Ghost’s Nameless Ghoul: New Album Will Be Darker, Thematic Successor to ‘Meliora’ [Interview]
A Nameless Ghoul of Ghost was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program. The cloaked figure discussed the band's latest EP, Popestar, and covering acts like the Eurhythmics and Echo & the Bunnymen as well as the response from fans. The Nameless Ghoul also indicated the direction the band's next album will take and how it plays on the themes presented on Meliora. Check out the chat below.
How are you?
I'm fine, thank you. How are you?
Doing really well. Really excited to see you, Grammy Award-winning — how awesome is that? Does it blow your mind?
Every day. I woke up this morning, cheering. [laughs] It's great, of course. It's a big thing, especially for where we are from. It means a lot.
Ghost recently released a new EP, it's called Popestar. It's out now. When "Square Hammer" came out, I like how it seems to be a new thing with bands to just sort of, "Hey surprise! We have an EP and here's a song and boom." The song came out and it was like, it's different and very unique. I think it's doing quite well for you. Do you guys make a conscious decision as you continue to create more music to evolve, or are you like, "This is our sound and this is what we're sticking with?"
Being the main songwriter I tend to want to write songs that will complete our live show. So it's almost like a double perspective, where on one hand you have to write a record, an album or a collection of songs. Downloadable in a certain order that will be compelling and tell sort of story or have a certain dramaturgy.
But with "Square Hammer" is definitely an example of myself and us as a band, you pick up on the vibes needing a straighter song. Ever since we started touring six years ago, we've always opened up with the opening track of the album. Every album has started with this weird like, upped waltz prog number, which is great. Fine. It's fun. It's cool but you want a "Run to the Hills" in there as well. That's why I guess you — when the embryo of "Square Hammer" came up, which was just that riff. That's how it started. I basically hummed that into my phone. It sounded probably exactly like that, I think I still have the file somewhere.
"Square Hammer," definitely a standout. Talk about what it's like when you're writing. You mentioned how you recorded the melody into your phone. I'm sure you do that quite a bit, how do you go from that to what ends up being the song?
In my head it's set immediately. Oh it's gonna be some sort of passenger, basically the same riff almost throughout the song. You cannot have a riff like that and surround it with this 20 minute epic journey. It just had a quick quirkiness to it. Let's just make this a really, really straight song. Let's make it a one single track.
It arrived too late to go on Meliora anyways. But still, it fell into sort of the same thematics. It's a good thing to release a song in the middle and that will revamp the whole — I hate to say this album cycle, but definitely from our touring point of view, where we've opened up with the way more complicated spirit for a year and then all of a sudden you have a "Square Hammer."
Being on tour does a lot of things to a band. That's why I honestly believe that most bands go through a similar thing. That's why the most anal sort of puritans of metal always complain about bands getting bigger but what's usually happening is that the club band that does a record, or a few records being a club band and then they grow into bigger venues, they normally go for a more commercialized sound.
Commercial doesn't necessarily mean they only write songs only to sell records. It's basically — you want to play music that works well with a bigger crowd. Like, physically and you want it to sound good in a big room. I'm sure that's why the 'Black Album' sounds different from ...And Justice For All, because all of a sudden then were playing these big, boomy arenas and when you play — I love hearing "Battery" or their thrashiest songs ever, but Enter Sandman sounds way better and bigger in an arena. It's a natural way. You hear that on Maiden as well. As soon as they started getting bigger, the songs started getting straighter and it just worked in a bigger environment.
The "Square Hammer" video really shows every side of the band. Would Ghost be possible without your obvious sense of humor?
Not live. There's also a differentiation there between — in my world there's a clear divide between our live show and our media presence and our actual records. Our records are usually way more serious. They're a little bit more in script, sort of. Whereas all those songs sort of get thrown into a new concept in the live show where we mix it all together. Then it's a more — it has a different drama to it. So I don’t think it'd be good if we didn't have a sense of humor in the show. That wouldn't fly.
The new Popestar EP covers the Eurythmics and Echo and the Bunnymen. What makes a metal audience respond to Ghost playing pop music?
So far the majority of the comments that I have seen I should say, I sort of shut off pretty quickly. I usually follow the first day, just to get a feel or get the gist of this is sort of what people think. Then I just stop. So far it seems like — I mean, if there's one good thing about modern ways of consuming music, I must say that people are generally across the board a little bit more open-minded.
People listen to songs more. That's the bad side. I want people to listen to albums. I want everything to go back to 1984, but if I can't do that at least the good thing about it is that people are more open-minded, generally when it comes to music. When whereas in the past when you had to choose your records, you chose what — you were a little bit more Trump-ish. You went for what you knew and didn't question a whole lot. I never felt like we were getting stick from our fans, but if you go on Blabbermouth you'll always have some smart person sitting there saying everything is gay.
Some people who comment on certain sites think their job is to be a music critic without actually getting paid for it.
That's the magic of the Internet.
Ghost albums have been thematic. The last one, Meliora, was about the absence of God. Do you already have an idea for the overall theme of the next album?
And I'm not going to tell you.
Let's just say that it's a continuation of Meliora, but it's sort of a response. I've used the word "pre-apocalyptic" on Meliora. It's sort of the hide of civilization. It's the symbolism, just look at the cover. It's sky risers, everything. You don't even see the ground. It's all covered and built material. Obviously there has to be an end to that. So there will be a call and response. The next album will be the response to that. So if there was an absence of a God, there might be a return of a deity, which usually comes in horrible forms. So it will be a darker album.
Have you had this vision of where you were going to go record to record to start with? Or are you as you go along?
Both. A little of both. In the beginning it was a little more shooting from the hip, just making the songs for the first album I had no idea where it was going. But then as it materialized from nothing to something in the sense that all of a sudden we were a touring band and wow, this is a job apparently. Then obviously you need to quickly reassess and I think — even though I'm immensely proud of the first album that I guess there were a few things on there that had that been — had I known before hand, lyrically some of the things that were said in there was going to be resulting in material you were going to play for potentially for the rest of you life, it might have looked different. That's why I'm glad we never knew. The album came out of a purity and a naivety that obviously you cannot fake. Then obviously as quick as — Infestissumam was starting to shape up the writing a little. With Meliora there was definitely more of a point. Way more of — this is basically how I want to describe or the mindset I want to put people in.
Talking about the anonymity of the members of Ghost, your anonymity is great for pulling pranks like twin siblings pretending to be each other, things like that. How have you amused yourselves like that?
I don’t think it's funny at all. It's just a nuisance now.
I'm sure it's difficult to keep that going.
From a practical point of view, of course it would be more convenient to just be a normal band and you can put a fly on the wall as they say and just let it happen and just be yourself. Everything nowadays is about content, content, you listeners, means online chatter about clips, news, a picture. Anything that creates likes, comments and content.
If we were a so-called normal band we could create 20 posts a day just filming what we just ate and how it looked when it came out. We're here now, we're doing this and all the sort of unnerving, hysteric things that most people do. From a personal point of view I'm very happy they were not. Or at least I am not personally doing that. I have no Facebook, I have no Twitter. I don’t have Instagram and I have an old Hotmail address. I am very — I manage to dodge the whole social media thing, which I'm happy that I'm not. Obviously I live in a world where it surrounds me, so I know what's going on, but I don’t follow it.
I'm sure there's something that's really healthy and awesome about that.
I definitely think there's definitely a backside to the modern world of social media. I think some people that didn't have a social life before, probably might have had magical things happening to their lives which I fully bless and condone, absolutely. If you were a sad person before and now you have a social scene, absolutely fantastic. Information to the people, right. Fantastic. But I know so many people who are so unhappy because of it.
It ruins marriages, I think.
For the majority of the people who used to have somewhat of a working life situation in the past, I don’t think we know yet the downside. We think of conveniences as something that helps us, but the more conveniences that we bow for in our lives, the less purpose we have as persons. Uber is great but Uber will suck if Google is going to make self-running cars with Uber in it. That is just one example of how we dive headfirst into conveniences that end up biting us in the ass.
There's a new album in the works as well, yeah?
Looking forward to all that is to come with Ghost, thank you so much.
Thank you for having me.
Thanks to A Nameless Ghoul for the interview. Grab your copy of Ghost's 'Popestar' EP at Amazon or digitally through iTunes and keep up with all the band's activities by following their Facebook page. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show at this location.
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