By Natalie Zina WalschotsSince the release of their debut effort, Opus Eponymous, in 2010, Ghost have been steadily accreting power and influence. Known for their curiously upbeat and deliberately retro sound that often belies their grimly Satanic lyrics and concepts (they sound downright cheerful while singing of the bloody crimes of serial murderer Elizabeth Bathory), Ghost combine elements of '70s occult rock, dark psychedelia, classic heavy metal and even surf rock. Their latest effort, Infestissumam, does not change their signature sound in terms of concept or technique, but it does represent a refinement of their aesthetic. The sound is broader and deeper, more theatrical and bombastic than before, which also reflects the fact that their live shows are dramatic performative experiences, complete with massive sets and lighting, makeup and costumes. With a more grand sound and richer production values, with Infestissumam, Ghost are inching closer to capturing the energy of their live performance. Their continued rise in fame has not come without challenges, however, as they were recently forced to change their name to "Ghost B.C." in the United States due to legal concerns, though they firmly refuse to look at the change as anything but a necessary concession, thinking of the suffix as silent. Exclaim! was able to catch up with one of Ghost's deliberately anonymous Nameless Ghouls.
So, what is it like to be a Nameless Ghoul? Would it be comparable to being a henchman to a supervillain? Ha! Yeah, I guess, it is a little bit weird. We have some sort of distance to everything that we're doing, that I think very very few members of semi-successful bands can enjoy, which adds both pros and cons. Pros are obviously that you can look at things in a more sober manner, look at what you're doing and distance yourself from it. Obviously everybody has their own delusions of grandeur, but when you're not stuck in the midst of it and you're not seeing yourself in everything that you do, you tend to more easily judge what you are doing, and look at things from outside yourself. This allows us to be a bit more conceptual and, for lack of a better phrase, true to our art.
So there is some comfort in anonymity, which allows you to focus less on the people making the art and more on the art that you are creating. This way the focus can be on the music and the record, and not on the characters of the artists. Yes.
Does this give you an extra level of control? Yes, very much so.
I'm curious if the hierarchy of the characters you have constructed has anything to do with the way the band and your writing process operates. Because Papa Emeritus is the figurehead of the band in stage, does that mean he also controls the writing or organizational process? From an aesthetic point of view, most of the material comes from one source, that one source being spread between a few members. We aren't really the type of band that jams out material.
So you have a few principal songwriters in the band? Yes, and in our case, I think it's very important because it's a highly conceptual band, and especially since we're a playful group, the music is supposed to be playful, but if there are too many cooks then it might really get confusing.
You have a very spare and stripped down aesthetic, a sound that is very precise. Do you think that this writing style serves that? Yeah, and I think that as much as everybody is very good at handling their instruments, a lot of the sound comes from the concept of knowing sort of how to handle an instrumentalist, whereas there are many, especially a lot of hard rock bands, that suffer from "Guitarist's Disease." It's very evident in many cases that the songs are written on a guitar only and then on top of that there are drums and vocals, and they have to [make] do with whatever space is left, that the guitar player hasn't already eaten up. Our modus operandi is different, where the song is sort of written in its acoustic, skeletal version first, and then its imbued with all the instruments underneath that. Obviously there is some guitar in there, but it is not a guitar hero exercise throughout the entire repertoire. It's supposed to sound like a group that really knows how to handle their instruments.
So one of the deliberate choices that Ghost makes is to have everything orchestrated in balance. Certainly.