EMQ’s with GHOSTS OF SUNSET
Hi everyone! Welcome to our new EMQ’s interview with USA based Hard Rockers Ghosts Of Sunset. Huge thanks to vocalist/guitarist/songwriter John Merchant for taking part.
What is your name, what do you play, and can you tell us a little bit about the history of the band?
My name is John Merchant, I’m the singer, guitarist and co-songwriter for the rock n roll band Ghosts of Sunset. Ghosts of Sunset was formed by myself and Todd Long. Todd and I have been making music together for 30+ years and formed Ghosts of Sunset to create music that celebrates our mutual love for rock n roll music of all kinds, but specifically the 1980’s hard rock scene.
How did you come up with your band name?
A lot of the music we grew up on sprung up from the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles California. The “Ghosts” of Sunset have nothing to with the music being passé’, but is more a homage to everything from the 50’s and 60’s Sunset scene of Dean, Sammy, and Frank, to the Doors, Buffalo Springfield, and the Byrds, up to Ratt, Quiet Riot, Mötley Crüe, Faster Pussycat, LA Guns, and more. It was a magical place and it shaped the musicians we were to become.
What country are you from and what is the metal scene like there?
We are based in the United States. The country as a whole has always had vibrant music scenes in various locations. We’ve been lucky that a lot of international influence has found its way to our country and we’ve synthesized those influences and returned them back to the world. The young metal scene here owes a lot to the Big Four of Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax, but those artists harken back to NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) and forefathers like Sabbath, Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Motorhead and others.
What is your latest release? (Album, EP, Single, Video)
Our current single is ‘Miles In-Between’ on Golden Robot Records. An official “quarantine” style video has accompanied it and a second single is due in October. Following that, the full EP should see release in November of 2020.
‘Miles In-Between’ (Lyric Video)
Who have been your greatest influences?
Too many to list. Todd and I both bow down to the song. Great songs transcend genre. For us that can mean Elvis, Chuck Berry, the Stones, the Beatles, to early country music, 70’s pop, 80’s hair metal, punk, etc… Our job as musicians is to take all those influences and reform them into something that’s uniquely Ghosts of Sunset but also sounds familiar to fans of this style of music.
What first got you into music?
For me it was the Beatles, but I honestly don’t remember a time when I wanted to do anything else. I often liken it to being called to the ministry. It was as if my DNA had this imprint and my entire like would be spent trying to absorb as much as possible while creating my own music.
If you could collaborate with a current band or musician who would it be?
Within the rock genre, I think Butch Walker would be amazing to make a record with. We share management with Donnie Vie (Enuff Znuff) who is a world-class songwriter, so maybe someday we could collaborate with him. We’ve been lucky because we’ve had various musicians contribute to our EP (Tracii Guns from LA Guns, Adam Hamilton, Brian Forsythe from KIX, Stacey Blades (LA Guns, Roxx Gang), PJ Farley (Trixter), Johnny Monaco (Enuff Znuff/LA Guns). We love and respect these musicians work so it’s been an honour to have them participate in music that they inadvertently influenced. It belongs to them as much as it does us. We are really paying homage to work they’ve done in various forms.
If you could play any festival in the world, which would you choose and why?
We’ve definitely talked about the M3 festival in the US (which features many top artists from the 1980s “hair metal” explosion) but there’s worldwide festivals like Download, Wacken, and others that would be a great fit for us. We want to go wherever people share the same love for this style of music that we have.
What’s the weirdest gift you have ever received from a fan?
Lots of cool stuff over the years. Hats, bracelets, shirts, records, etc. nothing ever too weird. Usually it’s just people who share our passion for music and want to share something special with us.
If you had one message for your fans, what would it be?
Love what you love unabashedly. Never be tied to a specific style or genre. It’s ok to love King Diamond AND Taylor Swift. What makes some of your favourite artists so great is they have the ability to be open to a wide range of musical styles. So, you may be listening to the heaviest metal of all time, but that thing that hooks you could be the result of the writer having an affinity for Ella Fitzgerald or Cab Calloway or Buck Owens.
If you could bring one rock star back from the dead, who would it be?
All the greats of course. Janis, Jimi, Jim. For me, I’d love to see what John Lennon would’ve grown into or Gram Parsons would’ve done. I’d love to bring Jani Lane (from Warrant) back, get him some help, and have him write songs for other artists. He wrote amazing songs but Cherry Pie laid so heavy on his heart it ultimately killed him. He died because he wrote a hit song. That seems absurd until you realize he could never be allowed to celebrate his other work.
What do you enjoy the most about being a musician? And what do you hate?
The music, the people, the sharing with like-minded people. The post show conversations when a stranger turns you onto a good record, or killer book, or something that’s changed their life. Hate? I guess I hate how small-minded and single of vision some artists can be. Hating something doesn’t make your love of something else any more valid.
If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
I’d like to see true artists celebrated no matter what genre they work in. It would also be nice if the industry found a way to allow artists to make a comfortable living within the newly digital world of music. I’d like to see artists developed and nurtured. Now days, we let 3-4 famous people vote on what’s going to succeed or not. Often, they’re looking at dance moves, haircuts, and marketability rather than songs, statements, and purpose.
Name one of your all-time favourite albums?
“Exile on Mainstreet” by the Rolling Stones.
What’s best? Vinyl, Cassettes, CD’s or Downloads?
Pristine vinyl on the right system is like wrapping up in a warm blanket, cassettes were amazing because they were so mobile that we ultimately ended up being able to carry our music with us in a Sony Walkman. CD’s promised fidelity we hadn’t had before but with that came a cold-ness that came from accentuating frequencies we weren’t used to hearing. Downloads have made it possible to explore a wider range of music in a nearly instantaneous fashion. If you can think about it, you can almost find it. That means you can explore a style you might not want to commit $15 to, but might find something that you commit the rest of your listening life to.
What’s the best gig that you have played to date?
Gigs are like pizza or sex. When they’re good, they’re really, really good, when they’re bad, they’re still pretty good.
If you weren’t a musician, what else would you be doing?
Listening to music, enjoying music, maybe writing about music or developing artists. It’s the only thing that’s ever truly mattered outside of family and friends.
Which five people would you invite to a dinner party
Jesus Christ, John Lennon, Keith Richards, Gram Parsons, and Waylon Jennings. I have specific questions for each of them.
What’s next for the band?
Continue promoting the singles in preparation for the full EP release. We’re writing new material now and getting things in place for live shows when the industry resumes post-Covid 19. We’re hoping to have a long, fruitful relationship with Golden Robot Records, and our management at Samurai Artist Management has a game plan in place to assure we keep making music that is high passion and high quality.
What Social Media/Website links do you use to get your music out to people?
Jaffa Cakes? Are they a cake or a biscuit?
Being a Yank, I had to Google them. In the US I think we call them cookies but I’m sure in the international world that would be sadly frowned on. In the states, a biscuit means something totally different, so I’m going to say a cake, since that’s the American equivalent they seem closest to.
Thank you for your time. Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Just how much we appreciate your time. Being life-long lovers of music, we are so excited to share these songs with the world. We’re just huge fans who have written songs for other fans to enjoy. Even if I had no part of these songs, I’d want people to hear them because I enjoy them. It’s no different than me rolling up to your flat with an arm full of records. It’s about sharing.
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