Ghost’s Tobias Forge on Cardinal Copia’s Arrival, Headlining Arenas, and Halloween Memories

"I didn’t think we would reach this kind of popularity"

Ghost, photo by Mikael Eriksson

    Ghost recently embarked on a fall North American tour, which will see the Swedish band headlining arenas for the first time in the U.S. and Canada on select dates, the latest step upward in their remarkable rise to fame.

    For years, Ghost were shrouded in mystery, made up of Nameless Ghouls and a mysterious frontman named Papa Emeritus. While rumors persisted about Papa’s identity, his name was unveiled when former members of Ghost outed the frontman as Tobias Forge, as part of a lawsuit claiming that they didn’t receive a proper share of the band’s profits. Forge emerged victorious in that lawsuit earlier this month, although the former band members do plan to appeal the decision.

    In the midst of the legal issues, Ghost released their latest opus, Prequelle, earlier this year, and along with the new album came a “new” frontman, Cardinal Copia. The disc yielded the No. 1 mainstream rock hit, “Rats”, Ghost’s second song to top the chart, following 2016’s “Square Hammer”. Their latest single, “Dance Macabre”, is currently climbing the tally, as well, poised to become the band’s fifth Top 10 hit on the U.S. rock charts, a pretty amazing feat for a Swedish metal outfit that burst onto the scene with shrouded costumes and a taste for Satanism.


    We recently caught up with Forge to discuss the arrival of Cardinal Copia, the band’s success at U.S. rock radio, their first headlining arena shows in North America, and his Halloween memories. Read our interview with the Ghost mastermind below:

    On whether the arrival of Cardinal Copia as new Ghost frontman was in reaction to Forge being outed by his former bandmates

    No, it was planned beforehand. One thing that is a little bit of a giveaway, if you look at the video for “Square Hammer”, there is a red cardinal bird, and that was the idea since a few years back. I wanted to make a plague record, and since the plague record was going to be in some way or form about mortality / survival, it was also going to have a theme of master and apprentice. And in order to follow someone’s route to becoming a master, he must be presented to the viewer as an apprentice.

    Thematically, [Ghost’s latest album Prequelle] sort of fit into my personal experiences, so that it became quite an honest story about survival and about perseverance. Ironically, that was already mapped out beforehand. So, it just sort of played in my hands a little.


    On whether he ever imagined Ghost would strongly impact U.S. rock radio and reach this level of popularity

    I didn’t think we would reach this kind of popularity. Obviously, I wasn’t thinking from the beginning that we would become necessarily a band that would play arenas … early on, even before Ghost was known to some extent via MySpace, there was a handful of people in my immediate surrounding that were aware of the songs, and held it with high regard. So, I knew beforehand that it was definitely moving people. Even though they may have been biased, close people, it seemed to be moving them in a more powerful way than a lot of the things I had done before. [My earlier band] Repugnant was held with some regard but had limitations because it was a noisy death metal band, but it seemed like Ghost was something that people took an immediate reaction to, so I knew it was going to have a reaction.

    As we went a little further along, I was thinking that, well, if the [debut] record, Opus Eponymous, when it came out, is causing this much ruckus on a worldwide basis, maybe there’s a chance that this can become a theater band. I always thought that we could probably be a big production band, but without necessarily having a hit single or huge record sales — maybe like Diamanda Galás or maybe like Dead Can Dance, a band that would come and play a theater for five nights. Maybe we would play to Carnegie Hall or something like that — we would still be somewhat commercial in sense that we would attract more than 100 people.


    I never really thought of us as the sort of band that would play with mainstream rock bands of the day. But, on the other hand, I don’t think of that as being anything negative. On the contrary, it’s a very positive thing. I think, with Ghost, we managed to achieve a lot of the things that I never really dreamt of … well, I dreamt of it, but I thought I was way past my deadline. When Ghost broke through, I was 29, 30. Usually, you don’t break through at that age, but you can be successful, and everything is a bonus.

    On headlining their first North American arena shows on select dates on their fall tour

    Those [arena] shows will be different [from the other gigs]. There will be a different production, there will be a different stage setting. I think it’s very exciting. It’s definitely a dream come true. I’ve always been a big fan, for lack of a more suitable phrase, of arena rock, not only because of the amount of people you can fit into an arena, usually if you play an arena, there’s a lot more possibilities of creating the sort of stage show that you can’t really do in a theater or a club.

    The majority of the shows that we are doing on this American tour are 2,000-3,000 seat theaters, which is also a very good format. It’s big enough for it to feel massive, but it’s small enough to be controllable. But because it’s a theater stage, you’re doing the whole show through a proscenium hole, which is a little bit different from when you’re playing an arena. Because when you play an arena, you have more of a 180 — you have to think of people on the sides and you have to think of people in the [upper levels]. It gives the stage a slightly more exciting form than you can fit into a proscenium … I’m very happy about these three arena shows [in L.A., Brooklyn and Quebec] being a first step of showing what we’re made of.

    On his favorite memories of Halloween


    I grew up in Sweden, and we had a similar night that was called All Saints Eve. As a kid, we didn’t have a Halloween tradition. However, I have a very, very liberal mother, and when I was a kid she was very much nice to me, so she almost always let me rent whatever movies I wanted. So, I remember when I was maybe 6 or 7 years old, and I was sick, I was home from school, and she got me Halloween II. That was basically my first real encounter with that tradition. That was really my first encounter with the Halloween tradition, Halloween II. And then came the ‘90s, and in my teenage years, that’s when Halloween, as a party night, with the whole trick or treat and the pumpkin heads and all that, started to emerge in Sweden, and I have a few really fun nights that I barely remember from my teenage years and early 20s — good parties, with a lot of dressing up.

    But then, I must say, ironically, just because of what I do on an everyday basis almost, we are usually on tour around Halloween, unfortunately, I tend to miss out on it. So I haven’t been to a really good Halloween party in years. Wink, wink, everyone.

    On playing a special show in Milwaukee on Halloween night in honor of a fan who passed away

    We played Milwaukee in May of this year, and we had a fan who died of heart failure during the show, so we had to cut the show in half. We just did the first half but we had to stop the show because the evening was just horrible and it had been a very sad and very dramatic scene. It wasn’t suitable to continue. But this time around, we’re coming back to Milwaukee and we’re going to play the second half of the show, and we’re going to do it in his honor, so I’m looking forward to that. It’s going to be weird but purposeful, so hopefully we’re going to make it a little bit of an extra special Halloween for some people. He had his wife and his son with him at that show, so it was a very sad event. I really hope that we can turn it into somewhat of a positive thing. We’ll do our best.


    Our thanks to Tobias Forge for taking the time to speak with us. Ghost are currently on tour in North America, and will be touring Europe in 2019 as both a headliner and as a support act on Metallica’s trek. See the dates below.

    Ghost’s 2018 North American and 2019 European Tour Dates:
    10/31 – Milwaukee, WI @ Riverside Theatre (special show to honor fan who died)
    11/01 – Chicago, IL @ Aragon Ballroom
    11/02 – Peoria, IL @ Peoria Civic Center
    11/03 – Madison, WI @ The Sylvee
    11/04 – Ames, IA @ Stephens Auditorium
    11/06 – Omaha, NE @ Orpheum Theater
    11/08 – Albuquerque, NM @ Kiva Auditorium
    11/09 – El Paso, TX @ Abraham Chavez Theatre
    11/10 – Phoenix, AZ @ Comerica Theatre
    11/12 – San Diego, CA @ Spreckels Theatre
    11/13 – Sacramento, CA @ Sacramento Community Center Theater
    11/15 – San Jose, CA @ City National Civic Center
    11/16 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Forum
    11/17 – Las Vegas, NV @ The Joint
    11/19 – Midland, TX @ Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center
    11/20 – Austin, TX @ Bass Concert Hall
    11/21 – New Orleans, LA @ Orpheum Theatre
    11/23 – Orlando, FL @ Walt Disney Theater
    11/24 – Miami Beach, FL @ Jackie Gleason Theater
    11/25 – Clearwater, FL @ Ruth Eckerd Hall
    11/27 – North Charleston, SC @ North Charleston Performing Arts Center
    11/29 – Mobile, AL @ Saenger Theatre
    11/30 – Atlanta, GA @ Roxy Theatre
    12/01 – Jacksonville, FL @ Florida Theatre
    12/02 – Charlotte, NC @ Ovens Auditorium
    12/04 – Richmond, VA @ Dominion Energy Center
    12/05 – Wilkes-Barre, PA @ FM Kirby Center for the Performing Arts
    12/07 – Laval, QC @ Place Bell
    12/08 – Toronto, ON @ Sony Centre for the Performing Arts
    12/10 – Baltimore, MD @ The Hippodrome
    12/11 – Upper Darby, PA @ Tower Theater
    12/13 – Albany, NY @ Palace Theatre
    12/14 – Boston, MA @ Wang Theatre
    12/15 – Brooklyn, NY @ Barlcays Center
    02/03 – Lyon, FR @ Tony Garnier
    02/05 – Amsterdam, NL @ AFAS Live
    02/06 – Antwerp, BE @ Lotto
    02/07 – Paris, FR @ Zenith
    02/14 – Stuttgart, DE @ Schleyerhalle
    02/15 – Bochum, DE @ Ruhrkongress
    02/17 – Hannover, DE @ Swiss Life Hall
    02/18 – Hamburg, DE @ Sporthalle
    02/20 – Gothenburg, SE @ Scandinavium
    02/21 – Oslo, NO @ Spektrum
    02/23 – Stockholm, SE @ Ericsson Globe
    05/01 – Lisbon, PT @ Estádio do Restelo *
    05/03 – Madrid, ES @ Valdebebas *
    05/05 – Barcelona, ES @ Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys *
    05/08 – Milan, IT @ San Siro Hippodrome *
    05/10 – Zürich, CH @ Letzigrund *
    05/12 – Paris, FR @ Stade De France *
    06/08 – Dublin, IE @ Slane Castle *
    06/11 – Amsterdam, NL @ Johan Cruijff Arena *
    06/13 – Köln, DE @ RheinEnergieStadion *
    06/16 – Brussels, BE @ Koning Boudewijnstadion *
    06/18 – Manchester, UK @ Etihad Stadium *
    06/20 – London, UK @ Twickenham Stadium *
    07/06 – Berlin, DE @ Olympiastadion *
    07/09 – Goteborg, SE @ Ullevi *
    07/11 – Copenhagen, DK @ Telia Parken *
    07/13 – Trondheim, NO @ Granåsen *
    07/16 – Hameenlinna, FI @ Kantolan Tapahtumapuisto *
    07/18 – Tartu, EE @ Raadi Airport *
    07/21 – Moscow, RU @ Luzhniki Stadium *
    08/14 – Bucharest, RO @ Arena Națională *
    08/16 – Vienna, AT @ Ernst-Happel-Stadion *
    08/18 – Prague, CZ @ Airport Letnany *
    08/21 – Warsaw, PO @ PGE Narodowy *
    08/23 – Munich, DE @ Olympiastadion *
    08/25 – Mannheim, DE @ Maimarktgelande *

    * = supporting Metallica