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Ghost / Tobias Forge: “We're going to keep on changing the set a little bit throughout the tour cycle. More than we ever did before.”

By Maxime Archambaud |

In 2018, Ghost fans were introduced to Prequelle, which brought with it some inspirations that were clearly more 80s oriented. Totally uninhibited, Tobias Forge, mastermind with his thousand-stringed bow, brought us tasty melodies that took us back to the best of AOR while maintaining the mystical identity of a band that fascinates more and more with each release. COVID-19 would unfortunately delay the continuation of the adventures of Cardinal Copia who became Papa Emeritus IV (Tobias’ on-stage alter-ego) in the meantime. Impera, a new, slightly heavier release, but also a worthy sequel to Prequelle, arrived just in time for the resumption of live concerts. Here we discuss the new album and upcoming tour with Tobias Forge.

Hello Tobias, how are you? How are you feeling three days before starting the Impera Tour in Manchester?

Hello! Right now, I’m still in Sweden. One of the reasons why I’m still here is because of the same old story we’ve heard over the past couple of years: COVID. Everything is very dependent on traveling, of course, and transport. With all those delays, all our gear has been traveling since we stopped the US tour at the beginning of March, it’s just arrived in the UK like today or something like that...

I guess it’s complicated to schedule everything the way you want it. But we’re curious, will this tour be reminiscent of what you did after Prequelle? ?

I’m not gonna lie, everything is very late. Our teams are working over there to get everything in order. The show we will play during the Impera Tour will be slightly shorter compared to the Prequelle era. At this period of time we were playing two and a half hours with an intermission. For this tour, this is going to be more an hour and a half or something like that. It will match with the shows that we did in the U.S. in January, February, March, but longer.

Impera is an album we can easily imagine being played in its entirety in concert. Have you considered doing this?

Well, at some point maybe, but not right now. I can't really say why we didn't choose to do that. Let’s say I think we are not ready to do that yet. We needed to be a little bit more to the point. Honestly, between the U.S. tour and this tour, we just haven't. We live in so many different places that we didn't have any opportunity to sort of reconfigure everything from the ground up to something completely different. But in the future we might, because, you know, what you will see during the European tour is not going to be the same thing that you will see later in the year and next year. We're going to keep on changing the set a little bit throughout the tour cycle. More than we ever did before.

Hunter’s Moon is the first song we heard from Impera at the end of 2021. We knew it was part of the Halloween Kills movie, but in your head, was this song always meant for Impera?

Not initially when we started recording in 2018. Hunter's Moon was meant to be a separate track, but I wasn't satisfied with the result. I found the one that we sent off to the film company not to be to my liking. So I wanted to remake it for the album because it felt like a strong song to be part of an album as well. Of course, being part of an album is a bigger thing, but I figured that Hunter’s Moon was just too good to be just buried someplace out there. I needed to fix it. The only way to get my version out was to have it on the album. It’s that upbeat sort of poppy track that I had in my head and wanted for Impera.

Does Impera look and sound like what you had in mind a couple of years ago when you started planning the album?

It's very much like working on a movie. You can have a script, you can have a story, etc… But at the end of the day, everything is based on the takes, the actors and the circumstances. I really think it’s the same for an album and the tracks in it. You can have an idea for years that you stick to, but the record is never made until you're in the last stage of recording because you are always messing with stuff in it; a word, a note or a song. For as long as you're recording it, it can never be 100% planned. When I say that I already know what the plan is for an album, it’s really just about the concept and everything around that.

Is that the case for whatever is coming after Impera?

I have a very, very clear concept of what I want the next record to be. I know the title. I know what the lyrics will be about and what kind of song titles I want. I know how I want to progress from the current tour to the next tour in 2024 which will be hugely different. I have a road map of the land I want to conquer, but I don't know exactly how I will. (laughs)

Can you tell us more about the Papa Emeritus statue we see on Impera’s cover? It seems that it’s perhaps incomplete/unfinished.

The idea for the statue is that it is still being built. If you fold out the full cover, you’ll see the poor, quiet industrial city outside looking up to the big, enormous building that is the church of the state, in which all the gold in the country has been invested in order to make a huge statue of the dictator. All the necessary materials for it have been sucked out of the rest of the country.

The message couldn’t be clearer!

It was important for it not to be finished. If you look closely at the statue, you see how extremely small the people around are compared to the gigantic work. It takes an enormous amount of wealth and manpower in order to finish that statue. And it might never get finished.

Can you tell us more about the guitars in Impera? Have you changed something in the writing and recording process compared to Prequelle?

First of all, I really want to say that the amount of guitars is identical between Prequelle and Impera. I had recorded all the guitars for all the demos and the pre-production for all the songs. But as we were going into the recording process one thing you can do with the modern days of recording equipment is use all the demo tracks. It would have saved an awful lot of time to do so. Using all those guitars that had already been recorded, it’s a dream. However, they were recorded at various times throughout the writing and the demo process, which was over the course of a year and a half, basically. So, unfortunately, if you listened to the demos, the guitars would sound different from a verse to a chorus depending on the period of time it was recorded. It was weird, and it was almost impossible to use them. We needed to re-record them, and in the six months where I could have done that, I needed to do a lot of other stuff.

I guess it’s time to talk about Fredrik Åkesson’s (Guitar/Opeth) collaboration with you on Impera.

We needed to have someone who can read and track all the guitars in the blink of an eye. Fredrik is phenomenal at not only playing guitars, but also sort of mimicking. He likes playing for hours and hours every day. He's a good friend of mine and we live close to each other. That's another thing… you know, usually, when everything in the world works normally, despite the fact that we both live in Stockholm, Opeth are usually out on tour when I'm home and when I'm on tour, they’re home. So we barely see each other. But during COVID, of course, one of the big benefits was that everybody was around and people needed things to do. It was very much a friendly like: “Hey, do you want to come in and do something funny? Oh, and please have a look at solos while you're at it and make them sound a little bit better”. (laughs)

During the last show of the Prequelle era, Cardinal Copia became Papa Emeritus IV. Had you always planned for him to become the fourth Papa?

As I always said, we needed to see his journey as Cardinal Copia to see if he deserved to become the next Papa. I guess he succeeded!

He seemed a little bit off in the Chapter 10 video that was released, perhaps even a little bit sad. Is he okay?

I really hope so...

Listen to the new album by Ghost, Impera, now on Qobuz & Qobuz Nordics

Ghost will embark on a European tour under the name "Imperatour" starting on 9 April in Manchester.

April 9, 2022 Manchester, England, AO Arena
April 11, 2022 London, O2 Arena
April 13, 2022 Glasgow, Scotland, OVO Hydro
April 15, 2022 Birmingham, England, Resorts World Arena
April 17, 2022 Rotterdam, Netherlands, RTM Stage
April 18, 2022 Paris, France, Accor Arena
April 19, 2022 Cologne, Germany, Lanxess Arena
April 21, 2022 Leipzig, Arena Leipzig
April 22, 2022 Frankfurt, Festhalle Frankfurt
April 24, 2022 Prague, Czech Republic, O2 Arena
April 27, 2022 Tampere, Finland, Tampere Deck Arena
April 29, 2022 Stockholm, Sweden, Avicii Arena
April 30, 2022 Oslo, Norway, Oslo Spektrum
May 1, 2022 Malmö, Sweden, Malmö Arena
May 3, 2022 Brussels, Belgium, Forest National
May 5, 2022 Milan, Italy, Mediolanum Forum
May 7, 2022 Badalona, Spain, Palau Municipal d'Esports de Badalona
May 8, 2022 Madrid, Palacio Vistalegre
May 11, 2022 Vienna, Austria, Wiener Stadthalle
May 13, 2022 Zurich, Switzerland, Hallenstadion
May 15, 2022 Hanover, Germany, ZAG-Arena
May 16, 2022 Munich, Olympiahalle
May 18, 2022 Budapest, Hungary, László Papp Budapest Sports Arena

Interview by Maxime Archambaud, 7 April 2022
Visuals © Ryan Chang