Ghost Is the 2022 Artist of the Year – Interview
Ghost is Loudwire’s pick for the 2022 Artist of the Year. Tobias Forge joined us for an exclusive interview to discuss the band’s fifth album, Impera, his decision to reveal his bandmates’ identities, “Mary on a Cross” going viral on TikTok, wanting to bring Ghost’s concerts to Rammstein levels and more.
2022 was also the year that Ghost fans got to know Papa Emeritus IV. Promoted from his role as Cardinal Copia, the fourth Papa was the first time fans got to see a character evolve rather than simply appear.
“I liked the fact that we weren’t doing the same spiel one more time. Of course, it would’ve been less of a pleasant experience if it had really tanked and that really put an end to everything,” Forge says laughing. “Now we’re years into that character and we’re slowly seeing the end of that. It feels like a great circle.”
"Where would we be going if not forward?"
Impera was somewhat of a risk for Ghost, as once again they moved further away from their starting point as a late ‘60s / early ‘70s occult doom act. The music on Impera features Meliora-esque tracks like “Call Me Little Sunshine” and “Hunter’s Moon,” but floats into almost rock opera territory with “Twenties” and “Kaisarion,” and into ‘80s-era arena anthems like “Watcher in the Sky” and “Grift Wood.”
“I knew there were things on the album that would be up against some sort of reaction, but I felt the same way about 'Zombie Queen.' I felt the same way about 'He Is.' I felt like we were taking giant steps sideways, in a good way, already on the second record — intentionally, because I didn’t want to repeat Opus Eponymous,” Forge explains. “There were moments where, I wouldn’t say doubts, but I could hear elements of the record that’s like, ‘This might be pushing it a little.’ But where would we be going if not forward? That’s what we do.”
Another left turn Ghost experienced in 2022 was the sudden explosion of “Mary on a Cross.” Originally released in 2019 as the b-side to their “Kiss the Go-Goat” single, TikTok gave the track new life, and ultimately turned the somewhat obscure song into Ghost’s most-streamed song on Spotify — even more than “Square Hammer” or “Dance Macabre.”
“I’ve always felt like it was a song that was… I’m not implying that anyone spat on it, but it was like, ‘I can’t believe this is not a song we made a single out of,’” Forge says. “When that happened, I felt… I wouldn’t say vindicated, because no one shat on it, but I’m really happy that it’s a song that I’ve always felt very strongly about, that we always played … that’s already a part of the DNA of what we do. I’m super stoked about that.”
Ghost, "Mary on a Cross" (Live In Tampa 2022)
“Bags off” is the order Forge gave to his bandmates as they took an end-of-tour photo onstage in mid 2022. After well over a decade of keeping the members of Ghost anonymous to the public, often wearing bags over their heads while on tour, Forge finally decided to reveal the identities of each musician in his ever-expanding band.
“Why now?” We asked Tobias. Long story short, Ghost were planning to hand out Broadway-style playbills at their shows, filled with stories and details about each band member. COVID ultimately made the production of said playbills too complicated, so Forge ended up exposing his bandmates’ identities the new fashioned way — through social media.
"Just because you know who’s playing drums or who’s singing backup does not mean everyone is supposed to Instagram whatever they’re eating."
After the picture was done, someone asked, ‘Is it okay if it leaks out?’ ‘It’s gonna leak anyway, so sure,’” Tobias responded. “We’re not changing our M.O. in the sense that just because you know who’s playing drums or who’s singing backup does not mean that we have a live stream backstage and all of a sudden everyone is supposed to Instagram whatever they’re eating or where they’re eating or all that stuff that every other band is doing. I’m still trying to get everyone to not do what I’ve spent 12 years professionally not [doing].”
After another landmark year for one of rock and metal’s premier bands, Forge is looking into the future for what Ghost can achieve next. Namely, he wants to turn Ghost’s concerts into gigantic outdoor spectacles.
“Rammstein, obviously, is the perfect example of exactly just that,” Forge raves. “If you look at a show that they did in 1995, it’s basically the same gags, they’re doing the same things, it’s just magnified and placed out in this huge field. I think that Ghost could do that, but in order to make that happen, you need to be able to sell a lot of tickets everywhere. It costs so much to make that show that you can not just do it once, you can not do it twice, you can not do it 10 times, you need to do it so many times and it takes such a long time to recover that money. You’re literally burning money. That would be my long term goal.”
Congratulations to Ghost for another incredible year. Check out our full interview with Tobias Forge below.