The greatest developments seem to emerge when you stop trying to seek them out. Many of my most beloved musical finds over the years have been in-step with this rule. When conducting one of my atmospheric/DSDM roundups a few months ago, I stumbled upon a stowaway in my “to write about” playlist on YouTube just hours before my piece was due to go to press — Unreqvited’s Disquiet (2016). My unfamiliarity with the album indicated either a slip of a mouse or thumb, but after giving it a listen, it showed itself to be the happiest of accidents. I quickly cleared a spot right before heavyweight Kalmankantaja and dashed off a blurb championing the album’s expert personification of its name, its flair for modern nuance, and its integrity alongside quality production. Little did I know, the atmospheric epic is Unreqvited’s first-ever release, was composed in its entirety by a single entity known as 鬼, or “ghost,” and was recorded in his own home in the Great White North. Especially blown away after uncovering Disquiet’s humble origins, I jumped at the chance to speak with 鬼 the moment I heard he was leaving his post in Ottawa and stopping by mine in Baltimore to run merch for his friends in Ghost Bath on their current US leg.
From beginning to end, the night proved itself to be nothing short of inspiring. In the spirit of coincidence, I am now indebted to Unreqvited for throwing me into the proper context for giving Ghost Bath a fair listen — an unassuming crowd of quiet goth kids. Unfortunately, the Midwestern five-piece has been typically presented under much more charged circumstances in the internutsphere. Deafheaven devotees take issue by accusing Ghost Bath of impersonating one of their greats, and Deafheaven defectors take issue by recognizing congruency to a band they hate. Even if comparisons in sound can be drawn between the two bands, Ghost Bath possesses a markedly different attitude. Personally, my mixed feelings towards Deafheaven have little to do with their music. Petty or not, my issues stem from what they’ve come to represent. Ghost Bath takes the best elements of what a band like Deafheaven has to offer and makes them more accessible by eliminating any superior airs through a tone too earnest to suggest that they’re diverging from traditional black metal just for the sake of being different and rustling jimmies.
But, that’s not to say that Ghost Bath should only be discussed in relation to Deafheaven because that simply does not do the performance I witnessed justice. Lead guitar tone was distinctly bright. DSBM-style wails were well-controlled and clearly mastered. This is just a side note, but critics who find this vocal style so disturbingly off the deep end continue to perplex me. The best explanation for the divisiveness that I can offer is that certain listeners haven’t expanded their black metal horizons much past Watain. But in any event, the word I keep coming back to when attempting to describe Ghost Bath is consistent. A sum of equal parts in terms of talent and aesthetic, they are a tight, cohesive unit solidified by their selection to keep personal identities redacted. Subtle visual components are taken into account via matching plain black dress and soft corpse paint around the eyes, in addition to other small details, like consideration of the order in which members exit the stage. Most importantly, it is all executed seamlessly without regressing into cheese or accelerating into pretension. And THAT, my friends, is post-black done well.
The theme of approachable intelligence was echoed during my time with 鬼 once records were packed and the venue fell quiet (aside from an occasional outburst of Smash Mouth by Ghost Bath’s Nameless). Not only does 鬼 possess the golden locks worthy of a #hairgoals Pinterest board, but also a sense of humor about my having a bit fun with his black metal identity by demonstrating self-awareness as the illest East Asian ghost outta Ontario. That being said, it is an identity to which he truly lives up, demonstrating the humility and decorum that Americans especially admire in Canadians while simultaneously creating a presence that lingers long after he’s gone…
J: So tell me a little bit about how you got hooked up with Ghost Bath.
鬼: I reached out to their lead singer a while ago. I showed them my record, actually, just to see what he thought about it and everything. We became good friends and we stayed in touch for probably about a solid four or five months. So, how this tour essentially happened was that they were looking for a merch guy. They have a regular merch guy who comes and drives them around and does their merch and everything. I just reached out and was like I’ll do it, I’m not doing anything back home right now, and they’re good friends of mine. I also thought it would be a good opportunity to maybe talk to their fans and stuff like that.
J: I’m glad they brought you here.
鬼: Yeah! It’s nice to travel with a band that’s established like they are.
J: For sure. So do you have any projects besides Unreqvited? I know you mentioned coming here [to Baltimore] with another project.
鬼: I do. We’re not active currently, but I played in a nu metalish band called Vesuvius. We’re signed to a label called Tragic Hero. So, we came down here for about 40 days this past summer and did a coast-to-coast tour. That was my main focus. I just wanted to do Unreqvited as a musical release, an emotional release thing, just for fun, and it’s been taking off quite a bit so we’ll see how it goes from here.
J: So, I guess when I listen to a band like Unreqvited or Ghost Bath, all I can really think about are the why’s and the how’s. How do you write music like that, and what really inspires you? What is the emotional buildup to that? I know that it’s music that affects me so very much. I’m just curious about the writing process.
鬼: I am a very introverted, boring person, so I tend to spend a lot of time at home in my room. So, writing has always been a really good way–this is probably going to sound so cliche–to communicate and release all the things I don’t like to talk about normally with other people, and I can just sort of put it all into this one energy and kind of do it that way. In terms of inspiration, I’ve really been into the genre a long time, so I wanted to try contributing to it. Not even music, but visual art is a thing that inspires me to write; seeing something that I can’t personally do and translating that into something else.
J: That makes sense. Personally, I look at what you do, and that makes me want to do my writing because I can’t do music
鬼: Exactly. It’s cool to take something you wish you could do and turn it into something you’re good at.
J: Do you subscribe to any genre in particular?
鬼: Like with this project?
J: Yeah, because I know when I covered Disquiet I just lumped it together with atmospheric DSBM bands and I wasn’t sure if it was something you embraced or kind of opposed.
鬼: I do have it listed on the internet as depressive/atmospheric post-black metal just to kind of make it long and broad enough. The thing with black metal is that there’s a lot of subgenres, and even though it’s kind of corny to throw in those titles, it does really help distinguish [bands], like if someone looks at that they know what it is. They’re like ‘okay, this is probably something I’m going to like.’ So, I don’t know if I necessarily subscribe to the genres but it’s definitely a good way to set it apart from things. Black metal is pretty vast, it seems like. There are just so many black metal bands it’s insane. But, we’ll see. I think with the next record it’s going to be more straight post-black metal, maybe. I don’t know. I don’t know where I want to go with it, but I want to make it a little different, for sure. I don’t want to do the same thing again.
J: So you have another album in the works?
鬼: It’s not quite in the works yet, but I do have some ideas that I’m brainstorming. As of right now, I’m working on a split with a couple of other bands, which I guess I won’t really talk about yet since it’s not really official. But, that would be the first thing I’m going to do, and we plan on releasing it at the end of May, and after that I’m going to start working on something a little bit bigger. I already kind of have a label in mind I want to work with.
J: I guess what really sets Disquiet apart for me, or the reason it is so effective, is that I just had a familiarity with it. I know I was talking to my sister about it, and she related with her fondness for Panopticon and how they cover almost Appalachian kinds of nature. Norwegian black metal is great, but it doesn’t always quite resonate with my personal experiences, so when I hear things like Unreqvited it hits closer to home. So, I was wondering what your relationship with nature is like coming from Ottawa.
鬼: It’s hard to say. My parents are divorced, so I had two very different homes growing up. My dad lives in the middle of the city, so I was in downtown Ottawa doing the big metropolis thing. My mom lived way out in the country where there was nothing to do but go outside and play in nature, like, that was it. So, I think maybe the juxtaposition between those two things was interesting and kind of a big part of my upbringing because I do like the whole busy lifestyle, busy metropolis, but I also like to get away. I also wanted this record to reflect that very much — just getting away from everything else. There’s a poem on the inside of the record that describes what I wanted to go for with the getting away from civilization and just kind of escaping with nature.
J: Is that an original poem?
J: So I was doing some digging on your Facebook, I hope this isn’t weird, but I saw you wearing a Suicide Silence shirt.
J: I was wondering what you thought of their new record because I just gave it a review.
鬼: Interesting, interesting. I can’t say that I’ve listened to the record yet, but from the one single that I’ve heard, I don’t think I’m going to be a fan.
J: Fair enough.
鬼: Yeah, I was big into that band when I was in like the eighth and ninth grade. I was big into metalcore and all that stuff.
J: So you’re a recovering scene kid, as well?
鬼: Yep, recovering scene kid as well. I still listen to a lot of that stuff for sure, and my band [Vesuvius] is kind of nu metal/metalcore for sure. We still have breakdowns and everything. I still love the genre. So yeah, Suicide Silence. I don’t know what I think of the new record. I think I’m going to give it a listen and I think I’m going to try to listen with an open mind to the whole new Deftonesy/Korn sound that they’re trying to do, but by the single that I’ve heard, I’m not really liking it. I’m not a huge fan of the cleans.
J: Clean singing?
鬼: Yeah, I mean not clean singing in general. They could have pulled it off. But a lot of the weird falsetto, the high-pitched stuff…
J & 鬼: *tee-hees in unison*
鬼: I just can’t really get into it. But we’ll see. What was your review like on that?
J: Well, I kind of paralleled it to different kinds of failed romantic relationships I’ve had. I’m open to bands changing, for sure. Change isn’t inherently good or bad, you know, it’s what you do with it. So that was my take on it. I didn’t want to necessarily give them a good or bad review just because they’ve changed because I don’t think that’s fair. I just don’t think they’ve changed for the better.
J: And I don’t think copying other bands counts as growth, you know?
鬼: No, it doesn’t. It was a pretty drastic change, too. I think a lot bands pull it off really well. A lot of bands do put out the same record again and again, but a lot of bands that I’ve stuck with since I was teenager [haven’t]. One band that I grew up with was Trivium, and they were a metalcore band but then they evolved into thrash metal. Literally every record is different. It’ll be screaming and then no screaming and then they’ll bring it back again and completely change. A band that can do that and keep their audience — that’s impressive to me. Suicide Silence has lost a pretty sizeable portion of their audience with this record. Whatever they want to do is cool, but I don’t have to like it.
J: Fair. Very diplomatic. So is there anything you want to add about future plans? The obligatory question. Feel free to promote all you want because I know you’re very much deserving of it.
鬼: So Disquiet came out in October and we have physical copies available, cassettes available, and two merch designs. I’m working on getting a vinyl release done for it. I don’t know timeframe-wise when that’s going to be out, but it will be out soon — by the spring. May, we’re looking at doing a split EP with a few friends, and then after that, maybe by the end of the year I’ll have a new full-length. Those are all my plans for right now. Maybe more tours as a Ghost Bath merch guy. We’ll see.
As I ventured out into the cold of a land a bit further south but just as unforgiving, my brain was full and my hands were compelled to write. But, confident in the fact that the sun would rise the next day, I decided to properly celebrate the top ten show with too many beers and too many rotations around the Ouija board. Believe it or not, spirits aren’t too responsive to “arise, chicken/chicken, arise.” But while the moon may control the tides, that doesn’t mean all autonomy is lost. Magic doesn’t work while we’re waiting for it, so we must create our own by being the ghosts we wish to see manifest. And that’s okay with me. When approached with an authentic heart, man-made magic is just as dazzling.