Ever since State profiled Obaro Ejimiwe last year we’ve kept an eye on the steady ascendance of Ghostpoet, the English hip-hop artist whose unique combination of bleeps and perceptive lyrics have won him fans all over the globe. One of those fans is Giles Peterson who released the Londoners debut Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam on his Brownwood label in February to general acclaim. Amid all this excitement we caught up with Obaro recently to talk about his experiences with grime, his electronic influences and pirate radio.
What’s the live show like at the moment?
I’m trying to make it a different experience from the record listening experience so the live show consists of a guitarist, a drummer and electronic elements where I mess around on Korg Kaoss Pads. From the very beginning, I’ve liked the idea of manipulating sound and my vocals so I’ve been using those pads for a while. I’m trying to have fun with it and experiment as much as possible. I also use a delay petal to put my vocals through. With time and learning I started using different effects. There’s still a bit of fine tuning I need to do and I want to see how I can include other parts but we’re getting there.
You started off as a grime MC, what made you move towards making different songs?
It wasn’t that I started off there, but that it was part of my development. Grime was my first exposure to UK music, music that I could understand a bit more than American hip-hop. But I wanted to expand on these sounds and styles and grime wasn’t really the right arena for me. So I experimented away from grime into what I’m doing now. When I sat down to write an album it was always my mission to make it as experimental as possible. That’s what I’m about really.
On ‘Cash and Carry Me Home’ there’s a bit of dubstep and bass vibes going on. Are you influenced by artists like Zomby?
I do like Zomby, but there’s lots of people that I like! I’m a big fan of UK Bass music in general. Ramadanman, Jamie xx, everyone who’s pushing the scene forward.
What’s the reaction like when you play that song live?
Really good! It’s a bit mad when people know the tune and know the lyrics. When I made that tune I never thought I would play it out and people would dance to it and enjoy it. It’s really strange.
You did a recent set at London’s Boiler Room, and you DJed in college. Would you like to do more DJ sets?
Everything I do I want to do it as well as I can so it’s about being able to dedicate a time to do it properly. It’s great to be able to play music that I like in that context cos I’m a big fan of music- not just making it but sharing it too.
You’re currently signed to Giles Peterson’s label. Did you listen to his show a lot before you signed to Brownwood?
If I’m honest… no! I’d heard of Giles Peterson and I knew his reputation but I was never a regular listener. I am now! In a sense I wish I did because he’s such a connoisseur of music. But maybe I’d have gone a different direction if I did. Who knows? As a kid I used to listen to pirate radio down in South London late at night and that was part of my introduction into old skool garage, jungle, drum ‘n’ bass and early grime. You’d hear a lot of American hip-hop that didn’t get played on the commercial stations.
You played Paris recently – how does your music do down in Europe?
Quite good so far. That gig in Paris was the first time I’d ever been to the city, never mind playing there, and it went down pretty well. I’ve played in Belgium a few times, Poland, and it’s always worked out well. Maybe they understand the lyrics. I hope so. Part of my mission is to write songs that everyone can relate to no matter where you’re from. Maybe that’s part of it or maybe it’s the music. I’m not sure!
You tend to share bills with a lot of electronic and dance artists. Does this work out okay?
Yeah, definitely. Electronica is a large part of what I do. Of all the tags I’ve been tagged with I like that the best. Electronic music is the future and to be part of that arena is great.
Are you ever worried about keeping the momentum high if you’re playing in between DJs?
I don’t go out with that mentality. I just do what I do. You could put me between a metal band and a jazz quartet and I’ll do my thing. If people like it, that’s great. If they don’t, well, maybe next time.
Are you excited about playing Glastonbury?
Oh yeah man! I was lucky enough to go there once before with another group but to go there and perform my music is a dream come through. Everything’s like a dream now really!
Ghostpoet’s Survive It single is out now with remixes by dBridge, Koreless and Quest. Ghostpoet plays Corks Pavilion on Saturday 4th of June.