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Interviews   

GRAND MAGUS HAMMERS US


Grand Magnus is starting to soar amazingly! Let’s admit it, since their self-titled 2001 debut album, the power trio kept on releasing real treasures : Monument, Wolf’s Return, Iron Will and last but not least, Hammer Of The North. They all have their share of memorable riffs and songs. So, even if the doom side to their music might have faded a bit through time, almost disappearing on the latest album, the consistency in the quality of their material deserves a round of applause. There’s no surprise in seeing JB and his pack climbing step by step, and signing with the prestigious Roadrunner Records. JB is confident and truly believes in Grand Magnus, the band he founded with bassist Fox.  He’s confident to the point of leaving the – though amazing – band Spiritual Beggars, refusing to compromise when it comes to his baby.

We had a little chat with Janne “JB” Christoffersson – frontman and vocalist extraordinaire – hoping to hear, amongst other stuff, about this turning point in Grand Magnus’ career.


« We never considered ourselves to be a doom band. The slow heavy stuff was directly coming from Black Sabbath and of course their influence is still there. However, we thought we had explored enough that kind of songs »

Radio Metal : Road Runner is releasing of the new album Hammer of the North what did lead you to leave Rise Above Records and go with Road Runner? Did you feel that Grand Magus needed more means in order to move on, that you reached the limits of Rise Above?

JB : Yes I guess that is the short answer. Iron Will was the last album on the deal we handed with Rise Above. Since all the obligations were fulfil in both parts we thought it was the right time to leave . Besides, many labels wanted to work with us so we just had to find the main powerful, Road Runner was the obvious choice.

All of your previous records have actually been released by Rise Above Records, which is Lee Dorian’s record label. He is a very passionate and down to earth man whereas Roadrunner is more like a big machine. Won’t you be missing the more human dimension of Rise Above records?

We’ll see, we worked with Rise Above for almost ten years, obviously we become friends. They were the perfect label to start our career, we have only good feelings towards them. Now, we are at the point when we know what we want to do musically, we want to become as big as possible.
It is natural that professional companies are like machines, you can’t have both. For my experience I can say that the reason why Road Runner is a successful label with the metal scene, is that because they are interesting in music so they know what to do.

On your myspace page there’s a statement about your signing with Roadrunner Records saying that it’s a chance for you to really push yourself and the music to the point of perfection. What’s your idea of perfection?

My idea of perfection is to write and record the best song that you can possibly make. We have now an environment where we can focus 100% on the music. If we go in the same direction with the label, I am sure we can achieve something very special.

What is striking with Hammer of the North is, compared to Iron Will, the big step up production. Did you have more budget this time?

Yes, definitely.

When you signed for Roadrunner Records did they give you the budget?

That’s the whole point, we don’t have any money. The record deal was in an extended way about the budget. They gave us the opportunity to have the album mixed by Jens Bogren but also to have it mastered in New York by George Marino, the one who mastered Back in Black. Such collaborations would not have been possible before.


« I think there is now a hunger for proper songs rather than a sound. People discovered that having a great song is better than having the best drums sound or the heaviest guitar sound. »
Hammer of the North has a strong traditional Heavy Metal side. On the opening song we can hear you scream like Rob Halford would do and there are many riffs in Judas Priest and Dio sort of vein. What is the reason of this emphasis on traditional heavy metal?

This was the Kind of music that really got us excited in our early teens, that was the reason why we all started playing. It has always been part of what we did. On our third album we made a turn into that direction more strongly. It was a reaction to the album Monument which was really heavy. Our previous albums sounded a lot like Black Sabbath almost like doom standards.

It has been a long time since we heard really doom tunes from Grand Magus such as “Baptised In fire” or “He Who Seeks… Shall Find”. Did you grow tired of doom?

We never considered ourselves to be a doom band. The slow heavy stuff was directly coming from Black Sabbath and of course their influence is still there. However, we thought we had explored enough that kind of songs, so we finally wanted to get more energetic stuffs and to step away from that sound.

We can easily compare Grand Magus’s discography with Dio’s. Dio often mixed traditional heavy metal elements with doom. His latest album Master Of The Moon is a perfect example of that. This is exactly what he did with Black Sabbath and Heaven and Hell. Do you feel close to Dio’s music?

Yes, absolutely, my first strongest love for music that I had was for Rainbow with the first three Rainbow’s albums and their live album, after that, it was the Black Sabbath’s albums with Dio and then of course Dio’s own band. All the projects he had been involved to have always been a very strong inspiration, on an emotional level as well. He could make you feel the way he felt when he sang. He has been a huge influence.

Heavy metal is a music style which is around 30 or 40 years old which means that from now on all the heavy metal kings will be slowly disappearing. Do you feel that you are taking the succession of bands like Judas Priest, Dio or Iron Maiden? Who according to you are going to be the heavy metal references of tomorrow?

I feel that we continue that tradition. There are a few bands I’d like to mention, like another Swedish band called Wolf. I think they are a really good band, they definitely have the heavy metal feeling, the right emotion you need to have. But there are so many great bands! I’m really bad at finding new bands. I can still listen to the stuff I was listening when I was younger since many of them are still going. In reality, I mainly focus on our own band. I think there is now a hunger for proper songs rather than a sound. People discovered that having a great song is better than having the best drums sound or the heaviest guitar sound. I believe this is how the classical type of heavy metal will survive.


« In Scandinavian traditions the wolf has a prominent role. It can exist and survive on its own; it can also exist in a very small community. It was pretty obvious to us that after a while no one really knew about Grand Magus. We are like wolves, going on our own way consequently »
I have read in a past interview that you listened to a lot of black and death metal bands. Haven’t you ever thought of integrating more extreme elements in Grand Magus music?

We did that, there are some stuffs that we are still doing such as tremolo picking on Hammer Of The North. But in a vocal point of view I cannot sing the way that black and death metal singers do such as using growling, it is not convincing when I try to do so. I think that my strong point is to sing the way I sing. The influence comes more from the emotional level than from a strictly musical level. I probably listen more to Scandinavian death and black metal band. There is still a very strong emotional connection with that kind of music.

It seems that wolves mean a lot to you, we can see wolf pictures on three of Grand Magus albums covers, including the upcoming one Hammer of the North. What does this animal represent to you?

The wolf represents more or less the spirit of the band. I have always been fascinated by this animal. When I become older I could study how it has been portrayed in history and in relation to humankind. In Scandinavian traditions the wolf has a prominent role. It can exist and survive on its own; it can also exist in a very small community. It was pretty obvious to us that after a while no one really knew about Grand Magus. We are like wolves, going on our own way consequently, it became a very fitting symbol for us.

I know you were very pleased with Iron Will’s artwork made by Arik Roper so why did you ask Necrolord to do the artwork for Hammer Of The North?

The connection with Arik Roper was linked with Rise Above. It was the perfect artwork for Iron Will. I have maybe around 30 albums with artworks from Necrolord. When our manager suggested us to work with him I wondered why I had not think about it before. His art really suits our music and it was a honour to work with him. It is always good to try something new. Who knows what will happen next time? Just like Arik Roper was perfect for Iron Will I think that Necrolord is perfect for what the band is at the moment.

The old northern folklore and history is often a strong element of Scandinavian heavy metal bands. It seems that it is at the centre of your new album. How important is it to you?

It is very important. Most bands do not deal with the same things and do not play music as we do. When I was a very small child my dad told me stories about Scandinavian traditions and legends, it was something I was born with. It has always been a tool to express a very good language and ideas about what is going on in society today or to express my beliefs about life and death. It is just something that has always been a part of me.

You filmed your first music video for the title track of Hammer Of The North. Do you think that music videos can help your band to gain more recognition?

Yes that is the reason why we did them. Youtube is a great way to make your band visible and to let people hear your music. You don’t make videos because it is fun but because people need to see you. That is really recent for us, I prefer to play live.


(About Spiritual Beggars) « The only reason for me not doing it is that I need to focus on Grand Magus, there is so much to do, this is our time now. »
It was recently announced that you left Spiritual Beggars. When was this decision taken?

Michael and I talked about this I don’t know how many months ago. There was an opportunity for him because Arch Enemy had finished with their tour and Opeth had some time off too. Consequently they had the chance to do another album, I had to say that I would have love to but I did not have the time.

The main reason that was communicated was that you wanted to focus more on Grand Magus. Is it the only reason for your departure? Could it also be because in Spiritual Beggars you were only the lead singer, that you could not put enough creativity in the band?

No, the set up with Spiritual Beggars was perfect for all of us. It was something very enjoyable. I would have loved to do another album and to play live with these guys. The only reason for me not doing it is that I need to focus on Grand Magus, there is so much to do, this is our time now. I cannot spared myself with other bands. If I could cloned myself into two people I would have done it.

Mickael Amott has Arch Enemy which is a successful band in the death metal gender and he seems to manage to play in both bands pretty well…

It is his band; he has some time off from Arch Enemy so he can concentrate on something else whereas I do not have the time! Three years ago it would have been possible but now the album has to be recorded so it is very simple.

What do you think of Apollo who is the singer of Firewind and who replaces you in Spiritual Beggars? Did you hear the new songs with him singing?

No I haven’t heard anything. We did a short tour with Firewind in the UK. Apollo is a great singer! He is a very cool guy; we had a lot of fun! I wish him all the best. We know each other so he knows I am sincere.

You are considered as one of the greatest heavy metal singers of your generation but I heard that you have not taken any singing lesson in your life. How did you end up with such a great voice? Do you have any advice to give for those who want to learn singing?

I have not had any lessons, I probably should. I only started singing in 1996, I’m just lucky to have a pretty recognizable voice which is really the most important thing. Unfortunately it is not something you can really train to get. The best advice is to sing live as much as you can, that is the only way to learn how to pace yourself, to know your limits. I remember that during the real first show that we did I completely destroyed my voice in the first song! It is important to learn how to relax.

Thank you for this interview JB. I saw Grand Magus at the Hellfest, it was in the morning but it was a really great set and there were a lot of people!

I was really happy about that too. I thought that everyone would still be asleep! We had a very great time there! We have got to see Heaven & Hell the night before, they did an amazing gig! We had to leave just after our show so we did not have time to say hello to anyone but it was really fun to play there.

Interview conducted by phone in june, 2010.
Traduction : Isabelle

Myspace Grand Magus : www.myspace.com/grandmagusrocks



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