Ghost‘s new Popestar EP — which debuted at No. 1 on Billboard‘s Top Rock Albums chart this week — gave the masked Swedish rockers a home for its new track “Square Hammer.” But the five-song set is really raising eyebrows with the rest of its lineup, a curio of covers that includes Eurythmics‘ “Missionary Man,” Echo & the Bunnymen‘s “Nocturnal Me,” Simian Mobile Disco‘s “I Believe” and “Bible” by fellow Swedes Imperiet.
“We always have a little short list of songs that we want to do,” one of Ghost’s Nameless Ghouls tells Billboard. “We always find songs that are interesting for us to work with. There must be some kind of ignition or something, a spark somewhere where you want to change it or, I hate to say make it better but at least something I feel you can definitely do a version of it that isn’t necessarily straight-up.”
And Ghost loves the idea that fans may be confounded by some of its choices. “There’s always your more anal, puritan metal people who are like, ‘Aw, f—, you should do King Diamond,'” notes the Ghoul. “Why? Why would we cover King Diamond or all the bands that we are obviously in a way influenced by? Why play a worse version of something? Yeah, you can take a Metallica song or an Iron Maiden song or any band that works, that we’ve been influenced by all these years, and make it completely piano-esque or symphonic or something, but I’d rather do something people may not expect so much.”
Ghost clearly has a fondness for all four of the covers, but the group’s history as fans of Imperiet, the new wave-style group that came out of Stockholm during the ’80s, made “Bible” particularly special for the quintet to record.
“I grew up listening to them,” the Ghoul says. “They were definitely an alternative band, more of a dark-wave, synthy band, but they were definitely popular. Many of their songs were played on the radio. If you were a kid in the ’80s and remotely interested in music, you knew who Imperiet was.” Ghost was particularly pleased that Imperiet frontman Joakim Thastrom posted the group’s cover of “Bible” on his Facebook page the day Popestar was released.
The new song, “Square Hammer,” began life during sessions for 2015’s Grammy Award-winning Meliora but wound up being held back. “It was conceived around the end of the conception of Meliora,” the Ghoul recalls. “I guess there was a moment there where it was like, ‘Oh, shit, I have a new song,’ but then ‘forget it,’ ’cause by then Meliora had already been hammered out, as the conceptual aspect of it was already in place, and ‘Square Hammer’ felt like a different song. And also knowing that you don’t have to blow your load every time. If you have something you can sit on it — sit on your load, man! So we basically saved it until a rainy day, and that rainy day came a few months later and we recorded it.”
Ghost is in the midst of its Popestar Tour of North America, which runs through Nov. 12, and will be announcing a European tour soon. The group has also started working on its follow-up to Meliora, with plans to hit the studio in earnest once it comes off the road.
“We haven’t really started the pre-production yet, but I am very far into the writing,” the Ghoul says. “I’m usually piling stuff up, and then by the time it comes to pre-production, that’s when you start going through it and see what you have. I think that we have a pretty good idea of what we’re doing next, but once we start recording I usually get very inspired and work a lot faster.”