Salem witches get a compassionate history storytelling in synthwave master Gost, with new album, Rites of Love and Reverence. James discusses the parallels of the past witch trials to today’s times through dark soundscapes and hypnotic melodies. He perfects the storytelling through the eyes of someone who sympathizes with the misunderstood women who were condemned by the hands of their fellow humans.
Gost began in Texas around 2013 by lone musician, James Lollar. “Rites of Love and Reverence” is his 6th album release and is taking an evolution from satanic themes to a journey through witchcraft and all the horror and strength that went along with those times. The electronic approach makes this album easy to move your feet and arms to, but has a dark ambiance throughout to keep the tone of the theme. His haunting vocals cut through your soul and drive the importance of the message into your heart.
James was kind enough to chat with Metal Nation about the album and his philosophies on life.
How long have you been working on “Rites of Love and Reverence”?
“I worked on it for about six or seven months. The whole world was shut down while I was writing it, so I couldn’t do anything else. *laughs* There was no distractions.”
That is one good thing that has come from covid, many bands are completing many things that they didn’t necessarily have time for before. Do you usually tour off of albums?
Are you able to tour right now?
“We are planning for something around November, December, but…I don’t take anything for granted anymore *laughs*. Who knows, things are looking kind of bad again. So, we will see.”
Right. Obviously, you have a touring band with you, even though you are the sole creator. Are they the same musicians you use all the time?
“We had been for the last two years but I just started working with a new guy, an old friend of mine.”
The album’s overall theme is about witchcraft and the history of witchcraft. What made you decide to use this as the focus?
“I wanted to move away from all the satanic stuff I had been doing, pretty much the whole time. It is also like a social commentary on how things are right now. How people crucify each other over simple things. The internet allows people to have all these crusades without consequences. It just feels like we haven’t grown much since Salem, and the inquisition. You know, we still love to publicly humiliate people. I wanted to make a statement about needing to get to a place where we can communicate better and work with one another because we are all different and that’s the way it is always going to be.”
How boring would it be if we were all the same?
This is interesting, so you are more paralleling nowadays. Do you think people will recognize that this is what you are trying to do?
“Maybe some will see these interviews or hear them. People probably won’t just pick it up because it is pretty obscure.”
Who has been one of your favorite bands or artists to play on a tour or festival with?
“I really enjoyed touring on the Mayhem tour with Ghaal, Kristian (Eivind Espedal) who is Gorgoroth’s frontman forever. He is like this deep brooding, he takes his art very seriously, but he is also sweet underneath it all. It was nice because I could always go talk to him and he was kind of like a ally for my sensibility.”
Thank goodness for that, those people are so important. You had mentioned the negative nature of people lately. As a musician, while you get a lot of support, you also get people who condemn what you do and make sure they say it proud and loud. How do you handle this?
“I used to take rude criticism toward my art or my personal beliefs all head on but it started to get really dark for me, so I just avoid it anymore, all the negativity.”
There is always going to be those people, and unfortunately they are usually louder than the masses, which are usually kind and compassionate people, they are just quieter. I do see a lot of support for you too, so hopefully that counteracts those few negative voices.
Throughout these 8 years, you have fans who have been following you from the beginning.
“For sure. I have gotten close to some of the people who follow me because I always see them when I am on tour. There is a core group of people who have been with my from the beginning.”
Who are some of your influences with starting this project?
“It was more from the electronic side of things so Daft Punk, there is another French person named Danger, Justice, all the French house whatever stuff that was coming out around 2010 or something. Depeche Mode has always been a favorite of mine forever though so that works its’ way into everything. Kind of everything from the 80’s, early 90’s. That’s when I was young and finding music for the first time. It’s so lifechanging when you are that age.”
Definitely, and in the 90’s, Industrial metal was huge. There were many big bands that were sweeping the nation; Nine Inch Nails, Fear Factory, Orgy, etc. It seems like you took elements of the later electronic music but then put in your mix of that kind of dark metal sound.
“Yeah absolutely. It’s wild how back in the 90’s how bands like Nine Inch Nails could get that big. Stadium big.”
Now he is doing Disney music *laughs*. I always joke that as soon as Trent cut his hair, his sanity came back *laughs*. He was dark back in the 90’s.
“Yeah he definitely was.”
How do you approach song writing?
“I always start with a bass line. It is a good place to find the basic melody of the song and I don’t know, it makes sense to me for some reason. I have never written a lead line before a bass line. Then I work in some drums and try to come up with an interesting pattern that is not first course first verse same redundancy. Then it always ends with lyrics and vocals, which has actually become my favorite part.”
I can see why when you have important things to say and/or also being able to have that creative outlet, which can be a form of therapy.
“Yes, it is so cathartic.”
As a therapist, I am constantly talking to clients about music and how it is therapy outside of therapy. It is a main focus in session conversations.
“That is a really interesting perspective from a therapist point of view. I have had therapy in the past here and there and my daughter is going to a therapist now but she has never brought up music or anything, but I think that is pretty cool.”
It is something everyone loves and enjoys and is there for all of us when nobody or nothing else is. Tell me about the song, “Burning Thyme”, I really enjoy that one.
“I brought in some real instruments for the first time, quote “real instruments”, because I needed something to change things up. I needed a new place to create from. Writing that song, the acoustic part at the beginning, then it becomes a dance track and the reason is because I haven’t played guitar in seriously like years, so I had a couple of riffs written on the acoustic guitar then nothing else was really working. I was just hitting a wall, so I decided to make it a dance track. I thought, ‘People are going to hear this and it is going to be a mess’, but a lot of my close friends that I have shown, it is probably their favorite track on the album.”
I agree. It is definitely my favorite too. It is kind of haunting but also comfortable, if that makes sense.
“Yeah. That’s cool. I was kind of wanting to come from, you know that ‘Werewolf’ song that Cat Power wrote? If it doesn’t ring a bell, you should check it out. It is real brooding and it has cello in it and that was a big inspiration for that track.”
Nice! I will definitely look it up. I really like your vocals on it too. It is a really cool ending to the album because it brings it down and is a very powerful song. So tell me what you have been doing for self-care and balance lately.
“With all the boredom I got to where I was drinking a lot just to not feel bored. As soon as my booking agent told me it was possible to go back on tour, I started doing jumping jacks immediately *laughs*. I have been trying to exercise and get out of the house and just be more outside. Not going to a bar, but walking down trails and trying to separate myself from the digital part of my life because during the lockdown that is all we had. I am still kind of in a weird place mentally, now that I can do things it is almost less fun or something? Like it has lost its luster, I can’t describe it.”
I can relate with a lot of that. Good for you for trying to do something different. It is a weird feel right now and a weird world right now. I assume you are someone who feeds off of other people’s energy, so I think it is really exhausting right now. It is difficult to feel, quote unquote, normal when everything feels chaotic. Thank goodness you have family during this.
“Yeah. We just went on a family trip to New Mexico where we stayed on a side of a mountain for about ten days. It was probably one of the best times I have had in my entire life.”
Nature is a cure. That’s wonderful. What are some other hobbies you have?
“I play video games a lot with my youngest daughter. She is a total gamer. I used to play when I was younger, but just over the last year she has really gotten into it so it has reignited it for me. That is probably the only other hobby I have. I play Roblox with her which is hilarious *laughs*.”
*Laughs* How old is she?
“She is ten.”
I have a thirteen-year-old that plays that too and is always trying to get me to play. I feel bad because I remember trying to get my parents to play Mario when I was younger and it would drive me crazy they wouldn’t hold down B to make Mario run. It was so frustrating that they would just make him walk, so I have that running through my head when he wants me to play, but I know I am going to suck at it and it is going to be frustrating for him. *laughs*
“*Laughs* That’s great.”
If you could be your music to a movie or tv show, is there one already out there that you would choose? Or what type of movie or show would you feel best fits?
“I could see it being in that movie ‘Heathers’, or ‘The Craft’ the original. Those 90’s early 00’s teen movies, which is weird because I have mentioned that in a couple of other interviews with metal dudes and they are like, ‘Oh my god I love those!’ *laughs*, it’s hilarious.”
The Craft still holds up, it is really creepy.
“It is so good.”
Heathers was really creepy too. Do you remember the movie “Jawbreakers”?
“Yeah, I love that movie too.”
With the way everything it going, hopefully you will be on tour soon, but who knows. How is the best way people can support you?
“Buy the album so my label doesn’t drop me *laughs*. If I get to play shows, come to shows and hang out and let’s try to feel normal.”
How about some advice for our kids that are going through this difficult time.
“When your parents tell you to get off of your iPad, do it, because that shit is a depression box. I am guilty of it too, staring at my phone and I realize I will start having anxiety over everything for no reason. If you like music, pick up a guitar and lose yourself in that, because that probably honestly saved my life. Learning music is so hard, but it is also so rewarding.”
That is great advice. We live in a digital world, so it is so hard to help them understand how damaging it can be, especially, like you said, when we are just as guilty about doing it. Do as I say, not as I do bullshit.
“It is weird. I was looking up some studies on it, when you are on your phone, your brain thinks of it like the real world and that is why it stays with you when you pull your head out of it for a while. You are overstimulated and you haven’t even been doing anything. It is the weirdest thing.”
Then you get bored really easy because your so used to being constantly stimulated. Do you enjoy reading?
“I used to read a lot, but I haven’t been reading that much lately. Why do you have a suggestion?”
I was just curious because you were talking about reading studies and I am a huge reader.
“I am actually reading a really boring book right now on genome sequencing. One of my friends is an engineer, he is always giving me these books that are way over my head, but I am trying to go through it and understand it. We like to have scientific conversations.”
That is great. Learning new things is important. I really enjoy learning about quantum physics even though it is over my head as well.
“That quantum physics is so amazing. It doesn’t make sense to my brain, but they test it and that shit really happens. We observe things and we change the universe and don’t understand it, but cool whatever.”
Right. Then it feels like we have blipped somewhere in this whole existence, can we blip back or to a different existence that maybe is a little bit better than what we are experiencing? *Laughs*
“*Laughs* Somebody in a parallel universe is not going through a pandemic.”
Right. Our parallel universe selves are probably much happier. *laughs*
What are some books you enjoyed before?
“I really like science fiction books. One of my favorite books of all time is ‘Enders Game’ by Orson Scott Card. That series is so interesting and deep.”
My son just finished ‘Enders Game’ and I am urging him to continue on because then it gets into quantum physics and philosophy and existential crisis topics and humanity. The piggies are so complex and amazing.
“Definitely. I read that whole series in fifth or sixth grade and when it was getting into the second book where he is dealing with killing an entire race of aliens, it is so out of control for someone that age. That is awesome that you have your son reading that though.”
It is a great series. I also really enjoy, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”, I have read it a lot and refuse to watch the movie because I hear how different it is from the book. I also really enjoy, “Stranger in a Strange Land”.
“I haven’t read the first one, I should check that out. Just the title sounds amazing. ‘Blade Runner’, I have a soft spot for because I watched it when I was young and it has a great soundtrack, but it is actually a terrible movie. At some point they made some weird artistic decision to have the main guy do so many voiceovers and so there is no flow.”
Read the book, it is amazing.
“I will definitely check it out. It sounds awesome!”
James is a wonderful human with a great philosophy on life. Gost‘s evolution in music is everchanging and keeps the listener and fans excited and interested in what he will do next. “Rites of Love and Reverence”, is not only a history lesson, but a melodic, synthwave treat for your ears as well as your mind. Make sure you check out this album and give him your support. Our musicians need it now more than ever!