I was a very confrontational child who questioned everything – Interview with Tobias Forge from Ghost

One of the most prominent rock bands of the second half of the decade played a very successful show in Budapest on the 3rd of December, 2019. Metal.hu had the chance to talk to Tobias Forge, the man behind the band, the Papas and the Cardinal. 

You have quite a few connections with Hungary, is there any particular good memory or experience that stands out, regards to the country or the people?

I haven’t been here much myself. I personally don’t have a great deal of time spent here. One of the first things that come to my mind is the music. If you look at my musical background, Elisabeth Bathory is unavoidable. since she is the quintessential dark figure in gothic culture and vampirism and she is very well known. When I was growing up, the two bands that meant the most to me were Bathory and Venom. Another favourite band of mine of that genre was Tormentor. Attila from Tormentor also sang in Mayhem which was obviously one of the most infamous bands ever where I come from. De Mysteriis dom Sathanas obviously had a very great impact on me. It came out when I was thirteen.

So is your connection mostly music-related?

What goes beyond the subcultural and historical aspect, over the course of my life there have been several prominent people with Hungarian ancestry. My lawyer who is also a really good friend of mine is half Hungarian. My mum was together with a Hungarian guy for a long time, he was 100% Hungarian.  The guy who does all our tour posters is of Hungarian descent. I myself don’t have any background but I am very fascinated with the country.

In the beginning, you weren’t supposed to be the singer of Ghost at all, just a guitarist and in an interview, you actually said that at some point you could imagine that you went back to playing the guitar with someone else singing. Is there anyone particular who you could imagine for this position?

Not off the top of my head, no.

Do you miss having a guitar in your hand while performing?

Yes, a lot. Even though I like doing what I do now if I were in another band my natural way of being on a stage is playing the guitar or playing the guitar and maybe singing the backing vocals. If I ever find myself in another band I’d be definitely playing an instrument.

Did you have anyone religious around you when growing up?

Not in my immediate family. My mum is very liberal, very, like *shows peace sign on both hands* very peaceful person. She is a very spiritual person, but definitely not religious. The other one I grew up with was my little brother who was not religious at all at the time. Later he developed some sort of religion, a religious thing that I am not really sure was necessarily a 100% devout thing, not maybe a faithful believer but he believed. It is sometimes easier to just confess to an already established dogma than to say “take a little bit of this, that and that, that not so much”, which I think is more healthy but I don’t know what he thought.

So you didn’t really meet religion?

In my extended circles, there were a few religious persons that did affect me and my behavior. One of the more crucial ones was my first-grade teacher when I started school. She was at the time probably about two years from retirement, she was definitely like 63, or something like that. You know how it was thirty years ago, anyone who is 60 was like really old, anyone who is 60 now that is nothing. Back then if you were 60 in the ‘80s that was like… She was very old-school and she had all the characteristics of a… bitch. She was ugly, she had really ugly hair, ugly clothes, she was horrible, she was mean, she was very strict. I don’t think she had any dynamics whatsoever in her teaching.

Not exactly in line with you or your family…

Someone like me who grew up with a liberal mum it was like uhh, a huge struggle. I cursed, I listened to heavy metal and I was a wise-ass and I spoke back and questioned things. I’d say that she probably ruined my school.

Seems like you weren’t the favourite kid in school…

I immediately hated being in school and I’d never really recovered from that. Even though I had a better teacher from 3rd grade on, I had already lost interest and I was already too occupied questioning and being confrontational. Unfortunately most of this continued my school, I wasn’t a very good student and frankly, I wasn’t a very good friend, either, I was very obnoxious which is not good. And it is all her fault! No, it isn’t!
And she was as Christian. She was very-very religious. So for me, someone being mean and condescending… If she were allowed she would have hit me! She couldn’t, but I remember she told us and me that she wanted to and that she could. She could have done it if it was just a few years back. So for me, if she represents Christian kindness, I want nothing to do with that.

 I heard your kids also like Ghost and even were onstage, how would you react if they turned out to be hip hop or pop fans, actually actively disliking metal?

It would be perfectly natural – you have to go against someone, right? I just did a schauspiel being confrontational and anti, and if that is their way to do it, fine! The only thing I would mention is the intellectual and cultural aspect: I would be a little bit sad if it was an active step away from everything that I liked. I still believe that between rock’n’roll from the ‘60s to the music of the ‘80s and ‘90s and obviously some music from now and all the books and movies I like, generally if anyone opposed all that, they would lose out on so much culture. It is not like I say I only like a narrow group of things, my taste is actually very wide. If my kids didn’t find anything of joy in everything I offer in terms of my taste, I would be surprised. But maybe they know better, maybe they know something that I don’t.

Made by: Vica

Photos: Zenefestő and official band photos (by Mikael Eriksson)

Special thanks to Universal Music Hungary!