July 2002 - GRAND MAGUS
GRAND MAGUS were one of the first bands I've done an interview with in 2000. Since then a lot has happened and the band has finally released the first album. So I've met the band this year on their first European tour, together with Orange Goblin and Roadsaw at the Underground in Cologne to talk about all the things that happened since our first interview. But due to technical problems, the tape hasn't recorded our talk...goddamn shit! But no problem for the Cosmic Lava editor, and I've mailed the questions over to Janne. Here's the result so check out what's going on with the Magus...
Hello Janne, great to welcome you for the second time in the Cosmic Lava webzine! How you're doing?
I’m fine, thank you very much Klaus. We’re preparing for gig tonight in Stockholm and then we’re gonna concentrate on the new album.
A few months ago GRAND MAGUS finished the first European tour, together with Roadsaw and Orange Goblin. When you look back now, how would you judge the tour? What do you think about the tour line-up? Is there anything you would've changed? I think the tour was a great success.
Everywhere we played there was a great crowd and a good feeling you know? Both Germany and England was great for Grand Magus as well, ‘cause they seemed to really understand what we’re about. The guys in Orange Goblin and Roadsaw were great to us and we had a lot of fun. I wouldn’t change a single thing about the tour, except maybe that we almost got killed one night due to heavy rain on the road we travelled…. But we survived!
Which part of the tour was the most successful for the band? Are there any nights/gigs, you won't forget in a positive way? If you like, please tell us about it?
I think we had our best gigs in Stockholm and London actually, but almost all the German gigs were great, great crowds and heavy metal all the way. The last gig of the tour was in Manchester and I think all the bands had a great night. We were all very drunk and happy and a bit sad at the same time, ‘cause it was the last night, you know? We did all kinds of silly things on and off stage that night and the day after everybody were too wasted to be able to say goodbye when we fucked off to Sweden, ha-ha! Hail to England! Köln was a lot of fun as well.
On the other side, have you had any negative experiences on tour? Something like a very boring audience or unfriendly club manager?
Not really. I mean some nights might have been a bit slow for all bands involved, but that’s just the way it is. As a whole, the club managers were great, especially in Germany. Some of the venues we played in England were a bit primitive, but that’s rock n roll! People were always friendly and we had a great time
I saw you in Cologne at the Underground, and most of the people really liked GRAND MAGUS. So it was a little bit sad, that you only played for half an hour. Is it possible, that you'll be the headliner on the next tour?
You never know, but I can’t say anything about that at the moment. I think we need to do a couple of albums more first, you know? One thing about short sets though. I like it when bands play short sets. I’m always more into the first five, six songs when I see a band. I tend to lose a bit of interest if the set is too long. There’s obviously a difference if you’re talking about AC/DC, he-he. I think half an hour was perfect for us on that tour. Next time, we’ll see… but probably 40 minutes at least, ha-ha!
I think this tour was a very good chance for promoting your excellent debut CD. released on Rise Above Records so let's talk about it. First off, are you still satisfied with it?
Yes. I’m probably more satisfied now than just after it was done. You get more perspective as time goes by. When you’re done with an album you’re a bit fed up with everything, because you’ve been living with it day and night for a long time. Now I feel proud and pleased with it. It was a good representation of our songs at the time.
You recorded the album in the legendary Swedish Das Boot studios, owned by Fred Estby, who has also worked together in the past with Entombed or The Hellacopters f.e. How long did the whole recording sessions last and how did you work? Did you use a lot of overdubs or have you recorded the songs in one take?
Just to keep things clear, Fred doesn’t own das Boot studios… It’s a guy called Sten Hardbow who owns it and now I think Sony has bought it from him, at least part of it. Fred just worked there at the time. OK…… we did all basics tracks live (drums, bass and guitar) and then we added another rhythm guitar, solos and vocals. We recorded 12 songs and the 2 extra tracks are on the Japanese release. The basic tracks took three days and the entire thing took about ten days, then we mixed it during a week. Fred had a clear vision of what he wanted and we tried to get a natural, live sounding recording with very few effects and studio stuff, you know? The mixing process was really simple since the sounds were already there, it was basically just a question of getting the levels right. It was recorded analogue on two-inch tape and vintage gear, which we also use live. Even though Fox and Trisse were finished with their stuff pretty early on, they still were there (usually drunk) to give me support and opinions for the vocals and solos, in order to make everything have that honest feeling. We had a great time, but everything went so fast that it’s quite hard to remember everything. The album was then mastered in England.
The German press has given you a lot of positive reviews for the album. How were the reactions in Sweden, Janne?
We got three out of five in the Swedish newspapers who obviously can’t tell a turd from a filet mignon! But we got a great review in Sweden’s biggest hard rock magazine Close-Up and Swedish E-zines were also very supportive and positive. But on the whole we got much better response in the rest of Europe and USA. I think that happens to most Swedish hard rock bands. I saw an interview with Terra Firma and they had the exact same experience in this regard.
I really like the album cover. Where have you found it and what does the name GRAND MAGUS stand for? How is it connected with the band's sound?
The picture is from a very old book owned by my girlfriend and she showed it to me and suggested to me that it might suit our themes. I thought it would be perfect. You know, a Grand Magus is the leader of a Magickal order. He is the high priest. And this image is the Grand Magus. You could say that our music is our magick, and that our following is the order. Who the bearded man is shall remain a secret...
How did you come together with Rise Above Records and have you planned to release more albums on it? I ask for it, because Rise Above has got a very good European distribution and here in Germany you can find their stuff in nearly every shop.
Aahhhh! That’s a long story…. Well, they got our two demos and liked them, but then nothing really happened. All the songs off of the second demo were used up for other stuff so we decided to a ten-track “pre-album demo”. We were negotiating with a few Italian labels and we thought that they should hear all the songs we wanted on the album. We thrashed during a weekend together with a friend called Blomman and recorded ten songs live. Then we sent it to the Italian label. They liked it a lot and we discussed things back and forth, but everything went very slowly. Around this time I got a mail from Will Palmer at Rise Above and he said that he had just listened to our demos again and wondered what we were doing now and if we had any new material. Well, since we’d just recorded ten new songs we just sent him that. Then we waited about a week and Will said they wanted to sign us! I think they’re doing a great job for us and we feel at home with them to say the least. It’s an honour for us. We’re gonna do more albums for Rise Above, it’s a multi-album contract. I’m very pleased about the fact that the distribution is good in Germany, that’s great to hear!
GRAND MAGUS have also released the song "Twilight Train" on a split 7" together with the Spiritual Beggars on the flipside in the Southern Lord 7" club series. How did you come together with Greg Anderson and do you like vinyl?
Mike Amott in Beggars got our “demo Two Thousand” through a friend of mine, Jocke Knutsson in Rise and Shine. Mike really liked it and got in touch with me. We mailed each other back and forth a bit and then Greg Anderson on Southern Lord was planning the “7 inches of doom” series and wanted Beggars to do a split with another band. Mike then suggested that Grand Magus should be the other band and Greg liked us as well, so…
Last year I've read somewhere that you'll part of the Beggars after Spice has left the band. I hope, that you won't leave GRAND MAGUS?! I don't know, if you like to go into details but how does it happen?
Ha-ha! No, I’m NOT going to leave Grand Magus, don’t you worry….. Well, after Spice left the Beggars I got a call from Mike asking me if I’d be interested. I’m a long-time fan of Beggars and of Mike’s guitar playing, so I was quite honoured, you know?
What is GRAND MAGUS doing right now? Have you written a lot of new songs and will you continue your musical direction of 70's influenced heavy power blues Rock in the vein of Mountain etc.?
Right now we’re preparing and finishing new songs for our next album. It will definitely be more brutal than our debut and a bit more doomy, but we’ll keep the groove and melodies as well. I think it will be a good mix of songs. It’ll just be a bit more METAL, you know?
Janne, thanks a lot for your time and your answers. I hope we will meet on the next tour or maybe someday in Sweden. Best greetings to Fox and Trisse and best wishes for the band! At least, is there anything that you like to say at least?
Thank you Klaus! Your support is greatly appreciated and I’m pleased to see that the Cosmic Lava flows freely. I want to thank everyone that came to see us on the tour and made every night memorable. See you all on the road and remember that the mission of the Grand Magus has only just begun……