Interviewed By EvilG
Interview Questions By Lord of the Wasteland, Madman, & EvilG
What style of metal do you consider best describes Magnus Thorsen? Your website refers to the sound as the vague and open ended “epic heavy metal”. Would a closer label be epic power metal or do you see that as something much more flowery? Maybe black power metal, Viking power metal? Hah…. Or maybe you hate all these tags that pigeonhole a band into one category or another?
Ha, yeah, sorry about that. I think the last sentence of your question says it all though. The problem is that by adopting a label any more acute than “heavy metal”, such as “black power metal”, etc., would be like promising people that “I will always be that”. The next song I wrote without blast beats, double-kick, or viking subject matter will either be their least favorite on the disc or I will have sold-out entirely. When I release material, I want people to expect “heavy metal”, that I can promise 😉
Where do you get the inspiration for this style of music? Texas doesn’t really seem like the place to think of Vikings and fantasy.
The answer on this one’s a bit drawn-out I’m afraid When I was in school, I started reading a lot of sci-fi/fantasy from Michael Moorcock, Robert E. Howard, Frank Herbert and others in the field and was extremely impressed with the landscapes they were able to paint and how drawn I had become to their characters. It wasn’t a far stretch that a moody teenager would find identifiable traits in Moorcock’s anti-hero Elric and at the end of a mundane day the rewards of something utterly fantastic like a trip through the multiverse were inspiring to say the least. Does it get any more heavy metal than the sword of Conan hacking Hyrkanian swordsmen shoulder to sternum and kicking away their gurgling corpses?
I also began getting into bands who I had thought were doing with music what these authors were doing with literature. The fires of my imagination were set ablaze by Blue Oyster Cult, Dio-era Sabbath, Uriah Heep, and anything involving Ritchie Blackmore. His melodic guitar soloing on the Rainbow albums I found especially ambient. Ha, and then there was Ted Nugent for the attitude and barbaric guitar. Tracks like “Flesh and Blood”, “Raw Dogs and War Hogs” and “Stranglehold” are for me like the hacking sword of Conan.
In our review of VALHALLA RISING, we’ve cited a parallel to the vocals with Blind Guardian’s Hansi Kursch and Bathory’s Quorthon. Do you agree with these comparisons and are both influences?
I actually never got into Bathory, but I do consider it a most excellent compliment whenever people in the metal scene compare me to him. Quorthon’s impact on metal music is undeniable and I do hope to one day claim such an influence. Ha, but he has set the bar quite high!
It would be lie to say that my life wasn’t changed the first time I heard Blind Guardian. I was at the Wacken Open Air festival and it was VERY late in the 24-hour beer tent. I was getting drunk and making friends (one being this very large Welshman in a kilt and his little Dutch friend who was hitting on his girlfriend earlier). The bands had stopped for the night but the party wasn’t over. Heavy metal was on the bar’s PA when “Nightfall in Middle-Earth” starting playing. Suddenly the whole tent was singing in unison this fantastic testament to the imagination of humanity and I was enthralled. Beer cups and horns were swinging and I had found a new band for sure. I do love Hansi’s vocals, but I hope mine are at least a bit different as they are what I’ve been given 😉
What other influences would you cite for your writing and sound? I hear a slight Persuader feel on “Of The Dragon”?!
I do actually have some diverse musical influences. I love old-school rock, I also love metal bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Iron Savior, Primal Fear, Manowar, and Blind Guardian. Obituary, At the Gates, Cannibal Corpse, Death, Bolt-Thrower, Carcass and Ancient Existence round out the majority of my death metal likes and I really dig Arcturus, old-Borknagar, Emperor and some early Cradle. I can totally get into anything that rocks or gets my head banging.
I try to draw on all my musical influences whenever I’m writing because they all exist within me, all are part of who I am and what I would like to convey to the listener.
Speaking of that song (“Of The Dragon”), there are places in it where the style drifts more into black metal territory….is this something you plan to expand upon or is the goal to keep the scales slightly tipped to the power/speed metal side of things?
Well, I’m no black metal vocalist 😉 At least not just now. The symphonic strength and full guitar chords of black metal are very much a part of my writing though and whenever I’m on the field or think of the most intense area of fighting it’s usually black metal on my brain. Definitely expect to hear more of that musical style blended in.
Why Proscriptor McGovern (Absu) on drums? Seems like a slightly left field choice for his style. Is Proscriptor going to be involved with the band more or was this a one time thing?
Proscriptor was a friend of a friend and I’d always thought he was a killer drummer. When I was composing the music I had to take into consideration the drums I would need and I thought of him fairly quick. After we’d started rehearsing the material it all just seemed to fall into place. As far as working together again it really would just depend on scheduling. We’ve begun going over things with a new drummer to start doing some shows in the near future and we’ll track some new material with him to add onto the songs we’ve already recorded with Proscriptor. However, Proscriptor was great to work with and I hope to again sometime.
How much time went into writing and recording VALHALLA RISING?
There’s about a year’s worth of writing that went into the material. It wasn’t too bad because quite a few of the ideas were already written while I was playing in other bands and were simply ideas I had kept in the hopes of one day recording my own music. But because of a then hectic work schedule and frequent traveling, it took a bit longer to get everything solid and recorded. Direct Resonance Recording Studio, where we recorded, is owned by Steve Rosas who played the second guitar on the album. It made things easier on us because at times we were able to sneak in some guitar lines/parts in between his other sessions. I know it was rough on him though because some of these days he was going early in the morning with clients until the early a.m.’s and then trying to fit us somewhere in the middle (if only for those couple of guitar lines 😉 We really are proud of this recording, but we’ve already begun work on the next one and I think it picks up nicely where Valhalla Rising left off.
Do you write and structure the songs by yourself or with others?
I do write all the material, but whenever someone has an idea of something to add or improve I’m always interested. Honestly I find that my approach is more that of a “soloist” however in that I like being able to write and release my own music. I also find that by knowing how I want the music to sound and bringing in the people to make it happen takes the complication out of things.
What does the album name, VALHALLA RISING, represent to you?
The title has to do with the spirit of the recording. All the strength and power within me comes forth in the music that I write. It’s my passion and imagination made tangible. The viking within me rises to celebrate things fantastic and moving in this first release of many.
Will you continue recording and releasing under your own name or incorporate more of a “band” title?
As long as I’m writing the music it will be considered a solo record. I’d like to get more of my own music out before playing in other projects. It feels good to finally release material that has been sitting within me for so long.
If offered the vocalist or guitarist spot in another band, would you put your own band to rest or are you determined to make it with your own band and vision?
Ha, well I guess it would depend on the band 😉 I am very excited to be able to do my own music so it would have to be a most excellent metal band.
Do you consider yourself a singer who plays guitar or a guitarist who sings? If Magnus Thorsen “takes off,” would you continue in the dual role or give up one and if so, which would it be?
I’m comfortable with things right now. I know the meanings of the songs and I like to tell people onstage myself 😉 I don’t really have any plans to change that. However, if I were pressed I’d probably say that I’m the “guitarist/vocalist” as opposed to the “vocalist/guitarist” just because guitar is more of my background. I went to school for that and have been doing it a bit longer than I’ve been singing.
Why did you choose to use your name rather than a band name to begin with?
Mostly because I’m the only member, ha. I’ve just asked people to play their parts and help me get my music out. Everyone I recorded with and am rehearsing with now have their own bands and are gracious enough to play with me when I need them (many thanks guys!).
On your MySpace page, you ask for a touring keyboardist, so when, where, and with whom will Magnus Thorsen be touring?
Nothing planned with big bands or anything, but I will have to do some live shows so that people know that I exist. Summer’s coming up and I’ll be in Europe doing the viking festivals, but in the Fall I’d like to play as many shows as I can handle wherever and with whomever I can.
Have you been able to play live as a band yet?
Not with the Magnus suff yet, but I hope for that to change very soon. I’ve a core group right now that I’m rehearsing with and we’ll probably do some small local shows just to warm-up a bit (keyboardist or no).
How did the EP end up on iTunes? This seems like a big step for an indie artist with no label?!
The fans. When our distributor saw that people were interested in our release they started sending it out to lots of online music services such as iTunes. You guys and a few of the other online metal ‘zines helped us out quite a bit with some very decent reviews as well 😉 It really inspired us to jump back into the studio and kick this full-length into gear!
Do you consider yourself a part of the metal scene in Texas? Have you been involved with other bands? Someone mentioned you were involved at one time with the symphonic BM band Vesperian Sorrow?
Well, perhaps a small part 😉 To be quite honest I don’t really make it out often enough to claim to be part of the scene. There are some cool bands down here that I’d like to see more often, but I find that either finances or scheduling conflicts prevent me from getting to the shows. I’m also out of town quite a bit so that doesn’t help. I did play with Vesperian Sorrow for a short time, but I was actually more interested in the music I’m writing now and it wasn’t possible to do both really.
You have recorded 9 songs and only released 5, what’s going to happen to the other 4? Another EP? or will there be a full length soon?
We’re in the studio now adding more tracks for a full-length that will hopefully see release before the year’s end. The working LP title is “The Origin of Storms”.
Were the remaining 4 left off the EP because they didn’t fit the style of the others and if so what were the like? OR – was it that you didn’t like them as much?
It was actually a matter of time. We were well passed the deadline I had set for the release (my fault – couldn’t be helped 😉 so I took what we had and ran with it. There was some disappointment from people who had heard a few of the songs in the studio that didn’t make the Valhalla Rising release and I felt terrible about it, but it really will be worth the wait. I was able to get Edgar (keyboardist) in to add some things to the mix of a couple of songs and I’m in the process of recording some extra guitar lines on the un-released stuff as well as adding a few new songs with drummer Aaron Shepherd. We think people will really dig it.
How many other new songs do you have in the can and how close are you to putting out a full length? Is that something you hope to do with the help of a label or are you planning to release a full length on your own perhaps later in 2007?
So far it looks like there will be five new songs added to the four we’ve already tracked. Honestly, we’ve still quite a bit of work to do but I fully anticipate having this album out before the year’s end. We’re planning to release it on our own and hope the fans embrace it as they have the EP. Who knows though, we may have label backing by then. I think it’s just easier to plan on doing things myself 😉
Magnus Thorsen is obviously a Scandinavian name and VALHALLA RISING is full of Nordic imagery and subject matter. How in tune with your heritage are you outside of music?
Fairly well. I have strong ties to Skäne, Sweden (mostly Malmö and Foteviken) and Kværndrup, Denmark and I find myself visiting those places once a year.
How involved are you with swordplay and battle recreation? I notice you are advertising on your website the “Viking Invasion 07” that’s happening later in March. How often do you participate in battle recreations?
I train all year with a group of guys from the central Texas area to do sword, axe, and spear fighting for viking events both local and international. It’s much bigger in Europe right now, but we’re working to expand our operation here I think we’ve been doing an event in Texas for about four years now and it’s bigger each year.
It is an awesome experience, to be on a battlefield with hundreds of fighters from all across Europe engaging in viking-age shield walls and fights to the last man with the public watching and cheering your kills. I live as a viking for about two months out of the year (camping in a viking tent, bathing in the ocean, drinking mead, fighting, etc.) and it is too much fun to be had 😉
Are you a part of the group that has the gear and such and routinely has swordfights etc.? Is this something that you do for fun, or have you taken lessons in sword fighting etc?
All of our clothing and armor is based off viking grave finds so it is all historically accurate. It is hand-made as well so as to be absolutely authentic. When you’re at an event in Scandinavia or eastern Europe, it does feel as though you’ve stepped into the 800’s. Truly fantastic and inspiring for any heavy metal axe-man 😉 We do use a re-enactment fighting system that was developed by Philip Burthem and Mike Haywood of the Jomsvikings (www.jomsvikings.com) so as to look very real to the public, but completely safe for the fighters. If you’ve not seen it, it is quite impressive.
Also how serious are you about the whole history/Viking thing – is it something that is just of interest or does it influence your beliefs, and who you are, on a daily basis?
History is a subject that I am interested in to a substantial degree. I’m one of those nerds who watches the History Channel praying for something new on the Barbarians – ha! My house is also the central meeting place for the local Vikings so every weekend we get together, do some training, and get absolutely blitzed watching Conan, 13th Warrior, or some other inspiring videos!
I’m not a pagan, but I do have my own code by which I try to abide. I find that with honesty, perseverance, self-control, and an indomitable spirit I can live a good life on a daily basis.
How deep into that world can you bring your metal, or how far into the metal world can you bring your passion for this? You already have the imagery and lyrics – will it also be an impact on the band’s image as well?
I try to celebrate virtue in my music or simply things that interest me and I think would make a good story. Viking history and myth is rife with those things so I anticipate writing more songs about them. I do have other material dealing with science fiction heroes, the Khazar Empire of the East, General Belisarius of Byzantium, and things other than Vikings that captured my interest.
How hard has it been to make people aware of the band, to get coverage in the metal zines, etc. I assume you are doing the whole business side of the band on your own? How draining or time consuming is that and is it something you’d prefer to hand off to a PR company?
It is a bit of a struggle to get the name out and so far we’ve been blessed that people have gotten into the music enough to give us some support. In the future I will probably hand over the reigns to a PR company or label if for no other reason than I would be able to concentrate more on my songwriting and other things.
What are your short and long term goals for Magnus Thorsen?
In the immediate future I’d certainly like to start playing some shows and finish this LP. Long term goals (other than ruling the world of course 😉 I’d like to release several albums to which metal-heads everywhere can proudly blow their speakers, play the large festivals circuit (Wacken, With Full Force, etc.), and inspire those metal-heads to write their own imaginative and epic metal music. A brilliant person once said that “we are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.” Sometimes it seems that a lot of teenagers I’ve come across have forgotten that.
Thanks for your time and all the best with the band!
Many thanks and cheers to you Metal-Rules. You’ve been absolutely awesome and most excellent to us and I will not forget it!
Magnus Thorsen – Valhalla Rising