Interview: Thomas Ross Turner (of Ghostland Observatory)

In an environment where live acts are defined as much by their outlandish costumes and visuals as their music, dance artists survive and thrive by trying to one-up each other on the stage. Daft Punk brings the pyramid and the robot helmets, so deadmau5 brings a V-shaped structure and a glowing mouse head. Étienne de Crécy brings a cube, Girl Talk brings a house. Austin’s Ghostland Observatory hasn’t gone as far as all that, but the duo has made its name on the stage, where music is about half the appeal. Frontman Aaron Behrens prances around sporting sunglasses, bell-bottoms and androgynous Willie Nelson braids, wailing every word in his trademark nasal voice. Producer/keyboardist/occasional live drummer Thomas Ross Turner does no prancing, but his shiny, intentionally campy wizard cape is enough to keep your attention. Just in case, though, the band brings lasers, and lots of them.

This month, the minimalist electro-rockers wrap up their lengthy North American tour, but with their fourth and latest album Codename: Rondo fresh on the shelves, it’s likely they’re just getting started on this go-round. We recently had the opportunity to discuss all things Ghostland with Turner, the brains of this operation, and he is none too bothered by the reception.

How does this tour compare to previous tours? What’s different?

Well, we have a lot more lasers, and they’re actually really cool. We got some new technology, like blue lasers. You see this geometric grid on the stage, and then it kinda makes us look like Tron characters, too, ’cause they create these grid patterns on us and around us. So that’s pretty neat. I don’t know, we’re bumpin’ the new tracks, and the live show’s a lot tighter now, you know? It’s pretty cool.

Are you guys excited about the new Tron movie?

I am real excited about it. I wanna go check it out in the IMAX, you know? Go all the way with it.

Have you guys ever considered trying to work with Daft Punk?

No, I have never even thought of it as a reality. That would be cool but, I don’t know, for some reason it never crossed my mind.

It’s kind of a lofty aspiration, but I think it’d be cool.

Yeah. [laughs]

At one of your shows, I noticed that, especially in the front, you guys had particularly rabid fans, including a guy who traveled to San Francisco from Dallas. What is it about Ghostland that makes people want to travel 1,700 miles?

I don’t know…I mean, we just try to give people the best show that we can. We definitely try to stand out from other shows that come through whatever town people are in and just try to give them the best performance we possibly can. I don’t know, some people just enjoy the experience. They’ll go to several shows or they’ll travel with some friends and go to a string of shows or whatever. It’s cool, especially when you see some familiar faces, or afterwards, people are like “Oh, we came all the way from this place or that place.” But, yeah, we just try to give people the best performance we possibly can when we play.


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