By Geoffrey Rowlands
When is a band not a band? Four former members of Swedish heavy metal outfit Ghost contested this point in a 2017 lawsuit brought against founding member Tobias Forge.
Simon Soderberg, Mauro Rubino, Martin Hjertstedt and Henrik Palm filed suit in the district court of Linkoping, Ghost’s home city, accusing Tobias of withholding financial information and payments to other members. Tobias counter argued that no legal partnership had ever existed between the other members and himself. He claimed they were paid a fixed salary to perform and execute the band’s image as he instructed and they were effectively ‘musicians for hire.’
The legal action is still ongoing so Tobias cannot make comments about it but he can discuss how the unveiling of his identity has impacted the band.
“I suppose it was inevitable that my identity would be revealed at some time,” conceded the 37-year-old singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. “I did wonder if removing that anonymity might damage the band. But it actually seems to have had the opposite effect.
“Maybe all the publicity brought about by my being named in the lawsuit has made Ghost known to more people and prompted them to take an interest in our music. Our new album, Prequelle, is the most successful we’ve ever made.”
The band’s anonymity is achieved by masks, costumes and characters. The backing musicians are referred to as Nameless Ghouls identified individually only as Fire (formerly Alpha), Water, Wind, Earth and Ether. When asked for autographs, the musicians simply draw the symbol which accompanies their moniker.
Tobias performed under the guise of several characters. His current incarnation of Cardinal Copia followed Papa Emeritus I, II and II. He also adopted the identity of a Nameless Ghoul to give interviews.
“It’s all about theatre,” he remarked. “I’d played in several other bands before forming Ghost. I wanted my new band to be different. Some songs came first. I wanted to match them to a show which was more than just a rock concert. I loved horror movies so I had this dream to put together a kind of horror show around the music. It took about two years to get the imagery right.”
Although the basic idea for Ghost was developed in 2006, their debut album, Opus Eponymous -Latin for self-titled work, was not released until 2010.
“I was still playing in other bands so didn’t have too much time to spend on creating material for Ghost. I asked my bassist friend Gustaf Lindstrom to help me record three tracks for a demo and I had studio musician Ludvig Kennberg play drums on the album but every other instrument and vocal was performed by me.
“I had this whole stage show concept which I obviously couldn’t perform alone so that’s how I came to recruit the first band members for Ghost. Since then, there have been quite a few personnel changes among the Nameless Ghouls.
“I’ve always referred to Ghost as we rather than me because I wanted to preserve the theatrical aspect of our show. I want Ghost to be larger than life. I couldn’t achieve this on my own. I need the others to perform the songs on stage and portray their roles as Nameless Ghouls.”
Ghost has now released four studio albums, one live LP and two EPs. Square Hammer, one of their nine official singles, topped the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart in 2016. In so doing, Ghost became the first Swedish band to hit number one on this chart.
“It’s been very gratifying to see how our following has grown over the years. A few of our fans have complained that some of the songs on Prequelle might be too commercial but our albums have always been different. We probably have a core sound but the songs have always been variations of this.
“We have a bigger band now in terms of personnel. We have backing singers for our new stage show. The whole thing will be bigger and better than anything we’ve done before. But this is just the latest stage in the evolution of Ghost. There will be a lot more still to come.”
Linkin Park star Mike Shinoda has revealed the sadness behind the writing and recording of his newly released debut solo album, Post Traumatic.
Mike issued a three-song EP with the same name back in January. The tracks all deal with his feelings after the suicide last year of Linkin Park bandmate Chester Bennington. Almost every song on Mike’s album have the same subject matter.
“The songs stemmed from a very dark place,” Mike admitted. “I wasn’t leaving my house. I’d lost one of my closest friends and collaborators. I felt very much lost.
“I wanted to put this terrible experience into music. My life was very difficult but the music was relatively easy. Writing the songs was my way of expressing my emotions. Creating them did make things a little easier.
“The passing of time has also helped. At first, almost every day was terrible. Now, I have less bad days. Eventually, I will find a new normal.”
Mike’s new single is Running From My Shadow. It also features Canadian rock rapper Grandson.
There has been good and bad news for Colombian superstar singer Shakira.
On the positive side of things, she is now performing a concert tour after fearing she would never sing again.
“I originally thought I had strained vocal cords,” she said. “But the problem worsened when I tried to resume singing. I suffered what was thought to be a vocal haemorrhage but it was actually a vascular lesion which is much worse than a haemorrhage.”
“There were many times when I thought I would never be able to sing my songs again. I saw a number of doctors who all suggested surgery. But I held off from taking that step and, miraculously, the lesion disappeared completely. It must have been the power of prayer.
“I took things easy when I tried to sing again but there were no problems so my El Dorado world tour was rescheduled. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to get through a concert as my first show in Hamburg.”
Delighted as she was by her opening date, the aftermath of her second concert two days later in Cologne brought bad news.
“Gerard (Shakira’s partner, Spanish football star Gerard Pique) and I were burgled on the night of that show. Gerard was with me before he had to go off to the Spanish national team. Thieves broke into our house in Spain and stole things such as watches and jewellery.
“It’s upsetting of course but no harm came to Gerard’s parents who were asleep during the robbery and objects can be replaced. My voice can’t so I definitely came out on the plus side of events.”
Guns N’ Roses
Fan filmed footage has been posted online of Guns N’ Roses performing a cover of Velvet Revolver’s Slither and their own early track, Shadow Of Your Love, during the recent Download Festival at Donington Park, England.
Guns N’ Roses stars Slash, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum were members of Velvet Revolver. Slither was the lead single from their 2004 smash hit debut album, Contraband. The song also earned Velvet Revolver the now defunct Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance.
Shadow Of Your Love was originally written by Axle Rose and Paul Tobias for Axle’s pre-Guns N’ Roses band Hollywood Rose. It ended up being the first song Guns N’ Roses rehearsed together for their 1987 debut album, Appetite For Destruction.
Shadow Of Your Love was recently re-released to promote the upcoming reissue of Appetite For Destruction. It has so far peaked at number six on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Songs chart.
Appetite For Destruction: Locked N’ Loaded is set for release on June 29. It is available in four different editions. The ultimate collection is certainly aimed at hardcore Guns N’ Roses fans. It contains 73 songs, 49 of which have never previously been released. There is a 96-page book featuring never-before-seen photographs from Axle’s personal archive, 12 lithographs and a variety of replica memorabilia.
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