It appears there’s some difficulty reading the English version on mobile devices so we just decided to copy & paste the entire interview below. Enjoy!
NOTE: This is only the attempt of an unofficial translation of A Nameless Ghoul’s words given to the Sweden Rock Magazine, published in april 2015. The translator did his very best, though claims not in the least any complete accuracy, neither literally nor figuratively. The purpose of this is solely and exclusively to delight the non-Swedish-speaking “Children of the world”
Sweden Rock Magazine #4 2015
In the pictures in this article the readers are confronted partly by Papa Emeritus II in a pope costume, partly by a Papa Emeritus II in a civilian dress in a home environment who moreover wears different wigs. This is certainly confusing for many of them. Explain how things are.
– It’s not more complicated than the fact that there is a Gene Simmons that you can watch in the tv-series “Family jewels” and another Gene Simmons that you can watch on stage, says a guitar playing Nameless Ghoul. Therefore it is the same person in the pictures. One of them is Papa II in an official, public perspective and the other one should be less public, but there are many people that have noticed his “stupidities”. And that’s funny, of course. It’s mostly hard for people to understand things. That’s what we have discovered and that’s actually what we’re playing with. That’s what the experiment results in.
– Our experiment according to the fact that we actually don’t display too much of ourselves. Yet we actually display much more than people understand, since this nevertheless is our band and our music. But we don’t offer the obvious things. Back in the day it was home stories and nowadays individual band members are keen on doing tweets, instagram and facebook as much as possible, because they can’t fucking refrain from getting attention. That doesn’t mean that we don’t want our band and our thing to become as successful as possible. But we are at least not really interested in distinguishing ourselves as individuals. It’s interesting how difficult this can be to deal with for the public. Now it’s just Papa II, who also wants to present himself. Here the band gets a profoundness, something people can be interested in.
This has been Papa II’s very last appearance in front of the camera before he got fired by Ghost and before he in the upcoming album will be replaced by Papa III. How did Papa II take this?
– In common with most people it is very hard for Papa II to realize his own limits and his own perish ability. Regardless of how colorful he wants to be and how much he even tries to be a rockstar, he will only be one as long as he is with us in Ghost. Afterwards he can do whatever he wants. But in this context his time is limited, exactly as the time of the first Papa was and the time of the third Papa will be. And of the fourth…
What were the thoughts on the new album, that will be released in the end of the summer or in the early autumn?
– Our concept is limited, thus you always have to embellish the language. For quite a while we had ideas about how we in a Iron Maiden manner could transform our ingredients – our mascot, our church on stage etc cetera – to different eras and forms so that it will feel interesting. It’s never really going to be King Diamond, it’s not a storytelling by these means, but rather that we try to put the listener into a perspective. The first album “Opus eponymous” (2010) takes place in an old-school church-catholic environment. “Infestissumam” (2013) takes place in some sorts Baroque-18th-century, with a church quite in keeping with the period with marble decor and Venetian masks. With the new one we’ll go into the future, into a pre apocalyptic period right before it goes to hell. As the digital age is so incredibly uninteresting and unsexy, we chose to do that out of a 1920’s future vision. That gigantic urbanic one, with skyscrapers and machines. A “Metropolis”- kind of world.
If the concept now is that narrow, is there something in it that you regret and from the beginning would have done differently if you had the chance?
– No. On the first record it was quite unannounced, because when the music was written we didn’t have any idea that this would become something built so publicly as it actually has become. Ghost was just a thought, alternatively that it could be done. When it was concertized like “this is something we really have to develop”, we discovered that the quite anal, pubertal expression of the first record is difficult to do more than once. I still think it is very good and I love this kind of music and theme. But it’s difficult to do more than one record this way. It comes to an end. Venom accomplished to do three pieces. We also have these kinds of songs on our records number two and three, but it’s difficult to do ten songs on one album this way. You have to embellish it. Already on the second record, and now even more, it’s not only about religion. It’s about people, about how people think and how people feel. Then the subject suddenly becomes much bigger. Actually you can sing about whatever that in some way relates to peoples feelings, development or lack of development, fight or situations. That’s the factual part. But there’s always a superficial plot and an underlying plot. That’s the way we construct the lyrics and the concept. Then this vagueness comes in and that’s why it is so difficult to keep up a straight intellectual line in the whole thing. The first record is pure worship lyrics, you try to paint a picture of the fierce Devil and the fierce hell. That basically made everybody who reads this magazine adore such things. There is Satan on a throne, skulls, crosses and snakes. That’s also very uncritical and doesn’t really create a perspective. But as soon as you take yourself more than a quarter of an hour for theological thinking, you realize that it’s very, very hard to actually determine good and evil. What is evil? Already in the newspaper today you can see an extreme amount of evil deeds that are being conducted in the names of good religions, while I can’t even think of more than maybe ten deeds ever that were done in Satan’s name.
In the last SRM-interview, in december 2013, you were open about words such as Satan in the lyrics having a negative influence on Ghost particularly in the USA, where radio stations don’t want to play the songs. Has that led to the consequence that Satan has disappeared on the new record?
– You have to read the lyrics to understand, besides the obvious songs “Majesty” and “Devil church”. What’s actually more diabolic? Is it “Deathspell Omega”, that no more than 500 people like? Is that the best way for the Devil to reach out? No fucking idea. Slayer, who has sold millions of records, is a better way for Satan to reach out, if we now assume that there really exists a being who’s only purpose is to reach out to as many people as possible. Even if Deathspell Omega got something from a purely artistically point of view, they are a theologically and especially philosophically much more developed mouthpiece. Here we return partly to what we spoke about in big terms last time: Philosophy and topic versus our will to succeed. And now Ghost stands and throws ball on a field which we try to get an idea of what it looks like. It’s interesting to figure out if you can change only small details and still say the same thing, or actually even worse things without people thinking of it. Our whole concept results in playing with the idea of an authoritarian religiosity, where there is an authoritarian being that defines what the listener and the spectator has to feel and think. A thing that we have worked a lot with on this topic is lulling the listener into believing that the lyrics are about something else than what they actually are about to evoke the idea of manipulation. Nevertheless there are loaded words that can disqualify us from the radio, there are even certain loaded words that can make the listener believe that we talk about one thing, while it actually is about something completely different.
Can you give an example?
– One of the new songs is called “Cirice”. If you pronounce it this way, it sounds like a name, like Clarice. Papa III talks to the listener and sings about an exterior threat and anxiety which he shares with the listener. And later, in a certain moment in the chorus, there is a linkage. “I feel how you feel. You and I, we cohere.” It automatically somehow gets intimate, almost like a romantic attachment. The point is that “Cirice” actually originates from the old English “Cirice” and that’s where the words “church” and “kyrka” have their source. That’s exactly how the church always did. They implement an overall threat and a solution for it. A concept of totality that keeps the subjugated in a fix, plain and simple. This is an example of how a song actually is disguised in a shape because it should be interpreted by the listener in a certain way but actually means something different.
Are there any backward messages in a Ghost song? Have you hidden something that nobody has discovered?
– In one of the new songs, “From the pinnacle to the pit”, we have a backward solo that I composed backwards and recorded backwards.
How did that happen?
– In the past bands were sitting in way too expensive studios with way too much time. It has become a similar process today, when you sit in a studio and make music more than you rehearse. There it easily happens that you stumble upon ideas since so much is going on during the demo process. One of the songs had a solo section that felt very conscientious and bleak. So we took a part from a previous section of the song, switched it backwards and put it there to illustrate a solo. Only because you during the demo stadium should be able to hear “aha, here there should be a solo guitar”. Otherwise there’s only an empty backing and the ear can be tricked and think that nothing happens there. That became something that survived the idea stadium: “Here there has to be a backwards solo.” For us it gets extra messy, since we basically stud everything to “sheer impossibility”.
In the last SRM-interview you said it was your plan that the american Nick Raskulinecz, who produced “Infestissumam” would come to Stockholm to record the third album.
– Yes, we intended that for quite a while but then felt that we should test to work with another producer. Nick is part of the category of producers who are more like cheerleaders. Who can encourage you and push you forward, so that in the end it sometimes gets better. It’s not unusual that the collaborations with theses sorts of producers result in so called intermediate records. The band is not getting challenged and just continues the same way. We didn’t want to allow ourselves to eventually get stuck in our development.
What kind of producer were you looking for instead?
– There are producers who more firmly insist that you as an artist and songwriter should try to take the whole thing to a new level. Who question previous methods and interfere. Of course this isn’t always fun or even good for the end result. It can probably even be really traumatic for some bands, because it’s often the ego and capacity that can be seen in detail. But it can also be a revolutionary happening, where the band takes it’s whole art to a new level. For example when Bob Ezrin suggested that Paul Stanley should not record his own written song “God of thunder” in it’s original discoformat. Instead of course, Gene Simmons should sing the song in a significantly heavier and slower version, because if there’s anyone in Kiss who should be seen as a god of thunder, it’s certainly Gene. Paul is smart and realized that, but there are many, many other rock band musicians that in a similar situation would trash their guitar into the wall, tell everybody to go to hell and then it gets how it gets. In short, this is the kind of producer that puts himself into the entirety and the purpose of things and matters and afterwards insists on underlining them. We found someone who usually doesn’t work like that or with a whole band, but who was interested in trying out a collaboration with us.
– Klas Åhlund from the Teddybears. We have had the eyes on Klas for many years. We like a lot of the productions he’s done, such as Robyn, and together with Paola he did the song “Above the candystore” in 2002 which was perfect. The first time I saw the Teddybears was at Skylten in Linköping in maybe 1994. Back then they were a hardcore band, so we knew that he at least knew what a distorted guitar is. But he was still a tabula rasa. When we connected with Klas and started the discussion, it turned out that he was a Uli Jon Roth fan and we had a lot of common references, such as Rainbow. Moreover he had never done a hard rock record, at least not that I know of, while we would have been last in line for all the other rock producers who we would have been interested in working with: Bob Ezrin, Bob Rock, Mutt Lange and Eddie Kramer.
How was the process working together with Klas Åhlund?
– He comes from an environment where he either works with his own stuff or with solo artists. He doesn’t work with bands a lot. Moreover hard rock and metal is new territory for him as a producer, which, I guess, is exciting for him. If you’re like Klas, it doesn’t work to have a band that enters the process with fixed rules for absolutely everything and he’s not supposed to do anything at all. And that’s why we wanted to work with him: he would be able to push the songwriting and thinking to a new level. We wanted to be questioned, something he did very well.
Can you give an example?
– A demo was written and recorded at home, just the way we usually do it, and he was very good at breaking up everything into smaller pieces and asking: “This riff, is it possible to make something more out of it?” – “I don’t know, is it?” – “Yes, it feels like it’s possible. Can you just sit down for an hour and make something more out of it? I feel that it should start here and end there, instead of start there and end there and then repeat.” – “Okay.” Then you had to sit down and work on it. Sometimes it was easy, sometimes really fun and sometimes… well, annoying. But sometimes it can be good to really go into the details. Most rock bands think that they know so fucking well what they’re doing. But the problem is, that they often don’t, because you can’t see things objectively. Especially as a guitarist and instrumentalist it’s easy to begin embellishing things sideways. A really good producer is good at putting himself in a spectators perspective. You need to have a central theme in everything, if you don’t want the music to become consciously noncommercial, so that most people can’t take it in. – It’s exactly the same thing with movies. There’s a reason why there is a certain dramatically structure in movies and most people think “oh, it’s so easy to anticipate what’s gonna happen”. Yes, that’s because most movies, in which the upcoming events are hard to anticipate, are small independent movies that go nowhere. They are really hard to watch because they are uncomfortable. They don’t follow the rhythm of how you want to experience a movie. That’s why the Ramones are so good. That’s why you want to drink beer if you listen to Accept. Because it’s infectious, you are being moved all the time. It’s not fucking possible to listen to AC/DC without standing up and jumping. It’s orchestrated in a way that makes it extremely easy to understand. You shouldn’t ignore that.
You’re talking about stuff that’s easy for people to take in. At the same time as Ghost has very poppy melodies and singing, the new album contains, just as the previous ones, many progressive components, which the average listener usually wouldn’t listen to.
– That’s right. That was also one of the reasons why the collaboration with Klas was the continuation of a trial-phase in which we tested each other until we decided to make the album together. He was very clear in saying that “there are a lot of elements and a lot of sounds in your style that I don’t want to change at all”. It was not like “shit dudes, haven’t you already sold a million records?! Remove that shit there and see how they’ll add another zero at the end”. That’s absolutely not how it was. He also wanted to keep building on the elements we’ve always had. Knowing that he didn’t just want to remove and retouch everything, created a bond of trust. We’re not going to change, we’re just going to underline things and try to do something that we all agree is even better.
So far I have only listened to a not yet mastered version of the upcoming album twice through a boombox that was connected to a laptop. What I could grasp according to the sound image didn’t feel as produced as you would expect it with Klas Åhlund involved. It felt quite organic.
– Yes, we think that the sound has become more organic than it was before. For some reason the drum sound was quite stiff on the two previous records.
The drum sound almost feels like it’s live.
– Exactly. I’ve seen the documentary “A year and a half in the life of Metallica” (1992) probably 150 times since I was young. When I watched it at a later point, I realized that a part of the thinking processes that Metallica had around the black album we had as well. That means that you realize how you have to put in air and orchestrate it in a way that the spectator can breathe in and follow a clear structure. You have to be able to follow to what is being said. Does the bassist say something important just there? No. So he can’t do that stuff because it disturbs. According to the drums we use to joke around that you can play like Phil Rudd or like Phil Collins. Phil Rudd plays kind of nothing. It is very simple and very effective if you are going to make simple music. His exact opposite is Phil Collins, because there are a lot of things going on.
Who did it become: Phil Rudd or Phil Collins?
– A mixture. We applyed it like “first we have to do a bit Phil Rudd and go simple and there you can start going Phil Collins”.
People who are reading this may get the impression of Ghost having made a more commercial, easily accessible record. But it rather sounds like you have become a little heavier. Do you agree?
– Yes, I think this record has more a mind of it’s own at least compared to the previous one. It has more in common with the debut album.
A mind of it’s own – is that because there’s a song that has obvious Manowarvibes?
– Yes, exactly. Only because of that. No, but many of the thoughts about how the songs and riffs came up coincidentally were quite similar to my way of thinking writing the first record. After that we have of course added a bunch of other stuff too.
How did Manowar come into the picture?
– Well, there’s not so extremely much Manowar in “Majesty”, the name of the song. It started with a beat that’s syncopated and that’s actually stolen from Mötley Crües “Shout at the Devil”. That’s just because “Shout at the Devil” was one of my first records. I always liked the primitive way of it. It started with that beat and so it was easy to come in with that riff. But sure, if you hear it, it’s easily possible that you make the “Manowar sign” – the one fist holding the other wrist. But on the other side there are other similarities in the song. A lot of the music that our crew writes is quite playful. As an example I can tell a story… or it may take too long.
– When the chorus for “Majesty” was written, it was like: “Satan, master, all beauty lies within.” When this chorus was written, we were in Nashville and recorded the previous record. Our assisting engineer was called Nathan. Long hair, beard, likes horror movies, likes weed, likes hard rock… One day he told us that he was on some kind of dating platform. “Damn, it’s so annoying because I never get to meet any pretty girls on this dating-platform.” I replied: “Did you write that you like weed, horror movies and hard rock? You know, it’s a little bit like you can trick them so you can… Screw it, don’t write that!” Simultaneously as we talked, I played the guitar and tinkled this chorus. So it came to this riff and after we’ve talked for some minutes, I sang to him like this: “Nathan, goddammit, all beauty lies within.” I thought “damn, that was quite good” and later changed it to “Satan, master, all beauty lies within”. A lot begins in this manner – with some joking. It’s the same thing with almost every song we’ve written.
In the previous SRM-interview you said that you were going to premier the new album with more guitars because the new Papa wouldn’t be as bound to the microphone during the concerts as Papa II was. Did that become the actual basis for the album, when it came to the point?
-Yes, I think so. It’s more guitar playing. Out of a guitarist’s perspective there were some elements on the previous record that didn’t work out live to one hundred percent. “Depth of Satan’s eyes is an example of a song with an extreme amount of guitar playing and riffs, but it doesn’t work live at all. We’ve tried it maybe ten to fifteen times and it never worked out. It’s not because we’re not able to play it, but because the audience for some reason dies there. With the risk of sounding cocky we can say that we have a lot of songs that work out really well live. If you then throw in something that doesn’t, it gets very obvious. Then and there the audience stops moving. You suddenly see how the people take the opportunity to go get beers.
So “Depth of Satan’s eyes” is consigned to the underworld together with Papa II?
-Yes, that’s what you could say. Back where it came from. Yet there are other ways you could do it in the future. You can see how many bands, especially on a much higher level, get a lot for free.
What do you mean?
– My big idols Metallica, Iron Maiden and the Rolling Stones have got songs where you can hear that “this one doesn’t work playing in front of 40’000 people”. Nothing’s wrong with the record, but that’s probably the reason why Metallica doesn’t play too much from “…And justice for all” live. There are long passages and when it comes to the fourth minute of the guitar riff without any singing it gets a bit dutiful. But it works anyway just because it’s Metallica, because there are 40’000 people there and because they have a whole outdoor stage for themselves that’s flashing to the beat of the song. If you would have watched them playing the same song at Pub Anchor, it wouldn’t have been the same thing. As a big band you get away with that, because you’ve got any number of fireworks, bombs and whatever you want to use to underline stuff for the listener and spectator. If the opening has been completely dark and then a whole bunch of white lights sweep across the whole audience when the chorus begins, it feels a lot bigger. Then it feels like a big chorus, even if it’s maybe not much bigger than the previous one. Um, what was it I was going to come to?
That there’s more guitar on the new album?
– Yes, exactly! On the paper “Depth of Satan’s eyes” contains more intricate, wicked tonal alterations than “Body and blood”, therefore, according to the hard rock standard, “Depth of Satan’s eyes” should be much more established. Nonetheless hard rockers are getting very happy hearing “Body and blood” live but not “Depth of Satan’s eyes”. That’s why it’s hard to say “as soon as we play a bit more hard rock riffs on a record, it’s going to get better or more go”. Now we’re sitting here with a new record that we haven’t played live 200 times, so I can’t swear what I’m saying is true, but it at least feels like it has several songs which have a stronger live momentum than the previous record had. About half the songs on the previous record are good live songs, while almost all of the songs on the debutalbum work out well live. I don’t know why that is. I still think that the previous record is good, you just get a completely different relation to it if you have been touring with it. That’s when everything gets concrete, just like in a relationship. If you meet a girl or a boy – go away and travel together. That’s when you usually realize if it works or if you fall out when you’re lying there farting in a tent. “Body and blood” is a good song to fart in a tent to.
The upcoming album even contains an old, previously unreleased song.
– “He is”, a ballad that was written on the couch without any thought of becoming a Ghost song. Afterwards it was a quite a process figuring out if it should become one. I was a pretty good friend of Selim Lemouchi from Devil’s Blood. Just before they did their second album “The thousandfold epicenter” (2011) we played some demos to each other. About “He is” I said: “No, this is probably not going to be a Ghost song. Devil only knows, I don’t know what this is, just a song, kind of.” He directly said: “This is a Ghost song. You have to do it with Ghost.” – “Aha. What the hell.” Later we tried to do it for “Infestissumam” but it didn’t come out well. We used a bit too much muscle power and changed it too much, just to compensate it to somehow become more Ghost. But for the new record we had more confidence.
Since it was Selim who said that, you were friends and he took his own life in march last year, did that have any influence on you being so intent on accomplishing this song?
– Yes, for my part, definitely. The signal he gave about the song was what I needed to get the feeling that it fits for Ghost. We always try to be courageous and stand on our own feet, but of course we also have some sort of compass, on which you don’t know if you can always rely. “Can we really do this? Is it too much or too little?” I think most people have this, but they don’t ventilate it out in public.
Usually you put references into your songs: homages, pastiches, straight on stealing and rearrange things. Have you used something from Selim and Devil’s Blood for “He is”?
– No, not at all. The original demo is from 2007, about from the same time when the first Ghost songs emerged. At that moment there was no concrete Ghost. There were songs and a name, but other songs were written parallel to it and they were not meant to be for Ghost. Selim has heard the original demo which was recorded with an instrumentation that doesn’t really match the one that Ghost has done. With Ghost we didn’t have acoustic guitars, but electric guitars throughout. When we later were about to do “He is” for “Infestissumam”, we tried to rearrange it in a Ghost format. Full with church organs and so fucking “scary”. It didn’t work out, because the song wasn’t written that way. For the new album we have more or less imitated the original demo. So no, we haven’t stolen anything from Devil’s Blood. It’s more out of an emotional perspective. Whereas the lyrics are affected by him and people like him. It’s quite suicidal regarding the lyrics. Concretely it is about a couple that takes it’s own life.
Many musicians in these circles have taken their own lives. How do you and Ghost think about suicide?
– I think that most people with an “alternative” lifestyle at some point had a difficulty that seemed so big and insurmountable that you have taken in consideration how it actually would be if you would make an end with yourself. I’ve done that too. I think that lies lately in everybody, that there is an ultimate limit. On the other hand I have realized that if you get a bit older, you know that “screw it, it mostly passes”. It feels so extremely impregnable when you are between 15 and 18 years old, because you don’t have any perspective at all. But if you are 27 years old, you have both dumped and been dumped several times and you know that it’s tough for half a year and then you move on to something different. Of course I have been lucky as it turned out pretty well at the end. Right now my life’s good, but if I had to go ten years back in time, I see a pitch-black gloom. I wouldn’t say that I was suicidal, but if there hadn’t happened something that drew me to another direction back then, I could have gone there too. I ache enormously with somebody like Selim. That someone I feel very empathetic for thought that everything was so worthless that he was forced to take his own life is a sorrowful insight. We weren’t exactly neighbors and only met at certain occasions. If you live this lifestyle as a touring and travelling man, you have a lot of people who you are close friends with when you meet, even if you don’t spend time together the same way as normal people do with their best friends. You have a bond with each other, you don’t have to clarify that “we’re on the same side”. It’s sorrowful to notice that someone during the three months in which you haven’t heard from each other felt so bad that he chose to take his own life. That’s very tragic.
As travelling and touring people, which friends did Ghost bond with?
– In 2012 we did an extremely intense tour with Opeth and Mastodon. All the bands and all the crews fit very well together, so it was a terrific atmosphere. I actually never thought anything of Opeth. I thought it was an interesting band and when I listened to them I always thought that they were really good out of a musical perspective. But after the tour I came home and I was forced to take comfort in listening to Mastodon and Opeth. Gladly even through a closed door, so that it sounded about the way it sounded every day in the loge when it just blustered. Back home I was later sitting with Mastodons “The hunter” and jumped into the shower, because that was the way it sounded during the tour. It became a comforting process to sit and listen through a bunch of Opeth songs. Beyond that tour I have to say that Iron Maiden are terribly nice, even if they are that adult, older band that arrives in an airplane a bit later. You at once feel totally at home there.
I got the impression that Bruce Dickinson only shows up a quarter of an hour before the concert starts. But you hung around with the band in that case?
– You get the impression that they just come and go. They never really are an assembled company, in any case not that I would have noticed. If you play with them you can stumble upon any of them sitting and eating and then they want to sit and talk anyway. They aren’t “dudes”, but “blokes”.
What does Iron Maiden say about Ghost?
– I don’t know if Bruce Dickinson or Steve Harris had seen Ghost or heard about us. Then we were asked to do several festival gigs and gigs. Iron Maiden are very British and their crew is super Britannia. We have got a British crew, so that already did half the job. That’s why it’s unbeatable to have a British crew, since most other bands do as well. Then it just continued and we got loads of gigs with Iron Maiden. If you get to know people and then don’t do stupid things all the time, you get a lot done. There are so many people who think that you in these kinds contexts can come in and keep doing bullshit. You can get quite far by not acting like an idiot, plain and simple.
This year’s Sweden Rock Festival is going to be the very first appearance of Papa Emeritus III and the live premier for new material. Will you release a single before the festival?
– Yes, we’ve put that as a requirement. We’ve played previously unknown songs for people once before and that was strange. Everything dies and you can lose energy. But there’s not going to be a whole lot of new stuff at Sweden Rock Festival. We want to save some stuff.
Is Papa III only going to be a singer or is he going to do something else live?
– Yes, he will dance as well. Unfortunately there are reasons to believe that he is not essentially different from Papa II because he is Papa II’s three months younger brother. That says more about their father than about them… Papa III has proven to be superior to Papa II anyway. But we’ll have to see. He probably won’t play an instrument. The “skinflute” maybe…
I’M A COVER
It all started with the Beatles “Here Comes The Sun”, that was first released on the Japanese edition of the debut album “Opus eponymous” and quickly became a big live favorite. After that there followed the cover-EP “If you have Ghost” in 2013. Why do you think that so many people think that Ghost has been so successful with covers?
– A quite common misunderstanding is that a cover should be as similar as possible to the original, says a Nameless Ghoul. This becomes so obvious in the world of hard rock where this is the case in eight of ten examples. The end result there is mostly a much worse version of the original, because there is so much in the original expression that you associate to the song. That’s why it’s mostly condemned to death to do a cover. We think that it’s fun to challenge songs and take a song which leaves more to wish for in it’s original realization. It’s obviously not possible to do a lot with “Bohemian rhapsody”. Bob Dylan on the other hand is a typical songwriter who’s songs actually can be improved by a covered version. Bob Dylan is a daaamn good songwriter – and now someone can shoot me – but he is not an awfully good artist. That’s why Jimi Hendrix’ version of “All along the watchtower” mashes the original.
What are you specifically looking for in songs to see if they’re suitable for a reinterpretation?
– There has to be some sort of allusion to our aesthetics in the lyrics. In the context of our first album, when the concept was a bit more narrow, we started with the Beatles “Here comes the sun”. After that the concept has been extended more and now we begin to incorporate more elements in our lyrics. It’s not only lecture out of the bible anymore, but rather everyday realism. A way to make our repertoire a bit more delectable was, using covers, en widening the repertoire with other’s lyrics, which don’t necessarily allude to religion. Army Of Lovers “Crucified” for example isn’t about being crucified at all, but the lyrics have words which figuratively paint the idea of it.
– Musically a song needs to have something that we want to change, underline or highlight, otherwise there’s almost no point of dealing with it. That’s why it feels completely out of date to make a cover of Black Sabbath, Judas Priest or Mercyful Fate. We have nothing to add to those kinds of songs.
Have you recorded any new covers?
– Not yet, but we will, most likely sometime before Sweden Rock Festival. Working with Klas Åhlund we only focused only on the actual album. We’re not sure about if we’re going to release them as actual b-sides or how we’re going to do it.
Can you reveal something about them?
– Amongst others there is a song by Leonard Cohen and one by Imperiet. Dark songs, melancholy and dejection.
But in that case Papa III has to sing in swedish?
– No. Imperiet did a release abroad which hardly anybody knows today. There’s a song, one of our favourite songs, that only a few have heard. It’s not their most famous song, but something I think we can do pretty well. We’ll see, you never know.
Ghost’s upcoming album was partly recorded at Benny Anderssons studio Riksmixningsverket. On the picture below Björn Ulvaeus is standing there holding the 10 inch “Secular haze”, its flip-side is a cover of Abbas “I’m a marionette”. Do you know if others have heard your interpretations of their songs?
– I don’t know if Depeche Mode (“Waiting for the night”) or Roky Erickson (“If you have ghosts”) have heard our versions. On the other hand, I know that George Harrison’s wife gave a thumbs up for “Here comes the sun” (written by Harrison who died in 2001). In Sweden you’re allowed to cover whatever and release it as long as the STIM-declarations are correct. In the US by contrast everything is petty and it’s very important that everything is authorized so that you can release a cover. In the case of Ghost it gets potentially problematic, because some can take it as an insult and see it as a context that they don’t want their song to appear in. George Harrisons wife was contacted and she somehow thought that it was okay.
But she probably doesn’t know that Papa Emeritus actually sings “Here comes the Son”? If she knew that, she would probably not have authorized the release.
– No, exactly. But he only sings that, it’s not written anywhere.
Who is the Son being referred to?
– It’s an allusion to the Antichrist. Or Jesus, if you want. It’s the whole idea of the Son as the savior. Or doom. It’s so terribly funny to work with dual natures, and that a song which is so hopeful in the original version becomes so heavy and dystopic only because we have changed the music.
Nowhere else in the world, on this side of the millennium change has a band appeared that has so quickly become such an incredible collector’s band. In some cases the prices just exploded. What do you think, why did that happen?
– I very often reflect on what I think is fun to collect. I make things which I would have reacted to and found interesting out of a collector’s perspective. It’s very possible that this is implemented by what others think about what we’ve done, speculates a Nameless Ghoul. Besides that I have to admit that the proportions that some of the transactions have taken are crazy. Sometimes it’s strange and bizarre just because it’s something that you’ve done yourself. Moreover I would have difficulties to value something that’s not even five years old as that valuable. On the other hand I also buy records that are expensive and have friends who have bought records that are so expensive that you can not believe it. If I’d found them and had the money back then, I would also have bought them.
The die hard box version of the debut album “Opus eponymous” (300 copies) today costs between 2500 ($100) and 3500 ($140) Crowns. Earlier this year the single “Elizabeth” (50 copies) in clear vinyl was sold for about 10’000 Crowns ($400) and the same single in red vinyl (50 copies) for about 9’000 Crowns ($360). You can even get Bathory’s “Yellow goat” cheaper.
– Yes, exactly. I mostly wonder where those 50 copies went. I remember when “Opus eponymous” was released and came out as a die hard version. When the record release was announced, many friends said “I’m going to want this die hard box”. “Yeah, okay, of course”, I said, not having any perspective on things. If I don’t misremember it, the owner of Rise Above – our record label back then – Lee Dorrian (most known as singer of the former band Cathedral) sent our copies home to me when the album had already been released. When I got the parcel with maybe fifty die hard boxes, it had already been sold out for several weeks. And it already started increasing in value. At once a problem arise. I promised to give away some boxes, plus I promised that some people could buy their boxes from me. If I even had some copies left, how much was I supposed to charge for them? The box was already being sold for maybe 1’000 Crowns ($40) and I can’t take 1’000 Crowns ($40) from a friend for buying a record from me, one that I had released myself. That’s just impossible. And that is how it came that nobody could buy the box, instead I gave away the boxes as birthday presents. It’s the same thing with the few “Elizabeth” singles that I still have at home. They’re cool presents to give away or cool exchanges at some occasions. I can’t consider them as money.
Referring to a selfie of Ghost with Snoop Dogg How did Snoop Dogg come into the picture?
– Yes, I wonder that too, says a Nameless Ghoul. People can think whatever they want about what we sing about and how much crotch you are allowed to have on a record cover etc cetera, but in this case you even have to ask yourself: “Is this a good context to be seen in, with someone who has directly spoken terrible ideals concerning gender?”
Was it Papa II who took a selfie of Ghost and Snoop Dogg?
– Yes, it’s possible that it was his initiative. Papa II always just goes for it. We did a festival together in Australia where they played. He or they – I don’t know exactly how this should be seen, because there are 40 people attached. I don’t get what all those people are doing there. They just hang around and then they have some kind of party. And drive around. Snoop Dogg and Papa II put together their parties and it was a real “ass-shaking”.
Did Snoop Dogg know Ghost or was it more like “who are these funny characters…”?
– I don’t know how well read he is. He knew who we were when he arrived, but I don’t know if that was because somebody had told him. He thought it was fun. His touring manager is even the manager of Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein (ex-Misfits), so I can imagine that the touring manager has played Ghost for him.