PRESS Interview...
Grand Magus

by Chris Barnes

Black Magick rock?! Thatīs what singer/guitarist Janne calls Grand Magusīs doom-tinged, neolithic heavy blues rock straight from Stockholm, Sweden. Custom Heavy talks with guitarist/vocalist Janne about the bandīs unique sound, itīs history, and itīs upcoming new album on Rise Above/Music Cartel.

Custom Heavy: Please provide us with a little Grand Magus history.... I know you guys are from Stockholm, Sweden and started out with the name Smack, but after that I donīt know. Fill us in. And where the heck did you come up with the name Grand Magus?!

Janne: We became Smack around 1997 or something. Then our drummer quit and me and Fox were interested in doing heavier stuff and started to look for a new drummer. We tried a few, but none of them were anything to write home about..... There was supposed to be a anniversary screening of Deep Purpleīs gig at California Jam at a pub in Stockholm, so we put up an ad there (for fun mostly) and sure enough, the next day a guy called and we got together and it really fucking clicked, you know? With Trisse behind the kit we recorded a demo called "Firepower 99ī" and sent it around to various labels. MFN showed interest and wanted to hear more, so we did another demo called "Demo Two Thousand". At the same time, we changed our name. We thought that Smack sounded to upbeat and happy and I was writing lyrics about Black Magick. I dabble a bit with the arts of Magick so I came up with the name which roughly means "Grand Master Magician", the leader of a magick order. Please note that the "ck" spelling is not accidental.....Anyway, MFN had a deal with Rise Above at this time and forwarded both demos to them, since MFN apparently thought we were a bit too heavy for them.... Rise Above liked it, but nothing really happened. Around this time Mike Amott of Spiritual Beggars got a cdr with Demo Two Thousand from Jocke in Rise and Shine (good friends of mine) and really liked it. Greg Anderson on Southern Lord wanted Beggars to do a split 7īī with some other band for the 7 inches of doom series, so Mike suggested us. Meanwhile, we got a few offers from various labels and decided to do a "pre album demo" which should be all the songs and the basic sound we wanted, so that the label knew what they were gonna get. We did ten songs in two days, all live and vocals done in three or four hours. While we were wheeling and dealing with the this particular label and everything just seemed to take forever, Rise Above contacted us and wondered what we were up to. We sent them the ten track demo, waited a week and then they said that they wanted us... Thatīs the story really.

Custom Heavy: How about the Grand Magus sound for those of us that havenīt heard you before. How would you describe it? How about Grand Magnus lyrically? What do most of your lyrical content deal with?

Janne: We have our own genre: Black Magick Rock! Weīre a combination of primitive heavy blues rock, classic metal and doom really. I think we have a doomy vibe to everything we do, but we have a lot of mid-tempo riffs and quite a lot of melody. Not in a sappy kind of way, but melody in the sense that you can actually remember a song through the melody rather than just the sound of the production which seems to be the case with a lot of the bands today.... The lyrics deal with dark stuff, magick, a bit of criticism against some of societyīs narrow-mindedness and stupidity. I can get really upset when people do certain things, not because they necessarily want to do them, but think that they will get rewarded by "someone" or "something" for doing them. That to me is the pinnacle of stupidity right there. Do what thou wilt, right?

Custom Heavy: You have a new album coming out on Rise Above. Can you give us an idea of what direction the album will take musically? Will it be different from your single releases on Game Two and Southern Lord Records?

Janne: The albumīs got a much earthier sound than the demo. The demo had quite a "slick" sound which was good, but nothing we wanted now. The album also has heavier songs and a much doomier approach I think. This album does not have the expected "scooped" out sound where snare and bass drum are weak and all you can hear is overhead. Itīs got a 1976 hard rock production on steroids, everything is beefy and real, no effects and trickery, itīs got a real honest sound.

Custom Heavy: Do you have a name for the album yet? Can you give us fans an idea about release dates?

Janne: The album will be called "Grand Magus" and the official world wide release is on the 5th of November. US fans will have to wait until January 2002 unless they order it from Japan where it will be released on the 24th of October this year.

Custom Heavy: Take us into the studio for the recording. What has the vibe been like during the recording process? Who is producing this one?

Janne: We recorded all basics tracks live: bass, drums and rhythm guitar. This took three days (12 songs). Then I doubled the rhythm guitar, then I did vocals and solos. Very straightforward and simple. Fred Estby from Dismember recorded, mixed and produced it and he had an idea of what he wanted to do when he heard us the first time. He did the live sound for us at a gig and told us that he wanted to work with us and when we got the deal, we immediately thought of him. This album is very much his vision of Grand Magus, which I think is very cool and the way a producer should work. Just go with the vision.

Custom Heavy: Will Grand Magus be touring to support this album? Any confirmed dates yet?

Janne: Weīll probably do some gigs in England later this fall and then do some more stuff early next year.

Custom Heavy: How would you describe the live Grand Magus experience? I would imagine lotīs of earplugs, lotīs of sweat, maybe a little blood.... how far off am I?

Janne: I havenīt gotten used to wearing plugs on-stage myself and Iīm getting a bit worried about this, he-he. Well, you pretty much hit the nail on the head. We play loud, heavy and never compromise. No excuses, no regrets. If you have some grudge or bottled up anger or if youīre just pissed off, we can help you vent out those feelings. Then weīll lead you into doom.

Custom Heavy: What kind of gear do you guys use live? Will the gear you use on the new album differ from what you use live at all?

Janne: We used the exact same equipment for the album as we do live. We recorded the 28īī Ludwig bass drum and it was no problem whatsoever, people who say that you canīt get a sound in the studio with such a big drum basically donīt know what theyīre talking about. We use Gibson, Fender; Rickenbacker, Acoustic and Marshall, thatīs it. The album is basically live anyway, so why change it? I mean, in the future we might experiment like crazy, but this time it was just: one, two, three, four GO!

Custom Heavy: Being in a band, Iīm sure you get to hear a lot of stuff before it hits the public. What bands, either live or recorded, is the band currently into now?

Janne: Well, Trisse is totally into Zakk Wyldeīs Black Label Society at the moment. I think the live album is his favourite at the moment. We all went to see Slayer when they were here and they were brilliant as always. Too bad about Pantera though... They are Trisseīs favourite band and we had all really looked forward to seeing them live, but... Fox is into The Haunted and Slayer and BLS as well and everytime I call him thereīs Slayer, Entombed or The Haunted in the background. At the moment I have one of my Manowar periods, I just got the silver editions of Into Glory Ride and Hail to England, Iīm a happy camper preparing for their new album which should surface in the not too distant future. I hope it doesnīt blow.....

Custom Heavy: Thanks for the interview!! Any words of wisdom youīd like to share with the Custom Heavy readers?

Janne: Thank you! I hope everyone with the slightest interest in real heavy rock buys our album. You wonīt be disappointed. THE WHOLE AND SOLE OBJECT OF ALL TRUE MAGICKAL TRAINING IS TO BECOME FREE OF EVERY KIND OF LIMITATION.
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