PRESS Interview...

GL-Productions/Hand of Doom, Interview with Grand Magus

Gabriel Lilliehöök

Frontman Janne Christofferson Speaks

A huge mighty congratulation to your stunning debut album, god knows for how long I have been waiting for this particular disc. How has the response been so far from fan support and press coverage?

-It’s been pretty incredible so far. We just heard that the album has been elected December’s "Album of the Month" in the German Metal Hammer, which is pretty fucking amazing for us! It seems that Italy, Germany, Japan and France really dig our style and the album as a whole. Even the Swedish reviews have been positive, something I had not expected. All "fans" that have heard it seem to be extremely excited and thrilled. In short, everything is working out better than you could possibly wish for.

It was under the Smack moniker that you introduced yourself with the now infamous 3 track disc that set the ball rolling, how was the band formed in the first place and looking back at that disc, how was the recording process and how much response came out of it ?

-Fox and me started the band together with our first drummer Iggy sometime in 1996. Then Iggy left the band and we found Trisse through an ad outside an anniversary showing of Deep Purple’s California Jam. He was there and saw our ad that said we were looking for a drummer who was a cross between John Bonham and Bill Ward! He called us the next day and the rest is as they say, history. This was in early 1998 I think. We proceeded to record the "Firepower 99’" demo as it was subsequently called. We had a lot of fun recording it and we got great response. We did the recording and mixing during a weekend in 1999. The Music For Nations label really liked it and wanted to hear more, so we did another one.

Last year you made one of the most devastating demos I have ever heard Demo Two Thousand, looking back at that particular disc how was the recording process and how much response have come out of this one so far?

-Well, Demo Two Thousand was recorded in November 1999 and we used the same studio and the same engineer/mixing guy as for the previous demo. We basically did everything in the same way as the previous demo, except that the vocals were a bit more brutal. We sent it to MFN as I said earlier and once again they liked it. Their label boss felt that it should go to Rise Above since they were affiliated at that time. Rise Above liked it as well, but we weren’t signed that time. We felt that the demo was good enough to continue our mission with and all three songs ended up being published in various formats and labels. Great for us, even though it meant that none of the songs could be used on the album.

With Demo 2000 a couple of nice Grand Magus goodies came up a split single with Spiritual Beggars, a split single issued by Game Two, a feature on Waterdragons Volume one. Looking back at these releases, have they been a great springboard for your debut album?

-Yes indeed. The kind of exposure we got really helped us getting attention. People from all over the world seem to have heard us in one way or another.

I don’ know how many times I have listened to this disc, as a longtime fan of Grand Magus I find the album to be a perfect mix and it also gives a great coverage what this band are cabable of, looking back at the recording process and the mix of the album fill us in on the process?

-We recorded the album in das Boot studios in Stockholm. Fred Estby engineered, mixed and produced it. 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. 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.

With the demos, the singles, compilations you have created a pretty solid fan base for yourself, do you feel with the release of your debut album that you will create more buzz around the name Grand Magus and how do you feel about the following that you have got so far?

-I think the album will definitely give us more exposure than we’ve had before. This is our first "real" recording and the first time people can get really into our stuff you know? We’re doing a lot of interviews and the album’s getting reviewed all over the place. We really appreciate the response we’re getting from people that like our stuff. It seems that we fill up a void for heavy rock fans with our music. I just hope that everyone gets a chance to hear us. The mission of Grand Magus has just begun!

Ever since the Smack disc I have admired the sound that you have, classic vintage heavyrock with a lot of blues, how would you describe the Grand Magus sound?

-I think you pretty much hit the nail on the head here. We’re definitely blues-based hard rock, but we’ve also got that doom feel to a lot of the stuff we do. I always say to people that Grand Magus plays "Black Magick Rock", which really sums everything up. Our music has a strong link to bands like Deep Purple and Mountain for sure, but we also have that "metal" element that Dio-era Black Sabbath brought along and that bands like Judas Priest pioneered. So, blues, hard rock, doom and metal are the main ingredients to what we play.

You signed with Rise above Records, to me a perfect home for Grand Magus. When and where did Rise above get interested in Grand Magus fill us in on the story and are you pleased with their push so far to the album?

-Well, as I said earlier, 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.

More on the album, the production I find it very spontaneous and very alive and very moving. While you were in the studio did you made the album live or did you made tracking?

-I think I already answered this above, but yes, absolutely. Everything is basically live, apart for obvious overdubs. If the basics tracks are live, you automatically get a live feel. We also wanted the album to sound really natural as you say, with a dry "wood-like " sound. Some of the songs demanded a different sound in the mix, but all songs were recorded in the same way.

Looking at the lyrical standpoint, there´s a lot of black magick involved over the subjects in the songs of the album, am I right in my opinion or do you have a different angle over the lyrical subjects that features here?

-Yes, a lot of the songs on the album deal with Magick and black Magick and it’s something we’ve had on our demos as well. Stonecircle, Twilight Train, Summer Solstice and A Game of Tarot from our demos deal with magick in the same way. It is the foundation of all Grand Magus lyrics. However, all our lyrics can be interpreted on many levels and they deal with different things at the same time.

Talking about the strength in Grand Magus, what is the biggest strength in the band do you feel?

-The songs. We have memorable songs and riffs. Melody combined with power.

Talking about the band as a live act, what is the difference between Grand Magus live and Grand Magus practise/studio?

-We obviously have a lot more power live than in the studio, you feed off of the audience response and get into a state of mind that can never be equalled in a studio. This goes for most bands I think. You can also do things in a different way live. You can put extra emphasis on certain words depending on the atmosphere of the gig. We’re probably a bit more doom live as well.

Looking at the Swedish heavyrock scene nowadays, the scene is a lot healthier now compare to how it was years ago. What is your opinion about the progression on the Swedish scene?

-Swedish musicians are usually excellent players. Most Swedish bands can really play you know? Swedish bands also have a good feel for songs and sounds. Just look at the death metal revolution during the early nineties. Swedish death metal pretty much devastates anything else around the world. Many Swedish band today borrow and get influenced by that death metal power even when the play more traditional rock and that makes it really powerful, you know? There are a lot of excellent Swedish bands at the moment.

Back to Grand Magus about your musical direction ever since your first demo, you have always had a genuine late 60s early 70s sound. Talking about the main influences for the band, which are the main influences musically for Grand Magus?

-It’s difficult to give a definitive answer, but obviously Deep Purple, both the early Gillan period and the later Coverdale/Hughes period. Rainbow Ronnie James Dio era. Black Sabbath, both the Ozzy era and the Ronnie James Dio era. Judas Priest. Jimi Hendrix. Frank Marino. Nazareth, Uriah Heep…..

I might have touched this before but what is the concept for Grand Magus, do you have any specific concept?

-Yes. Black Magick Rock. That is what we play and what is unique. The band is the Grand Magus, the high priest, the grand master of Black Magick Rock.

Looking at the cover of the album, this bearded man he looks like a monk but I am not sure I find the cover pretty spooky and pretty fascinating, where did you get the idea for this cover and who is the bearded man?

-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…..

Since you are a power trio, do you feel you have more freedom as a three-piece band compare to if you were a four or a five piece?

-Yes, definitely. The more people you are in a band, the more rigid it becomes. That is not necessarily a bad thing, I mean look at Judas Priest. But the music must be much more structured and "in the pocket". I love five piece bands, but we would never work with additional members I think. Another important thing is band politics, the social situation. If you’re a trio and there’s some kind of problem, it shows immediately and you have to deal with it right away. There is no room for pacts, conspiracies or sides. This is very good and saves us a lot of time and effort that other bands spend arguing and bitching with each other. We don’t do that. The same thing goes for song writing. We have a unified vision of what we want to do musically. That is not to say that we don’t disagree and fight, ‘cause we do that sometimes. A fight between three people takes a lot less time than it would for five people though….

For those who still haven’t picked this album up, how would you review it for them?

-If you are a fan of true hard rock like it’s supposed to sound, then you will not be disappointed. It is an album that is custom made for people who like real and heavy music.

More on the album, the vocals!! Ever since I first heard the band I have always been amazed by the vocals. This album is no exception there is so much soul in here, a lot of blues and a lot of spirit. My question is to you Janne when and where did you picked up the singing in the first place and in the past few years, how much have your voice progressed and do you feel more established now compared to the early days ?

-Well, I started singing very late. We had a singer in Smack and when he left, I just figured I could sing until we find a replacement. It kind of worked so I just kept at it. This was around 1997 and before that I had only been singing in the shower or when I was drunk. In other words, I’m still a beginner and I feel I have much to learn. I do know that I will get better and better. The vocals are important and I’m always striving to improve them. I think I have a lot more power now than when I started out and you learn stuff everyday, you know?

To round off this interview talking about your next plans. What happens right now for Grand Magus after the release of the album, are you planning a tour any ep’s features on compilations, videos, the next album fill us in on what will happen.

-Well, right now we’re doing a lot of interviews and stuff to promote the album and then we’ll probably do some touring with a rather well-known band in the beginning of next year. Possibly even some shows in December this year. We’ll hopefully do some shows in England and maybe Germany as well. We’ve also begun to write material for the next album, which will be a killer. It will still be the "groove-sound" that Grand Magus stands for, but there’ll also be some really heavy slow doom and some pretty fast brutal stuff as well. We don’t know when we’ll record again, but I can’t wait myself!

Thank you ever so much for the interview, huge congrats again to your album. I call it a classic already. Definitely one of the top-10 albums of this year at least on my list. All the best wishes with everything. I hope you are able to play a few dates around Sweden very soon.

-Thank You very much Gabriel. Keep on waving the banner for heavy rock and doom. We’ll definitely play in Sweden soon. We salute you and all hard rockers out there. From now on all opposing men will fear the sign……

By Gabriel Lilliehook
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