Ghost B.C.: Defrocking The Ghouls
To enter the world of Ghost B.C. is to enter a realm cloaked in symbolism, mystery and code. A group of nameless ghouls from Linköping, Sweden headed by vocalist Papa Emeritus II, Ghost B.C. are undoubtedly one of the most unique and interesting bands in the world of hard rock and metal. Having toured Australia as part of Soundwave ’13, Ghost B.C. are set to return early next year as part of the Big Day Out. BLUNT spoke with “A Nameless Ghoul”…
Does Ghost B.C. grow tired of speculation about the identities of the members?
We’ve gotten so used it, but everything is working against us, including ourselves. Because we constantly strive towards being more successful at what we do, and obviously that doesn’t go hand in hand with staying anonymous. So we are accepting of the fact that there will come a day when people might know who we are. But as long as we don’t change our presentation of Ghost B.C., I don’t think it’s a big deal. I think there’s more to it than anonymity.
Would it ruin everything if people found out who’s under the cloaks?
Not for us. Some people might ask us, “Are you hiding your identities because you can’t stand for what you are saying?” No, definitely not. The only thing is we wanted the experience to be more interesting for whomever is choosing to attend a concert or listen to a record. Because I like bands that I can get intrigued about as well. Anybody who grew up before the internet and was a music fan before the internet, there was an element of that with so many bands. Even bands that were not anonymous, there was a kind of clandestine nature surrounding most bands that weren’t big enough to have big biographies written about them. You knew nothing. That’s what drove us to become music fans, and that’s the fuel that we like to have, the concept of not knowing everything when there is something to actually look for. So in the event that our identities become publicly known or the information is out there for people to find, it might mean we won’t hide our faces to the extent that we have done. But the amount of media coverage needed for someone to be publicly known, I don’t think we will ever accumulate that. A comparison I like to use is, do you know who the drummer of Coldplay is or what he looks like?
No. And he’s in one of the biggest bands in the world. He could step into the room right now and I wouldn’t recognise him. I’m sorry for saying that, and I’m sure one of these days it’s going to come back on me, but that goes to show how much coverage you need to become a publicly known person. Same goes for so many bands, and it’s never really a problem. And Papa [Emeritus II] is our figure, he’s the one people recognise. So as long as the presentation of Ghost B.C. stays in character, cloaked up, I would assume it wouldn’t make much of a difference. But I guess we’ll find out.
When Ghost B.C. toured Australia for Soundwave, so many of the other bands were interested in seeing you. Does it mean something that you’ve gained the respect of fellow artists?
Yes, especially if they are bands that you like. For example, when I was 10, which was in 1991, the biggest bands that had an impact on everybody my age were Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Nirvana, and to some degree Pantera I guess. Nowadays we are sort of personally connected to all these bands that have meant so much to our whole generation. So from a personal point of view, it’s a huge pat on the shoulder knowing that these people value what you do. From a commercial standpoint, or for the purpose of the band, obviously it’s very helpful being advocated by these persons. People take note of what they say above other people.
Seeing yourselves as being part of that hard rock lineage, it’s interesting that you’ve chosen to do covers like “Here Comes The Sun” by The Beatles and “I’m A Marionette” by ABBA. What’s the thinking behind picking those songs?
It started with “Here Comes The Sun”. It’s hard to tell how it came about. I think it was just from playing the original on acoustic guitar and going, “I wonder how it sounds played in a minor key.” And the answer was, “This sounds awesome!” We had to change a few chords to make it work. Then there was a Japanese label that wanted to licence our first album Opus Eponymous and we got asked to do another song as a bonus track. We were pretty quickly onto the idea of recording “Here Comes The Sun”. Because most songs that are written for Ghost B.C. are written as part of some sort of album context. It’s not like we have a shitload of songs lying around that we can distribute between different releases; we don’t have any B-sides. So then when “Here Comes The Sun” came out and people started liking it we started to develop more ideas like that. Now we’re constantly talking about different songs we want to do. What’s exciting about it is taking songs that are not really rooted in metal and somehow turning them into something that fits into our style, whatever that is, I don’t really know what our style is. But it feels exciting finding songs and fucking with them, basically. So we’ve got a lot more of those coming up.
Who do you see as making up Ghost B.C.’s core fanbase?
I would say 50 to 60% is made up of people who lean towards heavy metal and hard rock. And the 40 or 50% on the other side is everything. It can be basically anything. We have a lot of older people coming, and there’s kids coming to our shows as well, like children, and a lot of girls. It’s more obvious when we do our own tours, like in America, where we have toured a lot. As opposed to Europe, where we’ve mainly played festivals. Playing festivals doesn’t always show what your audience is like because you’re playing in front of a lot of people but they may have any number of reasons for why they’re there. So it’s hard to tell. We’re hoping to play some of our own shows when we come back to Australia. Like, if you’re an underground metal guy you might not want to go to Soundwave just because of the high density of screamo-type bands. And if you’re an underground metal guy you definitely might not want to go to the Big Day Out because there’s even fewer metal bands. So it feels important that when we come back we play in front of our fans as well without having them feel like they’ve been left out or ignored. The reason we didn’t do it last time was because of time constraints. It ended up being that all these cities were saturated with Soundwave sideshows. We felt like it wasn’t worth trying to compete with five different concerts so we pushed it back and hopefully we can do it in January and see if the people who might like the band for its harder qualities might come and see us in an indoor setting.
Now that you’ve tested these waters, what are you expecting when you return for the Big Day Out?
We had no idea what to expect because we had never had anything to do with Australia. Being on a very independent label before, they focussed on selective markets. That became very obvious when we released album number two [Infestissumam], because we sort of realised, ‘Oh shit, nothing has been done in this territory or that territory.’ When we got booked to play Australia on this big festival we were like, ‘Wow, we have no idea what we’re just about to do.’ It’s hard when you do festivals, because, like I said, you might attract people who are just passing by the stage or they’re waiting for the next band, so it’s hard to get a proper feel for where your band is actually at in terms of status. But we noticed there were a lot of people that came to see us that were already fans, and we noticed a lot of people were turned into fans. I’m assuming that doing the Big Day Out will be another thing entirely because it’s going to be an even wider audience. So in many ways it’s going to be interesting coming back. We’re really looking forward to it because it’s a very interesting part of the world to tour in and just to be in. We hope to get back many times.
Catch Ghost when they return to play Big Day Out in January 2014.
Big Day Out 2014
Fri Jan 17th – Western Springs, Auckland
Sun Jan 19th – Metricon Stadium & Carrara Parklands, Gold Coast
Fri Jan 24th – Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne
Sun Jan 26th – Sydney Showgrounds, Sydney
Mon Jan 27th – Sydney Showgrounds, Sydney
Fri Jan 31st – Bonython Park, Adelaide*
Sun Feb 2nd – Claremont Showgrounds, Perth*
*Subject to council approval