June 2000 - GRAND MAGUS
Last year I received two amazing demos from a Swedish band named SMACK. This three guys play their own refreshing blend of southern-tinged heavy rock, which never sounds old-fashioned to lame. Maybe it's the slight metal edge, which has been added to their music. I did this interview with Janne, guitarist and vocalist, about his band, future plans and life in general.
Welcome to Cosmic Lava! The typical question at the beginning; tell the readers something 'bout the history of GRAND MAGUS. Why have you changed your name from SMACK into GRAND MAGUS?
Well, we started out as a hard rocking trio called Smack in 1996, did a couple of demos and then our drummer quit the band to pursue other things in life. We found a new drummer and recorded a demo in the spring of 99 which came out pretty good. Around this time we really felt that the name Smack didn't suit the music or the lyrics and we wanted something more fitting. In addition to this, we found out about a Finnish glam band (!!!) called Smack which still made records. We came up with GrandMagus and recorded our second demo (Demo Two Thousand).
You've released two demo CD's in the last years, filled with six good songs, all very well produced. Where have you recorded them? Especially the second demo, titled 'Demo Two Thousand', has an awesome production.
They are both recorded in the same studio called 'Resync' and the guy who runs it is actually a kind of pop, eurovision schlager - Max Martin kind of guy you know? Prior to us, he had never heard hard rock or really heavy kind of music, so it's kind of funny that several people have pointed out how heavy and powerful the production on the latest demo is (especially when they are death metal guys, you know). The thing is that he is extremely competent and flexible, we told him what we wanted and he just delivered.
I think, that your music is nowadays much heavier and darker than on the first demo. How do you create the songs ?
I agree that the latest demo is heavier and a bit darker than the previous one. Much of the change lies in the vocals, which are a lot more aggressive. We still play the stuff from the previous demo though. The songs are often based on a melody or riff which is then developed through jamming. Sometimes they are finished from the beginning, sometimes they just pop up when we're jamming at our rehearsal space. There are no strict rules.
You have a big Southern Rock influence in your music. It's bluesy and very passionate. Can you agree with me and what are your musical influences? Do you listen to a lot of early 1970's Hardrock?
The southern rock influence has been pointed out to us by several people, and we were quite surprised in the beginning. We have no conscious southern rock influence (I love it but haven't listened to it a lot), but I realise now that it's really there, must be some subliminal, subconscious thing, ha-ha! Seriously though, I have always had a strong blues influence, a Grand Magus song has to have that grooving, swinging feel to it, I'm not fond of fast, punky stuff. One band that really set their mark on me at least, is ZZ Top. We definately listen to 70's hardrock, Mountain, Deep Purple, Mahogany Rush and stuff like that. Then again I listen a lot to death metal and early black/death metal like Venom, Bathory, Mercyful Fate, but I don't think that shines through in the music of Grand Magus.
Are there any other things in life, maybe nature or movies, that motivates GRAND MAGUS?
Absolutely! I'm very inspired by the ancient ways in Scandinavia and its connection with nature. Many of our songs deal with that.
What are the lyrics about? Maybe 'Stonecircle', an amazing track from the second demo. Are lyrics important for you?
Lyrics are extremely important, I see no point in screaming "baby, baby, baby" or "rock'n'roll" or stuff like that. I like to tell a story or convey a message. I can't give all I got if I don't really mean what I say. 'Stonecircle' is about getting back to a way of life that is free from all religions that tell you what to do and that all your desires are sins. It's about freedom, sexuality, being one with nature and lust.
Do you play a lot of gigs?
Yep. But it's getting a bit stale in Stockholm right now (we've played the places that exist) because it's so limited. It feels like you're playing to the same people all the time. This is good in itself, but it would be even better to come out and play to new audiences.
Today, there are a lot of good Hardrock bands around in Sweden. How is the relation between all this bands?
I think, there must be the chance to play a lot of gigs or festivals together. Yeah, we have a close connection with a few of the bands in Stockholm, Rise and Shine, Southfork and Backdraft to name a few. I believe that the relation beteween bands is quite good, but I'm not really that "connected" so I'm no expert.
Sometimes I think, that 70's influenced Rock must be very popular in Sweden. Some bands are well-known in other countries, and in the early 70's there were bands like NOVEMBER or HURDY GURDY. How is the situation today? What do you think about it?
I'll tell you what is really popular in Sweden: to play and sound exactly like Kyuss!!!! There must be ten or twenty bands doing this right now and getting contracts for it, which is a complete mystery to me. I mean, Kyuss were great but what's the point in copying them??? To me, that's like being in a fucking coverband! OK, I'll take it easy now. There are many really great bands too, like Spiritual Beggars Abramis Brama and Half Man and others that really can play and play their own stuff like they really mean it. As I said before, I'm not really "connected" with a lot of the music scene here though, so I'm not really knowledgeable in this field.
How was the feedback for your last demo? Any chance to record a full-length album or a compilation track?
We've gotten tremendous response to the latest demo and established contact with a few labels. At the moment I can't really say anything more specific.
What can we expect from GRAND MAGUS in the future?
Well, I'll be damned if there won't be an album from Grand Magus soon, we're really working on it. Musically, we'll be getting better and better....
Thanks a lot, good luck and I hope to hear from you soon. Take care!