Created in 2013 by Dennis Mikula, Ghost Bath is a black metal band with a unique style and persona. Their unique vocal melodies and dark guitar tone have made them a huge fan favorite across the metal scene. Ghost Bath is journeys through the sorrow and sadness that all lives experience, but leave a glimmer of hope. They portray both deep anguish and angelic soundscapes that are sure to leave an impression on the listener. The band released their self-titled EP on Solitude Productions based in China. This was followed by their debut LP titled, “Funeral,” which was released on Pest Productions (China) in June of 2014. “Moonlover” was released on Northern Silence Productions(Germany) in 2015. In 2016, the band was signed by Nuclear Blast Records. In 2017, they released their latest album, Starmourner, part two of their trilogy, through both Nuclear Blast and Northern Silence. We sat with Dennis to talk about the band and the following of Ghost Bath.
Classic Entourage Mag: Thanks for chatting with us. Can you describe how the band got started?
Dennis Mikula: I was in college working on a psychology degree and just wanted to create music. I had recently discovered the sounds of Silencer and the melodic black metal nature of Agalloch and wanted to make something in a similar vein. I gathered a few other members. Then I made an EP on my own which is now our Self-Titled. One of the guitarists really didn’t like the vocals, but I didn’t want to budge on those. So I ended up going my own separate way as a solo project. I wrote the EP, Funeral, Moonlover, and Starmourner completely on my own. The other guys in the band joined once I got signed to Nuclear Blast to play live. Now we are working on a new album together.
CE Mag: What does the creative process look like when you are writing music? How about when you are shooting music videos?
Dennis: Writing music for me is mostly based on the chord progressions and the feel of the changes between those chords. I feel that I have gathered a real grasp on how to do this well over the years. I have to be in a certain mindset and dwell on certain personal issues and emotions. I find that if I am in any sort of depressive state that music just pours out of me like the low-hanging smoke from dry ice. It lingers and billows about, ready to be used as fuel through my fingers and into my guitar.
With this new album, we are taking a bit of a different approach. All of us are writing parts. I find that one of our guitarists is very good at more “death” type parts and dissonance. He really brings a unique heaviness to our work. I also find that our third guitarist is apt at creating compelling rhythmic parts. Both of these combined with my skill in chord depth and note changes, and I think we are nearing the completion of our best album to date.
I find that if I am in any sort of depressive state that music just pours out of me like the low-hanging smoke from dry iceDennis Mikula
CE Mag: Now you are signed to a major metal label. How did that come about? Were you pitching demos?
Dennis: I had pitched in the past to no avail when Moonlover had not yet released. That is how I began working with German label, Northern Silence. Once that album exploded in popularity, I was contacted out of nowhere by my now good friend, Steve Joh, from Century Media. We talked about the record and how much he enjoyed it. From there I spoke with my producer, Josh Schroeder, who had contact with a few other record labels, namelty Monte Conner from Nuclear Blast. Josh had worked with Monte on the King 810 stuff from when Monte was still with Roadrunner. After speaking with nearly every dream label I could imagine, I settled on Nuclear Blast and I am very happy with my decision. They are great people and I’ve had quite the experience working with them (in a good way.)
CE Mag: Some people in the comments on your Youtube videos call your music “True Art”. How do you respond to compliments like that?
Dennis: Over the course of my life I have arrived at a somewhat loose definition of art, going as far as calling nearly every intentional act by a human ‘art.’ I remember many debates within the Ghost Bath touring van on what art actually is. To me, the simplest act such as folding a letter to mail, to the most elaborate, such as starting a cult, all counts as art. As far as the qualifier, ‘true,’ I’m not sure how to respond.
The only explanation I can think of is a differential between manufactured music and what some may call ‘honest music.’ I used to think the same way about larger artists and more mainstream musical releases, but I’ve since changed my mind on the subject. I think that radio music mainstream creations are simply just a different form of art, focusing on different aspects of human nature. It does not make it any lesser. Just different.
CE Mag: What are some other musical influences that you have outside of the metal world that help with the creative process?
Dennis: I think the biggest influence at the moment is epic fantasy literature. I have been hard at work on a fantasy trilogy for the past several years and I’ve found that it really helps to explore the creative mind. Creating characters other than yourself and working on seeing the world through their eyes is a highly useful practice. Writing is an art form all its own, and I truly believe it is far more personal than music. I know that may sound surprising, but I think that language is more closely tied to who we are as people. Music has a way of allowing more abstraction and a thin layer of separation, while the written word cuts straight to the core of being.
Writing is an art form all its own, and I truly believe it is far more personal than music.Dennis Mikula
CE Mag: Seeing some of your live shows as well as watching live shows online it seems that you go into an almost trance when playing. What is the feeling for you when you’re playing live?
Dennis: It is difficult to explain. I am not usually a proponent of the thought that ‘you NEED to experience something yourself in order to understand it.’ But I think that comes into play here. Not because it couldn’t be explained if I really wanted to, but because music is one of the only avenues of my life that I continue to allow mystery. I purposefully ignore a more analytical approach to music and performance. That way I can experience true wonder and allow myself to let go, which seems to be a difficult thing for me in other avenues in life.
CE Mag: A handful of fans have been getting tattoos of your logo and cover art. Were you surprised when they started popping up? Who does your artwork?
Dennis: It was surreal if I am being honest. I am honored and humbled by it. I don’t really know what else to say. The artwork for each release is done by someone different. Moonlover was a found piece of Luis Gonzalez Palma. A photo he had taken in 1989. I knew it was the right piece and so I emailed him immediately. For Starmourner, I worked with Luciana Nedelea who does amazing work. She did every piece (one for each song) in the Starmourner layout. For the new album, you’ll just have to wait and see. Shout out to Luciferium War Graphics who did our logo and the logo revamp.
CE Mag: With the pandemic going on what does live shows look like for you guys over the next year? Has everything be completely stopped for this year. Are you looking into doing some online performances in the mean time?
Dennis: Over the next year? None. No online performances. We are fully committed to, and working on, the new album. No release date as of yet due to everything that is going on.
CE Mag: Do you have any advice for metal bands trying to cut through the noise to become successful in the internet age?
Dennis: Have an angle. Be unique and use your own voice. Don’t be afraid to try something you think other people might hate or laugh at. If people have strong emotional reaction to your work, whether it be hate or laughter or sorrow, then you are heading in the right direction. Avoid melancholic/uncaring reactions at all costs. That usually means you should try something different.
CE Mag: Thanks for sitting with us! What new music can fans expect of you coming up? Can you touch upon that briefly?
Dennis: The new album will be our heaviest to date. It will still sound like Ghost Bath, but it is more akin to our live performance’s intensity. Have some new techniques up our sleeves as well.
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