It seems impossible to manage to talk about everything you want with one of the biggest acts of the rock / metal scene nowadays, in just 30 minutes. A voluble nameless Ghoul (or is it Papa Emeritus… ?) is being “interrogated” on the other side of the phone by Liliana Tseka and Giorgos Nimas.
Let’s start with “Meliora” album. It seems to be the most well received by fans and the press Ghost album. Did the feedback exceed all expectations?
I guess so yeah! I mean you can always have a good feeling before hand and, while it’s working usually, that good feeling is watered out every other day with the feeling of complete failure. I would like to say that we just fuckin rule, but there is always an element in what you just think that we might not rule and with that in mind we are obviously very happy with the outcome of the record. So, for now we pound our chest everyday saying that we rule!
In a social media debate I witnessed between haters and fans of Ghost, someone described the band as “edgy, accessible and fun”. Are those elements the key to your success?
I suppose so. I mean, it’s in the eye of the beholder, as they say…if they find us, edgy, accessible and fun that is probably true. I really don’t know what to say about that. I know what I think… what distinguishes us from any other bands. The thing that makes us stand as different to other bands that have a sort of outspoken and obvious dark element, is that most of the bands that are labeled as black metal bands definitely have a more solder agenda at their live shows. Usually the people there are supposed to have an acid bath and people are supposed to be aggressive. It’s more of an aggressive feel on the show and the outcome is like watching a sport event and a physical thing like training. We, on the other hand, try to achieve euphoria, we want people to laugh, we want people to smile, we want people to feel almost like they have been touched by some divine force. In a positive way. This positive energy is very different from the negative strings that are within most other bands that, sort of, represent satan, if you want to… That might be one thing that distinguishes us from many other bands.
Besides the guitar work, on which you have surely focused, I’d say that for everyone in the band this album is a step ahead in terms of performance. Is this the result of hard work or did the new songs bring out the best of you?
Both! We really wanted to step it up, we had a producer who was very eager to make us do that, because, I wouldn’t say that we were laid back in the past, but we know that we had more gear shifts in the change of ability. Sometimes it’s actually good to have somebody coming in and tell you that: “I know that you can do this better and please make it a little more complicated and a little more cooler” and you say “fuck you, ok” and you do that. During the pre-production and the recordings we had to practice a lot just to be able to step it up. So yes it’s hard work!
You seem to have blended 70’s and 80’s music with gothic, post apocalyptic and occult lyrical themes. How difficult was it to make such a solid and modern-sounding outcome out of all this?
I think we were aided by the fact that we don’t listen to a lot of contemporary metal, very little. I get the feeling that a lot of contemporary metal bands get very influenced by a lot of other contemporary bands and that’s why there is a sense, a smell of regurgitation in most modern metal, where we just try tapping into a lot of influences that we have, try to sort of disregard what was happening or what is happening today in music, but still try to make it sound very modern. This is very, very hard, because it’s hard to intellectualize what I’m saying, but that sort of disregard is aided by the fact that a we don’t listen to a lot of things that are around today and that the producer that we have is a pop music producer but he, himself is a big time rock fan and his rock tastes definitely end in 1991 or something like that. We didn’t have to care too much about what is going on inside our bubble, but still focus on trying to make it sound hard-hitting. That’s why we were able to translate something archaic, 70’s sort of retro influenced into something that doesn’t sound too retro.
I can’t stop thinking I have seen the new ghoul masks before… Was there a movie or something displaying something similar? Who designed them?
We designed them. We were very adamant about not spotting anything that you have necessarily seen before. As opposed to how we did it in the previous albums, where it was technically just masks that you can buy in a store. We wanted it to be more unique to our band. But it’s definitely influenced by a time and an era and you might recognize elements of that era in them.
They seem to me so aristocratic…
Yes, it’s supposed to be that and the era that we tried to emulate had a lot of elements of the antique and ancient Greece. So, from a Greek point of view, I’m assuming that you recognizing part of this era, because art deco was a lot about the ancient sort of forms.
Is the choice of the next Papa Emeritus for every album a difficult tusk? Do you take part on this and what characteristics do you think the next successor must have?
The next successor, ha? Well, I don’t want to talk a lot about the future, but we know where we are going and we have a quite good idea of what’s to come. But let’s put it like this: the clergy is the one who are responsible for that. We just live with their decisions when it comes to the choice of papas.
Watching one of the Nameless Ghouls giving an interview he said you don’t really have social lives together with Papa Emeritus. He sort of enjoys his isolation. Is this an advertising trick or is it really true?
No, we really don’t spend a lot of time with him. He appears and reappears just before the show and disappears after the show. That’s the truth. We travel even separately. He is an isolated kind of guy.
Is Ghost band supposed to be somehow the opposite of the Holy Ghost? Some kind of unholy ghost?
Well, originally the philosophy was that… you know how the Romans, when they dictated what was supposed to be Christianity, they added the hocus pocus element into it between men and god by adding the holy ghost because that was supposed to sort of explain everything they couldn’t explain and that’s the joker… you know, the card that makes everything ok and it was basically meant as the joker in between satan and antichrist in the unholy trinity. That was the original thought about Ghost, to be the medium in between.
Contrary to the first two albums, in “Meliora” not once do we see the words: “Satan, Lucifer, Devil”, though many of the songs evolve around him. Was that deliberate?
Hmm, there is a satan and there is a devil, or let’s say we used devilish words. But I think we used all our satans in the previous record… ok in the previous records. But there are many, many references to him or her.
So talking about Satan and Holy or Unholy Ghosts… I’d like to know what do you think religion is really bringing upon mankind? Is it necessary, is it a plague?
Linear religion is a plague that makes people evil. I think, however, religion as a whole isn’t necessary bad. It’s a way for us to understand what we don’t understand and to tag a lot of the phenomena that we cannot comprehend. I believe that there is a great deal of things that we simply cannot understand and one of the simplest questions to bring up to this discussion is what is happening after death? What will happen when we die? We don’t know, we have no idea and there is no reason to kill anybody because he has a theory of what is going to happen after you die, for where you wind up. The truth is that nobody can answer it and if anybody says that knows the answer to that, they are lying. They haven’t died, they don’t know.
Well, I guess this is humankind’s greatest fear. This is what religion is based on, no?
Exactly, and the greatest thing that we will never accomplish as human beings, is that we can’t collectively agree that we don’t know, we have no idea. That doesn’t mean we should treat each other like shit, but the problem is that certain religions have altered what in Christianity we call the ten commandments, basically they’re saying be nice, behave and you will be treated accordingly, which is just common sense, but that’s not a christian thing. The root of all evil is linear religion. That is the worst thing that ever happened to mankind. I’m not an atheist but my two selves, being the kid who loves science fiction and fantasy and this whole mix of it in rock ‘n’ roll, I wish for there to be a god and a devil and all these cool things, but my intellectual self says differently and I don’t want to have a bland life, I want to believe. I hope, I really hope that there is something. However, my intellectual self will probably say that it’s closer to actually how George Lucas explained it: ‘The Force’. Star Wars is no different from the bible: you brush it off like a science fictional tale just because you know who wrote it. I completely believe in the historical Jesus, he was a Buddhist, but he was “don’t” and that’s the problem. I believe he was right, but then people completely wrecked the whole thing. Power, money this is the construction of religion, this is the tool to fuck someone else. Ιt is there to fuck someone over.
Your last video “From the Pinnacle to the Pit” has an early 20th century vibe. Seems like it included scenes from an original movie, programming and filming too… Tell us about it…
Yeah, well it’s a couple of clips put together in a collage to tell a story and we wanted it to tie in the visual concept of the album, sort of art deco environment.
Sort of “Metropolis” or something like that…
We were inspired by “Madam Satan”, for example, and it was a very refined, futuristic vision that we wanted to emulate.
Thank you for the interview!
Thank you, too. Cheers!
*And before we started closing our questionnaire and saying our goodbyes…the manager just popped out of nowhere and told us that it is time to close because they are on tour. Till next time then!