Interview with Magnus Karlsson


Magnus Karlsson is a Swedish musician (composer and multi instrumentalist) known for a variety of projects. Wider audience knows him as the guitarist for German heavy metal band Primal Fear. Those who follow progressive and symphonic metal news more closely will recognise his name from the Allen/Lande and Allen/Olzon collaborations. He wrote and released a metal opera a couple of years ago, too, which is when we interviewed him for the first time. Since then, Magnus has released more albums with some other bands he is the driving force of: The Ferrymen and Free Fall.

The Free Fall forth album, Hunt The Flame, has only been released a few days ago through Frontier Records.

Angelina Pelova spoke to Magnus on 14th April, which was the release date of the new album.

AP: Hello, Magnus! It’s so good to see you again. It’s been two years since we last spoke, can you believe that?

MK: Wow! Is it? I thought it was one? Time goes very fast nowadays!

AP: No, it’s just crazy. I can’t believe it’s been two years…. Well, congratulations on your new album. It’s out today, right?

MK: Yeah, today. Thank you.

AP: You must be really excited? There was such a buildup on Facebook and other social media. I’m sure everyone is really looking forward to hearing it. So, do you want to tell me about it?

MK: Yeah, there are a lot of releases now. I think there is another really famous release today… So I hope people will have time to listen to Free Fall as well. I think Metallica came out today?

AP: Is it today? Ah, I don’t know. Zach Stevens from Savatage is releasing a new album with Archon Angel today as well. I was going to interview him on Tuesday, but had to reschedule for next week. So, do you want to tell me about the new album? I’m really intrigued how you select your singers because you don’t repeat them, do you?

MK: Not this time. Normally, there are a couple of ones who return and some of the singers I have worked with before, but not this time. I think the only returning singer is Jakob Samuel who sang on the second Free Fall album, Kingdom of Rock, and we also had a band a long time ago. I think it’s almost… It has to be 25 years. It’s called Midnight Sun. I don’t know if you heard of it, but it was a long time ago. So the rest of them are quite new to me. Of course, I did an album with Kristian (Fyhr) with Ginevra. When did it come out? Half year ago or something?

AP: Yeah, a few months ago?

MK: Yeah. And I know the rest of the singers, I listen to them. That’s why I asked them, but I have never worked with them. I have worked with a lot of my idols like Joe Lynn Turner and Tony Martin and all those great guys. And that’s fantastic. But I thought this time it would be cool to find some new voices. I mean, they’re not that new, but at least new to me.

AP: Did you do it with the idea to help them with their publicity a little bit? Or was that not the idea?

MK: No, l called them because they sing great. But if it can help them in any way, that would be fantastic. Of course, that would be great, but I chose them because they have great voices. And I think they fit with my songwriting very well, so that’s the reason.

AP: It’s actually quite interesting to observe the singing because with the previous Free Fall, each song was very individual. At least that’s how I perceived it; each song had its own character, if you wish, and each singer was very specifically making the song different. While here, it feels like it’s all one big thing. I can’t say they sound similar, but I think they do sing quite similarly. And it’s very interesting that they are different people, different singers, but it’s like one big project which is very coherent. I must say some of them I’ve never actually heard of before. So I think you found really interesting voices, which are quite matching together.

MK: (listening with interest): Yeah… For me, they are quite different. But it’s interesting to hear. And it’s very cool when you can discover new singers like this. I just read don’t know where, I think it was on Facebook, that people started to listen to Girish (Pradhan)’s band because they like the Free Fall album. And that’s really, really cool. In that way, I think it maybe helps the singers and me. We all want to spread great music and great singers.

Pic Credit: Patric Ullaeus

AP: Definitely. As you say, if you can help them go a little bit higher in their fame, that would be a good thing. So of course, it’s very nice of you.

MK: Absolutely. A win-win. And good for me: maybe they’ll make me more famous!

AP: Exactly. So, now that we’re out of COVID, have you got any plans to publicise your work somehow with a tour or some concerts? What is also interesting is that in this album it’s only you and the drummer; you’re a genius playing pretty much everything, so if you have to tour, you’ll probably need to hire some extra people? Or can you do it all? Just yourself?

MK: Yeah, we would. We actually have got some great offers, and we have discussed it, but it’s really hard. I guess I have to maybe ask a couple of singers. I can’t bring everyone – that would be strange. And I would love to play something from all the albums. So we have discussed it. The problem is that I’m really booked in the studio, so it’s hard for me to take the time… and if you’re going to have a new project and make a show, that’s like preparing a whole tour. So if I do one show, I can, you know, do some festivals and maybe a small tour. And yeah, I’m thinking about it but let’s see if I can find time to do it. Nothing is planned right now.

AP: It’s not like you’re not used to touring with Primal Fear.

MK: It’s been a while since I’ve toured with Primal Fear and that’s a different situation because I’m only just one of them. I am the hired guitar player, so someone else is taking care of everything. I just have to worry about myself, that I can play the guitar and stand up on stage. That’s it. While now…

AP: You would have to organise it all.

MK: Yeah, yeah. But I would love to do it. We’ve got some great festival offers, and I really thought about it, who would sing and everything. So yeah, I’m thinking about it.

AP: Well, if you decide to, just theoretically, take up an offer to go to a festival, you’ve got a choice of bands. Who would you go with, Free Fall or The Ferrymen, or…?

MK: Or, I don’t know. The festivals that I think about now asked me to do kind of ‘best of’ Magnus Karlsson.

AP: Oh, that’s interesting. Okay.

MK: Yes, they’ve asked me to do everything, maybe even some Allen/Lande stuff. And Free Fall, and The Ferrymen.

AP: Or maybe some of the female singers, some from the metal opera?

MK: Yeah, that would be really cool, too. Depends what kind of singers I can get on board, too. Because that’s also the thing: everyone I work with are very successful, are already touring a lot, so it’s hard to find time for them, too. But I won’t give up on the thought.

AP: We shall wait and see what happens in that case.

MK: Yeah.

AP: You said you’re booked up in studio. Are you allowed to say what you are preparing?

MK: Absolutely. Right now, we are just done with the Primal Fear album, maybe you’ve read about it? So that’s done and mixed now. And even if I am not touring, I’m still in the band playing some guitar and I was writing some songs with the guys. Next, I am working on Anette Olzon‘s solo album.

AP: Oh, number three?

MK: Yeah. Number three. So that’s what I’m working on now. And my old band, Last Tribe, I don’t know if you remember it? Before everything started with Alan/Lande. That was my first plan.

AP: Wow! So you’re back to that?

MK: Yeah, we’re back. I’m just discussing this with the singer Rickard because he owns a big studio here in Sweden. We’re trying to find the time so we can record vocals again for the next Last Tribe album. And after that, I will start with the guys on the next Ginevra with Kristian. So it’s a lot of stuff this year.

AP: You’re really busy!

MK: Yes, and that’s great. Actually I’ve tried to take it easy and slow down a bit… But it’s so hard to say ‘no’ to fun stuff. When you can work with great people, you don’t want to say ‘no’, but I have to admit I would need a little break.

AP: Last week I thought you had a break in London? It was really good to see something from your family life rather than work. Hope you managed to relax a little bit. Did you have a long break?

MK: You are right. I had a couple of days; it was great. It was the first time for my kids in London. And actually, I think it was the second time for me in London. I was there a long time ago. I was hit by a car when I was about 16 years old and I was in hospital in London for 10 days. My second visit now was much better; I didn’t break anything, no harm!

AP: Gosh! I was going to ask if you’ve ever been to London before but I didn’t realise it’s such a traumatic memory for you! Sorry!

MK: Yeah, no, it wasn’t nice.

AP: Do your children take interest in what you do? Are they interested in music?

MK: They are absolutely interested in music. I don’t think they are that interested in my music. They don’t really understand: why, why do you have so much news, you know, on YouTube?

AP: Because you need it! How old are they?

MK: They are 14, twins, and their older brother is just turning 16 any day now. I hope they will discover it on their own. I don’t play anything for them, as they hear me play guitar all day.

AP: Yes, in a way parental influence can actually work against us, as they may think that we’re forcing our tastes on them.

MK: Yeah. If they hear a bass guitar player here playing metal guitar, they are not impressed because they hear it all the time.

AP: They take it for granted.

MK: Yeah. But one of my sons is playing the piano and he’s really good. And he likes a lot of soundtracks and that kind of music that I also like, so that’s really cool.

AP: That’s cool. Well, I hope they will start listening to your stuff, but you’re their daddy, so yeah, what can we say…

MK: Yeah. Maybe it will happen… when they turn 16 maybe.

AP: Are you planning anything new with Ronnie Romero? And The Ferrymen?

MK: Yeah. We discussed doing it next year, but we haven’t decided anything. I know he’s really busy with a lot of touring and stuff. Frontier asked us to find some time and I was scheduled to do it. So yeah, it’s not signed and decided but we are discussing it.

AP: I was going to ask you what your normal schedule is like; whether you mainly stay at home or whether you go meet people. But by the sound of it, you spend a lot of time in the actual studio?

MK: Yeah. And I talk to people like we do now on Zoom and stuff, and just email. And I can make most of the music from here. Sometimes I have to go to studio for the drums, or something like that.

AP: Do you find that since COVID ended, things are a bit awkward or different? Everyone had this influx of ideas in music when everyone was in lockdown and producing so much stuff, but also people sort of learned to just work at home and not meet with others. So is that feeling now different?

MK: Yeah, it’s great that we can do it, but for me it’s not a big difference because before COVID I worked a lot from home anyway. For me it was just easier during COVID because I could do the Heart Healer album, and no one was touring. If I had to do it now, maybe I would have had to wait more for the singers to come home from touring before they could record and stuff. So for me it made it a bit easier actually to get everyone.

I’m a big fan of music, and I love to go to shows and stuff and it feels great to do it again.

AP: What kind of gigs do you like to go to as a fan?

MK: I could go to any gig. Last one was almost a year ago. I think it was right after COVID. The first thing I went to was Magnum, and that was so spontaneous because I didn’t know they played in Malmö. I just saw it on a friend’s Facebook that evening and I got the tickets at the last moment. It was not a big club, but it was really full and it was such a great show. They are, you know, 70-70 something, and they are really, really good. Sounded great. I have listened to them since I was 12 years old or so. It was the first time I saw them. It was great.

One of my favourite bands is Judas Priest. I saw them also and Iron Maiden, it was a great line-up, on Sweden Rock. That must have been right before COVID. That was actually the only time I’ve seen them and it was great.

AP: Before we finish, is there anything you want to say to the British fans?

MK: Yeah, I really hope, like we said, even if you don’t know all the names of the singers, that you give them a chance and check them out. It’s not really any random singers that I found. They are all really good. And hand picked, you know? So if you don’t know the names, maybe you will discover something really, really cool.

AP: Definitely! Great… Well, I wish you best of luck with the album promotion and the sales. I hope it’s a great success. And I hope we’ll get to talk again whenever you’ve got some other news.

MK: Yeah, I think we’ll have more to talk about.

AP: Cool. I’m really looking forward to that!

Free Fall’s Hunt The Flame is available now through Frontier Records. You can buy it here.