The decrepit old Papa Emeritus III has handed over the torch as anti-Papal frontman of Swedish melodic metal band Ghost to the sprightly Cardinal Copia, and a new era has begun. The man behind the main mask, Tobias Forge, answered our questions about Ghost’s preternaturally divine new album, Prequelle.
Words Zoë Radas and Mike Hohnen
Where did Cardinal Copia learn to dance? He certainly embodies the ‘youth and sexual charisma’ which Papa Emeritus III lacked; his moves are almost gymnastic in the Rats clip.
[Laughs] Well, I never learnt, but Copia did. We had a body double come in and do all the mime stuff. We needed someone who could do a cool dance.
I did not expect Papa Nihil’s saxophone at the end of Miasma. At what point did you decide the track would benefit from this instrument, and were you certain about it as soon as the idea emerged?
I always wanted to have a saxophone solo somewhere, at some point. As Miasma was written, it just felt natural that there was going to be some sort of big solo, lead trade-off in the ending. Once you’ve had two guitar solos and one synth solo…
We’d already exhausted the keytar and the harmonica so what’s left? Sax, of course. It turned out cool, I like it.
Your beautifully layered vocal harmonies are always a stand-out; has your approach to building them changed with the new album? How do you build them?
I’ve been exploring it for years, even about 10 years before I started doing Ghost. I’ve always loved harmonised vocals, preferably with three harmonies going. A lot of my favourite music is harmonised like that. If you do it often you learn, and I guess I have some intuition. I usually sing harmony when I listen to music; I don’t necessarily sing the original lead vocal. That way you find your way of texturing music. That’s one of the tricky things, and I wanted the challenge. The challenge is trying to come up with different harmonies for each song. I mean, you could just put your little in-built harmoniser on and sort of follow. But it’s trying to find the melodies that texture it right, and without taking up too much space.
The strings at the beginning of Pro Memoria remind me of some of Thomas Newman’s most powerful scores (Meet Joe Black), and the motif is repeated in Helvetesfonster. How did you come to include this section?
The piece of music at the beginning of Pro Memoria was something I wrote a few years ago. We toured around with it for [previous album] Meloria  but we never got to use it. The producer of that record, Klas Åhlund and me, he and I had the idea that we were going to do this sort of Brian May guitar symphony with that little piece of music but we never had time to do it. At the end, it was just left as scraps. Since my original demo of it was done with strings on keyboards, for this record I just transcribed all the notes from the original demo and sent it off to a conductor who recorded it. It seemed like a perfect start for a new song.
Which composers (film score or otherwise) do you admire?
I like a lot of film music, and film scores. Angelo Badalamenti (Twin Peaks, Mulholland Drive) and Ennio Morricone (The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, The Hateful Eight). I like a lot of the classic soundtracks like Rosemary’s Baby, that’s just f-cking fantastic. The Shining… A lot of my life I’ve been listening to a lot of classical music and that’s one thing I’d love to explore sometime in the future, when we do more symphonic stuff that isn’t necessarily vocal.
I gravitate towards different time signatures and that’s something I picked up from classical music. You just add one bar, just because that’s how the melody goes. It’s something The Ramones wouldn’t do… but to do it in a way that feels fluid is still rock and roll.
Prequelle is out Jun 1 via Spinefarm/Lorna Vista Recordings/Caroline.
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