Who’s Afraid Of The Dark?by Eliza Crow Day / Images by Dirk Steenkamp / 02.04.2014
I spoke to The Ghost Quotes about evil on a balcony in Cape Town while the first cold and heavy rains of autumn fell. I heard one of their songs, I went back and listened to it again, and I listened to every other track they have until my ears bled. Music that is new, raw, dark and addictive. You don’t know you love it until you’ve tried it and their cinematic construction of sound is thick with evil. Moorish.
The Ghost Quotes are new on the Cape Town band scene and fresh to the stage. In fact they are in their initiation phase, having debuted at a FREAKSHOW party and darkened a stage at the most recent Psych Night regular at The Assembly. Only the beginning.
The Ghost Quotes is a measure of balance, a collaborative effort from the minds of two very different musicians; Andrew Winer and Donny Truter, who together share a self-ordained responsibility to represent the wicked.
Andrew is calm and enigmatic. “It’s all on a scale,” he says as we watch the cold rain fall. “A spectrum of dark and light. There’s got to be balance. Light and darkness.”
Donny, the possessed poet in a wifebeater who chants to Andrew’s beat adds in a low growl: “You have to take care of that darkness.”
“Doing something lighthearted is kind of the easy way out,” he croaks from beneath his Buster Keaton hat. “The beat poets and the classic poets – they were dark. I like the darkness. It’s attractive to a small amount of people and if you do it correctly then you can change minds. You should be doing stuff at the end of the day that defines you. Don’t cater to soft hearts,” he ends.
“How did it happen?” I ask.
Andrew, who looks a little feverish despite the cold rain, turns to Donny and says, “Didn’t you call me up and say ‘Let’s make some evil music’?”
Donny smokes slowly and nods, “Yeah, we’ve been musical peers for a while and jammed here and there; Jeremy Loops, Taleswapper (my blues project), Two Minute Puzzle (Andrew’s previous band) and Andre Geldenhuys from Machineri. I was really attracted to Andrew’s style of production. There was something just a little bit evil about it and there’s something very nice about that. ‘Let’s make a really evil track just for shits and giggles,’ we agreed one day. He did the production and it just fitted with my vocal style; it was the perfect marriage. It was attractive to our ears so we figured that whoever else found that attractive, would be of the same mind-set. And so The Ghost Quotes was born.”
I’m looking for the back story, which came first – their style or the name that fits this mysterious, poetic séance so well?
“We fiddled around with the name for a while,” explains Donny. “Like crows are a talisman for spirits, so we wanted to go for that. We wanted (our name) to have an underlying dark and spiritual style.”
“Occult-ish,” Andrew adds, “Actually, I think I misheard something Donny said and was like, ‘Oh, The Ghost Quotes!'”
Donny smiles, “And I was like, ‘No, but yes!’ That is fucking great.”
So The Ghost Quotes have risen and the sound is black. It incorporates witches brew voodoo electronica, strangled lyrics, other-wordly chants, slave dirges and horror show imagery buried in the thick mud of sluggish, swamp tones and roots music.
“I’ve been of a swampish mind-set for a while,” elaborates Donny. Andrew brings his production, which has an electronic edge – I don’t even know what you would call his production style. Almost… glitchy!”
When you listen to The Ghost Quotes, you can’t help but feel immersed. It’s full-on and freaky-weird but listen closely and there’s a story to take you through it all. Their EP, entitled Swamp Machines, is a grand grimoire of strange stories.
Donny, who writes the lyrics, explains: “I’ve been writing poetry since I was a little boy and I have a backlog of poems. I was creating something to match Andrew’s style which is very cinematic and as a result, there’s lots of shit going on there. We wanted to make something electronic, that was more cinematic than dance-floor driven or singer/songwriter driven. The weirder the better, the darker the better. And then marry the story to the style of production. Basically not all The Ghost Quotes songs are the same but there is the underlying story and that cinematic… darkness.”
It’s a scary setting to create from; a paracosm of dense dreams that these two strange men share, and I want to know how that is going to translate as a stage performance.
“We want it to be theatrical,” rasps Donny . “We want to make the performance seem like a scene from a disturbing film. Difficult to relate to but strangely appealing.”
“How is this going to work out for the rest of the mortal world?” I ask.
“I think it’s going to blow my own mind. And that’s when I know it’s attractive to me,” Donny grins. “When Andrew and I work together, we know that when it’s rad for us; then it’s ready. We write this for us. We get stoked and then we go from there. We don’t write for other people first.”
“I think people are generally too afraid to delve into things that unsettle them. The world is afraid of the darkness…,” Donny muses.
He shivers. Night has fallen. They leave.
All images © Dirk Steenkamp