In less than a decade, enigmatic rock band Ghost has earned a Grammy, released four albums, two EPs, a live album and its latest double-single, Seven Inches of Satanic Panic, but it has built and continuously expanded upon a deep backstory about the band members themselves — the “Nameless Ghouls.”
Each album cycle welcomes a brand new ringleader/singer, each portrayed by frontman Tobias Forge, who is the founder and sole songwriter of the band. The mythos of Ghost is now massively popular among many of its diehard fans.
Now that the Swedish group has wrapped the final North American leg of its highly extensive Ultimate Tour Named Death tour, they’re gearing up to put out their fifth album — a “heavy” one that Forge promises will be “seminal” in Ghost’s timeline.
So does that mean fans should expect to see a new frontman in the near future? Very likely, but not for a little while. For now, Forge, 38, still portrays Cardinal Copia, a charismatic and theatrical character who adds a tinge of humour to Ghost’s explosive two-hour set.
WATCH: Rats — the lead single from Ghost’s latest and critically acclaimed album, Prequelle
The Cardinal claimed the throne after the “death” of Forge’s Papa Emeritus III character in 2018. He was the first to break the tradition of Pope singers in the Ghost timeline, and it seems his run will soon come to an end. Or will it? We don’t actually know.
What we do know is that next March, the “Final Gig Named Death” is set to take place in Mexico City. It will wrap the heavy promotional cycle for the band’s latest album, Prequelle (2018) — which kicked off in 2018 with the Pale Tour Named Death.
Prequelle launched the Swedes into mainstream success with its first single, Rats, which spent seven weeks on top of the rock charts. The album also included the unexpected disco-inspired smash-hit, Dance Macabre.
Ahead of the band’s show in Hamilton, Ont., on Oct. 17, Forge/Cardinal Copia spoke with Global News about Ghost’s newest singles, their live spectacle, progress on the upcoming fifth album, and why he doesn’t like to record with heavy metal producers.
Tobias Forge: I’m certain, yeah. [Laughs] But it’s hard to say that without sounding like I’m soiling the one that we’re currently doing. [Laughs] I am fairly certain that a lot of the things that I have in mind right now, I will be orchestrating about a year from now. It will definitely be a vast and advanced version of what we’re already doing. You have to remember that the even though the show we’re doing right now is our most accomplished one so far, it started with us playing in theatres, and now we’re playing arenas… so the stage setup is still in its Frankenstein phase, meaning that we’re still working with the smaller production we had from first year of this tour. Right now, it’s like we’re repairing an old house, whereas next time we can start something fresh.
TF: That would be a very good analogy for it actually. [Laughs] I compare it a lot to what bands like Iron Maiden and Metallica have done and continue to do. They’ve always done it right, and so will we. Next time we can start from scratch with a production that is purpose-built for our album and tour, whereas this is more of a mixture between the stuff that we did on the last album cycle, too. It’s just extended, right? We’ll build the set from the ground-up.
TF: I definitely always had a picture of there being a stage show, but 10 years ago, I had no idea it was going to be as [vivid] as it is now.
TF: Well, it’s the last show of this touring cycle, so something will definitely happen. I just can’t tell you anything about it. [Laughs] But this tour has been really incredible, it’s just time for us to do something new. As much as I love being here in Canada, I think we picked a great time (and place) to end this tour. I genuinely love being on the road. I love playing the show, and ultimately, I’m feeling very good about the band this year — who are so extremely fluid.
WATCH: Ghost’s latest single in the form of a 1969 throwback music video — Kiss the Go-Goat
You actually paid homage to one of Canada’s greatest songwriters recently, Leonard Cohen. What prompted your decision to cover something as iconic as Avalanche for your latest album, Prequelle?
TF: I think it was the one song that right off the bat just felt most Ghost-like. It would feel weird to cover Take This Waltz or something like that. It just doesn’t fit our script. It isn’t actually my favourite Leonard Cohen song. Intuitively, I’d probably choose one of his prettier songs, but Avalanche felt very Ghost-like.
What about the future of Ghost? With such a busy schedule have you even had time to think about a plan of attack for the fifth album?
TF: Oh, I think about that a lot. Currently, we’re in the planning stages of it all, which means that I’m hamstering all my material as we figure out scheduling and who’s actually going to be producing it. I’m working very hard on it right now, and as much as I often contest ideas by thinking about what I should and shouldn’t do, I know it’s easier to define that just by looking at your previous experiences.
So for example, our last four records. Having said all of that, overall, I have a fairly good idea of where I’m going with this one. I want to create a record that lives up to my lifelong dream of being able to kick-off a touring cycle in arenas, so by that logic, this album needs to be by a band that starts touring cycles in arenas. You know? You just can’t f**k around with that. You really need to be on your absolute top game.
TF: It’s not a taste of the new record, no. Those songs are like a side note of Ghost — still fitting in the universe, I think — but they’re definitely not close to what I have in mind. [Laughs] The new record will be more in line with the previous four, in the sense that it will feel like part of the whole story. Whereas that of the singles and cover EPs, which are a little bit more tongue-in-cheek. [Laughs] There’s a dichotomy between a lot of the things that we do though, like for example, the records and the live show.
TF: Usually. But what I’ve learned and cultivated a liking to do in the last few years, is collaborating with outsiders. I’ve always been accused of — especially in my own bands — not being able to work well in a team. People have said I’m just overall bad at teamwork, and that was the fact for a long time. But when I made Meliora, I did so together with a producer named Klas Åhlund — who is both a producer and a songwriter. And that’s when it dawned on me that I can work really well with people, but I need to choose who I work with. It’s like … I like kissing people, but I just want to choose who I kiss. [Laughs]
Do you find that collaborating helps with the songwriting, then?
TF: Oh yes. You can make incredible progress in your songwriting that way, because all of a sudden you have this person who’s not at all locked into the traps of being in your band; someone who is not the bass player that suddenly wants a bass solo or the drummer who wants to make the album very drummy. If I find those collaborators, it’s like a catalyst for me to write more, write better and ultimately, step up because I want to impress that other person.
You produced Opus Eponymous by yourself, and since then you’ve worked with a completely different producer for each of Ghost’s albums, including Dave Grohl. Do you just not want to do the same thing twice, or are you ultimately trying to find the perfect collaborator?
TF: I believe that there are exceptions to all rules of course, and I believe that a good team truly is a good team. But I also believe that it’s very healthy to make sure that you don’t get stuck in your comfort zone, because it can become too comfortable. I’ve had that in the past with at least a couple of my previous producers, where we’re almost too good of friends; we’ve actually hung out so much, that we’re buddies now. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but it doesn’t always allow for further growth, which is exactly what I want to do. In this case, I have to make our fifth record. I want it to be a seminal record for us. That’s why the process right now is to find that perfectly balanced producer that is gonna make sure that we’re making a rock record — it needs to be a heavy record — but it needs to be someone who understands the factor of, “This needs to be relevant, now.”
Ghost is unique for a metal band in the sense that you don’t often work with metal producers. Is there a reason for that?
TF: I’m sure people in the heavy metal sphere might have noticed that too. … And there’s a reason for that: metal producers are very purpose-driven. They do a fantastic job and they know exactly what they’re going for. They’re experts in doing exactly that. And I have nothing against it, but that’s not what I’m trying to do. So I need to be fully aware and completely awake in trying to find the right producer for Ghost in that moment.
WATCH: Ghost’s disco-inspired 2018 smash-hit, Dance Macabre
Klas was perfect for me. His whole professional life, he has been writing pop music and playing in Teddybears and writing records for Robyn and Ellie Goulding. You have all these different artists and this huge variety, but he started off playing prog music. He was a guitar virtuoso playing Yngwie Malmsteen/Ritchie Blackmore-type stuff. So when I came and talked with him about making a rock record, he was just like, “Yes, I’ve wanted to do that for such a long time.” It was perfect for both of us, because we were able to talk about all the common denominators. We could reference things from Euro Disco all the way to Slayer just to explain a simple idea. Whereas if you end up with the typical metal producer, they might say, “Slayer, of course. But everything else you mentioned is just ‘ordinary music.'”
I’m not saying that every heavy metal producer is like that, I just feel like metal today, as opposed to 1975, is such a defined genre, that people our age and younger have lived their entire lives knowing exactly what heavy metal is. But people who were around when they made Back in Black didn’t really know what that was. There’s so many rules now. It’s too refined. The whole culture breathes a little bit of a puritan-like conservatism. In order to make new records, I think sometimes you need to try not to think too much about all of these rules.
Prequelle is available through all major streaming platforms.
Physical copies of the Seven Inches of Satanic Panic double-single and the limited edition Prequelle: Exalted boxset are also available through Loma Vista Recordings — the band’s record label.
Ghost will wrap the U.K. and European legs of the extensive Ultimate Tour Named Death on Dec. 19, in Toulouse, France.
The Final Gig Named Death will take place on March 3, 2020, in Mexico City.
As of this writing, Ghost has no upcoming Canadian tour dates.
All scheduled tour dates, updates and additional information and can be found through the official Ghost website.