Ghost B.C. are all about duality. The Swedish metal band bundle songs about the antichrist in a catchy, pop-metal package. They want to be huge but also want anonymity, which is why its members are identified only as Papa Emeritus II (the singer) and Nameless Ghouls (everybody else). The band's 2010 debut, Opus Eponymous, was a hit with critics and metal fans alike and was even nominated for the Swedish equivalent of a Grammy.
Now on a major label, Ghost B.C. ramped up the production and the ambition on Infestissumam, a ten-song cycle about – what else – the birth of Satan, whose release was delayed thanks to several printers refusing to print the deluxe edition, which features a 16th century orgy amongst its artwork. We caught up with one of the Nameless Ghouls to chat about the band's move to the majors, the perils of trying to stay anonymous, and why they had to add a pesky B.C. to the end of their band name. The band plays the Showbox at the Market on Saturday.
SW: This record is your first for a major label. Were you at all surprised that a band that sings so frequently about Satan would find their way to a multi-national corporation?
Nameless Ghoul: Yeah, we have questioned it a couple of times, especially beforehand and before all the censorship stuff when we were just on the threshold of signing.
So it wasn't the elephant in the room then? You had discussed the implications of your lyrics and imagery before signing?
I think it might be helpful for people who follow us to understand that the person that signed us, Tom Whalley, has his imprint within Universal. He's our advocate in this and he believes in the band and knows everything about the band.
Whatever has been a problem later on – like the refusal to print by printers – we cannot expect an entire worldwide organization to understand fully what we do. It's not a big surprise that people within the organization might take offense, like the printers. That's not even Universal, that's big printing plants in the Midwest U.S. They are used to printing up huge loads of Shania Twains and Taylor Swifts and when something like us comes in there, of course they're going to react. Some people say, "Well how do Anal Cunt print their records?" They don't go to those kind of printers.
Are you at liberty to say anything more about the name change in the U.S.? Is there another band that forbade you from using it?
There are so many things called Ghost. The problem was we could not produce a paper that gives us the exclusive rights to use it, that's the difference. Not the right to use it, the exclusive rights, so the organization refused to release the record [without changing the name]. That was it.
To what lengths do you go to preserve your anonymity? Do your close friends and families know what you're in, for example?
We spend a lot of time not telling people, even at home. In our hometown, I'm not saying that everybody knows, but it's impossible to keep it a secret. There are a lot of people playing in bands in our town and it's hard to hide the fact that one band all of the sudden starts touring.
In the beginning, when we didn't have a referential point for how intense this was going to be, we didn't even tell a lot of the family. Then when you quit your job and all the sudden you're nominated for an award, it's getting harder and harder because someone's going to ask you. Your better half's friend might say, "So, what are you doing nowadays?"
"I just quit my job to pursue a musical career."
"OK, what band is that?"
Is the title, Infestissumam, an actual Latin word or does it just sound like one?
It's a Latin word. It was taken out of context but it means "the most hostile." The word just had a ring to it that sounded big and heavy. What we should have done with our band name, we did with this, which was Googled the shit out of the word to see how used it is. And that title hadn't really been used so we felt that as hard as it is for many people to pronounce, let's go for it. It's a heavy title and it summed up a lot of thematics on the record.
Can you talk about the image on the album cover? What are its origins?
Even before the first record, we knew the second one was going to deal with the presence of the antichrist, and therefore the devil. So we knew there was going to be a baby on the front cover. It also represents the paradox of inborn evil, of being very innocent and very vulnerable. I'm not going to talk at length about war, but when y0u chose to bomb the kids as well, eventually these kids will be vengeful 20-year-olds with guns. Everything that we do is about paradoxes and things fall back into the dualism of the black and white and everything in between. And we have made a thing out of making pastiches of everything, so the record sleeve is a pastiche of the film Amadeus.