Ghost Ramp is a record label based in Los Angeles, California. It was started by Nathan Williams, who you may know as the founder and frontman of Wavves. As well as music from bands and producers, the label is planning to release video game soundtracks. I talked to Williams and label manager Patrick McDermott about their love of gaming and why they decided to start releasing this kind of music.
“My grandma bought us a NES and it was love at first sight,” says Williams. “I was an arcade rat for most of my upbringing. That was where I spent my weekends and my weekdays if I wasn’t at school. And my dad still plays Final Fantasy in some form every single day, so it runs in the family.”
“In my youth I spent countless hours at an arcade called Tilt in suburban Washington DC,” says McDermott. “But I really started to get obsessed around the time Metal Gear Solid came out on the PlayStation. I took a full year off between high school and college just so I could play World of Warcraft for ten hours a day.”
“Gaming has always been a part of my life,” says Williams. “I can’t even remember a time where I slowed down or became disinterested in it on any level. It’s a love very similar to music. My taste constantly changes, but I’ll never stop loving it.”
I ask Williams what inspired him to use Ghost Ramp to release video game music alongside more traditional artists. “I don’t see any separation,” he says. “To me, music is music, whether it’s a score for a film or a pop song.”
Noticing a surge in interest for indie games, particularly on PC, Williams says he wants to shine a spotlight on this growing community of musicians. “I want to show that the music they’re making can stand alone as its own art.”
“Video game music is as much a part of the discography of our lives as any other LP,” says McDermott. “And indie game music has transcended the 16-bit throwback vibe so much lately. A big goal for Ghost Ramp is to show people that these guys are artists in their own right, and not just video game music composers.”
Among the music Ghost Ramp will be releasing is Danny Baranowsky’s soundtrack for rhythm-action roguelike Crypt of the Necrodancer and Austin Jorgensen’s score for post-apocalyptic side-scrolling RPG LISA.
They’ll also be publishing music from Drift Stage, an impossibly cool-looking arcade racer due for release later this year with a beautiful ‘80s-flavoured soundtrack. And not only that, but it’s being released in the form of a car-shaped picture disc.
“The guys behind Drift Stage are geniuses,” says McDermott. “The aesthetic Charles Blanchard created instantly drew us in, as did Hugh Myrone’s music. I’ve been working in vinyl production for a while and really wanted to do a picture disc with a unique shape, and Drift Stage was the obvious choice.”
If games are an artform, then the indie scene is where the most exciting, progressive stuff is happening. “This mirrors the music business,” says McDermott. “And I think that’s why we were drawn to it. I feel like this is the best era for both music and games because anyone can make them. The barrier is lower than ever and there are so many different platforms to share them on.”
I wonder if Ghost Ramp has any plans beyond just releasing game soundtracks. Have they ever consider developing their own? “I think anyone who’s been playing games as long as we have has dreamed of making one,” says McDermott. “Soon we’ll be releasing details about a collaborative audio/visual series that will feature simple games with a loose narrative and a heavy focus on sound design.”
They also hope, in time, to craft deeper, more story-driven games. “We’re lucky to be working with some amazing composers, and through them we’ve met a lot of talented developers. So hopefully, with the right idea, we can make something.”
Soundtracks are just the beginning, it seems. McDermott and Williams have big plans for Ghost Ramp, and it’s clear they have a passion for games. “I really hope Ghost Ramp becomes a place where traditional music and game music are viewed on an equal playing field,” says McDermott. “We also want to make the label more interactive, taking advantage of platforms like Twitch and shows like E3 and SXSW. We want to create a strong community around what we do.”