If the primary reason you like Ghost is the mystery of who the band is and the fun of their satanic schtick, then it hasn’t been a great couple of months for you. And now a man has come forward that said that he invented the character of Papa Emeritus. Initially named in the lawsuit against Ghost frontman Tobias Forge, Pelle “Peter” Hallje has spoken to Swedish site Barametal about the character. He says that he told former Nameless Ghoul Martin Persner about his creation, eventually giving him permission to use the character for his band.
It should be noted that Hallje isn’t seeking money from the band, nor is Pelsner. He said that the only compensation he’s gotten from the band is a “thank you,” but as a family man, just would like a little more credit than he’s gotten so far. He only went public about this because the magazine asked him to speak. Here are some rough translations from the interview, courtesy of Metal Sucks.
Here’s what he says about the origin:
“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.”
He also says he didn’t know Tobias Forge, just Persner:
“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.”
He also agrees that with the mystery gone and all the workings of how Ghost is run on public display through the lawsuit and countersuit, it’s not what it used to be:
“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.”
The whole interview is here, and it’s an interesting read. It’ll be interesting to see if this impacts sales or show attendance. Again, the band’s arguably more popular than they’ve ever been right now, and the casual fan probably doesn’t know or care who the band is or how they got to be what they are.