The greatest artists are restless souls, in constant need of fresh inspiration,’ proclaims GosT’s Spotify bio: and for James Lollar, the mastermind of the ever-changing project, this could not be more true. First breaking into the music scene with the heavily electronic ‘Skull’ in 2013, GosT has undergone a sonic metamorphosis to produce the latest album, ‘Rites of Love and Reverance,’ an eerie but cohesive blend of older sounds and new elements that may make some wonder if they are in 2021, the future, or way back in 1692.
Ahead of its release, James sat down with Dom to chat about the inspiration behind it, how his sound has changed over the years, and what he is working on currently.
‘It’s basically like we’re watching modern witch trials happening on social media,’ James explained when asked about the meaning of the record.
Inspired heavily by witchcraft and the executions that historically surround it, ‘Rites of Love and Reverance’ evokes the darkness of the period whilst maintaining sounds that make it feel transformative and modern, assisted in part by the two haunting Bitchcraft features on it. And it’s important to James that the meaning behind it is clear:
‘It just really made sense to me as a social commentary on the world around us right now, and how we treat each other online; and there’s no consequences. It was always just in my mind that that’s what the lyrical content was always going to be about, and kind of what inspired a lot of the record.’
As for the visual element of the album, it’s an aspect that he feels is crucial:
‘Personally, it’s really important. I was really into visual arts when I was younger, before I got into music and so I’ve just always been up to it. And growing up in the time period I did – when you would just be at your store getting a CD or something – that album artwork was pretty important because sometimes you’d pick up a record because it looked cool, which would be a letdown sometimes! But it’s important to me. I don’t think I’ve ever put any intentional focus on it being really eye-catching or anything – it’s just what feels to me personally, I guess, is what ends up on the front of the record.’
In terms of creating during the unprecedented times of the past year and a half, James has hinted that he hasn’t overly struggled with it. However, he also highlighted the importance of not pushing yourself to create if the inspiration isn’t there; something that isn’t often touched upon, especially in music.
‘It’s actually a really good time to create, because there’s a lot of extra time of being alone and away from the world… I don’t really usually have blocks. If I do, I just push through them.’
My advice would be if it’s not happening, don’t try and force it, step away and try and focus on some other things that inspire you. Whether that’s exercise, or a loved one, or whatever, you know, it’s hard because when you put too much pressure on yourself, art doesn’t really happen as it should.’
In the past, GosT’s music has flitted between post-punk, digi-metal, synthwave, and more. The current album appears to retain some of the original sound whilst exploring new areas. So, how does James look back on his previous work – and how is his sound changing?
‘I look at it fondly! It’s a little bit hazier, I was a little younger so I was drinking more back then and staying up later, you know, 4am producing, when I do it during the day time now,’ he shared.
Back then I would never have done that, it just didn’t feel right. Those are the albums that got me to where I am, so it’s definitely still going to be a part of my sound in some way and will always be meaningful for me. ‘Possessor’ performed the best in terms of charting and stuff like that, so I’ll always have fond memories of that. It just would be nice if people would stop asking me to do those records again!’
I’ve got a little bit more freedom to do whatever I want now, and you know, out of desperation to keep creating and staying inspired in my creativity, I’m just adding as many elements as I can now because it kind of just feels like a natural progression. I just feel like this album as a whole is a lot more progressive and personal and I’m trying to write better songs, if that makes sense. Not just banging electronic tracks, I’m trying to write actual fuckin’ songs now!’
The new album utilises new techniques and sounds that have not always been present on the previous work – using ‘actual instrumentation,’ as James puts it, has helped shape the album massively:
‘I haven’t played guitar in a long time seriously until I started this project, so that was definitely challenging. And it’s just challenging to keep making music and making music that doesn’t lose the passion of the early stuff but still has new things. It’s difficult, because you can’t please everyone, and that’s just going to be how it is For me from here on out. I’m not sure how much more I’ll progress from this sound, because I’ve kind of started on the last record heading in this direction, but I don’t really know. I’ll have to see how it goes.’
Looking at his definition of success and what that means, James talked about what music has given him over the years and the opportunities that have arisen from it:
‘I never thought I would have achieved any of this with this project, so it means the world to me. I feel like I’ve done things that, if it all falls apart tomorrow, I’ll be able to live the rest of my life without any regret… I’ve met a lot of beautiful people through this and seen places that I never dreamed of seeing, so I mean, music’s meant so much to me for so long, so it just means that much more to me now – that it’s taken me around the world and allowed me to express myself to so many people, and get fans, and do interviews like this is something I never dreamed would happen.’
The fanbase is of course a huge part for any musician, and James thanks his listeners for allowing him the space to grow in his craft:
‘It’s amazing to have people that understand why I do what I do, and that seems to be why they stick with me. I’ve noticed some of the people that stick with me don’t necessarily love everything that I do, until they listen to it a little bit, and then it grows on them. So, yeah, just thank you for allowing me that freedom and not being so rigid on what you expect one of your favourite artists to be. All the bands that I’ve liked in my life, like Nine Inch Nails – if you look at his [Trent Reznor’s] more recent stuff and then you look at Downward Spiral, they’re clearly different, so there’s a lot of growth that happens there. The fans grow too; everybody changes, so when they grow with you and they stay with you and they stay ardent and really into what you’re doing and they defend you on YouTube against the naysayers – that’s amazing, I love it!’
Alongside GOST’s releases, James also has a musical project with his wife, and is working exclusively on some soundtrack projects, which will no doubt be explosive. And not to mention a tour, hopefully towards the end of this year and into 2022:
‘I’m working on a winter tour here in the US, and then of course, the UK and the rest of Europe – hopefully next year, we’ll see how everything goes.
I have a side project that I do with my wife called Burnt Offerings, you can check that out, there’s a couple of tracks available. We’re going to try and do more, so when there’s not any GosT coming out there might be some of that coming out. Working on a couple of video game soundtracks which I can’t really talk about! But there will be some more like that, which will probably be a bit more electronic than the new stuff, so if you like the old GosT and you hate the new GOST, you can go listen to the new video game stuff ‘cause it’ll probably sound like the older stuff!’
‘Rites of Love and Reverance’ is now available on all streaming services.