Since materialising last year with his debut EP The Sound of Strangers, Obaro Ejimiwe – known to most as electro hip hop artist Ghostpoet – has come a long way.
I’m good man! Just making music really. I’m in London at the moment. My UK tour finished and I went to Australia since then, and then I’ve got a short UK leg next week, including Liverpool. And then another European tour after that!To start off with, tell me a bit about you as a musician. When did you start writing and producing? What were some of the things influencing you when you started?
I started making music, I guess, when I was about 18. I was interested in creating music but I wasn’t sure how to… I was shown the beginnings of Reason and various PC-based software and I kind of just experimented and developed my sound really. It’s still a work in progress, but I just went from there really. I’ve always really been interested in various styles of music and it’s what drives my music forward, this constant pursuit of new things, new ideas and development of my sound, you know.The music you make is such a combination of different things, different styles – processed drums that are grimey and hip-hoppy, but then when you play live there’s guitars and live drums. How do you consider the music you’re making?
I can’t describe it really, because I don’t go into any particular song with an idea of a genre in mind. It’s just putting different sounds together until I’m happy with the end result. So if I had to describe it, I would say it’s a combination of… it’s got a basis in hip-hop but there’s definitely elements of electronica, experimentation, dance music, indie music… whatever takes my fancy, really.One thing that’s caught a lot of people’s attention is how lyrically, your tracks are almost like diary entries. How much is that the case? Where is the line drawn between you as a person, outside of the music, and you as Ghostpoet the songwriter and producer?
It’s a combination of my life and the lives of people around me and things that I read, hear, see, smell, taste, whatever really. It is all real, in the sense that I don’t make any of it up. Or if I do make it up, it’s made up of elements which are real if that makes sense. I wouldn’t say it’s a pure diary of my life but it’s got snapshots of me as well as we, and us, and you, and them.Tell me about your involvement with Gilles Peterson, because his support seems to have made a big difference in your success.
Definitely, definitely. Well, he gave me the break, you know. He gave me the chance to put out a piece of music. I just think having him fight my corner has really helped to get people into me who have never listened to what I’m doing. It’s opened those doors and those ears, really. I really respect him as a tastemaker and as an advisor. I’m really pleased that I got involved with Brownswood (Recordings, Peterson’s record label) because I’m a true fan.Putting stuff out on that label must be such a great tag, because it’s not focused on a trademark ‘sound’; it’s just focused on releasing really great music.
It’s great, it’s really nice to be part of something that, like you described, is about the music and not about any one sound or any particular direction or vibe. It’s just about good music. I really hope Brownswood continues to rise and rise and build on the success they’ve had so far.Your rise, since your mercury prize nomination, has been pretty astounding. What was that whole period like, from producing in your flat while working a job to being able to release this album that’s been celebrated to such an extent? Because it all seems to have happened very quickly!
Yeah, completely. It’s been really surreal, the pace of it all. I never expected the Mercury Prize or to be nominated for it, it never came into my head. It was something I was always intrigued by and was something that I always kept an eye on over the years, but I never thought in a million years I’d be part of it. So it was a really surreal period of my life and something that I was pleased that I had the opportunity to be part of. It really boosted my confidence and made my feel like I could make a career out of this.Your live show is so tight, so expressive, capable of creating such an amazing atmosphere, and you seem so at ease on stage. When you compare yourself to interviews you’ve given before, where you’ve said how before you started performing live you were incredibly nervous, what do you think has changed in that time?
I guess it’s just enjoying it really. Not overthinking it and trying to make everything perfect. I think it’s important to just enjoy it and take it for what it is and take in the vibe of the crowd and use it as an energy to perform. It’s really nice being able to play in different places around the country and Europe and it’s a privilege to play to people who have paid to see you, taken the effort to come out from wherever they live and come and see you play for an hour or whatever.You’ve already had the chance to play gigs all over the place, europe and all sorts, even in the last couple of weeks. Where do you think some of your highlights have been?
So many! Well, playing Australia was amazing. Partly because I’d never been there before and just being so far away from home and people knowing the lyrics to the songs and enjoying the performances was really humbling, you know. And playing UK festivals was great to do. Just people coming out, enjoying it, hearing people singing the lyrics.You’re part of a huge line-up at the liverpool music week closing party this week. Are you looking forward to that?
I’m really looking forward to it! It’s an impressive line-up. I’ve played in Liverpool before and it was really really good. I support Liverpool Football Club so it was nice to be in a city of Reds. I love the people, love the banter and I love the North, you know. I love the UK! It’s nice to play outside of your current location, which is London. It was a really enjoyable night.And lastly, what happens next? Presumably the second record, when you come to make it, will be different in how it’s produced? Because the first record has been a labour of love, do you think now that you’re a ‘fully-fledged’ musician whose main priority is to make music, and it’s the focus of their time, that your method of writing music is going to change?
I guess it already has. Because I’m gigging a lot I’m not at home as much so I can’t sit at my computer and write to my heart’s content like I used to. So that’s kind of changed. And I guess I’ve learnt to adapt, you know, musically to that kind of situation of not being at home. All I’m thinking of doing is making music, enjoying making music, and that’s all I did with the first album. That, to me, is the most important factor in what I do: if you have fun with it and just enjoying making music and marvelling in the new sound or putting something together that you think will work, just that. Whatever happens, happens. If people like what I have that would be amazing. If not, as long as I like it! I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing. I feel that that has to be the case. I hope people keep listening to what I do, it would be deeply appreciated. I have to just keep on my own path and hopefully people will follow me down it.