The Human Touch
Ghost Outfit
I Want You To Destroy Me
Make no mistake about it, twenty-thirteen was a great year for music. There appeared to be an endless stream of new albums appearing that were refreshing in their approach: absorbing elements of the past yet using them in a vital new way, pushing boundaries, opening doors, turning the world upside down. There was the primal bark of Savages, the hypnotic grandeur of Girls Names, the celestial choirs of Money, the brutal inflagrations of Hookworms and the chiming beauty of The Fauns. Add to those the dark orchestrations of Sigur Rós, the incisive wit of Nick Cave and the rebirth of the warped dreams of My Bloody Valentine and any number of records could respectably have been named record of the year. Yet Ghost Outfit's stunning I Want You To Destroy Me topped the lot: brutal, resonating and so painfully drenched in humanity. The story unfolds ...

For those who don't know the band, can you give us some history and how you came to be picked up by the SWAYS label?

Becoming a two piece was initially a matter of co-incidence and situation. We found ourselves in that position a couple of years ago and we ran with it. It ended up feeling much more natural and productive, and so ... here we are. The band name? I was wearing a Deerhunter t-shirt when we were arguing over what to call ourselves. The t-shirt had all of the track names from their Weird Era Cont. album, including the instrumental track 'Ghost Outfit'.

We were just starting to play gigs when SWAYS got their hands on us, at this one night Underachievers Please Try Harder we played. They had just started up at the time, and they claim to have purposefully engineered; it's more likely they were just wandering drunk between venues as per usual and just happened upon us ... we love them, but our courtship has not been without its bumps. Working with SWAYS can be like having a good friend who you're always lending a fiver to, even though the chances of you getting it back ever are pretty non-existent. But you lend it anyway, hoping you might get it back one day. You don't. But every so often, they'll buy you something wicked for Christmas, or at least listen to you moan about your girlfriend over a pint (that you bought them). They're good, insane people in a world that's fastly running out of surprises ... sometimes it's a welcome change to never know where you stand with someone.

So, our release history. We've put out a digital 'single' ('I Was Good When I Was Young'), two digital EPs (Young Ghosts One and Two, which we later released on cassette) and a 7" vinyl single ('Tuesday'/'I Want Someone Else'). Some material from these releases was re-recorded, and we wrote and recorded a bunch of new songs, all of which went towards our (and SWAYS') first 12" album, I Want You to Destroy Me, which you have so kindly awarded album of the year. This was all over the space of about three years. I like our little discography, it's nice and concise. I'm a very archival dude.

What were your feelings on the album when it was completed? Was it exactly what you had been looking to achieve? SWAYS described the record as "not so much a sound as a state of mind" and it seems very much that you are dealing with emotions we all face in our lives but expound them in a way that emphasises the power, confusion and self-consuming importance these have at the time. Is that anywhere near the truth?

That's a very concise and accurate way of putting it, couldn't have phrased it better myself. The album deals with very basic issues that upon reflection, seem petty and overblown. I tried to recapture the feeling when those small snatches of life seem like the most important thing and worth being upset or joyful about.

In terms of the sound of the album, though there are elements we might have done differently upon reflection, it came out pretty much exactly how it was in our heads. A huge chunk of the record was done live in a room without isolation booths, which was eventually both a handicap and a benefit. It's hard to get obsessive over reverb plugins when you're working with such a compromised sound; it taught us to let go of that level of minute control. In these days of endless presets and computer-generated amp modelling the classic ideal of picking over each individual piece of your record becomes lost – you can end up stripping away the humanity from the music because of the level of detail and 'perfection' you can acheive. The playing errors, the fluffed vocals, the conversation snippets accidentally caught between takes all add to the sense that there is a band in the room. I'm not a purist, but I know people who do their own mixing who've spent years not being able to let go of their work. After a while the 'perfection' they're looking for slips away. The end result sounds far removed from the humans involved. And there is ALWAYS too much damn reverb.

Perfection is finding the beauty in something's flaws.

Ghost Outfit
We can't think of many other bands who are making similar music. Were there any direct influences on your sound, musical or otherwise? You described your music in the Guardian as 'textural'.

Direct influences? Its a hard one. My kind of go-to response is to talk about MBV, Sonic Youth, The Cure etc ... all my favourite bands that I can't help but be influenced by. However, I am more directly influenced by the omnivorous attitude to music that has become a necessity these days. My dream is to make music that stuggles to be defined, but by that I don't mean inventing a new genre ... try defining a band like Deerhunter or Liars. Genre tags come to mind, but being able to definitively pigeonhole them as one thing or the other is very difficult. There's a movement towards not so much mashing genres but mashing sounds together in modern music; the best rappers, bands and pop stars do this. I hate the culture of "the good old days" and "that classic sound" – milling about, taking influence wherever it crops up is the best way forward. That's why Kendrick is RAD and J. Cole SUCKS. No Age were a huge influence, of course. Their sound pulls from widely disparate sources – punk, ambient music, etc – yet manages to make them work together in a way that makes sense. We hugely respect that; plus they made duos seem like a viable option when we found ourselves as one. Textural is a decent word for what we try and do. Destroy Me has this brick wall kind of sound – it's thick but it's not in the red, it's just there. We strived to get a sound that marks a point between live and studio; between imagining the band as a realistic entity but not thinking about them thrashing it out. It was tricky.

On a more "we like their style" slant you've got to love what brutalist bands like Savages and Iceage have got going on. I love the minimalism, the stark imagery. Death Grips too – I love the fact that they've completely bucked the swish video vibe – everything they put out looks like total shit, it's great! Kanye is absolutely slaying it at the moment. Long, elaborate albums rollouts have totally sucked this year – 'Ye dropped Yeezus off with no singles and a defiantly unmarketable sound. Beyonce has just done the same, even more so because the first everyone heard about it was when it got released. Pitchfork have said recently that if 2013 was the year of long album rollouts, 2014 will be all about the surprise album, which I think sounds pretty legit. Maybe we'll take influence from that trend...

One thing we're not influenced by? Most other two pieces. Most other guitar-based two pieces make either vaguely garage-y or vaguely blues-rock-y stuff; its terrifically boring. Their purpose is to be brazenly minimalist – revelling in the thinness of their sound – daring you to ask them where the bass is. Me, I don't really think about it. I'm not militantly against bands with more than two members, nor do I have some sort of pride at being in one. In fact it can be a liability – reviewers love to talk about how many there are nowadays; another dream of mine is for a critic to not even mention the number of people in the band. I want people to take our music on its own terms, context aside; I want them to listen to our records and not think about how many members there are. This won't see us reaching for the string quartets any time soon mind and (for now) I do want to keep our live shows as just the two of us, but being a two-piece doesn't define us.

You were listed in the NME's 100 bands for 2012, yet when they reviewed the album all they seemed to be concerned about was that you created a bigger sound than two people should and that listeners may not remember how the songs go. I don't remember MBV being slagged off for not sounding like the early Beatles. Were you disappointed with the reaction the album received? I believed Pitchfork described you as 'Shoegaze'!

It might sound like I'm bitter, but I flat out hate that rag. The NME can't even justify its own existence these days. A publication can't purport to being a beacon of new, underground music and then champion utter tosh like Beady Eye, Jake Bugg and Kings of Leon. I don't consider their opinion an opinion that matters. They put one of our songs in the top 50 for new artists the other day – I couldn't give two shits – I hope they give us a zero next time, we might be on to something then.

In terms of the overall reaction to the album, I'm more amazed that places like Pitchfork and The Quietus actually reviewed it than disappointed with boyish preconceived notions of what I think our album 'deserved'. As a person who's overly self-critical to excess, I'm already now at a point where I know full well we can surpass what we did on Destroy Me. The curse of a self-hating musician is to be doomed to have nothing but disdain for your old work. A younger version of myself might have been thrilled at the shoegaze tag from Pitchfork; nowadays I think my perceptions of that term have changed. Do I consider us a shoegaze band? Not really, no. If a review was to mention My Bloody Valentine as a clear influence ... that's something different.  Though, of course, genre tags are there so people have a vague frame of reference ... and ultimately are a matter of some reviewer's opinion (although I wonder how many sites might have mentioned ... I don't know, a salsa influence if I'd have put that in the press release for giggles instead of mentioning a couple of shoegaze bands?). When it comes to end of year lists, our absence doesn't surprise me – we're only a tiny band, on a new and untested label, with a low key release, with almost no 'hype'. Easily forgotten or overruled when you think of the sheer wealth of new bands with new albums and more attractive members. I'm not really too worried – I much prefer the relaxed approach to fretting over trying to curry favour from the press ... All good things to those who wait and continue to drop rad music.

Ghost Outfit Video Shot
What was the Young Ghosts project and is it something that is still happening?

The Young Ghosts Project was something we did a couple of years ago surrounding our first releases. We had two EPs: Young Ghosts Side One and Two, and rather than just throwing the material out into the world as is the norm, we decided to challenge ourselves. Over the course of a couple of months we made one video a week, and released it on the Thurday of that week, to go with a track from the EPs. We worked with friends and frequent collaborators. Plastic Zoo did a couple, we did a few ourselves, Will Sharp (who does our artwork) had his hand in some ... It was hard, but worth it – you can still see all of the videos on our vimeo page. They range from hilarious to dodgy to dumb to beautiful. It was a project that we intended to document our early work ... by that point to material was almost retrospectively compiled from early stuff. The 'Young' in the title designates itself as such. Maybe one of these days we'll do an Old Ghosts Project, what that'll document I dread to think.

What are the plans for 2014? Are there more recordings/releases planned? Tours?

We are currently working on something right now. With some luck we'll be able to have something ready for early 2014. It's something in the early stages, so I wouldn't want to say much about it, but we're excited. Moving forward, we want to go darker ... take it deeper. I think when the music we're making currently sees release our first album will be described as our 'happy' one! It won't be an EP though. I can't stand EPs.

We've had a very, very quiet year (couple of years really) in terms of playing gigs. Around Manchester, we kind of got known for being a live band. Not that that is a bad thing, it's just not something we ever expected to happen. I always wanted to be a studio guy; I've always prefered the idea of mad scientists like Kevin Shields crafting albums to playing live to a big crowd. We more or less dropped off the face of the earth to write and record this record, and I guess once we got comfortable we never got back on the touring wagon.

Playing live as a band is something that, once you are there, on stage, playing to an audience, is amazing. Everything else is a letdown. Debating with lazy promoters, having to pay facebook just to get the message about a gig to people who like the page, moving of heavy shit up and down flights of stairs, five hours in traffic to get down to the venue, godawful soundcheck and lack of people actually there (and all the other stuff that comes before) sucks. And then once that thirty minutes are over and you've managed to prise a meagre amount from the promoter (which might, might, cover your fuel costs), it's the exact same thing again but in reverse. With no help. We played a London show to no-one recently, and in the car journey back we worked out how much we'd earned per hour (taking away travel costs) that day. It came down to about £2 each. The tour we wanted to do (including the Brighton date) was called off because at the last minute, one of the promoters cancelled and pushed it from "we're going to lose money on this tour, but oh well" into "we're going to lose A LOT of money on this tour". Suffice to say it'd take a lot to get us back on the road, and I think that's how many bands are feeling these days – just look at all the news articles about people cancelling shows and tours this year. However, I still cling to that idealised vision of travelling around on a tour bus, playing gigs every night, having adventures ... maybe it can happen. I want that.

I Want You To Destroy Me is available from your local independent record retailer on vinyl and CD. It's a remarkable thing and we can only urge you all to give it a listen. You won't be disappointed. Ghost Outfit may be a a tiny band on a new and untested label, but it would be a crime to overlook this record. This is music that matters, opening doors to a brighter future. Cherish it.

Interview Adam, top picture by Grotesque Nouveau, edited by Ghost Outfit.

Bottom picture from the 'Waste' video.

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