Grand Magus talk Sabaton, Manowar and Bathory

Hammer recently caught up with JB" Christoffersson, the slickly-skulleted ringleader of barbarian trio Grand Magus, after their majestic hometown set at the Sabaton Open Air Festival at the National Ski Stadium in Falun, Sweden.

How far back do Grand Magus go with the Sabaton boys?

“We’ve never actually met before today! Me and Fox grew up in this city, but… we’re a bit older than them! So for us it was a very nice surprise to be able to come here and play, it’s like a homecoming show for us. I lived in Falun from when I eight until eighteen, and this is the first time we’ve ever played here. It’s very gracious of them to ask us.”

Did you start your first band in Falun?

“It was very rudimentary and embryonic, it was the first time I tried to play an instrument. When I was 18 I didn’t know anything about anything! I played with some really good musicians here, but I didn’t have any clue what I wanted to do. But I knew I wanted to do what I wanted to do, if you get me!”

Had you been to the venue before?

“When I was young I went to watch the World Cup of skiing here! Every year it was the Swedish National Championships, so for me it’s always been a winter town. It’s very majestic. It’s weird looking out at the ski slope but we’ve played so many weird venues, like in the Tyrol part of the Alps, where you’re looking between mountains and there’s a massive lake right in front of you.”

If this was Grand Magus Open Air, who would be on the bill?

“Manowar… that’s it! As long as Manowar are playing, that’s pretty much all I need. They can play for as long as they want, songs from every album – or perhaps just every album, so you can have an eleven-day festival! But seriously, Manowar, maybe Judas Priest, Accept, Saxon… The average age of the bands on that festival is gonna be pretty fucking high, you know!”

Are there any bands you’d persuade to reform for the occasion?

“There’s a few I’d try to persuade to stay retired! I’ve never really been into obscure bands, because obscurity has always been a sign that maybe it wasn’t that good to begin with. I mean, I know we’re not Robbie Williams, but there are a few people who know about us, I think! But there’s a German band called Faithful Breath, they were doing Viking metal back in the 80s, produced by the guy who did Accept albums, they had great albums like Gold N’ Glory and Skol and stuff like that, so I’d like to see a Faithful Breath reunion show.”

Which Swedish band had the biggest impact on you?

“It’s tough, I have emotional bonds with a lot of Swedish bands, but the strongest would be Bathory. They encompass so many different genres: black metal, Viking metal, thrash. It’s good that Quorthon was able to do things at the time when you could create music without playing live, and still be an artist. A lot of thought went into it, it’s not really made for thrashing out onstage, I don’t think he was very interested in that, and more power to him. It’s just that nowadays that would be difficult. You have to play live if you’re gonna get any attention, especially for professional bands, you can’t just sit at home creating music. He was 39 when he died, I’m 43 now… It’s nothing! Yet he did so many amazing albums, and he created genres that didn’t exist before him.”

If you pick up the forthcoming issue of Metal Hammer (in stores this October) you can find out all about what went down at Sabaton Open Air.

Chris has been writing about heavy metal since 2000, specialising in true/cult/epic/power/trad/NWOBHM and doom metal at now-defunct extreme music magazine Terrorizer. Since joining the Metal Hammer famileh in 2010 he developed a parallel career in kids' TV, winning a Writer's Guild of Great Britain Award for BBC1 series Little Howard's Big Question as well as writing episodes of Danger Mouse, Horrible Histories, Dennis & Gnasher Unleashed and The Furchester Hotel. His hobbies include drumming (slowly), exploring ancient woodland and watching ancient sitcoms.