Glimpses of the South Florida Scene: Ghost Arm

Glimpses

of the South Florida Scene is a weekly column devoted to the

artists thriving within Broward and Palm Beach counties featuring

interviews with the folks making it happen. This week, Ghost Arm.

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Miami duo Ghost Arm -- Robert "Rolodex" Hodgkins and David "SPF" Golding

-- make the kind of hip-hop that's so dark and soulful that it's

difficult not to recall predecessors like El-P and Dälek, the latter of

whom are so transient they've toured with the Melvins and Tool. Ghost

Arm, too, are transcendent in the same way, their deeply heavy sound

culled from a  broad spectrum of greats to spin something raw and for

real. With Dead Meat drummer Robert Pagano as producer, lines like

"Load the clip/shoot the film/reel this city right back to still," get

a shadowy, opaque backdrop with a steady, heady combination of soul

samples and the boys' own unearthly beats. We spoke with Hodgkins

about those sounds, among other things.

New Times: Tell me about how Ghost Arm happened.  What were the 2 of you working on before and how did you come together?

Robert Hodgkins:

David and I began contemplating this hip-hop duo thing since about 2007

in the great land of MIAMI. Just recently -- within the past 6 months or

so -- we began trying to develop some kind of presence we feel might be

representative of some inventive, underground hip-hop; very abstract

and indistinct. I think we owe part of the ignition of the group to the

ill production by our boy, Roberto Pagano from Dead Meat, and his

soulful offerings. We grew up, fortunately, among each other in West

Palm Beach and surrounding 'burbs, so we watched each others' punk and

metal bands play regularly, and eventually started to notice musical

tastes shifting, somehow converging together in a quite unlikely and

unprescribed fashion. After setting up our Miami studio and being

introduced to some great productions, it seemed only natural -- weirdly

natural, yet still instrumental -- to combine our outrageous poetry with

instrumentals; to put our hand in, so to speak. Amazingly, some people

like it. We are trying to shoot some videos, manufacture more tracks

and, of course, produce an endless catalog of delicious tracks

comparable to Jay-Z and Kanye. The latter is a joke...

David Golding: We

were both in a barrage of different musical groups which eventually

fell apart. I decided to move to Miami to go to school where Rob was

currently living, and we found ourselves in a roommate situation. I set

up my studio and from there it was only natural. We both play music and

write lyrics and we slowly started getting some songs sequenced out.

From there it's just been an ongoing process.

You'd already

written some "poetry," and then you set up the production studio,

eventually combining everything to make these tracks. Did you work with

Roberto Pagano from the beginning, or did you record some stuff

yourself before he expanded it?

Robert [with input from David]: We

actually started off by putting together several of our own sequences

in something of a seed, bedroom studio; some of these samples we used

to create a few originals, if you will. Roberto came through with his

own instrumentals about a month before moving out to Cali, which was a

bit unfortunate because we had lived in such close vicinity to our

respective Miami hoods for several years without imploring our

abilities in conjuction. It almost felt like the opportunity to

collaborate had been squandered, but it hadn't. In fact, we keep in

close contact with Burrito, who still handles our mixes and sends us

beats when he can squeeze the production in between Dead Meat practices

and performances.

There's not a lot of local hip-hop acts,

but by virtue of being part of the neighborhood, you're within

something pretty vibrant. Can you tell me about what it's like to be

making that kind of music here, where there's a bit of a dearth of it --

at least compared to other cities?

Well, it seems like South

Florida is just not the appropriate medium for performing hip hop acts

unless you are a protégé of Rick Ross. I feel like there are a great

many talented groups and artists that have developed unique and

interesting styles, both in Miami and Palm Beach, with great music

quality that has been more or less unnoticed, and appreciated by few.

Of course, all of our Florida people and family are extremely

supportive, but events showcasing local hip-hop do not produce what

they should, unfortunately.

I think hip-hop has lost, and continues to

lose, a great deal of credibility, and is heavily manipulated due

largely to the fact that it is definitely a genre that remains

predominantly heard and not so much seen. It is a very different music

form, where biting and fronting are attributes very much part of most

rappers' profiles, so as much as we want to dive into it, we also want

to stay out of the pool entirely, or maybe find our own niche to soak

up. Needless to say, we still love kicking it with the bands our

friends play in, and kind of encourage increasing the variety of music

or styles you might observe at a given show. For us, it's really about

keeping this thing alive as communally as possible, even if in our

entirety all we can shed is only a splinter off the towering trunk;

that's good enough for us, I think.

Is there a certain

integrity you hope to perpetuate by being one of very few local acts of

this genre that are not, as you'd say, protégés of Rick Ross?

I

think there is very little integrity to be gained through what we are

doing, or rather trying to do, but we feel it is representative of the

artists and bands we respect and follow, and in that sense I suppose we

feel we are more obedient and in-tune to our own tastes and opinions

rather than fitting whichever form that fits.

I heard you were planning on releasing something in winter. What's going on with that? Will it be an EP? A full-length?

The

winter release was probably a little ambitious. We recently ran into

trouble with our recording equipment, so we are "pimping" our setup at

the moment. We are hoping to re-record the tracks we already released,

and also to record a handful of new tracks we have been finessing and

finely combing over within the past month or so. If we can get it all

together, this summer should yield the culmination of our progress,

either in the form of a full-length, or maybe double EPs. It's really

just an idea right now, but it's something we talk about on the regular.

It's

been said that your sound recalls Definitive Jux (I thought

of El-P instantly) and J Dilla. What are some of both of your

influences?  What are you listening to right now, while you pimp your

setup?


That's flattering of "them" to say so. Most of our influences

overlap, and include dudes like Aesop Rock, Immortal Technique, Iller

Than Theirs (Tone Tank & Kray), Cannibal Ox, Sage Francis, Del the

Funky Homosapien, C-Rayz Walz, Black Thought, Little Brother, Bone

Thugs, Leak Brothers, of course Wu-Tang and affiliates like Bronze

Nazareth...The list could literally go on and on, but these are some of

the more prevalent hip hop artists I could come up with. Right now we

try to listen to everything, from the Shins and Air to Stevie Wonder,

Tom Waits, Queen, Rush, Yes, Jethro Tull. I have been listening to

these dudes Fucked Up a lot recently, trying to touch into some heavier

music. In terms of hip hop right now, Illa J (J Dilla's younger

brother) is killing it; same with the new Ghostface Killah album.

Javelin is another group of two dudes that I am really digging right

now, and they actually just put out a Wu-Tang mixtape that is pretty

damn hot. We pretty much just keep our ears out for good music, no

matter what genre it falls into.

What's next for you guys?

I

think the main focus right now is writing more, and finally compiling

our recordings...hopefully for someone to recieve. The means to this

achievement are totally up for speculation, though.

Check out Ghost Arm's Facebook page here.


Follow County Grind on Facebook and Twitter: @CountyGrind.


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