With Ghost, Tobias Forge turned metal into a gruesome camp and ecclesiastical theater. The Swedish leader imagined a cast of macabre and sassy characters in life; beheaded anti-popes, squeezed a sassy cardinal into too-tight corduroys and taken their indebted 80s arena rock to the UK’s biggest venues, while the band’s fifth album, Impera, earned them Top 3 success on both sides of the Atlantic. Tobias has brought the fun back to heavy music, but without a miter to hide behind this time, can he answer your questions?
I fell into horror movies because of Ghost. What are your favorite horror movies and what horror movies would you recommend?
“There are two branches of horror movies for me. There are old classic slasher movies, like in Friday 13 and stuff like that, but then you have the really good horror movies, the ones made by really talented directors who don’t primarily make horror, and who make other movies as well. The best horror movies ever made are the brilliant by Stanley Kubrick Jaws by Steven Spielberg Bram Stoker’s Dracula by Francis Ford Coppola The Exorcist, The Omen.
But then you have classic cult directors. Lucio Fulci was an Italian director who made many entertaining films. The house near the cemetery is a classic of his. The horror genre is hurt by the fact that you have these heavy hitters coming in and making these fantastic movies, and unfortunately a lot of the genre is a swamp of really bad movies.
Would you ever play Glastonbury or other mainstream festivals?
“We’ve played a lot of festivals like Pukkelpop, Rock En Seine, Roskilde – a lot of festivals where we’re one of the few ‘metal bands’ but the headliner can be Björk, Primal Scream and Drake. We’ve played Coachella and Lollapalooza, lots of festivals like that…except Glastonbury.
Hammer: Is Glasto on your bucket list?
“That would be cool of course, but it’s never really been one of my biggest ones, so no. I don’t know if it’s the same for Glastonbury, that’s my interpretation, but at Coachella, if you’re on the bill, you don’t have to play because no one will be watching you anyway. Everyone’s here for the big hip hop headliner.
When we played Coachella, we went to see Dead Can Dance there and it was a few people in a tent. For that fucking Dead Can Dance. Are you kidding me?! That’s why I usually don’t go for these big pop festivals at all. I would miss a lot of camaraderie. If you go to Graspop or Download, you go there, you know everyone, so many people. Whereas if you go to a big pop festival or a mixed festival, everyone is in their own little universe.
Hammer: There are rumors that you will be playing Glasto this year – is there something in those rumours?
“No. Not now at least. It’s more than I know. I could live to regret what I just said!
How does writing new music go hand in hand with keeping new designs/’looks’ for new times?
“They partly go together. It’s always in the front of my head how a song will fit into the show or if there’s anything we can do to turn it into what we call a “gag.” Gag songs tend to work best in sets, so I always have a monocle for that. For some people wondering why we’re not already doing songs from the new album, it’s because there might be a gag planned for them that we haven’t been able to present yet.
How does it feel to know that many of your LGBT fans personally enjoy interpreting/depicting your characters as gay and/or trans?
“Good. Great. If they find comfort or inspiration in what we’re doing, I’m really happy about that.
Have you ever made someone sick in one of your masks on stage, either from a hangover or the smell?
“Once on a South American tour we had a really bad flu with the band and crew. It was absolutely awful. Day after day someone new broke down and people were lying backstage in a fetal position with a plug in the front and a plug in the back, purging. That wasn’t cool.
What’s your favorite Abba song?
“At present, I have a dream. It involves three chords, and the third chord comes at such a brilliant time in the song’s third section. The first two sections are the same two chords, back and forth. Then all of a sudden the third chord comes along and… they should get a Nobel Prize in Music for that one because it’s so awesome.
Back when no one knew who was behind the mask, what was your favorite rumor you heard about yourself?
“How great I was! Especially in the outfit of dad emeritus. In the beginning, in underground circles, it was quite a known fact that I was in the band, so I never felt 100% anonymous at first.
Who’s your favorite Ghost – fictional or otherwise?
“I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of ghosts in star wars. They appear as apparitions that can converse with you. If the star wars The saga had been written a few hundred years ago it would have been a religion it has all the cornerstones of a religion and the idea of the elders and your teachers coming back to teach you from behind the grave is very well presented.
If you had to erase any of the following bands from history, which would it be: Iron Maiden, Kiss, Misfits?
“If I had to eliminate them? Oh, it’s difficult. It’s an easy question, but the answer is difficult; I have to be pragmatic. I’m a huge fan of all three bands. The only band I would choose to eliminate, and that’s okay, what they did was so great, is Misfits.
My controlling quirk and my managerial inclinations would love to go back in time and fix some things they did wrong. Not aesthetically, but commercially. I wish they had a better career. I would love to go back and organize their careers because the careers of Misfits, Samhain and Danzig put together would have been wonderful.
What’s missing in metal in 2022?
“It would be cool if there were new young bands that were considered more than a novelty or an underground treasure. More organic rock bands of 20 year olds recognized on a little more than a… I hate to say mainstream, but above pub level. I’m totally underground, I come from the underground and I love underground music, but for the resurgence of rock, we need that.
I would love if there were more bands that have experienced similar recognition [channel] in Måneskin, in fact. I think they are really cool. They won Eurovision because they’re awesome, but they’re one of the few exceptions that wasn’t the end of their careers. This is usually what happens if you are a group.
Hammer: Have you ever thought about Eurovision or have you ever been invited to do so?
“No, not really, but I wouldn’t want to because, like I said, it’s usually the end of your career. If you already have an established career, don’t. Although Måneskin proved that it could be done. I hope there are many 14 year olds in Europe and around the world who see this as an inspiration and start playing drums, bass and guitar.
What weird shit do you collect?
“I collect demos. Old death metal demos from mid 80s to 1992. Black metal. Death Metal. Thrash-metal. Underground music. If anyone reads this and sits on shit like this… and if you own any original stuff you got straight from the band… please give me a call!
Would you ever have a lead singer?
“Why not? It could happen. Sister Emeritus!
If you could choose one metal song that changed your life, what would it be?
“I wanna Rock by Twisted Sister. It’s probably the first song I remember being able to sing and dance to. It came out in 1984 and I was three at the time. I was lucky enough to have an older brother and in 1984 he was 16. A big part of who I am, why I am who I am and my interests is thanks to him. It’s my earliest memory of me thinking, “This is who I am.”
Impera is now available through Loma Vista