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GHOST: Knowing Me, Knowing Ghoul
January 2, 2014 // Words by Tom Valcanis // Photos by Matt Palmer
 

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Do you like staying up late at night? All the time? I only because worshipping pitchfork-toting devils is the metalhead's favourite pastime. Hailing from dark parts unknown, GHOST celebrate the evil lurking beneath metal's world. Hark, who goes there? A fire-breathing beast cursed with four heads. Half of this scaly beast's grotesque faces are topped with brown retro mops. The other two sport flowing golden locks. These stonehenge-old doom rockers lay all their love on ABBA. They don't give a shit if you know, covering I'm a Marionette on their Dave Grohl knob-twiddled EP, If You Have Ghost. Shit, I'd admit to loving ABBA if I could mask my name and face (BUT I WILL NOT). Here's what a Nameless Ghoul had to say for himself.

You have me at a disadvantage, sir.

[curiously] Oh, why is that?

Because I don't know your name. But "Nameless Ghoul" is kind of a name. Like A Horse with No Name.

[laughs] Yes it is. Sort of.

When you guys are out on stage doing your black ritual thing, we could imagine Steve Buscemi under those cloaks if we so desired. But is that the point? The man underneath makes no difference?

We'd like to think so. [pauses for thought] We know that there are a lot of things that we set out early on for this band. Now, five years later, these goals feel very naive and unrealistic. We never considered the concept of Ghost. It's kind of paradoxical when we're trying to be a successful band and trying to remain anonymous. The idea was to have the experience be as intense as possible for people watching. The anonymity thing was just a bonus.

The band has crossed over from the dark side into the evil mainstream. You're doubly unknown to non-metal crowds.

I'd like to think that what we're doing is enhanced by the fact that most people, whether they're in the hall or on the field where we're playing, are a) Not aware and b) They don't even care who's in the band. It's probably not important.

The theatre of Ghost has helped you guys crossover, would that be fair to say?

I think so. We can perform in settings that are widely diverse. We can fit into an extreme metal bill and a more mainstream festival such as Big Day Out. We'd hate to call it mainstream, because it isn't. We fit in that twilight zone in between.

What about club shows? Is there a divide between black t-shirts and ugh, colour?

Absolutely. It's always a mixed crowd for our headlining shows. It leans towards metalheads, but there's a dramatic increase in the number of girls at our shows. It beats dipping their foot into metal via a Sadistik Execution show.


“It leans towards metalheads, but there's a dramatic increase in the number of girls at our shows.”

Black metal for instance has a discount store theatre to it, with costumes and stage names and what have you. You guys take the Alice Cooper shocking-apron-wearing-mothers-into-fainting thing beyond the limit. Where does the theatre come from in your musical upbringing?

Ghost derives from a very fanboy point of view. It's a combination of all those big dinosaur rock phenomenons. It comes from a profound fascination with underground death and black metal. Thrash metal, too. The darker elements of Ghost comes from the early ‘90s black metal scene. We picked up a lot of those aesthetics. I was brought up in that underground. The clandestine aspect comes from bands like Mayhem or Sarcophago or say, Devil Doll.

Is that what Ghost is all about? Stealing back mystery from the Internet?

I think so. All of those pre-internet elements coloured a lot of my thinking. Back then you couldn't find anything about these bands. You may have seen four pictures of them. You knew very little about them. That experience and that background is how I want people to regard Ghost. We don't want Ghost to be obvious. Even though we were brought up on all those bands and were influenced by them, we're not a tribute band.

But you do pay tribute to Depeche Mode and ABBA on your new covers EP. Why those bands and why those songs?

Our music tastes are very diverse. We listen to a lot of music and a lot of records and a lot of stuff. I mean, as much as Impaled Nazarene is a dark band, Depeche Mode is a dark band. Everything that's dark leaning or mystic is interesting. With the exception of ABBA, which is a different sort of pop band, all of the songs have something in common with what we're trying to do. When we choose covers, we need to be able to alter the song and make it ours. Lyrically, it's something that Papa can sing. The character of Papa needs to adopt what's being said. It narrows it down, but it allows us to choose a plethora of songs. I think that'll be more obvious on the next record, because we have a new bunch of covers that work. We refrain from doing metal songs because we don't have much to add. Like if we did a Witchfinder General song ... there's not much more we can do with it.

Five years after forming, you're getting praise from not only the metal world but the rock and pop world. Dave Grohl produced that covers EP. Was this ever part of Ghost's vision?

No, it's attention you can never plan for. Our intent was to create a highly theatrical band. Something that had slightly more theatre than rock ‘n' roll. Our intention is still to move way more into theatre. With that said, it goes hand in hand with being commercially successful. In order to pull off a big production, you have to attract X amount of people. It's always been our intention to accumulate crowds. It's a very diffuse term, though. [pauses for thought] I mean, if we wanted to do whatever it takes, we'd never sing about Satan.
 
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