Ghost mastermind Tobias Forge is Loudwire’s pick for the Metal Artist of the Decade. To discuss Ghost’s epic progression from underground doom favorites to an arena phenomenon, Forge sat down with us to reveal exactly how he plotted Ghost’s ascension.

Ghost’s first show took place at Germany’s Hammer of Doom festival in 2010. Looking back on the gig, Tobias called the inaugural live ritual “very, very hectic.” He adds, “We didn’t know each other, as a group. We had been rehearsing for fucking three weeks or something … It was a very hard crowd. It’s not like Argentina when everyone’s just crazy and screaming and jumping around. When we got to London, the day after, the crowd was absolutely avid. There was an explosion when we played.”

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“I was very determined to prove that we were not a hype."

The success of Opus Eponymous brought a hype to Ghost, but Forge was hellbent on transcending the modern doom trend and proving Ghost could become something much greater. “In 2011, the three words that everyone was talking about, that you kept seeing everywhere was Mercyful Fate, Blue Oyster Cult and hype.”

“I was very determined to prove that we were not a hype. We had a hype going, but we are not just a hype,” Forge recalls. “I knew that if I could just make a record that was as playful and as playfully written as Opus was, I think that we can push the boundaries way further than a lot of the one-album hypes. That’s why I also started writing immediately. It took until 2013 to get the album out, but Infestissumam was written in 2011.”

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“I know towards the end of the tour, I was just like, ‘This is not flying, this is not good."

As happy as Forge was with the material on Infestissumam, he felt that the character of Papa Emeritus II was hindering Ghost’s growth toward becoming a massive live act.

“I don’t know exactly when the thought hit my head, but definitely, I know towards the end of the tour, I was just like, ‘This is not flying, this is not good. It’s so still-standing, it’s not entertaining in the way I think it should be entertaining.’”

“We were never supposed to be slow and suggestive, we were supposed to be entertaining … There are many identifiable getups that a priest or a preacher or a bishop can have, so the next one needs to have some sort of pant getup, because otherwise this will die.”

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Thus, the change from Papa Emeritus II to Papa Emeritus III was extremely drastic, going from an ancient, lumbering demon to a flashy, charismatic showman. Forge credits this shift to Ghost becoming a force in arena rock, allowing the band to become the spectacle he always dreamed of.

Breaking the Papa Emeritus bloodline also came from Forge’s need for change. Instead of simply presenting a new character molded perfectly for the position of lead singer, Forge became Cardinal Copia, an al-dente underdog who fans wouldn’t view as completely ready for his role.

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“All my heroes have always pushed the envelope."

“As with every album that we’ve done, in every cycle, there’s always been one [punch] coming that’s been sort of an experiment from my end,” explains the singer. “Let’s see how far we can push this — 'Ghuleh.' 'He Is.' Cardinal. This box that I’m thinking outside [of]; how elastic is it? Can we expand it? How big is it? Because it’s been proven that it’s kind of unclear, to the great dismay of some more conservative hard rock puritans, but I think that’s the way to go. All my heroes have always pushed the envelope.”

As for the future of Ghost, Forge is unaware if Cardinal Copia expects his inevitable death, which will pave the way for Papa Emeritus IV’s arrival. What can Ghost fans expect from Papa IV? Forge says it all depends on testing out a massive list of ideas.

“For me, it’s sort of endless. I could do this forever,” Tobias states. “I’m just trying to do as many [ideas] as I can before it’s over.”

Watch our full interview with Loudwire’s Metal Artist of the Decade, Tobias Forge, in the video above.

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