Hit singles, gold records and pop careers are all fine and good, but Tobias Forge of Swedish metal band Ghost aspires for something bigger.
Rock ‘n roll.
The Swedish-born rock star said, “Rock ‘n roll is about playing live and interacting with an audience.”
Don’t get him wrong, he said. Ghost, which performs Friday night at Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington, would love to sell a million records and enjoy all the trappings that come with ridiculous wealth, but it’s not what Forge is about.
“My view is to attract x number of people to do the show I want to do,” he said. “I need the people to do a theatrical show that will blow people’s minds.”
And you just can’t do that in the clubs. There’s not enough space. There are fire codes and for Ghost to carry off the kind of show Forge has in mind, Ghost needs room to move around.
There aren’t a lot of shows like a Ghost show. There aren’t a lot of bands like Ghost — at least not in the United States.
The band rose as part of a wave of occult rock bands a little over a decade ago. They were among a set of groups that embraced some of the same diabolical imagery and content that hard rock and heavy metal bands of the 1970s and early 1980s used — bands like Black Sabbath, Dio and Motley Crue.
Forge appears in ghastly makeup and dressed as satanic clergy.
“I guess we were part of that wave back when it was an underground movement, sort of organic.” Forge said, “We aren’t part of it anymore. The ones still doing that wouldn’t embrace us.”
Ghost is different.
The imagery might be dark and demonic, but Ghost has a more progressive rock/stadium rock presentation that owes more to groups like Styx, Alice Cooper or David Bowie.
The band’s sound is melodic. The vocals tend to be smooth, not coarse and jarring, and there are stories and themes behind Ghost. The performers are characters and there are layers to the performance.
Ghost’s latest record, “Prequelle,” is loosely based around the Black Death of medieval Europe, but also looks at parallels between modern society and politics and the past.
Forge said the attraction to the medieval age is that we’re not that far from it.
“It was only 600 years ago and not a lot has changed,” he said. “We’re still flock animals. We still react in similar ways.”
Angry villagers no longer carry torches and pitchforks. They’re armed with cell phones and laptops and they can cause all kinds of strife — anonymously.
“Social media has given voice to the voiceless, but it’s also brought out the medieval lynch mob mentality. We’re disconnected from life,” he said.
Being disconnected can only lead to bad places.
While Forge said he enjoyed the process of making records, the show was the thing for Forge. Rock ‘n roll required a certain kind of call and response between the artist and the audience. He didn’t have a lot of patience for the 21st-century popstar that doesn’t perform.
“I think some people are cradled into being an artist,” he said. “You do a couple of hit songs and then you have a vibrant Instagram account, but you don’t play live.”
Unless you somehow manage to cash in on those hits and earn fabulous wealth, it’s not a sustainable artistic life.
“You have to establish a relationship with each and every town,” Forge said. “You have to go to the people and prove that you’re there for them.
“That’s what we do.”
The show is big, but Forge said Ghost doesn’t cut corners. The show that’s coming to West Virginia is the show they’d play in New York or Los Angeles.
Forge said playing West Virginia was something he’d wanted to do for a few years.
“You look at where people are playing and you don’t see a lot of people going there,” he said. “I want to play there.”