Indie Spotlight: Ghostly Beard

Indie Spotlight: Ghostly Beard

The hardest question we can ask ourselves about Ghostly Beard is, “What don’t we love?” After much soul searching, listening and web stalking of Ghostly Beard, we finally decided on a “not like.” Patrick Talbot, the man behind Ghostly Beard, doesn’t show his face.  Why do we hate it? Well, some of us recall back when Maynard James Keenan (once front man for Tool) didn’t face the crowd during an entire concert performance, and when he would kind of face the crowd, it was from a darkened corner of the stage. So annoying.

But in Ghostly Beard’s case, Patrick’s hidden face is an aside. Would we love to stare into the eyes of the deep and haunting voice coming at us from our speakers? Maybe – unless he looks anything like Maynard James Keenan (sorry Maynard — and Patrick for our image obsessiveness).  But none of that has to do with the music of Ghostly Beard.

Frankly put, we are head-over-heels in love with Ghostly Beard’s sound, particularly the sound on his new album, Inward.  We had one of those rare and glorious moments while listening to How Does it Feel from the Inward album where you realize you aren’t just listening to another 4 chords with a catchy melody, but a real piece of art. That moment came when the lyric “How Does it Feel” lined up with the beat got us like – YAAAAASSSSS. The use of syncopation (see how much we love Ghostly Beard – we used the word “syncopation”) showed we were hearing a mature artist. A small gasp came from this listener’s lips. Each time we listen to the track we shiver with antici….. pation for that syncopation.

Who is Ghostly Beard?

Patrick Talbot is Ghostly Beard.  He plays guitar, bass, keyboards and sings. However, he doesn’t play the drums.  Instead, he programs all of his drum tracks with keys and pads (“no quantified beatz” as he puts it). He writes, arranges, produces, engineers, mixed and masters his recordings in his home studio, showing what an amazing talent he truly is.

But Ghostly Beard is also an activist of sorts for musicians. He’s been working with other artists and partners such as radios, blogs and labels, on a project he hopes to build into a collective of artists that share common values and goals, particularly in defending artists’ rights and in educating the public with the challenges of unsigned artists. 

I believe that if many join our movement, we can start making some noise around the music industry issues, and join other organizations fighting for artists rights against the big corporations that are killing the future of music. So I’m pretty involved in that with a few others and we hope to go public very soon, and start growing our ranks to help changing the public mindset.

Some might say it’s too late, and its utopic and we are luddites who want to go against progress, but it’s not true, we believe that the situation is just not sustainable, and we demand some change, and this starts by a change of mindset in our own ranks and from our fans as well. The people who think there’s no use, would have been the same saying sustainable food and goods is a doomed concept, and recycling is utopic. We believe that anyone can affect change and it starts with ourselves.

Q & A with Ghostly Beard?

What’s the origin of your band name?

I couldn’t really use my real name, since it was taken on the internet (.com and social media accounts), so I looked for a name that would be evocative of what I wanted to project, which is being invisible, in the shadows, and putting my music forward instead of my ugly mug. I had started building a website based on images of shadows, because I’m fascinated by them, and also as a reaction against our self/image-obsessed society.

I want people to forget the face and listen to the music, with their ears! So, I looked for names around this idea of “invisible”, “shadowy”, “eerie”, etc. At one point I wanted to use Ghostly Bear, but the name was also taken, so I added a “d” and it made sense because (scoop alert!) I do have a beard.

How long have you been playing music under Ghostly Beard?

Well, I started playing music around the age of 14, have been pretty serious about it from the age of 18, meaning I was practising from 8 to 12 hours a day… I have learned to play any kind of music you can imagine, from classical to rock, blues, jazz, bossa-nova, hard rock, flamenco, finger picking, folk, progressive rock, I’ve learned about classical harmony, jazz harmony and improvisation. I wanted to be a session musician, really.

I’ve played with a few bands and in various genres. Learned to improvise with jazz and blues players. By the age of 30, I was really proficient technically, I could play anything. But then I had a big gap of 15 years where I’ve stopped playing, because of the various curve balls life had thrown in my life. Only around 2012, when things had started to settle down, did I get the energy and drive to go back to music, and I haven’t stopped since then.

What have been some of your biggest challenges and how have you overcome those challenges?

As I said, I have had a 15 years hiatus during which I haven’t played an instrument. Music was in the back of my head, but I didn’t have the drive and the energy and inspiration for it. When I finally got back to it, I had lost all my technique. But then I realized that technique was the least important aspect of music making.

I still had the experience, and the ear, and good musical background in harmony and knowledge of many styles, and instead of filling in with technique and showing off, I started to reach deeper in my song-writing. I started writing songs that were perhaps simpler, but much richer in their melodic content, much more meaningful.

I embraced what Miles Davis once said: ‘Don’t worry about playing a lot of notes. Just find one pretty one.’ and ‘You have to know 400 notes that you can play, then pick the right four.’ That’s what I do now: I try to find that one perfect note at the right time with the right sound, that expresses some real feelings instead of trying to cram as much notes as I can, because I can, and to show how clever I am (which is something that is afflicting so many young musicians, guitarists in particular!). I want to let the music breathe and flow, let it speak by itself, this means silence is also important, knowing when to play and not to play and how.

I want to write songs that have the immediacy that great melodies can give, yet still have the depth that a great arrangement and production can give, where you can discover things long after the first listen. So, all in all I feel that this drawback of having lost all my technique after such a long time off was actually a big positive step in my career, as I think I’ve reached a maturity that I would never have reached otherwise.

What musical genre do you classify yourself as?

That’s a hard one, because I love a lot of different music, and I like to go where the song wants to take me. The first EP I’ve released was more progressive-rock, the album that followed was a lot more jazz, fusion, and the new album is more classic rock, soft rock. I suppose my genre is somewhere in the classic/progressive/jazz/fusion/Americana/blues/soft rock genre.

How would you describe your music?

I often joke that when I was little I loved the musical “The Sound of Music” and then my older brothers made me listen to “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin, so I guess what I do is somewhere in between these two extremes.

What was the first song you performed publicly?

I think it was in my hometown in the south of France with the band of a guy who was teaching guitar to a friend of mine, he had somehow “discovered” me, and I ended up being the lead guitarist in his band. We played Tubular Bells from Mike Oldfield on stage on our first gig.

Who are some of your musical influences and why?

I have been listening to any music I could put my ears on. So, my influences are really coming from all over the place. What I listened to the most and what were my formative years, is the music from the seventies up to the eighties. But that period was also the most diverse musically, anything was possible, any blend of genres was possible, eclecticism was the norm and I really embrace that and try to be opened in my own writing and playing.

Off the top of my head, if I had to cite artists that I have listened to the most, I would say 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 the first note, because they have a truly unique sound. I suppose I’m always trying to find that unique sound myself.

What milestones have you reached in your music career that you’d like to share?

That album that I’m releasing, called ‘Inward‘ is a big milestone for me actually. I believe it’s the culmination of years of musical listening and learning, and practice, and the best I’ve ever recorded. I’m proud of the previous EP and album, but with this one, I think I have really found my own sound and style…

Ghostly Beard: Inward - Indie Spotlight

What is your fondest musical memory?

I suppose the time that I have spent with a group of close friends when I was still a teenager, we could spend entire evenings doing nothing but listening to music and playing games and just chatting. There were not too much illegal substances involved, but we were high with the music of the time (late seventies), it was a great time in my life, and music was at the center of it. And I realize I still act online today as I did at the time, sharing music I have discovered, curious to hear the new xxx and yyy and checking out the new bands and albums. I do that online a lot, because to me music is a sharing experience and a communion. A human experience.

If you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life, what song would it be?

That’s a really hard one! There are so many great songs from so many great bands/artists. I suppose one song (actually an instrumental) that I will never tire listening to is Frank Zappa ‘Watermelon in Easter Hay’. His guitar playing is the most emotionally deep that he has ever played, it’s achingly beautiful.

How often do you perform live?

Never. I don’t gig anymore. It was never my thing anyway. I don’t show my face, so I would have to wear a mask or a ghostly drape, which wouldn’t be very practical to sing, and I also play all the instruments on my music, so it would be hard to do on stage… I would need to find good musicians that I’m in phase with, which isn’t as easy as you’d think, because I have a very precise idea of how I want things to sound (Yes! I am a control freak!), and then there would be rehearsals, where half people turn out anyway, etc. I’ve been there, done that, got the tee-shirt and I’m done with it. I’ve always been more of a studio rat anyway, and I consider myself more as a songwriter/composer/arranger/producer nowadays than a performer.

I like records, I like the magic that can happen in studios. I’m not sure I’m a fan of concerts. It’s a very different experience for sure, but mostly I hate the shitty sound you get in most concert venues… just because it’s obnoxiously loud and distorted doesn’t mean it’s exciting. It isn’t to me. Outdoor concerts can be fun because at least the sound is not bouncing off walls, but most venues have an atrocious sound and I have a hard time enjoying that.

Any totally embarrassing anecdotal story from one of your performances?

I suppose it was the one time I heard a recording from a gig I did with this band called ‘Era’ – it was a progressive rock band in the South of France in the early 80s (no need to look them up, you won’t find them anywhere). On one of the songs I had written, I was asked to sing the lead. But the problem was that I couldn’t hear myself during that gig because of the bad PA system. Which became pretty apparent in the recording because I was totally off key and proud of it! I don’t feel too much of a singer anyway, but that was really bad!

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m in the middle of promoting that new album [Inward], it’s an ongoing, never ending thing. I’m also very active on social media, I try to promote others as much as myself, I try to attend online shows when I can find the time to show some support back to the people who are supporting me. And I have a full-time job, with my own company, and a teenage daughter that needs my attention. So, I’m rarely bored! But I keep working on new songs when I can and record and mix, but each song can take me a month or two from the first idea to the final mix and master. Anyway, it doesn’t matter how much time it takes, I’m not done until I’m reasonably happy with the result, or when I’m not and I abandon it.

What needs for elevating your music career aren’t being met?

The need to have fans who actually buy the music! Not that I am in it for the money (for example all the sales of my new album are going to a charity anyway), but there’s a lot of people who will repeatedly say “I love this and that” and will click like on your posts on social media, yet they will never buy anything from you, not even a song at $0.99 which is less than a coffee.

So, it makes you think that it’s all pretty fake in the end, which can sometimes be discouraging. I suppose it’s too much to ask nowadays, when everyone thinks that music should be free, and accessible on demand everywhere, anytime. Streaming has really reinforced this idea, which is why I hate it, and the payback for artists is so low that it’s laughable, really.

It’s an unsustainable situation that is really killing all the young artists who desperately try to make a living nowadays. I don’t care for myself, I’m too old for this shit, really. But I believe that artists who are giving away their music for free or for streaming are hurting every other artist. Which is why I have opted out from all streaming platforms. I truly believe that streaming is not that different from legalized piracy, except that it’s benefiting big software corporations of course.

Nowadays, you can only hear my music in full on my website, on Bandcamp (3 times maximum before being asked to buy it) and on indie radios, who are the true partners of unsigned artists, along with indie blogs, and venues. Anywhere else online you will only hear snippets and samplers of my music but not the whole thing. I think that if all artists were doing that then maybe fans would end up buying their music.

You can find more about Ghostly Beard on his website, Facebook, and Twitter or check out his other music videos on YouTube.


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1 Comment

  1. Thanks a lot for the feature, Jay!
    The website has been a long time coming, but it was worth the wait and it’s a great addition to the unsigned landscape. I see that there are great artists that I know of on the website and I’m going to have fun reading about them. Thanks for all you do and keep it up! 🙂

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