James Marsters on His Band Ghost of the Robot's Forthcoming Album, Murphy's Law
James Marsters had only recently returned from Hawaii, where he had been filming Hawaii Five-0, when we met him at Swinghouse Studios in West Hollywood. The occasion was a listening party for the forthcoming album from the former Buffy the Vampire Slayer star's current band, Ghost of the Robot. The catch was that this was also the first time Marsters would be hearing the final mix of the album.
"I felt like giggling and throwing up at the same time," he said of the anticipation leading to the event.
Ghost of the Robot formed when Marsters met guitarist Charlie De Mars. Although Marsters had taken up the guitar in junior high, outside of a high school band, he hadn't really performed in public. Acting became his primary calling by the time he went to college, but music was always there.
"I always had a guitar with me," he says. "It helped keep me focused."
In the early 2000s, De Mars had moved from Sacramento to Marsters' Santa Monica neighborhood. One night, De Mars brought his guitar over to Marsters' place and they began playing together. Within one month to six weeks (by the actor's estimates) they were playing in front of crowds. Their first gig was at 14 Below.
"We did a set where we did a couple songs I wrote, a couple songs he wrote and some Nirvana covers," Marsters recalls.
Soon, Ghost of the Robots formed. They released their first album, Mad Brilliant, in 2003, followed by the EP It's Nothing about a year later. Then they parted ways.
"Biggest mistake of my life," says Marsters.
Ghost of the Robot reformed last year with a few new members, including Marsters' 15-year-old son, Sullivan, on guitar. The current line-up also features Jordan Latham on drums and Kevin McPherson on bass. The band is now set to release its second full-length album, Murphy's Law, via iTunes on November 15. The 16-track album features a mix of the band's newest tunes as well as a few that date back years. Marsters says that "Smile" was actually the first of his own songs that he played for De Mars. A trio of pieces that close the album was written by De Mars before the two met.
Also featured on the album are several songs that stem from Marsters' work as an actor. "Alone," an a capella number with a country twang, is inspired by the SyFy movie High Plains Invaders. "Moonshot" is based on his experience playing Buzz Aldrin in the TV movie Moon Shot. During the filming, Marsters had to wear a "skintight" helmet, sometimes without much of an oxygen supply.
"I would literally see stars and my skin would start to prickle," he says. "I discovered
that I have a phobia of smothering. I didn't realize I had any great fears before, but I do now."
He says that song was about "wishing that my then-girlfriend, now wife, was there to hold my hand."
Following the listening session, Marsters was excited about the new album.
"I feel like it was better than I hoped for," he says. "I was listening to it as if for the first time with an audience, so I almost felt like an audience member."
He adds, "I know for myself, it's been a long way here and it feels really good."
The fans seem to appreciate it too. Friday night's event was filled with people who have supported the band since its first incarnation. Marsters refers to Ghost of the Robot as a "poor man's Grateful Dead."
"There are people who follow us wherever we go," he says. "I think to some extent, they're here for us, but they're also here for each other."
He continues, "Sometimes I think we're the excuse so that they can get together and talk to each other. They've become each others friends, which I think is the best thing in the world. It's what artists are trying to do, remind people that they aren't alone. I think we do that. "
Full tracklisting on page 2.