During a promo day in Paris, Ghost’s leader Tobias Forge, better known as Papa Emeritus and now Cardinal Copia, came to talk to us about the band new record “Prequelle”, but also about the universe of the band and the upcoming tour.
There are a lot of new things coming up with this new album. How do you live it?
Tobias Forge (vocals): With a lot of excitement. And somewhere it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I’ve never been able to orchestrate it that way. For several albums I wanted to: record the album, deliver it and have a break. The plan was to record in August and deliver a mixed and mastered album to the label in December and it would come out in April or May and that would have allowed me to have like a vacation in a way. And we did not had a lot of delay, but in November, Tom (ed. Dalgety), the producer was like: “maybe, really maybe we should release some of the pressure, and make sure that everything was recorded for Christmas and mix in January”. And I was like: “fuck yes!” And we kept those times before the promo started. In the end we never really rest. All this to say that thanks to this process I do not have time to be nervous or anxious about the release of the album, which I consider to be a good thing! (laughs)
Soon you will reveal Cardinal Copia to the public as Ghost’s new frontman. Why choose a Cardinal? Hierarchically speaking, the cardinal is below the Pope.
Tobias: Indeed, but I reassure you there is always a Pope, Papa 0 and next to the Cardinal. They are two different people: the first is the master and the second is the apprentice. And the Cardinal is the executive, not the boss and Papa 0 will overlook his work and his progress and if Cardinal Copia does a good job he will eventually… maybe… became Papa 4!
But will Papa Emeritus 0 be on stage during the tour?
Tobias: He may be present for a short time (ed. it has been shown since Papa Emeritus 0 plays the saxophone solo on stage), but there will be his presence everywhere.
So there will be two main characters in a sense. Will you play Papa Emeritus 0 and the Cardinal on stage?
Tobias: I’ll only play one, there’s only one singer in the band like “Meliora”. I’m going to change my outfit for sure, but with the same character: Cardinal Copia. One will wear a hat, another will not. That’s the only difference. (laughs) The Cardinal is a single character with four different costumes that for reasons you will discover, will change throughout the show to make it a little bit funnier.
Just about the design of these characters and their costumes, do you always work with the same people as at the beginning of Ghost? And who decides on the look that will have the next pope or Cardinal?
Tobias: So, to your first question: Yes! I always work with the same person and the way she works is perfect for me. She’s a designer, but do not sit down and visualize and design all the costumes and I do not do it either, though I’m extremely specific about what I want, but that can change when you see several options. So I have a very constructed idea of what I want, what character I want to dress and then it’s not very original, we take a pope’s costume and we do it in black. So we follow a certain protocol and then we fine-tune the details, and we want to see some things. After some things are dictated by the practical side, you can have an idea in mind and once you try it you realize that it will not work. I guess the initial idea and the veto is mine, but after that it’s a collaboration. I’m not a glove maker so obviously there will be decisions made by the guy who makes the gloves you see… “Make (G)love!” (laughs)
And how long does it take to design all this visual universe? Regarding the outfits.
Tobias: Weeks and months! (laughs) There are so many steps. And you have to manage everything at the same time. Someone takes care of the gloves, another seams, someone makes the hats another buys the shoes and someone who buys all the material to design all these things. Especially that there is not only me there are also the Ghouls and every costume that we make, we duplicate them, there is a lot of work. If you saw the wardrobe before a tour it’s pretty impressive. I do not really know when we started thinking about the new costumes, but obviously the first was Papa 0 in July, it seems to me to predict the end of the tour. And all the others around November or December. And meanwhile a lot of e-mail, appointments and fitting! At each fitting I am there: “Yes, yes, no. Oh shit I gained weight, OK, I’ll fit in those in 2 months! (laughs) so that’s a lot of work.
Let’s talk about the album now, at the first listening we admit we were a little puzzled, we said: “OK, yeah, why not”, but the second listening with a little hindsight it was really excellent, different, but excellent! So did you work with new people for this album to have this approach? How did you work “Prequelle“?
Tobias: I have always worked and had the chance to never have a blank page in a way. Even during “Meliora” where I was with Klas (ed. Åhlund), who was the producer of the album, initially it was just him and me. I had a lot of materials and two albums in mind and I wanted to record both, which is a little risky. A somewhat futuristic album and the other a kind of medieval album, we had to choose and Klaus wanted to make the futuristic one. I said: “OK!” And I took some music including one that was planned for the medieval album. We started working on melodies and beats. And he wanted us to use medieval music as an introduction that we would reuse (perhaps) in the next album so that there is a link between them.
I work on the album as soon as I have a break or a day off, I record on my computer or even with my phone if I have it on hand. And all those ideas if I find them interesting I take them to the studio with someone just to record a music and see how it comes out. Because unlike some people who have been in a group with me and what they think, I like to collaborate. I am not completely impossible to work with. The only difference is that I need to want to collaborate with you, that’s all. It’s a bit like girls in school who want to be kissed, maybe she does not want to be kissed by anyone, she wants to be kissed by that one. And I’m a bit like that when it comes to work. I do not want someone while I’m writing taping on my shoulder, saying: “hey, hey, play it twice!” And when you do it and it sounds good twice it shout everywhere: “I wrote that one!” And that’s very irritating, that’s why it’s hard to work with me, and that I choose who comes with me in the studio is much simpler, it does not mean that it ends very good, but it allows to test what we have.
Before the bands played in front of an audience to try their new titles, now it’s impossible because people are recording it and it’s over. But nowadays it’s a bit strange to record an album with all that idea of the band in a room that captures magic because we’ve never done that or been like that. To record Ghost we never needed everyone in the room. It’s a lovely idea, but most albums are not done that way, the trick is to make it feel as if it’s been a band that plays at the same time and creates that magic. And it takes time! (laughs) That’s why I’m in the studio for several months working every fucking detail.
“Prequelle” sounds like the album of freedom. We feel that you did absolutely everything you wanted on this record with for example the saxophonist. Do you think that now that Ghost is known worldwide and has a solid base you have more freedom in creation?
Tobias: I think that like many artists I would not mind touching more people, but I also feel like I’m always “free” in my creations. I was on all the other albums, but it is true that there is an element of freedom in this album, because it was done a lot like “Opus Eponymous”, because there was less of “social maintenance” around me, which played a big role between the two albums. Because even though it was my responsibility to make these records there were people at the door knocking and asking: “hey, can I be there? Hanging aroud? Can I be in the room taking space and food?” And knowing that there was a lot it was very irritating, because at the end of the day it’s always my responsibility to make this album and not theirs. You want to tell them to go out, and go out and do their thing. And this time apart to record the drums or the saxophone, there was only me and Tom and it was very serene despite what was happening outside at the time it was was a very good atmosphere. Also, I was close to home, about 5 minutes walk so it was very positive especially since I had a pretty shit year, so I needed it to be done somehow. Somehow I really wanted to be as free as “Opus Eponymous” where nobody was expecting anything from this album, just me. It took me 4 years to make this album and it allowed us to be today on the same trajectory, because we worked every detail. I do not want to be in a logic where I tell myself that “Square Hammer” worked very well, so I’m going to do 12 “Square Hammer” on the next record. But that’s not how it works, to make a Ghost album it must be strange and it does not look like what we did before. And I’m glad that’s what you think, you’re probably right about why there is a lot of freedom.
New album, new tour. Can you tell us what to expect on stage if you come to a Ghost concert?
Tobias: Just for the musicians side, we wanted to recreate everything we did before, all the voices, the keyboards. So we need 9 people to make it happen because for many keyboards we would have had need a third hand, especially that we have a lot of shakers and many other instruments so it took more people with two hands to make it sound the same way as on the record. I think the biggest difference will be on the old songs, because now they will sound much louder and will be like the new ones, because before on stage musics like “Absolution” sounded better than “Ritual”, it should not! (laughs) Now it will not be the case anymore. We will sound more like a group and less digital and on stage there will be more change of clothes more things will happened, a little more of everything! Let’s say it’s much better orchestrated.
Last question: as our media is called “RockUrLife”, so what rocks your life Tobias?
Tobias: I guess the end of the day. My family, my children give me a lot of reasons to live. Before I had them, I did not do anything in my free time. And now that I have very little free time, I want to spend every moment with them, despite the band. But I’m lucky to have both. Because on one side I have a family that gives me a lot of purpose and something to build. And on the other I have this group that allows me to travel the world and live my dream. And have these two things rock my life!
Perfect, thanks Tobias.
Tobias: Thanks to you.