Coldplay's frontman, Chris Martin has been talking to Beats Music as part of a comprehensive track by track walk through of Coldplay's latest album, Ghost Stories. We have already seen the video of Chris telling us his inspiration for second single, A Sky Full Of Stars but this amazing new interview covers the in's and out's of Coldplay's sixth LP.
I have written a full transcript of the whole interview so you can read through at your own leisure and also translate if you wish. Throughout this interview, we learn the thought process behind Ghost Stories, Chris' inspirations, life meanings, Jonny's guitar effects and what Ghost Stories may have originally been called!
Chris Martin on Ghost Stories as a whole
"The way I would describe Ghost Stories is the journey of going through a challenge or an ordeal to come out a little bit stronger and happier at the end. Not as a toolkit for that but just as a way of accepting that something crazy is happening whether its a loss or a challenge or something business, whatever it might be. Not letting it break you but letting it make you". There's this Japanese artform called Kintsukuroi where if you break a bowl, you fix it with gold and its more beautiful at the end than it was before and that's what we were trying to sing about."
"I felt like and I asked the rest of the band if it's alright if we do something a little smaller and more intimate. That just seemed to be what was coming out. I don't know where songs get sent from but they get sent from somewhere and the ones that were coming out were a bit more intimate and personal, then the title Ghost Stories...I like to write a list of titles all the time and that just felt like that fits with a more mysterious vibe. I dunno, it's hard for me to explain these things, they just feel write. I made the decision around 12-14 years ago that because I don't have the gift of Shakespeare with lyrical brilliance. I was like, well, i'll just try and be honest, that's all I can do so as time goes on, i'll just try and do that. For this one in particular, I was going through stuff in my life and friends of mine were going through stuff and I just don't wanna bulls**t with what i'm singing about and I know for some people it won't resonate but maybe with other people it will so I just trust as I get older, as we get older, we'll try and trust my gut instinct even more. Obviously certain writers and critics are not gonna like this but that's ok, they're welcome to their opinion but I never question what i'm singing about because I need to sing to get through the day."
"Well, music for me is one of my greatest friends, it's how I make sense of every day. I like to work a night time and yes, complete cophasis. It's wonderful, I love it more than ever! I have this amazing teacher who tells me books to read and tells me of this poet from the 13th century called Roomie who i've never really heard of and I started read that stuff and it really changed my life and how I looked at certain things. There's a poem called The Guest House which is about imaging yourself as a house and every morning, a new thing knocks on your door and a challenge, something great or something terrible and the jist of the poem is whatever comes to you, you welcome it. That was a completely fresh prescriptive on life for me, so that really changed everything and I just kept reading more and more of his stuff and I still am and it's really about embracing all that happens to you and that was seeping into the music that was being written at that time"
1) Always In My Head
"When I think of the song, Always In My Head, I see it as an acceptance of, ok we're going to go down this road of being very vulnerable to somebody. For a lot of us in life, it's a real decision to like, am I gonna open myself up to somebody else or life itself and that track, every time we play it live, or every time we're working on it, that just reminded me, ok, like the question you asked earlier, do you feel comfortable singing about this stuff. This song makes me feel, just do it! be open to life and even if its a bit sad sometimes, its also going to be amazing. That song is like an acknowledgement - this is really going to be personal."
"About 4 years ago, I went to see Leonard Cohen play in Los Angeles and he did 2 songs on a really cheap Yamaha keyboard like we all learned on and it sounded amazing so I got one and its the same one since I had when I was a 11 and wondered if any songs would come through and that track, Always In My Head came through like that. It was like how I used to make music when I was 12. I felt really innocent and there's a note on it that shouldn't be in it and I like that one. You really want me to tell you which note? Oh god.....i'll tell you which note ! It's an A on a G minor chord haha!"
"The reason why my kids are on the album is because they came to the studio one day after school and I couldn't get this note and they were with one of their friends who is called Mabel and said is there way you guys will just try this and they were like, sure dad so they tried it for 3 minutes and it sounded so lovely. I thought it just sounded right"
"Well, the song Magic represents a big deal for me which was that even if i'm talking to you on my own, we are very much a band and we always have been and we are more than ever. In our personal live and our professional lives, there's this thing that links us where we would do anything for the others and its a very powerful feeling, to go have gone through everything we've been through with the same group of people. We knew each other when we had nothing. I think the rest of the band, this was about 2 years ago, were like, oh something is up with Chris and i've been asking them for ages, please can someone please start a song and they were like, no, we like the system as it is. I like that system too but I came in one day and Guy said, oh, we've got something you may like to hear. They played me this loop and I thought it was just awesome and this song called Magic appeared in about 5 minutes and to be it represented them...I needed them as friends at that time and it delivered. They also provided our first single and that was handy!"
"Our videos are a funny thing and when you sign a record contract, it's one of those other bits of the job you don't really think of when your a kid, unless your Beyonce who's just a born angel and genius in all departments. With videos, now, we just try to come up with something that...I don't think of it as acting but expressing what's within the song without just singing it to camera because that's a bit boring sometimes. I do like dressing up sometimes but I don't think of it as acting. The idea of the video is most men are both nice and not so nice and it's a question of which one you're gonna let win. It was either a big metaphor or just a chance to fly around on wires! I saw Pink once flying on wires and thought, I should start doing that!"
"The track Ink came from...we had an old song called See You Soon which was written in about 1860, when we were first forming! and I was trying to remember how to play it and I forgot and sometimes, when i'm doing songs on guitar I do different, strange tunings so I was trying to find the old tune but I couldn't remember it. But this other thing sounded nice and that song just arrived."
"Well, I know, this is not what you wanted to hear but I don't know how to explain lyrics. They don't mean the same thing for any two people I think. I don't even know what that means really, it just came out like that, haha! I like to start off with a title and then see what happens."
4) True Love
"The video for True Love and the song, I don't even know if they do compliment each other. I was at the circus with my children a few years ago and I saw those fat suits and they were doing these amazing acrobatics (Side note - Those Russian guys Chris was referring to before maybe?) and then we got in touch with that guy who was making them and said, please can you can make some for our video? and I don't know, I just felt like it would be nice to have a story involving those things. Now that you're making me think about that, now with videos, there's a chance to try new activities haha...and try and write a story around that activity."
"Ghost Stories, because of it's nature, it sounds like its one person talking to one person so instead of thinking of, how will this sound to lots of people in a concert, it was more like, how would this sound to one other person? and the reason why our band started was because Jonny's guitar playing....he does things musically which I don't think of and he surprises me and it's like a conversation in lots of our songs really where I would sing my melody then I never know what he's gonna come up and most of the time, like the song. He (Jonny) just has a way of writing melodies that is perfect....I just love his playing so much. And in that song, we are always saying go and do a solo one day and he's like, 'I don't do solo's' and we sort of got him to do....and that's his standing on a mountain / moment. That's why being in a band is the best job in the world because your best friends bring in bits of music that you wouldn't of thought of and you piece it all together and you get Optimus Prime!!"
"Well, I met Timbaland a long ago over a bowl of fruit, which he devoured at about 4 o clock in the morning and we wrote a song for Nelly Furtado and I was like, I like this person and he was playing with Jay Z last year, on tour and they were at the studio with us in London on a Sunday and I think we all had the same hobby which is, music! So, on everyone's day off, we all went to the studio and he's so fun to work with, like Tim (Avicii), because he just feels it, it's pure feeling and it's very inspiring to be around him and that day, I said oh, we have this song and there was something not quite right about it and he (Timbaland) said, oh let me have a go and he just helped Will with one base drum sound. The rest of the beat was already there from Will but he brought this bounce in."
"Well, the track Midnight is similar to track Magic in that the original music didn't come from me so that was a track by this guy called Jon Hopkins, who is a talented man who makes his own albums and I said to him one day while he was in the studios helping us out with this other song...I said oh, have you got any bits and pieces that I could sing on and he said, well, I got this one thing....and we stole it! When I say stole, we agreed a very lucrative contract between the two of us and give him the due credit! I see Midnight as been, well its a bit like Always In My Head. It's a reminder of...it's ok, we're here at the moment. You don't need to do a banging rock track right now. This is how we're feeling and embrace it. It was fun to work on. I like anything where you're singing then you can make it sound weird. I was looking for new ways of changing voices and that's really the only one where we've tried that's actually worked. Most of them actually sound really funny. On the track, i'm really talking about how I feel about Harry Potter! Not really! It is hard to decipher, I agree but I am singing real lyrics and they're not the worst of lyrics either. The phrase, 'leave a light on'. That's probably to yourself to say to keep going and yes, that is a Roomie quote : 'The wound is a place where the light enters you' and also, the first place I ever heard that was in a Leonard Cohen song as well called Anthem. There's a crack in everything, that's where the light gets in. It's such a great idea!"
"I mean, in England, where I was growing up, we are very much a culture of keeping your feelings down and suppressing them and not admitting if you were broken or going through something and that was great. That was how they were doing it then but I like the other way of, you admit that you are fallible or broken or you need....you know because it brings all these blessings with it because you say how you're actually feeling. The truth is, it is probably an album about heartbreak but it's not saying that somethings broken so you should just give up. It's saying, something is broken so lets work out how to fix it and make it better than it was before because that's what all the great poets and great teachers seem to say is that if you stick and go through something, the blessing will reveal itself. I mean, there's stuff going on in the world right now which you can't imagine why is this happening, it's crazy. I don't what it is but if you didn't have faith in the universe that somehow, something great will emerge at the end, then we would all give up and that would be a waste of everyone's time! That would be terrible! So that's why the record has to get to a record called A Sky Full Of Stars because it has to end on a 'well ok something got broken but hey, what you're gonna do? you're not gonna give up, you're never gonna give up. That's the best thing my Dad ever taught me."
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6) Another's Arms
"Right, so Mike Dean is a guy (Side note - Not the Premier League ref!) who works with Kayne and does amazing stuff. There's a guy called Steve Stout who was in the Rockerfella camp for a long time or Defjam, one of them but anyway.... he said 'oh, you should work with this guy called Mike Dean' on another track,so we called him up and asked if he would help out and he said, well, 'i'm free until 5, I'll do some bass!' That tends to be how it is. Well, like I said, we're very very lucky we get to work with people like that and what I think is good about dipping into more of the hip hop world is that they are used to doing track by track stuff, so no one's worried about, this is just one song or one bit. You look at the credits on a Kayne record and each song has like 9,000 people on it!"
"Thank you saying it seems seamless. At the time, it seems really unseamless so its only at the end, when you tie it all together. The woman at the beginning of Another's Arms is Oprah Winfrey! No, it's not Oprah Winfrey, she said no.....we didn't ask, i'm making it up! It's uhhh uhhh, I don't know who it is, it's a sample...it came from a synthesizer, that's called Denise!"
"Oceans, i've always had this imagine of the pier in Brighton, in the south of England. So, there's a pier on this pebble beach and the image I had in my head of that is, being through this thing like in like lots of books and films, someone goes on a journey and then I just felt like on a certain point, you just wanna wake up on a beach and everything seems ok and everything makes sense. So that song, always, to me, err.. the end of it particularity, just felt like you completely give in to life and say ok, I trust whatever is happening. It's a song about trust".
8) A Sky Full Of Stars
Watch the partial video "I know that this song, in this point in the album, A Sky Full Of Stars, needs to be about unconditional love and accepting whatever is happening to you as being what's supposed to be happening to you as difficult as that might be. Also, I want it to be a song where, you let loose and if you can jump up and down to it, all the better. That song, really, ended up being inspired by EDM, which some people turn their nose up at but then you go and see an EDM thing and people are so together and having the best time so I was like, f**k it! I love that stuff so I want us to have a song that comes from that world but to also to have it be about something that means so much to me, so it isn't throwaway at all, it's the most important song we've ever had, lyrically because everytime I sing it, i'm like yeah, that's how I wanna live my life and it took me a long time to be able to write that song or receive that song to say yeah, whatever's happening, I embrace it, even if someone thinks my band is the worst band on earth, it must be how its supposed to be and as it turns out, there's a few of them, so there must be many blessings."
"I love that song, I know it sounds bad to say that in music but I love that it's come out of this dark place and it was the last song to be written and you know, I was asking for it for a long time, like please send me this song, that's like, it's ok, everything's ok because we've got all these others songs going through this journey and we need this like door opening to the sunrise."
"A Sky Full Of Stars came out around 11.30 at night and it took....it came out in about 7 minutes. Well, I think there's a freedom at around 11 o clock at night where you feel like, you're not bothering anybody, you know...no one else needs you or there's nothing else you should be doing. It might come from the tradition of just reading about your heroes, whether its Quincy Jones or whoever, all these people who like to work at night-time. There is something just calm and you feel a bit more connected to the outer reaches of things. You have to not be worried about anyone else not hearing it because there's a certain switch you have to flick to say i'm gonna follow it wherever it goes and sometimes it goes down a dead end and doesn't sound really good or you're singing nonsense or you have to really let yourself go free. Well, i'll tell you the truth....I was listening to a lot of Katy Perry, that she does with Doctor Luke and a lot of her songs have the same chord sequence the whole time. Your body feels comfortable with them and the melodies changing. There's like a groove you really get into and also you're kept interested by and that's an amazing way of doing songs, then I realised all these other people who have done that. Nirvana being a classic example. Smell's Like Teen Spirit is the same chord sequence basically, the whole time, or Wild Thing, it goes way back, so there was a simplicity to that so I just need to find a sequence I can play for ages, ages and ages, so I was just looking for that for a long time and then one just came out. So i'm just going to keep playing that sequence and see what comes on top of it."
"So this probably happened on a Wednesday and I was in Los Angeles and the rest of the band were in London and we weren't supposed to see other for a week or so but when the song came out, I was desperate to record it and put it as a demo and the next day, I was in a studio called The Village and I think I just called them up and said, there are certain parts of this we don't really know what we are doing in terms of, I would really like to jump up and down to this you know but we're not always experts on that so let's call Tim (Avicii) and he's such a sweet man and err...yeah so, I should him the song and said please can you help? and he said, with his backwards baseball cap, yeah, that will be $12 million, hahaha! No he didn't say that! I was with him for the first bit of the Avicii version but then he goes into like the bat cave of Avicii. You're not allowed in there! I don't know what he's up to but he did an Avicii version and then we did a full Coldplay version and then we spent weeks like, weaving it all together, essentially playing tetris or something, you know what I mean? For f**king hours, hahaha! That's why it took so long. Like we'll try this with this or this with this. That's where really the time is spent, cooking the bit. I think it had to be contexualised because Will said to me, I thought we were making a very personal Ghost Stories record? and this is great but how does it fit? so that's when we were really putting the structures together and I said well, in the end where you just say yes and you wanna let get go and in a concert, if we're playing this whole album, there would be a point where I would be like, ok, i've got that out of my system, now let's go dance!"
"Once I said that to Will, he's like, ok, got it. Once they [The rest of the band] knew what we were doing it for, then they could how it fi.....well, I gotta be honest with you, it's really fun performing that song. I think when you start out, especially as a songwriter or a singer, there's an element of you that's looking for approval for whatever reason. I think actors, a lot of people who want attention so there's the song writing craft which is one discipline, then there is the need to perform or the need to get approval which, if you're lucky, dissipates as you get on with it as that's not gonna make me happy but what does make you happy is if you are playing a piece of music and everyone looks into it and so far, when we've played that in the few concerts we've done, there's just such a collective ermm... feeling."
"Well the last track is called O and its also a song called Fly On, so there's two songs really and the final one is segment of the song from my kids, essentially saying, don't ever let go. I just think its a nice thing to be told. In the same way of having the rest of the band on the song makes you feel alive and part of something else. I dunno if its just the sound of kids singing or particularity my kids singing but it just makes me feel reassured and embraced somehow. There's a certain warmth to it and the song that proceeds it, is another song about trying to get to a place where you are happy for the people around you. As long as they're happy and whatever it is they choose. I guess its about unconditional love I think. That's talking about birds and I don't mean to be mean but i'm not a big fan of people putting birds in cages because to me, that thing can fly, how can you do that? its crazy. So, it's that feeling of, do your thing. No, no, there's no birds chirping! That's Jonny been a bird on his guitar. Say what you like about him, he does incredible guitar animal impressions (Side note - Cow like noise during ARROBTH). That will ultimately be what we fall back on! hahaha!
*Interviewer - What's the meaning behind the title? The actual word looks like a full circle*First of all, thank you for getting the album so well. It feels so good when someone is like, do this mean this? and i'm like yes. That comes from a book by Shel Silverstein called The Missing Piece and it's the idea that nobody is our missing piece, we shouldn't have a missing piece, we're all whole and ermmm......he wrote this beautiful cartoon book about that where, at the end, two O's roll off together. I thought that was a nice way of looking at things. Whether your 15 or you are 55 or 80, it's like, well i'm whole, I don't have a missing piece, you've just got to find that wholeness within. Does that make any sense? I'm trying to think of a movie equivalent but I can't. *interviewer - Buckwiser (?) remind me a little bit of the darkness* That's a great book and that was an influence also. The Alchemist, infact one of titles for the album was Alchemy, before we decided on Ghost Stories and that book is amazing but that's what it is. What you need is there, it's in you. You just had to have the right people to help you get it out. I need to say this on camera but even I feel nervous to talk about this spiritual element of the music but I really firmly believe in it and its really helped me in my whole life so I wanna talk about it so whether its not really what you do, as a frontman, I shouldn't be talking about it but also, I want to so I have, now its too late since I've done it but i'm proud I've done it haha!"
And there we have it, the most in depth look into Ghost Stories we are likely to get! It was a wonderful interview to listen to. The audio is exclusive to Beat Music subscribers but where there is a will, there is a way on the Coldplaying forums ;)
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