If you wanted to interview Grammy-winning Swedish metal band Ghost before the 2018 release of its latest and biggest album, “Prequelle,” you’d likely be chatting with one of its Nameless Ghouls, as its musicians are formally referred to.
You certainly wouldn’t be talking to one of the demonic vocalists — Papa Emeritus I, II or III — or its current lead singer, Cardinal Copia.
“The persona on stage does not do interviews. He is as much into doing interviews as the Phantom from ‘Phantom of the Opera’ would be,” says Tobias Forge, the band’s true mastermind and the person behind first the Papas and now the Cardinal.
Due to a lawsuit filed against him by former band members (which was dismissed in October), Forge is no longer moonlighting as a ghoul. But the real-name recognition hasn’t changed how he conducts himself.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
“I differentiate between the character and myself,” he explains. “I’m mainly commenting as the director of the play and the writer of the score rather than the persona on stage.”
While the revelation may strip away some of the mystique surrounding the demonic band — which manages to create infectious, theatrical pop-metal — it hasn’t stunted Ghost’s success. Fans were already hooked.
“When I pictured Ghost, what I wanted to do with it was very much in line with how things were before the internet,” Forge says. “I wanted to be one of those bands that you didn’t know a lot about, but you spoke of a lot the same way I spoke about black metal bands in the early ’90s — bands I’d only seen a few black and white pictures of in a fanzine.”
Speculation has certainly fueled interest in Ghost, but so has its image.
“We would have never been able to do the amount of touring and shows we’ve done had I not once upon a time drew a logo that looked good on a T-shirt,” Forge says. “We never made money on tour, but we sold a lot of merchandise. That’s the one thing that sustains this band. That’s what pays the salaries.”
But earworms like “Mummy Dust,” “Rats” and “Cirice” haven’t hurt either.
“At the end of the day, if we didn’t have the music to back up those T-shirts, I don’t think we would’ve gone very far,” he says.
“The first head it needs to stick in is mine,” he says. “Despite having a great love for a lot of the eclectic kraut music and horror that isn’t catchy, I’m a very big fan of FM rock. I love very catchy songs, everything from the ’60s Beatles and Stones, Motown, Northern soul. As a songwriter, I’m in awe of song crafting. Of course, I’m looking for the hook.”
Forge is heavily influenced by alternative, hard rock, metal and films from the ’80s, stuff his late older brother Sebastian introduced him to growing up. It’s definitely informed Ghost’s look and sound.
He credits nuanced storytelling as part of what made ’70s and ’80s films like “Jaws” and “The Shining” classics.
“Even B- and C-grade movies had segues of comfort that balanced the scary feel. Over the last 20 years, a lot of the elements in the classic movies were disregarded with few exceptions,” he explains. “‘Friday the 13th’ and ‘Halloween’ are cozy, beautiful films.”
Yet he sees that trend changing.
“Thanks to ‘Stranger Things,’ probably, they’ve started to go back to that. ‘It’ was like that. Even the new ‘Halloween’ was a little like that. It had elements that felt nicer despite people being bludgeoned with hammers.”
He finds the same thing in modern music.
“I don’t get moved by a lot of new bands,” Forge says. But “that doesn’t mean I think everyone sucks. It just means I don’t find the same thrill.”
When: 8 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Ovens Auditorium, 2700 E. Independence Blvd.
Tickets: $39.50 and up.
Details: 800-745-3000; www.ticketmaster.com.