Intro by Kelley O’Death | Ghost Bath interview by Ridge Briel
Minot, North Dakota’s intentionally mysterious black metallers, Ghost Bath, originally surfaced with a self-titled EP in 2013, released via Chinese label, Solitude Productions. The Ghost Bath EP officially introduced the world to the band’s signature brand of depressive, atmospheric gloom, which oft garners comparisons to contemporaries—and alleged competitors—Deafheaven. Their debut full-length, Funeral, was released the following year via China’s Pest Productions, leading the press to mistakenly label them a Chinese band.
Ghost Bath’s breakout 2015 LP, Moonlover, for Germany’s Northern Silence Productions helped clear up the geographical confusion and further solidified the band’s reputation as a formidable addition to the American black metal scene. In February of 2016, the band signed with metal monsters, Nuclear Blast, who will reissue the group’s seminal sophomore record, complete with a brand new track entitled “Ascension.”
The legendary label also sent Ghost Bath out on the road for the Moonlover Tour, on which they tackled stages across Europe throughout August and have been traversing the U.S. since early September. The band recently revealed they will enter the studio to begin work on their third full-length in late 2016, completing the trilogy they began with Funeral. The new record is tentatively set for release in 2017.
“Ghost bath” is a term for committing suicide by submerging oneself in a body of water. What made you decide on this name as a collective? In what ways do your music and lyrics refer to the concept of suicide and solitude?
The name most famously refers to the suicide attempt of [famed “The Bell Jar” author] Sylvia Plath, who walked into the ocean to try to drown herself. Her attempt failed, but she was successful at a later time by sticking her head into a gas oven. If you are interested in her story, we highly recommend reading her poetry.
I don’t like telling people how to listen to or what to get out of our music. For me, the term and what it means relates directly with what emotions and thoughts go into creating the music. But, any reaction someone has to our music is good; there is no wrong answer. If you feel or see certain things while listening to us, then that is exactly what it means.
How you react to a certain piece of art says a lot more about the person reacting than it ever does about the piece itself.
Moonlover is very unique, especially in the way every instrument is blended together with the unique vocal style and embedded into the overall mood of the album, which could be considered torturous, melancholic, beautiful, and exotic all at once. How did you develop this style of metal? What would you call it if you could categorize it?
I’ve always been interested in taking a really dark and depressive sound and juxtaposing that with a joyous, uplifting, and hopeful sounding lead line. Sometimes, it’s the guitars and drums doing the work, and other times, all of the instrumentals are uplifting with only the screams being devastating; that dichotomy has always interested me.
To me, a long drone of only depressive and sad landscapes starts to drone on as the brain gets used to the same emotions being portrayed throughout. I find it way more tragic to have moments of hope and happiness in order to rip them away. Knowing that happiness is right there in front of you but not being able to reach it is more powerful than knowing only depression. It’s almost a form of dialectical discourse within a song itself.
What are some of your personal inspirations that helped develop the Ghost Bath sound?
It’s honestly been one big catharsis for negative and depressive feelings. We, as humans, have both a force that drives us to life and a force that drives us to death, known as Thanatos. At all times, we experience anxieties from the world and our environment as well as inner anxieties. The ultimate way to rid ourselves of these pressures is to reach death—the ultimate release.
There are many ways to deal with these pressures, but, by far, the healthiest is by sublimation. Sublimation is basically taking all the negative energy and using it towards something creative or acceptable. Creating, writing, recording, and performing music fills this role for me.
What made you want to sign with Nuclear Blast?
Nuclear Blast was one of the first of many labels to contact us early last year after we released Moonlover. [Nuclear Blast America head honcho] Monte Conner called me and we chatted a few times about the record and about Nuclear’s interest in us. He, and the other people at Nuclear, are all great people, and we decided they were the best way for us to go. We have all been fans of the label growing up and are definitely honored to be working with them.
For your upcoming rerelease of Moonlover through Nuclear Blast, will there be any new songs added?
A new track has been recorded and added for the rerelease in North America and digitally by Nuclear Blast. The track is called “Ascension” and serves as sort of a connecting point between this first part and the next part of the trilogy we are creating. Moonlover is more earthly and filled with human emotion from a human’s perspective. While “Ascension” captures this still, it also sends the listener soaring into the heavens, the celestial bodies.
The cover for Moonlover is one of the most striking and original album covers out there. What is the concept of the album Moonlover, and what is the story behind the idea for the cover?
Moonlover explores the concept of tragedy, earth, purgatory, middle-ground, greyness, apathy, and longing. It shows basic human emotion—mostly tragedy—from the human perspective, which includes a great deal of numbness and apathy that comes with depression.
The entire album was written and recorded before anything else. Afterward, I searched for a cover that could capture the same mood and expression that the music had captured for me. The moment I saw the piece, “La Luna” by Luis González Palma, I knew that it was perfect for the album. I contacted Luis right away, and he was gracious enough to allow us to use the piece for our artwork.
Have you been working on any new material since the album was originally released in April of 2015? Any plans for a shorter release, perhaps a split with the likes of Alcest or other bands like them? Or even Deafheaven, as it seems it was mostly journalists who were saying there was beef between you two when there really wasn’t.
The next album is, and has been, fully written for quite some time now. Moonlover was recorded in July of 2014, and I’ve just recently finished the writing for the next album a few months ago. At the moment, I do not think a split will happen. Our plan is to release the trilogy first.
It’s hard to say anything about Deafheaven, because we have had extremely limited contact with them, nothing more than a few tweets. [Vocalist and keyboardist] George [Clarke] had said he enjoyed our work and showed some of his friends our music when [Moonlover track] “Golden Number” was released. But, I read a tweet recently by [guitarist] Kerry [McCoy] who said we were a “shit band.” He must have gotten cold feet, because I went back at a later time to laugh at it and he had deleted the statement. We find it all pretty hilarious and petty.
Whatever the case, I do think that certain journalists—maybe even a majority—like to create a story out of nothing or even a full narrative just to get readers. We’ve had our fair share of false reporting and people twisting our words, or others’ words, to make things seem a certain way. But, we usually take the route of letting people say whatever they wish and sitting back to laugh at their attempts instead of trying to correct anything.
Do you have any tours planned this year in support of the rerelease?
We [toured] the U.S. West Coast this July. We also will be headlining the Shadow Woods Metal Fest in White Hall, Maryland, on Sept. 15. We [toured] most of Europe in August. We have announced our playing at Dark Bombastic Evening in Transylvania, Romania, as well as playing the main stage at Bloodstock in the UK on Aug. 14.
If you are interested in more dates, we will announce more soon on our Facebook page. We definitely plan to try to perform wherever possible.
Is there any chance you may rerelease Funeral and the EP?
There is a chance.
Any last words?
We have a brand new pressing of Moonlover on gold vinyl known as the Golden Number Edition. If people are interested, they can buy it on Nuclear’s web shop.
Lastly, we feel sorry for anyone who tries to put “rules” or regulations on a certain art or genre; it must be a bland and monotonous existence to live with such limitations. We will never follow what anyone else wants, or doesn’t want, in art.
Purchase Moonlover here: Nuclear Blast