When The Ghost Inside released their eponymous album last week, it wasn’t just any studio full-length.
The record was built from their experiences in the wreckage of a car accident that saw tragedy unfold for the band, their crew and the drivers of both vehicles. And then, they came back. Despite drummer Andrew Tkaczyk losing a leg, he was drumming again. Music fans the world over rejoiced in the ability of our own to overcome adversity. But this isn’t the end of the story for The Ghost Inside. They swiftly booted out their bassist last week after accusations of racism, and continue to fight the good fight in a world where nothing comes easy. Tkaczyk was kind enough to take us through each song on The Ghost Inside as the battle rages on.
That is the amount of days … 1,333 days, since the accident to the day of the Shrine show. We thought that was a cool nod to it. Also, we thought it’d be a really cool statement to start it off with hearing me sit down on the kit, then you hear the hi-hats meet the drumsticks and it’s just drums. It’s like a, “Holy shit, he’s back,” kind of thing. I think that was Jim Riley, our bass player’s idea. Everyone just kind of went, “Oh my god, that’s perfect.” It just came up on the spot one day when we were in the studio.
‘Still Alive’ is the last song we wrote for the record. A really, really cool fact about this song is in the chorus where you hear how it sounds like 20 people yelling, “Still alive. Still alive,” that’s actually all 10 of us that were in the bus accident. The whole band and the five crew members.
We were able to get each person to scream “still alive” twice into their iPhones and send us the voice memos. Then Will Putney, just, was a magician and just flooded it into his software and made it sound like a crowd of people. But that’s the 10 of us that survived the accident yelling “still alive” and that’s just the coolest thing ever.
We wanted ‘1333’ to be something that just smacks you in the face right off the bat. ‘Still Alive’ is the continuation of it.
That’s one of the band’s collective favourites. We thought track three would be a good place for that. Just has a sick opening and ending riff that we borrowed our talented friend, DL, who used to be in The Acacia Strain. He helped us write that and he wrote that riff for us.
It’s got the huge, I-am-unstoppable one-liner and the big breakdown. As soon as that part was written and Vigil tracked it, we all were in the studio and had an, “Oh shit,” moment between each other. We’re like, “That’s going to be the big line on the record. That’s definitely the biggest one.”
Each Ghost Inside record has one song that’s punishingly heavy the whole way. It’s usually a little bit lower tuned like in drop A, like ‘Pressure Point’ is. Returners had ‘The Conflict’ which is a slower, groovier, heavy song. Get What You Give had ‘The Deceiver’ which was the main, only heavy track on the record. Dear Youth had ‘My Endnote;.
It’s just this driving, unforgiving, high energy, with that chorus and the dissonant chords in the background. Vigil wanted to mess around with some different vocal ranges. I remember him in the studio saying, “Come check this out, what I just did. I’m channeling my my inner P.O.D.” I was like, “Dude, I fucking love it. That’s so sick.” We just, we wanted to end it with some super, super, almost slam beat down classic, just hardcore breakdown.
‘Overexposure’ was an instrumental track that we reworked from a demo that I had written originally for Dear Youth in 2013. We took the instrumental that I had and made it into something way better than it was seven years ago.
The chorus and the hook was a Jeremy McKinnon special right there. That song explores some different vibes than you would hear in a typical TGI song. It has a little bit more of a minor and dark feel, while at the same time feeling uplifting in certain spots too.
I have trouble picking what my favorite song on the record is. That’s another one that’s really high up on the list for me.
Make or Break
That was one of the last songs we had written. It was probably a month before our accident. We turned it into a completely different song but most of the riffs in there ended up being used for ‘Make or Break’. It was mainly that opening riff that you hear, we built a new song around that. It was obviously a more heavy, groove-oriented part, but it had that punky chorus which, again, was another Jeremy McKinnon special.
“I don’t want to be just like you and take what comes my way,” it’s got the upbeat drums that go with almost a punk rock-ish sort of chorus. That meshed in with the really, just, groovy, choppy breakdowns and heavy riffs. I love it.
‘Unseen’ was one we wrote with Will. I think Will took the bulk of this song. After the first session I had come home and I wrote that intro for ‘Unseen’, went back and put that on there. It’s a really cool … right in the middle of the record, it calms down. Man, it almost sounds like you’re in some big epic part in a movie when it’s building up and you’ve got that pulsing bass building up.
That song reminds me of a little bit of Modern Life is War or another band called Dead Heart. It’s got that flat verb vocal effect on Vigil’s voice which is a different effect than it is on any of the record. It turned out super cool. It’s got a dark theme of questioning, “What happened to us in this? Am I lucky to be alive?” That’s a really heavy line.
We wanted to write a song that stepped out of the typical TGI comfort zone. Even when we were writing before our accident, we were talking about writing a song that’s a little bit more in the rock and roll genre. Some bands we really like are Foo Fighters and Breaking Benjamin.
The chorus, Will Putney wrote the chorus, the, “I won’t bend, I won’t break through the darkest of days.” It just is such a good anthem. I could see that song being played during a Super Bowl highlights show. It’s like a warriors fighter song. It’s so cool for us to step out of our comfort zone and do a Ghost Inside take on rock.
That song started off, just Vigil had come to my house. He came out to stay with me just to hang and be nerds and play video games in October of 2018. While he was here I knew I wanted to try and do some writing because I had my own studio here at home and I wanted to track Vigil and get him to do some vocals at my place.
He was taking a shower at my house and I was in my studio writing and he said I was playing guitar so loud he could hear it through the wall, he heard a rhythm. He just thought of it in the shower because he heard it through the walls.
There’s parts of the song that sound like more of a throwback version of The Ghost Inside. Then there’s that whole clean, melodic break and it’s just, it’s got that snare roll over all the pretty leads and the really big positive ending.
I even got a Ghost Inside sleeve tattoo recently that had a phoenix on it at the top coming out of an urn. An urn that had the TGI logo on it. The phoenix is super symbolic to us and this our homage to that on that song on this record.
When we started getting close to finishing writing out the record, we were sitting around and Will was like, “What’s missing from this that we haven’t done yet?” I was saying that we needed that really fast, really uptempo punk song with the classic punk beat. So, we wrote that with Will. We wanted to just shower it with melody and for it to sound like it has the biggest chords and leads ever. I think that that might be one … a sleeper track on the record that surprises us.
That is one of the songs that we had before the accident that stayed almost exactly how we had written it before. When I wrote that song in 2015, I always save songs with working titles, and for some reason I just typed, ‘Aftermath’. I didn’t think anything of it.
It sort of, in a weird way, foreshadowed what happened to us. Vigil thought would be a really cool idea to keep that working title. The word aftermath has taken on a new meaning for our band and what we went through for our story and our journey. I think it’s probably one of the most important songs our band has ever written.