Ghostpoet: Letters from beyond

The man known as Obaro Ejimiwe to his mum talks about taking his sound from the bedroom to the big, bad world for his dark second album


It’s been two years since Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam . Did you take time out to write your new album, or write as you went along?
Kind of a combination of the two, really. With the first record, I was fortunate enough to be able to gig it for a while, so I was on the road a fair bit. I was kind of getting ideas down to come back to at some point in the future, more than anything. Once the album cycle had ended, obviously I wanted to make another record – so it was a case of just taking a bit of time out to figure out who I wanted to work with on it, and then getting in the studio for a few weeks and getting it done.

You recorded and self-produced your debut at home, but this one was done in a professional studio. Was it strange to make that transition?
Nah. Be it a home set-up or a studio, the end result is music, so I relished it. I purposely chose to do it in a studio, to push myself and to force myself to think differently from how I did before. It was good fun.

You worked with Richard Formby, who Wild Beasts once described as their “fifth member”.
I very much wanted somebody who would help me mold my ideas better, and to help me technically – because I’m useless with most things, and I can’t play an instrument (laughs). So it was all very much about feeling out an instrument and working it out as I go along. I needed somebody who was able to translate what I was trying to do, and Richard was a great guy to work with. I’m a massive fan of Wild Beasts and Darkstar and the other stuff he’s worked on, and the moment I knew that he was interested, it just made sense to give it a go.

Your debut was nominated for the Mercury Prize. Are you under pressure to follow it up with a similarly successful second album?
No, not at all. If I’m honest, maybe the first couple of days of the album-making process felt like that – wondering what I’m gonna do, what direction it’s gonna take – but then I felt like I had to make a record which was reflective of me as a person. I just had fun with being creative, not thinking about a particular sound, just making music. I’m happy with how it’s turned out.
A lot of the music on this album is dark and disconcerting, as are some of the lyrics - such as Comatose ’s “ I feel lower than I’ve ever been.”
Well, the music that I make is very much of-the-moment; it’s about emotion and about feelings. Everything that I try to make very much starts and ends with moments. I was going through a lot of dark times with this album – some great times, too – but that was the sort of stuff that subconsciously wanted to come out. So I just moulded the songs around the stuff I was going through, and this is the result.

Your personal approach ties in with a previous quote about not being interested in being the voice of a generation. Why is it so important to you to make that distinction?
Well, I just feel that I’m one person. I’m not a politician, I’m not in a position of power; I’m an artist. I want my music to be heard by as many people as possible around the world, but I don’t feel the need to be a spokesman. If people listen to my music and use it as a particular way in their own lives, or whatever, that’s cool, that’s great.

But I feel it’d be a bit pretentious for me to say that I’m the voice of a generation. I just wanna be heard, that’s all.

The music itself is quite hard to categorise. Is it easier being out on your own, or more difficult without the safety net of a “scene”?
It just feels natural to do what I’m doing, really. I’m not interested in genres, I’m not interested in trying to fit in a particular box, or whatever. I’m just expressing myself through music, and however that comes out is how it’s supposed to come out. I guess it’s subconscious, more than anything else.

What’s the best case scenario for you in a year’s time?
Ummm . . . that people don’t think the music is shit, and I can still keep making it. (laughs). That’s it. I’m a very simple soul, and I just wanna keep making music.

I don’t really care about sales; the business side of things doesn’t mean anything to me. That’s the label’s job. If I can continue being creative, I’ll be happy.

yyy Some Say I So I Say Light is out on May 3rd on PIAS Recordings