Expect a whole lot of Andy Biersack in 2019: The Black Veil Brides frontman will have The Ghost Of Ohio, the second album under his nom de plume Andy Black, released April 12. Following several teasers, the first single “Westwood Road” was released today and finds Biersack and producer/mentor John Feldmann maintaining their m.o. of putting rock history in a contemporary context.
The song has a dance club swagger that feels like the progeny of Duran Duran’s Notorious or David Bowie, circa Let’s Dance. If Biersack’s previous 2016 outing The Shadow Side was him cultivating his own personality without BVB’s decibel-powered anthems, “Westwood Road” is positively cosmopolitan, all custom-tailored suits, neck scarves and buying dinner for your 15-strong entourage on your (no pun intended) black Visa card.
“It’s a very happy-sounding song,” Biersack says, setting up the deceptive lyrical sentiment. “It’s about the last moments of me realizing where I had lost myself to whatever my life and career had become. I’m not particularly a cool guy, not a Mötley Crüe, drinking-every-day guy. I’m fine with who I am now, but I was afraid about being a person who was worried about everything and anxiety, constantly obsessing over the dumbest things.
“At 23, I was living in a state of arrested development,” he continues. “I was living in a bubble of nothing affects me because I’m made of Teflon and I’m in a rock band, going around the world, and I’m drunk every day anyway. Growing up over the last four years has been hugely important. The music represents how I am all the time. If I’m sad, I’m not the kind of person to let everybody know that: I tend to put on a face that’s professional or happy or whatever else, even though my mind is going crazy. So I wanted to do a song that represented that, one that’s very catchy and pop-oriented or as you read the lyrics, it sounds like a Morrissey song.” [Laughs.]
GHOST-WRITING (AND PLAYING)
While most of the music was written and performed by Biersack, Feldmann and his engineers, there were some other folks who dropped in on the sessions. Stephen Beerkens of Australian pop-rockers the Faim plays keyboards on a bulk of the tracks, while 5 Seconds Of Summer drummer Ashton Irwin, Juliet Simms and lil aaron contributed to the proceedings. There was no core band playing on all the songs as much as there was a call for players with specific rockin’ skill sets.
“It was down to whatever the songs called for,” Biersack says. “Ashton plays on the song ‘The Promise’ because he has a style—a lot of big fills and lots of splashy, loud drums—that fits that song. That made sense. Other times it would be like, ‘We need to get this part done,’ because I have a long history with Feldy, and he knows what I’m trying to get at that I can’t necessarily achieve myself.”
ALL THE GHOST THAT’S FIT TO POST
Following in the footsteps of folks such as Gerard Way, Coheed And Cambria’s Claudio Sanchez and Max Bemis, Biersack’s entering the field of comic books, signing a deal with Z2 Comics to create a series dedicated to the titular character of his new album. For The Ghost Of Ohio graphic novel, Biersack, artist Eryk Donovan and editor Scott Tuft teamed up to create a book centered on a folklore distilled from 100 years of history, Biersack’s own personal experiences and a sense of altruism in action. Oh, and one of Biersack’s favorite topics, the abject naïveté and stupidity rampant in the 17th and 18th centuries.
“One of the things that spurred this whole thing on was my love of old, dumb thoughts,” he says. “Whatever the knowledge was in the 1800s of how to handle shit is one of my favorite things to read about. The insane way people used to handle stuff was the basis for the start of the story. For my own folklore, I came up with things that were just as ridiculous but sounded perfectly fine within the context of all the other 1800s folklore.
“Do you know the idea of how werewolves started?” he continues. “It was one of the most influential things on me when I was getting into all this. There was a serial killer in Germany in the late 1700s. At the time, there wasn’t the terminology for a serial killer because it wasn’t yet a thing. So [police] are finding all these dead bodies, and their imaginations are running wild—it’s the late 1700s, they don’t know anything—so they’re going on and on about this demon that’s tearing people up.
“Finally, the police find this guy who is literally in the middle of killing someone. The cops surround him in the woods. They get to him, and he says, ‘Oh, no, no, no, no, no. I’m not doing this. I turn into a wolf at night, and that’s what does all of this.’ And the police go, ‘Oh no, really?’ ‘Yeah. I’m a wolf guy, that’s what I do.’ And then from then on, they’re like, ‘Oh, he clearly didn’t do this. He turns into a wolf, so it’s a werewolf.’ The whole origin of the werewolf is ‘No, no, no. Nothing to see here, I’m a wolf.’ That was the basis for writing on all my weird experiences as a kid in Southern Ohio with all these haunted places.”
As part of Biersack’s ghost story, he created a folklore predicated upon the idea that when other people kill others, they’d maim themselves—cutting out an eye or lopping off an arm so the spirits couldn’t see or touch them after death. (That’s why Biersack looks a certain way in the video.) In the book, the Ghost helps in the fight against the Ku Klux Klan, assists with women’s suffrage and tries to save families during the great flood of Cincinnati. Rest assured the comic isn’t interested in revisionist history, as Biersack finds that fantasy frustrating and ineffectual.
“I always hated it when comic books put Batman in real historical situations because he’s able to affect change,” he elaborates. “That warps the whole idea. With this, [the Ghost] really can’t do anything; he’s doing his best to try to assist and help the people who are alive. And only certain people can see him. So he’s more of an inspirational figure.
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“The character who is a superhero with no actual power,” he continues. “His main power is that he really desperately wants to help people but has the inability to do because he can’t touch or connect with anybody. Obviously, there’s a little social anxiety allegory: He’s a noncorporeal ghost, and the only way he can help is through the power of suggestion and doing his best to help people make their own way.”
There are some moments that the album and the book share, but Biersack says he wasn’t interested another Wretched And Divine, the BVB album that was a complete song cycle. For the most part, he sees the record and the comic book as separate entities that only slightly inform each other, despite writing the songs and developing the storyline at the same time.
“The record is meant to be a soundtrack rather than writing a concept record. The story isn’t really being told through the record: If you listen to it in order while reading the comic book, it sets the tone of what’s going on in the comic. The lyrical content is similar, but it’s literally more about me and my experiences and my journey growing up in Southern Ohio and having all these feelings, aspirations and fears.”
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Biersack-related record if there wasn’t an f-word on it. Fans obviously know we mean “fire,” and The Ghost has a track called “Fire In My Mind.”
“It’s OK, though,” Biersack says, acknowledging the instance. “It’s not about flames as much as it is the burning of anxiety that’s going on in your head while watching a movie or something. I think in our modern culture, everybody’s mind is going insane all the time—that’s why people are so fucking angry. I have an outlet to artistically convey these things, but really, I think everyone is going a little bit nuts these days.”