Ghostband redefines electronica with a new album


Desolations may sound like the landscape during a Minnesota winter, but in actuality it's the name of Minneapolis electronic musician Jon Davis, a.k.a. Ghostband's, new album. Influenced by Coltrane, Sun Ra, Ayler, and Hendrix, Ghostband leaves out the lyrics in his music, but not the imagery. Desolations is tactile and tempting, while dreamingly dark and confidingly clever.  

Gimme Noise spoke with the musician before his show tonight at the Entry.

Gimme Noise: How would you describe Ghostband's music?

Jon Davis: Stream of consciousness electronic improvisation or something thereabouts. 

What are you imagining when writing, and what was the writing process like on the new album? 

I rarely have any definite idea of what a piece will sound like when I being working, but I'm definitely in some frame of mind or other and I will to produce music. As in any improvisation, the improviser has been preparing for years to execute the task of spontaneous composition at any given time. Making music, particulary Ghostband music, is like eating or sleeping for me at this point, I've been doing it so long.  Basically, I start with a sound or rhythm and see what the music suggests. 

As far as putting an album together, I don't write an album in the traditional sense. I record several compositions, like 50-75, and choose the best 10-12 which go well together. I put them in an order I like and then I pare it down further, so there's a sense of sacrificing work I value to ensure the integrity of the whole.  Ideally, I shoot for 39-45 minutes, like a Led Zeppelin album. That just seems like the ideal time to pay attention to anyone's music in one sitting. 41-42 is optimal, I guess. 

What is the meaning behind the title Desolations? 

I was looking at the picture I used for the album cover and it was just the word that popped into my head: desolation. And then I thought that everyone must have their own particular idea of what desolation is. Hence title Desolations.

What instruments went into the making of Desolations

For Desolations, I used a drum machine (Akai XR20), a multitrack looper (EHX 2880, a delay pedal (a Boss DD5, circuit bent by Ryan Olcott), a graphic eq (Boss GE7), a kaossilator (Korg MiniKP) and an analog synth (microKORG). My live setup is essentially the same, minus the synth.

Was it a conscious effort to not use lyrics? And without lyrics, how do you decide what to name each piece?

I prefer my music to speak for itself. I do appreciate lyrics in other people's music, however. The names of the pieces are fairly arbitrary, but I do enjoy a little wordplay here and there.

Kill That by ghostband

What is the plan behind releasing albums every few months? 

There's really no plan. I produce a lot of music and like to share the best of it with the world.  It's become relatively inexpensive to do limited runs of CDs or cassettes these days. Vinyl would be my medium of choice, but it's still so expensive. Of course, Bandcamp and Soundcloud have made it free and easy to get your music out there in digital format. I'm fine with that, but I still try to put a nice physical copy together for people who need the object. 

What is the audience like for music of this genre in the Cities? What do you say to people that don't "get" the music? 

Generally speaking, I think there's a great audience for electronic music in the Twin Cities, especially for what people might consider experimental music. However, as with any other genre, there's so many doing it on any given night that the audience might be drawn in too many directions at once. Still, I think people are interested and supportive. As far as "getting" the music, I think the true value or meaning of a work of art, especially a musical performance is self-evident. It's either interesting to you, or it isn't. You enjoy it, or you don't. I'm not really sure there is anything to "get" or, in some cases, worth "getting."  Hopefully in the end, the experience energizes and inspires you.

What can we expect from the show at the 7th Street Entry?

Hopefully, a lot of fun.

Ghostband will release Desolations with The Radar Threat, Jeremy Ylvisaker and VisionQuest at the 7th Street Entry on Monday, December 12, 2011. 18+, $5, 8 pm

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