Swedish occult rock/doom formation Ghost is one of the fastest rising stars in the metal firmament. Recently the band released Infestissumam, an album that will undoubtedly cement the reputation of Papa Emeritus II and his Nameless Ghouls even further. On behalf of Ghost Cult Marcus J. West had a little chat with one of the Nameless Ghouls just before the band enters the stage…
This tour package with The Defiled, Gojira and Ghost is a very interesting one. What are your thoughts?
I think that this tour package works in our favour. Gojira is a very interesting band, so is The Defiled. However, I cannot say so much about the bands that are opening for us because of the nature of what we do on stage, we never have the time to sort of watch other shows, we have to prepare, do a lot of things. We excel when we are surrounded by bands that do not sound like us like on this tour. Why should we play together with groups that sound similar to what we do? It would make us and them look worse. I mean, there are so many of our fans that keeps on saying that we should do a tour with King Diamond. No we shouldn’t! That would make him look old and it would make us like we were copying him. That is a very shitty idea! The way we are perceived by so many, it’s the result of a blend of King Diamond, Kiss and Alice Cooper. So imagine if we were playing with all of them. It would make us all look like a bunch of clowns. If we choose to play with bands like these, we are not going anywhere. There are so many bands especially where we are from that are so locked into playing those sorts of “niche” festivals, where you get all the bands that sound more or less the same. The die-hard fans that go to these festivals want to have a full dose of that particular type of music; we know where heavy metal and doom come from but we are not a heavy metal band, we are not a doom band. We are trying to do something that it’s different, we are not trying to be a scene band, we are trying to be a theatre. Ghost is not telling fans how to dress or how to think, we just want them to come to our shows and escape for a while, it’s escapism.
One of Ghost’s most striking features is your elaborate stage outfits and the whole secrecy surrounding the band. What’s the deal on that?
In one aspect, I actually think that we protect our fans to know who we are. There are so many aspects that go into consideration when your subconscious chooses to like someone, so many things that pollute the line of the art form to the recipient; this is sadly the nature of how mankind perceives music. It’s so much based upon how you hear it, when and in what state of mind you find yourself in. If you have a two hour car trip ahead of you when you are feeling miserable, whatever music you hear during those two hours may change either your view of that music or of the entire trip. It’s the harsh brutal reality for the creators of music. Think of the band Swedish House Mafia, which is exactly why they became so huge: people go out on Fridays, expecting a very good night, they hear their songs that accompany the feeling of “hopefully meeting the one” or “have the best time of their lives”. This is definitely one of the aspect that we want to take away from Ghost, because every other band is so keen to wrap their art with their personal gallery, like where they are from, this is what they eat, this is a photo of their dog. They are so desperate, I wonder if they really want to be successful at what they are doing or if they just want to be famous. That also screws up the way that you perceive a career that shows in the public. Think of Kim Kardashian for instance, she is only known for being known. She is basically the opposite of an artist, she is just known. I mean she got nailed on tape but if you ask anyone what she is known for, nobody knows. She is just a celebrity, she is just on the opposite side of the super-eclectic artists, mainly writers, that nobody knows who they are, they are known only solely for their art. In-between there is a plethora of art going around where so much gets polluted and therefore we wanted to change this a little bit. We want people to focus on what we are doing with our music and at our shows. From a personal standpoint, I want to fill the gaps that I wanted to see: we have Ghost, let’s make that into this and hopefully people will like that. But in order for us to do that, we had to stay anonymous because I do not even want us to be real persons, other than Papa obviously, as he is the dude.
Opus Eponymous made quite an impact when it was released back in 2010. How do you look back on that period?
I am really surprised that we managed to keep this up for three years. We actually wanted to have Infestissumam released in 2011 but we did not have the time, we then also had a label change. I thought that everyone was going to get tired of us.
Which is exactly the opposite of what happened…
Yeah, right now we feel this way but not back then, as much as I do not feel confident that this may be something worth…. We won’t be new in five years, you never know what happens. You have to keep re-inventing yourself all the time and be better. I think that what we probably added at first was a good alternative to the contemporary music that is out there. Even if we have some real issue on what we are singing about, especially in the new record, there is some sort of stream substance. Ghost is about escapism which is opposite to what so many bands are doing by singing about life. “My mother and father are divorced” or “Fuck, Life is shit”, all of that which goes through the entire scene today, where everything is supposed to be so real and so credible. What we are trying to do is so far from that which may serve as a good antidote, even if we do not expect anyone to shy away from what they normally are to like us. It comes with the package: if you like a particular band, you are led into a complete world of what they are. What we represent as an alternative which demands nothing. You can choose to partake if you want, lot of people do that, they dress like Papa or they dress like Ghouls, but we do not tell anybody to conform to our lifestyle because nobody knows what our lifestyle is.
Ghost released a new song online entitled ‘Year Zero’ some time ago. Why did you guys pick that particular song?
There are songs on Infestissumam that may be too similar to some on Opus Eponymous in some ways. So we wanted to present the album with a song that sort of stuck out a little bit? That’s why we choose ‘Year Zero’, we thought of doing a little bit of warm up with the new album with this song. ‘Year Zero’ is like a steamroller now, it has become a big massive song, it’s almost like a ritual that sums up a lot of the contest of what we are doing.
And what’s the deal on ‘I Am A Marionette’, a song originally recorded by Abba?
I do not think it would have been very cool if we had recorded a Merciful Fate song as a cover, it would have turned out so uninteresting, as much as we all love the band and as much as we should pay tribute to them. It would not have been challenging. We needed to find a song that lived up to some sort of perquisites and that was also changeable in some ways with some angles that would be natural for Ghost to play. The next step we have considered were the lyrics if they were good for Papa to sing which is always the most important thing. A cover has to sort of work within the theme we are trying to build. ‘I Am A Marionette’ proves our point.
You mentioned King Diamond and Merciful Fate quite a lot: are they still very influential to your artist persona?
King Diamond coloured a lot of my perception of what a live show should be and what a presence is. It’s safe to say that without him and Merciful Fate, we would be the exact same thing but without makeup.
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Marcus J. West