Ghost's Nameless Ghoul: "I think it might be a healthy move to stay anonymous'...

Grab your king-sized nappies - I'm off to interview Ghost!

I got a bit excited when I was told I’d be interviewing a member of Ghost in their dressing room. ‘Surely there’s all manner of satanic action happening in their trailer’ I thought as I weaved my way through the back-stage area. As it turned out there was just an esky of Coopers Pale Ale and a random bowl of fruit; no virgin sacrifices, no inverted burning crosses – not even a Goat of Mendes to offer the obscene kiss to. But my disappointment quickly changed to joy as I quizzed one of the guitar-playing Nameless Ghouls, still dressed in his full-stage outfit ; as you probably guessed, he didn’t give me his name.

My first question was concerned with anonymity; do you have an issue with the fact that off-stage you’re completely unrecognisable? He answers in an eloquent fashion, with a gentle, Swedish accent. “Not really. In theory, it’s one thing but being in a band that’s gone from nowhere to somewhere and also seeing a lot of things going on, when you see other bands and how they evolve and react to some level of success, I think it might be a healthy move to stay anonymous.”

Opus Eponymous has certainly grabbed our collective attention, what can we expect from the new  album? “We deliberately tried to – I’m not saying over-analyse – but we really strove to stay within the mind-frame that we had on the first album, without in any way replicating that, because it was very important for us to remember that Opus came out of playfulness, and it was very important not to ‘shun away’ from an idea just because it wasn’t heavy enough or it’s not ‘this or that’ enough, or it’s too much of ‘this’.”

It sounds like a juicy ‘mixed bag’ of delight. How will it fit into the live repertoire? “As for Opus, it’s nine tracks but it’s eight songs, and we felt that each song had its own unique flavour, and we tried to have The Who’s thinking; each song should be a hit, and not just fill it out [the album] with ‘a mood’…” he laughs playfully from beneath his spooky black mask. Is he planning to sacrifice me afterwards? I don’t know but the thought gets me all twitchy, distracting me as he continues “…and that’s the sort of thing we went with on the new album. So it’s gonna sound like ten other songs; all combined I think it will probably make a good 15 or 16 song live set.”

And what is the evil message that Ghost is keen to spread? “The first layer of it? The first, and literal, layer is, of course, orthodox Satanism but I think a lot of people tend to forget that there might be several layers to what we’re saying. It’s always complicated when you  have such an orthodox view on anything. If you want to match that up to any intellectual [concept]; it’s hard to intellectualise if you take everything literally.”

And what are some of the other layers/messages in the Ghost soundtrack? “I like to think that all of our songs, more or less, have a literal meaning and a subliminal meaning - I really hate to say ‘moral’ because that’s not we’re preaching or what the show is about – but for example, Stand By Him, literally it’s about witches, subliminally it’s about human and male stupidity, because it’s about the beholder judging who is a witch and who is not.”

When I ask if he’s concerned that some people may only get the outer message, as opposed to the inner one, he shrugs philosophically saying  “..anybody who doesn’t have a complete wind tunnel between their ears understands that just because it’s not as orthodox as the literal first peals, it doesn’t mean that it’s the exact opposite, it just means that the concept of divinity, philosophy and spirituality is way bigger than that.” I’m not even sure what that means but I don’t have time to clarify. I must push on before my ten minutes are up.
So would you describe yourself as a spiritual person? “It’s not really important what we as individuals think but obviously we come from a background, a way of thinking that creates the subliminal message; whatever that is. A lot of people historically would call it devil worship, just because of its unfearful ways of approaching the christian god, thus it’s very real and very honest. But it all depends on how you look upon it, and that’s the concept of Ghost, for lack of a better phrase; it’s supposed to fuck your mind.” So one man’s god is another man’s devil? “Right.”

So how do you chat up the ladies/men/altar boys when you’re not recognised? “We just have to rely on our ‘girth’; our charm and our girth…” He’s laughing so that means he probably won’t cut out my heart and offer it, still beating, to Lucifer. I’m relieved.

When I ask about the allure of the retro sound, Mr Nameless Ghoul explains “There are certain bands that are very commonly mentioned because we sound exactly like them, which I think is, in one way, flattering. Of course we’re fans of Mercyful Fate; of course we’re fans of Blue Oyster Cult, however I think the field of influences is way wider than that; especially in the beginning when we were automatically put in the ‘doom’ category - now just because of our steps forward they choose not to call us ‘doom’ anymore just because doom is not supposed to be commercial.”

Aside from the usual suspected influences such as Witchfinder General, Pentagram, and St Vitus, he tells me that “Regardless of what we personally listen to, it has very little to do with influences on the band; the general cluster of rock is not very eclectic; we have very basic classic rock references in terms of influences, like The Beatles, The Doors, the big bands, and I think that might be one of the confusing factors for people…but one of the instances where I think the influences differ, which might be a source of our different ‘flavour’ might be the heavy influence from classical music, and also, as opposed to a lot of stoner bands and classic rock bands, we have our roots in underground death metal. That also adds like a different kind of scar that a lot of other bands can’t associate with; they don’t know about Incubus or Necrophagia; they don’t know what that is and they’ve never heard it. So that adds flavour – also new wave stuff; Echo and the Bunnymen, stuff like that…”

Echo and the Bunnymen? Now that is satanic.

So when can we expect the new album to be available? “I know it’s out on April the 9th in the US,” adding the rather bizarre fact “because they release all their new records on Tuesdays.” Before continuing “So I guess it’s Monday April the 8th in the UK; April the 10th in Scandinavia and all that, I’m assuming it’s the same week in Australia.” So early April? Start saving your pennies, boys and girls.

So what would you do if you ever leave Ghost? I hear that Papa Emeritus (the First) has departed; would it be hard to prove you were a member? “I was thinking about that! Obviously that’s one of the weird elements of being in a band that doesn’t really take credit in a personal way. We understand and we are realistic enough to know that this is not something that’s going to go on forever. We also know that, as much as this band might not be around forever, we also know that the anonymity aspect of it might hard to maintain; we’ve been walking very much on the mercy of everybody that we meet who are kind enough not to screw us, because obviously when you’re in the festival area and just playing with other bands, it is hard to maintain that [anonymity].” He expresses an awareness that there are some folk who are only interested in exposing the men behind the masks but he is realistic about the risk. “We count on it that some day we might not be anonymous backstage – but there’s a clear difference between being unmasked, and being unknown – so there might come a day when we can longer do it like this. But until then, it’s fun to do it as long as we can – as long as we don’t take the masks off in front of a camera and say ‘It’s me! Where are the chicks?!’