Ghostpoet (stage alias of Obaro Ejimiwe) came to York during the middle of one of the sunniest periods I have known in the city. Unbroken good weather has continued for upwards of a month as I write this, making Ghostpoet’s recently released debut album, Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam, a bit of an incongruous listen. It is born out of the underground scene in London – dubstep, grime, witch house – and is a distinctly wintry listen. Ghostpoet, however, is no silent scenester who has made it big. Indeed, his flow and energy has drawn many comparisons with the most energetic and charismatic spoken-word acts and he is an engaging stage presence. Leading a band consisting of a drummer and guitarist while rapping and taking care of the electronic side of things means he is pretty busy while performing but he is careful to build a rapport with the audience in the Duchess. We managed to catch up with him a few minutes after his show…
How did everything start for you? There have been rumblings about University grime groups…
Ghostpoet: I started writing little things really early on in my teens but it didn’t really go anywhere. I’ve always had a weird desire to just write, it wasn’t really anything like a big plan. That was the beginning. Then I went to university and started to properly dabble in music. There were people around me interested in making music so yeah, I started to do grime up there with a bunch of guys and we went out and played. From that, I just started writing more seriously, developing my sound and now I’m here.
How did it build? I understand that you are signed to Brownswood, Gilles Peterson’s record label.
Well, it was just MySpace to begin with. This was before Soundcloud and Twitter and all that really exploded. We’re talking around early 2010, maybe late 2009, here. Around that time, a friend of a friend knew a guy who met a guy who knew someone at Brownswood and told him to check me out. He checked me out, liked what he heard on the MySpace and asked me to send my demos down. They liked that so they were like “Come to a meeting”. They didn’t tell me Gilles would be there! When I saw him I was just like “Ok…” but he was really cool, really chilled out. We just had a chat about where I wanted to go with my music, what I was planning to do and he was just like “Alright. This is gonna happen.” It was all as nonchalant as you like. I was like “Ok… fair enough”, and we just went from that, really.
You’ve been touring with Metronomy, playing a support slot. Whats that been like? How has the reaction been from their fans?
Its been amazing. This is the last of the 12 dates and its been great. They are great guys and its been really easy to do. Some people haven’t quite got it because they see me as an act from a different genre but I don’t really see it like that. I see my music as not really genre-specific – it could be anything, really. Audiences have been listening, I’ve got people dancing. It has been tough – support slots are tough – but its been good. Its all a learning curve, its all a good experience.
Where has the live show come from? You definitely lean more towards a live band atmosphere than other similar acts like early Dizzee Rascal or Dan Le Sac Vs. Scroobius Pip…
The electronic side is there, but its in a different form. From the beginning I’ve had a guitarist and drummer but I do love electronics and, if anything, I feel like I’m more in that zone than any other. However, for the live experience I think you need to have that combination because music is live – you need that live aspect – so I’ve always had a mixture. I like to get people dancing, people moving, and you don’t want to lose that. I think I will bring some more electronics, maybe some more live elements but it all needs tweaking. Its an exciting time.
Recently, there has been a bit of mainstream crossover from the London underground scene with acts like Katy B, James Blake and Jamie Woon getting some serious attention. Do you see yourself as a potential member of this group?
I don’t think those guys who have crossed over – Katy B, Jamie Woon – I don’t think they went out to crossover. I don’t really see myself as one of those guys. If it happens, it happens but I’m not out for that.
Ghostpoet’s debut album, Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam, is out now on Brownswood Records.By Jack Luckett