Ghost – In the Shadows

Sunday, 31st March 2013

(This content originally appeared on in January of 2012)

Much ado about Ghost and their shtick, and that’s fine – we need a good one every now and then. The lengths in which the band goes to keep their true identities a secret is commendable, as is their proto-Mercyful Fate/classic metal concoction. On their Opus Eponymous debut, the Swedes come across less as a revelation and more as a defender of the 80’s metal faith, but when coupled with their mysterious image and penchant for theatrics, it’s a perfect storm in this climate.

The new year poses to be a pivotal year for Ghost, with an impending North American headlining run scheduled for January, to be followed up by their release of their sophomore album by summer/fall. After an aborted fall 2011 support with Enslaved in the rear-view, we snagged main Ghost man The Nameless Ghoul, but not after he had to secure “a dark basement” (his words) to chat. Read on… How bummed out were you upon cancelling your proposed North American tour this past fall with Enslaved?

The Nameless Ghoul: Yeah, things got really confusing right before the tour. Basically, in short, what happened was…being a band that is anonymous; it’s hard to justify all of this with immigration, which in turn, led to a slight delay in getting approval. When that delay went over the timeframe, the point of no return when you have to everything in order to commence your tour, we thought that things were so uncertain, we wished Enslaved to have a chance to find someone to fill in to do the tour. So we ended up cancelling and hoped that our visas issues are resolved, and now it’s a lot better. So this means you’re clear to hit the States in January. You’ve been over here before for a few gigs, but nothing of this scale. What are your expectations?

The Nameless Ghoul: I think it’s going to be really special because we’ve done so few headlining shows in the past. We’ve mostly done festivals and support gigs, and now we’re a part of a package. When you’re headlining, it’s a different thing. Production-wise, you’re allowed to do a lot more; you’re much more in control of your environment. Whenever you know the crowd is there for you and are fans of what you’re doing, it adds more cement to your style. Obviously, the key to rock ‘n’ roll is that you have give everybody everything every day, but people that are playing know that’s actually not true. Not having to use too many metaphors, but it’s sort of like a relationship…if you go out of a relationship and you’re saying “That was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever had” and then you hear the other part saying it was really mediocre, it shows that neither side is wrong. When you’re doing a show, every song needs a recipient. Whenever you have a large group of recipients, everyone is part of circle. You give and receive, so by headlining, it will be magical. As it stands, there’s quite a bit of appeal for Ghost in North America, so by what you just said, what’s the appeal for you in terms of playing here?

The Nameless Ghoul: Anybody living in the Western world and not living in America, you’re so fed with American culture throughout your whole life, which makes coming to the USA something slightly unreal for someone who’s never been there. The first time you go there or coming to New York, it’s basically like stepping into a film. All of us are very, very thrilled. We are fans of the music there, and the popular culture, so on a personal, it makes going to the U.S. a surreal experience. I think it goes hand-in-hand with a lot of the subculture traditions you have in the U.S. I get the impression that a lot of Americans are very much willing to be entertained in a way that a lot of people in Europe are not. We really don’t want to make opinions on certain nationalities, but it seems like with the U.S., you have your tentacles out more. There’s a willingness to be carried away into something. That’s why I think the buzz in the U.S. is slightly bigger than it is a lot of other places. The past year has clearly been your breakout year. Is there a tendency within the band to check out all the good press you’ve been receiving?

The Nameless Ghoul: In the beginning I was. Some members are more…but in the end, we are lucky we are living this lifestyle. We aren’t very metropolitan; where we live is a small town and most people that live here, don’t know about the band. But if you want to go out fraternizing in Stockholm with the hipster culture elite, you’d care about it more. We stay away from that kind of crowd. On the negative side, we miss out on a lot on culture, but it also makes a slightly more…I don’t want to use the word “exempt” in Ghost in this context, but I guess we are trying to be disassociated with a lot of the buzzing. We prefer enjoying some of that when we are out playing, because that’s when Ghost comes alive. At home, we don’t want to take part in that. It’s really not important. The whole aspect of the band being anonymous is crucial to what Ghost is about. Does it wear you out having to go to all of these lengths to conceal your identity?

The Nameless Ghoul: Yes and no. On a day-to-day basis when we are home, it can be slightly irritating at times when you have to justify what you are doing. Some of us in the band have experienced people telling us we have to quit our jobs. It’s hard to justify quitting your job because you’re pursuing a musical career, but nobody knows what band you’re in [laughs]. So it gives you an enormous loser tag right in your forehead and you have to say that with the loser tag, and you just fight it [laughs]. That’s one of the weird perks to being in this band. There’s a lot of people in your immediate surrounding that you don’t share a lot of information with. Being away for months at a time, obviously that’s weird when people don’t’ know what you’re doing.

On the positive side, you can be released of a lot the negative aspect of being semi-famous or recognized. Some things we are missing out on, but I’m glad to not be a part of that. I prefer being my own individual and doing things with my friends. Fortunately I’m doing this with a lot of my friends and whenever we choose to step outside of the bubble, we can easily do so. We don’t need to be entertainers or members of the band; nobody expects us to jump onstage the bar. Nobody knows…we could pass as roadies and it would be perfect. Living in the age of the Internet, it’s really easy to get information on just about anyone. Are you worried about information being leaked on you guys?

The Nameless Ghoul: As long as we don’t state publicly who we might be, we really don’t see it as a huge problem. We’re not on a worldwide “above the radar” basis. We’re still virtually unknown as a band, much different than in a Paris Hilton sort of way [laughs]. As long as we don’t have that as an attraction, there’s really not much [reason] in this group to unfold our true identities. Like a public statement would have to rely on us coming out, and as long as we don’t do that, we can keep on…not even denying, but not even commenting on rumors or what people say. Going back, Fenriz from Darkthrone was one of the first real champions of the band. Are you still in touch with him?

The Nameless Ghoul: I personally do not know him. I know the other members of Darkthrone [presumably Nocturno Culto] but not Fenriz personally. The band grew in a word of mouth manner, like through people such as Fenriz. Are you proud that by this method, the band has been able to grow so quickly?

The Nameless Ghoul: Oh, of course. Oh yes. Still, we even though we might have commercial aspirations and we’ve always been very transparent that we want to exist in a forum that’s slightly more production-oriented, which means we need to play in front of a lot more people. Which in turn, we need to go commercial ways. However, a lot of us have a very metal upbringing, so those outside of our metal audience, are hardcore. Obviously being a word of mouth band means a lot to us. We know that there are people out there supporting us, Fenriz being the first, Phil Anselmo and James Hetfield, who was probably the most well-known. That was completely unexpected because that’s the commercial support you can’t really buy, especially if you’re on a small label, you can’t expect anything. A lot of these things have been really overwhelming. What’s the status on the follow-up to Opus Eponymous?

The Nameless Ghoul: Most of the material has been written already. Throughout the production and writing, we’ve been using the word “divine” a lot. Whereas with the first album, the sound was slightly “wooden,” we want the new album to be stone and golden in terms of being lavished and divine. So we are trying to paint an even more solemn religion and there’s all sorts of dramatic steps forward. The first album is about the arrival of the anti-Christ, about a coming darkness. The new album will about a current darkness, the presence of the devil, how it relates to divinity and how it’s futile you grasp whatever is divine. Considering how successful Opus Eponymous was, are you prepared for what should be some extremely high expectations for this album?

The Nameless Ghoul: I can’t honestly say, but I think our sort of relaxed distance from what we’re doing professionally might show that we’re pretty well fit for survival. You never know. We are humans as well and we’re trying to make a record that’s supposed to be better than something a lot of people like, of course there’s some pressure. You deliberately have to try to want to remember why you are doing this in the first place. With the first album, no onehad any clue about us. So I think we’ll manage to do it; I think the new album will hopefully as confronting and polarizing as the first one. If it’s not, then it will be a waste of everyone’s time if we try to do 10 more “Rituals.”

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