The Ghost Inside on Firing Bassist Jim Riley: "We Fucked Up"

The band parted ways with Riley in June over past use of a racial slur
The Ghost Inside on Firing Bassist Jim Riley: 'We Fucked Up'
Photo: Jonathan Weiner
In June, the Ghost Inside returned to music with a self-titled album, marking their first new effort since a fatal bus crash while touring in 2015. However, the band's return was marred by an accusation that member Jim Riley had used a racial slur some five years prior, leading the band to part ways with the bassist.

Now, the band and Riley have opened up about the decision — and ensuing regrets — in an appearance on podcast Defiance. Drummer Andrew Tkaczyk explained [via Lambgoat] that "they "just felt like that was the call to make at the time, and immediately felt bad and felt wrong," as follows:

We were just feeling the pressure from fans, people on social media, and even some peers... we felt the pressure and we made a decision against the wishes of our management and label and as soon as we made that initial post about Jim not being in the band anymore... like it went live, and I'm not trying to sound dramatic or 'feel bad for me' or anything like that but it's the first time in my life, I hadn't eaten for two days straight, and that post went up and I vomited out of straight anxiety. I have never in my life, personally, even with the accident, felt or dealt with anxiety on a level life this, where I didn't eat or sleep. I think we all just saw something going on that was like a lose/lose and we just felt like that was the call to make at the time, and immediately felt bad and felt wrong. We knew that. We never stopped talking to Jim or anything. We literally have chatted every day since. It's difficult for me to even talk about. This is such a sensitive subject.

Guitarist Chris Davis echoed Tkaczyk's feeling, admitting that the group "definitely acted hastily" in making what they now ultimately feel was "the wrong call":

It felt that incident was going to take away the band again. It just felt so overwhelming that it's like we have to... all five of us felt like we had to do something. Looking back now, we definitely acted hastily and definitely made the wrong call. It's so hard to understand all the mental gymnastics you have to do in a situation like that, under pressure, and how hard it is to process everything that's coming at you all at once. It's so easy to jump to the wrong decision just based on the pressures of what's going on on the internet.

Riley also gave his perspective, explaining how "In the moment, it did definitely feel like that was the only decision that could be made":

Hindsight is 20/20. It's easy today to look back and say we could have handled things a different way, we could have said things a different way, but it just didn't feel that way in the moment. The five of us talked and I told the guys, 'the four of you have to make this decision, this is my mess and I have to be the one to deal with the repercussions of this and I have to take accountability for myself'. I felt like it was not fair for the whole band to get dragged down, especially on the day this album is coming out. For the whole band to be taken away again and watching in real-time on your Twitter feed, to watch the band be taken away from you, was unfair and the responsibility for that falls on me. I told the guys I would gladly step away from the band if that was going to be what it took for The Ghost Inside to move forward. In the moment, it did definitely feel like that was the only decision that could be made. If it felt like there was some other way to navigate this, we would have done that instead. It just didn't feel that way.

While Ghost Inside ultimately did not update Riley's status with the band, Tkaczyk still plainly acknowledged, "We fucked up" and said the following:

The outrage makes sense from people. I get it. But when we instantly realized that we made the worst mistake in the band's career, probably, it felt too soon to correct it or even address it. I think we all, for our own sanity, had to step away from this for a long time and I'm telling you right now it was the worst few months that I can remember in recent history and I think we had to step away and just still talk to each other, but almost ignore all these comments we're seeing like, 'you did this to your brother', and it's like... mentally, imagine how frustrating it is to not be able to reply to reply to someone and be like, 'I woke up from a ten-day coma to Jim holding my hand in a hospital. He IS my brother. You don't know him like I do'. The mental toll that has taken on us, to have to just sit there and take it has been hard, but guess what? I'm sitting here admitting it, and we're taking it on the chin. We fucked up. We are also just human. We fucked up and that's it. If people don't want to support the band and all that, I accept that. That's everyone's decision to make but regardless of anything we've even just said, the most important thing is that Jim is still our brother.

Read Exclaim!'s review of the Ghost Inside's self-titled album.