Dosh and Ghostband Join Forces for Def Kith EP

Martin Dosh and Jon Davis

Martin Dosh and Jon Davis

Dosh and Ghostband with Mux Mool and Aby Wolf | 7th St. Entry | Saturday, December 6
Like-minded electronic artists Martin Dosh and Jon Davis (a.k.a. Ghostband) recently began collaborating as a duo, crafting textured soundscapes and performing powerful live shows that combine their individual talents into a unified whole. With Tuesday's release of the four-song EP Def Kith on Anticon Records, the duo bring together a string of ideas an influences with a specific intent to enliven the dance floor.

Gimme Noise sat down with Dosh and Ghostband to get some perspective on their process and how it compares to their work as solo performers.

How did the two of you start working together?

Dosh: I think we always thought about doing it over the years. We're both pretty solitary creators; we both enjoy exerting complete control over what we do individually. I've always had collaborators on my records and stuff, but this one is more straight up 50/50. We talk about how we're going to do a tune, work it through, and record it. It's quite a different process than I'm used to. Most of the time, my shit will take even a year or two to gestate and grow into a song, but this stuff is just sort of immediate. Just get all this stuff MIDI-synced together, figure out some cool keyboard patches, Jon gets cool beats going, I figure out what works with it, and just go from there. It's pretty easy. We were kind of at 128 [BPM].

Ghostband: 128, 133, that's like the two, in that zone. We found that to be sort of the comfortable, just a good tempo.

Dosh: We wanted to make dance music, but it wound up being weirder than we thought. 

How much of it did you work out ahead of time versus just letting what happened happen?

Ghostband: A lot of these were kind of one-take situations, man. I would come up with some beats and stuff, he would come up with ideas... We [would have a] session in his basement -- then I'd be like, okay, cool, and once we started kind of getting the sort of aesthetic going, I made up a lot of different parts, programmed out a bunch of stuff. We're kind of on our own coming up with our different parts, and we started to kind of see, would this work with that? Would that work, do you have something for this, do you have something for that? We kind of let it fly. So a day in the studio would be like, I'd come in with a beat, I'd say, "Do you have anything for this," he'd kind of throw down some keyboard stuff, say, "What if you did that, what if you did that," and we'd discuss it. But after a few hours, we'd be good to go.

Dosh: It was kind of insane outburst too. We basically did the four tunes, and then our whole plan initially was to do some shows in town and save up some dough and put out some vinyl on our own. On a lark, I just sent it to a few labels and Anticon was just like, "Holy crap, we've got to put this out." So that kind of changed the whole thing. They were talking about having us do more music.

Ghostband: They talked about doing a follow-up, so as soon as that was out there, we just kind of went nuts, man.

Dosh: We went back in the studio for four more days and knocked out basically another entire record. Done.

Is that the full-length you hinted at for 2015?

Ghostband: They're two different things, you know what I mean? I think we both like the newer stuff because it's more evolved, we've had time with this process. We went and did a Daytrotter before we really had worked out any of this stuff or recorded it, and it's weird because that versus what we have now...

Dosh: The Daytrotter, listening back to it, it's good but it's totally raw.

Ghostband: Yeah. It's rough, it's really rough.

Dosh: It's got Rhodes in it.

Ghostband: But it's cool, 'cause doing the shows though and getting kind of an aesthetic and a workflow from just playing a few shows before we really hit the studio I think was really good. I think when we went in there, went in the basement and started really recording in earnest, we knew why were there. We were good to go.

Dosh: Our business model, too, is genius in my estimation, for the simple fact that this entire process cost us zero dollars. It's like, I recorded all this stuff, I did pre-amps and all that stuff, bounce it down to two stereo tracks, live, like a live recording, Jon takes it home, mixes down those two tracks, masters them, and it's done. We didn't spend a dime. Anything coming back is like gravy. And it sounds great.

Ghostband: That aspect, for us slugging it out for years on our own, the DIY thing, basically both our projects, we do all our shit at home, so that side of it, the production side's easy. It's kind of what we do all the time. That's why it doesn't surprise me, being able to just crank out a bunch of stuff, because it's just what I do every day anyway. I'm always working, and I know Marty is too, when he's home. I just think it's one of those things, man, if you're in shape, you play a good game. We're in shape, we're ready to do it. That's also how I feel about the live stuff. We just did this tour with My Brightest Diamond, opening slot with those guys for like eight shows, sort of a Midwestern thing...

Dosh: It was sweet.

Ghostband: It was fun, and it was cool to take this stuff and open it up. 

Dosh: Both of us have so much fun when we're playing, too, that it totally rubbed off on them. It was just a cool vibe. Our music is totally different from their stuff, but in some respects, the joy behind it is similar. And so those guys would just get pumped up every night watching us have a good time. Some of them were theater crowds, like sit down demographic, some of them were bar crowd, medium-sized 400 Bar stuff...

Ghostband: So I'd go out and try to crack some jokes with people, especially with what would seem like the stiff audience, just to see what the response was. A few shows I'd go out on the floor and dance with people if people weren't moving, just to kind of engage them. We actually had an amazing response. I think her crowd is very open-minded, so it was cool to go out there. One of the aspects that I like about this group is that we have the capacity to improvise. It's all hardware, no computers or anything. We're not like, just going along to tracks we set up. It's stuff that we programmed, but within the program, we have all these variables that we can explore. That helps, just being able to go with the situation, listen to each other, go off each other.

Dosh: I run my Dr. Groove drum machine, I'm running it through a little tiny Squire speaker, and so it just sounds like absolute crap, but it makes the drum machine just sound totally boss.

Ghostband: Dog shit breaks, man.

What's the biggest difference between playing live as a duo and as solo performers?

Ghostband: You get the extra pair of hands that you need when playing solo [laughs].

Dosh: I think it's totally different. I think both me and Jon are a little bit ADD, as far as playing live. I have a tendency to not let things breathe a lot. That's one of those things that Mike Lewis is always telling me, like, "Dude, every one of your tunes could be ten minutes long. You don't have to make it all into three minutes." I'm always just worried about arranging. I think we easily (or I do) get bored with what's happening in the loop-based environment; I want to move on to the next thing. I think with this, it's really cool, Jon's sort of encouraging me, we sort of decided these were going to be really long-form...

Ghostband: I don't think we decided, it just kind of naturally played out that way.

Dosh: But no, we talked about it too.

Ghostband: My average Ghostband track is probably like ten minutes long. But within that, there's a lot of movement and variation. I definitely concentrate on longer forms and bigger intervals, but there's a lot of movement. Trying to keep things developing and changing and moving, hearing it as a track. I think this is an interesting point though, because I think from being solo performers, when you're performing solo, there is this sort of awareness, maybe an over-awareness, of the audience, a concern for like, "Oh, I'm losing these people," or "I'm wasting their time," and so time starts to feel really... Your perception of time of a part, you're like, they're gonna be tired of this after 30 seconds. but when you listen to music at home, especially electronic music...

Dosh: That's how it works.

Ghostband: realize that each part in electronic music could go on for two minutes and it's the same thing, and you're listening to it and you're digging it. Obviously most really good hip-hop bets are like one loop or one thing that just sounds good...

Dosh: DJ Premier, man. Four bar loops.

Ghostband: I think it's that sort of thing. Obviously if you listen to a lot of techno or IDM and stuff, it's all about subtle changes. It's not about these huge sweeping changes, it's about these little subtleties. I think that's important, to sort of see things, these subtleties in a linear context, which at least on my end, with this project, is something that I really tried to work on. 

Dosh: I think playing with Jon is really fun because we kind of lift each other up. We're just having a lot of fun. It's enjoyable.

Ghostband: We can do whatever we want, basically. If we just decided to take like a left turn and never come back...

Dosh: That happens sometimes too, we'll completely deconstruct a tune and take it out to left field for like ten minutes.

There are lots of ideas at play, but it's kind of minimal at the same time. How do you combine styles with each other but maintain a solid groove?

Dosh: It's just kind of intuitive. It's all based on years of listening to music, electronic music. For me, it's totally intuitive.

Ghostband: For me, a lot of my stuff is just from going out dancing to electronic music. Listening to music and dancing, and knowing what I wanna feel. When you're dancing, you want to be engaged with the music. It's sort of like two levels. You want to be engaged mentally, but you want to be engaged physically, at least I do. I could just dance to anything, but you know what I mean. When you have that stuff going on, it's nice, so when we're flowing, it is the sort of thing that makes you think, how will this be compelling?

Dosh: We're primarily influenced by Medeski, Martin and Wood. That's our main influence.

Ghostband: It is, in a sense. When we first met and started playing music and bonded, it was over stuff like that. It was over the Meters, Medeski, Martin & Wood, Headhunters, and I think that, to this day is still there, for both of us. The groove mentality is there, it's just translated more into electronic music. Sort of the aesthetic of an organic, warm electronic music that people can groove out to, or you just kind of headtrip on, or whatever. Because that's the kind of shit I wanna listen to. Ultimately you always making the kind of music you want to listen to.

Dosh: Pretty much. Def Kith, bro.

Do you think people intellectualize the music, like dissecting it mentally as they're watching it?

Ghostband: Of course.

Where do you think that stems from? Is there something about your approach that makes people intellectualize it?

Ghostband: I personally think that electronic music does have a history of certain characters like Aphex Twin or Squarepusher who project this sort of evil genius kind of vibe, like "I'm so smart and my music's very complex," like Venetian Snares, that invites intellectualism on a certain level. But at the same time, I do think, personally, all music, even if it's like free jazz, which people tend to also intellectualize, or the stuff Coloring Time does, people will intellectualize it because it's not just drivel. They're gonna do whatever they do with it, but I think if you're feeling it while you're doing it, again, it's sort of a self-evident sort of thing.

Dosh: I can speak to that too, because that's sort of been an issue that I've had -- not an issue, it's not a bad issue -- that's one of those things that's been the thing with me, doing all my solo stuff. People are always coming up before the show, after the show, looking at my rig, trying to understand what I'm doing, like "How did you do that?" That kind of thing. Me and Mike did that video in 2008 in my basement, and it was like, people didn't believe that it was actually done. "You like lip-synced that, that's bullshit." It's like, we played that. That's not bullshit. This is how we did it. Two loop pedals, I got this, I got this, this is how we do it. people try to wrap their heads around it. 

Ghostband: I wouldn't use "intellectualize" in a pejorative sense, either, musically, because all of my musical heroes, people like Anthony Braxton or any of these people, [they] intellectualized their process. I saw Anthony Braxton play at Yoshi's in Oakland in '98, something like that, and those guys were all in, man. It's emotional, it's physical, it's all this stuff. People have this simplistic idea that if something becomes intellectual, all of a sudden it's cold. I've always been exhilarated by having the experience and understanding the experience. The more I understand the experience, the more I enjoy it. I saw Pole perform once -- one of my favorites, man -- and I stood like me to you the whole time, watching him do his thing. Knowing those sort of things and trying to gleam whatever you can from the masters, the people you respect and admire, I think is an awesome thing. I think that you can intellectualize something and feel it and enjoy it, because ultimately it's about enjoying things. I'm not talking about translating things into numbers, I'm kind of saying that you can be aware of what's going on and be inquisitive.

Dosh: I'm in total agreement.

Ghostband: One of the first things we established, which was a different thing for both of us, was, everything is gonna be four-on-the-floor. These are going to be danceable beats, and that's going to be the anchor to this. There's a lot of programming and a lot of intellect involved in creating this stuff, but it's all anchored to that dance aesthetic, and I think that's why it's so much fun for both of us. It's sort of like, we got nothing to prove, man. I'd say it's dance music that overachieves, rather than IDM that fails, in terms of being complex.

Dosh: It's definitely some weirdo shit, too. It's unique.

Catch Dosh and Ghostband for the Def Kith record release show at 7th St. Entry, with Mux Mool and Aby Wolf, Saturday, December 6. $8/$10, 11 p.m., 18+.


The 10 Most Underrated Guitarists in the History of Rock
The Best New Minnesota Musicians of 2014
53 things you might not know about Prince
73 things you might not know about Bob Dylan