Interview: Fox from Grand Magus
Interviewer: Paul Hutchings
Formed in Stockholm in 1996, Grand Magus are one of those bands that you never tire of seeing. With nine albums and more live shows than you can imagine, the powerful trio play a classic heavy metal that cuts across boundaries and genres. The nucleus of the band has been Janne ‘JB’ Christoffesson – vocals & guitars and Mats ‘Fox’ Skinner – bass & backing vocals with drummer Ludwig ‘Ludde’ Wilt a long-time fixture since 2012. With the band kicking off a nine-date tour of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Eire (no Wales – Boo!!) I was able to get across the bridge once again to watch the band and have a chat with Fox prior to the opening show.
The Razors Edge: First night of the tour. Any problems getting over here?
Fox: We had a few problems getting to the airport, but we made it. It was worse for the Wolf guys (support band), their plane was cancelled. But we are here!!
The Razor’s Edge: You’ve been together for around 25 years now. Back in 1996, did you think that come 2020 you’d still be playing together across the world?
Fox: No, not at all. We didn’t know that much back then. We’ve changed drummers a couple of times but me and JB we stuck together.
The Razor’s Edge: The music industry has changed massively in the time that Grand Magus was released in comparison to Wolf God. Is all of the change for the better or do you ever long for those good ole’ days?
Fox: Yes, a lot different. Back then when you had a record deal you thought that was the thing. You wanted to quit your day job and everything but it’s not like that. Although things have changed in the metal business a lot of things are still the same. We have the album deal with Nuclear Blast, and they pay us for recording and stuff. It’s still the album cycle thing. A lot of bands talk about not releasing albums not songs so maybe it will change.
The Razor’s Edge: You’ve just answered most of my next question. You’ve been consistent with your releases over the past 18 years. Nine full albums so one every two years on average. Is this the Grand Magus work ethic or is it the record company driving you?
Fox: Yes, it’s the kind of cycle they want and the kind of cycle we’ve managed to keep on track with. We’ll see with the next one if it is a good thing maybe to wait. It depends if we have the ideas, but we won’t push anything.
The Razor’s Edge: The last album ‘Wolf God’ was one of the best you’ve released. It’s been nearly 12 months since it was released. When you reflect on it, how do you view it now you’ve had time for it to bed in?
Fox: Well, after things are done, I usually don’t listen to it again as they are ‘done’, but of course I had to listen to them again for this tour because we must learn to play them again! We played two of the songs many times last year, but we haven’t played the title track ‘Wolf God’ … until tonight.
The Razor’s Edge: You’re a band who appeal to a wide cross section of the metal community and we see black metal, death metal elitists screaming your lyrics alongside EMOs, power metal fans and many others. Would you define your sound as “classic heavy metal” and if so, has that always been the intention?
Fox: Nowadays yes. But yes, it’s heavy metal. It’s what we do.
The Razor’s Edge: Do you ever consider writing and album that may be outside of the ‘classic’ Grand Magus sound?
Fox: [laughs] well, yeah but I think we’ve found the formula for the mix of music that we like. This is how it comes out.
The Razor’s Edge: Your appearance at Bloodstock last year was a triumph but I read that you viewed festivals as ‘work’. Thinking back to the headline set in the tent, were you able to enjoy it at all?
Fox: Yes, but we left quite directly after the gig, back to some boring hotel. I did enjoy it, I thought it was a great show. I don’t usually listen to the music after we record it, I usually don’t look at gigs on YouTube, because you always see the mistakes, but I have seen our Bloodstock gig and I enjoyed it.
Fox told me here that Grand Magus are doing very few summer festivals in 2020, (possibly to reduce the gruelling schedule and to retain some annual leave).
Fox: We are calmer this year. We are doing Ramblin’ Man and a small one in Sweden. For us living in Sweden to got to festivals we always go the day before, so it takes three days to play 45 minutes which is a bit of a struggle.
The Razor’s Edge: You toured the US with fellow Swedes Amon Amarth, Arch Enemy and At the Gates last autumn. Was that different touring with your countrymen?
Fox: Ah yes. It was great. It wasn’t as great for the technicians, all the guys who spoke English because we were all chatting away in Swedish all the time, even listening to Swedish schlager music you know.
The Razor’s Edge: I appreciate that this is a necessary evil doing interviews throughout the tour. How many will you do on this UK run?
Fox: We usually do a couple every night. It depends.
The Razor’s Edge: I’m glad I’m in early then as I get to ask the questions before everyone else asks the same ones!
Fox: haha! Yes, you are the first, so you’ve got the lucky draw.
The Razor’s Edge: Your countrywoman Greta Thunberg was in Bristol last week. As a band who relies on touring across the globe, are you conscious of the challenges that this presents to the environment? Are there or have there been any changes that the band has been able to make over the past couple of years?
Fox: Oh, okay. That’s good. Of course, we are aware of it. We are talking about starting our next tour in Sweden so we can hire the van there, but with an English booking agent we have to go where the tour starts. Yes, we can try to reduce the flights. It is hard, we have no market in Sweden, so it’s just a couple of festivals so we must go abroad. Of course, we have usual day jobs, so we spend all our vacation on this. We are conscious about it, of course.
The Razor’s Edge: So, my final question is a little more off the wall. I’m the proud owner of a Grand Magus apron! I know you’ve produced tote bags, but do you have plans for more merchandise for the home? Tea towel, toilet roll, oven gloves, trays?
Fox: Ha! I haven’t seen the merch stand for tonight. The manager usually puts in some surprises. I loved the fridge magnets we produced. We haven’t thought of other things but it [the apron] was quite popular! [Sadly, there were no exciting surprises on the merch stand later that evening].
Header photo credit: Paul Hutchings