A lot of musicians draw inspiration from trauma, but Hailes Ghost makes pain sound downright upbeat.
After moving to Denver from Tampa in 2014 with his former bandmates, the now-solo act Hailes Ghost chose to take his music career in a new direction. He also chose to remain anonymous — at least until he releases his final album, which isn't likely to happen for some time.
Hailes Ghost plans to reveal a part of his identity with each album release, explaining that his anonymity helps ensure that people will focus more on his music than his appearance. “I feel like when I wear a mask I don’t have to worry about that, and I can just truly be myself on stage," he says. "But over time, I want to take it off, because I won’t need to wear a mask.”
He realized he had a lot to get off his chest two summers ago, when he began working on his first album after various personal experiences and struggles. All he needed was an old computer, an electronic drum set and a piano, mini synthesizers and a microphone. He recorded it all with the recording software BandLab, and had it mixed and mastered at the Black in Bluhm studio at 1501 Dahlia Street.
“My mind is just free the whole time I’m at work, so I’ll just come up with beats in my head, and I’ll go home and record it and freestyle, and something will come out that works,” he explains. His day job with a local dog-cleaning service allows him the flexibility and downtime to ponder beats and refine his sound.
He originally recorded sixty songs for his first album, but eventually narrowed it down to ten, and now his debut, My Personal Therapy, is ready for a Halloween release.
"Sadly, there are no love songs on this album, but I wrote a lot of love songs," he says. “A lot of things happened in my life to push me to do this. When all those things happened, I was just writing nonstop.”
He grew up playing sports in high school, but music quickly took over, and he dropped the idea of being an athlete. He preferred the freedom that music gave him to explore his creative capabilities. “There are no rules in music," he says, "so having that freedom and being able to write and create things that give people goosebumps is my favorite part.”
Drawing from childhood favorites like Nine Inch Nails, Daft Punk and LCD Soundsystem, Hailes Ghost pays homage to ’80s-style electronic beats, with inspiration from heavy metal and punk rock. As for which genre Hailes Ghost represents, he says a friend describes it as emo synth-wave with a side of metal. "I scream on like half of my songs," he notes.
The album's fourth track, "Abandoned," features a cameo with his six-year-old son. "I recorded that song on one of the worst days of my life," he reveals. It's heavy, as are most of his songs, but the upbeat techno throughout makes it easy to dance the pain away.
He and his ex joked about naming their son Haile, but the name is actually a tribute to the owner of Drink's Liquor off West Colfax Avenue and Lowell Boulevard. “I told him one day, 'I‘m going to name a band after you, because you’re the nicest man I’ve ever met,'" he says. "But it's also partially named as the ghost that could’ve been but didn’t happen."
With the upcoming album release and a debut show for Hailes Ghost at HQ on Thursday, October 28, he hopes to get the word out and collaborate with more local musicians. “It’s probably the best music scene I’ve been a part of, to be honest," he says.
In addition to looking for bandmembers to grow Hailes Ghost, he's looking for a hip-hop collaborator for his next album, which he plans to release next Halloween.
“I want people to know that what I’m singing about is very therapeutic to me. It’s very personal," he says. "It’d be great if it helps other people, but it’s very real. I’m not really doing this for money or fame. If anything, I want to inspire people."
Tone Dynamix Presents Julian St Nightmare with Los Narwhals, DJ Hailes Ghost and the Nova Kicks, 7 p.m. to midnight Thursday, October 28 at HQ, 60 South Broadway. Tickets are $15 to $60, and vaccination card with matching ID or negative Covid-19 test within 48 hours are required. Get tickets here.
My Personal Therapy by Hailes Ghost will debut on all major streaming platforms on October 31.