Andii & Mister E of Ghostfire
Kicking around crypts with a gang of steamy resurrection men
"Unmistakably British and unmistakably steampunk" (Steampunk Magazine)
Halloween time is upon us, boils and ghouls, and that means one thing. It's time we open the crypt, take up our lanterns, and peer into the darker side of steampunk. Andii & Mister E of Ghostfire will be our storytellers tonite. Grab your crosses, say your prayers, and come see the things that make us jump at night.
I've spent some time researching your motley and it's quite the eclectic group you've pulled together since Ghostfire first began. Can you introduce us to the members and what they bring to the table?
Mister E on vocals, myself on guitars, Rob on keyboards, Al on drums and Marcelo on bass.
What everybody in Ghostfire shares is a very high standard of musicianship and pride in our work, coupled with a real understanding of, and adherence to, the old musical maxim that less is more.
Instrumental wanking is prohibited on pain of death! Songs are brought to the band in a fairly skeletal form, usually just acoustic guitar and vocals, and it's a combination of everybody working together on arrangement and structure that gives Ghostfire its unique sound. We're all willing to take musical risks and try out ideas which go way beyond what our audience expects from us - which is a great way of keeping both ourselves and our listeners on their toes. It stops anybody getting complacent.
Professionally we're all pulling in the same direction and we're all willing to put in as much time and effort as it takes to keep clawing our way up the slippery showbiz ladder. We've had a few personnel changes this year, but the line-up we have now is the strongest, most focussed and most intuitive ever. When Marcelo and Mister E joined in late summer, it took everything to a higher level.
I think I bring a darker sensibility to the band in terms of aesthetics, attitude and creative decisions. I'm as much a singer/songwriter as I am a performer, but as a performer I think I'm quite theatrical (without being a Lovey!) I understand that the foundation - the music - has to be good, but when people experience the live show they should get an extra experience. Something to see as well as feel.
As an outsider, I understood, 'got' and loved the attitude, direction and aesthetic of the band before I joined. I always felt that from my background in gothic music I'd fit in artistically and it was a job I really wanted as I could picture myself fronting Ghostfire. An added bonus for me was the fact that everyone seemed very focused, driven and wanted to achieve something. Plus of course everyone is (generally) nice to each other - a perfect motley crew for me to hitch up with. Musically it's also good; everyone can play and there's no dead wood or passengers.
Take us back to the first days of Ghostfire. Where did the idea begin, and how did the zeitgeist spread to the others?
It began with me. I'd started writing songs again after a few years spent pursuing other creative avenues. I had a hankering to get back into playing music and obviously I needed a band to interpret the songs. I had a strong feeling, right from day one, that this new band was going to be something special, but it took a lot of advertising, and a lot of time wasted with people who just weren't good enough before I hooked up with Al in summer 2007. That changed everything.
Al had played in signed bands and, despite having also been out of music for some time, was still the best drummer I'd ever played with. It upped the ante and set a precedent for the level of musicianship required to be a member of Ghostfire. Rob joined us two weeks before we recorded our EP, Drunk Lullabies
, and his performance on that (much of it winged), is testament to his skill and ability.
Mister E and Marcelo joined us this year and fitted perfectly into our little gang, as well as enhancing it considerably. When people come to audition and they start playing or singing, you instinctively know if it's right, usually within about 30 seconds. Everybody in Ghostfire felt absolutely right, and then some.
Before I joined, I'd started taking real notice of Ghostfire when the look and style was being honed via the website and ethos. The darker attitude of the band made it stand out, and I liked the fact that they didn't sound like anyone else. Musically it's unique and I liked the sinister qualities of the look.
When you're not in the studio, what constitutes a fun night for your group? Dancing, drinking and debauchery, or something a little more sinister?
All things dark and beautiful - fuelled with lashings of absinthe.
I like to frequent the lower levels of the Old Bailey and pretend I'm a prisoner in Newgate Gaol. With a packed lunch of course… and a bottle of gin.
Where does the band draw its inspiration from?
Twisted campfire stories. Songs for The Outsiders.
Musically we draw inspiration from each other's playing as much as our individual influences and backgrounds, which are varied and diverse. Personally I love the darkness and unhinged drama of Nick Cave, the widescreen, cinematic soundscapes of Ennio Morricone, the kitchen sink craziness of Tom Waits and European folk music, so I guess there's a little bit of all of that in my songs.
Many of my lyrics are rooted in English criminal history, which is one of my passions. I feel that the great nameless rabble of unfortunates who suffered and died for unbelievably insignificant crimes deserve a voice, so often the lyrics take the form of stories told from the point of view of these various characters.
If it serves to turn a few people on to the nastier side of English history, then so much the better.
Do you have any heroes among the steampunk scene (past or present)?
Blackbeard the pirate is my favourite front man ever. If you saw him he held your full attention and make no mistake!
Tim Powers - one of the greatest novelists alive and one of the authors whom the term steampunk was originally coined to describe. I've read everything he's ever written - multiple times. Ironically Blackbeard was a key character in one of his earlier novels, 'On Stranger Tides'. Perhaps Mister E should take a peek…
The lyrics to Ghostfire's EP are fairly dark and gothic, especially Barrio and Ghostways of Paris. What separates the passions of Ghostfire from the classic late-80's goth sound?
It's quite difficult to answer that one. Although we seem to have found a nice dark little corner for ourselves within the current gothic scene, I was always much more drawn to punk than goth music. I guess the obvious differences are that we no longer live in the 1980s (thank God!), and the Ghostfire sound is quite organic. We don't use drum machines or synths - we prefer to use real instrumentation in our songs.
Obviously there are links, and I'll be bringing in other flavours of darkness and despair.
Does the band have anyplace they like to call home; a favourite bar or club that gets the juices flowing?
Me, I live in the shadows…
The Ben Crouch public house which is just off Oxford Street in central London. It's a fantastically themed gothic haunt with a strong steampunk flavour. It's where I first met many of the Ghostfire crew actually. I usually find a trip to The London Dungeon a pretty inspiring experience too.
Speaking of clubs, tell me about your live show. I've heard the singles, but what is Ghostfire like on stage?
Loud, rude and impossible to ignore. Anybody who dares to talk while Mister E is singing gets the cane!
A dark, drunken celebration of rowdiness, gallows humour, music, fire, heat, sweat, intensity and a most beautifully turned out clientele.
What's next for Ghostfire? Can we expect your new song, Waltz, to be hitting the streets soon?
We're currently in the final stages of recording the waltz. It's been renamed The Last Steampunk Waltz
and will be released on January 23rd, 2010. Many people within the movement here in the UK believe 2010 will be the year in which steampunk goes massive. We want to be sure we're in with a killer and genre-defining song to kick the Year of Steampunk off in real style.
What can Dieselpunks do to help spread the word?
To very politely inform the US steampunk and dieselpunk contingent that Ghostfire are coming and will take no prisoners!
Any closing words for your fans?
We live in dark, oppressive times and what we do is reflective of these times. We're fighters and we shall succeed. We believe in what we do; we adore the style and content of all that is Ghostfire and, of course, steampunk.
It's gonna be a wild and debauched ride. It's gonna be frantic, intense and by God it's gonna be fun! Dress to impress people: the world is watching us so let us supply the soundtrack to the best times of your lives. Onwards and upwards, bigger and better!
Thanks for having us, and for the drink and the biscuit, but must fly now. Gotta carve a few cogs into a pumpkin!