Beyond The Ghost has been on a roll since joining the Cryo Chamber Label. In just under two years we’ve seen the release of a pair of exceptional albums – 2019’s ‘You Disappeared’ and 2020’s ‘Eternal Drift’. With each release, Beyond The Ghost has consistently delivered a unique blend of cinematic dark ambience combined with brilliant guitar and piano effects to produce soundtrack-like quality material that is not only memorable, but sustains a richness of depth and character as well. I recently had the pleasure to interview the maestro behind Beyond The Ghost – Pierre Laplace – to find out how he got his start in the Dark Ambient genre, his other involvements, and what the future holds for Beyond The Ghost. Please enjoy the interview with this amazing artist and definitely check out his unbelievable albums, if you’ve not done so already.
1. First, thank you so much for this interview opportunity. Secondly, congratulations on your two successful Cryo Chamber releases, 2019’s ‘You Disappeared’, and 2020’s ‘Eternal Drift’. How did the Beyond The Ghost Project begin?
Thank you for the opportunity to discuss my dark ambient project, I really appreciate it. I think the idea of Beyond the Ghost started about 2 years ago. In 2018, I released an album called The Ninth Wave with my other musical project, The Sandman’s Orchestra. It was a cover of the whole B-side to Kate Bush’s classic Hounds of Love album. It was a huge undertaking, I spent an insane amount of time working on textures, atmospheres and sound design for this album. Somehow, after that experience, and after years of songwriting, I wanted to explore a more atmospheric, darker side to my music. I also wanted to start composing more instrumental pieces. I got more and more into dark ambient and started writing tracks in that genre. I ended up with a whole album, You Disappeared.
2. What kind of project was The Sandman’s Orchestra? Besides this project were you previously involved with projects of other genres?
The Sandman’s Orchestra was an atmospheric folk duo I started with a young singer named Léonie Gabriel. That was my first serious attempt at producing music all by myself in my home-studio. It was a great experience on many levels. I made progress in terms of songwriting, arranging and producing music. It was a great collaboration with Léonie, who is an amazing singer. Before that, my main musical outlet was a band called Vera Clouzot. Between 1993 and 2003 we released a few demos, 4 studio albums (2 sung in English, 2 in French), one live album, and played about 150 shows throughout France, including opening for Jeff Buckley and Smog. We started out as an acoustic three-piece band. I sang and played guitar, Nicolas Fahy played the cello and Richard Huyghe was the main guitar player. Later on, two friends joined us on drums and bass guitar and our sound evolved into a mix of atmospheric ballads and experimental rock music sung in French. Being part of a band for 10 years was an amazing experience ; that’s a big chunk of life. I also released two solo albums of acoustic folk as Kenyon ; the second one, « Catch a Star » was released in 2005 by a Parisian micro-label, Hinah.
3. How did you come up with the name, Beyond The Ghost?
I’ve always loved the word « ghost », the way it sounds, its implications. I brainstormed with my girlfriend to find a name that would include the word « ghost », and that’s what we came up with. I like the fact that it’s open to interpretation. One possible meaning is that there are moments in your life when for some reason (bereavement, anxiety, depression) you may feel like some kind of ghost, not quite there, floating your way through life but with the wish to go past that stage, to go beyond the ghost of yourself and try to find your true nature again.
4. You seem to explore an extremely broad range of cinematic sounds on your recordings. Who are some of your influences for this style of Dark Ambient music?
True, I like to explore different sounds and atmospheres and I guess my music is quite cinematic. I’ve been influenced by other dark ambient artists but also by stuff that’s maybe less obvious : Talk Talk circa Spirit of Eden/Laughing Stock, Pink Floyd, David Bowie’s Low album, Brian Eno, David Sylvian, Portishead.
5. Cryo Chamber is the premiere label for Cinematic Dark Ambient music. How did your relationship with the label come about?
I’ve been familiar with the label for a couple of years. One of my friends from the early Soundcloud days, Tom Moore of Dead Melodies, was already on the label. The level of quality is pretty high on Cryo Chamber so you can’t just submit demos or a half-baked album. After months of working on my first album, I got to a point where I thought what I had was interesting and at least I wouldn’t make a fool out of myself if I submitted the album to the label. Cryo Chamber was the obvious choice because it’s the best dark ambient label out there. So I contacted Simon (Cryo Chamber’s label manager), sent him my album, which he liked right away, and a couple of days later we were already talking about artwork, stuff like that. Since then, I’ve developed a great working relationship and friendship with Simon. He’s been very supportive of my music and is easy to work with. I had bad experiences with record labels in the past, so today I feel very grateful to be on a label run by an artist, by someone with a vision.
6. Have you participated in any collaboration projects?
For the past year or so I’ve been collaborating with another artist, we’ll have a whole album finished by the end of the summer. I can’t tell you more at this point. Sorry, my lips are sealed ! This year I’ll also partake in the yearly Lovecraft project, I’m very excited about that. I love the collaborative aspect of Cryo Chamber, you feel like you’re part of a family. We are very supportive of each other, there are no ego conflicts or whatever.
7. The whole world is currently living in some dark times, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic going on. Are you sheltering in place because of this? If so, (or even if not), has this event inspired you to write any new music?
At first I was quite worried and stressed with the pandemic. I wasn’t afraid for myself but for my loved ones, especially my dad, who is considered at risk. It was heartbreaking to see the mortality of it all, often in dreadful circumstances. To die alone must be horrid, for the person and their family. As for the lockdown, personally, I had no problem with it. It was a necessary thing to do in order to save lives, and to be honest I often got annoyed with people complaining about how hard it was to stay confined for 2 months. I mean, if it’s about saving people’s lives, stop whining and do something creative with your time. Of course, I missed seeing my family and my friends, but that was a small price to pay for the greater good. I don’t think I was directly inspired by COVID, but I had a lot more free time than usual, so I worked on a lot of music, at random times of the day and night. I still do, actually. These past few months have been a very creative period for me. Music is a great outlet in stressful times.
8. Have you considered doing any live shows after the COVID-19 Pandemic is all clear? Have you considered doing any live streaming performances?
I don’t think I’ll play live shows or do live streaming performances. Giving a good live performance would require a lot of work and would probably involve other musicians because I don’t see myself playing piano or guitar over a backing track. I’d rather devote my time and energy to creating new music in my home-studio.
9. I guess the good thing about having a home-studio, is that you can play and record anytime you feel inspired. Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night with an idea and headed to your home-studio to record?
Yes, very often. I have weird sleeping patterns and I like working on music at night. I do like the freedom of having a home-studio, of being able to record whenever I feel inspired, which can definitely happen in the middle of the night.
10. Getting back to the music on your albums, there is a great mixture of sublime textures and controlled chaos. Do you have a strategy for writing your songs or is there a lot of improvisation?
I don’t have a strategy or any set rules. Sometimes I will start by creating a drone and then build a track from that foundation. Sometimes I create a sound or a layer that will inspire other sounds and layers and then I add the melodic part. A track can also start with a piano part, or a guitar sound, or anything really. I like the fact that there are no rules. So it’s mostly about inspiration and improvisation. Then, when I have a basic foundation for a track, things fall into place through trial and error.
11. One of my favorite Beyond The Ghost tracks is “Frozen In Time”. For some reason, this song reminds me of the soundtrack of the movie, Full Metal Jacket. Is therea particular story behind that track?
With that track I wanted to create something nostalgic and atmospheric with all the muffled radio voices, I wanted something that moved at a slow pace. When I wrote the track I had this image of being stuck in a lonely place, of being still, of feeling numb from the pain of losing someone (which was the central topic of the whole album). I saw Full Metal Jacket many years ago and I don’t remember the soundtrack, but I loved the movie at the time. It’s a good reference so I guess I’ll have to check out the OST now !
12. I believe the song from that OST that I am thinking of is called “Sniper”. Speaking of OST’s, do you have any favorite Dark Ambient-themed OST’s that you listen to often ?
Lately I’ve really enjoyed Hildur Guðnadóttir’s works, mainly her soundtrack to the Chernobyl mini-series, as well as her score for Joker. I’m a big fan of Geoff Barrow, the Portishead/Beak guy, and I like the soundtrack he composed with Ben Salisbury for Annihilation. One last example is Under the Skin’s soundtrack by Mica Levi – I found both the movie and soundtrack quite eerie and unsettling but beautiful at the same time. When I watch TV shows I pay a lot ofattention to music cues and I can definitely hear dark ambient influences in some of the shows I’ve enjoyed, like The Outsider, Bloodline or The Killing, for example.
13. “Becoming One With Darkness” from the ‘Eternal Drift’ album contains some ethereal guitar work on it and it’s probably my favorite track from the new album. Do you think you’ll use more guitar (and piano) parts in future recordings?
Thanks for pointing out that track. This and « The Slow Agony of Solitude » are two personal favorites from the new album. To me, Eternal Drift is definitely a guitar album. It may not be that obvious because I often used the electric guitar in unconventional ways, warping the sound with various techniques and fx to try and create interesting textures. Whatever direction my future projects will take, I know there will always be room for some guitar and piano as well as other organic instruments. Maybe it’s what defines my music and my sound : a mix of organic and synthetic, of warm and cold.
14. Once again, I really appreciate you taking the time to answer these questions for The Dungeon In Deep Space! Do you have any final thought for your fans that may be reading this?
It’s been my pleasure answering your questions ! I’d like to seize the opportunity to thank all the people who listened to my music, bought my albums, wrote nice messages and comments on social media or wrote me directly. I’ve had some very touching messages from various people and it means the world to me. I think people have sensed that these albums are very personal and real, that there’s a lot of emotions in there. You Disappeared was about losing someone, Eternal Drift is about losing yourself. Both albums were therapeutic for me. If some people have found comfort listening to my music, have felt touched and moved by it, then it was all worth it.
Eternal Drift: https://cryochamber.bandcamp.com/album/eternal-drift
You Disappeared: https://cryochamber.bandcamp.com/album/you-disappeared