FEATURE INTERVIEW: GHOST – “I would say by early 2021, you can expect the next chapter of the Ghost story.” TOBIAS FORGE

Posted on by Oran

From the underground to a bonafide global take-over, GHOST are fast becoming the most-talked about band in Metal music today, with legions of fans dedicating their total and utter commitment to the bands every move. Overdrive sat down with one Tobias Forge to discuss the bands success and that all important new album…

Photo – Mikael Eriksson

The spectacular rise of GHOST is a success story that nobody could have predicted. From their captivating live show’s, to a rich discography that continues to win over armies of fans the world over, GHOST are fast becoming one of the biggest bands in today’s current global Metal/Rock scene.

From the projects birth back in 2006 to conquering American arenas, winning a Grammy for ‘Best Metal Performance‘ (2016), headlining their first UK festival at Bloodstock Open Air (2017), selling out the iconic Royal Albert Hall (2018) and now, floating around Europe as very special guests with the biggest metal band the world has ever seen, Metallica.

One could say that that the Cardinal and his Ghouls are in a rather good place right now.

Prior to taking the stage for their Irish debut before 75 thousand fans (no pressure), Ghost mastermind, Tobias Forge is calmly hanging out in the enormous the backstage compound with his band members and crew, happily sipping on a hot coffee and eager to talk about his excitement in playing the impressive Slane Castle venue.

Ghost – Slane Castle Co. Meath, Ireland 08/06/19

OD – Firstly, let me congratulate you on the continuous success of GHOST. From the outside, it’s been an incredible few years for the band. My question is how has it been for you personally, from the success of the album (s), playing to stadiums in the US, and now this tour with Metallica?

TOBIAS – Absolutely! I have moments where I have to step back and take it all in. You see, I’m not a very ‘in the moment‘ type of person. In fact, I’ve always been very distant and I guess a ‘dreamy‘ sort of person. If I look back on my life so far and I think about how I spent my childhood, I guess this comes with age and it comes from the fact of also being a parent because when you’re a parent, you can’t help to look at your kids from an upbringing point of view where you have to think about our progress.

I found myself asking the question;”Well, how did we do when we were younger?” [Laughing]. I guess there is a certain amount of reflection you have to do as an adult and now, for me, especially being an artist, I tend to have to think about my life and the journey I’ve had growing up and I’ve come to realise that very little has changed. I have spent my whole life drawing, writing and dreaming about doing all of these things that I’m now getting the opportunity to do.

So, at some point, that dreamy, adolescent looser just like, transgressed into this person who could go back into childhood again. The backside of that is sometimes, I have to remind myself that I’ve gone past the point of wishing to get here, and understand the realisation that this is actually happening. Like today for instance, getting to play this infamous venue, (Slane Castle) is huge for me. I’ve known about this place since the ’80’s.

I have a bit of a ‘now‘ moment with this today, but what often happens is that I play a certain venue, or meet a particular person and it’s like that moment just happens and I’m looking in from the outside, but afterwards I’m like; “WOW!” [Laughing]

OD – You recently did your first unmasked television interview (see below), considering the history and the mystic of Papa Emeritus / Cardinal Copia was this a difficult decision for you to make and why did you feel that this was the time to do it?

TOBIAS – I think I thought and pondered for many, many years and at a certain point, in fact on that very day, it was one of those kind of ‘rip the bandaid off‘ kind of moments. Let’s just get it over with, no drumroll, no fanfare, let’s just move on. I try to be super transparent with this, but my choice of trying to be anonymous or should I say “masked” because anonymous is when no-one knows who you are. That choice was purely an aesthetic choice based on how I wanted this project, this band, this concept to become.

It was not my personal choice, because I don’t want to be famous, or a well known rock musician. So, fast forward to right now and when I look back, I have been involved with some very well-known bands and I’ve had my own share of recognition, so really, I don’t have a desire to become more famous. Bearing that in mind, I was noticing over the years that trying to maintain that vague order was causing a few problems and issues with the whole thing.

There was definitely moments when there was discussions and demands and enquiries about what can we do in order to enhance things. So, I figured well, at some point when I feel that the concept, or the band, or the name and it’s visual aspects are big and strong enough to stand on its own, I can do a thing like that unmasked interview, and hopefully whatever we are doing aesthetically and what we choose to present to the world, that will still be more interesting and better than anything I have to do on the side to appease journalists.

Photo- Exposing Shadows Photography, exclusively for www.overdrive.ie © 2019

OD – What do you think of the critics who don’t look to favourably on what you do?

TOBIAS  – Well, traditionally I’ve noticed that the critics that are critical of the band have been so since day one. Often a lot of the times the shit that people click on is criticism that is not really meant to be positive or productive anyway. I’ve been very vocal towards those people and have to remind them that what I set this project/band out to be, happened to get very popular to an extent that I didn’t foresee.

There are people who say: “Ghost was way better back in 2010” and as a rock fan myself, we can start where my collection begins from ‘A’ and I too will have some critical things to say about each album/artists. That’s just the way things go. You can’t please everybody all the time.

OD – There has been reports of entering the studio for 2020, is this still something that is very likely and is the intention to release the album next year or 2021 or is it too early to think about that right now?

TOBIAS – I think about it all the time.  But, let me be very transparent here. I am indeed going into the studio where I will be beginning the work in January. We’re doing another American tour in September/October and then we’re gonna come back to Europe and that is gonna take us right up until Christmas basically.

So, after New Year’s we are gonna have maybe one or two small things at the beginning of the year and then it’s gonna be all about the new album.

People need to understand that I spend about 5 to 6 months in the studio. That’s not with red lights going or anything [Laughing]. But it’s just being in that creative environment you know? I also try to work ‘normal’ hours because I have a family also so, I try to work traditional hours, you know. I like to come in on Monday morning at about 9 am/10 am and then I do normal stuff like have lunch and think about what’s going on, and then I wrap up for the day and head home and see my family.

In order to make that record, it’s gonna take me about 6 months and then that’s gonna take me to the Summer, which we’ve already decided we’re gonna take a break a let the dust settle, and then hopefully by the end of the summer the record will be finished.

Unfortunately or fortunately, depends on how you see it, the US elections are happening, so bearing that in mind, it’s not the best time to release new material when peoples minds are focused on other things. I just want to make sure that when we release this new album, we have peoples attention.

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OD – So, you’re hoping that the album is going to be ready by late Summer then?

TOBIAS – Well, that’s the plan but in the event that it’s not finished, it’s gonna be okay. I don’t want to stress the situation. Every record I’ve done has been under some type of time restraint, even ‘Opus Eponymous‘ (2010), that album was on a very tight schedule. It was definitely last minute [Laughing]. I just want to make sure that I have enough time to release the album that I’m thoroughly happy with.

When strategising about where Ghost is right now and where we want to go moving forward, we have to be aware of all the possibilities regarding the best time to release the new album.

OD – I’m sure you have big ambitions for the production of the new album also?

TOBIAS – Yes, totally. We now have the pleasure of playing in much bigger venues all over the world and with that comes the fact that there are a lot of tickets to sell. I hate to talk about it in this way, but it’s a huge part of this business. We have to take great care in everything we do now. Like the best time to announce a tour, a new album, as well as the best time of the year to release the new album. There’s loads of things to take into consideration.

OD – Do you think that some of the previous album releases were not timed well?

TOBIAS – Yes, some of our previous releases were not released at a time that was in our favour. In fact, I have memories of things being very stressful at times. At this point in the bands legacy, it’s far too important to just release the next album with no plan or strategy put in place first. Also, it’s very important that we give the production of the album a few weeks of rehearsal. Basically, we have to plan it like a rocket launch [Laughing].

OD – So, when do you see this album finally being released?

TOBIAS – I would say by early 2021, you can expect the next chapter of the Ghost story.

OD – With regards to each character, do you have an overall plan of what will be happening or is it something that are inspired about with the writing of each album. Does the writing of the album determine the character we will see when it’s eventually released?

TOBIAS – Well, at first there was no masterplan, but now there is one. A lot of the things that have been communicated over the last few years will be fined tuned and explained in the coming years.

OD – Can you give me an example?

TOBIAS – Well, there will be a number of non-album things that are going to happen. This will all happen in tandem with the overall story. These things might be happening next year also.

Even in the void of 2020 not really being an active year for us in terms of live performances, there will be other things that we will be doing in the interim where there’s going to be an album made.

Photo credit: Mikael Eriksson

OD – So, would you say that things are more conceptional now than ever?

TOBIAS – Yes, totally. In the beginning there is was lucid, but things have changed in a huge way.

OD – Have you ever considered making a documentary or perhaps releasing a book about your life?

TOBIAS – Well this can tie in with a previous answer that we have already spoken about. At some point or another, during the high points of Ghost, I’m sure there are people that would be interested in reading about my thoughts and my background. But I feel like I’m not really there yet, if you know what I mean.

I feel that I have a lot more to do, before I can think about something like that. Right now if feels like thinks are ever progressing and it just doesn’t feel like the moment where I need to document everything to date. I mean, who knows what’s gonna happen but for all I know, all of this could go tits-up in four years from now.  If that happens then I can look back and reminisce when it’s all over.

I just don’t feel like I’m anywhere near the end. I’m gonna be 4o years-old in 2 years time and i’ve got a lot more to do even before I hit that age.

OD – Do you worry about getting old?

TOBIAS – Not really. In fact here’s a little life hack about feeling better about your age. I have a lot of friends who are much older than me. Not only is that very interesting socially, but if I have any issues with the concept of ageing, sometimes it’s great to have older friends whom you can use as a sort of barometer.

I have a lot of respect for my older friends. I think to myself; “If I was half as cool as my friends, I would be very happy with that“. The concept of ageing is definitely hated by a lot of people. At the end of the day, regardless of all of this, my plan is to become a really cool 50-year-old [Laughing].

OD – Do you think it’s important to have role models that are older?

TOBIAS – Yes, very much so. You can not stare yourself blind at the idea of youth being the only state worthy of being because that will greatly disappoint you.

OD – So far, what has been your biggest personal achievement?

TOBIAS – Hmmmm, there are many to choose from. [Thinking..] I think the biggest achievement for me and what I really feel blessed about is..there’s not really a word that can encapsulate what I’m thinking here. Let me try to explain.

From a family point of view, knowing where we were and what our options and possibilities were 1o years ago when our kids were born to present day. I am extremely proud and happy and thankful that I managed to steer things around to something very different. I’m not saying that everything would be crap had all of this not worked out as we were still very happy back then.

I’m very happy that it turned out this way because I got to be one of the few that got to live out a childhood dream. Music really is the only thing that I can do intuitively. I’m quite able to do this and I get better at it with age [Laughs]. But, there is a lot of things that I can’t do, and I don’t exactly know if it’s because I didn’t do that certain exam or for another reason.

I have a hard time concentrating when I’m faced with doing things I don’t really like doing.

OD – How did you back in school?

TOBIAS – I actually wasn’t really good in school [Laughing]. I have no scholastic background, so basically the outlook 10 years ago, had this not happened, did not look that good.

OD – There are few (if no other) bands that have managed to achieve the success that GHOST is currently experiencing, although it’s an exciting and wonderful thing, surely that, in its own right, is a huge achievement for you?

TOBIAS – Up until I was 29 years old, I was on the outside looking into the music industry, trying to figure out a way in [Laughing] and during this time, this industry was not interested in having me as part of it.

Since I was a ‘late bloomer‘ in this business and I got this very coveted opportunity, I feel that my biggest achievement is doing the right things at the right time. This is a highly strange situation for me at times. For instance we are a crew of 25 people here today. I’m not setting up the stage, tuning the guitars etc… I’m expected to put my shit on and get up on that stage, do a little dance and sing my songs in the somewhat correct key [Laughing]

If I have to talk about someone else that made all of this happen, it’s my wife, who gave me the freedom and the pass to continue to chase my dreams when things were just starting to happen.

I remember her saying; “Why don’t you quit your job and just go for it?

OD – At what point in time did this happen?

TOBIAS – Only a couple of months after Opus Eponymous came out. I was in a critical moment in time. I was employed in a position at a company doing a job that I was not really good at, and I didn’t really enjoy nor felt any value in doing.

She then said to me one day; “It seems like some good things are happening with your ‘rock dreams’, so why don’t you just quit your job and try that? It’s not like your job is worth anything to you. So, you can just do that and if it doesn’t work out, then at least you’ve tried it”.

When I look back on that and realise what she helped me do, most people don’t get that break. Most people who are in a relationship and are grown up, with children, just don’t get a pass like that.

Of course, my Mother also was a huge support for me. When I was in school, she was very saddened that I was such a poor performer and we went to many of the school teacher meetings where there were saying things like; “What can we do to aid you?” [Laughing] and my Mom was like [crying sound] “I don’t know what you want to do with your life“.

Meanwhile I’m over there in the corner being obnoxious, telling teachers to “go fuck themselves“. My Mom had to deal with a lot of worrying and hoping that life will fall in place for me. And by 2010 she was finally beginning to think; ‘Maybe this ‘rock’ thing is actually gonna work out!“, because I finally had a job and with two kids etc..

OD – As Mother’s do, she stood by you all the way.

TOBIAS – Yes, she believed in me.

OD – She’s been to the shows I’m assuming. She know’s all about the ‘Cardinal’ then?

TOBIAS – [Laughing] Yes, she’s been there and loves it. She is not an authoritarian. My Mom was born in the ’40’s and is very “arty“. She was very much a part of the ’60’s generation. In fact, a little bit of side information for you. My Mom bought my first and my second guitar.

OD – What kind of guitar was it and do you still have it?

TOBIAS – Unfortunately, I don’t have that guitar. Ironically, since we’re here with Metallica today, the first guitar that I had was a black Fernandes Strat,  just like the one that Kirk (Hammet, Metallica) had on the cover of the original “Garage Days‘ ’87 release (pic below).

That was my first guitar and I was so proud that I had the same guitar that Kirk Hammet had and here I am today, sitting backstage on tour with Metallica. Talk about full circle in life. It’s mind-blowing for me, it really is.

OD – I guess there was no hesitation when the Metallica offer came in then?

TOBIAS – I believe the term used was; “A stone-cold no-brainer‘ [Laughing]. It really felt like it was the right time to do this much more than say, if we were given this tour six or seven years ago.

OD – I remember the first time I ever saw Ghost live was back at the 2011 UK Download Festival and you were on the Pepsi-Max tent, during Soundgarden’s performance on the main stage. There was only a couple of hundred people in that tent but that show was fantastic.

TOBIAS – I remember that show. Phil Anselmo and the guys from Anthrax were standing on the side of the stage watching. That was a really big show for us as we almost cancelled because we did a show in Sweden the night before and we just about didn’t make the journey. It happened because it was very much based on my will to play Donington Park.

Not only were we seen by a lot of cool people, but also that was when our now manager saw us perform for the very first time. I didn’t know that she would end up managing us at the time but it was because of that performance that things took a huge turn for us.

Photo – Exposing Shadows Photography for Overdrive.ie © 2019

Ghost is very much a collective effort in many ways, from the people that work with us, our crew, techs, management, band members etc, they are all responsible for making this happen. That show was very much a landmark gig that changed the course of the bands destiny.

So, the message here kids is don’t cancel shows, you just don’t know what might happen. [Laughing] Just be cool to everyone because you just don’t know who you’re dealing with. One day a stage hand, or lighting tech, could very well become the next big label, booking agent etc. Just be cool to everyone all the time.

Catch GHOST on tour with Metallica NOW. US dates have also just been announced. Check out the full listing above. For more information, please click here.

Tobias Forge, Oran O’Beirne

Oran O’Beirne

www.overdrive.ie 2019

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