more dancing. I spoke to them after their set and they seemed genuinely caught off-guard at the vocal and energetic response. The band said that they were “not thinking in those terms, too busy sat behind {their} laptops, and were taken aback to see so many people there.

Ghosting Season understand the need to strike a balance though, and as with their stage show (the “slightly egoist thing” of enjoying people dancing to your music), they know that technology doesn’t necessarily make things easier. On one level it does things for you, but they’re also aware that it creates more work. Gavin points to an iPhone, saying: “I wouldn’t know what to do if this broke, I couldn’t fix this! I haven’t a fucking clue, we could all end up in a second post-Roman dark age!”

What technology does do is make it easier to connect with people, and Ghosting Season harness the fact that everyone loves talking about music. sites like Soundcloud and Bandcamp allow that sense of community to blossom, and they appreciate having fans “nice enough” to soundtrack their tour with mixtapes (a recent competition saw them inundated with responses) that included the Mortal Kombat theme tune. I ask if they worry about having ‘Michael Jackson crazy’ fans. “Some of them could be, yeah. But they don’t know where we live… yet.”

The momentum looks set to carry on well in to 2012. With an album launch in April, with the excellent FIELDS night, as well as bringing worriedaboutsatan back from hibernation. Maybe those crazy fans will be driven to finding out where they live… That sounds more sinister written down than I thought.

Ghosting Season’s remix of ‘Nude’ by Radiohead is out now. They play at The Nest in Dalston, London on January 27, 2012, with more shows to follow. That is tonight!

This post originally appeared as part of the Fugitive Motel’s Review of the Year 2011 it is also available in physical paper form (for free!)  from the lovely people at Rough Trade East while stocks last. As well as various places in around the UK (Manchester, Leeds… ask me and I’ll find out.)

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