GHOST TOAST: Infinite Passion of Life

Ghost Toast

Prog Sphere recently conducted an interview with Hungarian instrumental progressive metal band Ghost Toast, talking about the band’s beginnings, their most recent album “There is no en…,” inspiration, gear, and more.

How did you go about forming Ghost Toast? Define the band’s mission.

It started with our bassist Janos creating some own tunes and jam sessions with either Bence the guitarist or Laci the drummer, and the 2 formations eventually became one, this is how Ghost Toast formed. Through him it was also that the other Janos (nicknamed Pusi) joined on keyboards and cello, which immediately made the sound much more exciting. The name was just coming along like that, it’s not too heavy and not too serious either, so it goes along just right with our music (taken very seriously of course), to which contrast is a key element anyway. Our aim was just to entertain ourselves, and it still is – everything else is just a plus. We did not define a preliminary concept, we just let it flow as it comes. We never discard ideas, and try to organize our music to be able to include anything in it that any of us would like.

You released your debut album “There is no en…” in 2013. Tell me about the creative process that informed the record.

Our debut album is in fact “Toast in the shell” from 2011, but that one only received a very basic promotion. “There is no en…” was recognized in a much bigger audience, but promotion is still not one of our strenghts. The first one was created entirely in our rehearsal room, and the second one is a product of the rehearsal room and recordings done at home. It’s generally characteristic of our songwriting habits that the key themes are born for guitar or bass at home, and the others add their stuff to it, and finally we craft the details and the longer parts of the songs with a common jam session in the rehearsal room. Many new and independent themes are born during these times as well, which may only become part of a song years later.

Ghost Toast - There Is No En...Describe the approach to recording “There is no en…”

We were always focused on recording albums – we have so many types of songs that the best way to show them off are to put them in a buch so they can feed off each other. If we have 2 or 3 new songs, we try to focus on the record – meaning to capture and develop the themes and moods that could be incorporated effectively.

How did you document the music while being formulated?

If we figure out something worthwhile in the rehearsal room we try to record it immediately. Also, everyone records their ideas at home as well (either or paper or records it through a computer), the point is not to let it get away. These eventually undergo a lot of change, each one of us adds something to it and at the end the theme may even be dramatically different from the original idea. The final appearance is then achieved during the actual recording process, the supporting guitar tracks are added at this point, another melody or two may come in also, which usually changes the lenght and repetition of a certain theme.

How long “There is no en…” was in the making?

Since we did it all ourselves, from the basic track records to the mastering phase, it took quite a lot of time, especially since new themes were born and put in even during the recording phase. There were some songs that we edited 3 minutes out of, for example (No Sleep). The recording of the tracks started in 2012, but more than half of the cello and keyboard tracks were only laid after all other instruments finished, and that was only in the fall of 2013.

Tell me about the themes this release captures.

Since we have no vocals (except for the samples we use), it’s not really easy to define the themes. Each song means something else to all of us even within the band, and hopefully to the audience as well.

It’s a different story though when some samples of singing or spoken text are being used – with these we try to match the mood of the song as much as possible. In Hovin Mernem there is for example an elegic Armenian folk song inside, or the motivational speech inside Legacy we think holds a very positive message. These are also good examples of our methodology – the first one was found by our bassist and he built a song around it, while the other one was also put into the song (after the music was already set and done) by him because he thought the two went well together. Or there’s Preapocalyptic Lamentations, written by our guitarist, where he knew all along that he was to use samples from Wells’ War of the Worlds radio play, and eventually it became a full song (originally it was just to be an intro track), since these samples would not have fit in anywhere else.

What’s the meaning behind the album’s title?

One of our friends said about Hovin Mernem that “ok, ok, but it’s a shame it doesn’t have an end”, meaning that the metal part of the song does not return for the remainder of the song, but it remains in a calmer mood. This was the original basis for the title, and then by just googling it we found the Fellini quote (There is no end. There is no beginning. There is only the infinite passion of life.) which actually matches our musical philosophy very much. Then we just took away the letter d and put 3 dots there instead, for some artistic effect.

What were the biggest challenges you faced when working on the album?

To sum it up: time. As all of us work in full-time jobs, we had little time to spend on the recording of the tracks, so the actual work took pretty long – but otherwise we were satisfied with the results. We know we have to achieve better quality for the recorded material, this is something we see as a priority for the future. We have learnt a lot during the recording of these two albums, so we are expecting some improvement in this regard definitely.

Speaking of challenges, is there a creative challenge to deal with in that the band members occupy similar sonic spectrums?

The members usually inspire each other, we have a good sense of being able to build upon the themes that one creates and make the good stuff into great together.

Have you managed to make any new discoveries as the time passed during the creative process? Do you think that at some point of that process your writing approach changed drastically?

The fact that we figure out and record our stuff at home, and then send it around to each other and each of us trying to build it further individually is definitely new to us – especially compared to the rehearsal room writing process that bands usually do. At least we do not have to spend time in there to actually learn the themes on the spot, instead we can focus on jamming, finding and creating connections between themes – and for this the best is to have all of us in one room. With this 3rd album we are crafting now this is exactly the method we use – and it has made our new themes more complex and thoughtful already.

Provide some insight into the group’s chemistry that allows this music to emerge.

All of us are completely different personalities. We are a team consisting of a jurist, a technician at a puppet theater, a professional cellist and an IT manager. All of these like different kinds of music, except some common points which they all do. Nevertheless, each of us is very much motivated by properly instrumented and unusually constructed and themed music, this is why we also try to create something like that. Every one of us puts in the energy required to create these songs, and we do everything we possibly can to make the most out of the songs that we write.

Where do you draw the inspiration from and how do you go about channeling it into writing?

We are inspired by music, of course, but apart from progressive rock and metal we are very much inspired by many kinds of film scores, electronic experimental music (mostly ambient and psybient), folk music, and our old and new favorite artists, whichever style may they be. These are stored in all of us continuously, and then suddenly just appear at times. The biggest effects can be felt immediately, of course, but we try to polish these so that the connection is not that apparent anymore.

Ghost Toast

What non­-musical entities and ideas have an impact on your music?

We try to share our non-musical ideas through the already mentioned soundbites and the video projections we do at our shows. Literature has its effect, the things happening in the world have an effect and even sports (see the soundbites of Ray Lewis in Legacy or John Harbaugh in Nor Defeat). But among the mentioned exceptions, we usually seek samples that go with the mood of the already existing song, and this is how we create the projected video to it as well. A good example may be the vocals version of No Sleep, which contains a vocals track from a similarly titled song from the band Lunar Rising – this just happened to match our song exactly, there were few to none modifications needed.

What kind of gear did you use for recording songs from “There is no en…”?

Except for the cello and keyboard tracks the whole album was recorded using VSTs and VST effects on our instruments. We plan to revert to a more traditional way for the next album (at least for the guitars definitely).

What is your view on technology in music?

There’s a whole lot of cool stuff out there, earlier you couldn’t even imagine being able to record a full-fledged album at home, but these days there’s material coming out of bedrooms with such quality that it’s astonishing. The improvement of digital technology helps bands like us a lot, since we are not just able to record our stuff but also experiment with it, not to mention to promote or distribute it as well.

Do you see the band’s music as serving a purpose beyond music?

We kind of just like to play whatever we feel or whatever needs to come out of us. If this makes others think, or invoke emotions or whatever, that’s pretty much enough. We do not have any goals further than that.

Ghost Toast

What is your viewpoint on the struggle bands are facing today as they try to monetize their output?

It’s no doubt that through the internet it’s easier now to reach the audience who is willing to pay for the music and/or for the merchandise. Here in Hungary the problem is that there are many talented and great bands, but very few opportunities, few people can get to a concert, and going abroad for these is costly and inconvenient.

What are your plans for the future?

Through the course of the year we would like to complete the material for our 3rd album and a new music video which is in the works now. Alongside this we plan to have a couple of shows abroad, but nothing is certain at the moment, we are concentrating on writing and recording the new songs.

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