Ghost: A chat with Tobias Forge; is an instrumental album in the future?

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 15: Tobias Forge performing as Cardinal Copia of the band Ghost at Barclays Center on December 15, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 15: Tobias Forge performing as Cardinal Copia of the band Ghost at Barclays Center on December 15, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images) /

Tobias Forge of Ghost has had an incredible year and it just keeps getting better. We were fortunate enough to speak with him about albums and arenas shows.

Ghost has been incredibly busy in the last year and a half. Between a new Cardinal, a new album, three dead Papas, a new Sister Imperator, multiple Chapter videos, three tours and two singles, all that’s missing is a partridge in a pear tree and Ghost has a holiday song to add to their repertoire. Tobias Forge, the leader of the band, is the busiest of them all adding countless interviews to the list of to-dos.

Given that information, we were extremely grateful when he agreed to talk with us for a bit to chat about Seven Inches of Satanic Panic, the differences between theater and arena shows and the chances of a full instrumental Ghost album.

The Interview

1428 Elm: Thank you so much for taking time from your very busy schedule to talk with us. Congratulations on the new single! Can I ask you what inspired those two songs? Any particular artists?

Tobias Forge: I can’t really talk about it that much. It’s 50 years old and I’m 38. I am personally a big fan of this style of music. I’ve always been.

1428 Elm: Would you say that Papa Nihil had any particular artists in mind when he did this music?

Tobias Forge: I don’t think he wrote anything but I think that the songs are very much in line with what was going on at the time. I definitely believe that he was influenced by the rock movement in the later 60’s. But it also does have sort of a Motown feel at times, so it wasn’t as psychedelic as some other bands were in 1969. They still had that mid-60’s sort of cheerfulness to it that for the most part was gone by then. Things got kind of darker in 1969.

1428 Elm: I can definitely see that. While “Kiss the Go-Goat”‘s theme is said in the lyrics, what would you say that “Mary on a Cross” is about?

Tobias Forge: I would say that a lot of music from that time because essentially the parent generation in the 60’s, were the people that were in their 20’s who were born in the 40’s, and their parents were born in the early 1900’s. So, the parents’ generation of the 60’s were extreeeeeemely conservative.

That’s why you have all these very subtle, sometimes not so subtle references because we’re familiar with the lingo, but back then it was very hidden from the parent generation who didn’t know what Mary Jane was for example.

Rolling Stones “I pledge myself to Mary Jane,” stuff like that. There’s so many innuendos, codes, like “Back Door Man,” “A Whole Lotta Love.” The 60’s was completely fused by playing with the lyrics just because they couldn’t rock it out. And I like that, I find that very interesting. And it takes a certain skill. Yeah, so that one, as most things from that time, has a subtle meaning.

1428 Elm: With psychedelic rock and almost pop influence rock added to Prequelle, are there any other genres that Ghost would like to experiment with? The dream genre that could be melted with Ghost’s sound?

Tobias Forge:  I think we’ve sort of touched upon most of the things, most of the genres that I liked. You can just balance it in a different way, maybe. I guess the only thing that we haven’t really done and I’m not sure if that could be a Ghost album, but is more like soundtrack, orchestral music. I like that a lot. I like when bands have a string arrangement for a song.

At least, if you have that in the background it sort of makes the song swell. But I’m not always super buzzed about a big orchestra and full heavy metal being played together at all times. There’s a lot of symphonic rock from the 90’s and 2000’s, a lot of them and it just becomes too much. It’s such a dense soundscape as is and you also add a full orchestra as well.

It sounds dramatic but not a whole lot of room to breathe so I’m not sure if I would make orchestral arrangements, like full orchestral that I would have the whole band playing along with it. It would be paced out differently. I listen to a lot of 70’s prog rock from Italy and a lot has orchestral music, very experimental.

1428 Elm: Would you ever consider a full instrumental Ghost album?

Tobias Forge: Absolutely. I love instrumental music. I always entertain having instrumental tracks. In the future, it may be 1 out of 10 but it’s always nice.

1428 Elm: You guys made the saxophone cool again with “Miasma.” You’ve talked on the next album about Ghost going back to its harder roots. Is there a past album looking back that you’re wanting to emulate or get that same emotional feel from?

Tobias Forge: No, not really one album. I always say that each new album is like a reaction to each of the previous so since like Prequelle is not a hard rock or heavy, heavy metal album, the natural reaction to that will be to write something that isn’t, I don’t want to use the word soft, it will be different from Prequelle.

The same way Prequelle was different from Meliora etc. I’ll write a record that we don’t have yet because otherwise what’s the point?  But I definitely have an album in mind with slightly more riffage [chuckles].

1428 Elm: Past albums have very strong themes and then the music takes you on a journey. Do you already have the theme in in mind?

Tobias Forge: Yes.

1428 Elm: I know you can’t say (damn!). Even from one tour to the next, your performing locations have changed quite a bit.  How was the energy performing a stage show in a theater different than that of performing in these massive arenas you’ve been doing lately?

Tobias Forge: For me, the three most important things are:1) is that we can bring the same production to every place even though technically the arena might not be dramatically bigger than playing in a theater because we’re not playing the round. We’re not playing to arena capacity.

So technically, sometimes, if the capacity of the area might be similar to a theater, which is like 3200 people or something, but the main difference is that we can have the stage. With very few exceptions, regardless if you live in a small market, the little town that no one plays in, you will get the same show as they would get in New York City or LA, which is very important for me. I think it’s extremely important that if you pay money to see it, you should get the same thing.

Which leads me to: 2) when we play the theaters, there was a constant day to day basis, “Oh, you can’t use pyro. We can’t do confetti. Oh, by the way the curtain doesn’t work. Oh by the way we have this big theater production here so the stage is part occupied.” So we had to change the set almost every day.

More from 1428 Elm

I am not a big fan of surprises. I don’t like that at all. I want everything to be identical every day just because the show gets better if it’s done the same way, more of less. There’s wiggle room for a human touch on the show; of course the show gets different if you have 30 ft of stage one night and then there 6 ft of stage and it’s like that every day.

It does make a difference on the band because you have to move differently. These are details, I’m talking shop here in a way that people might not think about.

1428 Elm: This is extremely interesting!

Tobias Forge: Back in the day, American hockey rinks were smaller than European ones because of the action. Americans like action, so the rinks were smaller which led to more fights, more physicality. If you came to a European rink, they were bigger which was harder for anyone used to an American rink. Same thing goes for us and the stage.

One of the most important things, I absolutely HATE sitting crowds.  Not on the bleachers or if you’re sitting on the side, that’s fine. You always want the most energized and enthusiastic people standing in the front. One big, big, big downside for theaters, in my opinion, is that they have seats all the way up to the stage and that really screws up the energy of the show.

Because you want people in the front who are supposed to be there. You don’t want people who can pay for it. You don’t want someone in the front sitting, eating popcorn. It becomes really awkward in terms of being in front of the crowd.

Tobias Forge
NEW YORK, NY – DECEMBER 15: Tobias Forge performing as Cardinal Copia of the band Ghost at Barclays Center on December 15, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images) /

1428 Elm: As someone who went to two different shows in two different cities, I like to eyeball the crowds to see the difference and it’s shocking to see from one city to the other just how different the crowds can be and it makes a difference.

Tobias Forge: Oh yeah and it really does differ from city to city. And that’s one thing when we were repeatedly doing the theater circuit, which has its upsides don’t get me wrong. I definitely prefer theaters but a lot of that city temperament was sometimes lost because of the theaters because you ended up having the front section that were generally the people who were economically the ones that could pay for it.

It’s a Friday night and you come to a city that’s known for a vibrant crowd and still you have people in the front who act like they’re watching a movie. They are sitting back and then you have the people who are wanting to rock out and they are ten rows back. But unfortunately that’s part of the economics of theaters and that’s why I was very adamant about moving away from theaters.

Luckily the promoter felt, let’s try it and see how it works out, and I think the upsides are vast. I’m just happy that we’re able to bring the same show and you get the energy in the show and it feels way better now.

1428 Elm: Well the show looks incredible and I hope you have an amazing rest of your tour and a good rest in 2020 since you all have been go go going for quite a while.

Tobias Forge: Yes, well, there’s a new record so there’s not a whole lot of rest but it’s certainly paced in a different way.

Next. Ghost: 25 of the best songs for noobs. dark

Tobias was an absolute delight to speak with. If you are like me and want to have a fully instrumental Ghost album one day, let the band know your support. I think it would be an amazing change to the Ghost formula. Let us know what you think in the comments.