LOMM: Can you give a little biographical and historical info; who is involved in the band, and how did you guys meet up?
Ghost of Sunset: Ghosts of Sunset is a project including myself (John Merchant) and Todd Long. We met back in high school and both shared a love of 1980s hard rock music that has become known as “hair metal”. Over the past 30 years we’ve written, recorded, performed and toured across several bands and genres as wide-ranging as country, rockabilly, classic rock and alternative. Ghosts of Sunset was founded to celebrate the always consistent influence rock n roll has had on us.
LOMM: Pandemic has taken an emotional toll on everyone yet the arts have been hit especially hard. The musicians are vulnerable to financial upheaval. How have you guys have been holding up?
Ghost of Sunset: Certainly, the loss of the live revenue stream has had a tremendous impact on the bands budgeting and financial well-being. Fortunately, after all these years in the business, we’ve learned that to survive, you have a have a diversity of income. That can be anything from freelance studio work, private instruction, day jobs, and a host of other sources. A lot of our friends in the industry including performers, crew members, venues and studios have been hit far harder. We released the charity single “All I Wanna Do is Rock” to benefit the Save Our Stages fund. It was just a little something we could do to help.
LOMM: On the other hand you seem to have had a productive time. Is that right?
Ghost of Sunset: We’ve been lucky to be able to write, record, promote, and grow Ghosts of Sunset in such an uncertain time. We used some friends and guest musicians for various roles and we were fortunate they were mostly at home and available. It kept us all sane.
LOMM: Tell us about your genre, what does it means to you, why did you choose this genre?
Ghost of Sunset: We make rock n roll music. We all know there’s a million sub-genres, but rock n roll is attitude music. The Sex Pistols had attitude, so Johnny Cash. Faster Pussycat had attitude and so did Elvis. All those artists and so many more influence our work.
LOMM: How did the initial musical and thematic elements evolve?
Ghost of Sunset: The EP “Headed West” was a true concept that started from an idea I had and shared with Todd about the rise and fall of a 1980s “hair band” on the Sunset Strip. Our new album “No Saints in the City” isn’t a concept per se, but it definitely has the feel of the city and tells the stories of the people who call it home. It’s nice to start with characters who you can develop and explore emotionally. The album touches on everything from the death of my mother this last year to my struggles with addiction, recovery, and the people I’ve encountered who don’t survive, yet it’s never 100% about me.
LOMM: Are you happy with your product? What aspects of it do you think you guys nailed, and what parts do you think you could improve upon?
Ghost of Sunset: You’re always you worst critic. I will say, over the past almost 50 years, I’ve listened to a lot of music across nearly every genre imaginable, and I very much enjoy the songs we’ve created. You TRY and take yourself out and listen analytically as someone who loves music, and when I do that, I find myself getting lost in the songs and stories. That tells me that someone else should be able to do the same. No that little guitar line, or the phrasing of that one word it’s the stuff the writer agonizes over forever and ever.
LOMM: How has the overall reception been?
Ghost of Sunset: To say we’ve been blessed is an absolute understatement.
LOMM: Have you ever been on a tour? Given live performances? Is it tough for you not to be able to do so now?
Ghost of Sunset: Touring is weirdest thing ever. You get out there, you’re having a blast, but you still miss the family and home. A day after being home, you miss the band and the road. You head back out and the cycle repeats. Nearly a year of not being able to perform definitely took its toll, but it also really put a light on just how much of my identity was wrapped up in that. It’s nice to be able to find fulfillment at home as well. The pandemic taught be a lot about balance. I’m grateful for that.
LOMM: What is the next step for you? How is the future looking?
Ghost of Sunset: The title track “No Saints in the City” is our first single on Golden Robot Records, so we’ll promote that, most likely release a follow-up single, then the full-length album sometime in the fall. We’re looking hard at some limited touring or one-offs toward fall 2021. Again, Todd and I are hyper-focused on smart moves that further our band while maintaining that balance I spoke of earlier.
LOMM: Who is composing the songs?
Ghost of Sunset: Myself and Todd Long are 50/50 partners in the process. We do all the writing and composing.
LOMM: What bands do you draw your inspiration from?
Ghost of Sunset: Far to many to list, but again encompassing classic country music, the roots of rock n roll, pop, metal, glam, glitter, new wave, hair metal, singer-songwriters, the list goes on and on. If it’s a good song, the source matters very little to Todd and I.
LOMM: Which is more exciting? Being on the road or studio?
Ghost of Sunset: Live is an instant gratification thing. Lots of energy bouncing around. Plus, there’s the shared experience factor. The studio however is where you mold and create this thing and as it develops, the excitement grows. When you’ve completed it and it’s moving you, there’s that anticipation of “I can’t wait until they hear this”. We know the people who like Ghosts of Sunset are just like us and they love songs. When we’re moved by one, we’re excited to share it. It’s no different than having friends over to your house to listen to a new record. You just want them to feel what you feel.
LOMM: What first got you into music?
Ghost of Sunset: I like to say I never remember a time I WASN’T into it. I liken it to being called to the ministry or something. There was never a time I thought about being a cowboy, or fireman, or baseball player, this was it. I was put here to do this. I do a lot of other things, but music was stamped in my DNA and on my heart from day one.
LOMM: What do you like the best about being a musician? And what is it that you do not like much?
Ghost of Sunset: I love music and songs. All I ever wanted to do was be able to PLAY some of them like my heroes did. Then to write some of my own and connect with other humans? That’s amazing. I’m just a person who loves songs. I get excited and moved by good ones. That’s the whole deal for me. The downside? I guess the fact that to tap into that creative energy source sometimes requires you to ignore the development of other aspects of your personality. It demands a lot of your spirit. Sometimes your maturity or impulse control suffers. It’s why bands a littered with addicts (like me) or often fall apart. The good news is, if you’re still alive, you can learn and grow.
LOMM: If you weren’t musicians, what would you be doing?
Ghost of Sunset: Certainly, some involvement in the business would be nice or helping people who suffer from the same demons I do.
LOMM: If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
Ghost of Sunset: It would be nice if the playing field was level and money wasn’t such a factor. It would be cool if popularity was based on songs and talent.
LOMM: What’s more important to you? Catering to the audience or music for its own sake?
Ghost of Sunset: If you give it all to the music, you’ll find an audience. The second you start creating material to appease an audience the connection becomes disingenuous. I’d rather have 4 people who are truly connected to what I’m saying that 4 million who only like it because I’m saying what they want to hear.
LOMM: What is the most memorable gig that you have played to date?
Ghost of Sunset: 30+ years? Everything to an audience of dogs at an animal shelter to 24K people opening for Creedence Clearwater Revisited. And honestly, they’re always pretty memorable because they’re an answer to a prayer I’ve had my whole life.
LOMM: When you look back your music career, what do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?
Ghost of Sunset: That I’m still learning and I’m still excited when I do.
LOMM: Who would you like to collaborate with?
Ghost of Sunset: Any of my influences. Just the ability to say “thank you” and here’s what you’ve taught me.
LOMM: Who would you like to go on a tour with?
Ghost of Sunset: Def Leppard, Bon Jovi. People in our genre who have managed longevity and growth without ever alienating the people who love them and gave them their success.
LOMM: If you could play any festival in the world, which one would you choose? Tell us why.
Ghost of Sunset: M3 would be great. Monsters of Rock Cruise. Be nice to actually SEE some bands. I’m always working myself. I could do both!
LOMM: Name some of your all-time favorite albums? Include controversial ones.
Ghost of Sunset: Revolver by the Beatles (or anything), Under the Wishing Tree by the Charlie Sexton Sextet, the debut by Faster Pussycat. Controversial choice? “Killroy was Here” by Styx. It’s the “robot” concept album. Dated, over-blown, cheesy, and tied to my soul. I LOVED it as a kid. Any time I name it, it gets laughter. Man I love that silly record.
LOMM: What does your collection look like? Mostly Vinyl, Cassettes, CDs, Digital? A bit of everything? A total mess?
Ghost of Sunset: CDs and digital. I sold my 200+ cassette collection a few years back in a “clutter purge”. I really miss a vinyl gatefold sleeve though. Big time.
LOMM: What Country/Region are you from and what is the Metal/Rock scene like there?
Ghost of Sunset: I’m from Michigan, USA. I take a lot of pride in that. Iggy and the Stooges, MC5, Alice Cooper, Grand Funk Railroad, Bob Seger, all the Motown greats. The mitten always brings it. We’re scrappy and the winters are cold.
LOMM: You can invite 5 people to a dinner party, from the future, the past, rock stars, a movie characters, you name it. Who are you having dinner with?
Ghost of Sunset: John Lennon, Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix, and Jesus. I feel like we’d all be on the same page and have a lot to talk about.
LOMM: What is your weirdest memory in your music career?
Ghost of Sunset: My 7th grade choir teacher saying “you’re gonna wanna stick to sports, this isn’t for you”. Completely broke my heart. I don’t think she realized how bad I wanted it.
LOMM: What is the weirdest gift you have ever received from a fan?
Ghost of Sunset: We used to cover “You’re So Vain” and I got an apricot scarf!
LOMM: If you had one message to your fans, what would it be?
Ghost of Sunset: Thanks for doing this with us, I’m so glad you’re here, it would never work without you.
LOMM: Anything else you think your fans should know?
Ghost of Sunset: That positive comment you make, or the social media share, or the quick message may seem insignificant, but it might just be all it takes to keep us climbing and striving to be better. We want to make you proud of us and proud of yourselves for believing in these songs.
LOMM: Thank you for taking the time.
Check out Ghosts of Sunset here!!!