Ghost in the Machine is a collaborative EP by synth wave artists Kirk Gadget and Valkyrie1984. This EP plays into the futuristic world of the cyberpunk sub-genre along with the concept of merging humans and machines. The story follows two detectives, Kirk and Val, stationed in the Kingdom District of a hyper-futuristic Tokyo that has been ravaged by covert corporate war in the year 2084. Val is murdered at the hands of Visiontek Corp, and reborn as a cyborg. The two embark on a dark journey to solve her murder and uncover the conspiracy of the true identity of the Wolf Queen.
1.Where does one start when there’s so much to talk about? Ok, let’s try getting right into it… What is driving this album‘s story, and what inspires the Valkyrie?
It’s definitely an homage to the classic 80’s sci-fi and anime. A dark gritty story with mysterious romantic characters. Films like Blade Runner, The Matrix and wicked anime’s like Akira come to mind. This imagined world is like a metaphor or even a commentary on what is happening in the real world. It’s utopic, and with those stories there’s always hope at the end. That’s kind of the point.
2. ‘Valkyrie1984’ ; ‘Ghost in the Machine.’ I’m interested, elaborate.
If you break it down the Valkyrie is derived from Nordic mythology. The Valkyries are female warlike virgins, who mount upon horses and arms themselves with helmets and spears. They have final say in deciding who will die in a battle. They will hover over the battlefield, like birds over their prey. And the warriors who show bravery are given strength. The ‘1984’ is named after a novel by George Orwell that depicts a post-apocalyptic future where the government controls everything. I guess those things mean bravery in the face of adversary.
‘Ghost in the Machine’ is also a reference to how people lose their sense of self and become a number, which is the classic motif of 1984. The machine is like an organised society. A concrete jungle, and we are its ghosts.
3. Your EP description reads “The futuristic world of the cyberpunk sub-genre”. Now that’s a sub-genre I want to hear more about. Tell me, how do you pursue cyberpunk in terms of theme and sound production?
As I mentioned earlier, a lot of the cyberpunk aesthetic stems from 80’s film. A dark future, and by dark I don’t mean hopeless. Darkness is falsely associated to the lack of hope sometimes, but not necessarily. The music will sometimes reflect that because it’s very electronic, but there’s a kind of romantic synth 80’s lines associated with it, which makes it a little more melodic. With sound design, from a production standpoint, I worked on creating a lot of atmospheric sound waves and isolating lead parts on top of a very dark bassy melody. Playing with a juxtaposition of light and dark to create a mood of hope and despair mixed together.
4. What in your opinion is the hardest step in creating a masterpiece?
Hmmm… The hardest step… I think a lot of times when I start, I just get a lot of instruments in tune together and apart. I mess around with the sound. After I do that, the song kind of writes itself. The element of luck is also involved. You are inspired by each melody as it comes. It happens organically, you’re inspired and you inspire as you go. Having said that I think the solid initial sound is the hardest because it will set the mood and direction of the whole track. But if you let the fear of a going in a specific direction go, and don’t really think about the limits in what you want to do, you’ll surprise yourself.
5. I listened to your album twice, and both times these two tracks took me on a personal short-lived journey. The ‘Prologue’ and ‘Redemption, the Epilogue.’ Those are the opening and closing tracks; the album feels so complete to me. Does it feel the same way for you? What memorable responses have you had to your work?
That was the purpose, to kind of start slow and steady with the ‘Prologue’ by introducing you to the sound, the resonance, and then build it up like a mountain. The peak being anxious, uneasy, confusing. And like all peaks, it has a fall. The ‘Epilogue’ is the reverse; it will bring you back down and leave you with a feeling of content, the calm after the storm. So yeah, it does feel complete to me. The order of the tracks was done specifically to try and create that story as well.
As for the responses, I think the most memorable ones were from the live performances, especially the theatrical one. People commented on how the mood of the music fits the aesthetic of my vision to communicate the somber, yet hopeful mood of the 80’s. Some of them even told me that they felt like they kind of woke up from a dream, which is where I want the live show to go. An experience, not just a sound.
6. The track ‘Wicked city’ starts like this; “We live in an era where our cities are armed with steal and concrete, computers and electronics barricade our minds.” This rings a heartfelt bell… like Charlie Chaplin’s famous speech in The Great Dictator. Is this something that inspires you sonically?
That phrase captures the whole idea of ‘Ghost in the Machine.’ The disconnection with humanity due to the overuse of technology. That’s what the phrase represents. The city is a collection of man made wall, moral imprisonment. This theme definitely drove this album to sound the way that it does.
7. Is there anything else you’d like to say?
I see a fashion line down the line…
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