Ghost’s Tobias Forge post talks Arena Rock, Jack the Ripper and the band’s next album appeared first on Consequence.
Ghost is the rare group that has formed in the past 15 years to become arena headliners. In fact, the Swedish metal band are about to embark on their latest massive tour, playing North American arenas with support from Mastodon and Spiritbox.
The outing will kick off Friday, August 26 in San Diego and continue with a show on September 23 in Green Bay, Wisconsin, with tickets available through Ticketmaster. The new series follows an early 2022 US tour that saw Ghost co-headline with Volbeat and playing their first shows since the COVID-19 pandemic put an end to the concert industry.
Serious consequence caught up with Ghost mastermind Tobias Forge (aka Papa Emeritus IV) to discuss the band’s return to the road, their latest album, IMPERA (released in March this year), and if the wheels are already in motion for the next LP.
While the appearance of Papa Emeritus IV and his masked ghouls is grim enough, Forge unapologetically embraces an arena rock sound on IMPERA, evoking artists from the 70s and 80s like Kansas, Styx and Boston, among others. As Forge tells us, the plan from the start was to look like “a devil-worshipping Kansas.”
The band are in the midst of a promotion cycle for the new album, but Forge reveals that they already have a game plan for the next one, which will be “very different” from IMPERA.
Ghost and Volbeat Bring Fire to the House of Demons: Recap + Photos
Ahead of Ghost’s release with Mastodon and Spiritbox, read our interview with Tobias Forge below and purchase tickets for the tour here.
What was it like playing your first shows in almost two years in early 2022 following the shutdown of the concert industry due to the pandemic?
It didn’t take long to feel completely natural. Like a pirate, I have sea legs. That’s what I do, that’s what I’ve always wanted to do, that’s what I’m made for. I’m used to feeling at home on the road and just passing by and standing on stage. … We were really scratching our heads about ‘Is this tour really going to happen? Are we even capable of going through this? Or are we going to stop in a week, in the middle, and have to cancel everything and send the trucks home…because it was so difficult. Everything was uphill and it felt like something you weren’t really supposed to do in a way.
One thing that really contributed to that feeling of doing something right was seeing all the happy faces and being told repeatedly that some of these people hadn’t been out in two years. Some of them didn’t come to a restaurant, didn’t go to a club, they didn’t go out. They had been indoors for years and now all of a sudden they came out for a show. Or some of them didn’t. I have friends who said, “I can’t go to the show because I don’t dare. I don’t have the courage to go to the show,” and some of them just said, “I’m not vaxxed, so I can’t come to the show. But that’s good too… we just saw a lot of people every night with smiles on their faces saying they were glad to be out.
It’s only fitting that Ghost is now playing arenas in North America and beyond, as the new album, IMPERA, really has an arena rock vibe. Has the size of the venues the band is now headlining in had an impact on the music on IMPERA?
It played a part, of course. I think any artist who experiences a size upgrade, if you will, if you go from a 300-person club to a 2,000-person theater, you will somehow, you take into account certain sound elements. I don’t think that means you go from grindcore to singer-songwriter ballads. It just means that you could clarify some things that you know, in a big booming room, it will sound awful. But if you do half notes on that one instead, it will sound clearer. Let’s try to find a good tempo for this song.
I think I always try to compare it to a relationship with another person. Unless you are already on the path where the relationship is meant to torment one or the other, or both, you tend to do what the other likes and if you do what the other likes, she will make you feel good about yourself. So you tend to fumble and see where the fingers can go and where it’s appreciated, and if it’s not appreciated one way but another, you tend to go the other way. That’s what you do, that’s how you know how to consummate your affection. I think bands and crowds do the same thing. But of course you also need to add some play to it, to make it exciting. But it’s part of being an artist to try to find that balance all the time. And you have to do it all the time, never take it for granted, you always have to take the flowers home… and you’re surprised by something unexpected and that’s how you do it with a crowd until ‘on the day you don’t have more people.
As for that arena rock sound, on songs like “Kaisarion”, “Spillways”, “Watcher in the Sky” and “Griftwood”, there seems to be a nod to 70s and 80s bands like Styx , Kansas, Journey, Boston and overseas. Is it fair to say that these bands have an influence on Ghost, especially on IMPERA?
Absolutely, and they always have been. I remember very early on when we were still promoting our music on MySpace and there was this [field] that you had to fill in, “How do you speak?” For a time, he actually said, “like a devil-worshipping Kansas.” My vision of what I wanted Ghost to sound like was going to be a 70s metal band or a band that didn’t know they were a metal band that had never heard 80s metal. But they were big enough to tune their guitars and sing well, unlike a punk band or a lo-fi garage rock band. So we were very inspired by AOR [album-oriented rock], I wanted it to be a Boston, Foreigner, kind of band, but with a darker vibe. … It’s easy to scoff at the fact that AOR’s musicians are still grown men with lots of chest hair and mustaches — they’re grown. Which isn’t really as appealing as… black metal, which I find cooler. But I like [AOR] music — divorce rock, redirected adult rock.
Can you talk about the general theme of IMPERAand how does the song “Twenties” fit into this theme?
The disc is loosely based on the machinery of empire and its kind of self-destruct mechanisms. And why they all eventually fall apart, at least in one form or another…and that’s partly because of the demigods. Usually, and almost always, it’s because of someone with that kind of attitude towards their followers. [The song] “Twenties” is about a demigod speaking with the utmost disgust to his own followers, but still trying to trick his followers into telling them they have something in common and a shared goal. So it’s a very misleading song about trickery.
The album ends with “Respite on the Spitalfields”. Can you discuss this song and the decision to end the album with this track?
Visually, I chose to represent this idea of empire by painting a picture of the Victorian industrial empire of the late 1800s, essentially. Also because it’s visually interesting, there are other elements that resemble what we’re experiencing now, with industrialists and making people superfluous and a very soft world. But you also have a ton of goth in there because you have Jack the Ripper and Dracula and it’s very nice if you do what I’m working with. It is a time of great giving. I’m very fascinated by Jack the Ripper, as many are, and one of the aspects of his reign of terror is that it extended beyond the “canonical five”. I’m sure he killed more people than that.
Also the idea that a Jack the Ripper was out there obviously stretched far longer than he was active because people knew he had never been apprehended so they didn’t know not whether he was gone or not. Somewhere he is probably hiding among us. And can reappear at any time, so whatever security we may feel now as a result of his actions, they were never clear, they were never approved. It kind of stopped or it didn’t happen again so there was that that was what I was referring to respite on the spitalfields – that it’s not really quiet it’s just a break. You don’t know when it’s gonna end. There’s something growing, there’s a rot growing somewhere in the house but you don’t know if it’s gone or not, like a cancer that you don’t know if it’s metastasized inside. inside your body. It’s an elegy on this, but leaving with the hope that cancer can be eradicated and meet its demise, then we’ll all feel better. Even those who might not like it will end up feeling better.
It seems with Ghost that you always have the next album planned well in advance. Is it fair to say that you have already planned the follow-up to IMPERA?
I have an album in mind right now that I think will be different from the one I just did. Both Prequel and IMPERA were ideas that I had six, seven years back. They were so different from each other in the sense that “the plague album” as I call it, was about the annihilation of the little person from an almost more carnal point of view or the wrath of God, while the “imperial disc” was rather a structural disappearance of the mechanics of society. So they felt like two different things and the idea I have for the next album is also different from that. It’s just a way for me to compartmentalize ideas to find new ways to inspire myself lyrically and conceptually.
In the end, it’s just rock ‘n’ roll records, 40 minutes of rock music, so it’s just a way to make it interesting for me to work with, and then accordingly, luckily for a few times now we’ve been able to bring it all together and compile it in a way that many of our fans also find it interesting to dive into. I think it was just luck that we released him in a case where he seems a little far-sighted. But these are old topics…everything is cyclical, that’s the thing, everything goes in circles so it’s not very hard to be clairvoyant, you can just look back and modify it a bit, draw or shave a mustache and you have a future asshole who will do something similar to something else a hundred years ago, two hundred years ago, three hundred years ago. it’s always the same, it’s very repetitive.
Ghost’s Tobias Forge Talks Arena Rock, Jack the Ripper, and the Band’s Upcoming Album
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