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Interview: Magnus (Witchcraft)

Pure metal...interviews

The last thing you want to eat after a long and tiring concert is prawn crackers, but unfortunately that was the only thing that the waitress of the ĎSingapore Slingí had to offer to Magnus, the Frontman and mastermind of the Swedish quartet Witchcraft. After a very successful show at the Barfly in Camden, I spoke with the young-looking musician about Witchcraft and his great appreciation for the Doom Metal legends Pentagram.

Hi Magnus. Witchcraft is your first ever album. Can you tell us a few things about it?

Magnus: We started recording our material in January 2003. The "primitive" sound of the album made many people believe that we recorded it in a day or so, but we actually spent three to four months in the studio. We went through a lot of trouble in the studio trying to find that exact sound. There are many technical details that I cannot explain right now. We didnít record the album in the main studio, but in a room next door where youíre supposed to go to drink a beer and relax. We threw everything out, cushions and furniture, in order to catch the natural reverb of the room. Itís amazing because you can go to the same room the next day and the addition of a pillow in the room can change the way the music sounds. We were also quite stressed during the recordings of the album. I had to go from school straight to the studio and then home to get some rest, in order to be able to do exactly the same next day! I had to do plenty of travelling to the studio every day.

I am really happy that you mentioned the sound, because I am one of those who believe that itís the most characteristic thing about Witchcraft.

Magnus: Believe me, I have noticed that (laughs). We have been literally trying for years to achieve that sound. The members of the band grew up listening to all the great bands of the 60ís and the 70ís and we love that sound.

Give us a short bio of the band.

Magnus: All right. Before Witchcraft I was in a band for many years called Norrsken, which means northern lights in English. That band was even more 70ís than Witchcraft, not soundwise but the whole mentality. We used to dress up like the bands of that era did and that lasted between 1995 and 2000, when Witchcraft was born.

So in a way Witchcraft are the natural continuation of Norrsken?

Magnus: Exactly. After we disbanded Norrsken, I felt like playing something more Doomy because Norrskenís sound was approaching that of Black Sabbath. We wanted to sound more like Incredible Hawk, LeafHound, I needed to express those Pentagram feelings that I have in my body, but the guys at Norrsken had a more melodic approach to music and I knew that I couldnít have done something like that with them.

Youíre the leader of the band then?

Magnus: Unfortunately (laughs).

And soon after the band was formed, you started writing songs for your album?

Magnus: For this album I wrote 90% of the songs. The band has witnessed seven different line-ups and I am proud to say the four members of the band have been together for almost one and a half years. In the beginning I was the only member of the band. I would gather some of my friends as session musicians in order to record tracks. Donít believe that I was some sort of dictator Ė the reason why people were leaving the band is because the were not really into that style of music. When I play music I put my soul into what Iím doing and some of them didnít even enjoy playing live, so eventually things didnít work between me and them (laughs).

I understand that Lee Dorian (Catheral) was the first person that showed interest in the band. How did you manage to establish a connection with him?

Magnus: The first time I met Lee was in 1996 at a gig in Sweden while I was still in Norrsken. I loved Cathedral at the time, I still do, but between 1994 and 1996 I was crazy about them. After the show I went to the bar and I talked to him, and that was our first encounter.

The second time we met was in 1999. Up until then I was sending him Norrsken demos which he said that he liked but never decided to sign the band.

When Witchcraft released the first 7" (No Angel or Demon) I decided not to send it to Rise Above Records (Dorianís label) cause I thought that they wouldnít be interested in it.

Our former bass player did it and all of the sudden we received a mail from Will and Lee telling us that they were interested into signing the band. In the beginning I thought that it was a joke and people shouldnít joke with things like that you know (laughs).

It is really amazing that they decided to sign the band based on the two tracks of the seven-inch. I was at my parentís house when I found out what happened and I was walking up and down screaming like crazy!

So what plans does the label have for the future of Witchcraft?

Magnus: We will be touring Europe this coming June with Orange Goblin and Grand Magus (editorís comment: excellent bill), all three label mates, thatís the main plan for the moment.

In tonightís show you played two new songs.

Magnus: Actually there were three new songs. I have a couple more going as we speak. You might say that we started making plans for our next album whose recordings will probably start early next year. I think that we will have plenty of songs by then.

This is one of the classic questions I ask every Swedish band. Your country has produced some of the most important bands in Metal nowadays. What is it so special about Sweden in order to produce high-quality bands like Spiritual Beggars, Hypocrisy and Grand Magus?

Magnus: I guess that Sweden is quite a boring place to live, our town at least! A non-creative place you could say. Sweden is quite a wealthy country and an ideal place to live in. The standard of life is really high.

Maybe Sweden is like England back in the 80ís. Bands like Black Sabbath originated from Birmingham, an industrial town where nothing much was happening, people were poor and they needed to find a way to express all their negative feelings through music.

Magnus: Yes, I agree with you. Sweden is a very secure place to live in that nothing really happens. Of course itís nice to be wealthy and feel secure but it becomes boring after a while. At the same time Swedish people listen to all sorts of music, so we get inspiration from many different sources.

Inspiration is the key word here. Most of the people who listened to this album said that your main influence for the creation of this album was Pentagram. Some the reviews I read were talking about the "lost Pentagram songs" etc. Name the artists, which constitute the main source of inspiration for the band.

Magnus: There are plenty of them actually. Of course the main influence was Pentagram. I am a huge Pentagram fan for the last eight years, listening to their music almost every day. It is true that Iím obsessed with them, in my opinion they were one of the biggest bands ever. We listen mostly to music from the 60ís and 70ís whether itís Hard Rock, Psychedelic or even progressive.

This variety of influences does come across through your music. I think that itís quite unfair to be categorised as a Doom Metal band.

Magnus: I am really into all the classic Doom Metal bands. I love Pentagram, Saint Vitus, Trouble, Witchfinder General, Pagan Autumn, The Obsessed, Spirit Caravan.

I am pretty sure that most of the fans of this music will come to see one of your shows. If you had to convince somebody to buy your album, which would be your main argument?

Magnus: Thatís a tricky question (laughs). Oh man, I really donít know! I canít go on saying how good our album is and start bragging about it...People should give it a go if they want - I canít start preaching about it, I hate that attitude. There are so many artists out there who say things like "we are so heavy and so cool", and I say Fuck You to them! People, and artists in particular should try to be more humble.

Letís talk about the lyrics of the album. I understand that since you wrote 90% of the music and you sing for the band, you must be also responsible for them.

Magnus: Most of the lyrics deal with normal everyday problems, lost love and all that crap. All the ups and downs that life brings, mostly the downs though (laughs). I really hope that people will find our music as therapeutic as I do.

Therapeutic? How does this work?

Magnus: Itís a feeling I cannot really explain. Music helps me cleanse my soul and deal with all my problems (editorís note: I know exactly what you mean mate). Doom is the perfect music for that. I believe that instead of calling Soul Music "Soul", they should call Doom ĎSoulí.

Today was the second day on tour. Do you enjoy being on tour and playing live in front of an audience?

Magnus: I have never toured before in my life, so this is quite a new experience for me. We are both thrilled and scared at the same time. As I said before, we were enjoying an easy and secure life in Sweden, and now all of a sudden weíre with thirty other people in a van, all guys and itís really weird!

Itís funny that you just said that because on stage you looked really confident.

Magnus: Itís not the performance part that scares me, itís all those late nights with bad sleep and tons of beers, it gets to your mental health you know! Iím trying not to drink that much, have plenty of sleep and take care of my voice as much as possible. The one thing that scares me is the idea of loosing my voice while Iím on stage. I have to be in top performance every time I play.

Why did you decide to become a musician in the first place?

Magnus: Itís hard to answer actually. It was a natural thing for me to grab a guitar and play music. I grew up listening to music as most people did, and I turned to Heavy music at the age of ten, so I believe that it would have been very strange if I didnít decide to play in a band after all. Singing is what Iíve always loved doing, I love the guitar, but singing is more my thing. I always hum, no matter where I am. People in Sweden think that Iím crazy (laughs).

It must be quite a rewarding feeling to hear peopleís applause after youíve finished playing.

Magnus: Itís wonderful and strange at the same time. People really like our music.

Especially if you have supporters like Lee Dorian. I was talking to Lee before the show and he told me how much he likes your music and that heís happy to have you in his label. Thatís quite an achievement if you ask me!

Magnus: Itís amazing. I always admired Lee as a fan but now weíre more like friends.

Am I right to believe that if you could fulfil one of your wishes, you would probably ask to wake up and be back in the 60ís?

Magnus: Yes and No. I love the music of the 60ís and I would be fortunate to see many of these bands live, but I also enjoy living now, itís equally exciting and because in the 60ís Rock was the main musical expression, maybe I wouldnít love it as much as I do now!

Whatís your vision for the band? What would you like to accomplish as an artist?

Magnus: I want to "Rise above" the underground. I want to play music to for as many people as possible. Thatís the main goal at the moment, to become better musicians, continue touring and make the name of the band bigger and bigger Ė megalomania yeah? (laughs).

You need such an attitude if you want to achieve something, right?

Magnus: Yes, I have been playing music for the last thirteen years - I donít want to be in a Demo band any more! I want to become as big as my heroes. Thatís my dream Ė I donít know if it will make me any happier, but that remains to be seen!

Well, I wish you all the best for the future. The last words are yours: anything particular that you wish to say to the people who listen to your music?

Magnus: If they liked our concert, they should buy our album. Try to buy all those 70ís albums and keep looking for the notorious Pentagram demo tapes. Keep looking for them, cause theyíre the best things ever recorded. There are many demo bands that recorded great songs and never became famous Ė thatís totally unfair, so keep looking for them.

Interview © 2004 John Stefanis

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