One band to really admire is Grand Magus. They’re a band that is effortlessly cool, have a great attitude to their fans and more importantly, love playing heavy metal. As someone who has seen them live will know they’re an absolute hoot and a great bunch of lads. Speaking to frontman Janne ‘JB’ Christoffersson before their albums launch, we spoke about the new album and its creation, the history of Grand Magus, touring and fan interactions.
Jack: Hi, thanks for taking time out of your day to speak to me. How are you doing?
Janne ‘JB’ Christoffersson (Vocals/Guitar): Good, good.
Jack: The album Sword Songs is about to come out and it has already received good reviews from critics, do you pay the most attention to the critics, the fans or a mixture of both?
JB: I tend to pay the most attention to the really bad reviews, [Laughs]. It’s a very annoying habit of mine. It’s great to get good reviews from critics, and a lot of metal music critics are of course metal fans too, which means that at least some of them have a really valid opinion. But in all fairness, what it all comes down to is what the “ordinary” listeners or “fans” think and feel. That’s the real proof.
Jack: Do you get nervous before an album release at all?
JB: Nervous is not really the right word… more tossed between joy and misery.
Jack: What was the recording process like?
JB: We started with the drums. Ludwig [“Ludde” Witt, Drums] and I went to Gothenburg and Top Floor studios to record with Roberto Laghi and Jakob Herrmann. We spent about a week there, having a blast actually. Then I went back to Stockholm and Fox and I continued the recordings with Nico. I guess all in all we spent about two months recording, with some short breaks.
Jack: You worked with Nico Elgstrand again. What do you like about working with Nico?
JB: We know each other extremely well, both the good and bad sides. He’s very honest. He’s very musically talented. We create well together.
Jack: JB, you said that “the new songs are faster and more aggressive than on Triumph and Power, and we have also included some more extreme and harder stuff.” What was behind the decision to go in this direction?
JB: Every time you start working on an album, you kind of start where you left off, namely the previous album. What was that like? How do I want to progress? That’s one reason. The other reason is that all our albums have been very honest reflections of where we were as a band and as people at that time. This time, that’s what we felt like doing.
Jack: You also said there were going to be some future classics on the album? What songs were you talking about?
JB: I think that ‘Forged in Iron – Crowned in Steel’ could be one. Maybe ‘Varangian’, maybe ‘Born for Battle’. But hey! What do I know? I’m just in the band, this is up to other people to decide.
Jack: When you write a song do you have any idea as to which songs will be hits?
JB: No. But some songs have a certain special something that stands out. It doesn’t mean it will be a “hit” though.
Jack: On the digipack there is a cover of Deep Purple’s ‘Stormbringer,’ why did you pick that song?
JB: It’s an old favourite of mine and probably the first hard rock song that I remember hearing.
Jack: Grand Magus have been a band since 1999, is it strange to think you’ve been a band for this long?
JB: Yeah man. It is strange…. We never planned for that to happen, it just did.
Jack: What’s been a career highlight?
JB: We’ve had a lot of highlights actually. We have toured with childhood heroes like Motörhead and Accept. We have toured with Behemoth and Amon Amarth. We have toured with Cathedral. We have toured with Electric Wizard. We have toured with Orange Goblin. We have toured with Angel Witch and done gigs with too many bands to mention… and made some great friends along the way.
Jack: Your self-titled debut album has been out 15 years now, do you have fond memories of making the album?
JB: Yeah, it was very special for many reasons. Of course because it was our first album and we were very inexperienced, so everything was new and exciting. Also because we did it completely live on 2 inch tape, true old school. And it was a lot of fun to work with Fred Estby from Dismember who were heroes for me.
Jack: Is there anything you’d go back and change?
JB: You can’t change what has been done. It is what it is. But of course, like I said we were very green and some things could have been better, but I guess that’s also part of the charm, you know?
Jack: Would you ever consider playing an album from your past in full?
JB: Not really. I think you have to be a “bigger” band to do that. I think that those who come to watch us, want to hear our “best” stuff.
Jack: One band that is playing an album in full this year is Behemoth who will be playing The Satanist in full across Europe. You toured with Behemoth two years ago, how did that tour go?
JB: It was truly great. We knew the guys from before, having played quite a few festivals together, so we knew it would work. But it was better than that and also proof that even though there’s a huge difference musically, it can still be a great combination. I think Behemoth is one of the best live bands currently. Awesome power.
Jack: That tour was a mixed bag as it had Behemoth, Decapitated, and Winterfylleth on that lineup. Do you prefer playing mixed lineups or with bands of your own ilk?
JB: I definitely prefer a mixed bag. I think that’s better for the audience and for the bands. But of course it has to be bands that somehow work as a lineup or it can be a disaster, at least for the support bands.
Jack: You supported Motörhead and Doro on tour once, what was the best thing about that tour?
JB: It’s hard to pick one thing, you know? The whole experience was truly memorable and a huge thing for us as a band and as individuals. Come on, you’re touring with legends. One thing that was really gratifying was that the Motörhead audience, because let’s be clear, it’s their audience and can be very hard on support bands – really seemed to love us and we got a great response every night. That was very special.
Jack: Finally I actually met you guys at Bloodstock 2012 in the signing tent, is it weird knowing that people are willing to queue up to meet you and get photos and stuff signed?
JB: No man. I’m like that too. I have done it myself. I think it’s a great part of heavy metal as a phenomenon and as a way of life.
Jack: Thanks for your time and I hope your upcoming shows go well.
JB: My pleasure, and thanks!