Ghost are no strangers to cover songs. On one edition of their debut album, Opus Eponymous, Ghost included their take on The Beatles‘ “Here Comes the Sun,” and ever since then, they’ve continued to turn other artists’ music completely into their own.
The Dave Grohl-produced If You Have Ghost EP featured four covers, ranging from Roky Erickson to ABBA; the follow-up, Popestar, covered a similar range of artists such as Echo and the Bunnymen and Eurythmics; and now, Ghost’s latest EP, Phantomime, showcases five new cover songs from Genesis and Iron Maiden to Tina Turner and Television.
“One way or another, most songs that we’ve covered have had an impact on me, personally, at some point,” Ghost frontman Tobias Forge told Chuck Armstrong on Loudwire Nights Friday night (May 19). “The vetting process for cover songs is not very complicated. Of course, there are a few loose criteria or prerequisites that underscore the importance of doing that song.”
The first song released from Phantomime was Ghost’s take on the 1991 track from Genesis, “Jesus He Knows Me.” Forge admitted that he just always liked the song, but more significantly, he believed its lyrics mean just as much today as they did three decades ago.
“It’s the same thing with Tina Turner,” he explained. “I’m not seeing it as a nostalgic song that I grew up listening to because it was a huge hit in the ’80s and it’s evergreen, but the lyrics resonated really well with the state of the world [today]. I try to cover songs that I like and that I think I can do something with. There are songs that I’ve toyed around with and even demoed that I found to be not really living up to the idea that I had and then I scrap them.”
Ghost Never Thought They’d Actually Cover a Metallica Song
Given the wide variety of artists and genres that Ghost’s cover songs dive into, it appears that there is no limit to who Forge is willing to cover. He admitted to Chuck, though, that there are—or were—some untouchable bands out there.
“Before we did ‘Enter Sandman,’ Metallica was definitely one,” he said.
While most fans know Ghost’s cover of “Enter Sandman” because of its inclusion on Metallica’s Blacklist compilation that was curated in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the “Black Album,” Forge explained there were some significant events that preceded it.
“Around the time when Prequelle was going to come out, Metallica was going to get the Polar Music Prize,” Forge recalled. “For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s almost a lifetime achievement award, it was created by Stig Anderson, the manager and publisher and like the fifth member of ABBA. He wrote a lot of lyrics for ABBA songs, he’s a heavy hitter—that’s an understatement. He’s one of the most crucial figures in Swedish music, a legend.”
In 2018, Metallica were set to receive the Polar Music Prize and the event organizers reached out to Forge to ask if Ghost would like to be part of the celebration and ceremony. His immediate response was “Of course,” but the timing was less than ideal as Ghost were getting ready to go on tour.
It didn’t take too long for Forge to agree, though, and commit to making it work.
“[They told me] that you’re going to open the whole show and it’s going to be with ‘Enter Sandman,'” he said. “After a little bit back and forth, I was like, ‘Can I please do another song?’ They were like, ‘No, you have to open with it otherwise we have to reconfigure the whole thing.’ That’s flattering. Goddamnit. Sometimes you’re just pushed into a corner like that. I said, well, I’m going to give it some thought and see what I can come up with because “Enter Sandman” is “Smoke on the Water” or “Paranoid”—it’s the one song you don’t want to mess with because everybody knows it.”
Forge remembered sitting down and “tinkering” with the song, coming up with a different way to do it. So, Ghost ended up performing the cover at the event, but as far as Forge was concerned, it was a one-time thing to honor Metallica.
“It was like, ‘Hey, Metallica, I’m doing this for you. I hope you dig it,'” he said. “But then later, when they asked us to be part of the Blacklist, it felt like I [couldn’t do] another track, so I might as well record the one we’ve already done—especially because it fit quite well into the concept of the charity that I wanted to support, [Camp Aranu’tiq]. That worked quite well, lyrically, with the concept of children and being subjected to horrors.”
Finding the Right Iron Maiden Track to Cover
Along with Metallica, Forge said that ABBA would be another band that he would have originally thought was uncoverable for Ghost, but they recorded their version of “I’m a Marionette” for If You Have Ghost.
“[That’s the] one song from ABBA that I think we could have done,” he admitted to Chuck. “I don’t think we would ever do ‘Ring, Ring’ or ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You,’ because I find those songs to be so perfect and there isn’t really anything we could do.”
Following a similar thread, Forge turned his attention to Phantomime and the songs they chose for the new EP.
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“We didn’t do [Iron Maiden’s] ‘Run to the Hills,’ we didn’t do ‘2 Minutes to Midnight,’ we didn’t do ‘Wasted Years,’ because I think those are perfect. Whereas, I found an opening in ‘Phantom of the Opera.’ From the warmest place in my heart as a fan, that song in my head had a few things that maybe in the original were a little bit buried. I couldn’t really hear the lyrics—I could read them, but I couldn’t really hear what he was singing. There were a few nuances on the record that were kind of buried and I felt that, at least, I can do something with this, something that will hopefully lift the song up a little.”
Forge said the Iron Maiden got a little bit of TLC with their cover because of its placement on the EP.
“It’s surrounded by the punky elements of Stranglers or Television, and then all of a sudden, ‘Phantom of the Opera’ comes up—this massive, proggy seven-minute adventure.”
Listen to Ghost’s Cover of Iron Maiden’s “Phantom of the Opera”
Tobias Forge joined Loudwire Nights on Friday, May 19; the show replays online here, and you can tune in live every weeknight at 7PM ET or on the Loudwire app; you can also see if the show is available on your local radio station and listen to interviews on-demand. Stream Phantomime at this location and then check out Ghost’s full tour schedule.
‘The Metallica Blacklist’: 10 Best Metallica Cover Songs on ‘Black Album’ Tribute
While a compilation of 53 bands covering 12 tracks from one Metallica album is bound to include some misses, The Metallica Blacklist includes a considerable amount of hits. Listening to it over and over and over again, we’ve picked out the 10 best “Black Album” covers from The Metallica Blacklist; check them out in this gallery.
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Loudwire’s ranking of every full-length album by Ghost.