Ghost Singer Reacts To Bold Kurt Cobain Accusation

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Ghost frontman Tobias Forge discussed how Kurt Cobain and Nirvana found success writing simple songs, along with his songwriting process for Ghost, in a new The Lounge interview. Forge believes Cobain’s formula worked well, and it wasn’t commercial. Ultimate-Guitar transcribed Forge’s comments.

“Most of the time, I’d say it’s melody-driven. There’s usually a chord change that I sort of gravitate towards first, so usually – if you want to dissect the music, I’d say that I usually go for the hook first, because that’s the thing that sort of gets me into it.

“So there’s, like, a skewed chord thing, that’s usually the first part of the song. If I do the other way around, like I start with only a riff and I don’t have the hook, it usually doesn’t end up being anything because I don’t work that way.

“When I have the melody, the structure, and the hook in it, that’s when I start to sort of fiddling around with riffs around it.”

He later added, “Sometimes I strive towards straightening a song out as well because there’s always, like, a… I don’t know if there’s a word for it, but during one of the records, when I was making [Ghost’s third album, 2015’s] ‘Meliora,’ the producer of that record that I made the record with [Klas Ahlund], he called it ‘the prog suicide.’

“That’s when you’re trying to be smart. I definitely picked up on that, especially listening to a lot of my old stuff, it’s filled with that sort of, like, ‘I’m trying to be clever’ stuff.

“I think that there’s a form for that, you can do that to a certain extent, but also when you try to make things complicated, that’s definitely when you opt to lose a lot because if you trick the listener too much, you will also lose the listener.”

There’s something to the saying ‘simple sells,’ right? Look at Nirvana, they’re basically simple three-chord pop songs…

“Yeah, I think ‘sell’ is maybe a word that people sort-of shun away from just because it implies that it’s commercial, but it’s not even that.

“I mean, there’s a reason for a lot of punk music that sold nothing has outlived many other pop songs, because it’s easy, it resonates with your psyche or whatever.”

“I grew up listening to a lot of proggy stuff. My two favorite records growing up and starting to play guitar were the first two Pink Floyd records. I got it from my mom, it was [1968’s] ‘Saucerful of Secrets’ and [1967’s] ‘Piper at the Gates of Dawn,’ and that really, really fucked my music writing up.

“I started writing weird chord changes and I started doing things in half measures. For as long as I’ve been in bands, people have told me, like, ‘Oh that’s weird,’ ‘That’s so strange, why are you doing that?’.

“I need to be aware of that, ‘that’s sort of smart’ shit. It’s kind of, like, linguistically as well, it’s nice if you have a wide vocabulary and you can use it, but also if you’re talking legalese, there’s also a certain thoroughness or direct communication that can be lost within that.

“I think it’s important to be aware that you can speak a little bit of legalese and you can also speak slang and that way, you can be a little bit elastic when it comes to communicating, and I think that that is important with music as well, you need to know how to do both things.

“I can write a really weird prog thing, but in order for that to be digestible, it needs to be a little bit of four on the floor as well.”

How have the lyrics you’ve written for Ghost changed over the four records?

“In the beginning, when I had no idea that this was going to be music digested by a lot of people, it was definitely a little bit more oriented around what I thought was cool.

“Like, it was more paying homage to a certain style of lyrics that I grew up listening to, be it death metal, black metal, or Angel Witch, or stuff like that.

“I wanted to have a certain aura whereas, I mean, you can write so many lyrics about the black candles burning but after a while, it gets very repetitive and I’m sure there’s a lot of cult rock bands that are just regurgitating that stuff.

“I am lifelong, and will forever as long as I live, be a devotee and a fan of that sort of lingo, but making records after [Ghost’s 2010 debut] ‘Opus Eponymous,’ I definitely felt that there’s a way to wrap that in, but you need to say something, there needs to be some sort of substance.

“On the first record, I wasn’t really paying attention to that because I just wanted to make a really cool record that I wanted to listen to.

“Whereas on the second album [2013’s ‘Infestissumam’], it was just, like, ‘Well, if you have all these people listening, you might as well say something.’ I have a lot of things on my mind, so why not?”

I wanted to ask: now that you’ve created a platform to where people are paying attention to what you have to say, do you feel a responsibility to use that in a responsible way?

“Yes. I need to also keep in mind that this is first and foremost an entertainment act. We’re not political in that sense, even though a lot of things I’m saying is obviously resting on some sort of political opinion base, but that’s not the point.

“However, I know that there are a lot of people in our fan base that are listening, and there are a lot of things that we have in common, and there are a lot of things that I believe, that could be communicated in one way or another to sympathize or empathize and emphasize as well, and also to comfort.

“I definitely think you have a little bit of a responsibility to communicate somewhat with your fans. Most artists do that naturally.”

Do you ever create with the Ghost fans experience in mind, like, ‘I’m writing this song, what is the Ghost fan going to think about it’?

“Definitely from a live point of view, yeah. I think about that all the time, like, ‘How will we be able to do this?’. It’s like writing a script, when wording lines, you need to, like, try them out, like, ‘How do you say that?’.

“In the same way when you’re writing music, you need to sort-of write it and arrange it in a way so that it will feel good on the stage if you’re a band like us playing in front of a lot of people or playing in front of people in the first place.

“If your intention is not to play in front of people, fine, but it needs to feel good either way. As soon as you’ve stepped up on a stage and you’re asking people to pay money for it, you are definitely in charge of their evening, you might as well do things that sound and feel pleasant for them.”