Ghostland Observatory takes South Shore Room into outer space
Laser lights and glow sticks and intergalactic dance funk will envelop Harrah’s Lake Tahoe’s South Shore Room when Trashy Moped artists Ghostland Observatory – singer Aaron “Pocahontas” Behrens and
drummer-synthesizer Thomas “the Mad Wizard” Ross Turner – perform Saturday, March 19. The Austin, Texas, duo made a surprise appearance in January 2008 in the same venue. Lake Tahoe Action figure Parker Dial peppered Turner with interrogative statements like “If Ghostland Observatory was a drug, what would it be?” and “Who makes your capes?”
Q: So how did Ghostland get started?
A: We met through another band called Waking Helix in 2002. That band broke up and Aaron and I formed Ghostland.
Q: Your music is so different from pretty much all of what else is out there, what drives your style? Did coming up in a city like Austin, Texas, help encourage the spirit of your music?
A: We have never been trying to fit in, whether it was a stage look or the music we do or whatever. We are always trying to push things to the next level as far as experimentation. We never want or are trying to be what is currently popular. We always try to go a step further and beyond that, we just try and do what makes us happy, and in Austin you can go out and see live music every day of the week at so many different places that if you want to get noticed you have to stand out. We never wanted to get drowned in the current of whatever crap was going on around us.
Q: So just being weird for the sake of being weird and pushing the envelope?
A: Yeah, you know if you start working on a song and it starts to sound like something you’ve already done, or it sounds like a song someone else has done you know, just kinda stop and be like, let’s go a little further than that and do something new or fresh.
Q: I noticed that on the new album, “Codename: Rondo,” that there’s a whole different feel to this album than your last three, whether it was a different style of beat, or messing around with the vocals and doing a spoken word thing. Is this a new avenue to stay fresh?
A: Nah, the concept behind this record was to just go back and play music like we first intended. To go back to where it just felt good to play. We were in such a cycle of touring non-stop, we had these expectations in our head of what we were supposed to sound like. So with this last record we wanted to take a step back and put our minds back into that state, back to “let’s just pretend like we don’t have any fans, that there’s nobody expecting this record to be better than the last three or whatever or anything like that and let’s just go back to having fun and experimenting. So we locked ourselves away for a few months and worked on that record where we didn’t have a bunch of shows to do or anything. We just focused on that record and going back to having fun creating with each other and pushing boundaries and not really thinking about you know, are people going to love this or hate this or not. Because when we first started making music the whole point was to make music that people really liked or really hated. We never wanted to make music that was just mediocre or have people be like, “Oh they’re all right but they’re just playing it safe. We’d rather make music that people either couldn’t stand or really loved. With this one, that’s what we tried to go back to doing and pretend like this was our first record. There’s no expectations, there’s no thoughts of this one’s better than the last one. Let’s just go back to having fun and pretend like there’s nobody watching.
Q: Did what you were doing become stale? Were you touring too much? It sounds like you just wanted this record to be for yourselves.
A: No, we never get tired of touring, but there’s a difference between when you’re only working on music, as opposed to when you’re working on music and touring, and doing all the traveling that goes along with it. We just wanted to lock ourselves away and focus on writing music as opposed to, “Well we’ll write music in between these shows, and whenever we get a chance,” you know? We wanted to put the focus on just getting together and being able to walk in each day and just work on music for hours and then, when its done, its done.
Q: What direction do you see your music going?
A: We love to experiment, so you never know. We’ll just play what feels right at the time.
Q: Where did you get the name for your label, Trashy Moped?
A: Ha, at the time I was like, I think it was the early 2000’s when the big thing was like, Bling. I just wanted to get as far away from that as I could you know, so I just thought, “what’s the furthest thing from Bling Bling?”
Q: But, that’s your label, you own and run it, Ghostland is its only band. Has being your own boss enabled you to be more creative and free to fly your freak flag?
A: You know you get to put out what you want and your fans get to hear a raw form of what you’re actually doing instead of just an idea that you had and then what the label changed it up to, or decided how to market it to you.
Q: Your live show is so incredible with all the lasers and energy that both you and Aaron put off. I caught your show at Reno’s Knitting Factory last November and was just amazed at what I had seen.
A: Yeah, this tour, the Codename tour we wanted to really amaze, because we’ve been doing lasers for a while, but this one I don’t think any band has toured with more or as many lasers for one show. You know even like the huge festivals, I don’t think there’s anyone that has used this many. We had like 16 for that last tour, and you know we have this whole grid that’s like the “Tron” grid. We tried to just do cool stuff that people hadn’t tried out before. And some of the blue ones were designed special for us, the gold ones, those too. You know we just tried to make it look like, super-cool. And that’s the main thing too, you know? When we do any show no matter where it is, or if its a huge festival or a small club or whatever we want to make sure that when people go to our shows they leave and feel like they got every penny’s worth of what they paid for. So, its really important to us to put on a great show.
Q: What do you prefer, the small clubs or the massive festivals?
A: You know it’s never a good idea to get your hopes up on anything. I’ve learned in the past that I’ll get real excited about some big festival or some big famous club or something and sometimes they’re really amazing shows and sometimes it’s kinda like, meh, that was cool. But then you’ll go to some small clubs sometimes or some random bar and you’ll be, “Oh man, I wonder how this is gonna work out and the crowd ends up being insane and ends up being one of the best shows of the tour.” So, you’re always surprised, it’s always hard to be like, were playing this awesome festival or this club or whatever cause you can get surprised at any time.
Q: So, if Ghostland was a drug, what drug would it be?
A: Oh man, I think like some form of a clean psychedelic. Something like really smooth that’ll take you to outer space and back safely.
A: Were doing a few on and off shows, like this one in Tahoe, and we just got back from Baltimore and so like during the dead of winter isn’t like the best time to tour, especially up in the north. So were just trying to do some shows here and there and will pick up in the spring when the weather is nice.
Q: I saw you’re doing Lollapalooza in Chile. Any plans for a world tour, maybe a Ghostland rocks Ibiza type thing?
A: (Laughs) Yeah you know traveling is cool, anytime we get an offer to go out of the country we’ll take it you know. We’ve been to Mexico, Norway and some other places. But, we love to go play people haven’t heard of us or where we’re not as known as we are here. But yeah man, we take whatever we get.
Q: How are the crowds out there normally?
A: Yeah, Norway was cool, England and Portugal, too. You know it’s always pretty interesting because you go someplace, especially some place they’ve never seen you before. Like, I remember in Mexico we played Guadalajara at this festival and like people were watching, with these “what is this?” look and then you could tell, like cell phone interaction and then the stage just kept getting more and more packed and then by the end it’s like jam packed and people were freaking out. So it’s cool to see, cause you’re basically trying to win them over cause they haven’t seen you play before and maybe they’re not familiar with your music so it’s like a challenge. You basically have a brand new audience to win over.
Q: Who makes your capes? I have to ask, being from Texas myself the Texas flag cape of yours you had on at the Knitting Factory really stood out.
A: (Laughs) That’s my wife. She’s made all my capes and it was actually her idea because like early on when we started playing shows and stuff I told her, I was like, you know I really want to have like a costume or something. I’m not really mobile you know, I’m stuck behind my station. I was like, I need something you know, because I didn’t want to be having like, you know I’m not trying to change some current trend in fashion or keep up with that or anything. So I was like, I need some garment or something that I can wear that just gets what I do, or how I am on stage, and she was like, well all right give me a week and I’ll see what I can do. And then she showed me the blue cape, then I started wearing it. And I wore it to every show and there’s been some different ones. There’s been an LED one I wore at ACL fest, and a sparkly one, and then for this Codename: Rondo tour she was like I’m gonna make you a cool one and she made the Texas flag one and I was like, “ahhh yeah.” Hell, you know what it was? During the BCS National Championship up against Alabama, I took my flag off of my house and I like wrapped it around me, you know, and was like trying to get everybody hyped up who was watching the game, I think she saw that and thought, that looks cool. Yeah, that’s gotta be where it came from.
Q: Could you guys ever do a Ghostland show without the lasers and keep the energy? Are all the lasers and effects integral to the music and the energy you produce, or are they separate entities?
A: You know I think the lasers are really cool and back when we started to get a following, man we toured for a while with no lasers or anything. It was just us guys on stage playing music with no lights or lasers or anything and it was cool. People had a great time and there was still that energy where everyone was dancing. But you know the way we look at it is instead of like trying to be greedy or pocket money, like if we’re playing to bigger crowds, why not give back? You know if we spend most of our money on our lasers and we give people an awesome show that they’ll never see again, that’s way more important to us. You know we’ve done the shows with no lights, or no anything and been real stripped down and raw. But now with the ticket prices, I mean we don’t set the prices but the promoters have to set them at whatever because the venues cost so much, and we think that if the people coming to our shows are paying that much for a show, then we’re going to give them a show.
Q: Do you guys still feel like you have the same energy as you had in the beginning? You were known for your live shows before you had so many lasers simply because of what you brought to the stage and to the crowd, is it still like that?
A: Yeah, especially if when you hit the stage and the crowd’s alive and into it or even if they’re, you know there’s two things. If you hit the stage and everyone is into it from the get go, that’s awesome because you’re like, ahh yeah, these people want it and you just try to give them every ounce that you have. But also if you’re playing and the crowd doesn’t seem that into it at first, well then at that point it’s a challenge and it’s like, well then let’s take it to ’em and win them over. So, either way it’s cool, we’re going to give the crowd everything we have.
Q: What kind of tricks do you have up your wizard’s sleeve for this show?
A: It’s pretty much like what we expect, but you never know what we’ll end up doing. We never really try and plan too far ahead. And you know some of the songs that we do, like “Midnight Voyage” and some others that live we do a whole lot of improvisation. Where you take like a four minute song and turn it into an eight-minute song and just jam it out even harder, and just things like that just naturally happen that you can’t plan that just happen on the road you know?
Q: You guys have a big die hard following in Texas, the so-called GLO-stick fans; have you seen this spread out yet in venues in other places?
A: Yeah, now in almost every city you’ll see people with like glo-stick headbands, bracelets, and the necklaces. You know, people waving anything that glows. I think it’s cool. Especially with our lasers and the crowd is all glowing like that its pretty nuts.
Q: Well, man, I’m really excited for your show up here, up here in Northern California we are no strangers to psychedelics but your brand is something special for sure. Thanks for your time, man.
A: Yeah, man, we’re really excited to come blow some minds.
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