Cold Ghost is a project by musician, producer and multi-instrumentalist Fletcher Babb (also known as Fletch).
Originally a jazz-trained flautist from Perth in Western Australia, Fletch released three independent alt-folk albums in his hometown of Perth before moving to the Gold Coast with his young family in 2011.
“I’ve always been a span of foonerisms (think about it), hence the new moniker Cold Ghost after moving to the Gold Coast,” says Fletch.
Recently he released his fourth album "Bachelor Tapes". Exploring the wilderness of alt-folk, rock and psychedelia, "Bachelor Tapes" was written while Fletch studied a Bachelor of Popular Music at the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University.
It is a stellar example of exceptional academic prowess (he graduated top of his class) and an expression of his renewed sense of purpose as a musician, a long way from the stay-at-home-dad rut he had found himself in.
Completely deaf in one ear due to childhood mumps, Fletch has created a feast for the senses in stereo by manually manipulating his own mono experience.
“I’d be recording or mixing something and I’d put the headphones on one way so I could hear it in my good ear, my left ear, and then I’d swap and listen through the other headphone and in my mind bring the sounds together. It was part trust and part imagination but I’d often ask my friends and collaborators, does this sound right?”
We can confirm, his album definitely sounds 'right'. But let's be honest, 'captivating' or 'mesmerising' are probably better adjectives!
As Cold Ghost is due to perform at NightQuarter this Friday as part of our 2018 concert series, we figured now was a perfect time to get better acquainted.
Firstly, congratulations on releasing your fourth album “Bachelor Tapes” what a mammoth achievement! In comparison to your previous albums, did you do anything differently this time?
Thanks… With my previous albums, I had the benefit of a disposable income to pay someone else to record them - which was great, because it allowed me to concentrate on my performance and other things (i.e. earning money). With this album I took control of every step of the process, from writing to mastering and releasing…and all it cost me was a Bachelor’s Degree, multiple parking tickets and lots of coffee.
Although I say I did it all myself, I had a lot of help and guidance along the way from mentors and peers. One song on the album was partly recorded in the classroom environment, and most of the material was used in various aspects of my academic portfolio throughout my degree. In a way, this album is a culmination of my education of the past few years.
What would be your advice to someone who is interested in writing and producing their own album?
Just do it. Don’t think too hard. You will be surprised as to what you will learn (or flearn….ie failing in order to learn)….don’t be afraid of stuffing up, just cover yourself as best you can and the result will be the best it can be.
How long did it take you to finish the album - from the writing process through to completing the recording?
This truly was conceived and executed over the 4 years that I studied at Griffith University. I wrote all the tracks during those years and recorded them mostly at the university studios, using my own little studio at home to record things between assignments and cooking dinners for my family.
After handing in my Honours paper last year, I had a month and a half to finalise my mixes and run everything through the Otari tape machine in Studio A. After that I gave myself a couple of months to figure out how I was going to master the record with the tools that I had at home. The last few months were a huge learning curve for me, as I had to make minute changes in order to present the tracks as best I could.
Funnily, there are two more tracks that I considered my babies throughout the production process, but they never made the cut. These two songs were written years ago. They are both epic and ambitious songs, but they did not fit with the vibe with the newer songs I had written. I am not sure what I going to do with these tracks. Maybe I will revisit them at some point.
What’s your favourite track from the album? Can you tell us a little bit about it?
None of the songs on Bachelor Tapes gold a lot of meaning. But in a way, I have always thought that the songs reflect me as an adolescent or young adult. When I didn’t have much figured out, but I thought I knew it all. There are some angst, awkwardness and rebelliousness to the lyrics and I am happy that I could pull these songs together into something that is slightly coherent.
My favourite song is “Desperation is a Friend of Mine”. It was almost fully written within about 15 minutes (during a songwriting session). The lyrics reflect a love for self-inflicted emotional pain. I recorded my nylon-stringed guitar in an open D tuning and started layering other instruments to create a trippy and lazy texture. The drums are behind the beat, the synth bass swims around and there are some crazy guitar FX. I ran this through the tape machine at the slowest tape speed and saturated it. You can hear the guitar warble and almost break up. It is delicate yet bombastic.
What was the first concert you ever went to?
Fugazi in about 1993. They always played underage gigs. My older brother took me. It was definitely a great introduction to the exchange of energy that live music produces between the band and the audience. If you don’t know Fugazi, check them out.
Was there a specific moment in your life that made you want to pursue music?
My Mum wanted me to play the flute, so I picked that up at the age of 10. Most people like music and enjoy it, but for me, it was one of the only things I was good at, so I kept doing it. I am sure there were many of my peers that were better musicians than me, but I stuck at it and was stubborn about not giving it up.
In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing emerging artists in the music industry at the moment?
The biggest challenge these days is that musicians have to do so much more than just play music. The portfolio career is very true and apparent in the music industry, and having a business attitude is always going to help. I am guilty of being business deficient and am always struggling with this side.
In terms of solutions? Again, just do it. If you know you gotta make some calls and strengthen your network, just pick up the phone and dial. Don’t think too hard.
And finally, what are you diggin’ right now? Do you have any recommendations?
I tend to watch TV shows late at night and give my sore back a rest, I have been really enjoying the European Sci-fi/post-apocalyptic shows like Dark and The Rain…The story, mood and music are all great.
With the world of books, I have been going through a bit of a Haruki Murakami phase. I really love his psychedelic, yet strangely grounding style. But I think I am over that for a little while. So I have turned back to an old fav author Paul Auster, I am reading his latest 4, 3, 2, 1.
In terms of music, funnily I am not the biggest consumer of music, but I have been enjoying Beck’s last album “Colors” (just because my kids play it in the car incessantly). Neil Finn's new album is fantastic. I do think that I am currently craving some new music though. So I will open my ear to the world and see what I hear.
Fletch was kind enough to create a Spotify playlist for us to further immerse ourselves in his world. You can listen below.
PS: Make sure you come on down to NightQuarter this Friday 15 June to see his mesmerising live set!
Friday 15 June
Music from 6pm
Featuring AGWA, Cold Ghost, Emily Jane + Angus Oastler