On August 21st, Ghost released their third studio album Meliora. The Swedish heavy metal band’s new album received rave reviews, top spots on Billboard charts and a glowing endorsement from Dave Grohl. After three albums and international recognition, they are gearing up for a North American tour and they are finally heading back to the U.S., with all the theatrics in tow. We talked to A Nameless Ghoul and got the low down on why they appointed Papa III to lead vocalist, the inside scoop on Meliora’s new production style and how their shows are different from your average metal concert.
Congrats on the release of Meliora. Which tracks from the album are you most excited to play live?
Right now, I am looking forward to playing the songs we haven’t already played [off the new album] like “Spirit” and “Mummy Dust.” I think “He Is” will also be a very important live track.
I think Spirit will be great too. Ghost is known for an epic live show. How has it changed from tour to tour?
Well, the biggest difference for someone who has seen us before is that this tour will be heavily built around the new album. There will be a heck of a lot of new material and we have a bit more production then we’ve had in the past.
What would you want a fan that has never seen you live to know about your set?
As much as we love making albums and believe in the album format – we obviously make records to be enjoyable at home – our first profession is to play it live and I definitely think we excel in a live situation.
It is also more organic live; [the show] is very theatrical and solemn. There is almost like a divine presence and everyone is very happy, which is abit different from a normal, heavy metal crowd that is more tense to go a little more aggro or serious.
Fans take their own initiative. There is no dress code and you don’t have to fit in with anybody, which is different then going to certain other bands that have specific crowds playing the part. This is not to say that one is better or worse, but I think this is part of what makes our shows a little bitdifferent.
Heavy metal fans get very excited about the amount of girls at our show! Everyone coming from the other side is also glad they are not squished in between big heavy metal; head- banging dudes that are just trying to kick each other down or create a mosh pit.
We see people who look happy standing next to each other looking at the same thing. Unified.
You guys focus as much on your sound as you do on your aesthetic. How do you keep both in focus simultaneously? What does your sound do that your aesthetic can’t – and vice versa?
By now, we rely very much on knowing that if we do what we instinctively do, that’s what most of our fans like. We don’t have to over analyze it, I don’t know if that really makes sense. At first we were unsure, we didn’t know how to move. We noticed the same sort of uncertainty in our fans. People had just picked up the first single and just saw us in really tight outfits in a London club, but I think what changed for both the band and the crowd, and I can’t really say this in a nice way, but originally the base core – the first 500 people – that took to the band were definitely more “scene dudes” and I think pretty early on in our live career, when there were more girls coming to the shows, everything just fell into place really quickly. All of a sudden people were dancing as opposed to moshing. When people were dancing, we were dancing.
I think we know that we have another album worth of material that the fans like so we just have to play that and just move and do whatever feels right. As long as you’re not kicking someone in the face or spit in someone’s eye then everything is fine.
What in your opinion does Papa Emeritus III bring to the band?
Hair Actually. He has a hair do. Papa II did not.
Is that what convinced you that he was the one?
Yes. We were trying to do a musical, sort of a 70’s touch. So ya, hair *laughs*. No, we actually wanted someone with a little more character. Papa II was great, but I think Papa III will excel more in his showmanship.
Your album debuted at no. 8 on the Billboard 200. Beyond commercial success, what does that tell you about the band’s direction?
Obviously we are happy that we are growing. From my angle everything, first and foremost, is definitely about our production and our live performances. If we are growing from a commercial point of view – selling more records, getting more recognition – as long as that goes hand in hand with our shows getting bigger and the end result is that we can get more production and do a better show, I am obviously all excited.
Making records is really nice but also very draining; I like to use the analogy that when you are in a band and write your own music you are very much like the architect, the foreman and the carpenter. Right now we have drawn the house, bought the land, have all the permits, and all the wood is on the parking lot. Now we have to start building, and that’s when it’s not really creative anymore. It’s closing in on more of a routine. I like the routine of the tour.
How did the creative process for Meliora differ from previous albums? How would you sum up Klas Ahlund’s songwriting contributions to this album?
Writing wise was not super different. I usually write a lot of music whenever I feel like it. It is never a process where I am just sitting around for two years or I’m on tour and come back looking at an empty chart with nothing on it and start swearing.
From a traditional rock record point of view, Klas wasn’t the go-to choice, especially not from our American label, but we had our eye on him. When we finally got him into the process, I had the ground basics of the album in my head. I knew where everything was. Klas was way more questioning and challenging [than our previous producers] and demanded to become a part of the process. That was probably the main difference. The writing was similar but now there was a stranger in the room and you now had to defend yourself. “Why do you play your solo like that?”, “Why do you play your music like that?” I enjoyed that. As much as I like to ‘King Kong-ishly’ beat my chest and say that I rule, I know that I don’t. I’m okay. I’m quite good, but you can always get better. As long as someone who is criticizing you is doing it with the intention of making you better, you trust the process way more.
Someone in the band who might not have had that feeling might think the producer was an asshole. Unfortunately, it’s hard to make a record with everybody pleased.
At the end of the day, everybody was pleased with the result because it is so much better. The amount of effort that we went through to meticulously get everything up a few notches made the total of all those notches, a big…. Notch-o! *laughs*.
Meriola is out now and be sure to catch them at Sound Academy in Toronto on October 1st!