Eccentric Swedish metal act Ghost B.C. released their second LP, Infestissumam, in April and are currently in the midst of a massive world tour, bringing a theatrical, mesmerizing and ghastly show to the masses. For the most part, Ghost have maintained anonymity.
Five of the musicians, dubbed Nameless Ghouls (which represent fire, water, wind, earth and ether), are shrouded in hooded robes behind the vocalist that appears in skull make-up dressed as a Roman Catholic Cardinal. The singer, known as Papa Emeritus II, lightly steps around the microphone as his eyes--one pearly white--peer out over the crowd. For me, Ghost B.C. has been able to turn back the clock to a time when the occult was brought mainstream by bands like Sabbath, Blue Oyster cult and Zeppelin.
Built upon the traditions of Scandinavian metal, Ghost combines their love of loves horror films and religious concepts with an array of musical genres, including pop, horror soundtracks, prog metal, thrash metal, classical, Latin church choirs, and more. Backed against Papa's velvety, commanding yet bluesy voice, this band is a refreshing departure from what America's mainstream would call a "satanic" metal band.
As a Nameless Ghoul told Noisey, Vice's music channel: "Yes we love the Beach Boys. Pet Sounds has this fantastic melody, mixed between sunshine and complete dystopic hell." No kidding, right?
Ghost B.C.'s most recent project is due out November 19th, If You Have Ghost, was created with Dave Grohl. It features covers of ominously titled songs by Depeche Mode ("Waiting For The Night"), ABBA ("I Am A Marionette"), Roky Erickson ("If You Have Ghosts"), and Army of Lovers ("Crucified"), in addition to a live version of their original, slow-burning composition "Secular Haze" "recorded live from Brooklyn earlier this year.
And the band is also embarking on a mini series with Vice called Papaganda--which must be pretty difficult, considering it's a documentary based around a band with "no identities."
Resident metal journo Lauren Wise tried to get an interview with Papa Emeritus II, but apparently Papa only does email interviews. So Up On The Sun chatted with a Nameless Ghoul guitarist about the difference between "musical controversy" in America and in Sweden, working with Dave Grohl, and Ghost B.C. sex toys.
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Do you feel that the media in the United States has more of a controversial take on Ghost BC than areas like Sweden, where black metal is prevalent? Short answer, yes. I think what we do isn't shocking where we come from, and generally when we are mentioned in the Swedish or Scandanavian press it's usually [for] commercial reasons or just to provide an update on the band, never really about controversy.
Do you feel as if the United States' press blows things out of proportion? Well, you know in Sweden everything is secularized. So anyone who is openly a devout Christian is actually seen a bit as a handicap. It's controversial over there to be really religious. The general open discussion is always from a secular point of view. Religion is completely...your own personal thing. So there's that big difference.
How did the concept of melding death metal with pop come around? I think it all derives from having a wider taste in music, listening to everything from extreme metal to pop to classic rock to classical to soundtracks. We're inclined to just music in general.
Sometimes it's hard to say what came first...but I think what really motivated us early on was the opportunity to create melodic music but to still incorporate a lot of the show aspect that you normally might not do if you are just a pop band. A part from the musical aspect of the band is the whole cinematic world. The horror aspects of cinema. Especially the religious horror movies.
In the past you were always asked whether you were satanic or not, whether it was just theatrics... but the band seems to just present an opportunity for fans to watch for an hour and get lost in it, no matter what they believe. Like they were watching a horror film. Exactly. I mean, um, I think it's important to keep in mind that as much as some hold on to the fact that at the end of the day we are an entertainment group, an entertainment act, as much as a cinematic movie. It's entertainment.
Nobody would ever question someone that has written something about what's he written or the film he has made. Nobody has ever criticized the makers of Exorcism or the Omen. Not to say that everything we're saying is justa joke. Obviously it comes from somewhere. There is a.....there is a thought process behind it.
But I think what most people fail to recognize is that we're not critical. We're not critiquing against God. We're critiquing against man. That's one of the most fundamental differences with the critics... when you start going into the mainstream, there's a lot of talk about God, and that is not exactly what we're talking about here.
So you feel like people miss the point of what you guys are aiming for, then? Not from an entertainment aspect, but if they choose to look beyond that into the philosophical or theological aspect, I think most of the critics fail to understand that differentiation. But that's part of being religious.
That's what I'm saying. That's why being a devout Christian--with everything that comes with it--is regarded as being slightly handicapped [here], because it means you've failed to understand certain aspects of what life is about. I did not just say that having a belief is being handicapped, I'm just saying that some people as devout Christians miss that, because they are blinded by what they are choosing not to see.
What are some of your favorite parts about If You Have Ghost? The recording session was very inspired and very joyous. Working with someone like Dave [Grohl] is always like a fuel injection. Obviously he's very experienced and his track record is amazing, as well as his talent. It's very inspiring working with someone so on top of their game.
And for a Swedish band going to L.A. and recording for a week, it was...that's the thing. Most bands will always refer to their record as the time that was happening a year or half a year before the record was released. But for us, it was that week. The recording session, that week in L.A., in the autumn of 2012. Driving through Laurel Canyon listening to the first taping of If You Have Ghost, in sunset.
That was one of the reasons we chose to highlight that song as well because it had a car-driving sensibility to it. The sort of drive you have when your heart has just been broken in the fall.
That's a pretty vivid description. Is it true that sometimes Dave Grohl has played drums on stage during Ghost's live performances? Well... I can't tell you that, now can I?
Well that's the word on the street... [Silence]
Rats. Okay. So Ghost just teamed up with Vice for the mini-series Papaganda. Can you tell me a bit about that? Well, obviously there's a very very typical commercial reason why you want to extend your media. So I think that just because we have been sort of manic about our nature and where we come from and what we are not, I think that it can be healthy to extend it a little bit for us.
For a band like us it's important not to go too personal as well. I mean, it is personal, but it was challenging trying to make a film about the band without knowing the very trodden paths of whatever everyone else is doing. You know, Papa is a rolling stone. He's a weird character to sort of try and capture. This seemed like the perfect challenge for us.
I think it would be challenging to make a film about a band whose concept is anonymity. That was one of the first times Papa showed his face on screen without makeup. Yes, besides the Zero Zero video. But people failed to recognize him. Which is one of the reasons we felt the need to present him without ruining it. If people failed to recognize him in that video, he comes off as just a dude in the video. We felt like we wanted people to know that was actually Papa. Apart from popular belief, he's not a monster. He's a guy. An old guy.
So Papa Emeritus I and II were, and are, on contracts, and there will soon be a Papa III. That's how it works, yes. But Papa II will be with us for quite some time.
So how would you choose Papa III? Oh he's being chosen by the clergy. It's like having a President. There's a board that decides who will be the next guy and we just have to follow and hope for a better one next time.
A nicer one. Who will leave some of the carnal roots and not devour it all for himself.
What are some of your favorite cities to play in the United States? Phoenix, of course. Seattle is always very nice. Chicago, New York, Denver...there are so many places in the U.S. that have been very, very kind to us. You know, we were fortunate to start headlining in the U.S. very early on. Our first tour in the U.S. was headlining, so we started our relationship with many of these cities early, as opposed to going through the whole process of being a support act.
Many places have their own unique charm. I think from a European standpoint Seattle is a unique place because of the whole nature around it. It is very mythical and has a strong nature.
If you could pick three influences that have always greatly affected your music, what would those be? The films would be one of the biggest. Not necessarily just musically, but the vision and how they are formulated. Especially horror movies from like '69. Horror movie soundtracks. Okay, possibly I'd say The Omen trilogy has had a major influence, because of the contents, visuals and music. And...what would be the third.
Probably the whole metal '80s underground death and thrash metal. It's hard to pinpoint. The whole aesthetic of the adolescent rage came from that era. It has definitely influenced a lot of the things we're doing now. Especially the artwork and t-shirts.
I also have to ask; how did the sales of the Ghost BC sex toys go? Oh! It went well. I think we sold out.
Really? Yeah, it's a popular thing you know? I heard it gets a thumbs up. [Laughs]
Ghost BC has achieved a lot in the U.S., really. You've made black/satanic metal--whether people are believing in it or faking it for an hour--mainstream. You guys have also managed to hide your identities quite well, and to make this melding of pop music and death metal seem alarming comforting. So what's up next for you guys? Our itinerary goes roughly like this: We will be touring until August next year. Then we will go to the studio to record and have an album out by springtime 2015. So now we are building up materials, working on a concept to be ready for that next year.
We have a lot of plans and plan to continue to grow a lot. We will be back in the U.S. next spring for a headlining tour again as well.
For the album next year will Papa II still be involved or will that be Papa III? Papa III will be with us by then.
If you could be a fly on the wall for any classic album in history, what would that be? Hmm... that is a very good question. There are so many records that have been dissected. I'd love to be there for the recording of earlier Metallica records. Like, Ride the Lightning would be fun.
Ghost B.C. is scheduled to perform on Friday, October 25, at The Pressroom.
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