INTERVIEW WITH TOBIAS FORGE AND PHOTOGRAPHS
BY JEREMY SAFFER
Ghost has been on the rise for nearly a decade, getting exponentially larger with each year, each album, and each tour. Ghost has had its best year yet, jumping from theaters to arenas, opening for Metallica, and finishing out their Prequelle tour cycle with US and European tours. We spoke with Ghost mastermind Tobias Forge at the end of the US The Ultimate Tour Named Death. With just one more run of dates before taking all of 2020 off from touring, we found out what we could expect in the next chapter of Ghost…a new album, the end of Cardinal Copia, and a new Papa? Read below to find out, and check out the end of the interview for your chance to win an autographed Ghost Funko Pop.
Prequelle’s cycle is coming to an end. Does that mean an end to Cardinal Copia?
Yes. That name at least.
Could any of the past Papas potentially be resurrected to come back in the future, either in the storyline or on stage?
Yes, but not in the way that people might think.
You’ve mentioned that the next frontman of Ghost would be a Papa, but will this be an entirely new entity or new person?
No…well, we don’t know that yet. But if everything goes according to plan, that’s not the idea, no.
How much development goes into your characters, such as the Papas and the Cardinal, when you create those characters? How much work goes into the mannerisms, the stage banter, and the stage moves?
I’d say that the total hours invested on stage is what happens. That’s what lies behind it, because the reason why Papa 1 was very unanimated was because he wasn’t fully developed, and the reason why Papa 2 was more animated was because he was a little bit more developed. The reason why 3 was better than 2 was because he was wearing pants so he could move around. It’s not very complicated. It all has to do with experience and confidence.
“WHAT A LOT OF THE MORE PURITAN METAL HEADS NEED TO UNDERSTAND IS THAT THE SHOW NEEDS TO HAVE A CERTAIN DEGREE OF ENTERTAINMENT”
As the characters went on, they became less serious and more fun. Do you see the next Papa still moving in that direction?
It’s definitely not going to take a turn to a completely different thing. What a lot of the more puritan metal heads need to understand is that the show needs to have a certain degree of entertainment, otherwise it would be very, very strange. This is something I was pondering already after the first…well, towards the end of the second tour cycle, when we started headlining tours and we would play a lot longer than the half hour that we had on our first record. This is way too still sounding, there wasn’t a whole lot going on, and it needed to be infused with something else. Also, in the beginning, there was no talk on stage whatsoever, which is really cool when you’re playing in front of 300 people standing in a room where the stage is barely visible, because there’s so much smoke and the stage is two feet high anyway. So, it doesn’t really matter, and it’s just a completely dark experience. It was a completely different setting and a completely different level of performance back then. Whereas now we are playing almost two hours in front of thousands of people. The next stage show will not be identical to the one that we have now, absolutely not! There are a lot of things that we are going to improve. Papa 1 was one thing and then it became Papa 2, but it wasn’t super different from the first, and then 3 was sort of a continuation of the first two. And that’s how it will progress, because it’s still based on the same idea and the same songs and the cultivated traditions, whatever you want to call it. So yeah, that’s the short answer (laughs).
Who has been your favorite character to play so far?
I’d say Cardinal so far.
“IN 2020, THERE WILL BE HOPEFULLY A QUITE REMARKABLE MANIFESTATION OF THE STORY THAT WILL CLEAR UP A LOT OF THINGS”
How far in advance do you write the storyline, and is it just you writing it?
I’m the only one writing the story, but there’s always an ad lib to everything you do. As soon as you’re not doing everything, I mean physically, alone, there will always be some room for some kind of influence, of course. In order to go on stage and play music, I still need 40 people to orchestrate that show now. Of course, it’s very much based on collaborating, that goes from playing the show to recording the album. You have a producer, you have an engineer, you have a drummer coming in, so, of course, there will be some wiggle room for influence. When it comes to the story as well, there is an addition of this, that, or the other thing, but the basics and the initiative of everything is mine. How far in advance? I mean, I have a pretty steady storyline that could, in the future, develop into a lot of things. It’s hard to say exactly where it ends or where it begins as far as storytelling goes. In 2020, there will be hopefully a quite remarkable manifestation of the story that will clear up a lot of things, and a lot of the question marks will be straightened out into exclamation marks.
With the YouTube series being a big hit and such a strong storyline, do you think there could potentially be a Ghost movie?
What can we expect from the new album? It’s in its beginning stages, and you’ve mentioned the influences of Mercyful Fate and Candlemass. Do you think you’ll get King Diamond or Messiah Marcolin to guest on a song one day?
Maybe. It’s not really a part of the agenda to do that even though it would be fun from a personal point of view. But who knows? Maybe.
“I KNOW WHERE I WANT TO GO, I KNOW THE OVERALL THEME, I KNOW WHAT THE COVER WILL LOOK LIKE, AND I KNOW THE TITLE OF THE RECORD AND IT’S OVERALL LYRICS.”
What do you have written so far for the new album? Do you have any ideas mapped out?
I have a fair idea of a lot of the elements of the record. There’s only one song written in its entirety and recorded yet, like demos. This summer I just felt like I have a big pile of ideas I always have around this time, and it’s when I’m just a few months from going into the studio, but during the summer I felt like I just want to go in and hammer something out, just to know that I’ve started. I went in for two days and that is usually a song, and generally I tend to say that you need three ideas to build a song and I have maybe 50 to 60. It takes about two to three days to put a song together, and I’m going to be doing that from January to May. Then recording, real recordings, starting in June for all those weeks with the ideas I have and the ones that will pop up as I start. I have a lot of ideas that sound promising and interesting to work with. Lyrically, I know where I want to go, I know the overall theme, I know what the cover will look like, and I know the title of the record and it’s overall lyrics. A lot of things happen between January and September when it’s actually done and recorded.
Do you already have a producer lined up?
No, not yet.
“IF YOU LIKED THE SHOW THAT WE’RE DOING NOW, WHICH I THINK IS REALLY COOL, THEN THE NEXT ONE IS GOING TO BLOW THAT AWAY SO HARD”
Is there anything you wish you could add to the arena experience of a Ghost show? Any ideas that may come to fruition in the future? Anything you wish you could do that you didn’t do on this tour?
Oh, yes (laughs) a lot. There are certainly things that are going to be changed and refined and bettered. Obviously, I’m not saying that in any way to soil the tour that I’m on currently, because I think this is the best presentation I’ve ever had, but there’s definitely so many things that we could do differently and not because we are in any way phoning things in right now. This leg of the tour cycle is a full production tour, but the tour cycle started as a theater tour, and there’s a lot of things you can do differently going into the next album cycle when you know that you’re starting in arenas. It’s hard to explain if the reader doesn’t know the difference between playing a club and an arena, but it’s almost like the difference between renting and owning a house. When you own your house, you can demolish it, you can rebuild it, you can paint it any color you want, and if you want you can also build it from scratch instead of building and rebuilding. Sooner or later if you rebuild and rebuild and rebuild a house it becomes unclear if it is a new house now? If you change every plank on a boat, when does it become the old boat to a new boat? There definitely comes a point where you think maybe we should just build an entirely new one that just works better because this was a sailing boat made for the Caribbean, but we’re gonna have an Arctic fucking cruiser. That’s what I’m building right now for next time. If you liked the show that we’re doing now, which I think is really cool, then the next one is going to blow that away so hard (laughs). It’s going to be so much more detailed, so much better, so much more planned out, functional.
“I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO THE DAY I CAN PLAY IN A NORMAL BAND.”
With a year off of touring in 2020, will you venture into any other music outside of Ghost? Do you ever revisit any of your old bands, maybe a Repugnant reunion one day?
Not anything planned. The thing is, as much as I would like to do that, it wouldn’t be Repugnant though. As much as I would like to entertain doing other things, it would be such a sidestep that it won’t interfere with Ghost at all, so that would be basically playing bass, guitar, or drums in someone else’s band. It can’t involve songwriting or anything like that, all of my power needs to go to Ghost. If someone were to say, “Hey, would you like to play guitar, bass, or drums in a wedding band for this person?” Then, “Yeah, absolutely!” I fucking love just playing, especially nowadays I play a lot of drums, so it’s always fun to play music. If there’s one thing I don’t do much when we are on tour is play music. I’d love to do that, but nothing serious, like nothing that would involve starting a band up and getting a record done. That would definitely require more of a consecutive undefined sort of time off of Ghost. When I come to that point where Ghost has filled its purpose and plateaued out, like I said some sort of hiatus when it’s not completely crystal clear when Ghost will take action again, I would definitely entertain doing something else. I am looking forward to the day I can play in a normal band. It definitely has its charm, and I miss some of those aspects, but I’m just not there yet. I’m not done. We haven’t plateaued out yet. Ghost is still moving and still rising, and as long as it is, you have to keep on building it.
What are you most looking forward to in taking the time off next year?
Being home, being with my family.
Will there be anything new from Ghost in terms of releases in 2020 to give hungry fans a little snack until the next record comes out?
CONTEST: WIN AN AUTOGRAPHED GHOST FUNKO POP WITH MUMMY DUST!
To win, make sure to follow Outburn magazine on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook and share this article with your vote on who should be the next front person of ghost, i.e. “Papa Copia 2020” “Papa Emeritus IV 2020” “Tobias Unmasked 2020” “King Diamond 2020.” Each entry counts! You can enter up to three times if you follow and post from Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook and use the hashtags #outburn #ghostband #outburnghostpop
Winners are: Wendy H (grand prize pop and mummy dust), Shawna R (mummy dust), Mark M (mummy dust), and Cardinal Copia Fanpage (mummy dust) check your inboxes monday.