We'll be the first to admit that living in an abandoned mental hospital isn't for everybody but it's been a dream come true for us and surprisingly we even found some roommates! Although we've been busy with renovations, playing shows and working on new SM material we finally had a free moment to sit down and chat with our new roomies, a power-duo called Magnuson. So, here's the low-down and be sure to check these guys out! Rx, SM
The Magnuson Interview
Surgeon Marta: So of course the first question will always be.... Where and how did you guys meet? In Magnuson's case was music already a part of your individual lives, bands, open mics, etc…?
Greg Magnuson: We were both playing music separately and had grown up playing music. We met while playing on worship team in San Diego. I always wanted to talk to her but couldn't come up with anything to say but we ended up sharing a microphone one day. After that, she realized she was friends with my drummer and that gave us that common element to start up a conversation. We gradually got closer as she gave me a critical review of the "Last Days" album I was finishing at the time. Then she sang with us at the San Diego Fair. Then, our drummer quit and I had to move to drums so, she joined the band as rhythm guitarist and vocalist.
SM: Magnuson wasn't always a dynamic duo. a) - What led to this direction? b) - How difficult was it to make the change? c) - And in particular create the sound/s you wanted to make????
GM: Magnuson has been a "project" since 2003 and the whole time it has been challenging to keep a group of people together that had the same goals and ambition. It went from a solo acoustic act, to a duo, to 4 piece, then 5 piece, then 3 piece. There were occasionally shows where the drummer couldn't play and Kyrsten and I would just play as a 2 piece and we were surprised by the response we got. We started to make some serious progress when we released our EP "The Struggle Within" but right at the point we decided to start touring, we realized we didn't have the same vision as our drummer. So, one month before our tour started, we reworked our entire set into our official duo line up. It was challenging because we had to really step up our game and take it more seriously. We also had to revamp our guitar sound to give it more beef. Aside from that though, it was really easy. Now we can do what we want because we are on the same page.
SM: Musical influences!!! From Morrissey to Metallica to psychedelic folk it seems like you guys do it all! Was there, a) – A conscious decision to explore such a broad palette within the framework of the band or b) - simply, "Whatever we write.... It's a Magnuson song! "
GM: Well, I've always liked the vocals of Morrissey, his phrasing and lyrical content really helped me through a lot of my growing up. But I really learned to play guitar doing Metallica and Sex Pistols covers. Same with when I learned bass, Primus was my go to. As a result, I've always straddled different genres when writing songs. We like to sing as well so that sets us apart from a lot of the heavier bands we are influenced by. We're not death metal. So, our goal has always been to try to write songs that are musically interesting but have singable vocals. Wherever that leads us, we follow and then promptly label it "Magnuson".
SM: Greg you recorded/produced the new Magnuson LP "Crash of Cassini" a) - How difficult was the process + what set up did you use ? b) - Was this a budgetary or creative control issue? c) - Any advise to other bands thinking of going the DIY route?
GM: Ahh, recording. Well, I have always had ideas of what I wanted to hear in recordings. When we write songs, we both hear fairly well formed ideas. So we know what we want and sometimes, if it differs from what someone else wants, it can be difficult. In this case, we were still kind of solidifying our 2 piece sound so we thought it would be good to go at our own pace and have the ability to produce what we wanted. We ran the numbers and a Pro Tools LE rig along with a Mac Book Pro was about the same price as what we had spent recording our 4 song EP. So, we decided to make the investment in our own studio. We did all the tracking in our second bedroom and it was actually kind of challenging. When you can redo any part you want any time, it kind of consumes your life. But, we worked hard most of 2010 to get everything tracked. After I spent about 3 months mixing, I decided to have a friend to the final mix and master. But, we saved money in the long run and are very pleased with our cost vs. quality ratio.
SM: Magnuson are known for multiple mid set instrument swaps and hi-decibel mayhem. How would you describe your live show to audiences that have never seen you before?
GM: I would describe our show as 5 for the price of 2. We both sing pretty much the whole time in addition to playing guitar and drums so we sound like a full band. We had so many people on tour say after the shows, "We heard you outside and it sounded like a full band!" That's a good feeling. But straight to the point, it's a rock show that proves not all prog bands are boring. You can sing along to a song and connect with it as a listener and you can also experience some powerful prog rock… or metal as some have said. Maybe you could say we're an indie band on steroids? Just come check out a show and see what you think!
SM: Magnuson just finished a tour of the Western United States and the first thing we all need to know, did you play naked in Salt Lake City? OK only half kidding but seriously what was audience reaction to your live shows? Any favorite venues or towns? Best Show of the tour? Craziest/strangest tour moment? And what's up with the crab photos / explain crabbing?
GM: Okay, we did not play naked in SLC. Actually, we almost didn't play at all! When I contacted the venue about our load in time, they said, "Oh sorry, we over booked the night... Sorry." So, I got on the phone and booked us at The Dawg Pound and we had a freaking blast! Seriously, those guys know how to party. That was one of our best shows. My favorite city was Portland. So many great people there and the food and scenery are amazing. All the audiences seemed to have a blast as did we. We can't wait to go back. As far as strange moments, we had quite a few! The after party in Seattle, watching the Dutch band Death Letters we were touring with drink Four Loko was hilarious! Crabbing came about because our first band to band bonding moment on tour was talking about the hilarity of the "crab core" genre. So we just started taking pictures of us "crabbing" on everything! When the bands parted ways in Idaho, we got the idea to challenge each other. The van crabbing pic was pretty much the highlight, but we have some Vegas shots yet to unleash. When the tour was over we found out there's a Facebook group of people that "crab" - its like, a thing! And they made us their main photo! WINNING!!!!!
SM: Finally Surgeon Marta would like to thank Greg and Kyrsten for taking us up on the offer to move into our hospital HQ. Clearly the building is haunted seven ways to Sunday and we have to ask have either of you experienced any supernatural influences creeping into your creative work since the move?
Interview Note: After we asked this question the color left Greg's face, he shuffled nervously and handed us this battered videotape which contained the following footage. The strangest thing is, almost exactly as we were done watching it, the phone rang and we heard a child's voice say "seven days..." Weird right?
Earlier this year Greg was on a Swedish reality TV show called, Allt för Sverige where Americans of Swedish descent competed with each other for a chance to meet living relatives. Below are the episodes that have already aired - stay tuned for more! Rx, SM