PHANTOM GHOST :: Intention and chance…

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(04.20.06) PHANTOM GHOST are two people, Dirk Von Lowtzow and Thies Mynther, who are from Germany and have just released their new third album simply called Three, on the label Ladomat 2000. Their song-oriented music is very subtle, made of gentle electronics, instruments and singing. The lyrics and the vocals are an important part of their music because they add a specific poetic sense and even a certain philosophical touch –all cleverly put together in a rather post-romantic manner. Phantom Ghost’s music may seem a little fragile, but even if it is, it is layered in a basic minimalistic approach and reaches deeply with meaning and emotion. On that level, it can be compared with Antony and The Jonsons’ music, both being quite sparse and widely spread in space.

Boban Ristevski :: Hello, can you please first introduce yourself? Where you’re from, what kind of musical background you come from and explain some of the main musical or other influences you have.

Dirk von Lowtzow :: Hello. My name is Dirk von Lowtzow, I´m 35 years old and I was born and raised in Offenburg, Germany, near the French border. By the age of 22 I moved to the city of Hamburg and founded the Band “Tocotronic” with two newfound friends. In still play in this band and we are currently writing our 8th album. In 1999 I became more and more interested in electronic music and founded together with Thies Mynther, who is my partner in music, Phantom Ghost. This project was originally founded as a cover-band to play the songs of Leonard Cohen and John Cale, two musicians we still love today and who can be considered as two of the main influences for us. We also always thought of Phantom Ghost as an “open” project, which is formed by its various influences which come not only from the world of music but also art and film and literature. For example did we refer to Italian director Dario Argento as well as French couturier Yves Saint Laurent and on and on and on. We are like magpies. We love to steal.

BR :: The sound of your new third album is quite unique, there’s the songwriting aspect of it, also the electronic side, so some call it electronic-folk, although there’s also the influence of classical music there, and it’s all joined and merged together in a very subtle and intimate way. How do you decide about the direction of each song and the whole Phantom Ghost’s sound?

DVL :: It’s, as far as I can tell, a strange mixture between intention and chance, between research and hoax. We have a strange kind of idea in mind, like the ones mentioned above or like the general idea of “playing folk music” and then the music “comes to us.” Is it a pastiche? I don’t really know. Is it parodistic? Yes, in a way. Also, we do of course not believe so much in the idea of “the author.” These questions are hard to answer for us, since and especially with this album we find ourselves surprised by the music we do. I know this sounds probably pretentious, but it’s kind of true.

BR :: What about the live performing of Phantom Ghost’s music; how often do you play concerts and where. How many people are on stage and in the band? Are you satisfied with the audiences reaction?

DVL :: When we perform live, it’s only us two. We are the classical “electronic” duo: One guy does the music (Thies) and one guy does the singing (me), like Soft Cell or the Sparks. Only structurally speaking of course. Not to compare with them. We play rather seldom than often and are mostly happy with how the audience reacts. Welcome, Bienvenue, Welcome, to cabaret.

BR :: Would be nice to see and hear you play your music live. I must say Phantom Ghost’s music in some moments reminded me of Loreena Mckennitt, but it also reminds me of Antony and the Johnsons, although it’s very different from both. I like the combination of emotion and intelligence in Phantom Ghost’s music, if I can say it that way. What do you think –can you relate your music to some other electronic-songwriting artists and bands today, can you point out which one’s they’d be?

DVL :: Thank you, you’re very kind to us. We both like Antony and the Johnsons very much, as well as new bands like Animal Collective or Final Fantasy. Maybe we don’t really feel related to other musicians, but of course we know many of them and are friends with them. We also love the “dance scene”, techno, deep house etc and are related to the German Techno-Label Dial- Records.

BR :: Cool. I know Dial from the music of Lawrence, Sten, Carsten Jost, Dominique –all really nice and great music, mostly in a minimal techno way. Dominique’s sound seems to be the most similar with Phantom Ghost’s. In which way you are related to Dial Records and the “dance scene”?

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DVL :: Not only has the Three album been a co-production with Dial, but also we are very old friends with the label and of course with the artists they represent. Of course we also know Dominique quite well. With him it’s funny, because, like me, he also is an art critic when he doesn’t play his music. Although we write for different magazines we get along. Only joking. He’s wonderful. I’m also a good friend of Carsten Jost, who is also an artist. We know each other for a long time. In Phantom Ghost we are both big techno fans and many of our songs have been remixed, by artists from Kompakt, Playhouse or Dial. Also, we simply like to go out for “clubbing.”

BR :: What music do you listen recently, do you have some favorites of the new bands or artists?

DVL :: See above. At the moment I’m heavily in love with the folk-song arrangements by Benjamin Britten “A ceremony of corals” and “Songs from Friday afternoon.” That’s so beautiful one could cry. I also love to listen to 60’s folk-band The Incredible String Band, who also have been a major influence for some of the new songs. But I also love art, fashion, whatever. There is still so much to see, isn’t it?

BR :: Yes, there is. Does literature inspire you somehow in writing Phantom Ghost’s music and lyrics? Are you the one who always writes the lyrics?

DVL :: We write them both and, yes, literature is a big influence for us. For this album we stole a lot from poets and writers like John Donne, Thomas Hardy, Fritz Leiber and a lot more. I already forgot. Musicians should be learning from writers and artists, dancers more than from musicians, as well as artists, writers etc should learn from musicians. Otherwise it gets so boring. Well, that sounds naïve, but it’s kind of true, I think.

BR :: Please tell something more about the other band or bands, musical or other projects you are involved with.

DVL :: Well, at the moment it’s only Phantom Ghost and Tocotronic. That’s enough. I am very lazy and like to lie on the sofa. Too much music is not healthy, believe me. Greetings from Berlin.

BR :: Thanks for the nice talk.

Three is out now on Ladomat 2000. Visit phantom-ghost.de for more info about Phantom Ghost.

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