Chief Ghoul, alt-country blues rocker who just moved back home to Louisville by way of Chicago, just dropped his third release, III. This record is a stripped down, folk-fueled tip of the hat to Woodie Guthrie, The Cramps, Johnny Cash, Graveyard and King Dude. There’s a sexiness to it, a darkness to it and something so innately human.
The lyrics drive the song, along with the guitar riffs that don’t over-complicate or steal thunder away from the power of the track’s message. Bob Dylan was a master of this technique. It’s clear Chief Ghoul, aka Lee Miles, is an avid Dylan fan, but there’s a menacing side to this album that makes it modern, dystopian and an echo of human nature’s not-so-sunny disposition at times.
I had to chance to get to know the artist behind this devastatingly gorgeous, raw album:
SIMGE: Thank you for chatting with me, Chief Ghoul. Where did you get that name from? Let’s start there.
CG: Of course, thanks for having me. The first part is pretty self explanatory I think, but the latter I can definitely explain. There’s a scene in the movie Gangs of New York where Amsterdam and a couple of his associates end up making some money off of a dead body they find and sell for scientific purposes. The paper writes up a story about it and it’s title is “The Ghoul Gang Slaughters.” Bill the Butcher asks Amsterdam what the word ghoul is and then says it’s a good word. I’ve always loved that movie and the word ghoul, so that’s where Chief Ghoul originated.
SIMGE: I heard that you just moved back home to Louisville after spending awhile in Chicago. What made you move to Chicago and what made you move back to Louisville?
CG: When I moved to Chicago, I wanted to be in the city and experience all of that. I love Chicago, it’s a really good town. I think it’s the main reason you’ll hear a lot of blues in my music. But I have to say, I’m a country boy at heart, so moving back home to Louisville was inevitable. It’s always been a special place, but I think within the last 5 or so years, there’s been a growth of this town and I’m excited to experience that. Plus, I can live out in the middle of nowhere and shoot guns and do whatever I want, and still be within a short drive to the actual heart of Louisville. Kentucky is the place to be if you ask me.
SIMGE: So, III is finally out. Congratulations! Does the number mean more than just the number of albums you’ve dropped? Is it deeper than that?
CG: I never like to force stuff and sometimes it’s hard to think of song or album titles, so it just felt right, being it’s my third release. There are definitely some other meanings in there. I reference some of them in a couple of the songs so I’ll let the listener find and choose what it means to them.
SIMGE: Is this album more about love or loss? What haunts you more?
CG: A couple songs touch on those topics, but I wouldn’t say it’s about one more than the other. Both are things that we all deal with, and both will bring us pain at some point in our lives. They go together when you really think about it, so I’d have to say they both haunt us all in ways.
SIMGE: What’s your favorite track in this collection? Why does it stick out to you?
CG: Probably “Roll Baby Roll, Kill Baby Kill…” It’s a fun song to play and it’s simple. There are some blues songs that are the most basic of songs, and yet they are often times the ones that inspire me the most. I think it’s a good representation of me in general.
SIMGE: One of my favorite tracks on this record is “Bed of Nails,” because the lyrics are so biting. Can you tell me a little bit about the inspiration and story behind this track?
CG: Nothing in particular inspired this song. A lot of times I try to put myself in the shoes of others and write in a broad sense and I think that’s what I did with it. Life can be good and life can be bad. It’s about that journey and the things that come with it.
SIMGE: I also really dig “Wild West” and can see this being a music video. Are you making a video for this single? If not, what song (if any) will have a visual accompaniment?
CG: I actually have a video ready to go for “Roll Baby Roll, Kill Baby Kill…” so keep those eyes peeled!
SIMGE: “The Fall” wasn’t a single, but I love this song. Can you tell me a bit about the story behind this more sentimental and introspective side of the album?
CG: It’s mainly me going on about religion. Like I said though, sometimes the songs I write will be about multiple topics and this is another one of those. The first verse is about women… witchy witchy women.
SIMGE: You’ve mentioned in a previous interview that “Done Dabbled” is about how people listen to music – sometimes just “dabbling” like they’d dabble in witchcraft or the occult, yet you said it’s not a bad thing. What’s the most important thing you want people to get from your music (even if they’re just dabbling)?
CG: I just want people to get a feeling from it. That feeling of chills or an almost overwhelming sensation of something is what I try so hard to find in music for myself, so if I can do that for someone, I’ll be happy.
SIMGE: What’s next for you and your music? Any tour dates, seances, new songs or adventures coming up?
CG: I’m just going to batten down the hatches and get as much writing done as possible. Right now, I have another album ready to be recorded and material to follow that will be coming along very quickly. Getting a band behind me is what I’d eventually like to do though, so I’m going to sit on these songs for a little while and see what happens.
I think some of these songs I’m working on and even some of my older stuff would sound good with a band giving it a more full sound. A tour is a must, but right now I don’t have one planned.
And as for seances, they’re a bad idea kids, don’t try them at home!