The Midnight Ghost Train is becoming a known name in the rock scene, but for our readers who are not familiar with the band could you give us an introduction to the band, the history and the members?
Well, we are a three-piece heavy rock band from Kansas. For those of you who do not know what or where Kansas is, if you look at the map of the USA we are smack dab in the middle. We love it here. The band consists of Brandon Burghart on drums, Mike Boyne on bass, and Steve Moss (me) on guitar and vocals. We have been together for six years now touring non-stop all the time, all over the USA and Europe. This year we are going to extend out to other continents as well. The band originally started as to pay tribute to my best friend John Goff who died from an asthma attack. After he died I felt like there was something missing in my life and something I had to do. I was a schoolteacher at the time, and I loved teaching but music and performing had always been my true passion. So just like that I decided to start a band, and record an album, and tour like crazy. Here we are today still at it.
’Cold Was The Ground’ is your first album to be released by the bigger Napalm Records. How did you get in contact with them? What does this change to a bigger label mean to you as a band?
We had been talking back and forth with Napalm Records for almost a year now. Then on our last European tour they came out to see us at Desertfest in Berlin, and at the Freak Valley Festival. They liked our live show and our last album, so we spoke some more, hashed out the details and off we went. Our goal in signing with Napalm is to get more exposure for our upcoming album. This new album is absolutely amazing and we feel like it deserves the best treatment it can get to make it as successful a release as possible. We have been told and assured that Napalm Records will work their asses off to make that happen. So far, so good.
I have to say that ‘Cold Was The Ground’ is an amazing album, loaded with energy. How does this album compare to your previous records? How did the writing and recording process go? Was it a ‘difficult third’ to create, maybe due to some extra pressure of a bigger record label now?
Thank you, we appreciate that. No way, this was not a difficult album to make at all. In fact this was by far the easiest and most enjoyable record we have made so far. We do not let pressures affect our goals and our hard work. This album does not compare at all to our other albums. ‘Cold Was The Ground’ is by far the best work we have ever done. It is faster, heavier, better writing, and just all around a way better album than anything we have done before. Now do not get me wrong, our old records are good, but this one is beyond good, and beyond anything else out there right now. The writing process stayed the same way as we have always done it. We wrote this entire album while on tour. Talking things over before and after shows, or in the van on the way to the next show, and just improvising and changing stuff depending on how it went live. The songs changed a lot with each show we played. Adjusting things, adding things, or just completely scrapping things. We like writing like that. Using our live shows to dictate the songs. The recording process is where the songs REALLY came to life. We recorded mixed and mastered this album 100% to analog tape with the analog guru Dave Barbie, at Chase Park Transduction in Athens, Georgia. Not a single computer was used. Everything you hear is real, one take, and we were all in the room with each other laying down the tracks at the same time. No bullshit, nothing fake on this album. We finished off writing in the studio, even completely wrote the song ‘Little Sparrow’ right on the spot. That song is my favorite on the album. The idea for it came about minutes before we recorded it, and it was completely improvised and we only did one take. I love how it turned out.
Speaking of the new album, I feel that the vocals get lower and grittier every time. I love it, but it is so low that I wonder if this is your natural voice? Come on, be honest, how many bottles of Jack Daniels do you need before recording the vocals?
Ha-ha, people ask me all the time ‘how much whisky do you drink to sound that way’. The answer is none. I do not drink alcohol, I do not smoke, and I do not use drugs, I am a lame, I know. People always ask me if my throat hurts from singing like that, but the answer is once again no. I do not sing at all from my throat, it is all from the gut, and just heavy power in my breathing when I sing. I would never be able to sing like that from the throat and do that every night on tour. My voice would be shot. I never lose my voice because it is not from the throat. That is just my voice and how it comes out when I breathe and use the power in my gut. Listening to Edith Piaf, Tom Waits, Muddy Waters and of course Howlin’ Wolf, really helped me learn how to use my voice, and breathe correctly while using all the power and soul that I have.
Because of the downtuned, bluesy riffing and the general atmosphere of the music, many people call your music stoner. Now, I heard that you hate to be labelled stoner, but prefer to call it heavy blues. Why this aversion of the stoner label?
I would not say we hate being called stoner rock; whatever people want to call it is all right with me, as long as they can dig what we are putting down. I just never understood the stoner rock title. I do not even know what that means. This whole time I just thought we were playing rock and roll. I have never heard or listened to a stoner rock album, none of us smoke pot, we actually do not really tune down that much at all, and everything that you hear on the guitar is just blues riffs heavily influenced from Muddy Waters, Skip James, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Blind Willie Johnson. Only difference is we play faster and have an overdrive pedal on the riffs. In fact most of our songs just follow the simple blues 1 4 5 pattern, with the Dorian scale thrown in there once and awhile to spice things up. We play very simple blues, that is all. Maybe most people just do not hear it, cause they do not listen to the blues as extensively as they do other music. But that is all it is, simple soulful blues. But call it whatever you want. Call it stoner, metal, rock, blues, pop, country, I do not care. Our goal is just to leave our artistic impression on the world, and give people a good time.
Do you even listen to rock or metal yourselves? What are the band’s biggest musical influences?
Nope sorry, I hope the metal heads out there reading this do not get discouraged because of this answer. Like I said, lots of blues influence. I myself am a massive blues and jazz fan. Our drummer listens to a lot of Led Zeppelin, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and lots of singer songwriter stuff. Our bass player listens to some heavy music once and awhile, but he loves mostly country, bluegrass and lots of different random stuff. You got to understand that playing heavy music like we do and touring so much, playing with heavy bands all the time (that we always listen to), we would go crazy if we got back in the van after a show, or at home and just listened to more heavy music. Plus we would end up sounding like every other heavy band out there. We have something different and unique to our music, and I think a lot of that comes from our influences and what we listen to being as far from heavy as possible. But even though we do not listen to that stuff, it is SO MUCH FUN to play. Especially live, there is nothing like it.
With the new album to be released, I suppose it is time to hit the road again. Do you like touring or do you just accept it as being some necessary evil?
We love it. We do around 300 shows a year all over the world. We love playing every single one. No matter how many people are there or where it is at we will ALWAYS give 10000000% on stage. We will always give the best live performance possible, and work as hard as we can to give the best show any one has ever seen. Touring and being on stage is the best part of this entire profession. We love to perform and would do it 365 days a year if we could find someone who could book that amount for us. We go through LOTS AND LOTS of hard times with this band and with life in general. Being on stage and giving it our entire heart and soul, and watching the crowd rock out and love the music we are playing, makes all the hard times worth while.
In 2013 you have played the well-known Roadburn Festival in the Netherlands. You even released a live album from that performance. How did you like the festival and the crowd? How did you experience this show?
We loved Roadburn. From a musician’s perspective it is by far the most well organized festival we ever played. We had a blast. We headlined the small stage on I think the second day of the festival, and just loved the entire experience. Since we headlined the small stage, we were going up against the big headliners on the other two stages, so we were worried no one would even be there to see us. But the crowd was amazing; completely jam packed, wall-to-wall. Not a single space in there for another person. We made a lot of fans at that show from all over the world, which come to see us at our shows now when we come through. I would love to come back and play it again. Anytime they want us back, we shall return.
Thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions. I wish you all the best for the future and see you on Hellfest! If there is anything you would like to add, that I did not ask you about, now is the time!
It was my pleasure. Looking forward to Hellfest, make sure to say hi to us. Only thing I would add is that we have a big European tour coming up this February in support of our new album ‘Cold Was The Ground’. We will be doing lots of shows in the Netherlands, so keep an eye out and check out our tour dates on our website. See you guys in the crowd.