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GRAND MAGUS - Interview with Ludwig Witt
By Wojtek Gabriel,
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Grand Magus heavy metal band from Sweden
It's been almost a year since Grand Magus put out "Wolf God" and finally, the Swedish trio landed on the British shores to promote that release. Following the proven formula that worked well on the previous records, but adding a more organic feel to the songs, the guys have taken another step up their career ladder. Judging by the sold-out shows and their latest album being their best-selling one so far, the band seems to be still expanding their fanbase. Before they went on stage to entertain the Scottish crowd, I sat down for a quick chat with Magus's drummer Ludwig Witt.
It's been a while since you released "Wolf God". Looking back at the album, would you change anything about it?
No, I don't think so. I mean, normally I never really think like that, 'cause I guess I always look forward. If you look back at something, you sometimes think, "Well, I might do something different next time," but on this one, when I look back at it, I think it sounds really cool, and it's definitely up there with some of our best albums. And the general vibe in the band is that we're probably going to go back to the same studio and work with the same guy and do the next one there as well.
I know this time you jammed together when writing the album, as opposed to JB working on the songs alone, which was the case with the previous releases. So, why did you change the approach?
Well, it's more fun, ha-ha! I mean, it was actually JB who said, "We can't go on this way," 'cause it was getting a bit ridiculous. Obviously, he was writing riffs and stuff, and then he would send me some files and I would record drums, do some sort of rough demos, and we were sending stuff back and forth. Which kind of works I guess, but it makes a lot more sense to actually be in the same room, all three of us, because instead of sending songs back and forth five times to realise something, we could figure it out in two minutes, when we were just trying it out.
You also recorded the material live with the three of you playing together in the studio. Were you looking for more of an organic sound?
Well, maybe not so much for the actual sound, it's more for the general vibe and the feel of the songs. And again, it's actually easier. We've played a lot together, we've done hundreds of gigs, so we know each other musically. So it's actually quite easy to play a song, all three of us together and by doing that things sort of fall into place automatically. Like the tempo of the song, you get the right tempo where the riff feels the best, best groove and stuff. And again, it's more fun and it's quicker. Doing it separately takes three times longer. So it was very quick, very easy, and we had a lot more fun doing this album. And there's another thing, because with the other albums we did the drums took maybe roughly a week to record and then JB would do the guitars, then Fox would come in for a couple of days and do all the bass and then JB would have to do more guitars, so I would have been in the studio for like 5 days, Fox 3 days and then the rest was JB for like a month and a half and he was just like, "I can't do it anymore, we have to be in the studio together and do it together." So yeah, I think the result turned out better because of the way we did it. I mean, it's not perfect, you can tell that there's some changes in tempo between different parts of the song and stuff like that, but that's what makes it natural. I think the thing today with recordings is, we pretty much can make a perfect album, but if you do, it doesn't sound very good. It's like taking a picture of somebody and then changing the face so it's perfect and it doesn't look like a face anymore, it looks like something else, like a robot.
"Spear Thrower" is one of my favourite tunes on the album and it's actually the only really fast song. So, don't you like faster stuff?
We're just getting old, ha-ha! No, we do, we like faster stuff as well, but we tried some stuff, we had a couple of things that were sort of faster, but it didn't sound like Grand Magus anymore, if you know what I mean? If you want a big sound on the record, and you play really fast, the sound has very little time to develop. With extremely fast music it's very hard to get a good sound, you listen to the double bass drums and it doesn't sound like a drummer, it sounds like a wasp or something, ha-ha! I mean, I don't think it was a conscious decision not to have something really fast. I realised over the years that you can plan a lot before an album, what you want it to be and what songs you want to write and everything, but then when it comes to writing the songs, you can't dictate what's gonna come out. Whatever is gonna come out, it's gonna come out.
With nine albums out, what do you do to make each release stand on its own legs?
Yeah, we try not to repeat ourselves, we look for new ways of doing things. But it's getting harder and harder. I guess we need to change something, maybe make faster songs again, ha-ha!
You had far more of the doom and stoner elements in your music at the beginning. What caused the transition towards classic heavy metal?
Well, that transition already started before I joined the band I guess, but I think that sort of thing happened to a lot of stoner rock bands at that time. A lot of bands that were doing that later realised they were actually going in a slightly different direction. I guess JB and Fox back then, they were listening to a lot of '70s hard-rock stuff and doom, but also a lot of other stuff, like death metal and black metal. And especially Fox is really into death metal, and JB is really into a lot of black metal. I guess it was just natural to sort of blend more things in, and it was also a way to not repeat yourself as well. Because nine albums of straight-ahead doom might be a bit boring, ha-ha! There are other bands that do it, but I guess that's what makes Grand Magus sound like Grand Magus, a little bit of the black metal elements and all the classic metal elements and stuff.
You seem to be happy as a trio, but wouldn't it be beneficial for you to get an additional guitarists for the live setting, to make the band sound the same as on the albums?
Yeah, I guess in a way it would, but that's another thing that I think is really cool. We're just a three-piece, we don't have any backing tracks, no click tracks, we don't have a lot of production, it's just the three of us playing together, and it's still pretty powerful. So I think that's another thing that makes us a little bit unique, to play this kind of music as a three-piece. I love being in a three-piece because everything is so much easier, it's less people and less things can go wrong. If there's four or five people in a band, it's easy to get divided into two groups. This will never happen to us.
I've noticed that a few of the shows on the current tour are sold out. It's small venues, but still. Did you expect it?
Not really, it was a nice surprise. Dublin sold out, Glasgow sold out. And the other couple of shows we did, we definitely had more people than the last time we played there. That's really good. Maybe it's because "Wolf God" is our best-selling album so far.
Have you started to work on any new material yet?
We haven't started yet, but we were actually talking about it. We have a couple of festivals this summer, but not too much so we're already discussing what we're going to do, when we're going to start writing new material. If not this fall, probably next spring. We really enjoyed the process of making "Wolf God" so we'd like to start working on the next one soon.
Interview by Wojtek Gabriel
Photo by Jens Rydén

Official Grand Magus website: www.grandmagus.com
Grand Magus on facebook: facebook.com/grandmagusofficial
Tags: Grand Magus, heavy metal, Wolf God
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© 1997-2020 Wojtek Gabriel. All rights reserved.
Unauthorised use of any works published on this website is prohibited.
Materials may not be reproduced in whole or in part by persons, organisations
or corporations without the prior written permission.