Q&A with Ghost’s Tobias Forge before the El Paso show | Way of life
Swedish heavy rock star Ghost arrives in El Paso, co-headlining alongside Volbeat at 7 p.m. Monday, February 28 at the Don Haskins Center with special guests Twin Temple.
El Paso Inc. caught up with the band’s frontman, Tobias Forge, who onstage leads the band of nameless ghouls as the evil Papa Emeritus IV. He opened up about Ghost’s upcoming fifth album, “Impera,” his love for “divorce rock” and whether he’ll ever work with Taylor Swift’s producer.
Q: Tell us about your love for Blue Öyster Cult.
I think the BÖC thing was a bit overdone because people early in our career were skeptical. They thought we were copying everything from them because we were doing some kind of 70s rock with tight vocals on it.
It’s by no means a disagreement with BÖC, I’m a fan, but they never really meant as much as people think. I really like 70s divorce rock – big grown man rock as opposed to punk rock. … In general, bands like Boston, Foreigner or Genesis are probably higher on that kind of AOR list for me.
Q: Did you call it “divorce rock”?
Yeah! Because they were always talking about divorce. They were always talking about love. If you listen to Boston, Journey, Kansas, Toto, it’s always grown men getting divorced. … It’s always ‘Oh Diane! We spent a few years together…’ you know?
That’s why I call it adult rock. It’s a good hi-fi system, well produced, with very good vocals. I love that stuff, and Ghost has always been inspired by that, combined with younger extreme rock, punk and metal that has a bit more of a teenage bite to it.
Q: Many metal bands are afraid of getting too catchy, but bands like Ghost and Volbeat often have catchy teeth. Does any of it come from Sweden, where a lot of pop music producers/writers come from?
I am very radio. I had popular youth culture from day one. There were no borders. I was exposed to a lot of music.
My mom was born in the 1940s, so she had all the 60s stuff: Beatles, Stones, Pink Floyd, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Neil Young. My brother was a big music lover. I got hard rock and punk rock from him. He was also very fond of pop music.
All of that combined is definitely why Ghost is what it is. It’s a combination of top 40 rock music from the 80s – and it can range from Nik Kershaw to Survivor. “Total Eclipse of the Heart”, “Shadow in the Moonlight”, “Owner of a Lonely Heart”.
Q: It’s funny that you mention “Total Eclipse of the Heart” because Bonnie Tyler covered a Blue Öyster Cult song on “Going Through the Motions”.
I think what’s really polluted the (metal) genre over the last 40 years is that a lot of bands have always played rock to sound like a specific band. In the 70s every band wanted to sound like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple or Black Sabbath, depending on your level of stoner I guess.
Or, if you like makeup, you wanted to look like Kiss or The Sweet. In the 80s, you had your Judas Priest fans, your Maiden fans, your Venom fans, and your Kreator fans.
If you go down to the demo level of bands that never really made it, they sound like a clone of those bands. And if you look at a group photo, they’re all wearing that group’s shirts.
I’ve always wanted – even in my old death metal bands – to combine influences. Everything I listened to was there, like melodies. They were hidden, but I could still point to something like, a transition that was taken from Blondie or whatever…
Ghost is a bit more androgynous, and that can be a bit of a red flag for some people.
Q: Have you ever wanted to work with Max Martin, the producer of Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, P!nk, The Weeknd and Coldplay?
That would be great! We’re kind of in each other’s orbits. Klas Ahlund (producer), with whom I made two records, is very good friends with him. …
One thing that’s important to know about songwriters and co-writers is that the ones I work with are the ones I have a relationship with and have worked with before. We work together because we have something…
I tried to write with others, but it doesn’t work, because if you don’t have a spark, then it doesn’t work.
Q: Each Ghost record had a different producer until now. What prompted you to return to Klas?
The thing is, you have to keep moving so you don’t get stuck in a friendly, comfortable mode. “Meliora”, the record I made with Klas, was really good, but the recording and the production itself left a few things for improvement. …
When it came time to record “Impera,” the writing and demo had been done in 2020. But in early 2021, the American producer who was supposed to make the record couldn’t come because of travel restrictions, and I couldn’t go to America.
And because Klas is also a very programmed person, he had a failed project. All of a sudden, he had a few months off, and I was like, “That’s good, because I don’t have a producer, would you like to produce the record?”