It’s not often an extraterrestrial being drops an album. But then again, SHT GHST wasn’t always the hypno-spectacled, white morph-suit wearing cosmic entity he is today. To hear SHT GHST put it, he was once a mortal earthling who traversed the cosmos, but was sent back by the creators of the universe to earth on a quest of self realization. It’s a daunting mission that brought him to Seattle, Wash. where he now creates wondrous, avant garde music dubbed “underwater psych.” His story first began to unfold with the 2017 album 1: The Creation and continues with his latest installment, 2: Photos of Bread, out May 24.
2: Photos of Bread builds off the ambition of his previous work, finding inspiration in the ocean, far off galaxies, and the human condition from the perspective of an urgent, curious being trying to make sense of it all. The album details the story of humans leaving the planet for new worlds and as such, the music sounds and feels alien. His voice sounds like when you try to talk with your head submerged in a swimming pool – wavering, sometimes indistinguishable, yet still somehow evoking the desired emotion through inflection. SHT GHST really is submerged on 2: Photos of Bread, but instead of water it’s waves of synthesizers, glistening guitar licks, and the low thud of kick drums humming against it all.
It’s this dichotomy between the final frontier and the organic essence of the ocean, both pulling at SHT GHST, that in part makes 2: Photos of Bread such a fascinating and engrossing listen. But listening is just part of the experience with SHT GHST. Ahead of the release SHT GHST has shared not only an advance stream of the album, but is gifting us a glimpse of the visual version of the record (which he also uses in live performances). Watch and listen to 2: Photos of Bread below:
There’s a lot to take in with SHT GHST and his new album and thankfully we were able to catch up with the galactic prophet to get some further insight on the project. Below, we discuss his his infatuation of aquatic sounds, working with producer Erik Blood, Elon Musk, the concept of bread, and a whole lot more.
SHT GHST has such a defined visual aesthetic, from the white morph suit and glasses to your artwork and live visuals. When you started this project, was the visual aspect important to you? How did you start to form what the project looks like (in a literal sense) today?
The visual aspect is just as important, if not more important than the sonic aspect of SHT GHST. It will always be that way. Our journey began creating purely instrumental music and we had no plans to add a vocal element until after the first few performances, so we put a galactic amount of effort to make sure the visuals were psychedelically stunning. Our aesthetic, notably the two big circles floating in front of a contrasting background, were actually designed and created before any of the music was composed. These circles on the screen are supposed to parallel the hypno-glasses we wear. It is how we see the world. The performance and visuals are designed to put you in a sort of hypnotic state, and transfer you to a new realm. I feel our presence, on and off the stage, accomplishes that. I just wish we could see out of the glasses.
You’ve described your music as “underwater psych.” What is it about the aqueous tones of reverb and wah filters that appeals to you? Is there a thematic connection between water and your music?
I think this goes along the lines of transferring you into a new realm and my obsession with outer space, the ocean, and the unknown. Effects like reverb, delay, and phasers, all create this otherworldly sound, that simply cannot be created on this earth naturally. For underwater psych to be considered underwater psych, in my opinion, means the effects you used are cranked to the "wet" setting. This essentially means that there is more effect coming through than the actual signal. I love the sound of wet music as it makes you feel like you are floating aimlessly in the galaxy or at the bottom of the pacific.
Likewise, there is a connection between the deep blue, outer space, and our music. The ocean and outer space are two of the most unexplored areas of our physical realm and we try and use our music to encourage people to explore the most unknown parts of their minds, whatever that may be. We hope our art encourages introspection and self examination in the entity that is consuming it.
The water effects feel especially prominent on your vocals, giving you a very inhuman quality. Yet one of the things I appreciate most about your music is how you’re able to find a tenderness in your performance that transcends the effects. How do you balance experimentation with performance and songcraft? Is it something you think about or does it manifest itself naturally?
I was once human. I don't remember much from it, but I know I never felt I was able to connect with others and form the close relationships that I saw others had. I always wanted that. I do my best to do so with my performance to connect with others, but it is often left on the stage. I feel that desperation to belong often comes through in our performance. The vocals were something that came after a lot of experimentation with our sound. I have always been a bit self conscious about by earthly voice and the vibrato effect used on the vocals was able to give me the small confidence boost I needed to begin writing vocal lines into the songs. To many it is a bit unsettling, but it is undeniable who I am. The lyrics are written on the spot and there is little to no editing to them afterward. After I compose a song, I will sing over it while recording it on my cellular device. Whatever Comes to me becomes the lyrics. I believe this gives the music a much more human feeling, and makes it so I don’t over analyze what the message may be. This allows the song take on a message of its own, a message I may not even fully understand at the moment. I feel over concentration on lyrics can often create mundane cliche songs and this process avoids that. It also makes it more interesting for me to listen back on, so I can figure out what the hell I was talking about.
For this album you shortened your name from Shit Ghost to SHT GHST. What was your reasoning for the adjustment to your moniker?
I never saw anything wrong with the name Shit Ghost. I may have been a bit naive about the state of the world at this time, and the music and entertainment industry as a whole. The name change was not an artistic choice, in fact quite the opposite. The name change was made to accommodate the current state of the music industry and allow us to move forward as a major player in that realm, as I believe it is the best way to get our art to the most people.
Like your past work, 2: Photos of Bread feels very high concept with a surrealistic narrative arc. Could you shed some light on the story you’re telling on this record? Are you continuing any sort of story from your previous album, 1: The Creation?
2: Photos of Bread is all about the journey of the human race leaving earth and inhabiting a new galaxy. If humans do not act swiftly to make space travel a priority, they will surely perish. This record is a continuation of the first record, which tells the story of my arrival back to this earth and my immediate discoveries and observations. I envision the entire story being told over the course of five chapters, and at that time SHT GHST will have exited this realm and cease to exist on earth. I despise the EP culture that has come to be. Full length records say something. I feel EPs and singles are just testing the waters, hoping somebody will ask of more. If you have something to say, be confident in your message and say it.
Also, why bread?
Bread you say?! I believe bread to be a fantastic metaphor for human sustenance. So the quest for bread is a quest to continue human existence. I myself am participating in the keto diet, so I do not eat bread. I eat nuts. However, I do not think the world is ready for a record entitled 2: Photos of Nuts, although it may generate decent web traffic.
Tell me a bit about the visual album version of 2: Photos of Bread. I understand this is also what you’ll be playing at live shows during your performance. How do you feel the video complements the ideas contained in the record?
The visual album is a loose guide to the songs, more meant to generate a feeling and mood rather than explicitly defining each song. I like to use images from the ocean and juxtapose them with photos from outer space. They complement each other so perfectly, often you can't tell if what you are seeing is galactic or oceanic. That being said, the best approach to consume the visual record is to not read into it to deeply and just absorb the overall feeling being presented.
You worked with producer Erik Blood on this record and credit him for helping give the record the grandiosity to help flesh out the concepts within the record. Did you spend a lot of time talking through the ideas behind the record? What do you think he most contributed to helping you actualize the sound you were going for?
I believe I was sent back to this realm during the time I was, because I was supposed to meet Erik Blood. I am very difficult to work with creatively. I have a strong vision and I do not like to stray from it. Erik is one of the few people I trust more than myself. With limited knowledge of what SHT GHST was, he was able to elevate our sound to where it was supposed to be. I will be forever grateful for that man.
We surprisingly talked very little, if not at all, about the concept of the record. That was the most magical part, he could just feel where it needed to go and make the right decision. I think he was able to best contribute with his instrumentation. When I compose the music I write everything on the acoustic guitar. He was able to nail down the right instrumentation, and texture for each song. His synth work is cosmic. I will do every record with him from here on out.
On your last record you had a song called “The Meeting of James Franco” and on this album you close with the “The Meeting of Elon Musk.” Is there a connection between these two songs? What appeals to you about citing public figures and celebrities in your music?
I consider these people more artists than celebrities. When I hear people say the name James Franco or Elon Musk, they say it in a way that I would one day like my name to be said. The song "The Meeting of Elon Musk" was originally titled "The Meeting of James Franco Pt. 2." After seeing the Falcon 9 launch, I was very artistically inspired, perhaps more than I have ever been in my entire existence. It is my way to pay tribute to these artists that inspire my work and my way of putting out in the universe my desire to be able to creatively work amongst them one day.
You’re playing your album release show on May 24th with Erik Blood, Newaxeyes, and Wall of Ears. For people who’ve never seen you perform before, what can they expect at this show?
This is perhaps the freakiest lineup Seattle has ever seen. A night of whimsy and cosmic desire. A night that will open up a portal, unlocking interdimensional ideas, creatures, and foliage. This is my dream line up. Every artist on this bill has a place in my heart. Everyone is so uniquely themselves, it is exhilarating.
What’s next for SHT GHST?
SHT GHST is a constantly evolving form of creative expression. We will be hitting a major U.S. city every other month or so performing this record. First up is Los Angeles and then New York. We will have a new professional costume design coming soon, superhero quality. I feel our costume is the last piece of the puzzle before we are able to accelerate with the speed of the new Tesla roadster. We will constantly be creating. I am a very prolific writer and could write five records a year if I had the funds. All I know for sure is that SHT GHST will not be slowing down anytime soon.
Pre-order 2: Photos Of Bread via SHT GHST's Bandcamp.
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