GHOST lead singer and founder Tobias Forge — who performs as Papa Emeritus — has responded to a lawsuit filed by four former members of the band accused him of cheating them out of their rightful share of the profits from the group's album releases and world tours.
The lawsuit, which was filed two months ago in the district court of Linköping, Sweden, where GHOST was originally based, claimed that Forge solely controlled the band's business affairs without input from anyone else in the group. The four musicians furthermore stated that a partnership agreement existed between them and Forge which put Tobias in charge of carrying out the company's management duties.
In a statement explaining the lawsuit, the musicians officially revealed their identities as Simon Söderberg (Alpha; member of GHOST from 2010 until 2016), Mauro Rubino (Air; member of GHOST from 2011 until 2016), Henrik Palm (Eather; member of GHOST from 2015 until 2016) and Martin Hjertstedt (Earth; member of GHOST from 2014 until 2016).
In his response, which was officially filed earlier today (Wednesday, June 7), Forge stated that "no legal partnership" ever existed between him and the four musicians regarding the activities of GHOST, explaining that "none of the plaintiffs were present at the time of the" group's formation and that their sole task was to "perform" and "execute" the musical works and the image that Forge had created, produced and decided, all according to his instructions. For their efforts, the musicians were paid a fixed salary.
Forge, who has previously played in several other rock bands such as REPUGNANT, CRASHDIET, SUBVISION, MAGNA CARTA CARTEL and SUPERIOR, claims to have been the sole creator and founder of GHOST, including its image and the group's unique stage show. Forge also says that he is the main author of all GHOST musical works, with the exception of the songs "Year Zero" and "Zenith", both of which were based on ideas by former guitarist Martin Persner, who is not involved with the lawsuit. However, these two works are said to have been revised, arranged and instrumented by Forge, and the lyrics to "Year Zero" were written by Forge.
According to Forge, he was responsible for performing all vocal parts on the GHOST recordings, with the exception of some choir singing, which was handled by hired vocalists. Prior to the making of 2015's "Meliora" album, the recording process for every GHOST album started out with Forge first recording demo versions of all the songs where he fleshed out all the instrumental parts, including the drums. With only a few exceptions, Forge was solely responsible for assembling all the instrumentation for all the compositions, regardless of whether someone else actually recorded the final versions of the songs.
Forge claims to have developed GHOST's image and stage show with a Pope-like character using the stage name Papa Emeritus in the lead role and the rest of the musicians, known only as Nameless Ghouls, wearing masks and flowing robes. By filing the lawsuit against him and revealing his identity in the documents, Forge says that the musicians "have now destroyed the mystery surrounding the rock band GHOST."
Forge says that he has always been "very clear" about the fact that GHOST is "not a joint project" but is rather an entity that he solely controls. All musicians formerly and presently engaged by GHOST are considered ''musicians for hire" and are tasked to perform — execute — the work Forge has created. As such, the musicians all have their own companies which they use to invoice Forge for the previously agreed-upon fee/salary.
Since the musicians in GHOST are anonymous, Forge says that they are not irreplaceable and are not considered crucial for the band. Therefore, he is free to change them at will. In spite of this, Forge says that he was initially of the opinion that the musicians involved, in addition to the usual payment, could receive some form of share in other incomes from GHOST's activities.
According to Forge, it wasn't until GHOST's recent "Popestar 2017" European run of shows, which launched on March 24 and ended April 30, that the band's tour business made any profits. The revenue generated by GHOST on the road over the years was used solely to pay fees/wages to musicians and to pay for the production of performances, staff, transportation/travel, boarding and lodging as well as the purchase of equipment and instruments to be used by the company. Since the costs have always exceeded the income, the wages of musicians were always guaranteed by Forge's other income. Such other income was derived from the publishing rights of Forge, which he receives as a composer and author of the text of all the works he has created — including the music not created for GHOST — and his royalties for record sales. Until 2017, Forge claims to have not received any salary from income related to concerts or the sale of merchandise. Tobias says that he has lived solely on the revenues from his publishing rights and the royalties that the first GHOST album, "Opus Eponymous", generates.
An English-language translation of Forge's response to the lawsuit can be found in two parts on Reddit:
It is also embedded below.
As previously reported, GHOST is rumored to have a new drummer for its current U.S. tour as the opening act for IRON MAIDEN. The trek kicked off on Saturday (June 3) in Bristow, Virginia and diehard fans who watched video footage of GHOST's set noted a "slight difference in drum set, different style of playing and slightly larger build" of the person behind the kit. Like the other instrumental members of the band, the drummer is masked and known only as a Nameless Ghoul.
This means the current GHOST drummer is apparently not the same one that toured Europe with the band in March and April.
Forge was asked in a recent interview with CBS Philadelphia if he considers GHOST a solo project or a band. He replied: "I actually refer to it as the earlier of the two options. Even though I've never wanted it that way, but at the end of the day, that is what it is. So I think it speaks clear for itself. I mean, I started it in 2006, and no one that was ever in the band in 2016 was even on the first record. Call it solo, if you want to, but I call it a project."
Forge, who does all the band's interviews as a Nameless Ghoul, dismissed the entire lineup at the end of 2016 and brought in a fresh group of players. He explained: "I have been in the band since I started the band. I started writing songs for it in 2006. Nowadays there's a handful of very new members, yeah. But there has been about 10 to 15 people now going in and out of the band, so there's been a lot of rotation."
He added: "People have a tendency to want to feel that they're very important for something, and if it's not crucial that they're there, there will also be a little bit of a friction there."
Forge also confirmed that GHOST will enter the studio at the end of the summer to begin recording its fourth full-length disc for an early 2018 release. He said: "The new record that we're gonna start recording now in August, is something that I've been working on for three, four years."