A Nameless Ghoul from Ghost B.C. on Papa Emeritus II being too evil for the Vatican
Founded in 2008, Ghost B.C. created a bit of mystique for itself right from the start. The sextet is essentially anonymous in its elaborate costumes, with singer Papa Emeritus II decked out like a satanic pope, and his cardinals, The Ghouls With No Name, performing in uniform brown robes whose cowls obscure any identifying features. Yes, it's a gimmick to bring a sense of mystery and ritual to an art form that, these days, doesn't have nearly enough theater.
The music, though, is far from gimmicky: Part progressive rock and part hard rock and metal, Ghost's sound could have come from any era of metal in the past forty years. On tour in support of Infestissumam, its latest effort, Ghost B.C. and its darkly humorous show is a must-see. We recently spoke with one of the Nameless Ghouls about the "B.C." attached to the end of its name in the U.S., the influence of the music from '70s Swedish kids' shows and the proper way to adopt a retro aesthetic.
Westword: There was an interview you did for Utopia TV, and in it, you mentioned something about perhaps being an album-oriented band. What about that approach to putting together a record suits the kind of music you're doing?
Nameless Ghoul: I don't remember exactly what the context was in the Utopia interview, in terms of album-oriented, but I guess I was referring to the idea of being conceptual. We're not just another rock band that sort of puts out another eight songs every year and do the exact same thing over and over again. Well, obviously, let's check in in ten years and see if we've gotten stuck. But right now we feel very album oriented in the sense that this new record has probably more than fifty percent or a hundred percent isn't duplicating our entire repertoire.
Whereas I believe even when we do our third record, we're going to change a lot of other things in terms of decor and the overall look of the band. [We're] album-oriented in the same way that I think Iron Maiden was album-oriented in the '80s, where their whole scenery kind of changed with the album cover and it's supposed to feel like eras. I mean if you see a picture of Kiss from '75, '76 or '78, you can see which guitar they had. I assume that's what I was talking about.
Why did you use "B.C." after your name when you've had to do that for legal reasons in the U.S. recently?
The "B.C." is for "Because of Copyright" or "Before Coachella," if you want. No, it's just an amendment. We don't call ourselves that. The name of the is still Ghost. We are still referred to as Ghost. That's what we are. We just put on the B.C. when we need to do that. It's like saying, "Let's go to the 'Jack in the Box, LLC.'" You don't do that.
You recorded your new album in Nashville. Why did you want to record there, and did you have to maintain your anonymity in the studio? Presumably not.
That wasn't really a problem because in Nashville, what we do isn't really known. It is the capital for commercial and religious music. So because we were doing our big sellout record, we definitely needed to go there to fully sell out. Nick [Raskulinecz] lives there, so we needed to be practical. Also the Blackbird Studio we ended up using was very much a good choice, I think. A lot of old gear. Even though the record isn't fully analog, it still has a very analog feel due to the gear that we used.
How did you come to work with Dave Grohl on "The Marionette" by ABBA, of all songs?
It was actually quite simple. We met and asked if he was interested in doing something. Foo Fighters was basically going into some sort of hibernation and he was sort of in between doing his film and he had some time off, and we said, "Do you want to do a special project with us?" He was into the idea and we did because we had a handful of songs that were supposed to be recorded together with the album.
But we felt we didn't want to squeeze in recording a few songs in the end of the recording session just because we needed B-sides. We felt like we wanted to treat those B-sides a little better. We were just happy that we could sort of fit those songs into a context where it felt fresh and fun and not something you stress out on the last day of recording as something more important.
So we ended up spending a week in L.A. with Dave recording at his studio before going to Nashville to record the actual album. So we sort of got our rocks off a little bit in L.A. first, which I think was good for the album because then we went into Blackbird with a clear, not-so-enthusiastic, more to the point [attitude], where we knew already what we were supposed to do.
Did the Papa Emeritus II change coincide with the election of the new Pope to the Vatican?
There were a lot of things going on there, but I think there was a conflict of interest that sort of got things confused. Our new Pope, within the band, obviously felt that he was cheated by life a little bit because he signed up for this job, and then this new vacancy came, which he obviously fancied. To tell you the truth, we were glad that he stuck with his guns here because we needed him here. We did a half-ass job of helping him toward the other position.
That's too bad it didn't work out.
Yeah, it's too bad. But we felt that, let's face it, if you're going to fit into the real Vatican, you have to be really evil. And ours is still a little bit too charming, I think. He didn't have what it takes.
The song "Ghuleh/Zombie Queen" sounds very psychedelic, like something Hawkwind might do. Was that band at all an influence on how that song sounded?
Not really. I have their records, but they're not a huge influence on the band. Them being part of an era, that era felt influential, but there are elements of "Ghuleh" that are very typical of '70s Swedish music. I think that a lot of people growing up in Sweden or Scandinavia may refer to a lot of the vibe, at least on the first part, as some of the kids shows that were around in the '70s and prog bands in Sweden in the '70s had that sort of sound.
What was the kids' show?
One classic was something similar to Sesame Street. It was very educational program with ABCs and colors and 1-2-3s. Translated the show was called Five Ants is More Than Four Elephants. It was a classic show from 1973, and it's re-run, so most kids know it. Have you seen Pippi Longstocking?
The guy who plays her father, the big bearded guy? He had a show called Beppes godnattstund; his name was Beppe [Wolgers], and the show was Nighttime with Beppes. He was a fatherly kind of character with a beard and in pajamas. He was lying in this big bed reading stories in a very psychedelic environment -- this was the mid-'70s as well. They also had music like that playing. So "Ghuleh" is very much a nostalgic song, and it sounds very much like that era of kid shows -- a little bit mystical, a little big magical, a lot of brown and orange.
Why did you want to work with Amir Chamdin on the videos for "Secular Haze" and "Year Zero"? What do you like about his aesthetic?
He has done a lot of things in the past that were sort of retrospective-looking, artistically, doing it in a similar manner that we are trying to sort of recreate old techniques. It sounds a bit high horse saying this, but that "classic" feel. We knew he was very interested in that, as well. He has done a few proper long-playing movies and one of them takes place in the '60s and '70s. His attention to detail also made us very interested in working with him when it came to sort of recreating that era in the "Secular Haze" video.
There are many other bands that have tried to have sort of a retro feel but what they end up doing is basically just putting a filter on -- something that's recorded on a digital camera, and we can see through that directly. We literally went to an old TV studio with an old reel camera from that age and did all those sort of moods. So it was as authentic as it could be in order to make it look like a 1971 TV show.
Ti West did something like that with his film The House of the Devil.
Exactly! Exactly like that. That was actually one of the most interesting films I've seen during the last couple of years just because of that. When you're authentically mimicking time, that's an interesting way of doing things. I'm not saying that's right, but I personally like that a lot. Funny that you bring up that movie. I usually refer to that movie as very similar to what we have in mind.
When you watch that movie, it's very reminiscent, visually, to movies like The Devil's Rain.
Yeah it does. Even the female actor looks like a babe from 1979. There's something about their look. There are certain people today that physically sport a look that wasn't around at that point.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.