Ghost Station is the name by which Matt Phillips makes his music, by day he looks after the F.A. Cup and by night, he can be found lurking in dark corners with his guitar and amp, creating some might fine sounds. His brand new single 'Tear it Up' has just been released on iTunes, you can see the video to the track midway down the feature.
We caught up with Matt where we had a good chat about Playing alongside some legendary acts, his fear of monkeys and performing a gig to a load of pre-school toddlers, here's how we got on....
Please introduce the band and your music in one sentence....
Ghost Station is the world’s smallest band as it features me, Matt Phillips, as the only full-time member and is three minute guitar based pop tunes straight outta Essex.
You’re called ‘Ghost Station’, how did you go about choosing this name?
I travel on the London underground regularly and ghost stations are the disused stops that are no longer in service on tube lines like the Central and Metropolitan. So it’s something that’s off the map and under the radar which is probably how you’d describe Ghost Station’s career to date.
What is the best advice you ever received and who was it from?
A guy called Dave helps design the Ghost Station cover art and he was once told to look for a positive out of every negative. So that seems like pretty good advice to me. That said, he’d just written his car off so not sure what the positive was there as he had to get the bus home.
You’ve played alongside greats such as Ocean Colour Scene, what was it like touring with these guys?
I can’t speak highly enough of them, top lads, dead chatty. No ego at all. They lumped their own gear into the venue I seem to recall. We’d seen Steve Cradock playing guitar for Weller on things like Later with Jools Holland and now he was sat at a table with us having a drink so it was pretty crazy for someone just starting out in the business. This was their comeback tour around The Riverboat Song and the Moseley Shoals album which they played in song order. They sound-checked the riff of the Riverboat Song over and over so it was in our heads for weeks after.
Have you had any ‘Spinal Tap’ Moments? If yes, please share!
Oh, plenty in my musical past. I once did a gig where there was loads of dry ice and one of the amps caught fire so the soundman rushed on with an extinguisher which just added to the dry ice. We were moments away from an indoor gig being abandoned due to fog like conditions. We got asked to play a gig in a village hall once for the local youngsters who had heard us rehearsing and wanted to hear more. Turns out that 90% of those kids were pre-school….
Would you rather live with a dog that sings lullabies or a gorilla that can do sign language? Explain your answer
It’s got to be the dog that sings lullabies. Pass me an application form, Britain’s Got Talent here we come. The gorilla is a no go, I’m a bit scared of monkeys these days after seeing the modern remakes of Planet of the Apes.
You took some time off from the musical world, what happened?
I kind of fell out of love with music, the whole process of trying to “make it” and playing gigs to empty venues. When you’ve got big ambitions it kind of feels like the end of the world. This was before the iTunes age so it was difficult to go down a DIY route and release your own music at that time as any release was restricted to CDs and vinyl and needed a distributor etc. So I just stepped away from writing music, doing gigs, stuff like that. But inevitably that love of music came back, I did some acoustic gigs and here we are at Ghost Station.
In your opinion, what is the BEST album/record ever released?
I’d probably say Revolver by The Beatles as it’s inspired so many bands across many different styles of music. I think it’s amazing that in a short timeframe Lennon and McCartney went from writing Love Me Do to Tomorrow Never Knows.
If you had a chance to put together your own ‘super group’, who would be in it? (only living members please)
The rhythm section is going to come from the Stone Roses…Reni on drums as he’s phenomenal and does backing vocals as well. Mani on bass as he’s a great character. My all-time favourite rock star is Ronnie Wood so he’s on guitar. On keyboard/piano is Chas Hodges from Chas n Dave. You can’t have Chas without Dave can you so we’ll put Dave on rhythm guitar and means we can have a cockney knees up at the after-show. Will be good to have a brass section in there so I’ll get on the phone to the guys who tour with Nile Rodgers and Chic and make them an offer they can’t refuse. I think we’ll have revolving lead vocalists like The Beautiful South did so that will be me, Rod Stewart and Shaun Ryder plus his Happy Mondays bandmate Rowetta. I’ve gone for experience over youth with this super group but as Alan Hansen once said on Match of the Day, you’ll win nothing with kids.
Being unsigned, how hard is it to get noticed and how has social media aided your music?
It’s very difficult because it’s quite easy to put out a track out on iTunes or upload a video to You Tube so you’ve got a culture in music now of quantity over quality. I think social media is great though as it breaks down barriers to people in the industry, helps generate an audience and one tweet or post could be life changing.
Do you own a record that you wouldn’t like to admit you have?
Of course not but my CDs are on the same shelf as my wife’s and this can cause confusion for visiting guests. So you’ve got a situation where Super Furry Animals is next to the Best of Glee or Blue’s Greatest Hits. No, I’ve definitely not listened to the Best of Glee. 100% not. Er, next question?
Who designed the artwork for your EP ‘Head for the Sun’?
I’m proud of my Essex roots and use local talent from the area. It’s all done in-house so that plane image was put together by occasional Ghost Station guitarist Joe and given a graphic design onceover by advice guru Dave who I mentioned earlier. Ghost Station is 100% Essex but in a different way to TOWIE.
So, what’s your favourite Michael Caine movie and why?
Sir Michael, the legend! So many to choose from….He’s superb as Bromhead in Zulu, rocks a brilliant university lecturer beard in Educating Rita and gives us a great Scrooge in The Muppets Christmas Carol. I do like him and Sean Connery as a double act in The Man Who Would Be King though so that’s probably my favourite.
What classic song would you have liked to have recorded and why?
I’d like to have been on one of the classic Motown hits like ‘Heard it through the Grapevine’ or ‘Nowhere to Run’, something like that maybe? I love that whole Motown set up, recording at the Hitsville house, Berry Gordy running the show, their studio band the Funk Brothers playing the music, what a time that must have been.
What was the first gig you ever went to?
I used to be massively into a band called the New Fast Automatic Daffodils who were on the periphery of that whole Madchester/Baggy scene. I used to get glimpses of them on the Indie section of The Chart Show on ITV back in the day so they were my first gig in Sudbury on the Essex/Suffolk border. Check out the New FADS on Spotify, you won’t be disappointed. I had their stuff on tape, CD and vinyl, I was a multi format collector back then.
What are the music venues like in Essex?
Ghost Station’s hometown is Chelmsford so non-existent other than two days a year when the V-Festival rocks up in August. I’m amazed that Virgin or the local council haven’t opened up a dedicated music venue on the back of V’s success here especially as Chelmsford’s now been upgraded to city status. We used to have two really good music venues back in the Nineties but they’re long gone. One is a Travel Lodge or something now. A sorry case of a brand you see in any UK town replacing something that gave Chelmsford individuality. Oasis played on that site. Up the A12 in Colchester is the Arts Centre which is a converted church, that’s the best venue in Essex I think. The Cambridge Junction is an hour away and that’s a superb venue too.
Where did you record ‘Head for the Sun’ and ‘Tear It Up’ and what made you choose that studio?
Ghost Station always records out at All-Star Studios which is in the Essex countryside. Great people there, I love it. It’s on a farm and based in what used to be an apple orchard barn. Sometimes the animals can be a little lively, no joke, the local sheep tried to storm the studio the other week. We can only presume that they’d seen the Shaun the Sheep movie and fancied their chances at sheep superstardom. Who can blame them, must be boring standing in a field all day.
Name three people (alive, dead or fictional) that you would like as dinner party guests?
First up I’d go for two New Yorkers in Groucho Marx and Huey from the Fun Lovin Criminals. Groucho is one of the greatest comedians ever while Huey is the King of Cool. The third guest would be Conor McGregor from the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He’s my number one sports star the moment, an unbelievable character from Dublin, check him out on You Tube. Think we’ve got a nice NYC/Irish mix there.
There are many good bands and musicians out there, who would you ask the readers of musicmuso to look out for?
Just like MusicMuso, I’m bang into the Sleaford Mods at the moment. Good lads and they’ve bagged a support slot with The Who at Hyde Park this June so fair play to them. It took me a while to get into them but songs like Jobseeker and Fizzy are top notch. I think their vocalist Jason Williamson is one of the best frontmen in music right now. He’s got the same intensity as Liam Gallagher when Oasis broke through. There’s a Scottish band called The Wellgreen that I like, check out Maybe it’s the Pressure of this City Life, that is some seriously good songwriting. Hearts are Breaking by High Hazels is a top draw tune as well, Johnny Marr style guitar vibes. Great video too. Look at these plaudits I’m handing out here, you don’t get this from Noel Gallagher do you? Move over Dave Grohl, I’m the nicest man in music now.
If you could describe your music in the form of a fictional character, who would it be?
I’d say Ghost Station is like Arya Stark from Game of Thrones. Small and easy to overlook but packing some serious punch.
What are your plans for 2015?
Tear It Up has just been re-released so looking to promote that for the time being and then it’s back to the studio to record the follow up for later this year. We’ve got a new arrival in the Phillips family this June so the summer is going to be spent learning to be a dad but the new Ghost Station single will be ready for the second half of the year and I’m excited about that, it’s going to be a class tune. Plus I’ll have an extra mouth to feed so please buy it.
All our interviewees must run our 'gauntlet' of quickfire questions, we provided a suit of armour and a can of pepper spray and left him to it....
Coffee or Tea?
Tea (English Breakfast)
Billericay Dickie or Dagenham Dave?
Got to be Billericay Dickie, love Ian Dury and the Blockheads.
Drum machine or the real deal?
Drum machine I think
Mac or PC?
Fry up or Sunday roast
Fry up, annoys me when they stop serving it at 11am.
Ed Sheeran or Damon Albarn?
Albarn edges it cos of Gorillaz.
CD or Vinyl?
Car or Motorbike?
Bose or Beats?
Acoustic or electric?
Shower or Bath?
Shower, of the power variety
Tattoos or Piercings?
Robert de Niro or Al Pacino?
De Niro for those flashback scenes in The Godfather 2
God or Google?
I’ll say Google…Now I’ve said that I’m fully expecting God not to share the WI-FI password up at the Pearly Gates when the time comes. (I got my nan to have a word with the big man, he said that he has a nice 56k dial up modem with his name on it...)
We'd like to thank Matt for taking time out of his hectic schedule to complete our questions, we wish him every success in the future and who knows, we may see him playing someday soon. Please spare a few minutes and check out his website and social media pages, I've listed them all below, just point and click and the wonders of the world wide web will teleport you there....
Interview by Mark Wincott