Phantom Power: The Ghost of A Thousand

LF speaks to The Ghost of A Thousand, challengers to Gallows’ hardcore crown.

Tom Lacey’s searing vocals could puncture a hole in the heart of any young fan, yet he concedes he’s only as rock and roll as tea with three sugars. “We try and behave ourselves these days.”

Lacey is frontman of The Ghost of A Thousand, whose debut This is Where the Fight Begins impressed industry bods so much that they were swiftly signed to Epitaph Records, the LA-based label that spawned The Offspring and L7. They were the first ever British band to make the grade. But does the label know about this tea business?

“They got in touch about 18 months ago just because they really liked the first album,” Lacey recalls. “I think they just saw something in us that reminded them of Refused or the Hives or whatever and took it from there.”

It’s an impressive start for a band from Brighton, more bucket and spades than Baywatch, who formed after Lacey met drummer Memby Jago pulling pints together in a bar. “He’d been looking for a singer for the band for about six months. At the time I wasn’t really that bothered and just rolled up to a rehearsal not really expecting much,” he admits. “But it was really really good! We had a show two weeks later and didn’t look back”.

As music festivals like The Great Escape began charging the Sussex resort with renewed creative vigour, it provided the best kind of springboard for a new band, pitting them against an army of local talent. “It meant we had to get good quicker as there are so many bands in Brighton so you have to work hard to get noticed.”

Having signed with Undergroove Records, This is Where the Fight Begins was a middle-fingered salute at established trends, proving that young guys who could wield a guitar didn’t have to be simplistic emo rockers. Lacey’s sentiments haven’t changed: “Not at all, in fact [the music] just gets more and more focused. The heavy scene in this country is fucked and there are only a few bands out there that seem to want to change it for the better.” Kerrang! agreed, nominating the band as Best British Newcomer in their 2007 annual awards.

With the UK hardcore scene showing little promise, one wonders whether the five-piece will leave to pitch up their tents in LA, or is there something about the British weather that keeps TGOAT breathing fire? Lacey’s influences are very much rooted in the city, home of formative hardcore punks Black Flag, and he names Iggy and The Stooges and Rocket From The Crypt as ideal touring companions. A little Australian classic rock creeps onto Knees Toes Teeth too, Lacey’s favourite track from the latest album New Hopes, New Demonstrations, “just because I’m a huge AC/DC fan and it’s our little homage to them.”

But the band has benefited from its European roots. With much of the European hardcore scene residing in Germany and Scandinavia, New Hopes, New Demonstrations was recorded in Stockholm with renowned producer Pelle Gunnerfeldt, who produced and mixed The Hives’ collected works. “Pelle was just the coolest dude,” Lacey enthuses. “A real unique character. He just made us weirder and much darker, and let us play some stupidly expensive guitars which is always a bonus!”

Europe is set to host TGOAT again as they work their way across the continent during the two month Antidote tour, in which they share a stage with legends Anti-Flag. Fittingly, Sweden is the end point with hiatuses in Paris and Milan, but not before the band makes an appearance in London’s gritty Kentish Town at the HMV Forum. Audiences are in for a treat and if they’re lucky, “a missing tooth and ringing ears”, according to Lacey. “It’s all about the grinning and the chaos!” There’s often some mischief backstage too: “It’s always me, and always when I’m asleep. I get set on fire or my pants pulled down.”

He isn’t kidding. TGOAT’s gigs, which included the Reading and Leeds festivals this year, are a riot of ear-bleeding, throat-shredding intensity. Lacey makes a formidable performer for a band of their genre, all sweat, blood and crowd invasions. Yet with a good few festival appearances under their belt, what has been the highlight of it all? “Tom Waits and I were discussing how to get red wine stains out of carpets at a festival the other week. [That] will stay with me forever I think.”

Lacey doesn’t see himself mellowing as he ages. “I’ll probably just become more and more grumpy and bitter as I get older, which is perfect for hardcore.”  And with those extra years of angst, they may get to fully cement their Twitter claim to sing songs “about how fucking terrifying life can be”.

Originally published on Liberation Frequency, September 2009.



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