Ghost’s Tobias Forge: I Don’t Miss Papa Emeritus
There’s no looking back for Tobias Forge… ever. We recently got on the phone with the Ghost mastermind to speak about his latest frontman incarnation, expanding Ghost’s show to a staggering 150 minutes, the future for Cardinal Copia and more.
Ghost are currently touring throughout the U.S., booking some of their biggest headlining gigs ever at arenas in cities like Los Angeles and New York City. With Ghost at their highest point, Forge reveals the physical difficulties of performing such demanding shows and admits he does not miss any incarnation of Papa Emeritus, though he does long for the old skull paint and robe.
I remember seeing you guys back on the Infestissumam tour when you were playing 90-minute shows. Can you tell me about the challenges of expanding from 90-minutes to two-and-a-half hours?
The first obstacle you notice after two days into the tour is your body is hurting a lot. I think it was a very good idea on paper and it took a few weeks to catch up with it, thinking it was an okay idea in reality. [laughs]
I am proud of the fact that we manage to sort of keep the mojo up until the end, but god dang… so much more tiresome. A few years back, when we did the first hour-and-a-half, I could definitely be up longer and I had the energy to stand out in the cold signing stuff for an hour after the show. Now, I have to be completely quiet after the show, I have to go to bed. Absolutely no fucking partying, absolutely not. You have to take care of yourself. We are not 19 years old, but it’s fun.
I’m happy that people seem to feel that they're getting the value back with what their paying for the ticket and that we’re able to come into a city and 2,000 people show up. We have no support act and people leave happy. That’s my job, that’s our job. You want to make people feel happy about their investment. Essentially, that is it. I am happy that we made that decision. I am happy that I insisted on a two-and-a-half hour show. My body is simply telling me that it was a stupid idea. My hips hurt; they do.
Cardinal Copia has been around for almost a year. This is sort of his test to become the next Pope figure. How do you think the Cardinal is doing? Do you think he's on his way to becoming that next Pope?
I hope, I hope so. I think he is doing well, but he still has a long way to go. I don't think it's as quick as people want it to be. [laughs] Have patience. Patience is key.
What can you tell me about the growth of the Cardinal over these last months?
I think growth, in this case, is also a collective effort. It is about understanding and acceptance — growing to like and accept someone who doesn’t look like the others and might be different from the others. From that perspective, I think the acceptance is going very well… so far. The grand incentive is hopefully to meta-morph into what we all want him to become. I long for that day, as well.
Now that the lawsuit against your former bandmates is over, is this a big load off your shoulders? Are you able to relax a little bit more?
Yeah, so far. Technically, we do have an appeal pending. I mean, it’s not over until the fat lady sings, but I definitely hear her warming up. I’m on tour, I work, everything is going well. I don’t feel sorry for myself. It’s fine, it’s a growing pain.
‘Dance Macabre’ has been on the cusp of going Top 10. I know on some international charts, it's been as high as No. 4. It's becoming a definitive song for Ghost. How do you view that song concerning the identity and future of Ghost?
Theoretically, there's a chance that 30 years from now, it might be playing somewhere and there might be people willing to listen. ‘Dance Macabre’ feels like one of those songs that you want to play forever. [laughs] It's our ‘Living After Midnight.’ It's just a song that we really needed. It makes most people very happy when we play it and it makes us happy playing it.
Playing a two-and-a-half hour set that sort of goes up and down and has metal moments, headbanging moments, more serious moments, bombastic moments… and it has its sad moments where people are literally sobbing. I think it's a nice relief towards the end where it just comes up as an uplifting party track. Even though the lyrics are extremely apocalyptic, it just has a feel-good vibe that I like a lot.
I know it may be very difficult to pick, but having lived through all three Papa Emeritus’, can you tell me who you miss the most or who you loved being the most?
I can't really tell you, actually, because I'm very much at odds with those guys — all of them. [laughs] Jealous, maybe — they can be all that I’m not.
Do you feel the same for the Cardinal? He can be something that you are not?
Oh yeah, there are a lot of things that I am not. To a certain extent, they are very much how I wish I were, but not entirely. I also work on my manners. I want to be a also less of an asshole. [laughs] I don't miss any of them in particular, no. I'm definitely looking forward to, hopefully, seeing the Cardinal becoming more of a papal figure. I miss the skull paint and the robe.
We recently made a video showing people how to paint their faces like Papa III. I was running out of patience by the end of the process. How do you get through transforming yourself all those nights? I'm sure you'd rather be relaxing.
It's just part of my routine nowadays. I try not to think about it. Sometimes I just wish I played in a band like Foo Fighters. [laughs] Just go up in your normal attire and just rock. That would be easier, but this is what I do and at the end of the night it's definitely worth it.
Ghost Songs Ranked