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An Interview with Ghost!

Ghost has been one of the most-requested bands to be included in Rock Band and we're excited to be releasing their Grammy-winning song "Cirice" this week as DLC for Rock Band 4. In anticipation of the release we were able to spend some time on the phone with A Nameless Ghoul prior to their show with Iron Maiden in Phoenix, AZ.

Ghost Logo

Can you talk a little about the origins of the band and how Ghost formed?

The band wasn't necessarily a band upon formation - we never really formed a band until our first album was released in 2010. That's when it became an actual group of people put together into a working ensemble. Before that it was more of a recording project that started a few years earlier.

The material that ended up being the first album was written between 2006 and 2009 and at that point it was more of a fun project with myself and a friend of mine. We basically wanted to have an excuse to hang out. By 2008, it really felt like the songs we had on the table, we just thought, "Wow, this sounds like a pretty awesome band," and we decided in 2008 that this Ghost project was something and that instead of doing what everybody else does (form a band, start playing the pubs, then bigger venues...all the normal stuff that everybody has done), we felt that we should circumvent a little bit of the normal routing. We had a couple of demos, drawings, the logo was there, and we thought this was something that could do better if we had an album out and started at step C or D instead of step A. That's basically what we did - we waited until 2010 when we had enough material to record an album. Once it was recorded we put a band together and started touring - and I've been doing so ever since.

It was a funny project that sort of turned - I like the quote, I believe it was Turbonegro, that said, "Most bands start off serious then end up as a joke," whereas Turbonegro started as a joke and ended up serious. That's very much our story as well - we started off very loose, as a fun thing and then we got more serious when we found out there was a lot of interest in what we were doing.

You won a Grammy Award last year - what was that experience like?

Yeah, I guess that was when I felt like, "Yeah, this is turning out alright." Obviously I felt very serious about Ghost since 2010 when I knew it was something that could go somewhere. A year later I quit my job and started living off of just doing Ghost.

You reach certain thresholds where you become more and more 'pro' and winning the Grammy felt like I'd become a 'professional'. It was a very personal feeling - I come from a society where, if you say you're a 'musician', everybody says, "Alright, that's great but what do you do?" If you say you're a musician and you don't play in Roxette or Europe or with Max Martin, everyone thinks you're unemployed. There's a stigma that comes with the territory that basically you're unemployed.

Getting the Grammy was one of those moments where I felt, "Wow, this is pretty legit now," because it's something you can tell your mom about and your old school teacher will think, "It finally paid off...all that slacking and skipped school days."

It also meant recognition from your peers...

Exactly! After that, I ran into my old music teacher from junior high and he said, "I always knew you were good. Real good actually...Grammy Award-winning good!?" Haha.

You're currently touring across the country with Iron Maiden - how has that been so far?

Fantastic - it's been really good. Traditionally when you're a support band, especially to certain bands, hard rock bands, you can end up in an uphill battle situation with their crowds. Iron Maiden is known as [one of those bands]. You're going to want to come prepared if you're going to open up for them. Generally it's a tradition to heckle the support band, yell, "Maiden, Maiden, Maiden!" between songs and such.

This is our eleventh tour of America and you can feel that the ten tours before this have really paid off in the sense that we are not regarded as a complete unknown. A lot of the cities we're playing this tour we've visited many times before so we don't end up feeling like a junior band that no one gives a $%# about. We've already established ourselves somewhat but we have to work our asses off to win them over but at least they have an open mind and don't treat us like a support band. So yeah, the tour has been going well.

You mentioned that this is your eleventh tour of the U.S. - what are some of your favorite cities to play?

There are many different ones for different reasons. Everyone raves about Miami and New York - I love coming to Seattle, Portland, Detroit...Chicago has always been a strong market for us. Tonight here in Phoenix, it's been a stronghold for years. It's always fun playing in Nashville - we recorded an album there a few years ago.

Most places have been great - people are very optimistic in general when it comes to the sort of thing we do: entertainment rock. Shock rock. Haha - it works well in America. It goes hand in hand with the idea of being entertained by wrestling or musicals, the DNA of the huge rock heritage is inherent here and that's one of the reasons we work so well with Iron Maiden. They've been a household name here for 35 years and if you're into Maiden you're probably into hard rock with supernatural ingredients and lots of guitars, so it isn't much of a culture shock when you see a band like us opening up. We grew up listening to Maiden and bands like that so we were obviously influenced by that over-the-top production rock’n’roll.

Ghost is a very 'visual' band - how important are the non-musical elements to your overall concept?

If you don't have the music, it's not worth a whole lot. I've seen a lot of bands that have spectacular imagery but they suck. From a record collecting point of view it's fun but, especially when the whole concept of Ghost was coming together, we kept thinking, "What if we sounded like Queen or Bowie combined with the new wave of British heavy metal like Demon or Iron Maiden, maybe a little Metallica but we LOOK like that or that or that?" In the metal underground there are a lot of bands with a fantastic image but maybe not the music to match. We wanted to combine those things - the black metal aesthetics with a more hi-fi, AOR (*Album-oriented Rock – a popular ‘70s radio format) production.

It's interesting that you mention a more AOR sound. Your music is sonically different than a lot of your contemporaries - more melodic for one thing.

I guess so, but I've always been melodic in my thinking. I'm a fan of artists like the Eagles, '60s & '70s music, a lot of mainstream radio rock. If you listen to the 100 best rock songs of all time it's more than often big vocal tracks and that's the stuff I'm influenced by. There's a little bit of Kansas, a little bit of Fleetwood Mac, Bachman-Turner well as Black Sabbath and Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. All done in a sort of humorous, Queen way.

Your song "Cirice" is available now in Rock Band VR and will be out this week as DLC for Rock Band 4 - are you much of a gamer?

I gave music games a try because it's such a social experience. I found that as a guitarist and drummer it was far more difficult for me. The people that I know that are absolutely rippin' at the game don't play an instrument. I do like the idea of music games and believe they have a big impact on the presence of rock & roll in a new generation.

Personally I'm into all sorts of games - particularly football (soccer) games. I've been playing every year for the last 15 years!

Have you tried any VR games?

I haven't tried any current VR games but I remember in the early '90s going to trying them at the fair when the technology was at its earliest. I'm very curious to see how they've evolved. My dream is to have a VR football game in an open world setting where you have to keep in shape and not get into too much trouble off the field. In VR that would be fantastic!

Be sure to check out for more information on Ghost and their upcoming tour dates!