UK Hip Hop: International

Ghost's chin
Ghost in the mirror
Hi, can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about where you are from? Somewhere in London isn't it? What is your name about? Are you a shadowy figure that is rarely seen or is there something else behind it? 

Alright how you doing, I'm ghost, I make music, I do a radio show on London's Finest Itch 105.15fm, called the "Midweek Session", every Weds 20.00 - 22.00, (plug plug), I DJ as well, and I hold down a full time job to put food on the table. Well I was born in Glasgow; Grew up in Norwich, Then came to London via Derby and Manchester, now residing in Shepherds Bush. Am I a shadowy figure? Well it's basically like this, I'm not always the easiest person to find! 

How old are you? 

I'm 28 years young now.

So you've been into Hip Hop for quite a few years, what was it that made you turn to Hip Hop? What would you bump in your walkman? 

Well specifically I can't remember, but I remember my dad had a great collection of music, like Grandmaster Flash, Malcolm Mclaren and Public Enemy amongst other's, and I was hearing that stuff from a young age, and then I remember just hearing stuff at people's houses, and at that time in our lives, we as people growing up are always looking for something to define us as individuals, I never wanted to like what other people liked, and most people around me didn't like or weren't aware of Hip Hop. And I just vibed off of it. I really felt at home with it, I was about 14/15 when I really became in love with the scene. At that time, I would be bumping Lakim Shabazz "Pure Righteousness", most Public Enemy and BDP, and some Eric B and Rakim.

Can you remember the things that were going off Hip Hop wise in your area at that time? 

Some of it yeah, I have an extremely bad memory, so I don't remember too much, but I remember we used to have some heavy gigs in Norwich. Prolly from about 1990 I remember seeing BDP, Tribe, London Posse, Ice T, Lord Finesse, Hijack, who I supported with my first Group, Blade, De La, errrr. I can't remember anymore, damn I need a camera. And of course Def Tex, who've been representing for as long as I can remember. The scene was buzzing for a few years, it was a small scene, but it was good.

Were there any particular DJs/Producer's who inspired you, or whom you based your style on? 

Well I try not to base my style around anyone else, but producer's who had an effect on me with what they were doing, it'd have to be Diamond D, Pete Rock, Primo, Buckwild, Lord Finesse, other people have certainly had an impact on me but these guys made for me were very inspirational.

OK, so to give a bigger perspective are you affiliated with any MCs or are you part of a larger crew or collective? 

Well I'm running with the reformed Intelligent Madness Crew, and doing some stuff with Kashmere. Breakin Bread crew I've known for a long time. I'm just trying to link with as many people as possible to be honest; it's a big world out there. I'm also trying to hook up something special with regards to a collective of producer's and emcees, but you know Hip Hop, you'll have to watch this space…..

I get the impression that you are one of these DJs that is like a producer as well? Is that right? 

Sort of yeah, although I consider myself much more of a producer than a DJ. I've always felt much more at home behind my music equipment than my decks.

I know you have done quite a few remixes, and you had one featured in a BBC competition. It won by an absolute mile didn't it? That must have given you a load of satisfaction. Tell us about this side of your work… 

People don't realise I've been floating the odd cheeky remix about since 1995. Even before that infact I'd do stuff. My first group was called "Products of the Entity", we did a gig with Hijack in about 1992, and worked on a few things, but we all went our separate ways. Only in the last couple of years have things picked up, and that has a lot to do with moving to London. Yeah I did a remix of Jehst/J Zone "Staircase 11 Stage", sent it to 1xtra, and it won some competition. I was pleased cause from time to time you need a boost just to remind yourself you have the skills. So thanks to all my people who voted! It's hard breaking into the scene, for me it's like I've been knocking for a while now, and someone just noticed I'm stood at the door. But I love doing the odd remix, watch out for me at the jams handing them out…..

What else have you done in terms of production work so far? Do you have any wax out? 

Well I've done a lot of production over the years, and I've never had anything out as yet, it really pisses me off actually, I've been close a couple of times, but it's fallen through due to finances usually. These last couple of years I've been working very hard to come with some quality, I don't wanna put out stuff I consider to be just OK, I like to try and elevate my music with each remix, or track I do, it has to be better than the last one. I wouldn't want to become stale with regards to the music. So it's like I've been working towards this year, and it's here now, and things are moving nicely. To be honest I do have belief in myself, and I'm not going to rush things anymore. Originally I just wanted to release, now I wanna take my time and come with some quality. 

Right, so you do have plans for an EP. Can you tell us about that? Who are the MCs you have got dropping niceness on there? What is it like? Describe the way the tracks have come together… 

I'm hoping to have the "Ghost Stories" EP out by the middle of the year, as well as maybe another 12" or two. The EP will hopefully be coming out on a respectable UK independent label. We've been discussing stuff for a while now; I should be recording it in Feb hopefully. Just trying to organize, these things take time! Erm I don't wanna give too much away to be honest, but it's got people on there with a wide range of styles, kinda like my production. Ok, don't say anything to anybody else but Kashmere, Verb T, Asaviour, DPF, and somebody else who I'm trying to confirm. This is what I'm hoping anyway, they've all chosen tracks, and said they wanna do it. 

Are you signed to a label or looking for a deal or what? 

No I'm not signed, as I said the EP is being put out for me, I am looking though for labels to work with, getting a deal is not the be all and end all, but it would help. I wanna reach outside of the UK, that's a must for me. And I don't have the time or money to be putting my own tunes out right now. So I really gotta try getting a good label who will be happy with what I wanna do long term.

OK, what equipment are you currently using and more importantly, how do you use it? Talk us through how you would go about making a beat… 

Well in the last year I decided to sell my old Akai S2000, and got an MPC2000XL, that's my heart. I love that machine already, it's made the difference for me. I also use my Computer to do basic mixing down. I have some synths but they're not mine. 

With regards to making a tune, it changes everytime I do one! Most of the time though it's how I'm feeling at the time of sitting in front of the MPC, that will determine the feeling behind the track. Generally though, I'll do the beat last, don't know why, always have done. But again it depends how I'm feeling. It's a strange thing making tunes, that jehst remix was finished in an evening, sometimes it takes a month to finish a tune. I also think the environment of your immediate surrounding can affect your music. 

What bit of kit do you always seem to be thinking, if only I had one of those… 

Errrr, well pro tools would be nice! I'd love to be able to have space to record at home. Oh, then again an automated analogue desk would be nice too, then again……see people will never be happy with what they have, they'll always find something else they want!

Lets now talk about you as a DJ. Did you always know you were going to be a DJ, or did it take a while for you to decide or build up to it? 

Well it was a natural thing to do for me, if I get into something generally, I'll wanna be pro-active with it, I listen to music, ok, I'm gonna DJ then. The only thing I had to contend with was getting something to mix on!

So, when would it have been, that you started spinning records? Did you start as strictly a bedroom DJ? 

Yeah, I started spinning in 91; really it was doing mixtapes for my mates to listen to when we were smoking.

What set up did you start out with? 

Haha, it was a joke. My dad had some proper old school turntable, I swear it had it's own suspension on it, but it had vari-speed, and I bought another vari-speed from a second hand shop for about a tenner. My first mixer I swapped for some herbs, about £10 it worked out at, Keeping it real!

Would you agree that starting out on shitty equipment would help a budding DJ learn light touch and stand them in good stead for the future, or would you recommend that they just get on a pro set up from day one? 

Well I think it's good to appreciate having a shit set up, you get to learn how to blend tunes, that's a good thing. But I'd of preferred to have started on technics.

So in the time you've been doing this have you had many different set ups or did you quickly settle on what you liked? Was it a money issue? 

It's always been a money issue, I'd blag, afford what I could, and generally it was usually not very good. I'm settled now, it's taken me years though, so I have a lot of respect for my equipment, just ask my wife!

And now I suppose you are using the standard Technics 1210s and a Vestax 05 or 07? So you do anything special to your set up, like have it hamster style, or do something funny with the cartridges in the head shells? 

Nah nothing special, the 1210's and the 06. 

Do you ever regret choosing to be a DJ 'cos it is defiantly going to eat all your money, what with constantly buying records and all the equipment you have to buy? 

I regretted getting addicted buying vinyl! Haha, no I love music, it's not a problem. At least now I get sent more vinyl through the post, eases up on the spending a little. 

Ok, so how would you best describe your style? Do you edge towards a particular style of scratching/cutting or mixing, or would you say that you don't specialise and try to cover everything? 

I like to keep it simple, in all honesty people haven't heard what I can do too much, that'll be changing soon though, I plan to get some more gigs, and release a couple mix CD's, one just me and the other with 563 of Yoga for Health fame, that's gonna be a dope mix. But I like to just mix it up, drop some nice cuts, blend the music together.

Have you invented/discovered any scratches or special techniques of your own that you have or expect to be credited with? I know when I was DJing I invented everything I did for myself, but someone had already got there first!! 

Haha, nah, although I'd say some production I do is something no one else does.

You are one of the DJ's on London's Itch FM. How did you come to be playing on there then? 

Well I have to thank Disorda for getting me on there. I went on his Suspect Packages show, helped out and stuff, then he asked me to cover one week when he was away, so I covered a few times, and when the were expanding they asked if I was interested in doing a show, I jumped at the chance.

Ghost at Shepherds Bush
Ghost at Shepherds Bush
Can you tell us a bit about the station and the set up there? Who are the DJs, when are they on and what do they play (Don't just say Hip Hop!)? 

Well we are dedicated to playing hip hop of all genres, so you get right through from independent to commercial styles. As far as the DJ's are concerned, we have lots up on there, some more famous than other's, but at the end of the day we're all in it together, so I'll just big up all the DJ's. Set up wise we have 1210's and an 06.

Tell us about your show, what can listeners expect? 

On my show what can listeners expect!??? Musically they can expect lots of UK Hip Hop, I play normally about 70% UK, cause there's a lot of good tunes out there, the rest I generally split between independent US, Classic Tunes UK or US, and demo stuff. Outside of the music, I really try getting the listener's involved in the show, I'll nearly always have a topic running throughout the show, usually Hip Hop related. That way they can feel they are part of what I'm doing, and really I'm doing it for them. I really love doing the radio, I have been known to go on a bit, talk too much, but I'm just trying to reach as many people as possible, it's normally light-hearted, so people aren't afraid to drop a comment to me, I normally encourage any comment's. I've had people tell me to shut up before, that's what I mean, it's all about opinions, I know they have opinions, my job is to make them say them.

It has been a bit up and down recently, hopefully it can be up more regularly, are there any plans to get some sort of license, or with the dope new website might there be streams on the web? 

Yeah it's been irregular at times, we work hard to make sure it's on as often as possible. Licence's I don't know what the deal is there, but the web stream is slowly getting sorted, watch the website for details…

Do you have any idea of how many people might be listening? I don't know how you would measure that...

I've go no idea! 2 or 3, haha, well to my show anyway. Nah, a lot of people know of the station, for me I get the impression people who tune in know what to expect of me now, cause I don't get people phoning/texting for music I don't play anymore.

Do you know how far the signal goes? I live in Dalston and it is sometimes pretty rubbish even there. 

Well I've had text messages from Guilford and Woking! Maybe the wind was helping, but on a good day, it travels quite far.

Would you agree that perhaps the UK punches above its weight in terms of numbers of world class DJs for the size of the population? Why do you think that is? 

Cause it's fashionable over here, it's seen as cool, so it attracts more people.

Who should we be on the look out for? What DJ that no-one has heard of yet do you think will be the next one to break through, or come with something original? 

Well DJ IQ people should watch out for him, he's got skills.

So we know you can Scratch and get busy on the quick mix, but can you rock a crowd for an extended period? Do you play out at any club nights on the regular, and if you do what can people expect and where are they? 

I used to play out a lot up until 2 or 3 years back, then I wanted to concentrate on the production, but I'm gonna get back out playing this year, what can they expect if they come see me playing out, they can expect however long my set is of dope tunes. 

What records are ever-present in your record box, ones that you know people will appreciate, they are guaranteed to do the job on the dancefloor? 

Original Flavour "can I get open" / LOTGU "chief Rocka" / EPMD "Headbanger" / Pete Rock and CL "TROY" 

Did you ever imagine that you would take it to the levels you have? Being on the radio is certainly going to get your name out there. Maybe you aren't recognised on the streets, but increasingly people in Hip Hop will be starting to have heard of you and some of your accomplishments. 

Well I hope they appreciate and like what I do, I've been working hard at it for a number of years now, and it's good to feel like your doing something constructive. If people like a tune, and it touches them in a good way, I'm a happy Ghost. Same with playing out, if you in charge of people having a good time, I feel good.

Have you found that people are generally helpful and want to help you out, or is it more of a struggle getting over? 

I've found it's a struggle. But I love making music, and the only time I'm gonna stop doing what I'm doing is if I stop enjoying it. Certainly it gets you down from time to time when no one is taking notice, but I use it as an incentive to show all the people who fronted on me, that they were wrong. Some people do take time out to give you help, and that's what the scene needs more of, we all gotta help each other.

Everyone and their Dog seems to be some sort of DJ/Producer these days. Would you have any advice for people looking to do this, (apart from don't of course!)? Is there anywhere people can go to learn all about this stuff, or do they simply have to teach themselves? Would watching videos help, or should you develop your own styles? 

Just do there own thing, you can see what other people do and then give it your own style and technique. And hard work, if your gonna do it, put in the effort and people will respect that too.

Where do you like to pick up your vinyl? Do you have a special shop that you frequent because it has good service or a special selection, do you shop around all over, or are you lucky enough to get it all sent directly to you? 

Well I like to shop in bongo's cause they're all a top bunch of geezer's, aside from that I tend to shop around, I'll hit all the London spots, as for getting stuff sent, it's a very strange thing! What normally happens is I get all the commercial shit Hip Hop, of which I play about 5%, and hardly any UK labels send me anything, even though the chances are they'll get a lot more play outta me than the people they're sending it to! It's a strange situation, one I don't understand, still.

Have you ever tried to DJ on those CD mixers? Or mp3 mixers? What do you make of that? Do you think that it is just something different and another tool to use? Or, like me, do you think that for now they just don't really work and to keep it real you still need to be using records? 

Haha, well I think I'd prefer just keeping it real, I like the involvement of turntables, it's much more personal playing with your vinyl.

Although it isn't such a fear as it was 10 years ago, do you ever worry about the future availability of vinyl, or new releases at least? 

I don't really, and I didn't back then. I think for the duration of my lifetime there will always be vinyl, and I'll keep buying it until then. And I'm gonna make sure my kids are vinyl addicts too!

Ghost on the Tube
Ghost close up
We heard about your remix on the BBC and your radio show, but where can people hear your stuff, especially outside London? 

Well my website is getting done so watch out for that, musicforheads.com that's basically gonna have playlists from the show, exclusive beats, just general news and stuff, and I do send out tapes from the show which you'll be able to do if you contact me @ ghostonitch@hotmail they're free, until I get a shit load of order's anyway! 

What do you make of the internet and what it can do for little known crews? Are you a technical bod, and are you gonna do your own website? 

The net is great no doubt about it, for me I see it as an opportunity to reach people all over the world, that's not a bad thing. I'm fairly technical, but it's time constraints that hold me back, I'm getting someone to do the site for me, then I can learn how to update it and eventually maintain it altogether.

What is going to be keeping you busy over the next few months? 

Finishing the EP, starting the new project, trying to work on both mixtapes, and my wife!

What are your plans for the longer term? 

My main goal is to live off of the music, in an ideal world that's what I'd be doing, aside from that it's just a case of keep doing the music and linking with people. I'd like to get out of the country and work with some emcee's in other countries to do music at some point. 

I ask everyone about politics, because I think it is important that we have knowledge of what is going on, and it used to be the case that most Hip Hop heads would decline to answer, but awareness seems to be getting a bit better now. I guess they don't want to upset anyone. Do you have anything to say on that? Any issues you think people need to open their eyes too? 

Haha, oh yeah. But I haven't got enough page space. The Israel and Palestine situation really interests me; it's like a game of chess. That's a situation that really needs to be sorted out. For me it's really a case of common sense issues. Most of us know what's wrong and what's right.

Is there anything else you would like to mention? 

Make sure you get the "Ghost Stories" EP.

Is there anyone else you would like to mention? 

Yeah I'd like to shout a few people who have helped me along the way, you should never overlook their contributions. My wife for supporting me with what I'm doing. Disorda for the hook up's, much props, Tuf Kut again much props, 563, Oliver Twist (IMC), Itch fm Management, and big shout to all the Itch fm family, Kashmere for being a dope emcee and the Breakin Bread crew. I just wanna say nice one to all the people who have taken time to read this, if you believe in what your're doing don't ever stop doing it. 

Ghost Thank you very much for finding the time to let the readers know a bit more about yourself. Best wishes and good luck for the future.

Visit Ghost on the web: www.musicforheads.com :: Email: ghostonitch@hotmail

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