an interview w/ Ghost (on Snoop Dogg, Satan, Pope Francis, Dave Grohl, their metal-ness & more) ++ updated tour dates
interview by Shahryar Rizvi
Last month, Ghost released their third album Meliora, another dose of poppy occult rock that was a little heavier on the riffage than their last one. Strangely enough, they decided to celebrate it with some acoustic release shows (including Rough Trade NYC in August) but they’re also now on a proper full-band tour which returned to NYC last night (9/27) at Terminal 5.
We caught up with one of the band’s Nameless Ghouls not long after they arrived in the U.S. (their “new” frontman Papa Emeritus III doesn’t tend to give interviews) and talked about the new album, those acoustic shows, Snoop Dogg, Satan, Pope Francis, Dave Grohl, Alice In Chains and the people who question just how metal Ghost really is. Read on…
Your latest album Meliora is still on the charts after a month, how does the band feel about their success?
Nameless Ghoul: We feel great, but y’know, humbled because as much as we love what we do, we’re not exactly certain that everyone else will time after time. So we’re happy. We’re trying – no we’re not just trying, we’re fuckin’ working our asses off having our feet still on the ground. It’s not so hard because we have masks on and looking at it from the side angle, so yeah.
Ghost at Terminal 5 – 9/27/15 (photo by @catgal13_)
Some loud voices on the internet like to question just how metal Ghost is.
I don’t give a shit, first of all. If they don’t like it, they don’t like it. Because I’m not there to fucking tell them. I do what I want to, we do what we want to. If it’s not their bag, it’s not their bag. I mean if we did what they wanted us to, we would be the sellouts for so many reasons. We are not sellouts. We do what we want to do. That’s not selling out, that’s doing what you fucking like. In that sense I don’t… well I do care what they say. But at the same time I wouldn’t bend for their fucking ideas of what a great band is because it’s not their band. It’s our band.
Are you trying to change their minds about it?
I mean if people dig it, I’m very happy. It’s not like we’ve done a poll of what people want to hear. We do what we want to hear. If it appeals to people, I’m very, very happy. But I cannot very well go out there and ask around “What would you like to hear, here?”. We’re not here to serve some… obviously we’re serving our own need and what we’d like to hear in the music industry. But we cannot very well see to others. I mean I’m sure there are a lot of bands out there serving that need this time.
Your tour included a few acoustic sets. That’s something we don’t see as often from metal acts. How do you balance the more riff-driven sound in Meliora with the acoustic set?
Well, the heavy, I mean we wrote songs this time more suitable for us to play live because we kind of lacked and we missed out on playing “riff” riffs. A lot of songs from the last album were kinda melody driven from vocals and keyboards. This time we wanted something chunkier to play. We’ve been missing that for a while, so we wrote songs with more riffs in them. Because that’s what we’d like to hear and play this time around. And as we came to the U.S. for a promo tour last month. We decided that like “let’s fucking do something we’d enjoy, let’s have some fun, let’s try taking a few old songs and turn them into acoustic songs”. Because we figured it wouldn’t come across as fun to listen to in order to play. If we played our heavier songs on acoustic guitars, That would sound like shit in least in our eyes, and that’s the measurement we go by.
So we tried to take the old songs and turn them into like Peter, Paul and Mary folk songs . You know what I’m saying? Or like John Denver. Which is, we like that, too. It was fun and it turned out great. I was very happy to do that.
A lot of music today looks back to the past for inspiration. What draws a band like yours to that throwback sound?
Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean, we take influence from so much stuff, not only musically but movies and art and fucking down to downright food, I dunno. But it’s mostly from… It’s not only about what the songs sound like or what the arts… what they look like or nothing. It’s more like the feeling we get from them right, If I hear a song from 1995 that I like and we get a good feeling I probably try and drive on it for a while and maybe learn something.
But as much as we… we have that retro sound in a lot of stuff that we do, but as opposed to many other bands? We don’t want to be the band that sounds like 1974. We want to be a band that sounds like 1974 wanting to sound like 1975. We’re a band that is on the lookout for being something bigger, not a band that’s stuck in a fucking basement. We don’t care. I mean that’s not what we’re about. Never was.
Your show in Philadelphia was postponed due to security measures for Pope Francis’ visit.
Well I mean we wanted to play at the same day as his appearance in Philly. But the town is only so big, man two Popes don’t fit.
But, no. They were pretty much sealing off everything down… I think the Red zone wouldn’t allow ambulances, let alone a black fucking tour bus with sick Satanists in it. I mean the guy carrying the fucking salad and tomatoes had a hard time getting in.
We couldn’t help but notice similarity between the intros of “From the Pinnacle to the Pit” and Alice In Chains’ song “Would?”. Was that a coincidence, or was that deliberate?
No, I wouldn’t say it was deliberate. Certainly when I heard that riff I was like “Oh, Alice in Chains, right?” So I totally get that it resembles that because that is *laughs* that’s the simple truth. I’d have a hard time believing that our person who wrote that riff even listens to Alice in Chains. But I was like, I pointed it out “This sounds like grunge”. So yeah
Well, I don’t know if we have time. I’d like to see it. Why not? I’m interested in art in all forms, so why not? We haven’t spoken about it yet. We just kind of landed in the States for the tour. Everything is a bit tumbly right now. Fucking ups and downs and guitars not sounding as they should. Any tour is like walking in a loop-de-loop later on. But thanks for the tip, though.
The band recently appeared in a selfie with Snoop Dogg. What is the story behind that?
I don’t know man, we bumped into Snoop Dogg in Australia. He was partying away he wanted to meet us guys. We were already in our costumes so we’re like “fuck it, let’s take a picture”. And there he was like a Jamaican Jesus inside of a fuckin trailer surrounded by his posse of 40 people. Yeah, and he welcomed us. It was like, I dunno. It was what it was, man. I’m not a fan of his music, but yeah, why not shake his hand.
I did a bit of research into the band’s origin in Linköping, Sweden. The only thing I know about the place is that indie electronic signer iamamiwhoami and the Britt-Marie guy from the Swedish viral video says his mom’s from there. What is it like starting in a place like that?
Apart from being kind of rural city or village or town. That didn’t really set us down how we… well it did in a sense of how boring we found it as younger people. So that spawns the imagination, y’know. So in a sense, yeah, we’re very much a Linköping band.
I guess it wouldn’t be a crowded music scene like Gothenberg or Umeå.
I dunno, man. But that’s what happens. I imagine a good band can come out of New York although there are thousands of good bands in New York because it’s such a big city. Whereas where we’re from, we had to dive into fantasy to have any fun.
Dave Grohl produced your If You Have Ghost EP in 2013. How did the band’s relationship with Grohl come about?
We met him I think it was in Holland or… I actually don’t remember. It’s a big fucking blur. A good blur, but. In Holland inside a festival and we got to talk to him and he was a fan of our band. We said that maybe we should do something with him some time because he’s fun and very, very nice. So right before we recorded the last album we went to his studio for a week and hung out and recorded the two cover songs. Because it was a cover EP and we could like fool around with it. And it didn’t have to be very extremely serious, as we tend to be at other points when making music.
Can you confirm or deny whether Dave Grohl is one of the nameless ghouls?
I cannot confirm or deny that. I’m sorry.