banner ad
banner ad
banner ad

INTERVIEW – A Nameless Ghoul, Ghost – December 2013

| 29 January 2014

INTERVIEW – A Nameless Ghoul, Ghost – December 2013
By Shane Pinnegar

Ghost 05

Last seen on our shores as part of the 2013 Soundwave Festival, Swedes GHOST bring their face-painted, robe-wearing brand of heavy metal down under for this year’s Big Day Out Festival, playing
Friday 17 January – Western Springs, Auckland
Sunday 19 January ~ Metricon Stadium & Carrara Parklands, Gold Coast
Friday 24 January ~ Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne
Sunday 26 January ~ Sydney Showgrounds, Sydney Day One
Monday 27 January ~ Sydney Showgrounds, Sydney Day Two
Friday 31 January ~ Bonython Park, Adelaide
Sunday 2 February ~ Joondalup Arena, Perth

An edited version of this interview was first published in X-Press Magazine’s 22 January 2014 issue

On the face of it, most people might imagine Ghost to be proponents of blood curdlingly extreme heavy metal, rather than the Blue Oyster Cult-meets-The Doors, 60’s and 70’s referencing band they actually are. A skeletally face-painted lead singer named Papa Emeritus II, five anonymous band members in black robes and masks, each referred to only as A Nameless Ghoul, and cheerfully sincere Satanic lyrics and album covers all serve as red herrings in this puzzle, so the challenge was on to find out what makes this six-piece from Linköping in southern Sweden tick.

Ghost 04

After clarifying that “Ghoul” is an acceptable term of address, and that this Ghoul is “the guitarist Ghoul”, we kick off discussing their new If You Have Ghost EP, produced by Dave Grohl and featuring covers of deep cuts by ABBA, Depeche Mode, Army Of Lovers and The Thirteenth Floor Elevators.

Ghoul says working with Grohl “was very pleasurable, very inspiring, and, yeah, very… cheerful,” going on to explain that the band met the Foo Fighters singer/guitarist when both played on the same festival bill, and discussed working together almost immediately.

“It was very spontaneous and very quickly executed.” He explains in a calm, quiet voice quite reminiscent of actor Christoph Waltz, “we met, and one month later we were in the studio. We were lucky in the sense that our time schedules, for once – which is not very normal in the music business – all of a sudden there was a little bit of a gap that coincided, and we had a very clear idea of what we wanted to do…

“As opposed to when two musicians from different bands try to come up with something. Then one, they have to have the time, and two, they have to have an idea of what they’re doing – because starting with a blank paper is not very good. It might be magical, but a lot of those things turn out to be crap!”

Ghost Papa Emeritus 02

Inspiring and cheerful the experience may have been, but Ghoul isn’t confident that they will work together on original music in the future.

“I don’t know, I mean, I see no reason why we couldn’t, but I don’t think it’s necessarily something we are striving for.” He explains, “because it’s two different things to try and record a bunch of covers, and on the other hand, trying to write music together. I mean, from a personal [point of view]… for the experience and the inspiration and the vanity, it would be fun.

“From the fan point of view, I’ve always sort of envied the people, like the guitarist that are getting the golden opportunity to write songs for Morrissey, or the bass player who is able to play with Joshua Homme and call it Queens Of The Stone Age or Them Crooked Vultures… it’s very inspiring for a musician to work with other musicians that you respect the hell out of – but it’s not necessarily a fruitful experience. It’s not necessarily a recipe for success, working with musicians that you like, because there are a lot of musicians that have meant the world historically, but cannot work with other people, or are just a mess to work with.

“So, as much as it’s interesting being in a place where you can at least make a call and get a proper yes or no, I am sort of… I’m not dying to work with everyone that I can work with.”

There’s also been speculation that Grohl has donned the black Cardinal robes and mask that the band members play every gig in, and joined them on stage, but Ghoul has a mythology to uphold and won’t be drawn into giving a definitive answer on the subject.

“Well, I’ve only answered one question, really,” he says, smirking audibly, “and that was, ‘has he ever played in a robe?’ Yes he has.”

That certainly opens up possibilities for other A-list players to join Ghost for a number, even if the audience remains oblivious to the fact.

“Yeah I guess…” he stonewalls, “That’s the point though, isn’t it…”

Ghost 01

It’s all very wilfully mysterious, but might not that anonymity make all of the band highly expendable?

“Uuuummmmmmmm…” Ghoul deliberates, “yes and no, I guess. We are lucky in the sense that if there is a personal, or some sort of engagement problem, we are able to switch members without publically having to have a debate about it…

“But I think as time goes by,” he continues, “we have been pretty much the same band for three years. I don’t think it would be very evident on a recording, but from a live point of view it might be pretty obvious. As much as people don’t know our faces, the more determined and die hard fans are very well aware of our – what do you call it, our physical features, so they know about the members even if they don’t know our name. Like, ‘that member is that tall and wears that ring, and walks like this.’”

The anonymity is a key factor of the band, taking the ‘comic strip character’ image of KISS one step further. One Ghoul, speaking with Loudwire magazine in early 2013, stated “I think one of the most common misconceptions is that we have chosen to be anonymous to attract attention… the idea was always to take away personality or individuality in the modern form of being a celebrity, in order to have people focusing on the artwork itself.”

Ghost 03

Ghoul, however, says they “get recognised enough to get around” and don’t get frustrated not being recognised backstage after playing a killer show. There are other hassles though, with someone trying to pass themselves off as a member of the band more than once.

“Yes, that has happened, yeah.” He laughs. “I know it has happened a few times when you’re at an after party or something, and some person has come up to somebody – not necessarily a member of the band – and said ‘hi, I’m so and so from Ghost!’ And then they tell us and it’s just pathetic!”

Balancing the dichotomy of the extreme metal Satanist image with the 70’s hard rock vibe, Ghoul says the band members’ influences are wider ranging than most.

“It is literally everything from ABBA to Venom.” He says with a certain element of pride. “Obviously it is leaning towards rock. Most of it is sort of classical rock to hardcore and metal, but also a lot of, I guess, prog stuff, and alternative, avant garde sort of music, a lot of soundtrack music… everything from the big names like Pink Floyd and The Doors – the normal stuff – to really weird, eclectic, record-collecting stuff. And that mixture and mesh sort of makes our sound, I guess.”

Perhaps surprisingly, Ghoul plays down the Blue Oyster Cult influence on Ghost.

“Yeah, the thing is, Blue Oyster Cult – even though I have their records, in the sense that from a record collecting point of view I am very aware of them, they are not as big an influence as people think.

Ghost Papa Emeritus 01

“Maybe [Papa Emeritus II] is a big fan?” he postulates, “but from a musical point of view, where we plan out what we’re supposed to do, it’s not necessarily that. I would say that a lot of the harmony and the sort of poppiness in there, it comes from probably the same source as Blue Oyster Cult’s does – it comes from The Beatles. One of the biggest influences of all bands are The Beatles.”

At Perth’s Soundwave Festival last year Ghost played as the sun set, a fittingly eerie horror movie setting for a band who label their shows as ‘Rituals’, but Ghoul says a night time show is the best way to experience the band.

“I remember that show [but] it sort of differed – I remember it was slightly annoying,” he elaborates, “The first show we did in Brisbane was sort of dusk. Then down in Sydney and Melbourne we were in complete daytime sunlight, even though it was the same timeslot, because it was further south – it was really annoying. Anyway, we played two or three of those shows, it was literally another world, and very different from show to show. But yeah, dusk, and obviously nocturnally, that is when you should see us – it works in a daytime setting as well, but it’s not the same thing as in the dark.

“[Last year] we didn’t have our new record out, so we only played one song from it, I think. That’s going to be a little bit different. I believe that we are doing sliiiiiiiightly longer sets and I believe we are playing sliiiiiiiightly later this time round… and hopefully we are going to announce not too long from now, we are going to do some sideshows [Now announced – 22 Jan in Melbourne, 28 Jan in Sydney], which is obviously going to be more of a proper Ghost experience, where we play our full set, in the dark.”


When asked if it is possible that any of the band are or were art students, and if Ghost might be an artistic statement of sorts, Ghoul laughs again and continues to keep his cards very close to his chest, preserving the mystery of the band at all times.

“Uuuummmmm. Yes, yes it is [possible],” he says enigmatically, before continuing. “We are, just in general, very pop culturally oriented, I think, and interested in different medias [including] music and film and art and print and, you know, all sorts of aesthetic expressions, and I think that Ghost is a very good outlet for all of those things.”

With time rapidly running out and the surface barely scratched, I ask if Ghost’s Satanic lyrics and imagery have attracted any negative experiences with religious fanatics, especially in America.

“Not really. We have, but not to the extent that you might expect,” he starts.

“I think that derives from… the bands [that] historically have the biggest problems are bands like Judas Priest and Ozzy Osbourne and Marilyn Manson. That was in the height of their careers, when they were touring 100 ice hockey arenas around the country and were way more in the limelight than we are.

“I think the only time that we sort of noticed that there’s a part of the country that might not be very well aware of the band yet is when the whole burger thing came up.” He says, referencing the late 2013 placing of a ‘The Ghost’ burger including goat shoulder, red wine reduction and a communion wafer on the menu of Chicago heavy metal-themed restaurant Kuma’s Corner’s menu. Chicago Catholic institutions demanded it be taken off the menu, calling it “tasteless”. (The owner, incidentally, refused, citing the burger’s popularity and saying it was actually quite “tasty”!)

Ghost Burger from Kuma's Chicago

“That’s when we notice that the Average Joe sort of reacted to the band,” Ghoul continues, “but so far it’s never been that way. I would never say we were an underground band, but for the mainstream we are still too underground, we are too alternative, to be household names in the sense that Judas Priest or Ozzy Osbourne was in 1985 or 1986, you know, when every kid in the parking lot was listening to them. As well, Marilyn Manson had that whole thing happening, especially after Columbine.

“There’s a whole different level of media attention that we’ve never really had – and I don’t think we ever wish for that to happen, especially not [to be associated with] anything similar to Columbine, but that sort of reaction.” He continues, finally opening the door to shine a crack of light onto Ghost’s motivations.

“As much as we’re here to provoke thought, we’re not here to provoke JUST to provoke – and I think that a lot of people that see us sort of understand that. That we are not eating shit onstage, we’re not just trying to fuck things up. Really, at the end of the day I think a lot of people really [see that].

“People write to us on Facebook after they’ve seen us, and a lot of them say ‘well I’m actually a devout Christian, and I’ll never be able to tell my husband/ wife/ preacher/ congregation/ family/ whatever, that I just went to see you, but I can’t help to like what you do – even though I’m not for it religiously I really like what you do.’

“This has happened countless times, so I think that in the sense that people from ‘the other side’ quote/unquote, see us, I don’t think it necessarily stirs the reaction that makes them clinch with it, if that makes sense.”


Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

Comments are closed.

banner ad
banner ad