My Own Future Self (A Future Ghost): An Interview with GHOSTS IN THE MACHIИE

My Own Future Self (A Future Ghost): An Interview with GHOSTS IN THE MACHIИE

The crunchy stomping of metal, the electrical pulse of metallic synths—this is what’s found in GHOSTS IN THE MACHIИE‘s self-titled LP. Taken straight from a long-lost Lawnmower Man or Johnny Mnemonic soundtrack, the album and alias is transformative in many ways to the Queer Australian/Italian-Armenian Kris Baha. GHOSTS IN THE MACHIИE hurls between reality and a not-so-distant future of computerized control—something sci-fi movies from the 1990s only fantasized about. But such nightmares are just around the corner.

As the villainized child of Orgy and Nine Inch Nails, GHOSTS IN THE MACHIИE nails the specific elements of 1990s drum & bass breaks, glitchy industrial beats and nu metal vocals, but this time around, the songs are governed by the intelligence of AI. We spoke with Baha about the project’s origins and songwriting processes, as well as the first live performance this winter.

How did you get the idea for GHOSTS IN THE MACHIИE? 

It came to me in a morning journaling session about 3 years ago during covid but I sat on the name / idea for a while, although, It was always haunting me from the back of my mind to explore it further. It wasn’t until I started getting more interested in the increasingly alarming developments of AI last year and realised it actually embodied the new pieces of music I was writing and felt like the soundtrack to what I was discovering via AI. Being heavily influenced by wanting to develop futuristic sounds and delve into clashing genres, a soundtrack warning sign of the future.

I realised it was an apt vessel for the music which was already veering into a hyper-punk, cyber wave-drum&bass direction. I then workshopped the concept further in my journal writing sessions, basically writing a developed story line to what I think the album would hopefully sound like.

The story of GHOSTS IN THE MACHIИE unfolds as a sci-fi cyberpunk concept project inhabiting dual timelines. In one, we glimpse a trans-humanist future where human consciousness exists as intricate sequences of binary code, entwined and controlled by omnipresent AI systems. In this coded future, a profound awakening stirs among a select few who manage to mutate the code they were governed by, unlocking memories of their history that was erased by the AI. Through this discovery they realise they can traverse temporal boundaries, and utilise this power to send warning messages back in time to their former fully-human selves. These eerie missives carry a dire warning for humanity, urging them to rectify the course of society before the relentless march of artificial intelligence deprives humanity of its essence. In this terrifying future, humans are rendered mere spectre’s within the digital expanse, stripped of their souls, to become Ghosts In The Machine. The cyber odyssey unfolds from my own perspective, my own future self (a future ghost): a spectral entity endeavouring to caution its present incarnation against the ominous path it treads, attempting to avert a dystopian future.

In what ways do you approach the project differently from your solo work? What type of sound did you aim for when writing the album?

I approached this album with the core theme in mind, AI Apocalypse. With it being a concept album it was easy for me to collate some songs I already had kicking about and then start a lot of newer ones. Once the story was formed and before I wrote any new songs for the album I made a few presets, collected drum samples and made a blueprint for some sonic limitations &  parameters to follow to allow myself to ascertain the sound of what I think the project/ album was to embody when I wrote the storyline. Even though the album travels to different musical places, I tried to use the same sounds throughout to thread the needle. The Ghosts project is veering into contemporary industrial/ hyper pop, cyberpunk, drum and bass, j/breakcore and psychotic ear candy sonic realms, leaving a bit of the classic EBM sound for my solo project so I can fully explore these sonic realms without past expectations.

I also went back to traditional songwriting , writing rapid fire sketches daily, to a 10 minute clock. Where-as previously for all my previous solo Kris Baha work, I would jam with my machines running live and multitrack everything then comp the best bits that I recorded, printing effects and anything else that I could commit on the way in. There are a few songs on the record which do sound like it could be a Kris Baha song but I left those there as the album is a collaboration with my future / past self, so it would make sense that there would naturally be some of those remnants transitioning over. In my mind, this was the most apt way of expressing the music with the themes and creating a coherent story instead of it being, ’new project new sound’. Moving forward I will release more music under Ghosts and Kris Baha separately.

Were you influenced by any literature or movies to build the GHOSTS IN THE MACHIИE aesthetic? 

I was heavily influenced by William S Gibsons Neuromancer & Burning Chrome, Masamunue Shirow’s Ghost In The Shell (Even though a Comic) and playing a heavy dose of Cyberpunk 2077 through out last year given the patch was updated and it was unplayable in 2020 when I first got it. Heavy doses of Neon Genesis Evangelion also played a part.

I went to Tokyo earlier this year and spent 2 weeks to finish this record and started writing bits for the next before my Asia tour started. I felt like I needed to be there to fully immerse myself in the cyberpunk hyper-madness of Kabukicho even more. I was also listening to a lot of The Prodigy and Nine Inch Nails Year Zero which I am sure comes through loud and clear.

Can you talk a bit about your “Flesh & Code” music video? The process and inspiration? 

The concept of the song is about being trapped in a world that’s governed by code jacked in via trans-humanist machine interfaces automated by AI systems. Our flesh and code trapped in networks that encrypt our ghosts. The merging of our consciousness within the digital realm. The majority of our minds remain as streams of 0’s and 1’s aligned with AI systems rather than the other way around. The coded realm now exists within them, dividing and destroying their physical and digital self although an awakening has occurred for some. There is a haunting presence of another realm, hinting at a past where humans had autonomy and control over themselves. Metaphorically, the track represents the desire to break free from societal constructs, experiencing alienation, doubts and glitches that plague one’s existence. It conveys a sense of not belonging and the search for a place where one truly belongs.

Sonically, the song traverses the cyber waves of the net experiencing glitched out swells of drum and bass, dreamy vocals that morph to screams in pain, in code, in the industrial hyper punk madness of the cyber ether. I wanted to create a video that blurred the lines of what is perceivably real and AI. The video was incredibly DIY as 80% of the video was shot on an iPhone 13pro by Duran Levinson and the rest while I was in Tokyo by Anthony Rilo where we just walked around Tokyo without getting caught as you technically need a permit to film. I then heavily edited the video in Davinci + used various AI GLM’s like Stable Diffusion, Kaiber and Runway GEN2 for all the animations that take place.

What can we expect from the GHOSTS IN THE MACHIИE live show? How will it differ from a Kris Baha show? 

The live show consists of projections, mapped and re-contextualised for real- time performance by CINEMA (Berlin, via Dallas, Texas) and incorporates AI- generated 3D Animations made for the album. The result is then further processed live through a series of modified broadcast equipment and contemporary modular video synthesisers. In total, negative space between the performance and visuals takes hold on 2 meshed screens angling at 45 degrees, creating a physical degree of separation between the audience and myself – becoming ever more trapped as a Ghost In The Machine. The first show will be premiered at Ombra Festival this year.

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