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.
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?
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.
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
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?
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?
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.
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
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?
think the main focus right now is writing more, and finally compiling
our recordings...hopefully for someone to recieve. The means to this
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achievement are totally up for speculation, though.
Check out Ghost Arm's Facebook page here.