Grand Magus are proud purveyors of ‘Viking Metal’. Hailing from Stockholm, Sweden, the Scandinavians know a thing or two about swords and longboats, not to mention heavy guitar riffs and pounding rhythms. With just released ‘Sword Songs’ among their strongest work to date, the band are gearing up for a summer of festival slots ahead of an end of year run of dates with Amon Amarth and Testament. We caught up with drummer Ludwig Witt at Download Festival, to chat about the new album, vinyl hunting, and the love of Iron Maiden. Raising the hammer of the north: Eamon O’Neill.
Hi Ludwig, how are you today?
Yeah, I’m really good. We just played and had a great time on stage. It’s almost stopped raining I think, so it’s looking good.
You looked like you enjoyed it up there anyway.
Yeah, we just had twenty-five minutes so we just had to go for it.
To paraphrase your latest album, that must be a bit of a double edged sword to get up there and play before such a great crowd and then have it be over so quick.
Yeah, it’s one of the shortest gigs I’ve ever done in Grand Magus.
Have you been pleased with the reaction that new album ‘Sword Songs’ has received?
Absolutely. It’s my third album with the band, and here in the U.K. it’s our best-selling album to date. We sort of said let’s just do one new song, because we have so many old songs as well, and the sets are really short.
Out in the crowd it sounded so powerful. Did it sound as good on the stage for you?
Yeah, really good. We’ve got a really good sound guy who makes us sound good, so that’s very important. People don’t really think about that, but I mean, if you’ve got a sound guy that’s not very good - I mean some bands don’t even bring their own sound guy, they just use the in-house guy, and you know, if they don’t get what’s going on it can be really bad. What’s the point of playing if you don’t sound good?
For just three guys, you make a hell of a racket. Was that just one tom-tom you were using today?
Yeah, one rack tom and, I mean, I’m doing it a little bit different depending on what drum kits they have at the festivals and stuff, so sometimes I use two, and actually on the albums I used a lot of toms. I don’t know if you noticed but I used just those sort of rack toms with just one drum head on it, concert toms. I want to get that sort of Vinnie Appice / Nicko McBrain [sound], that sort of old school 80s’ heavy metal drum sound. I’m doing some of those longer drum fills as well. It’s a lot of fun.
Are you hoping to catch iron Maiden when they play later today?
Yeah, we’ve got a shuttle [bus] back to the hotel at literally two minutes to midnight! So yeah, we’re planning to see Maiden. I just hope the rain doesn’t continue tonight. I mean, Maiden was my favourite band when I grew up. The first album I bought on vinyl was ‘Piece Of Mind’.
Is ‘Piece Of Mind’ still your favourite Maiden album?
It’s probably still ‘Piece Of Mind’, actually. I mean, I still love those albums. Today I wouldn’t say I have a favourite band; I’m into a lot of different stuff and you find new things all the time.
Hailing from Scandanavia, ‘Viking Metal’ is the perfect term for your music, isn’t it?
*laughing* Yeah, it’s funny. We played a festival like two years ago, and I saw these patches; you know you can get that say ‘death metal’, ‘speed metal’, ‘heavy metal’ and so forth, and one of them said ‘Viking metal’. I was like; “yeah, we should get one of those!”, and I didn’t, but then we talked about it in the van, and we were saying half-jokingly; “yeah, we should call the next album ‘Viking Metal’, that would be pretty cool!”
The Vikings founded Dublin, and you played there last year. Have you any plans to return to take the city again?
Yeah, we always have good shows in Dublin. I was just asking everybody if I was allowed to talk about it, but we’ve got a real exciting tour in the U.K. in the Fall coming up. It’s going to be us, Testament and Amon Amarth, and I’m pretty sure that’s coming to Dublin. It’s going to be a really cool show.
Are you a fan of those bands?
I don’t dislike them or anything, but I haven’t really listened to them that much. Obviously I’ve heard them, and I’ve seen Amon Amarth live and it’s a really cool band.
With the season just begun, have you many more festival appearances lined up?
We’re doing Graspop [Metal Meeting, Belgium] and Hellfest [France] next weekend, so that’s going to be really great. Se we’re going to catch Maiden here and we’re hoping to do it at one of those two, and Sabbath as well. Then we’ve got a few more; we’ve got Summer Breeze and Rock Hard in Germany as well.
‘Sword Songs’ is your third album for Nuclear Blast. They do some great vinyl packages; did you get a copy of the new album on vinyl?
I haven’t actually got the new one yet, but I’ve seen it on the signing sessions and it looks great. I’ve got pretty much everything that I’ve played on, on vinyl. There’s one album that I’m missing that I know of that’s still out there. I had to buy a couple of them myself. I played with a band called Firebird with Bill Steer, and the second album came out on vinyl but I never got it. I was always gutted when people came up to me and asked me to sign it, I was like; “oh, I don’t have this myself!”. Then I found it online for like four euros or something.
Finally, what’s next for the band?
The album’s just come out, so we’ll do all the summer festivals around that. We’ve that tour in the Fall with Amon Amarth, and then we’re planning a headline thing as well in the U.K. early next year, so you’re going to see more of use.
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'Sword Songs' is out now via Nuclear Blast.
Amon Amarth with Testament and Grand Magus U.K. and Ireland 2016 Dates.
31 Oct – Manchester, Academy
1 Nov – Glasgow, O2 ABC
2 Nov – Dublin, Vicar Street
4 Nov – London, Roundhouse
5 Nov – Birmingham, O2 Academy