Hang 5 With Cold Ghost

Hang Five With Cold Ghost

Inspired by the natural soundscapes that surround us, Cold Ghost has spent the past eight months sampling local birds, drainpipes, cars on bridges, the brush of casuarina branches, clanging waterfront council signs and underwater creatures across the Gold Coast. Truly capturing what our city sounds like with the Nerang River as his muse, this local singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and sound designer utilised the full extent of his ArtKeeper residency at HOTA to produce this unique and intricate piece of audible art, released as an album titled ‘Red Gold’.

GCMN industry coordinator Kirsty Abrahams sat down with longtime friend and music industry peer Fletcher Babb (aka Cold Ghost) to discuss the creative process and find out more about his recent long-play release ‘Red Gold’. 

5 questions with Cold Ghost:

Can you tell us about this album?

My new album is called ‘Red Gold’. It explores the Nerang River and other waterways of the Gold Coast through alt-folk songwriting and immersive sound design. This project was my creative project as part of HOTA’s Artkeeper program where I had eight months of part-time employment to write, record and produce the songs. I loved the whole process of this project from exploring the creeks, field recording the rivers and canals of the GC, the creative lyric writing, the DIY production approach, all the way to the mastering process at the end. I would really love for you to listen to the album and let the river take control.

What was your creative process like for making this project?

This whole project was a journey of discovery, especially the creative process. In the first week of the job Nadia, my fellow Artkeeper lent me The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I took Cameron’s idea of writing your ‘morning papers’ stream of conscious creative writing and made sure that every day when I was at work I would sit somewhere in the presence of the river or a creek, put pen to paper and write continuously to the end of the page. 

These entries formed the fodder for my lyrics and in turn embedded environments from around the Gold Coast into the album. Oh, and I recorded audio of all the spots I visited, be it underwater fishes with a hydrophone, the branches of a Casuarina tree or playing a tambourine in a rock pool.

What can people expect from your live show?

My new album has a lot of sound design and field recordings that flow through the music, so my friend Jake Morton uses a sensory drum kit that brings the sounds from the production to the stage. The kit has sensors that map out the surfaces of the drum skins to allow the player to trigger samples in unique, AI-influenced ways. We can have a car going over a bridge as a kick drum, a Casuarina branch as a snare and a Currawong call on a tom. My electric guitarist Dan Booth supplies all the textural and melodic harmonies as I play my detuned nylon stringed guitar and sing. You might even hear me play the flute too.

What made you decide to take the plunge into a full-time music career? Any tips for artists who are considering the same move?

When I did my Honours Degree in Popular Music, my research looked into the “portfolio career” that a producer/musician often needs to survive the contemporary music industry. and that is definitely what I have built with my career post-studies. But, I am probably more of a part-time songwriter/musician/producer/sound designer/audio engineer, there is definitely a juggle a musician has to do to make it all work and that often includes work outside of music. I work in a little garden store and I garden on the side, these have been handy skills to have throughout my life when music just is not paying the bills. 

So my advice for a sustainable career in the arts is to expand your portfolio and diversify your skill-set. You will probably have a diverse career as a result, but that is what makes The Arts so interesting.

How do you keep your skill levels current? Do you have a regular schedule of practice and improvement? Tell us about it.

This project taught me that you most certainly need time to hone your skills and sharpen them for a project like this, especially if you are mostly doing it yourself. As I put on each skill hat, I make sure I have time to adjust my critical listening for each job. 

Mixing the album took me a lot longer to adjust than I thought it would. I think it took me a month before I was even happy with the sonic direction I was going. I am also deaf in my right ear from childhood mumps, so to play in the stereo world as a mono mixing engineer requires some techniques and workflows to navigate. I would like to say I practise these things, but sometimes it is the job itself which is the practice.

Catch Cold Ghost performing Red Gold live in April:

What:          Red Gold Album Launch GOLD COAST
Where:        Panorama Room, HOTA
When:         Sunday 14 April from 3.54pm
Tickets:        https://hota.com.au/whats-on/live/gigs/red-gold-album-launch

What:          Red Gold Album Launch BRISBANE
Where:        It’s Still a Secret (ISAS) 48 Montague Road, South Brisbane
When:         Sunday 21 April @ 5.30pm
Tickets:        https://events.humanitix.com/cold-ghost-red-gold-album-launch

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