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Grand Magus

Recently the mighty `Sword Songs` has been followed up by the ninth studio album from Swedish heavy metal masters Grand Magus. `Wolf God` brims with smooth flowing melodies, sturdy riffs and groovy-laden rhythms played with the fervency of a focused jamming band. The spirit of true heavy metal reigns! It is time for having a debonair conversation with the genuine and calm front man of the Stockholm based three-piece, Janne `JB` Christoffersson.

By: Vera | Archive under heavy / power metal

Almost three years have gone by since we talked for the release of former album `Sword Songs`. How has life been for you and the band since then?
Well, it is almost three years indeed. We did quite a lot of touring since then for `Sword Songs`. We did a huge tour with Amon Amarth and Testament. Behemoth was also on that tour. And then we decided to take some time off actually, to start to think about new music and I wanted to take some extra time to think about what we wanted to do for the next album. We decided that we wanted to jam a lot more instead of me sitting by myself, writing the music. We also decided that we needed to find a studio where we could record and live at the same place, that we could live next door or in the studio, not having to deal with other stuff in life, you know. Also that we wanted to record the basic tracks live. For all of this to happen, we needed to spend more time before we could record, because if you want to do it that way, you have to do all the work more or less before you enter the actual studio. Yeah, we felt it was a good time, instead of rushing and bring it out in 2018, we could take some more time to write it and especially, create together. We needed some changes.

The chemistry in the band will be better with human contact I guess?
Yes, we had a lot more fun. When you record with a click-track and you start recording the drums and then the guitars and then the bass etc. It turns out very sterile, you know. Some albums we did really together, we built it up together, like anyone else does. I was just sick and tired of doing it that way. I wanted to do it more like we do it when we play live on stage.

I think you took the right decision, because this way the band is a band instead of putting all the pieces bit by bit together.
Exactly.

And I think you are better prepared for following live gigs if you record that way?
Absolutely. Sometimes in the past, we had not played the songs together at all. You have done the album, but then you got to learn the songs to play them live. And then you sometimes discover: Hey, this does not sound that good, you know (chuckles). We cannot really do this song. I think all the songs on this album definitely could work on stage. That does not mean if they are a good live song, that depends on how the audience react, but we can definitely play them without thinking.

How did you find such a studio? Was it far away from home?
We found one that we have used in the past, but it has been improved a lot. It also has living accommodation now and it is just outside the place where Ludwig, our drummer lives. So it is on the West Coast, by the sea. So it is pretty far from where I live and where Fox lives. We were living on a farm at the countryside in Sweden, that was amazing.

The title of the new album is `Wolf God`. In Nordic mythology it is Fenrir, isn`t it?
(hesitating) He is kind of a Wolf God yeah, but he is more of an enemy towards the Asa Gods. I guess you can call him a god, but he`s more like a monster (chuckles).

So it was not the Wolf God you had in mind?
No, not necessarily (laughs). I think in the past I have been asked what it is about. What is `The Hunt` about? Stuff like that. I came to realize that I never really liked talking and explaining too much about things like that, because I want the imagination of the listener to be free, because that is how I got into heavy metal. No band explained that much. Like Judas Priest: here`s the album, it is called `Defenders Of The Faith`. What does it mean? No one asked that question. `Jawbreaker` What is that song about? They never answered that question. And because of that, when I hear `Jawbreaker`, I built up my own images and meanings what the song is about. That`s really, for me, one of the main things of heavy metal. The music and the lyrics, they have a life on their own. It is something that you cannot put your finger on. A great example of that is the song `Holy Diver`. What`s `holy diver`? Nothing in that song makes sense. For me it is very clear, because my imagination about that song is very clear, but I do not think there is explanation to what it means, you know. It is just poetry.

Same goes for `Stairway To Heaven` from Led Zeppelin.
Yes! Yes!

And it took me years and years to find out that `Child In Time` is about the Vietnam War.
Do you think it is? Maybe. It is only guessing I think, but that is the cool thing. But you see, your imagination was free to build up those connections. The risk of course is that people can misinterpret what you do, but that`s just the way it is.

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When I see the new promo photos you and Fox are wealthy tattooed. Can you tell about your tattoos? At what age did you get them and what do they mean to you?
Well, I only have three tattoos actually. The first one I did when I was twenty years old I think. It was one I knew from home. I actually took the motive from a Jimi Hendrix poster, made by a guy named Rick Griffin He was an American artist who designed posters in the late sixties and the early seventies. I think it was from the poster when he played at Monterey. It is an eyeball with wings, standing in a ring of fire. I just thought it was really cool (laughs). Then the next one I did, was like a heraldic lion, you know what that means? Like the lion you see on a coat of arms. With a scroll that reads `fire magick`. And I did that one I guess around the time we did our third album. No, the second album: `Monument`, because we have a song on it, called `Summer Solstice`. The chorus in that one is `Fire Magick`. Then the last one is basically a wizard, with snakes and pentagrams and flies and stuff (laughs). I don`t know what it means. It could be Odin, it could be St. Patrick, I am not really sure. That`s it. Of course Ludwig has got a shitload of tattoos. He is tattooed almost all over. And I was actually with him when he did one of the tattoos in Japan. He got like a ninja demon`s head by a Japanese tattoo, in Tokyo I think it was. Or in Osaka. Ludwig was very hangover, he looked green in the face when the tattoo was finished. For me it is almost twenty years ago that I did my last tattoo, because it is getting quite ridiculous now in Sweden. Almost everybody is tattooed. It has become a fashion, you know.

A contradiction haunted me in the song `Dawn Of Fire`, because I hear the sound of water in that song or am I wrong?
No, that`s true, you hear water. I guess the song has elements of travel in it and also you have the juxtaposition of the two, fire and water, you know. There is a lot going on in that song. (hesitates… silence for a moment) What is the dawn of fire? Well, I guess it is a dawn when good and terrible things happen at the same time. Something like that you know.

Maybe something like a cleansing at the same time of an Apocalypse?
Yeah maybe. Maybe.

Two of my favourite songs are `Glory To The Brave` and `To Live And Die In Solitude`.
Cool. `Glory To The Brave` has got that start which is very Black Sabbath from `Paranoid`. And that is one of the things we could never have done if we recorded with a click-track and drums first and blablabla. Stuff like that you have to play together, because otherwise it just hasn`t got that swing. It does not work to put it on afterwards. It does not sound as fervent then.

So it is obvious that you will do it this way again for the next albums.
Yes, if I could choose, this is definitely the way we are going to do it from now on. We have been talking about it for a long time. Then suddenly it is like: now we should make an album. Usually there was not enough time to do it like this one, so a couple of times we decided to do it the way we were used to do, because of the time issue. As I said before, the reason for the longer break is that I knew it was going to take a longer time for the musicians to do this new way of working. It is not something you decide just a couple of weeks before you are going to do an new album. You have to plan it.

How long were you at the farm on the countryside?
Well, it was super quick. The actual recordings took thirteen days, including vocals and everything. The last three albums took like two months, because then we were in Stockholm to do all the overdubs. So I was working during the day and then I was going to the studio at night and then going home. And then after work the day after etcetera. It just took forever. After a while it is not fun anymore.

The title `To Live And Die In Solitude` reminded me of Candlemass. Did you hear the new Candlemass album yet?
No, I only heard `Astorolus The Great Octopus`, the first song revealed. I haven`t heard the whole album. I have been so busy with this now. I mean, I know the guys in Candlemass quite well, but I really hadn`t time to think about what they have been doing, but I think that track is very cool and from what I have heard from other friends is that the album is awesome. So I am really looking forward to hear it.

Are there plans to make any video clips?
Yes. That is also one of the things that we have always been bad at in the past. Well, I mean, we`ve hardly done any videos. It is mainly because it is really boring to do a video (chuckles), it takes a lot of time, it is also quite expensive if you want to do it properly and it is hard to come up with something worthwhile. But we are planning to do a proper video for this album. I just hope we are going to have time and we can figure out a cool thing instead of the standard stuff. So we will see. I think, what many people don`t realize is that, for us to go out and play live is super fun. And it is super fun to create and record your own music and listen to the result and stuff. But it is no fun to mime to your own music for a whole day, or maybe even for three days. It is like torture, to be honest. At least for me. When people see videos they say wow, it is great and so much fun. I`m sorry, it is fucking boring. I don`t like it, maybe other people do like it.

No guests on the album?
No, not this time. Not at all. We were pretty much locked up in that farm in the middle of nowhere. We did not have any visitors. We were extremely focused this time and did not have any plans like that.

What are the tour plans for the near future?
They are being made as we speak, and I wish I could mention something definite, but I think around the time when the album is released, they will be revealed. For now the only stuff we have confirmed are six or seven festivals this Summer. We are going to play at Graspop in Belgium.

Yes, I saw it and the funny thing is: last time when we spoke, you had planned to play there for the first time. Did you enjoy it?
Yes, we enjoyed it. We had so much fun. Really good. Well organized and I saw Black Sabbath. I had fun.

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