Man Who Claims to Have Invented Ghost’s “Papa Emeritus” Character Speaks Out
Poor Tobias Forge just can’t catch a break right now: people are coming at him from seemingly every angle claiming they were treated unfairly during Ghost’s path to fame. Whether these people were, in fact, treated the way they say they were remains up for debate — and the Swedish courts will play some role in that — but with all the accusations piling up it’s growing harder and harder to believe Forge is, pardon the pun, a saint.
The latest: a Swedish musician named Pelle “Peter” Hällje, who was named briefly in the lawsuit as coming up with the name Papa Emeritus and then agreeing to let Ghost use it, has spoken at length about his original vision for the character and how the band came to embrace it.
The Swedish website Barametal caught up with Hällje and asked him a number of questions about the idea for Papa Emeritus and his history with various members and ex-members of Ghost.
The translation from Swedish using Google Translate is a bit rough, but the gist is this: Hällje never played with any of the musicians in Ghost but was friendly with many of them before and during the band’s early days, including recording demos for Magna Carta Cartel, a precursor of Ghost. Later on he shared his idea for the Papa Emeritus character with Martin Persner, a former Nameless Ghoul known as “Omega,” who was in the band between 2010 and 2016 and is NOT involved in the lawsuit but is one of the few ex-members to ever receive songwriting credits. It was through Persner that Hällje granted permission for the Papa Emeritus name and character to be used by Ghost.
Hällje is a family man with three children who still plays in a small-time band as a hobby, and at no point does he come off as vindictive or angry — he’s simply stating the facts directly, as he remembers them, on an issue he’s never spoken out about until now (and only at the request of the interviewer). In other words: it doesn’t seem Hällje is seeking money or attention. There’s no reason not to believe his version of events. It mostly seems as if he’d just like a bit more credit than he’s ever been given.
Below are a few pertinent segments of the interview, edited slightly for clarity from the translation.
On the origins of the Papa Emeritus character:
“Around 2005 I sketched a stage character for myself to be called Papa Emeritus. I studied philosophy at university then and began to ponder the title “Professor Emeritus,” which is the title of a retired professor and as you see from time to time in the media when journalists do not get any active researchers to interview. “Papa” is simply what the Italians call the Pope. The thing with Papa Emeritus based on a pope is that he can never be retired — this was before Benedict XVI abdicated — without the pope’s man until you die as well. And then I thought that a former pope, that a pope or Papa Emeritus, must surely then have been waiting and anywhere. And not a fan had my retired Pope was upstairs, so to speak.
“[Upstairs meaning that] the Pope is working as pope until he dies. Then a retired Pope then one who has died and come back. And the whole concept of Papa Emeritus is that he has not ended up in the sky – upstairs.
“First I had an idea of a classic blues rock [image] à la Reverend Horton Heat or Danko Jones. In the sketch, he would have a white clergyman shirt with a black daisy, i.e. inverted. But it’s not as papal, so instead [it ended up being] a rock pope who returned from the dead in the cellar. There was not much more to the idea than a well-developed sketch, so I would be the first Papa Emeritus — not Tobias Forge.”
On Forge’s claim that Hällje gave him “business” permission to use the Papa Emeritus name:
“Martin Persner was one of the few people I [told about] the idea for Papa Emeritus, because we still had a good relationship and I followed the Magna Carta Cartel with some interest because I felt a certain affinity with the music they were up to. Tobbe was with the band and played with them a little, I think, but I had absolutely no contact with him. We did not see each other at all between 2003 and 2011 or 2012. This means that it was Martin who knew Papa Emeritus, and took up the idea with Tobbe.
“I think they both realized that Papa Emeritus was the piece of the puzzle needed to make Tobbe’s Ghost idea interesting. Before then it was just a secret band with catchy songs, ordinary metal lyrics and some local fans on MySpace. Then Martin got in touch with me and told me that he thought Papa Emeritus would fit amazingly well with Ghost, and asked if it was okay that they [used the idea]. I said OK, because I got the idea that Martin had been involved in Ghost, and it was on that premise that I surrendered my concept. In this way they were able to continue working with the whole package: ‘We have come back from hell with a mission: rock music,’ which was a part of my original idea.
“I told Tobbe at some point when they were in Gothenburg much later, around 2014 or something like that, that I thought he had given little too little credit given the success, but he said bluntly that he thought that since he had said ‘thank you’ on a previous occasion that the matter was resolved. Tobbe knew then that he did not own the copyright or trademark for Papa Emeritus. It is clear that there is a Ghost — the whole band — who have [worked under] the name, but he has always known that I am the copyright owner. I have given verbal consent to “business,” as he so nicely put it, to use the name and concept, but that’s it. And since the deal was made with Martin Persner and no one else, I would have considered a different attitude if I were Tobbe.”
On the current, troubled state of Ghost:
“I’ve known about [the disorder within the band] all the time. [The other members] have hardly ever been treated right by Tobbe; he held them hostage because he constantly ran one step ahead of the others and has been responsible for all business contacts. Though [I don’t know as much about what happened over the past year], because they almost never were at home in Sweden.
“Both yes and no [asked if he was surprised the issue has gone to court]. I have full sympathy with Simon and Mauro, who had been so damn pulled by the nose by Tobbe. However, I can not really understand how Tobbe could make such smash miss as he did when he presented one rogue contract proposal after another. He is still a true adept strategist, and this should have been foreseen. He had been able to get more and more success with Ghost if he had not become obsessed with the idea of grabbing everything himself, because now the magic is gone.”
Read the entire interview at Barametal. There’s a lot more where the above came from, including a segment about how the current incarnation of Papa strayed from the original idea.