Following Grand Magus’s unimpeachable set at this year’s Bloodstock Open Air, Onemetal’s Jack Traveller caught up with frontman JB, late of Spiritual Beggars to talk about Grand Magus’s stellar new album The Hunt (reviewed here)
OneMetalSo tell me, is this your first time playing Bloodstock?
JBIt’s actually our second. We played here in 2008 last time, we have great memories from that year, and its great coming back.
OneMetalWere you on the main stage last time?
JBErr, yeah. I don’t think there were that many stages then, I don’t know, but it was good.
OneMetalGood times. So let’s talk about your new album, there’s a lot of differences from what’s gone before, but the main thing I noticed was in the production, was this something that came more from [producer] Nico Elgstrand, or was it you consciously trying to achieve a more natural sound? I notice the drums are a lot more organic, the guitars sound more earthy.
JBActually, Hammer of The North was also produced by Nico, but it was mixed by Jens Bogren, who’s also done Opeth, and Amon Amarth.
OneMetalAye, he’s done quite a lot of stuff.
JBHe’s amazing. But this time we kind of decided pretty early on that we wanted Nico to try and mix it aswell, because Nico’s mixed a lot of albums we like, he did a lot of mixes for Entomed, like Uprising, Morning Star, stuff like that, so we wanted to get a bit more uh… natural is not really the word, but a slightly dirtier, more live sounding thing y’know? So on this album, The Hunt, there are no triggers on the drums, it’s just mic’ed up drums. Same with the guitars and bass you know?
OneMetalWell, I think you’ve definitely achieved what you were going for, I prefer naturalistic production, so I was very pleased by it, as a fan.
OneMetalI want to ask you a bit about your writing process. As a trio, to my mind that would lend itself more to being a jam band, but a lot of bands these days sequence stuff on computers, or one person will write and bring it to the others, how do you go about things?
JBWe’ve always written like you say [jamming]. We have our own rehearsal space, all of us lived in the same city and we write everything together more or less. Me being the vocalist meant that I took the ideas we jammed on, and then I worked on them and came back.
OneMetalWriting all your vocal melodies and lyrics at home?
JBYeah, so that’s the way we’ve always done it, but on The Hunt, Sebastian [Sippola, previous drummer] told us that he wanted to step down from the band after last summer, so we knew he was going to leave the band after the tour with Amon Amarth this March, which meant that he couldn’t… well, it wouldn’t make sense for him to play on the album, because we knew that he was going to leave. So we had to find a new drummer for the album, which turned out to be Ludwig [Witt]. But at the same time Sebastian was still in the band, so we couldn’t… y’know… It meant three of the songs were written in the old way, with Fox, Me and Sebastian, and the rest were written mainly by me, and some of the stuff was written by Fox and me. So it was a bit different this time, and also Nico co wrote ‘Son of The Last Breath’; the ‘epic’ or whatever you want to call it.
OneMetalI assume once Ludwig settles in, you’re going to move back to writing as unit?
JBOh yeah, definitely.
OneMetalYou’ve said in past interviews that you don’t like talking about the subject matter of your lyrics, because you like people to find your own meanings and discover what they’re about, I know I’ve had a lot of fun doing that with your songs, but what I want to ask isn’t about specific meanings but more your purpose in writing. With all the references to Norse mythology, do you think of yourself more as a storyteller with your lyrics, or are you writing about personal subjects that you’re wrapping up in allegory?
JBMore the latter, I would say. It’s not just stories, it’s personal reflections and personal experiences, but for me, that’s a very natural way to express myself lyrically, to use the Scandinavian tradition, because it’s something I grew up with you know? For me it lends itself really well to music, because it’s got a poetic edge to it, and also many of the stories, if you want to call them that, they’re about everlasting things, where humanity’s concerned: it’s about how to live your life, and right and wrong, stuff like that.
OneMetalYou’ve never been a bad vocalist, but I feel like your vocals have taken a bit of a leap forward on The Hunt – I noticed with the vocal arrangements you’re doing more, you’re putting perhaps, more different styles in there, on ‘Son of The Last Breath’ it gets a bit folky, theres even some growling it there.
JBAh, but that’s not me though.
OneMetalOh is it not?
JBNah, it’s Johnny [Hedlund] from Unleashed.
OneMetalAh, so it’s a guest vocal? I didn’t realise that. Would you say that the breadth of what you’re doing with your vocals on this record is something that’s come naturally to you over time, or is something you’re consciously trying to achieve?
JBI would say the former. You know, when we started out and did the first album, I think I’d been singing for like, three years or something. And also Nico is a huge part of this, he’s great at harmonies and stuff like that.
OneMetalSo he helped out with the arrangements?
JBOh yeah, definitely, he’s like ‘oh you need to put a second harmony on this, and then you should do this harmony’, and I haven’t got the first clue about those things, so a lot of it is his ideas, and I think it really makes it very exciting.
OneMetalYou make it sound like a very positive experience working with him, that you got a lot out of him as a producer, rather than just someone who just comes in and tracks you.
JBYeah, but it’s also a lot of hard work, because we know each other really well.
OneMetalSorry, you and Nico or you and Fox?
JBMe and Nico, it can get pretty hairy, you know? ‘Cause he’s like “Oh this is shit!”
OneMetalHa! Doesn’t pull his punches?
JBNot at all. So it’s a bit of a war, really. The end result is usually quite pleasing, but I was very close to punching him.
OneMetal[laughs] we’ve all worked with people like that. So, that’s all I’ve got for you, is there anything you’d like to say to the good readers of OneMetal?
JBJust one thing. Heavy Metal. Is The Law.
OneMetalQuite so! Helloween! Ah, you’re a man after my own heart. It’s been wonderful talking with you.
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