The ghost who raps
THE Grey Ghost is one of a new wave of artists who don't touch an instrument. He works with producers and musicians (he has a full band on stage with him) to create the sound that's in his head and invest it with the lyrics that it's inspired.
"I often begin with the music and express what it's telling me," he said.
While his vocal approach is very much in the hip-hop style, the music that frames his raps is rooted in rock and pop music.
"It's a blend of post-punk and British new-wave mixed with hip-hop. It's rooted in sampling as well as the evolution
of many genres but bands such as Devo, Lou Reed and the Human League were working in the same era (as early rappers using samples). But they were sampling from the past, so not a whole lot of hip-hop ended up sounding the same as its contemporaries."
In fact his two greatest influences are Iggy Pop and Paul Simon - who he regards as the greatest-ever lyricist.
"His lyrics had a wonderful play-off between literal and metaphoric imagery. He clearly foreshadowed the influence of folk music into rap."
A one-time member of influential hip-hop outfit The Melodics, the Ghost felt his vision restricted by working with four other songwriters.
"Writing was a long process of sitting around together. That can start to feel sterile. Now I work with just a producer, and it's more directly my vision. Producers are the other 50% of the song, but I'm the lyricist and I'm explicit in references and types of sounds."
Even the "Grey Ghost" moniker comes from a gumbo of references.
"A lot of people hit me up about it. My parents told me it used to be an expression for parking inspectors. It's also a fishing knot and the Phantom comic book hero was also known as The Grey Ghost.
"But everything's in the collective subconscious. Down the track it's hard to come up with something that's completely new."
Grey Ghost plays Bluesfest on Sunday, March 31, and Monday, April 1.