Interview: The Ghost Riders In The Sky
I caught up with Gillian and very injured husband, Steph Carter from The Ghost Riders in the Sky on their UK tour. We had a chat about how to win at the music industry as an independent band, life after Gallows and breaking into people’s homes…
You recently crowd funded your debut album, how did you find that?
Steph: The only reason we did it is because I don’t want somebody owning my music anymore. I want to own it. The last band I was in [punk behemoths Gallows] Warner Brothers own those records until I am 71, what the fuck am I going to do with those when I am 71?
Steph: Maybe, if I make it that long? I just feel there are so many new ways for young bands to make money and they don’t really understand how the industry works. It was the best thing for us to do as it put us out to a completely new audience while at the same time we have complete creative control over everything we do. I don’t have to worry about somebody doing something with it that I don’t like. If an opportunity arises and I don’t like it I can just say no.
Gillian: There is a lot of freedom in it.
Do you ever miss the safety net of a label?
Steph: Nah I don’t miss the security because I don’t think there is one. I think they are willing and ready to drop you as soon as the opportunity arises. I miss having a savings account. We have been a band for a while, but if you put in chronological order how long we have been functioning it’s not been that long.
Gillian: Maybe a year?
Steph: The band has been stop start stop start for a long time, so when you’re funding a project that is taking all of your time, it’s hard to keep the momentum going. Since the album has been out the reception has been great, things are picking up. We have a new member now [Jay Houlihan] after we parted ways with our old guitarist/vocalist and he is wicked. He’s a great player, great banter on stage, it’s great.
Gillian: It’s the new Ghost Riders.
Do you ever miss the intensity of Gallows? Or do you still like the melodic life, over smashing people in the head with your guitar?
Steph: Yeah I do miss it, but to be totally honest with you my body can’t hack it anymore. Today is living proof. [Steph currently has a back injury involving a herniated disk.] I am still trying to fix and get over injuries I sustained 10 years ago.
Gillian: It’s like anything else, you live somewhere for a while and you move away and there is always going to be a part of you that misses that.
Steph: You go back for a holiday every now and then but it doesn’t mean anything more.
You have been débuting some new tracks on this tour that have been going down great. They sound a bit heavier, what are the influences?
Steph: I’ve gone from listening to loads of Johnny Cash to loads of Black Sabbath. The new album is going to be Ghost Riders meets riffs.
Gillian: I think that’s what I have always wanted and now being the lead vocalist, and taking over that role and making more decisions I definitely want to go darker and heavier. I do love a good riff.
Steph: I get to play with stupidly crazy guitar pedals now it’s awesome.
Gillian: I think that’s what has made the transition easier, we have replaced some of the old intensity in some ways with new heavy stuff in another.
Steph: It’s gonna be interesting, where it’s going to go I have no idea.
Any release date in mind?
Gillian: We have been speaking about it a lot, I’ve been trying my best to get a date to make it work. The problem is I have never been in a band while having a full time job. I am actually finding it way more difficult than I thought it would be. I’m trying to manage the band, up until recently I was booking the band so that makes it easier. I would like to put it out early next year but I want it to be right.
Steph: We’re gunna do it in a different way, the first one took forever to make, because I recorded the music while Gillian was in America. Thinking “if I get this done now, in a few weeks it will be finished.” Those weeks turned into months, so for me I am still writing parts for that record. The other day in rehearsal I wrote loads of violin parts that we’re never going to fucking use but that’s the problem I have. When producing other people I know when enough is enough for them, I can’t tell for me. I have so many ideas, I could write parts for every instrument that exists and it still wouldn’t be enough, that’s where Gillian is really good, she’s the stop point.
Plans for rest of the year?
Steph: We’re going on tour with The Computers, we’re playing a bunch of festivals this summer like 2000 Trees, Camden Rocks and more that we have to wait to announce. Possibly another tour in October, but the problem we have with October is it’s mine and Gillian’s wedding anniversary in that half term and to be honest I would love to spend it doing fuck all. Last year we spent it in Birmingham… Birmingham. I watched a man try to break into a cash machine at 1 am with a crowbar…
Gillian: All great memories though.
Steph: Definitely a memory I thought our old guitarist was going to get arrested for, throwing a bottle of champagne over a fence and into a street… but you know.
Seems the punk spirt follows you around…
Steph: I just can’t fucking get away from it. I was in that heavy punk band for such a long time, and I had a few fights and did some silly things, but I never broke into anyone’s house at 3am in the morning. I start a fucking indie rock band and I am breaking into someone’s house through a cat flap with a stick… I mean he said it was okay, we were supposed to stay there but he gave us the wrong key. So… I am wedging this cat flap open in the middle of pleasantville Scotland when all of the neighbours’ flood lights come on, while I am breaking into some guy’s house. I am just waiting to get arrested and my wife to be deported. No matter how hard I try, this stuff just follows me around.
Gillian: Just before that… we played in a crack den.
Steph: Yeah we played in Inverness, there were two fellas in there that were so pissed it was unreal.
Gillian: At 4 in the afternoon.
Steph: With a pissed one eyed dog… I’ve seen some weird things.
What advice would you give new young bands taking the next step?
Steph: Find people who can help that you trust.
Gillian: It’s not always easy.
Steph: You don’t need a manager until you literally can’t manage yourself, you do need a booking agent. That helps and they become your best friend. Sack off the record companies because they’re all cunts. Go for a publishing company ’cause that is where the money is and you want to be going for a sync deal. That’s where a publisher takes your music and syncs it to things like visual media, TV, adverts visual media, cinema and basically it benefits everybody. The bottom line is don’t compromise. If you want to do it, fucking do it, don’t listen to anyone else.
Ghost Riders In The Sky’s debut album The Death of Everything New is out now!
Words: Lewis Budden