Exclusive: Holy Ghost! on their Vinyl-Only Tour
Some of our love for vinyl is innate – completely out of our control as a result of growing up in an environment immersed in music. This was the case with Nick Millhiser of the Brooklyn-based electronic duo, Holy Ghost! Nick says, “My [vinyl] collection sort of started from taking stuff from my dad. I definitely remember taking Are You Experienced? and Axis: Bold as Love Jimi Hendrix records from his collection very early on.” This vinyl appreciation bled into Nick’s adolescent years – the time period in which he and Alex Frankel started the Holy Ghost! project – when he bought his first hip hop 12-inch record. He and Alex got their start DJing with vinyl, so the launch of a vinyl-only summer tour is not something they’re blindly entering.
“Alex and I love DJing. We went into it thinking like, ‘What’s a way we would be excited to go out and do this?’ Coming up with a vinyl-only tour, we knew it would be a lot of fun – record shopping and listening to music all day. It took a lot of time, but it’s a pretty fun way [to spend] with time.” Milk Made spoke to Nick about the thrills behind the first-ever Holy Ghost! vinyl-only tour and their disco infused kaleidoscope of remixes album, Work For Hire.
What made you both go down this route to decide to do a vinyl-only tour?
Just for the fuck of it. When Alex and I started DJing – going as far back as when I first got my turntables in high school when Alex and I started DJing together as Holy Ghost! – vinyl was just sort of the standard. So, that’s how we learned to DJ. Then, we sort of adapted to the norm of CDJs and USB sticks or whatever after the fact, but vinyl is still – again because it’s what we learned on – natural, fun, and engaging for us. Despite of the fact that we both play vinyl less in our DJ sets now like kind of remember going out buying records. We’re both sort of compulsive record shoppers. There’s a lot that we have on vinyl that for whatever reason we can’t play them out.
Often times when we’re first starting a record or starting a remix or anything, we like to sort of start with a set of restrictions just because it will help us get excited about it or focus on a particular idea instead of being scatterbrained. It’s sort of just like saying, ‘Okay, we’re only going to play vinyl.’ It’s just a way to get ourselves excited about it and get focused in a way we wouldn’t be normally. When we DJ normally it still is very fun for us, but we sort of settled into a routine. We had to actually go by ‘Okay, what do we actually have on vinyl? Will we be able to find stuff [and] figure out what we didn’t have?’ So, it’s a longwinded way of saying ‘kind of just for fun.’
I think it’s really cool that you guys are having dub plates made for specific tracks that don’t necessarily have a vinyl. With that being said, did you search different record stores around New York or was it a lot more extensive – like ordering records online? Tell me about the whole process.
It was both. I was actually kind of surprised. I would say again, even though we don’t generally play vinyl albums all that much anymore normally when we DJ – buying records is still my main mode of finding new music. So, I’ll buy a record and then be like, ‘I’d love to play this out.’ Then, after the fact I’ll go and find the digital files or rip my own digital files of it. So when we first had this idea, I think maybe me more so than Alex we were both sort of surprised we already had a lot of the stuff that we wanted. Then, stuff that we didn’t have sort of fell into two categories. It was either stuff that we never owned we’d track them down in some cases spending a lot of money for stuff on disco dubs. (Laughs) In one or two cases there were a few records that I knew somebody at the label that I trusted. I just wrote them like, ‘Hey, is there a chance you have an extra copy just sitting around?’
There was some stuff whether it was some of our remixes or just random tracks were never pressed on vinyl. It wasn’t a matter of finding them. They just didn’t exist. So we found a place in London that presses dub plates and they sound good and they work pretty fast. So, we pressed up a random selection. For some of that stuff we had to track down whoever made the track because for whatever reason we maybe only had a MP3 of it. If we wanted a full quality .WAV or we wanted it unmastered so it can be remastered for vinyl. We had to track down these people that we didn’t necessarily know and ask them cold, ‘Hey, I know you don’t know me, but I want to press a bootleg copy of your song. Can you send me a .WAV file?’ Everybody was very cool about it actually.
This might be a slightly unfair question, but is there a track that you and Alex have remixed that was particularly special to you?
That is a very hard question to answer. I think we’d both say that Panthers one (“Goblin City”) because that was the first and we’re still really proud of it. We’re still really proud of all of them, but going through all of them I had to find all the unmastered mixes. In doing that I sort of had to resist the temptation…I would listen to some of them and want to fix little things just with the benefit of time and being a better engineer [and] I would hope to be a better producer through all these years. In the Panthers one I can hear how clueless we were to a certain extent. (Laughs) I wouldn’t change anything about that one. I’m still really proud of that. We did that for really close friends of ours who took a chance on us. We went to them and asked them if we could do the remix. They were like, “Yeah, I guess. No promise we’ll put it out, but we can try.” We were really insecure about it at the time. When we did it we didn’t think they would like it or nobody would like it. They were really stoked about it. The Panthers guys went through a lot of trouble to make sure it came out. So, that one is the most nearest and dearest to our hearts.
The whole album chronicles eight years of your remixes. So, I suppose listening to that Panthers remix must be nostalgic for both of you.
Being honest you know, there’s sort of a trade-off between as much as I think and whatever I’m a better engineer now or a better producer now. Of all the songwriters there is something to be said for the naivety that exists in some of our early stuff that I kind of wish we could recapture. It’s just impossible. You can’t unlearn things. That’s sort of why I resisted the temptation to change them because some of them sound sort of rough around the edges and they kind of have a more DIY or demo-y sound to them which in all honesty I kind of like and I probably couldn’t do now even if I wanted to. As much as there are things that bother me about them, I think ultimately in the bigger picture I kind of like all the mistakes that I hear in them.
Check out Holy Ghost!’s website here