The Ghost machine is up and running again. The Swedish occult-rock stars, led by frontman Papa Emeritus IV, just released their new covers EP, Phantomime, and played their first show of 2023, the kickoff date of the European leg of the band's Re-Imperatour run. The U.S. leg of the trek — featuring support from fellow theatrical metal Swedes Amon Amarth — is set to launch in August.
With all this in mind, Revolver correspondent J. Bennett recently sat down with Ghost mastermind Tobias Forge for a story in an upcoming print issue, but because we know the group's fans are an eager bunch, we've got a juicy excerpt for you right here right now — touching on Phantomime's standout Iron Maiden and Tina Turner covers, as well as those rumors that a past Papa might be on his way back.
YOU COVERED IRON MAIDEN'S "PHANTOM OF THE OPERA." IT'S NO SECRET THAT YOU'RE A MAIDEN FAN, BUT IT SEEMS LIKE THE CHARACTER OF THE PHANTOM MIGHT HAVE SOMETHING IN COMMON WITH THE VARIOUS PAPAS OVER THE YEARS. IS THAT WHY YOU CHOSE THE SONG?
Possibly. I think that the Papas and the Cardinal and the character that I'm trying to mimic is a combination of all the dark protagonist hero-freaks that we're following in Gothic literature and media — Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, and all of those — but he's also a bit of Inspector Clouseau. He's a parody of a male archetype in so many ways, but he becomes funny that way. And the Phantom of the Opera is similar. He's a cool gentleman in one way, but he's also pathetic and miserable.
YOU'VE ALTERED THE ORIGINAL MAIDEN LYRICS A BIT.
The original lyrics are written in three perspectives, or at least that's how it came off to me when I tried to learn the song, which didn't make much sense to me. The Phantom is one perspective, the other was [Phantom of the Opera protagonist] Christine, and then there was this third party. So, I reached out to [Iron Maiden bassist-lyricist] Steve [Harris] and asked if I could adjust a few things so I could get it down to just two perspectives. And Steve is so cool — talk about big-dick syndrome — he just said, "Absolutely." We had that plan with Genesis, as well, but the problem was that we waited too long and by the time we asked, it was five hours from recording. I wanted to change the line with "phone book" in it to a less dated reference — not Facebook, by the way — but it was too late.
YOU'VE ALSO DONE TINA TURNER'S "WE DON'T NEED ANOTHER HERO" FROM MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME. BY COINCIDENCE, I RECENTLY REWATCHED THAT MOVIE AND IT'S STILL A TON OF FUN. WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THE SONG?
Well, I love Tina Turner. Seeing her story in the biopic What's Love Got to Do With It turned me from a fan into an absolute addict. So, in a way, it was me daring myself to do it. But it's a tremendous song. It's so well-written. When I was trying to learn it, I thought it was a three-chord chorus, but I went to YouTube and discovered that it was just two chords back and forth. Those fuckers! That made me angry. [Laughs] But of course, it's a really cool song so I decided to make a cover of it. And with such an important subject, as well, I knew I had to.
YOU'VE GOT A BIG NORTH AMERICAN TOUR COMING UP. WHAT CAN WE EXPECT?
We've changed the look onstage a little. Remember that this is the continuation of the tour cycle, so we didn't make huge changes — just some little ones. The stage presentation is a little more airy, I would say. Our last one was a little crammed, which ended up putting a few members of the band in the shadows. It screwed with the perception a little, so we made a practical revamp. From our point of view, it's a dramatic change. We'll play a few songs from Impera that we haven't played yet, and obviously something from the EP.
THERE'S A RUMOR THAT YOU'RE FILMING THE TWO SHOWS AT THE FORUM IN L.A. ANY TRUTH TO THAT?
Anywhere that we play two shows is an excellent place to do something like that. One thing that is on the short list of things we've never done is a film — an actual presentation of what we're like onstage that goes beyond just a broadcast. So, we're hoping that is gonna turn out really well. I don't wanna oversell it, but those two shows will be different than the others.
IN A RECENT GHOST WEBISODE, "NAP TIME," IT SEEMS TO SUGGEST THAT A RESURRECTION OF A PREVIOUS PAPA IS POSSIBLE. IS THAT WHAT YOU'RE HINTING AT FOR THE NEXT ALBUM?
Well, it's a possibility. That's the great thing about make believe. Anything is possible.