Half of the electronic duo Hungry Ghost, London’s Gatto Fritto aka Ben Williams, is probably best known for his remix work for Subway and Franz Ferdinand. His self-titled debut album, with chillwave-ish gestures toward Balearic, kosmische and ambient Italo, was released last month by Uruguay’s tastemaker label International Feel. You can catch him DJing at Soju Bar on Thursday, May 19.
It’s taken a long time for all these tracks to come together. How does it feel to finally have the album out?
It’s so weird because my Dad died while I was making the album and immediately after I finished it, I split up with the girl I’d been going out with for six years, so I haven’t really been thinking about the album. I’ve been thinking about all the rest of my life caving in on itself.
Does that explain the melancholy of tracks such as “Solar Flares Burn For You”?
Well, none of the music’s very happy. I wouldn’t say I’m an unhappy person. But I don’t really believe in happiness.
You don’t believe in happiness.
No, well, not the ever after. I think at best it’s like a fleeting state of mind. I think the best state of being is to be moving emotionally. You know, not stagnant. The thing I like about music is that it’s cathartic. And you can express. You can disengage your ego and your intellect. And you wander off wherever you are.
There’s also a krautrock vibe.
I like all the same old shit that everyone bangs on about: Harmonia, Cluster, Kraftwerk, Can, Neu, La Düsseldorf. I’ve always worked at second-hand record shops so there is a lot of music out there in the world, but I really like the atmospheric end of it.
You’re still working there?
Yeah, yeah. It’s minimum wage and everyone there’s like over 30 and should be getting on with something else. [But] Every single day [I hear] loads and loads of different records. Honestly, that’s why I work, that’s why I can’t bloody leave.
The High Fidelity dream.
Well, except without the cute side. It’s real second-hand passive aggression and misery exchange. But yeah, everyday, there’s just amazing music out there and there’s so much amazing new stuff and old stuff; beautiful African records, disco records, European electronic and I’ve always been into house and techno and film soundtracks, and you know, anything. Pop music, anything. I really like a good evocative, melancholy pop song. I think 1980s pop music’s really interesting. They were the kinds of the people who’d just come out of a massive war, so you know, uncles and aunts and stuff like that had been bombed flat in the UK and there’s this real sense of longing and searching. I think it’s really evident in those big epic pop songs. It’s like breaking out of that stranglehold of the past.
Can I mention some of your song titles? There’s "The Hex","The Curse", "Lucifer’s Morning Star"… do I denote a trend?
I’m just a twat. You know, you’ve got to piss around with something. You could call them “One”, “Two”, “Three”, “Four”, “Five”, “Six”, “Seven”, “Eight”. "The Curse" is a curse. It’s a curse on a load of people that I didn’t like. That I thought were snotty and rude and arrogant.
In the music industry?
Yeah. I don’t really like those people, really. Though you can’t really generalize. I always forget even down at the level I’m at, at the “we’ve-only-got-£150-for-a-remix” level, it’s still the music industry and people are still horrible.
Not getting paid for your remixes?
Just a couple. And not just not getting paid, it’s waiting forever… but it’s not so bad, it’s only a little moaner and I got a song out of it, which is good. And hopefully no one died as a result of the curse that I put on them that I didn’t understand.
Unless they really deserved it.
Yeah. But I like that stuff. I like reading about occult stuff and reading about pre-Christian and alternate-Christian Britain, old British religions and what people were into. I mean, “Lucifer Morning Star” is the planet Venus. The bringer of the morning light, which is also Satan, the illuminator of the self.
You name a track “Beachy Head”.
Yeah, it’s a suicide spot in – well, no, it’s a really nice high cliff just along the coast from Brighton, Sussex, and my flatmate [and Hungry Ghost partner] Sam’s dog committed suicide by jumping off Beachy Head. We were talking about it while I was writing that tune and I thought it had quite a nice sound; the soul taking flight at the end of the tune, freedom from the flesh prison.
Are you done with Hungry Ghost?
I’m just finishing a new Hungry Ghost single, and then I’m going to have a little break, hopefully find a wife, by the end of the summer. Married. Sorted.
The two-month plan.
Yep, two-month plan. It’s like your average girl’s five-year plan but two month, all nailed down and keep her in the house. Yeah, we’re going to finish the new Hungry Ghost single, and hopefully do a Hungry Ghost album, and hopefully there’ll be a Gatto Fritto album, another one as well.
And you’ll be coming to Berlin.
Like every other kind of sort of lazy-ass and aging hipster from Britain, I’m probably going to head over there at some point. It’s a place where music can flourish because people aren’t so fucking uptight. I want to move there but I am aware that pretty much everyone who I used to know who made electronic music in London has moved there. I’ve done a couple of places before: Kleine Reise and King Size. I had an amazing time – I played last November at Kleine Reise and I was really jaded about DJing and I literally had one of those regenerative experiences where I felt, “Oh yeah, everything’s still good, people are still good, I really love people, I still want to be around them and nurture them, and I want to be part of humanity again.”
London’s one of those places: it’s expensive and difficult and deliberately set-up so that if you make any sort of mistake it costs you a load of money. It’s just punitive. It’s deliberate. For example, if you forget to touch your Oyster [transport] card out it costs you a tenner. If you’re having a bad day and you’ve not got much money, you just want to bury yourself under the duvet or attack someone by the end of the day. It’s a frustrating place and sometimes the clubs are difficult because everyone’s on shit drugs and there’s no mixture of people anymore and that’s real moany sort of stuff, but there’s a different feeling in the air in Berlin. People are still people, they’re wonderful and dreadful all in equal measure like me, but I think that’s what’s changed and that’s the beautiful thing about Berlin still, there’s a bit of freedom.
Will you be DJing or are there plans for a live Gatto Fritto experience?
Just DJing at the moment. All my equipment’s really old and fucked, basically. I make music on a PC that’s probably worth about fifteen quid and it’s not a good look, turning up with a big white plastic 1990s box. It fucking crashes and all that sort of shit, so I need to get something stable and transportable. And it means I’m going to have to sing, live.
Is that nerve-wracking?
I don’t know if it’s nerve-wracking. Other than getting on airplanes, I don’t get that nervous about things, because well, I’m fucking old, well, not old, but, if I was 23 I’d be nervous about it. But I’m not. I’m just a sort of jaded old miserable bastard now. No, so it’s not necessarily nerve-wracking, it’s just whether I can do it justice. And obviously I sing like a girl, very high pitched, and it’s kind of awkward to carry off.
Exberliner has three copies of Gatto Fritto's self-titled debut to give away. For your chance to win a copy simply email email@example.com with the subject line "gatto fritto" by May 17 at noon. Don't forget to include your full name.
GATTO FRITTO Thu, May 19, 22:00 | Soju Bar, Skalitzerstraße 36, Kreuzberg, U-Bhf Gorlitzer Bahnof