Ghosts and the ma­chine

Holy Ghost! was born out of the break-up of ma­jor-la­bel teenage hip-hop act Au­tomato. Alex Frankel tells Jim Car­roll about the joys of not be­ing on a ma­jor, how James Mur­phy got them to fol­low their disco hearts, and their first taste of remix re­jec­tion (

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Music -

shows were on a tour in the States with LCD Soundsys­tem, and that was eye-open­ing.

“We play nearly ev­ery­thing live on the record and there’s not many sam­ples.

“Nick is a drum­mer and I’m a piano player and we’ve played those in­stru­ments since we were lit­tle. When it came to trans­fer­ring that to a real live band, the only is­sue was that there were two of us and we needed more than four hands, so we had to get other mu­si­cians in. We’ve been play­ing in bands of all sorts, rock bands and hip-hop bands, in all kinds of venues since we were 13 or 14, so it’s sec­ond na­ture to us. If you’ve never done that, it could be tough.”

Even as Holy Ghost! be­come a live act, they haven’t spurned their trade as DJs and remix­ers. DJing still pays the bills. “We didn’t start the live band to make money, be­cause you ac­tu­ally lose money when you’re a live band at this stage. DJing brings in the money, and live mu­sic is where we lose that money.

“We’re do­ing less and less remixes be­cause we’re busy with the al­bum and the tour. They’re fun to do be­cause they de­mand dif­fer­ent skills to writ­ing our own ma­te­rial. With remixes, you’re re­ar­rang­ing and re­con­tex­tu­al­is­ing some­one else’s work and it’s a much dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Oc­ca­sion­ally, remixes serve to re­mind them what hap­pens when you start to work with a ma­jor la­bel. Last year, the duo remixed Love Get Out of My Way for a band called Monar­chy, turn­ing a hum­drum elec­tropop tune into an out­landish, won­der­ful disco stom­per. The only prob­lem was that Monar­chy’s la­bel, Mer­cury Records, re­jected the remix.

“We put in a ton of work in to that,” says Frankel. “We re­did the vo­cals, we rewrote the whole song, we spent weeks on it, we were re­ally proud of it. When we sent it in, it was re­jected. But when it started do­ing very well – af­ter it hit the in­ter­net – it was, of course, sud­denly ac­cepted. We went on Twit­ter about it af­ter it was re­jected, and we got a lot of sup­port, so maybe the la­bel thought it was mak­ing them look un­cool.

“The band are re­ally good guys and they wrote to us to say they loved the remix and didn’t have any prob­lems with it. But that’s the prob­lem of be­ing on a ma­jor: the mid­dle­man is tak­ing the de­ci­sions for you.

“When we do a remix we kind of ex­pect it that peo­ple know what they’re get­ting and not come back want­ing us to change things around. We’ll ac­cept crit­i­cism, sure – when we’re hired to do a remix, we know we’re do­ing a job. But that’s the only remix we’ve ever done that got re­jected.”

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