GHOST's TOBIAS FORGE Explains How He Goes About Covering Other Artists' Songs

May 21, 2023

This past Friday (May 19),GHOST released "Phantomime", a five-song EP which sees the Swedish occult rockers offering takes on IRON MAIDEN's "Phantom Of The Opera", GENESIS's "Jesus He Knows Me", TELEVISION's "See No Evil", THE STRANGLERS' "Hanging Around" and Tina Turner's "We Don't Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)".

Speaking to France's FIP Metal about his approach to recording covers of other artists' songs, GHOST leader Tobias Forge said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "Sometimes it's almost deflating working with covers, because you get frustrated how easy they are sometimes. And then you're, like, 'Fuck, I wish I was this efficient.' But then again, it's going back to school — reshape a little bit of what you thought you knew.

"Every now and then we have done these cover EPs with GHOST," he continued. "To a certain degree, I guess they have been retrospectively covering what I've liked for a long time, but on the other hand, we've done ['I Believe' by] SIMIAN MOBILE DISCO, which is obviously not a song that I grew up listening to; I think I heard it on FIFA [in] '05 or something. And this time around I think I just wanted to do a little bit more rock-leniant… Obviously, you and Tina Turner in there; that might not have been necessarily a rock song. But I purposely decided to, 'I'm gonna deliver five rock songs that will somehow embody, I guess, the origins of where I come from.'

"One key ingredient for a song, in order for me to get the spark that I wanna cover it, is that it has something — I'm gonna use the word lightly, but 'missing.' Something that I can, in one way or another, reshape.

"'We Don't Need Another Hero', I've liked that song for, obviously, forever. And I heard that this song could be so much more — I'm not gonna say 'better', but a more massive… it could have more of a hard rock, arena rock sort of presentation.

"TELEVISION, I love both 'Adventure' and I love 'Marquee Moon' a lot; I've liked them for a long, long time. The production, especially on 'Marquee Moon', is very, very soft. The band sounds like they're sort of in a room like this, and I felt that we could definitely do a stand-up version of that, something that's gonna be more like THE ROLLING STONES 1982 on steroids and cocaine."

He added: "'Jesus He Knows Me', the original, is obviously very uptempo, but it sounds like they're playing it with flower sticks — very, very soft. And most of the things that I made my version of, or our version of, most of the things, the components are in the original song, but they're just played in a very, very subdued sort of [way]… That was the guiding light throughout the recording — just to make it as energetic possible.

"The IRON MAIDEN song, obviously, was very energetic in its original form, almost to the point where I would say, from a producer point of view, where I tend to wanna finetune things, I think that the original version might be a little bit too all over the place. So I felt like if I can structure a few things, then it can definitely be a different version. So where you wanted TELEVISION really drunk, I wanted the MAIDEN song to be a little bit more sobered up, or not on alcohol — maybe on amphetamine instead.

"I've always loved THE STRANGLERS. I've always liked that record, and I've always felt 'Hanging Around', it had that sort of stomp that I like… I guess I could have done other STRANGLERS songs, but I just liked the fact that it also had that sort of slight little… It mentions Christ, so it's, like, yeah, okay, so it has a little bit of a religious flirt. So that checks the box; it makes it GHOST-ified."

"Phantomime" track listing:

01. See No Evil (TELEVISION)
02. Jesus He Knows Me (GENESIS)
03. Hanging Around (THE STRANGLERS)
04. Phantom Of The Opera (IRON MAIDEN)
05. We Don't Need Another Hero (Thunderdome) (Tina Turner)

GHOST is no stranger to covers, having previously tackled material originally written and recorded by THE BEATLES ("Here Comes The Sun"), ABBA ("I'm A Marionette"), DEPECHE MODE ("Waiting For The Night"), Roky Erickson ("If You Have Ghosts"), METALLICA ("Enter Sandman"), PET SHOP BOYS ("It's A Sin") and EURYTHMICS ("Missionary Man"), among others.

This past February, GHOST revealed details of its upcoming "Re-Imperatour" summer 2023 U.S. tour with special guest AMON AMARTH. Produced by Live Nation and FPC Live, the 27-date trek kicks off on Wednesday, August 2 in Concord, California at Concord Pavilion, with stops in Salt Lake City, Chicago, Cincinnati, Austin and more before wrapping up with the band's Monday, September 11 return to the Kia Forum in Los Angeles.

GHOST is continuing to tour in support of its latest album, "Impera", which sold 70,000 equivalent album units in the U.S. in its first week of release to land at position No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart. It marked the third top 10 album — and fifth top 40-charting set — for the Swedish act. The 12-song effort was produced by Klas Åhlund and mixed by Andy Wallace.

"Impera" landed at position No. 1 in Germany and Sweden, No. 2 in the U.K., Netherlands, Belgium and Norway, No. 3 in Australia, No. 5 in France and Ireland, and No. 20 in Italy.

Forge worked on the follow-up to 2018's "Prequelle" with Åhlund and Swedish co-writers Salem Al Fakir and Vincent Pontare, whose credits include Madonna and Lady Gaga.

In January, GHOST released a new version of its song "Spillways" featuring a guest appearance by DEF LEPPARD singer Joe Elliott.

"Spillways" is taken from "Impera", which was released in March 2022.

Photo credit: Jimmy Hubbard

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