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Ghostly Beard

Interviewed by Gary Hill

Interview with Patrick Talbot aka Ghostly Beard from 2018

MSJ:

Can you catch the readers up on the history of your involvement in music – sort of a "highlight reel?"

Around the age of eight, in the South of France where I’m from, I was into classical music and musicals. Then my older brothers made me listen to the rock bands of that time (early seventies): The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin etcetera. And I got the bug, started to learn music and guitar (which is my primary instrument) seriously at the age of 14, and practice all sorts of genres, anything that I could lay my ears on. I wanted to be a session musician, so everything was good to learn. I played rock, hard rock, jazz, fusion, flamenco, finger picking, country, blues, folk, bossa-nova; it was all fair game. I was most interested in what was happening in studios, and I started learning about recording on top of studying harmony, improvisation and practicing every possible genre. I never managed to become a session musician, for lack of opportunities (in France there were not that many working studios at the time), but I’ve learned a lot from the age of 14 to 30. Then life happened, and I didn’t have the time or energy to continue playing, so I didn’t really play until 15 years later. But then I went back to it with a vengeance and I’ve built myself a home studio and learned about new audio engineering technique, and since 2011 or so I have accumulated a lot of material, that I’m releasing now…
MSJ: Is all your music strictly solo, or do you bring other musicians in to help?
For the most part, yes. I write/arrange/sing and play all the instruments/produce/record/mix and master everything. Only on a few occasions did I have the chance to collaborate with a female singer. I’d love to do that again.
MSJ: If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?
I’m a software developer in “real life." I have my own company, and it’s working fine. I quite like the creativity this involves. I wouldn’t be happy if I were not in a job that involves being curious and creative.
MSJ: How did you settle on the name "Ghostly Beard?"
I couldn’t use my own name (Patrick Talbot) because the dot com and social media accounts were taken, so I looked for names around the idea of being invisible, in the shadows, because that’s what I am (especially as an unsigned artist in the music industry). I don’t show my face, ever, so I’ve built my website around images of shadows, and I tried various names, and finally found Ghostly Beard. I finally settled for it from the moment that I found this intriguing icon I use as a logo, which looks like a beard, a ghost, an alien, a mask, anything you want… I chose not to show my face as a reaction to the image-obsessed society we are in (especially in the media world, and even in the music world), which I find pretty weird considering music is supposed to be heard with your ears, not your eyes. It’s my message to everyone listening: close your eyes (I even wrote a song by that title), music is powerful as it is. You don’t need anything else to feel it. It’s actually a well-known fact by all audio engineers that visual stimuli are affecting how you hear things in a mix. When you close your eyes, your brain is more focused on the sound.
MSJ: Who would you see as your musical influences?
There are so many that it’s hard for me to pick only a few. What I do is really a blend of many genres that I’ve played along the years. Off the top of my head, some of the artists that I have listened to the most I would say are: Peter Gabriel, Michael Franks, Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell, Yes, Weather Report, Igor Stravinsky, Frank Zappa, James Taylor, King Crimson, Jeff Beck, Led Zeppelin, J.S. Bach, Pat Metheny, Eric Clapton, Magma. I like artists that are very distinctive, that you can recognize from a few notes, because they have a truly unique sound. I suppose I’m always trying to find that unique sound myself.
MSJ: What's the best thing that's ever been said about your music?
I’ve had many amazing reviews for my previous albums. And the people who have heard the new one have been extremely enthusiastic as well (see https://ghostlybeard.com/blog/blog/inward-early-feedback) but one feedback from someone on social media made me extremely proud, I think she said that listening to the song made her cry as she connected with the music. I thought it was amazing, as this is really what music is all about… that human connection, that sharing of deeper feelings that words often fail to convey.
MSJ:
What's ahead for you?
I’m releasing this new album on May 4th called “Inward” which is going to be my third. I truly believe it’s the best I’ve ever done. It contains some of my strongest songs, and I’ve worked for ages on the production and mix/master of this one. I’m happy about the sound of it, and it’s very coherent as an album . It has a flow that makes sense to me, although it goes through a blend of many genres again. But I think I managed to define my own sound with this one.

I’m really proud of this one, and I hope it will find its audience. I also hope people will buy it because all the net proceeds from sales (of downloads and CDs) are going to go to a charity here in Canada, called "MusiCounts," https://www.musicounts.ca/ which aim to put instruments in the hands of kids who can’t afford them and help them get a musical education.

MSJ:
I know many artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?
Honestly, hard to say. My first release was more progressive rock. The second album was a lot more jazz oriented. This one is more classic/soft rock I guess? What does that make the music I do? Plus, there’s no guarantee that the next one will not be totally different again. I like to write and play different things, try different sounds and surprise myself. Once I’ve finished recording a song, I want the next one to be totally different, because I would be bored otherwise, and what’s the point in that? That’s one of the reason I love being unsigned - that total freedom of doing the music I want, exactly how I want it.
MSJ: Are there musicians with whom you would like to play in the future?
I’m not too big into collaboration, because I’m such a control freak, and I have such a fixed idea of what I want to achieve when I work on a tune, but I’ve virtually “met” many artists in the unsigned world that I would love to try and collaborate with for various reasons. I can think of Dandelion Charm, The Puss Puss Band, Didi, Hannah Clive, Kafkadiva, Matt Mercer, World5, Laughing with the Raindrops, Chris Watkins, TolbertToz… These are just a few that I feel more akin to musically, with whom I think this could work. There are probably many others, but these are the first that come to mind.
MSJ:
Do you think that illegal downloading or streaming of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?
It’s more than a hindrance, it’s the death of original music. I would even say that there’s not much difference between the two. Streaming is barely more than legalized pirating. At the rates the streaming corporations are leaking all the music for free, basically legitimizing the idea that music should be free, there’s no way young musicians can make a living. And of course, as a direct consequence of it, concert ticket prices go sky high, while musicians are reduced to being tee-shirt retailers, or beggars (with various fundraisings). I feel very strongly about it, and I’ve opted out of all streaming platforms for that reason. I believe that all musicians who can (meaning unsigned artists not forced by labels contracts) should do the same. For unsigned artists, these platforms are useless and even harmful. They should think about what they do with their music, and if more people were more conscious about that maybe we could see some changes. When artists themselves are linking to Spotify and company, they are just giving these corporations more power. I call it sleeping with the devil.
MSJ: In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them or posting them online?
It’s the same thing, and it’s illegal as well, but so is 90 percent of what you find on Youtube nowadays. But of course, Youtube/Google has no intention to stop that. They make too much profit from ads on these copyright infringed videos.
MSJ: If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?
I’m no expert in super heroes but I used to love the Silver Surfer, and his fight against Galactus was cool. It sounded desperate, impossible, and yet... Galactus was the destroyer of worlds, just like streaming is the destroyer of original music?
MSJ: If you were to put together your ultimate band (a band you'd like to hear or catch live), who would be in it and why?
One band that is close to this was the band that played with Joni Mitchell for her “Shadows and Light” tour, with Jaco Pastorius, Pat Metheny, Lyle Mays, Michael Brecker, Don Alias. That was quite a line up! I would have loved to see them.
MSJ: If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view who would be playing?

That Joni Mitchell band would be playing, but also Frank Zappa, and Peter Gabriel, and Miles Davis, and Jeff Beck and Magma. I realize most of these people are dead or not really touring anymore, but I can’t say I fancy any concert from any newer bands, to be honest. To me (and I realize that’s going to sound like I’m too old to have the right to say this) not many things have happened musically that are truly essentials since the seventies and eighties.

MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
I’m buying more and more unsigned music nowadays, from some of the artists I follow and like, as a way of supporting them, and to listen to what they do. I think the last one I bought was the last Dandelion Charm EP (which is awesome and that I highly recommend!). I listen to a lot of unsigned music because I try to find cool songs to review for MusicTalks.xyz where I do a weekly song review and for my pick of the week where I introduce a new song on KBRadio.ca every week during the Wednesday indie show. So, I listen to a lot of stuff, until I find one that clicks. I’m pretty picky to be honest. I pick songs that have something special, something that makes me say “that’s different” or “that’s cool,” and it must have a great sound. I hate lo-fi and anything that is not properly recorded and mixed. There’s too much music around to listen to a s****y sound... Otherwise I spend a lot of time in my studio where I work on production and mixing/mastering. That’s a lot of music time already!
MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
Last one was the biography of Doc Holiday, big shot Nashville producer - a short read but fun. Otherwise I tend to re-read the classics of French and English literature.
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
Last year’s Montreal Jazz Festival, I saw Chick Corea, Hiromi and Eric Truffaz. I tend to go to jazz concerts because that’s still a genre where things do happen live. It’s spontaneous music and highly relying on improvisation. And I prefer outdoor venues because most of the time I hate indoor concerts, when the PA is overloud, and the sound is reverberating all over the place.
MSJ: Do you remember the first concert you attended?
I used to go to Jazz festivals in Juan-Les-Pins and Nice Cimiez when I was young, but I don’t remember particularly which band(s) I saw first. On the rock side, I saw Yes when they came back in 1982, and I hated it. They had turned into a heavy metal pop band, and the sound (indoor in an arena) was absolutely atrocious. You could hear each note twice: once from the front of house and then almost a second later from the back reflections. It was a big mush. I tried to avoid these kinds of big arena concerts ever since, unless it’s outdoor.
MSJ: Have you come across any new gear recently that you love?
On all my tunes, I’m using a Kemper Profiling Amplifier which is an amp emulator (that looks like a toaster) that can emulate any guitar amp you can ever dream of. It cost me a fortune, but it’s a godsend. I can play a stack of Marshall in my living room, or a Fender, or a Vox, or a Roland or whatever I want, and use headphones or my studio monitors at low volume while my daughter is asleep in the room next door. The library of profiles available is huge and gives me access to thousands of amps. It’s not an emulator as such. It is truly profiling the sound of real amps by capturing their characteristics with a mic, analyzing it and reproducing it. It really sucks the soul of any amp. It comes with hundreds of effects, as well. It’s now used more and more in studios because it’s so versatile and convenient. You don’t need to have dozens of amps anymore, and you can recall any settings with the switch of a button… a producer’s dream!
MSJ: Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”
I used to like The Corrs a lot. Apart from that my guilty pleasure (for someone into jazz and rock) is probably J.S. Bach. I will never tire of the Brandenburg Concertos. I love how mathematical his music is, yet at the same time how deeply spiritual.
MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
I remember the time I heard a recording of a gig I’d done with the band I was in at the time, it was a prog-rock band and I was the lead guitarist, but for some reason, I was asked to sing the lead vocal on this song that I had written. Except I couldn’t hear myself in the PA returns. Didn’t prevent me from trying but when I heard the result later, it was pretty awful, I was convincingly off key and proud of it for most of the song. Not my best moment! But then again, I’ve never considered myself as such a singer. I’m a musician first, and I write around my vocal limitations, and make it work, but it’s not my strongest suit. I like instrumentals, but nowadays no one (except in the jazz world) listens to them anyway…
MSJ: If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?
Albert Einstein, Frank Zappa and Vladimir Nabokov. All geniuses in their own rights. At least I believe it wouldn’t be boring.
MSJ: What would be on the menu?
Nothing fancy, but there would be plenty of food for thoughts…
MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
As I said, I’m more and more involved in unsigned artists promotion, I’d love to be able to help with production and mixing in the future and am available for that for artists that I like. I’m also more and more involved in artists rights defense, and with fellow artists and partners (radios, blogs, promoters, labels, venues and even fans) we have a project that will hopefully grow into a helpful platform for unsigned artists and will help raise awareness on the challenges of the music industry and hopefully help with some positive changes. I hope we’ll be able to talk about that more soon, when this is ready for the public. We will want to get together with other artists rights movements to try and give unsigned artists a voice in the music industry.
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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