Ghost is a band that has never seized my attention the way others have, but I’m finding the latest release from former bassist Mercury’s new project, Priest, to be a little hard to resist. From the opening banger “A Signal in the Noise” to the closing groove of “Keep on Burning,” the trio evokes the best of Frontline Assembly and “Violator”-era Depeche Mode en route to crafting an album that is guaranteed to get people moving at the club as opposed to the mainstage at Download Festival.
I spoke with Mercury on the day that “Body Machine” dropped and the confidence with which he presented his vision should bode well for whatever the group chooses to do moving forward.
MNOD: “Body Machine” represents somewhat of a transition into darker material for you guys. How did the album come together?
Mercury: It was a good process. We actually had another album ready, but had no money to promote it during COVID time. Then, we came back with a heavier album in “Body Machine” that is influenced by ’80s EDM and Frontline Assembly, but also with a pop sensibility.
MNOD: Did the darker tone come naturally?
Mercury: It was quite easy. We fit in nicely with the darker style. I’ve always loved the Gothic stuff.
MNOD: The video for “A Signal in the Noise” serves as an invaluable companion piece. What was the thought process behind that concept?
Mercury: I self-directed that video. It’s an urban, gritty video that depicts a post-apocalyptic dystopia. We made it on a really low budget, but it does the job. It was almost like making a new album in a way, because I wanted to spend a lot of time on it to create a good concept. I had to jump between fields and decide where to best focus my creativity at the time.
MNOD: How important was image when you first started this band?
Mercury: I learned a lot from my time in Ghost, so we definitely picked up that theatrical concept. We’re just taking in a darker synth-pop direction. I think Priest is the better band, because I’m getting my fix of both the songs and the writing. When I played bass in Ghost, we had some good songs and felt like the coolest band in the world, but I had to create something that I really wanted. Priest is very much and where I come from as an artist. The response to “Body Machine” has been great, so far. Overwhelmingly positive. We’re always nervous to put out something new, but we’ve already done a lot on streaming platforms and hit #1 on the American iTunes in our genre.
MNOD: What are your influences as a songwriter?
Mercury: Movies, comics, and personal experiences. I just find certain things when I read that inspire me. I’m not 100% correct all the time, but, like poetry, songs don’t have to be perfect. Pop music isn’t always perfect. I used songwriting books at the beginning, but my confidence is growing all the time. I think I have good technique now. The more you write, the better you get, which is how I look at it. It’s a very rewarding process. I was really into British rave music like Prodigy and got into Depeche Mode in my early adolescence. The fact that people are comparing us to them is a great honor, because they have so many really, really good songs. “World in My Eyes” is one of their best.
MNOD: When you reflect on your time in Ghost, what comes to mind?
Mercury: I was super proud of being in that band. It was an exciting time touring the world and learning a lot. You get to know everyone very well when you’re on the road that much. Finding out that I was fired seven years ago was very disappointing, because I was ready to lay down bass tracks for the next record and then I had to basically start over. I didn’t take it very well. It’s not fun to break up, but I was ready to make Priest a reality. I had the idea for Priest in 2010 and 2011, but put it on ice for a while until the time was right.
MNOD: Are there any plans to bring the tour to America?
Mercury: We don’t have anything in order yet, but there has been talk for a few shows. It’s only a matter of when, because coming to America is one of our main goals. We want to be the biggest band in Sweden in five years and have a lot of new music in the tank already. We’re taking this very seriously and not fooling around. We’re the real deal. American audiences are the best and nothing else can compare. It was sad not to be able to meet fans during the pandemic, but we’re excited for the future and hope that people will take this album to heart.
“Body Machine” is out now on Cleopatra Records.