Ghost Circus- Interview with Chris Brown by Strutter
I had the chance to pick the musical brain of one half of the very talented duo that makes up Ghost Circus…Chris Brown, producer, guitarist, lead vocalist and I waxed poetic about the days of Echo and The Bunnymen, Love and Rockets and early Metallica and dipped into the pool of all things Ghost Circus. Their debut cd “Cycles” is undoubtedly one of the most novel and salubrious cd’s to come my way in some time. The first note catches you with a hook and you never want to wiggle yourself free. Ghost Circus has simultaneously accomplished a unique sound and quite a distinctive approach to Prog Rock and music in general. The feel is that something mind-blowing this way comes.
Quoting directly from their website…Ghost Circus “shatters all stereotypes of what many might think of progressive rock, ProgRock Records recording artists Ghost Circus comes forth with a sense of melody that literally redefines the genre.
Consisting of Chris Brown (located in Tennessee) and Ronald Wahle (located in The Netherlands), (yes you read that correctly) the duo formed in 2004 after years of performing various musical projects of their own. Having come together on a chance meeting, the worlds of their musical interests collided and Ghost Circus was born.
Ghost Circus’ Progressive Rock/AOR sound mixes the classic alternative of bands such as The Cure, The Smiths, and My Bloody Valentine along with the high melodic sensibility of Tears for Fears, U2, & Invisible Touch-era Genesis. But it does not end there, add the metal influence of classic Queensryche, the sophistication of Rush, and artistic vision of artists like Peter Gabriel, RPWL, and Neal Morse, and you have a sound that is melded in to something that can only be described as Ghost Circus’.”
So on a Friday night, Chris and I used up 90 minutes of cell phone time and talked about the how the why and the what of Ghost Circus.
Kim: Ok, first of all congrats on a great CD, I was very impressed and I had a first impression. The first track made me instantly think of the Cure..am I off base here or is that one of your influences?
Chris: Definitely! You listen to “Broken Glass” and it has that Cure sound all over it…they are a major influence along with Peter Murphy, Love and Rockets, Bauhaus, Depeche Mode, Echo and the Bunnymen, all combined with metal such as Queensryche and Metallica. In the past I had done some acoustic, solo instrumentals with thick, layered guitar tones. Ron has similar influences…alternative; plus prog-rock, but he has less of a metal influence.
Kim: Well that explains the meshing of the two worlds that I kept hearing throughout the cd. Not until after I listened to the CD did I check out the info and realize that the “band” is only two people…how did you overcome that and end up sounding like a four or five piece band?
Chris: Part of it is in the production, and part of it is in the way we approach our instruments. Ron and I wear a lot of hats during recording; he plays drums, guitar, and keys, while I handle multiple guitar parts, bass, and vocals, (and the occasional keyboard part). The real key is that we play each instrument from the perspective of that particular instrument. The best example I can give is when I play bass I think and play like a bassist, as opposed to thinking like a guitarist trying to play bass. That way of thinking really makes the biggest difference in how the final product comes across.
As for production, I do the bulk of that and I know how to mix these elements in a way that works. In my opinion the two best produced albums are ‘Disintegration’ by The Cure and ‘Hysteria’ by Def Leppard. And if I had to pick a number one it would be Mutt’s work on ‘Hysteria,’ in my opinion it set the standard for near flawless production. I always kind of hold that up as the standard I try to live up to.
Kim: I noticed that you have a few songs that break the 3-4min song, ready for radio based on length, barrier. I am assuming that means Ghost Circus is more interested in the creative process?
Chris: Yeah, we aren’t going after a certain demographic, we’re trying to catch where we’re going at that particular time. Prog Rock records have embraced this. It’s all about the song. Lyrically we talk about a lot of stuff others don’t want to talk about. “Mass Suggestions” is an anti-religion song about doing your own thing, what’s spiritual, what “it” is really about, “Trick of the Light” is about three different stages of someone’s life... we try to tell stories.
Kim: It’s interesting that there doesn’t seem to be a set formula like many of the more commercially successful bands have manufactured.
Chris: (laughing) Well, AC/DC made a career out of the same song, but they’re really good at that song!
Kim: What about touring? Any plans for you and Ron to be in the same country, on the same stage, soon?
Chris: Well I have toured solo and Ron has toured in the Netherlands, but right now we don’t have any scheduled dates. A “long” Prog tour is 15 dates.
Kim: What is it about the music industry that keeps you up at night?
Chris: What happens in the mainstream metal, prog world. There is so much music out there that deserves to be heard, the musicians deserve to make more than a living—the industry is set up on anything but music. Back in the ‘80’s it was “everything goes” which made for this wonderful environment. Now with the internet, it is fragmented. For example, Porcupine Tree and Opeth are still playing to limited audiences and they shouldn’t be. If you don‘t fit a niche market, the industry has deaf ears.
Kim: Reminds me of a band that is currently in heavy rotation in my CD player, Evergrey…I received their press kit and it got buried in my mail for a couple of months until I dug it out awhile ago… as big of a metal, rock fan as I am, somehow these guys managed to fly under my radar..and that bothered me.
Chris” Yes, Evergrey’s last four albums have been great. Ghost Circus walks a weird line with heavy metal and prog..so no one knows where to put us.
Kim: As a guitar player who has been your biggest influence?
Chris: Julian Swales, Joe Satriani, Michael Hedges… the list could go on.
Kim: And if you could be any guitar which one would you be?
Chris: An Ibenez Jem
Kim: Any other influences?
Chris: Steve Vai…he layers his music and it’s technical..music for music geeks. Steve is a composer and I think if you asked him what he does, he’d list that first.
Kim: What bands other than yours give you hot flashes?
Chris: Kitchens of Distinction, Devin Townsend, and Gojira, a French band, really stokes my gears.
Kim: So at the end of the day, what is your ultimate goal?
Chris: Well, obviously I’d love to tour the world, and be the band that legitimizes the scene on their own terms. It would be great if Prog Rock/Metal was legitimatized in the world.
Kim: Well, based on what I have heard Ghost Circus may be the band to do it…
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