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Ghost’s Tobias Forge On Their New Album ‘IMPERA’: “There Is A Desperation And An Anger In There”

Jack Rogers
Jack Rogers 15 March 2022 at 12.46

"You always take a risk in something that you put together in the name of art."

Ghost have just released their new album 'IMPERA', and it is nothing short of sensational. 

A dense, dramatic and decadent look at the Imperial Empire, and the heroes and villains that inhabited it, through Tobias Forge's unique and undeniable lens, it is a collection of songs that not only cements Ghost as one of metal's most fascinating and fantastical assets but also an album for the ages. One that deserves to be played loud, proud and as frequently as possible.

We had a sit down with Tobias to talk about the record's inception, whether the events of the modern-day have affected his view of the songs and where they ultimately fit into Ghost's live show...

How does it feel to be at this point with Ghost where you have a new album out in the world, but you can also get back to what you love the most, which is touring?
"It feels incredible, to be honest. We are just trying to rock. That’s what we do. And being back on tour, this one we have just done in America specifically, is extraordinary. But even up to the day of it kicking off, we were still in the position of, ‘We may not be able to do this’. It felt like there were too many roadblocks. We left a trail of people as we went, crew testing positive to COVID and having to stay in hotels at the very beginning. But as the tour progressed, those numbers went down to just about nothing. That allowed us to get the shows back to the level we wanted them to be. It feels like Spring is in the air now! And with the album coming out, it feels really nice."

In terms of the stories you tell and the commentary, you deliver on this album, was this always a part of the long-term journey of Ghost, or is it something that built itself around the times that we found ourselves in?
"If there were a feeling of worry about putting a date on the things that I was writing for this album, it would be if it would feel irrelevant when the album came out. I wrote a lot of the songs back in 2019 and 2020. And the thing is that in my mind, I had known for years what this record was going to be about roughly. It always had the tag ‘The Imperial Record’. But a few months into 2020, and when the world shut down, I instantly knew that many other artists would do dated material and songs. Things like ‘Quarantine Blues’ and ‘In The Bubble’, shit which will feel so irrelevant straight away. And in the future, people would have no interest in listening to anything like that. So because I knew what I wanted this to be about, I just kept on trucking.

It was pretty easy to get inspired by the events of these last two years, and that had nothing to do with the things that so many were writing about. But then again, as things were being stretched into a year and then a year and a half, I hoped that what I was writing wasn’t going to feel strange more so than anything. As a writer, especially in the rock community, it always seems like you’re supposed to be about authenticity and not giving a fuck and only writing for yourself. No one does that. Everyone who has a career knows precisely what they are doing. You always take a risk in something that you put together in the name of art."

Creation is a form of escape, which is what Ghost has become for so many people. Yet there must be moments when you’re piecing together this intricate puzzle that you have planned out, and you find things and feel things you didn’t expect to within that process?
"It’s funny to say it, but a lot of what we are doing is actually already a lesser version of what I intended it to be. It’s always with a great deal of discontent that I look at something and still feel like it isn’t properly done or finished or what I actually wanted it to be. But that is what it is, and I have got used to that over time. It’s just the nature of the ambition. And I bring along a long list of things that I want to correct and continue to achieve at each stage of this.

The funny thing with that is that I have found myself reflecting on things we have done in a lot more hindsight than before. We finally played this venue, or we finally did this thing. But on the day of those things, it could have been raining. We were late. We had problems with the guest list, there were errors with the effects going off on stage, and the afterparty got really weird. That was the big day you had been dreaming of, and it never materialises into what you may expect it to be. But the truth is, such is life. It’s a great problem to have.

This band allows me to cross out so many things in my life that I have wanted to do, and it’s mindboggling just how many of them I have been able to achieve. To talk to somebody I may have known years ago back in school; it’s almost unthinkable to recount what Ghost has been able to do with them."

What would you say are the feelings that have stuck with you the most as each piece of ‘IMPERA’ has unfolded before your eyes as you’ve brought it to life?
"I think that something that I like with a lot of these new songs, in terms of ones we have chosen to become a part of the set as we move forwards, is that there is a desperation and an anger in there that feels very cathartic to what is the overall feeling of things right now. That I think is essential. It feels good to have that scream of anguish in there. They are played with an intensity and with a temperament that closely resembles the time and the subject that it is about and the time that we are existing in now."

How does that compare to the feeling that you get from your other songs, The ones that are a huge part of what Ghost is to you? 
"Most of those songs are there because they feel good to play. That is the main difference to me. ‘Mummy Dust’ is an example of that, a song that is easy to sing, and the emotions within it closely resemble the ones you need to sing it. Sometimes, to sing a beautiful ballad, you have to use your whole body to sing a song that sounds that soft. To sing ‘My Heart Will Go On’, you can’t lie down and whisper. You need to use everything you have. There are songs across our repertoire that are unintuitive because they were written in a studio or thought of it from a different perspective to singing. Sometimes those songs are not constructed to be played live, even if it was my intention. Everything is based on how the crowd reacts as well, of course. When it comes to this new record and the feelings that it exhibits, we will have to see as time goes on what songs work and what songs don’t."

Ghost's new album 'IMPERA' is out now. You can purchase it from right HERE

You can also pick up a UK exclusive blue cassette version from right HERE

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