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Former Ghosts

Freddy Rupert's obsessive songwriting and emotive take on pop music manifests itself through 'ghost melodies'

What images does the name ‘Former Ghost’ conjure up for you? A sense of loss? An anti-presence? Whilst intentionally alluding to an explicit and painful void, the moniker doesn’t so much hint at a sense of loss, but wails about it from the rooftops. Originally started by Freddy Ruppert as a way for him to deal with the end of a relationship, the whole concept oozes catharsis, and in-turn immediately envelopes the listener in a thrilling and intriguing voyeurism – like seeing a couple arguing outside your house.

Employing a revolving personnel, with names including Nika Roza of Zola Jesus and Jamie Stewart from Xiu Xiu, Ruppert is constantly shifting the ground on which you stand – destabilising your premonitions and taking you on the ride with him. We caught up with him to find out more. 

Dazed Digital: Describe your sound...
Former Ghost: I feel like this is always a hard question for me to answer because when I think about what Former Ghosts is I always think of it as some form of pop music.  But maybe to a lot of people it doesn't sound like pop music.  I'm sure when my dad listens to it he doesn't automatically think of it as pop music.  But I would like to say or at least believe, even if blindly, that Former Ghosts manifests itself somewhere in the pop realm- even if it be on the very outside ring of pop music it depends on how one likes their pop music. 

DD: How did Former Ghosts begin?
Former Ghost: Former Ghosts originally just began as me posting songs to my personal blog.  There wasn't really any intention to make a specific project out of it or for the songs to be released on a record.  The songs originally were a way to directly communicate with someone when there weren't other forms of communication available so I would rush to create them and then post them up on my personal blog as soon as possible.  UK label Upset the Rhythm were aware of my previous project ‘This Song Is A Mess’ and heard these songs and wanted to release them and from there it became a full on project.   

DD: Why ‘New Love’?
Former Ghost: Last year Upset The Rhythm put out the first record: ‘Fleurs’.  And I feel like ‘New Love’ is still very much directly connected with that first record.  They explore similar themes but from very different places. Whereas ‘Fleurs’ was a very romantic record (although dreary) with moments of hope, ‘New Love’ I feel like is the direct response to that record and also the direct response to myself.  The failures of love and romance and relationships and how ones view of love is usually tarnished and how people carry such extraordinary amounts of damage when it comes to love and relationships and bring this into other relationships and this creates a form of New Love.  Also I would say my biggest obsession is with love and romance and I think this record is a really obsessive record down to the themes, the sounds and the layout.    

DD: Is it a purposeful decision to keep using collaborators whilst remaining the only constant in Former Ghosts? What’s the significance of this?
Former Ghost: I think it is a little bit of being a purposeful decision and also is a little bit due to circumstances.  I feel like Former Ghosts originally started out as just me and I do all the song writing and decide where it goes - so me remaining the only constant just feels natural and makes sense. I feel like if this changed and it became more of a set "band" with really set and defined members doing really set and defined things then it would no longer be Former Ghosts.  It would end up being something else.  Also everyone I have collaborated with so far is involved in another band that is their main focus.

So far on record- Jamie is involved with Xiu Xiu, Nika with Zola Jesus, Yasmine with Tearist.  Yet Former Ghosts is my main focus.  It doesn't make sense to have everyone be constant band members when everyone's schedules are so hectic.  I think working in this loose collaborative way benefits the project the most.  I'm looking forward to collaborating with new people on future releases as well. I think it is essential for Former Ghosts to remain a loose collective of people for it to continue working the way that it has.  

DD: Can you explain the idea behind the album artwork?
Former Ghost: The cover for the record was shot by Philippe De Sablet. He is a really amazing Los Angeles based photographer. The idea was to create a record cover that really expressed the whole theme of the record and also to create something overtly sexual. A lot of the record deals with the inability to move on and to continue to hold onto something with a possessive and jealous grasp. New love presents itself in many different forms.

And at the end of a relationship and a during a really heavy apocalyptic breakup how often are you still fucking a person that is now moving on with someone else and how much of previous relationships are overlapping with new relationships and how much hope is there that things will just work out and how much of a "shared space" is being created? This basic kind of post break up human nature - it disgusts me and really bothers me and is presented in an album cover that is also a little disgusting.    

DD: What’s next for you, and for Former Ghosts?
Former Ghost: I've started to sketch out and started to record and started to write for the third record. I mean, at least what I think will be the third Former Ghosts record.  So far all of the things for it are very different from ‘Fleurs’ and ‘New Love’ in a way that maybe it would make sense to release this record as something else - but I guess time will tell if it fits with a Former Ghosts record because my mind is still thinking in the same collaborative manner and with the same people and new people. Right now I am really obsessed with quiet and sparse and tense spaces that are heavily restrained with no release.

I am also interested in no beats or drum sounds and instead using just textures exclusively for the rhythms. I’m also interested in writing and recording a lot of the melodies and then erasing good portions of them and creating space for these kind of "ghost melodies". Trying to approach song writing different, using a lot of improvised live electronics, improvised guitar and acoustic bass, piecing these elements together into some kind of "song". I'm not sure how this will work yet or where it will lead to, but it is what I'm currently focusing on.