I recently got the opportunity to sit down with the creators of the faux-German electro-pop sensation, Total Ghost. Randy Washington (Chön), Adam Nix (Biktor), and Evan Nix may seem like regular guys, but together they have created something truly special. While some artists take years to develop a solid identity, in a very short time Total Ghost has found their own niche and a distinctive sound. They recently released their second album, Space Lightning, which you can listen to & purchase on Amazon or Bandcamp.
The album starts off on very solid ground with the fast-paced track ‘Einführung’ (Introduction), which, despite it’s brevity (it runs less than one and a half minutes), is one of my favorite songs on the album. I understand that most introductions are brief, but I would love to see an extended version or a remix of this one. The spacey keyboard synths continue on ‘Forever Midnight’, which features the beautiful voice of Chella Negro on the chorus, and showcases Chön’s rapping talents. Probably their most popular song on YouTube, ‘Too Fast For The Autobahn’ is also on the album, remastered and complete with a few new surprises that make it almost a brand new song. Next is ‘Gerlfreund’, the duo’s attempt to court a woman, with such a catchy hook that my grandmother started dancing and singing along with it in the car. One of the most entertaining aspects of Total Ghost is their blissful ignorance, and it is certainly in full effect on ‘Mexico’, a tale of the greatest city in the world: Mexico. Lines like “It is the safest cleanest city in the world, that we have ever found, safer than America” provide plenty of laughs throughout the track, and might have you actually believing that Mexico is a crime-free city. Next up is one of the most energetic songs, the rock infested ‘Junglecat’, a cautious tale of the Cougar. ‘Computer Nation’, ‘Ufo’ and ‘Space Station’ all return to the futuristic space theme, but are surprisingly creative in doing so. Things get a little hot during ‘Engineering’, a track filled with engineering metaphrors for sex, and the song is very reminisent of their first video, ‘Back It Up’. The album closes out with ’Tour Life’, a song which has parallels to the group itself: Just as Total Ghost is made of guys who aren’t really international pop stars, the lyrics are filled with fantastic things that they obviously don’t really have, such as jet planes, sexy drugs, naked models, magic wands, dinosaurs & atom bombs. This track is the fireworks at the end of the show, and a fantastic way to close out the album.
Overall, I was actually very surprised with the high quality of the album, coming from what was at one point a fake group. The production & sequencing are phenomenal, the concepts are well developed, and the lyrics are cleverly hilarious: all around it is a great album. My only complaint is that it feels like a teaser or an EP, clocking in at only 33 minutes long. Several of the songs, especailly ‘Junglecat’ and ‘Engineering’ would do well to have even just one more verse on them. Still, this album definitely gets my highest rating: It’s Crack!
Now here is what you’ve been waiting for, my interview with the members of Total Ghost…
EVAN: We met about 4 years ago, working together in a computer repair shop.
RANDY: That sounds about right.
ADAM: Yeah, I met Evan in a hospital about 24 years ago though.
DAUPHIN: And when did you begin to make music together?
EVAN: Shortly after meeting, we made a music video called “Back It Up”, an innuendo-laden anthem about the importance of backing up your hard drives.
DAUPHIN: Who decided that the group would be German?
RANDY: It wasn’t really a concrete decision. When we were recording the Birthday video, we went through a ton of takes. Sometimes we said we were from Munich. Sometimes we said we were from Brussels. I think the moment that we settled on German after we were interviewed by GMZ on a German radio station.
ADAM: Yeah, I know we talked about me being from Belgium or Croatia at some point.
DAUPHIN: How have things changed since those early days, now that the group is gaining popularity?
EVAN: The group has a good formula, because it is adaptable. One day we’re making videos, the next an album, the next we are performing live shows. Each of those different aspects brings new fans in to the project as a whole. Then they discover they can interact with the band themselves on Twitter or Facebook, and it becomes an interactive experience.
RANDY: I don’t think things have changed too much. I know that my priorities have drastically shifted after the Space Lightning was done being recorded. But at the core, we are still making dance music, talking stupid, and making videos. Now we just have this new element of live shows.
ADAM: And we have way more champagne now.
DAUPHIN: What do you do outside of Total Ghost? Or have you quit your day jobs already?
EVAN: We definitely still have day jobs.
RANDY: I wish! Just a bit more work and then I’ll quit my day job. I work at a pizza place! So…yeah.
ADAM: Evan and I both edit video for a living.
RANDY: The music side of it is pretty simple. I just start with a concept of what I want to convey in a song and fill in the gaps. I kinda remember how Mexico came about. I think I was just making beats and came across this Latin kit. I was like “Sweet!” and made a basic track with congas and shakers. From there I knew that it had to be a song about an exotic place but because its Total Ghost they had to get it wrong. I brought it over to Adam’s place and from there we thought of funny things he could say. That’s about it. Each song has had a VERY different process.
DAUPHIN: It seems that the hilarious music videos have been one of the keys to the success of Total Ghost. How much time do you spend on them, relative to the music?
EVAN: Every video is different. The birthday video took a day to make. Tour Life took 5 months.
RANDY: The shoots are always really short and fun. Usually with a lot of pizza and beer. I think that the laid back shoots translate on the screen.
ADAM: When we made the birthday song, it took Randy about a night to write and record his portion. We then recorded my parts at my place in the afternoon, and then immediately shot the video and I edited it overnight. We did the same for Autobahn and Tour Life, except the editing took a lot longer.
DAUPHIN: Travis Funk produced your latest album, Space Lightning. What’s it like working with him?
EVAN: Travis Funk is very hard to work with. He throws tantrums like a baby. But he is a genius, so we put up with it.
RANDY: His place in the project is on the tail end of the music side. I go to him with a sound in mind and have already written all the music, beats and all. He records the vocals and produces the tracks…makes them pop. Much to his dislike. He is not a much of a dance music fan. I’d say things like “MORE KICK!” and he’d fight me and say its too much. So I had to bring him like some Deadmau5 and Bloody Beetroots and stuff and I’d say “make it sound like this!” He truly is brilliant and he listens, which is crucial as a producer. But you have to suffer through him telling really bad jokes and recording in an ice cold studio. But it was very worth it.
ADAM: I’m totally not a musical person, luckily Travis is and he’s pretty good at working around my weird voice to make it sound pretty awesome.
CHON: Ja. I am into love with every woman I make a meet to in tour!
BIKTOR: How is person “in” love? Love is coming from our musics and to going inside all ze ladies.
CHON: Why is that we are having to make choice? I am guess that I would saying time since we already have did space….like a many times.
BIKTOR: Yah, but if we travel in time we only go to ze New Future™. Everything else is boring.
CHON: Right before going into stage und right after performancing. There is no word to make a describe of the taste of pre-show champagne. Und after show is of course groupie time….if you are knowing what I am say….
BIKTOR: We are just wanting to make ze love in ze ear of the people. What is better zen to do it facing to facing?
CHON: Your stupid country is seem to have a damn storm every day! We are have been trap into here. But soon…we are want to make a come into all of your cities.
BIKTOR: Every city in U of S of A is ze same anyway, why it matter? Ze people should just drive your American autobahn to Denmark and watching us in Colombia.
DAUPHIN: Thank you for your time, and we look forward to hearing more from you guys in the future! Any last words?
ADAM: http://nixbros.com – Check it!
RANDY: Give us a like on facebook! Follow us on Twitter @totalghost! Buy the album! For reals!
CHON: American woman are sexy.
BIKTOR: Whateva. When do we get paid for zis?