After a breakneck beginning, Ghostland Observatory took time off to recharge. For the band’s caped keyboardist and laser light wizard, the fallow season has been fertile.
It’s the early eighties and this flamboyant dude in Minneapolis is singing about fruit cocktail, banana daiquiris, sex, and raspberry berets. People don’t quite know what to make of him, or his mix of funk, dance, and rock rhythms, but they are riveted. “People think he’s a freak!” Thomas Turner says, obviously delighted. Prince is that increasingly rare thing—an utterly unique industry game changer.
It’s 2003 and success is calling their bluff. Within a matter of months, the Austin duo Ghostland Observatory, (a.k.a Turner and lead singer Aaron Behrens), went from playing tiny rooms of, say, five people to auditoriums of 500 to major markets around the globe, including Tokyo and Dubai. “It was everything we wanted to achieve, but there was also a feeling of full speed ahead, with no brakes,” Turner remembers.
Early last year, Ghostland Observatory (locally known as GLO) did hit the brakes. The two musicians who came together so effortlessly (after meeting through a classified ad) without rigid, preconceived rules about what kind of style or genre that they wanted to embody, parted ways.
Because I’ve long admired Turner’s smarts and thoughtful decision making (not signing with a major label in favor of self producing, incorporating the UT Marching Band into a GLO performance, volleying emails with industry legend Rick Rubin), I was curious to hear what he’s up these days.
So on a recent Saturday afternoon, we hung out in his studio, a dusky man cave of synthesizers and speakers. The light is dim but Turner’s eyes flash with enthusiasm when he talks about Prince, or Queen, or anyone that came along—especially in the 1980’s—and shook up the industry by defying easy description, freaking people out, and playing music on their own terms.