“When you’re a family man, it’s hard to move your family or demon spawn somewhere new.”
For the uninitiated, Ghost is one of the most theatrical, big-production touring metal acts around. The anonymous, mask-wearing sextet continue the “excess is best” tradition of shock rock bands like Slipnot, Marilyn Manson, Alice Cooper, and KISS. If you’re looking for an ordinary, snobby, safe, sedate rock show, Ghost is not for you.
I caught up with Nameless Ghoul and lead guitarist Fire/Alpha weeks before their departure on the 36-show leg of their “Popestar” 2016 North America Tour. The sardonic Swedish metal occultists’ song “Cirice” won a Grammy for Best Metal Performance this year, and their popularity and demand for more live shows continues to grow.
How are you, Nameless Ghoul?
Is your EP [title unknown] still scheduled for release September 16? What can fans expect in terms of sound and direction?
We have, so far—I don’t want to say a habit—but with this it’s a little bit of traditional thing to use these EPs to explore, whereas a new record wouldn’t have that approach. The humoristic elements in our shows are not present on our albums; in general, the albums are a bit more serious. The EPs are a bit more humorous, playful, and less serious. The lead track for the new EP is not what I’d call a reject, but it wasn’t in the final mix for Meliora. It was in the later stages and felt apart from the record. Conceptually, Meliora was already done, whereas this song is good, but we couldn’t force it onto the record. It’s a new, straighter song, a bit more power-pop. It fits better on an EP as a single song.
Countries like Sweden, Norway, and Denmark tend to produce very heavy bands in terms of imagery and music. Is there something in your cultural roots or the history of the Vikings?
I think the reason for there being so many metal bands from there is because of tradition. I think the one thing that is unique about Scandinavia is there are so many professional musicians, or aspiring musicians. Many are successful in the metal or hard rock space. I guess I actually don’t know, but maybe it’s we are quite small country not in terms of land, but population.
Hard rock was always popular in Sweden. Even bands like Iron Maiden—even during their “down times,” when they weren’t huge everywhere—they were popular and doing halls in the rest of Europe; they came to Sweden and they played football stadiums. I guess it spreads and swings. Hard rock has always been big in Sweden, and the 1980s, metal was one of the more dominant things in school. I guess that spawned a lot of musicians that played metal. The ’90s were more popular for death or black metal. The more popular bands you have, the more trend setting and influential they become: Opus, In Flames, etc., and other bands are doing quite well—the bands that come from slightly smaller cities and are not yet household names. That, of course, influences the kids. It started with Bathory and it just spread out.
Can you shock an audience anymore?
Not with your pants on.
Will there be any new surprises in your stage show?
[Laughing] I will refer to my previous answer. My pants might fall off. We played The Pageant last tour; we always do a different show in cities like St. Louis. Obviously, there will be some new songs that we haven’t played live, and also some new songs from Meliora that we didn’t play the last time we were there.
Will there be a new pope this tour?
No, this EP is still a prolonging of Meliora and is still the same era and same concept. There will be a new pope later on, but not right now.
Do photographers or fans stalk you to take get pictures with you without your masks?
Not photographers, but some fans do; I’m not sure if they want to take pictures to expose us or publicize them, necessarily. Nowadays, it’s a given fact that taking a selfie is more predominantly and frequently occurring. It’s usually if we bump into someone spontaneously at the airport or just somewhere. The most common questions is, “Can we take a selfie?”
When I was a kid, everyone wanted an autograph. We explain that we don’t take photos: We will sign something; we’re old school. People are generally pretty nice about stuff like that. Some people do know what some of us look like; sometimes the circumstances give it away. I’m an avid record collector, and at least one other guy in the band and I go to vintage stores to collect records. It doesn’t matter in the larger cities, but if we’re in a city where there’s not huge influx of foreign bands asking for odd things [laughs], circumstances give it away. If they ask where we’re from, we will answer Sweden. If we’re in smaller towns, stepping into a store in America in our girly pants, we kind of stand out. At least we stand out from the pedestrians.
Do you all still live in Sweden?
Yes, I still live in Sweden. It’s a tempting thought to move to America; if I were to migrate, it would be America. I love being there and working there. There are a lot of pretty and interesting places. When you’re a family man, it’s hard to move your family or demon spawn somewhere new.
Children of Ghost features so much amazing artwork by your fans. Was that your idea or the fans’?
Completely fan-generated. | Doug Tull
Ghost will be appearing September 28 at The Pageant in St. Louis; full tour dates are below.
09.16 | The Armory, Rochester NY
09.19 | Stage AE, Pittsburgh
09.21 | Masonic Auditorium, Cleveland
09.23 | Minglewood Hall, Memphis
09.27 | Brady Theater, Tulsa
09.28 | The Pageant, St. Louis
09.30 | Harvest Bank at Midland Theatre, Kansas City
10.01 | Sonic Boom Festival, Madison
10.02 | Louder Than Life, Louisville
10.03 | The Fillmore, Detroit
10.04 | Kalamazoo State Theatre, Kalamazoo MI
10.05 | Paramount Theatre, Cedar Rapids IA
10.07 | Paramount Theatre, Denver
10.08 | The Complex, Salt Lake City
10.09 | The Wilma Theatre, Missoula MT