In the days before this chat, headlines appeared online that confirm Tobias’ somewhat exacting and dictatorial nature. Perhaps that should be re-confirm, though. In Ghost’s Kerrang! interview from September 2019, Tobias discussed the uncompromising eye he kept on the logistics of tours and his constant need “to know who’s in the shit”. In his defence, however, he did also suggest his approach was a case of once bitten, twice shy.
“I’ve definitely [gotten] into trouble over the years by being too nice to people and giving them too much slack,” he said from a practice room in Seattle’s WAMU Theater, a rolling news channel in the background confirming he’s comforted by the presence of a TV as he was as a kid. “When you do that it’s like with dogs: if you don’t tell them what the rules are, they start making up their own. That sounds horrible, but there are 40 people on this tour, so there has to be a line and a curriculum. I’m adamant about getting my vision through – especially now we’re in this transitional phase between theatres and arenas.”
It’s safe to say that transition has since been completed. Tonight’s venue holds more than 17,000 people, with a staff of 80 operating diligently behind the scenes to help make the magic happen. Nevertheless, Tobias continues to develop his vision while running a very tight ship. And while we can’t comment on his ability to tear strips off under-performing crew members, Tobias does address Storm Eunice having torn strips off the canopy surrounding The O2 in London, where Ghost are due to play on April 11.
“We were still a while away and I hadn’t heard anything about it jeopardising what we’re doing there,” he says seriously, sidestepping K!’s overdone joke about tearing the roof off the capital’s enormodome, while admitting he never actually saw any images of the destruction. “Our people were looking into it.”
He thinks for a moment about other similarly-sized venues that could have provided a suitable replacement, had the situation not been resolved. “I’ll have taken Wembley [Arena] if it was available,” he casually jokes, about the place Ghost successfully headlined in November 2019, as if he’s a billionaire hoovering up properties. “I wouldn’t mind going back. It was a dream come true playing there.”
Tobias remains enthusiastic about the topic of Ghost’s rampant, and some might say unlikely, love affair with the UK. That’s natural given his status as a card-carrying Anglophile who grew up listening to Queen and watching Benny Hill (whose brand of smutty slapstick undoubtedly influenced the physical aspects of Papa’s between-song patter, allowing him to get laughs in countries where there’s a language barrier). Despite his love for all things English, Tobias recalls being told in no uncertain terms not to expect too much from audiences over here. “In the early days we were told it was an unbreakable market. And that when we played anywhere outside London, we shouldn’t be alarmed if someone chucks a beer bottle at us during the set.”
But that flying beer bottle never came. In fact, from their first UK show — only their second ever — at Live Evil 2010, a two-day festival curated by Darkthrone’s Fenriz, held at London’s Underworld alongside NWOBHM heroes Angel Witch and Vulcano, to their tour with Paradise Lost after the release of debut album Opus Eponymous in 2011, Ghost were taken into the bosom of us Brits.
“There has never been a moment – whether supporting [another band] or headlining – where I didn’t feel we had something special with a British crowd,” Tobias smiles. “I’m really happy that the clairvoyance of those who told us it wouldn’t work out turned out to be wrong. I’ve always felt we have a strong fanbase over there, but you never take it for granted. You have to do better every time you come and prove yourself, because that’s part of this job.”
Despite all the music talk, Tobias uses a sports analogy to describe his attitude to touring and its part in Ghost’s ongoing success. It doesn’t stop, you see.
“There are new matches to play,” he says with the level–headedness of a football manager doing a post-match interview. “And just because you won last year, doesn’t mean this new season doesn’t have to be fucking great.”
This article originally appeared in the March issue of Kerrang!.