Synthwave aficionado/producer GosT aka James Lollar is used to being shrouded in mystery. Past albums like Non Paradisi and Possessor saw him donning masks or taking on different personas detaching himself from the music. But when it came time for his new album Valediction, he decided it was time for a change. Rather than create fantastical stories involving religion and demons, GosT turned inward for the emotional, brutal, and terrifying songs that make up the album.
He took even bigger risks with the record by hiring an outside producer, going beyond synthwave, experimenting with different genres and sounds, and emphasizing his singing. It was a risk that could’ve resulted in failure. Instead, it gave us GosT’s most ambitious, eclectic, and thrilling album yet.
Before hitting the stage on their US headline tour, GosT chats with GENRE IS DEAD! about the recording process, why it was time for a change, and how change feels good.
GENRE IS DEAD!: For this album, you took some risks you haven’t in the past like playing around with different sounds and exploring more personal topics. What inspired you to go in a different direction this time around?
GosT: I just kind of wanted a reset button because synthwave as a genre itself is oversaturated. As far as making it more about imaginative stuff, I didn’t have as much left to say. It kind of happened naturally. It felt right to write about my past and current things and be a little more honest with what I wanted to release rather than what I thought other people wanted to hear.
GID: With many of the songs on Valediction coming from a more personal place, did it make any part of the writing process difficult?
G: No, I think it was the opposite. It made it more cathartic. It flowed out more freely than something that’s fully imaginative like the last couple of albums. I like that stuff too. I like theater and all that but for this release, it just worked really well. I’m probably gonna do that for the next record as well because it was so cathartic, and I really enjoyed writing that way.
GID: You also worked with Jaime Gomez on the album, known for his work with extreme metal acts like Paradise Lost and Primordial. What did you gain from working with him that you want to carry over to future releases?
G: We would take the synthesizer lines I had written for the album and then run them through the board. We went through 50 different distortion pedals for each thing we did; we’d re-amp it and run it through. We were running those synths through guitar and bass amps and mic-ing those so it’s just a totally different sound. I definitely want to use it again in the future. It gives you a little more freedom in the studio to where if you don’t like a sound you can totally change it. So, that was amazing.
GID: The album has so many different sounds and styles going on. It’s a pretty diverse record, especially compared to your past releases. I really love songs like “Relentless Passing” and “Timeless Turmoil” which sound like they come straight out of a horror movie. How does the genre inspire you if at all?
G: It does absolutely. I was pretty young in the 80s, but that’s when all my favorite slasher and exploitation films came out. The music was very synthetic, so it’s always been a thing for me. For Valediction, I didn’t intentionally make it sound that way. It’s just so ingrained in the type of music I enjoy that it comes out.
GID: What are some of your favorite horror film scores?
G: Definitely The Exorcist, the theme on that is pretty unforgettable, and of course Halloween. I even like the theme for Nightmare on Elm Street. They’re really cheesy and it’s kind of ridiculous, but it really works with that sound of the synthesizer. It’s a neat little sound of its own.
GID: Those classic film scores are unforgettable and there’s such a unique sound to them that you really don’t get with most modern horror scores. Most of them don’t stay with you like the ones you mentioned.
G: No, there haven’t been many. I liked the score for the first Insidious. All the de-tuned violins, especially at the beginning when the credits roll is pretty unsettling. That’s a modern one I enjoy quite a bit. The soundtracks for Midsommar and Hereditary were really good too. They were almost non-existent, but they helped build tension well when it was needed. So, there’s a couple of modern ones I like, but they’re very un-synthetic. They’re more orchestral, you know?
GID: Midsommar and Hereditary have very subtle film scores but they were still pretty unnerving. Another modern film score I really liked is Sinister. Something about the music was scarier than the movie itself.
G: Yeah, I totally agree. That movie could’ve been cool. A lot of modern horror turns me off because of the CGI choices they make. I’m not totally against it, it’s just that they use the same tropes over and over like the black eyeballs and all that shit. That kind of stuff gets on my nerves.