Interview: Pop Innovator Y the Ghost Discusses His New Video "Hologram" and Debut Album "Can You Hear Me?"

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Major thanks to Y the Ghost who connected with DCWS for an exclusive interview to talk about his new video “Hologram”, as well as his debut album "Can U Hear Me?", which was released last fall. We also find out more about Y the Ghost’s moniker and where it originated, the artists that have influenced his music, his creative process while developing the album, and much more.

After reading our Q&A with Y the Ghost, be sure to connect with him via his website and social media, and stream his very DOPE debut album “Can You Hear Me?” on Spotify, Bandcamp or Apple Music.

Tell us about your moniker "Y the Ghost"; how did it originate and what does it mean?

The Y stands for all of the implications that come with being a gen-Y millennial in today's modern climate. The Ghost portion signifies a self-awareness of the fact that my intentions with this project are to overcome my own death by creating a very specific and intentional form of immortality using art and music. Y the Ghost is about coming to terms with the human condition, and then transcending it completely.

Who are some artists or bands throughout the years that have influenced your music?

I feel like when people ask about my influences after hearing my music they always expect me to say things like "Gary Numan" or "The Human League" or "Duran Duran" which would probably be the cooler answers (and are somewhat true) but the ENTIRE truth is that the high-energy, in-your-face supernatural dreampop sound actually comes from being a kid listening to Disney Channel pop remixes in my portable CD player to drown out the funk CD my mom blasted on family roadtrips of songs like Salt 'N Peppa's "Push It" and George Clinton's "Atomic Dog" on repeat. It wasn't until later in life that those two sounds intertwined and the late 80's/early 90's influence became an accessible toolbox for me draw from to express my sugary sweet Disney sensibility in a way that had a darker, more stylish edge to it.

Congratulations on the release of your new video "Hologram" which is featured on your debut album "Can U Hear Me?". Why did you select "Hologram" to make a visual for? Also, who directed it?

Thank you! Sonically I found it to be an exciting project to create visuals for, and thematically it was a relevant and imperative message for me to express. I made it very clear when I was searching for collaborators on this video that I wanted to direct and edit the project myself because the visions I had were so clear and specific in my mind. I found a fantastic videographer named Matt Cox who was totally down for the ride and captured the footage in a way that exceeded my own imagination in so many ways.

Regarding the "Hologram" song itself, what inspired you to write it and what message do you want the listener to take away from it?

The conception of this track was one of those instances where everything started off with a groove that I've had in my head for years, almost as if I've always known it. It wasn't until I started immersing myself in the atmosphere forming around these sounds that the meaning and the lyrics started coming together piece by piece. My creative process began with this sort of primal, pulsing beat and then delicately adding layer upon layer as the song progresses with each added element being connected to a different part of your body and serving its own purpose in the moving consciousness of the song. The whole process felt very intuitive and was one of my first times writing where I felt like I was really writing from my whole body as opposed to just my head or my chest.

The song began to take on this carnal, lustful feel but lyrically I wanted to take it a little bit deeper than that. I began to think about sexual intention, the dynamics of consent, and how personal identity fits into the mix. The concept began to take on a multi-dimensional meaning. On one hand, it sort of flips the ancient script of prioritizing a man's pleasure and instead turns to a woman and asks "How do YOU want me?" and opens up a dialogue that unfortunately isn't typically initiated from the male perspective in pop music. On another level, the song makes implications about the theatrical nature of masculinity in the sense that it's largely an external projection rather than something that's born innate. For instance, boys in this society are rarely asked at an early age "What does masculinity mean to YOU?" -- instead we're specifically TOLD, often by a perpetual process of elimination, who we are (and most of all who we AREN'T) supposed to be and aren't typically given the chance to expand on our own identity nonetheless attempt to create it from scratch. This creates a sort of gradual internal trauma that inhibits men from being dynamic in how they express themselves both personally and sexually, nor does it allow access to the entire spectrum of human emotion that every person is born with for a purpose. It's a system built by ancient male ancestors but that everyone suffers for as a result. It's a genuinely scary topic for men to even bring up because there's so many layers that are intertwined with our own sense of identity and existence, but it feels as though so many of my life experiences have prepared me for this very fated moment at 25 years old when I would eventually have to face this thing head on. I'm not out of the woods yet; I'm merely documenting a critical moment of my life through art.

#Hologram makes the implication that these toxic expressions of sexuality and identity are clearly connected in many ways, but ultimately doesn't attempt to make a definitive statement as much as it puts forth a question. What does the modern world need from men mentally and sexually in order to reach a place where women feel physically, literally safe and men feel emotionally whole and human? The sounds of the cheering crowd in the final sequence were my way of saying that we can't dismantle toxic masculinity but then turn around and fetishize it at the same time. We need to be brave and talk about these dynamics that are constantly at play all around us. #Hologram is an invitation for men to become existentially aware of their roles in the world and hopefully provides an opening for women to communicate their needs and desires. Once that dialogue is going, it's an invitation for men to simply listen and grow within the culture around us.

Describe your creative process when it came to the writing and recording of the album "Can U Hear Me?". Were there songs that you recorded that did not make the cut?

So much of my process is sort of shutting off the conscious side of my brain that analyzes things in order to survive and temporarily letting my subconscious take over. Then, in hindsight, I analyze. The songs on this album all slowly took form in sort of an elusive way as if I was trying to remember something I had dreamed a long time ago, but eventually (while analyzing) I came upon the revelation that so much of this album conceptually and lyrically was about me attempting to heal the parts of me that have somehow become wounded or have simply faded over the years. It was about restoring that connection with my inner self and coming into my own identity as an artist and a human being in order to move on to the next level. I knew I had to find my own voice before I could discover how it fits into the context of the world around me. Some songs came to me as a simple groove like #Hologram did, while others appeared as a specific melody or more of an abstract mood / chord progression. There were many songs I wrote that were shelved because they didn't fit into this album thematically, but I was very persistent about following the tracks I had selected for this album ALL the way to the finish line no matter how long it took. Anything less would have felt like a betrayal to the intentions of the album. It was an exercise in patience and devotion for sure.

What are some of your goals musically for this year?

Now that I've created this album and made it available to the world, my intentions now are to continue spreading it as far and wide as I possibly can. I feel a calling to expand on these songs a little bit more visually and cinematically before it's quite time to move on to the next era. More videos and live performances are definitely on the agenda.

Stream and Share “Can You Hear Me?”: Spotify | Bandcamp | Apple Music

Connect with Y the Ghost: Website | Instagram | Facebook