Latest release: The Hunt (Nuclear Blast)
Band site: www.grandmagus.com
The recent announcement of widespread job losses and office closures within Roadrunner Records’ worldwide empire was obviously a sad indictment of the current state of the music industry. Aside from the hard-working folks who now find themselves unemployed (we here at Loud are disappointed to report that even a few unfortunate individuals at the Australian office who have always been most accommodating of this very website weren’t spared), it signals an uncertain future for many of the bands on its roster. Rumours are already flying that owner Warner Music Group will cut many of the mid-to-lower tier bands on the label and only retain the bigger names as part of its restructuring.
One of the bands who felt the effects of this seismic shift – even if such an event garnered minimal publicity – were Swedish traditional heavy metallers Grand Magus. The band’s previous album, 2010’s cracking Hammer of the North was released by Roadrunner. According to vocalist/guitarist Janne “JB” Christoffersson though, those greater industry forces were at play.
“I don’t know if you’ve read the news lately, but Roadrunner as they were previously don’t really exist anymore, except in America,” he says, sounding far friendlier that a man who still has another 15 phone interviews left to tackle before the end of the day probably should. “The short story is they decided not to pick up the option on the new album.”
As their former label streamlines its operations, this left the band to explore their options. They rebounded quickly, inking a deal with metal heavyweights Nuclear Blast for new album The Hunt, their sixth overall.
“That meant we’ve been free since last summer,” the frontman explains. “We quickly started negotiations with Nuclear Blast, as they were the obvious choice for a label for us at this point.”
Christoffersson has reservations about the future of the industry, but they’re largely not business-oriented. “I mean, I’m fundamentally interested by the business side of things. But I feel concerned that the whole concept of an album – is that going to exist in three of four years? The CD’s going to disappear and there’s nothing to replace it with in terms of physical product. I’ve always been drawn to the idea of an album as a package of songs. The idea of recording a few songs here and there… The cool thing about an album is that, ‘okay, this is where the band was at this point, this album has this kind of feel and that album has that kind of feel’.
“Songs spread out here and there over several years – you lose the identity of the songs I feel. It becomes like a compilation of songs. We’ve never been a singles band, and metal music has never really been about creating singles. Metal ‘hits’ have never been created as singles, they were all album tracks. A song like ‘Holy Diver’ or ‘Metal Gods’, they were never recorded just as being singles. They were album tracks that became singles because they’re great songs. There are songs on this album that could work on the radio, but we’ve never consciously sat down and thought, ‘we need to make a single’. That’s pop.”
You may or may not hear Grand Magus blasting from commercial radio stations worldwide throughout 2012 (this scribe is sadly leaning towards the latter). However, while they may not have enlisted hit-makers to help them create a radio single, there were some elements of their excellent new record that were somewhat predetermined.
“One thing we consciously tried to do this time was we wanted a more dynamic album with more variation,” Christoffersson emphasises. “So you could listen to it front to back without being bored, without skipping anything and I think we’ve succeeded more with that than we have done in the past. Probably my favourite track at the moment is ‘Valhalla Rising’, but I think every song projects a different feeling.” When Loud says one of the strongest elements of Grand Magus’ music has always been its rousing, anthemic qualities, the axeman quickly agrees. “That’s what, for me, the best metal music is. When you get a feeling of power, where you kind of clench your fist and thrust it in the air, like, ‘yeah’,” he chuckles. “That’s very important to what we do.”
As for the weeks leading up to a new album release, he admits mixed feelings.
“I think a combination of both relief and excitement. You’re excited about what people will think about it, (but) it’s also a huge relief. It’s always filled with anxiety and stress, making a record. You really push yourself when you’re making an album. When it’s finally done, I go into some kind of a coma almost. You shut off everything.”
He won’t be able to dwell on that for too long though, as the band will hit the road in a matter of weeks to take part in the European festival circuit.
“That will be the first time we’ll play any of the tracks live and it’s going to be really exciting,” Christoffersson enthuses. “It’s been two years since we had any new tracks to play live, so it’s gonna be fun.” Although he’s eyeing off a solid 12 months on the road in support of the new material, the band hope to broaden their scope with regard to which parts of the world they visit. While the vocalist has toured Japan during his tenure with “supergroup” Spiritual Beggars, Grand Magus is yet to venture outside of Europe.
“I’d be surprised if we go crazy and do a new album next year,” he ponders. “So we’ll have a whole year of touring. South America, we haven’t even been to the US and Canada. There are so many places we’d love to go. The US, basically, is logistics and financial aspects. We don’t get rich from doing this, but we can’t ruin ourselves paying to go somewhere. We have a strong following in Europe, it’s really well-organised. Past offers to go to the States haven’t been realistic. I’d love to play the US, but it’d have to be under the right circumstances.”
Is a maiden visit to Australia also on the cards?
“I really hope so. I’ve heard so many great stories about playing Australia from friends in other bands. So we’re going to be working on it.”