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GHOST's TOBIAS FORGE Talks Impera, Return To Touring, Old School Death Metal & "Wet Dreams About Working In Cinema"

Plus how boring touring with COVID can be.

Ghost vocalist and mastermind Tobias Forge has done nothing short of absolutely nail it with the new record Impera. Forge been more than upfront about his desire to grab the brass ring and become the next legitimate headlining stadium attraction in all of metal-dom, and Impera could very well be the final push that does it.

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Filled to brim with '70s and '80s inspired pop-rock hooks and melodies ("Spillways" is going to be nestled deeply into your brain whether you like it or not), and with enough of the macabre doom twinge to satisfy early fans of the band, and this could realistically be the record to push Papa and his Ghouls to superstar status.

Forge, on the closing days of Ghost's U.S. trek with fellow lightning-rod rockabilly metallers Volbeat, caught up with Metal Injection for a deep-dive in the altogether much more hopeful album, his involvement in Halloween Kills that included a wild set visit, his love of old school death metal (and his hatred of nü-metal), and much more!

Now that you're coming up on the end of it, how exhausting is a Ghost tour? Your tours are very theatrical, there are large set pieces, and there very little breaks for six weeks. Is there kind of a fatigue near the end? Is there excitement? Especially after all the pandemic downtime and no shows for two years.

I feel fatigued, not that I want to go to bed. The same way that Lionel Messi would feel even if he's playing a Champions League final. Even if it's your dream, and even if you're made for it, it's still exhausting and your brain is sort of filled. The one thing that's been a little strange on this tour I must say, is all the COVID protocol and the premise within which we decided to do this tour – especially five weeks ago and before that in the planning stages where this was going to be a tour happening in the midst of a very raging pandemic.

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Now as all of that sort of plummeted down to being very controllable – and I'm not saying that people aren't suffering, but I'm just saying that it's not as raging – there's still been a real halt to a lot of the little perks of touring. We were never really a hardcore party band. And we're all pretty down with keeping somewhat fit and eating somewhat right and not partying too much. But when it comes down to nothing, you're not even allowed to go outside the venue. You're not allowed to go outside of your hotel room. It becomes very repetitive.

So on this tour we have done extremely little of the things that you usually would do on a tour. It doesn't hurt if you go out and maybe you go to a vacated little dive bar on a Tuesday night off. You play a little bit of pinball. You listen a little bit to The Cramps, you know? Just having fun with your favorite crew guys just to sort of do something and on a night off maybe go to see a hockey game and all that. We actually went to one hockey game on this one, but that was because they rolled out the red carpet. We didn't have to interact with anyone. It was very much like still within the zone, you know? The bubble. But you can count the moments when we did anything on this tour on one hand. I've been outside two times on this tour. The rest of the time I've been indoors.

But this is what we signed up for, and I feel that overall now when we have actually done this tour that was undoable five weeks ago, I think that we've really made a lot of people happy. And that includes all of the people in the crew and in the band that are so happy to be out working. And I think that overall, my impression of it was that is was fucking fantastic. Whatever the sacrifices I had to make or we had to make were totally worth it because it made such a difference to people and people seemed genuinely happy that they came to the show. I know a lot of people who haven't even been out for two years, and they came to our show and they were happy about it. And I see that as a victory. That's phenomenal. That's what people need. We need to get back to normal now. Go. Enjoy life.

The last time you spoke with us, you brought up that there's this void in the heavy rock and metal space in terms of the next big stadium act. When I listen to Impera front to back, I think this is one of the definitive stadium rock or stadium metal records in decades in that it begs for audience participation. Especially if you watch videos of people from the recent tour – they get into it. And I'm just curious if you had that in mind at all when you wrote the record?

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Oh yeah. I mean, ever since we made our second record basically, I've been aware of that. Because the first was written in a total void when there was no one expecting anything off of the record. I composed it on my own. The first record was such a figment of my imagination. But then all of a sudden writing the second one it was like a hardcore fact that we were going to be a live band, we were going to be touring. Already at that point we were opening up for Iron Maiden, Metallica, Foo Fighters and all these big bands. When you go out and play in front of people you start to alter your show. I mean, unless either you're supernaturally already doing the right thing or you are completely emotionless and don't want to play there.

It's the same as being like a comedian or a chef. If people don't like your food, maybe you need to add salt or something, or you should start making pancakes. If people like your pancakes you might do pancakes instead. The same thing if you're a comedian and you want people to laugh. You quickly sort of weed out the jokes that people aren't laughing at. And it's the same thing when you're a rock band and you're playing in front of 30,000 people waiting for someone else's band, the other band. You know that song went down really well and that song did not… that's what you do if you're an entertainer, because you're up against your crowd and you're trying to make love to it. So you're doing what you can in order to make the other person's motor hum.

If you look at the cycle around Opus Eponymous when you guys were playing at Hellfest, you have very subdued movements. The ghouls are all in robes and it's much more doomy and sinister. But the live show now, Papa Emeritus and the Nameless Ghouls are infused with so much more energy. How far into the process did you look at that and realize you were going to pivot away from the original vibe?

As soon as we started touring really heavily, the show is scripted to a certain degree, but then a lot of that script has been thrown out the window for improv and habit. So we have a way to sort of do the show, and every night we do it more or less the same way. It's kind of like an improvisational theater, but you still have a script. Like, at some point your part needs to end with a certain line because when I hear you say that, I know I'm going to say this, and then you'll segue into you saying that, and so on. But how you're saying it that can differ a little every night.

But still we like to have a pretty scripted show in the sense of the set list, because it's still theatrical enough that we can't really do the Springsteen thing where you just have requests like, "oh say whichever song you want." Obviously he's not really doing that because he's looking at the crowd and he's like "I really want to play 'Because The Night.' Somebody here want to hear 'Because The Night.' Oh you over there want to hear 'Because the Night' [shouts excitedly]" … he can't go on stage and the first thing be like "what do you want to hear?" It needs to be scripted in a certain way, and we're just not making a secret out of that. And a lot of our fans seem to like the repetitive nature of it. It's kind of like watching Titanic. You still know the boat is going to sink. It's not going to be like "oh surprise, it came up again this time."

If we look thematically at your two most recent records, there's kind of an odd reversal of things. In Prequelle we're talking about this black plague, but to me Impera is a much more hopeful and optimistic record. I'm just curious on your end did this feel like a more hopeful, entertaining type record in comparison?

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I think it's because the overall "rise and fall of empires" imperial theme of the record, the hope is for the bad empire to finally fucking fall apart. So, yes, I appreciate that people tend to hear the hopeful part in the record, because as doomy and gloomy as the journey is supposed to be, I want to shine a light on the hope factor, that empires have fallen and have been replaced throughout all time. And I think that there are a lot of things to hope for today with the current events of the world and how things are.

I think that there is hope and there is definitely a way out, that I hope for us to see not only in our lifetime, but hopefully within not too long. So I'm actually a believer.

I have to ask how cool it was as a horror fan  to be asked to be involved in the Halloween Kills soundtrack with "Hunter's Moon", to be in the end credits of this iconic horror franchise. As an admitted horror fan that must have been something you could never have anticipated.

Of course, yeah. I think that the biggest moment for me in terms of feeling like a connection to the film was when I went down to Wilmington to see the set. I met the director and hung out for a day and just went to the studio and saw the street. The street where the Michael Myers house is, that's all in the studio. That's all on set, like a built set inside of a studio. So walking around in the house … and that was the '60s version of the house as well, which is kind of cool. Of course, I am very, very drawn to the cinematic world. Not only horror, I'm a big fan of cinema in general. In an alternative life where I put my eggs in another basket, I wish I would have gone into cinema instead, because for me that's almost even more all-encompassing as far as media for total control. It's vision, the music, story and get to control the narrative.

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I have a few very good friends of mine who are directors and they work in film and they work in television and Netflix and cinema and all that. I know now also that I probably wouldn't be cut out for it because the person whose career I envy would be the Stanley Kubrick types of the world, but they are so rare and most directors don't get to do what they want. They don't get to do their full vision. It's always like a ton of compromise in a way that I would be annoyed by everything, but I'm always like that anyway. I mean, anything that I'm presenting to the world is always like a lesser version of what I imagined it to be. But it's nowhere near what my director friends are doing because they're saying like, everything that we're doing is always like a fraction of what we intended it because of producers and fucking investors and people having low points, stuff like that.

Speaking about Titanic, had that not been a real story you bet your ass it would be like a producer saying like "hmm, the ending is so depressing, is their any way the boat could miraculously rise like a fucking corpse and just come up again?! Because that would be a nicer ending!" But that's the shit you're up against if you're in cinema. I have wet dreams about working in cinema, so I guess that having that little dip in was fun. It was very very cool.

In our last chat we touched on this very, very briefly when we talked about some of your influences. You mentioned a couple of names like Necrophagia and Morbid Angel. Are there some prominent or lesser known heavy bands you loved or you've come to love in recent years that fans might be surprised by?

A band that I don't think gets mentioned a lot that's definitely up my sleeve in terms of what I like would be Negative Plane. Obviously an old band that sort of went a little bit through a resurgence a few years ago was Gorguts. Their Colored Sands record was really cool.

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My taste is very old school. Ever since like '94 when nü-metal started to really show its face, I've been allergic to anything that suggests nü-metal and unfortunately that has been like the everlasting genre from like '94 to today. The bands that I like are usually bands that sound like an '87 sort of death metal band. Unfortunately. I hate to be negative. But I like a lot of other music. I like a lot of different rock. I'm more open when it comes to that. But when it comes to extreme metal I sort of cap it at '93 and '94. After that, everything else is just shit.

Impera is available March 11 through Loma Vista Records, with pre-orders available here. Ghost kicks off a European trek with Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats and Twin Temple this April, and you can get those dates below.

w/ Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats & Twin Temple

4/9 – Manchester, Arena, UK
4/11 – London, O2 Arena, UK
4/13 – Glasgow, Hydro, UK
4/15 – Birmingham, RWA Arena, UK
4/17 – Rotterdam, RTM Stage Ahoy, Netherlands
4/18 – Paris, Accor Arena, France
4/19 – Cologne, Lanxess Arena, Germany
4/21 – Leipzig Quarterback Immobillen Arena, Germany
4/22 – Frankfurt, Festhalle, Germany
4/24 – Prague, Arena, Czech Republic
4/27 – Tampere, Nokia Arena, Finland
4/29 – Stockhom, Avicii Arena, Sweden
4/30 – Oslo, Spektrum, Norway
5/1 – Malmo, Malmo Arena, Sweden
5/3 – Brussels, Forest, Belgium
5/5 – Milan, Mediolanum Forum, Italy
5/7 – Barcelona, Olympic Arena Badalona, Spain
5/8 – Madrid, Vistalegre Arena, Spain
5/11 – Vienna, Stadthalle, Austria
5/13 – Zurich, Hallenstadion, Switzerland
5/15 – Hannover ZAG Arena, Germany
5/16 – Munich, Olympiahalle, Germany
5/18 – Budapest, Arena, Hungary

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