- Ghost of the Robot
- Report By Mandy Clark
(Above) Photograph with
thanks to Vicky Folksman at www.indigoguide.com.
JAMES MARSTERS rose to fame as Spike in the cult TV show
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer". But many of his fans will be surprised to learn that the talented Mr Marsters is also the front man of Californian rock band Ghost of the Robot. The band recently played a number of venues in the UK as part of their European tour, including two sell-out nights at the world-famous Cavern club in Liverpool.
The band features James as lead vocalist and occasional guitarist, along with Steve Sellers (keyboards & guitar), Kevin McPherson (bass), Aaron Anderson (drums), and Charlie DeMars (lead guitar, occasional keyboards, kazoo, triangle, tambourine and, er, cell phone). James has been performing solo in bars since he was 14 (he's now 41), but has only recently become part of a band; the other four guys have known each other for years - Charlie is Steve's half-brother, and was previously in a band called Power Animal with Kevin & Aaron. Ghost of the Robot came together about a year ago when Charlie decided to move in with Steve in LA,
"where the sun always shines", and met James who happened to be Steve's neighbour. As James himself says: "I'm really kinda the guy that's shaking in…but I think I'm fitting in well!"
by Mandy Clark
It turns out that much of the bands first CD was recorded before they had even got together for a proper rehearsal, due to the distance between the band members homes. As Charlie explained:-
"Three of us [Steve, Charlie, James] live in North California and the other two [Kevin & Aaron] live in Southern California, it's like a 7-hour drive. We wish we could rehearse more but our sound checks are our rehearsal - our shows are practices
too". Their current CD, Mad Brilliant, is self-produced and self-distributed, available only from their website (www.ghostoftherobot.com) and live shows.
Although they admit that, in the early days, the majority of people turning up to the gigs were Buffy/James Marsters fans, James is quick to point out that
"to tell you the truth we're starting to see a larger contingent of a non-Buffy base, which is really nice to see. More and more we're getting the guys, which we're really proud of."
The other band members are very accepting of people focussing on James when seeing the band, if anything they're now more irritated by being constantly asked if it annoys them. As Steve put it
"we each write a lot of songs: Charlie writes a lot of songs, James writes a lot of songs and I write a lot of songs, so it's like really, musically, it doesn't
matter". James is also very careful to keep his various pursuits separate, refusing (very politely) to discuss Buffy or other projects out of respect to the band - it's something he says he's proud of but is a totally separate thing.
On the second day of their stay in Liverpool, Ghost of the Robot were invited to place a brick featuring their name on the Matthew Street Wall of Fame, something they were very proud to do. The guys happily posed for photographs, commenting on how cool a spot they had on the wall - evidently no-one had the heart to tell them that the spot shown is only for the initial presentation & photo opportunities, the brick being moved to a less prominent position a few days later. They told us there had been little opportunity to see any of the cities they visited during the tour, which took in Germany and the UK - James claimed it was basically an excuse for them to see the UK as we
"know how to rock" (sucking up to the press there lads?). The two nights in Liverpool did give them some chance to see the city - Kevin, Charlie & Aaron visiting the Yellow Submarine (despite Charlie having proclaimed that he was sick of the Beatles 15 minutes after arriving in Liverpool!) then taking up a fans suggestion of trying out the Duck tour, whilst Steve grabbed the chance for some serious R&R (and a few beers).
Reviews of their early concerts stateside have likened the bands music to
"the raw energy of Nirvana mixed with the bitter-sweet sounds of Radiohead and the
Verve", which I feel is fairly accurate but Charlie disagrees with:-
"I don't think so, I think they're …the two bands I wouldn't compare us to at all, but I see where they're coming from. We like those bands but we don't try to emulate them in any way."
The band members clearly have a wide range of influences, citing everyone from Blur and Wheezer to Dylan & Joni Mitchell, Bowie to Jaynes Addiction. James seemed happy to carry on listing influences all day, evidently keen to show how varied the bands music tastes and influences are.
(Above) Photograph by Mandy
The concerts themselves were both excellent, despite their lack of rehearsal time the sets were tight and the atmosphere was electric. It was clear that all of the band enjoy performing live, James and Charlie in particular leaping about the stage with pretty much limitless energy during the up-tempo numbers like Mad Brilliant and Dangerous. The set was a fine blend of rocking, high-energy tracks and soft, intense ballads such as the haunting Smile, which featured James by himself on the stage with only his acoustic guitar for accompaniment. The prestigious location must have caused more than the usual first-night nerves in the band, not that they gave any less than 100% musically, but on the second night they seemed much more relaxed, with more bantering and joking about on-stage, including James apologising for his language "I've forgotten my nicotine patch tonight so just ignore the swearing!"
They also played up to their audience far more, very charismatic James being rather suggestive with a lollipop and a few well-placed winks at female members of the audience.
Most of their tracks are about girls or relationships, albeit from several different perspectives - David Letterman is actually a plea to a girlfriend to pay as much attention to her partner as she does to the chat show host (as well as an attempt to get on the show which, so far, hasn't worked), Valerie (their 1st single) is a homage to a porn star, and Dangerous is a warning to an attractive underage girl to stay away (at least for a few years!). Even German Jew is about overcoming boundaries in the name of love. That said, the crowd were clearly impressed with the bands performance and were still screaming for more after the curtain had finally fallen, and were thrilled when all of the guys sauntered out to meet & greet the fans, and enjoy a few beers (or several tequilas in James' case!). All five members were very friendly and laid back, with none of the
"I'm a famous actor you know" attitude you might have expected. The band have insisted they will be coming back to the UK as soon as their schedules allow, and I think it's fair to say when they do the tickets will sell out even quicker then they did this time - if you like rock music I definitely recommend you buy the CD, and watch out for their next tour.
(Above) Photograph by Mandy
Hybrid's new album, Morning Sci-Fi.
WITH regards to your email, sorry for error, but the promo copy we got sent had not got
much information on it. We get sent numerous CD's to review each
week and the reporter in question thought due to the tracks being blended into one
another that track two "True to Form" was still part of track one and track three was track two.
Thank you for your information. Click here to see the
un-amended review. We still say 3 out of 5, sorry to the fans who have told us about this error but the mark stands.
Please note that the track is question marked as "True
to Form" in the review is track three "Know
Your Enemy" etc.
If you want a copy of the album please note that the welsh dance-combo's latest album,
"Morning Sci-Fi", will now be released on 15 September 2003. The album features bass and co-production on the track
"True To Form" from Peter Hook from New Order (also the forthcoming single, to be released on 1 September 2003). I for one look
forward to the release.
US WITH YOUR STORY!