GHOST leader and frontman Tobias Forge says that he hasn’t “felt very anonymous for many years,” this, in spite of the great efforts he went through to conceal his true identity through various incarnations of his stage alter-ego Papa Emeritus. Forge has since “retired” Papa Emeritus and now performs as Cardinal Copia.
Since GHOST arrived on the scene in 2010 via its “Opus Eponymous” debut, the Internet took stabs on who were the men behind the masks, as Forge conducted virtually every interview as a “Nameless Ghoul,” which are the names also adopted by his backing band. While some considered this to be one of the worst-kept secrets in metal and hard rock, Forge and GHOST stuck to the script until he was publicly outed last year by several of his former bandmates in a lawsuit that accused the frontman of cheating them out of their rightful share of the profits from the band’s album releases and world tours. The case has yet to be resolved.
In a recent interview with BLABBERMOUTH.NET‘s David E. Gehlke, Forge was asked whether he felt that the revealing of his true identity by way of the legal proceedings with his former bandmates was a disappointment. “I haven’t felt very anonymous for many years,” Tobias said. “I don’t feel very bummed by that. I can feel bummed about the reasons why it was revealed. [Laughs] But, it didn’t do much harm. I don’t feel, in any way, like a loser here and it didn’t seem to do a lot of harm. No, especially with a little bit of hindsight and couth. It’s fine. I feel good. It’s going well. I’m out here working. I made a record. [Laughs] You know, it’s always alarming, obviously, when you have people, and some of them used to be close to you, working diligently to destroy your life. That’s always a bummer. That sucks. Sometimes that happens in all parts of the world: at workplaces, in schools, in families, in relationships and friendships. There’s nothing new about it; it’s perfectly natural. It’s a sad avenue to ride down on, but it’s a part of life and it’s fine.”
The lawsuit provided a deep dive into a band that has prided itself on secrecy and deflection. As the details regarding GHOST‘s business setup was being shared with the public, Forge, along with producer Tom Dalgety got down to work on what would become the band’s fourth studio album, “Prequelle”. Forge was asked whether this “distraction” made “Prequelle” a difficult album to write and record. “Actually, no,” he said. “It wasn’t that hard to write because there was a lot of other things that were also off my plate. So, in a way, I felt together with Tom Dalgety, I think we were both very determined — this might sound crazy — not to phone this shit in. I think we both felt the urgency. Going into it, we already knew that we had a ton of material to work with. So, we knew we had this song, that song, that song and that’s going to be great, then we have that song — yes! But, still, ‘Let’s really put time into making sure that this record is everything it can be,’ because we didn’t want to mention it every day, but, of course, at the end of some days, it was ‘My life is depending on this record. This is a moment of truth.’ I think also for him as a producer and a close friend of mine, he also felt very connected to that, that it’s like, ‘If we pull this off, we’re definitely doing it against the will of a certain bunch of people who really want nothing but for us to fail.’ That alone was actually quite a good motivator rather than a negative. But that depends on how you’re wired. I always strived to have an easy life. But, I’ve never really achieved that because of how I am wired and how I do things and I’m come to accept now that I seem to be working better under pressure. I don’t follow apart easily, I don’t give in easily and I’m way more competitive than I ever thought I would admit. So, people trying to fuck me over is just going to make me worse. [Laughs] They proved that, so thanks! Thank you, guys!”
Forge has since overhauled GHOST‘s lineup, which now includes eight members onstage and nine when saxophone-wielding Papa Nihil (who is performing as the aged “original” Papa Emeritus) joins on new song “Miasma”. Previously, the band’s core, basic lineup consisted of musicians who apparently were chosen by Forge out of convenience rather than musical ability and professionalism. “I think many business people who have their own pizzeria or grocery or a bar or whatever, I think you learn that you need to be very cautious who to bring in,” said Tobias. “You should hire people because of their abilities and not proximity. You usually learn the hard way, unfortunately. I learned that. [Laughs] So, lesson learned! It’s all good. I’m never, ever going to do that again.”
The current GHOST live presentation consists of three guitarists, a bassist, a drummer and two female keyboard players, the appropriately named “Ghoulettes”. This formation has enabled GHOST to do away with vocal backing tracks, which are now handled live by several of The Nameless Ghouls and Ghoulettes. According to Forge, having this many musicians onstage achieved a long-standing goal for him.
“My plan has always been to have a band of this size and ensemble,” he said. “We just couldn’t. We didn’t have room. We didn’t have money. There wasn’t time for it yet, so I reluctantly, since I wanted the music to somewhat reflect the music on the records, I think a lot of the vocal stuff I had done on the records were pretty much of a staple. I wanted it to be multiple harmonies and that sort of AOR [album-oriented rock] choruses, basically. If you don’t have people in the band singing, the only thing you can do, technically today, is to have it on back tracks, which is something I always loathed. I never liked it at all. It was the only way to make it happen. I was very, very happy when we finally made this move this year just getting people and remove at least the majority of the back tracks. You still have intros and outros, things like that. But that’s normal. Everyone does that. But, not to have a lot of things being played through back tracks — I’m not even personally a fan of bands who do that. It’s just a possibility that you can use and it makes everything sound a little bit bigger. But, now being able to recreate that with the band feels so much more genuine, so much stronger. I think that translates. I think it’s better.”
He continued: “It helps with the dynamics onstage as well and to recreate all of these different songs that go through various shapes and form. Obviously, we have some sort of hard rock median, median recipe, but then you have songs that sort of stick out on sides that are softer or has other elements as well, which in the past, which was a little too back track-driven, I think, just in order to shape them. Now we can play them. Yeah, it just feels way more genuine. Way cooler. Way better.”
“Prequelle” will be released on June 1 via Loma Vista Recordings.