Music interview '“ Ghostpoet: '˜I don't like the idea of spoon-feeding an audience'
Autumn may have yet to turn truly chilly but there's definitely a cool mood emanating from the new album from two-time Mercury Prize nominee Ghostpoet.
Dark Days & Canapes seems a bleaker outing than Obaro Ejimiwe’s three previous offerings – a reflection, he admits, of the pensive times in which it was written.
“Well, I’ve always tried to write in the moment, with varying degrees of success,” begins the 34-year-old poet and musician.
“This I felt was something that needed to be done. I went about trying to make a record that is very much steeped in what’s going on now, trying to capture the zeitgeist and all the things that people are feeling not only in the UK but globally, really, about many things.”
While the full consequences of many political decisions taken in the last two years may not be appreciated for some time, Ejimiwe seems well aware of the general sense of unease felt by many.
“For me there’s always a sense of dread, so it’s not really any different,” he quips. “That’s the underlying thing for me, that we’re not sure what the future holds and that was something that seemed to just stick with me when I was writing and composing the initial demos for this album.
“That was the kind of thought going through my head and it seeped into the music in some shape or form.”
Ejimiwe also had more personal thoughts, having reached his mid-thirties. “Sure, that was on my mind,” he says. “Society kind of states you’re expected to achieve certain things at a certain age. I did reflect on the years gone by. Not to be morbid, but I’m at a point where I could be halfway through my life already. What have I achieved, and what do I still want to achieve and how has the world changed in the years that I’ve been alive, and how is the world changing for my friends and family? Stuff like that really plays on the mind.”
The album’s title has invited different interpretations, much to its creator’s satisfaction. “I always try to achieve that,” he says. “I don’t like the idea of spoon-feeding an audience, I’d rather they think for themselves as much as they want to and take any interpretation they wish from the music.
“For me once I’ve made a record and it’s out it’s down to different interpretations of what it’s about and they can interact with it how they wish. That’s the beauty and the sacrifice you have to make as an artist.”
Ejimiwe greets the thought that the song Live>Leave could be interpreted as being about Brexit with a gentle chuckle. “It’s more about the fragility of life, really, and coming to terms with the fact that we live and then we leave this Earth and it’s making the most of your time here or doing what you really want to do while you’re alive and kicking.
“That is something I’ve struggled with all my life and most people do at some stage in their lives. I’m trying to get to that mental state of ‘we’re here today, gone tomorrow’. You’ve just got to take your opportunities and do what you can while you’re here.”
In the track Immigrant Boogie Ejimiwe imagines being on board a migrant boat that is sinking. He agrees that far more time has been spent discussing the statistics of mass migration than examining the human stories behind it. “That’s why I decided to write about it, because regardless of the scenario they’re humans too and they’re trying in most cases, I feel, to just make a better life for themselves and their families. If the shoe was on the other foot...that’s kind of why I wrote it, to put myself in their perspective, or try to put the listener in their perspective.
“At the end of the day we’re all humans and regardless of colour or language we’re fundamentally all the same and I feel that isn’t spoken about enough or appreciated enough. I like to put stuff out there. I’m not a political figure; it was something that was in my head and something that everyone can relate to.”
Grant Marshall – aka Daddy G – of Massive Attack appears as a guest on the song Woe Is Meee, but Ejimiwee seems amused by perceptions in some quarters that he’s now “some kind of trip hop artist”.
“That couldn’t be further from the truth. I just work with people that I respect musically and I’m a fan of their music, that’s the most important thing. I’m a massive fan of Massive Attack but I wouldn’t say they’re a major inspiration [for this record], no.”
Having released four albums in six years, Ejimiwee recently indicated he might take longer between records in future. “I’m currently starting a radio station in Margate where I now live,” he says, adding: “Other musical projects that aren’t linked to making albums is interesting for me currently. I guess if anything I just want to soak up experiences, I want to just live a bit more.
“I was trying to write just silly ideas the other day and I stopped myself because ‘I thought I’ve got nothing to say right now’. I’ve never been the kind of artist who just sits down every day and makes music; it’s never been the way I’ve worked. I want to soak up experiences and maybe just travel a bit, try and find new things to talk about and new ways to make music, that’s what’s important to me. I hate the idea of churning out albums for the sake of it. I want to make it last potentially a long time. Longevity is really important to me in terms of albums, so that’s thinking behind it.”
Ghostpoet plays at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds on October 30. www.ghostpoet.co.uk