Introducing Manchester’s GhostStory. and New Single SPARTAN

Though Manchester is a creative and in fact supportive city, one’s creativity can soon feel stifled when working with other people and their opinions and compromise enter the equation.

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This is exactly what happened to Spencer Mason, who, having spent the last three years both playing in and fronting various bands across the city, has opted to strike solo with his new project GhostStory..

It’s a move which has allowed the Scottish-born poet and musician to take complete creative control of his output. From inception through to execution, every decision has been his own. Something which has allowed Mason to create the inimitable and idiosyncratic aesthetic that GhostStory. relishes in. Combining uncompromising industrial electronic beats with a spoken word delivery somewhat akin to the likes of Kae Tempest or perhaps Scroobius Pip, it’s an amalgamation not for the faint hearted.

Often drawing on his real-life experiences, as well as more esoteric interests such as greek mythology in debut release ‘Prometheus’, the lyrics of every GhostStory. track can be seen to resonate throughout our own life experiences, allowing Spencer to communicate with his audience while telling the narrative of his own life.

It’s something seen in latest single ‘SPARTAN’. Three and a half minutes of frenetic and off-kilter electronica, it eschews the cloying paranoia of its predecessor in favour of something altogether less menacing.

“If Prometheus was talking about protecting oneself in creativity or performance, which in a way that’s largely what the dialogue was – an admission to live and thrive despite mental illness,” explains Mason “Spartan is a sonic bartering with the self; an architectural representation of the mania I was experiencing during the period leading up to the Prometheus campaign. The lyrics were just born from me looking at myself and being sick of my own shit.”

Mental illness, and Spencer’s lived experiences of it, are largely what informs his work, both written and recorded. His poetry book Other Tongues details the effects of living with schizoaffective disorder and the impact it holds, and there’s ripples of this that can be felt across GhostStory. as well.

A vehicle for Mason’s own creative output? Certainly. But Ghoststory. is so much more than that. At its core, it feels like an exercise in catharsis. For both Spencer, and his listeners.

We caught up with Spencer ahead of the track’s release:

Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Can you introduce yourself in less than 10 words?

I’m GhostStory,  a neuro-diverse free-form writer, producer and performer.

You’ve just released your new single SPARTAN. Can you tell us a bit more about it?

It’s somewhat of a satire piece about my relationship with myself. Sonically I wanted to sculpt something as manic as I’ve felt over the last lockdown etc. Everything else is in the lyric I think.

Your music is pretty different from a lot of stuff that’s happening in Manchester currently. How did you settle on the combination of techno and spoken word?

It was never the plan to land on it, and I definitely wouldn’t call it settling. Right now, this is the combination of genres that best facilitate what I want to communicate – just like the next release will, in a completely different way. Same with the one after that, and so on. The intention of GhostStory is to continually find the best sonic landscape depending to fit the creative architecture.

You’ve been in bands and such before. What was it that made you decide to go solo?

Largely I have a control issue maybe. Also, this way I can work quicker and don’t have to confirm my decisions with a number of people. It can be easier to protect myself creatively as well – if the entire process is in my control, I can set the boundaries I need at every step. I didn’t have the confidence for a long time though, it took some wonderful friends to make me believe I good perform by myself.

Mental health plays an important part in your music. How important is it for you to explore such themes?

It used to be in everything I wrote – now, I know it’s healthier to balance the depths of different projects. I’ll always discuss it wherever I can, I’m not convinced conversation and the stigma movements go far enough, but if I can contribute my honesty and my vulnerability, I hope I’d invite people to join me in that.

Is it out of a sense of personal catharsis, or helping others to exercise their own demons, or a mixture of the time?

I would never want to assume how my work has helped someone else, or presume I’d had a prevalent effect on someone – really, it’s always the individual to do the work. Selfishly, yes, my work does give me some catharsis and there is a therapeutic nature to my creativity, but I try to be more aware of the intentions behind that.

Lockdown took a huge toll on people’s mental health, what were some of your strategies for dealing with it?

It’s difficult- there’s been cycles of unhealthy coping mechanisms that felt necessary at the time, and there’s been periods where I’ve felt the lockdown lifestyle suited me well – I could just ignore the world and sink into my own. But humans need each other, I wouldn’t have coped without some pf the conversations and distant interactions I’ve had with other people. Community is so easy to forget, for me at least, yet so important.

With lockdown restrictions easing and things beginning to get back to normal, what are some of the things you’re most looking forward to doing?

I am so excited to play a gig/perform live with real people in a sweaty room. I need the connection, one room and one intent. And physical contact. It’s so strange to have had a year of barely ever feeling a person’s touch – to be actively avoiding it. I think physical connection will help a lot of people when it’s safe.

Who’s an artist or producer you’d most like to collaborate with?

  • Swarm Intelligence or Bios Contrast are two producers I’d love to work for. And I’d love to do a collab with my mate and rapper SWEETS, he’s killing it right now and I just think his wordplay is fantastic.

You’re also a published poet. Is there any other artistic endeavours that you’re keeping secret from us?

Haha, I sort of like to try my hand at anything I can. I used to do a bit of acting and physical theatre. I’ve recently finished a novel that I’m lining a few things along with.

What are you working on currently?

Creatively, right now there’s a lot of plates spinning that are going to be revealed in good time. I’ve done some collabs I’m super excited about. Mostly though I’m trying to find time to work on myself, while trying to get my dissertation finished haha.

Finally, any parting words of wisdom you want to leave our readers with?

If there’s a fraction of my work anyone is interested in, I’d encourage you to have faith there’s something you’ll like coming in the near future. A part from that, stay safe and look out for each other. Kindness goes a really long way at times like these.

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