INTERVIEW: Ghostpoet | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Obar Ejimiwe is covered “head to toe in dust”. In the background of our phone call, I can hear saws, clanging metal, and people hard at work. Not exactly where you’d expect to find a twice Mercury Ptize-nominated artist, celebrating the release of his fourth studio album, but for Ejimiwe – or Ghostpoet to you and I – this building site is his new pride and joy. After recently upping sticks and moving to Margate, he and his wife Kate are launching Radio Margate, a café, bar, and online broadcasting platform.

The idea started back in London, but it was the move to the seaside that prompted the venture. “I’d done bits and bobs on the radio in the past but there was nothing really here, so I thought I’d just give it a go” he explains. “We want to build a community; a space for music lovers and DJs.” Looking at their Kickstarter page, they’ve got their work cut out: the plans show a large café space, with a stage area, and a glass booth to house the radio station. “It’s a little bigger than we first thought,” he admits, “but radio stations can be secluded places, and there’s something special about being able to see the sea while you record a show.”

Releasing a fourth album must have been pretty special too, but it seems as though age and wisdom have made the process a little simpler this time round. Dark Days and Canape came out at the end of August and, by all accounts, the process was “relatively painless”, the subject matter however, a little less so. If you take a moment to flick through any reviews of the album, you’ll be hard pushed to find one that doesn’t describe the tracks such as “Immigrant Boogie” and “Freakshow” as ‘bleak’, though don’t let that put you off. It’s no surprise then, that the album is smattered with political commentary; “I wanted to adequately capture the time we’re living in. I spoke to someone about the album recently and they said it made them feel uncomfortable. Obviously that’s not exactly how I want people to feel when they listen to my music, but it’s not offensive. It’s about how you interact with the world, we’re living in unsettling times.”

It’s about how you interact with the world, we’re living in unsettling times

Ejimiwe isn’t alone in his openness on the subject of the refugee crisis: artists such asNadine Shah, Paul Smith and Kate Tempest have all released albums in the last few months addressing their fury, particularly at the overwhelming callous response from UK politicians and media. With so much political unrest, and such frequent humanitarian atrocities across the globe, I’m interested in what it took to finally cause Ejimiwe to put pen to paper. “I’m sure some article somewhere would’ve got my attention, but we’re just at the point where it’s affecting everyone, we can’t ignore this any more. People are drowning in the Mediterranean, but the latest smartphone release is front-page news, it’s not right” he says. I mention that people often bury their heads in the sand, rather than delve deeper into difficult subjects, and he’s a little dismissive. “I’m not Billy Bragg,” he responds, but he is a contributing his voice to a collective of people taking a stand against social injustice, and that can only be a positive thing.

The writing process apparently came quite easily, too. “I’m not sure if it’s to do with age, but I’m more comfortable now, you know?” Ejimiwe says, “I take my time and make the music I want to make”. The music he wants to make of course, includes social commentary, our use of Tinder and social media, and how “materialistic we have all become.”

The album took little more than three months to reach completion, helped along by the talented producer and guitarist Leo Abrahams. Known for his work with Brian Eno, Jarvis Cocker and Jon Hopkins, Abrahams is a “great guy to work with” and partly responsible for the development of a more alt-rock sound. “There’s been a lot less talking and a lot more doing this time”, he says, regarding experimentation on the tracks. “Messing around” on guitars has resulted in a fuller sound, along with the occasional piano progression, string players’ improvisation through to a full gospel choir.

With a slightly different sound, comes a new band currently rehearsing for an upcoming tour. If trying to open a bar, programme a radio station and promote a new album isn’t already filling his diary, three and a half weeks of live shows should do the job. On Lauren Laverne’s BBC Radio 6 Music show a few weeks back, she asked whether Ejimiwe was prepared for life on tour. Is he any closer now? “Not at all,” he laughs, “Physically, no. I spent a good two months just living off fish and chips when I moved to Margate, but I had to put a stop to that. I need to do something, really”. I ask what those of us heading along to his Newcastle show can expect; will the production be any different? “Same old, but it’ll be good vibes. I’m really grateful to anyone who takes time out of their day to listen to the album, and I want to make it the best show possible. I’m looking forward to playing a new venue, too.”

Ghostpoet plays Riverside on Thursday 26th October. Dark Days and Canapés is out now on Play It Again Sam.  To help Radio Margate reach their target, donate to their Kickstarter here

 

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