“I’m as much of an exhibitionist as anyone else who’s ever put on a guitar and been on stage, but I love the idea of being able to get in and out of my stardom,” Forge says, explaining why Dad Emeritus. “If Bono comes to dinner, we would expect a long spiel about Greenpeace. I don’t have to be that person, but I can still play a rock star.
Stadiums, award ceremonies and celebrity discussions are a world away from where Forge began his musical career. At 15, he joined his first DIY punk band and spent the next few years experimenting with death metal and alternative rock in a variety of underground bands. “There’s a natural limiter to the success you can achieve playing extreme metal,” Forge tells me over Zoom, on a day off from a co-headlining US tour with Danish rock band Volbeat.
He formed Ghost in 2006 to combine traditional rock (he had grown up idolizing the Doors, Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd) his love of theater (The Phantom Of The Opera and Cats were both hugely influential, with Forge calling Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “mind-blowing” musicals and the horror and darkness of death metal. The result is something flamboyant, dramatic and, he adds, “with a lot more visual elements than your average grunge group”.
“Without the music, we wouldn’t have gone anywhere,” Forge says. “I know a lot of bands that look cool, but suck.” Ghost released creepy debut single Elizabeth in 2010 without any press photos “to let the music do the talking” and signed a deal soon after. The debut album Opus Eponymous followed later that year. While most other occult rock bands were happy to “stay on the mat, as they say in Sweden”, Forge wanted more. “My background may be in underground punk but I never wanted to limit ourselves.”