Falling Ghost is the solo project of Manchester based multi-instrumentalist and producer Daniel Sweeney, who first came to widespread public attention as a member of SYLVIA. Since leaving the band he’s been ploughing his own musical furrow, the fruits of which will be revealed on his upcoming Pure O album which is set to be released later this year on Regent Street Records. Ahead of a string of local gigs leading up to the album launch, we asked Daniel about himself and his music.
Tell us a little about yourself. What’s the story behind Daniel Sweeney and Falling Ghost, and how would you describe your sound?
I’m a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer from Prestwich in Manchester. I started off studying music composition at University but then after graduating I formed a band SYLVIA with a few friends. With SYLVIA I wrote and recorded two albums as well as touring the UK and Europe.
Although I loved being in SYLVIA I got to the point where I felt musically we were moving in different directions so I made the tough decision to leave the band and go solo. I then spent most of 2016 and 2017 writing, recording and producing my first solo album.
The finished album draws inspiration from early 90’s dance music, ambient electro and synth pop. Some of the bands and artists that have inspired me are Prince, M83, The XX, Burial, Flying Lotus and Radiohead.
What motivates you and inspires your music aesthetic and vibe?
I think what motivates me most is just the desire to satisfy my own ambitions. I want to make something that I’m completely happy with and that I genuinely think is a great piece of work. Where I can honestly say to myself “I can’t do any better than that” and I feel it stands up to the music that has inspired me. I also want to feel like I’m constantly improving as a songwriter/producer/performer and so on, so every new album is a challenge to move forwards to make something greater, more interesting and expressive than I have before.
I suppose when I write I’m trying to express something, whatever I’m thinking or feeling. Trying to express in music and words what’s in my heart and mind. So, I suppose perfect self-expression is my inspiration.
But in terms of aesthetic and vibe I guess I like to make music that is melodic and euphoric but also brooding and atmospheric. I quite like the dark sensual minimal vibe of Prince’s Sign O’ the Times album.
On the one hand it’s very intense and atmospheric; the harmonic/melodic aspect is really rich and innovative but then on the other hand it’s also really rhythmic and dancelike as well.
Thom Yorke’s solo album Erasure is also like that. An amazing set of songs, compositionally speaking just in terms of chords, melodies and lyrics but then the dark electro production and atmosphere is sort of worked around them. I think I was trying to do something similar with my solo album.
What are the differences for you in being a solo artist as opposed to previously being in a band?
As a solo artist you have more control over every aspect of making a record which I prefer to be honest. I like collaborating with people, but it can make the process a bit more convoluted. I normally have a pretty clear idea about what I want and what I want to do so I’m happy just working by myself. I don’t really feel like I need anyone else’s input. Although working solo can be a bit more of a lonelier existence.
Your sound doesn’t fit easily in to any one particular genre or scene- is that deliberate, or is it a natural part of your creative process?
It’s not deliberate. I’m not a big fan of aligning yourself with a very specific sub-genre. I’d find that really limiting. I suppose in a very general way you could say there are common elements and similarities in each of my songs in terms of the production style or maybe the way I write a melody or something, but then all my songs are pretty different, and I think that’s a good thing.
It’s nice to be able to create something unique with each song, a unique expression and I suppose for me that means taking in different styles, feels and combining them in interesting ways. What you then end up with is something that’s unique to you. There are just so many things you can do with music, so many different genres and styles that interest me, I just enjoy experimenting with and exploring them all. It keeps things interesting for me and I also feel like it helps me to keep developing and moving forwards.
Which do you prefer doing: performing live or recording in a studio?
Honestly, I probably prefer recording. I do like playing live as it’s great to make a connection with people in a direct way and to see them reacting to and responding to your music. But my favourite part of the process is writing and recording. I love creating something out of nothing; experimenting with different arrangements, styles, production techniques and instrumentation, all to give life to an idea you had, that then ends up as a piece of art.
What’s up next for Falling Ghost? Any upcoming gigs, new releases on the horizon, other projects?
Yeah, I’m pretty busy actually! In September I’m playing at an Art Jam at Hatch in Manchester and then at the brilliant Sonder Festival. In October I’ll be releasing a new single, Fantas,y from my first solo album with a launch night at the Alphabet brewery in Manchester. I’m then touring the UK at the end of October/beginning of November. I’m also in the process of recording a new album, so am busy writing and recording every free minute I have.