The Further Adventures of Magnus Karlsson in The Ferrymen
The Further Adventures of Magnus Karlsson in The Ferrymen
In the grand and glorious creation of The Ferrymen, Magnus Karlsson of Primal Fear has joined forces with Ronnie Romero of the Michael Schenker Group and Mike Terrana of the almighty Rage – resulting in one of the most stunning collaborations to be found in the world of metal. One More River To Cross is the third magnum opus from this dynamic trio, and it’s a gripping auditory thrill to the senses!
In this interview with Highwire Daze, Magnus Karlsson brings us all into the sonic world of The Ferrymen. In addition, the celebrated guitar player also discusses his work within many other bands, including the likes of Primal Fear, Free Fall, and Heart Healer. Read on as we discuss the further adventures of Magnus Karlsson with the realm of The Ferrymen and beyond…
Let’s talk about the new Ferrymen album. Is there any overall story or concept behind the album title One More River To Cross?
No, there’s not. It’s not a concept album or anything. But maybe you could say they have a similar theme. It’s a lot about changes in life and having the courage to take the step into something different. And yeah, that’s a theme in a lot of songs, but it’s not a concept album.
With One More River To Cross, what was it like recording this particular album in the middle of a pandemic? You’ve actually done a few in the middle of a pandemic.
Yeah, and we are that kind of band that we never meet. So anyway, the difference for me was that I wasn’t sure if Ronnie Romero was going on tour or Mike Terrana because it was in the beginning of last year. When we didn’t know – we weren’t sure. Could we start touring again? But then it didn’t happen and so I remember I had to write it very fast because I wasn’t sure if maybe Ronnie would disappear forever on tour and we can’t record it. But I usually like to work fast. So that’s okay.
Did you ever think the Ferrymen project would get up to 3 albums now?
Yeah, I don’t know. I remember when they asked me the first time and they said, do you want to do something with Ronnie? And I said yes right away. I really like his voice. And then if they like the album… when I say they, I’m talking about Frontiers Records and I’m pretty sure they would want to have another one. But you never know, and I wasn’t sure that the guys would want to do 2 more albums, but they did. And now we have 3 albums. So, that’s great.
Tell me about the Last Wave song and video and what was the inspiration for them both?
I have to say we recorded our parts in different countries and then there was Italian video company that did the story with the actors and I really liked it. I think it was great. And actually, it doesn’t have so much to do with the lyrics that I had in my mind. That’s a great thing that when I write lyrics, you can make up your own story when you listen to it. And I think the director had a different story. But it’s like I said before – it’s a lot about managing to move on and make changes in life. I think the video came out really good. I love the video story. Even if I had something else in my mind, it was more about having a relationship and fighting through troubles in the relationship.
How did Ronnie Romero initially become involved with The Ferrymen? He’s in as many bands and projects as you are actually.
It was Frontiers that who asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And then I only knew him from when he was touring with Ritchie Blackmore and Rainbow. And I heard something on YouTube when he did some covers and I thought it was super. He has this kind of this Dio voice that I really like. Now it looks like there are many who want to work with Ronnie because he is so great. But yeah, you’re right. He’s in a lot of bands, but I think it’s cool. If you’re a great singer, just go for it and do what you want and do tours and albums!
Mike Teranna – he’s in Rage and Axel Rudi Pell. How did he become involved with The Ferrymen?
We didn’t have a drummer and I asked Ronnie. “Who’s your favorite drummer – if you could work with any drummer?” And he said Mike Terrana, and I didn’t know him. So I said, yeah, let’s see if I can ask him and I remember he was in China on some tour. But finally I reached out to him. And he said yes, he was into it.
Has The Ferrymen actually performed live together or is that something you would like to do in the future?
No, we haven’t done it yet, but we have discussed it. We have great offers and I think the only problem now – except for the Covid stuff. It’s that I think I’m booked for two years ahead in the studio. And I know that Ronnie is booked on a lot of tours, and I’m sure Mike is too. So that’s the trouble. We have to find time in our schedule, but we would love to do it. It doesn’t have to be a long tour, but a couple festivals -maybe a couple of weeks touring, because I don’t like to tour too much. I don’t want to be away from home for many months. That’s why I’m not touring with Primal Fear anymore. I’m still in the band and I’m still on the albums and videos, but it was too hard to be away and tour. I need to be in the studio and work too.
You also recently released a Magnus Karlsson’s Free Fall album called We Are the Night. What was your inspiration behind that title?
It’s like my old band. I don’t know if you remember. I had a band called Last Tribe. That’s the same thing that I think of us, old metal heads from the 80’s. It’s like “We Are The Night” and “We Are The Last Tribe“. There is something special when you meet other metalheads that you don’t know. You have something in common right away. I love to go to festivals, and you can be friends with anyone and everyone in the audience. So it’s a tribute to all the metal heads.
How exciting was it to work with so many guest musicians on Free Fall?
I’ve also done three different Free Fall albums with a lot of guest singers. The original plan was that I was going to sing it and maybe have a couple of guests. But then I know a lot of great singers, and I asked a couple – and then I asked a couple more, and I had a long list. So that was great. I just love to write for great singers. And on the last one We Are the Night, there’s a couple of new ones too. And not only the old heroes like Tony Martin and Ralf Scheepers and those guys.
I interviewed Ralf Scheepers of Primal Fear when Metal Commando came out and I asked him about working with Free Fall and of course, he said he loved working with you and everything. What is it like working with him in Free Fall?
I didn’t want to do something exactly like Primal Fear because we do a lot of stuff together in Primal Fear, so it would be unnecessary to do something like that. I really liked the song and how it came out and I think it’s a bit different from Primal Fear. It’s still metal and it’s pretty fast, but it’s more harmonies and a big different style. I hope you agree. That was the goal anyway. To have it a bit different.
What is currently going on with Primal Fear? Will there be a new album this year?
No. I think it’s official now because Mat Sinner wrote on Facebook. He has been really ill and had been in hospital for a long time now. But he’s getting better now. And I think he is slowly starting to work again. So, I’m sure we will start on a new one, but it won’t happen anytime soon.
I’d actually heard about that with Mat. I’m so glad that he is getting better.
Yeah. It’s been a long time. I’m enjoyed to working with Mat not only with Primal Fear. We did the Kiske/Somerville albums and we write for Sinner and a lot of stuff. We are always talking on Skype and writing. I was really missing him. So, it’s great he’s back again.
These albums that I mentioned, Metal Commando and We Are the Night and some of your other albums were released in the fateful years of 2020 and 2021 when there wasn’t a lot going on. What was it like to release these albums during a pandemic when you really couldn’t tour on them or promote them?
Yeah, especially I think about the Primal Fear album. I think one of the most successful Primal Fear albums and that would be great if they could tour at least. But what can you do? It’s the same for everyone. On the good side, it’s easier to get singers now because not everyone is touring all the time, so I can be in a studio.
I want to go way back to a band that I recently revisited that you did called Midnight Sun. When you look on those two albums you did with them, what do you think of them now in retrospect?
First of all, I wasn’t a songwriter at all. I was more like a hired guitar player, but that was great too. It was my first experience to be in a big studio and record an album that was released all over the world, and that was great. And on the first album Nemesis, we had Pete Sandberg (on vocals). Then it was Jakob Samuel that I worked with more on the second one Metal Machine. That was great. I learned a lot from those albums. I remember after the first album, Jonas Reingold said he didn’t want to write anymore. He was tired and he said, “If you want to write it, we can release one more.” And I wrote it and then he changed his mind. And then I started Last Tribe instead and released the songs as my own band.
Tell me a little about Heart Healer. What was with that experience was like and will you do anymore Heart Healer albums in the future?
Yeah, that’s the plan. I think they want to have at least three Heart Healer albums. But it’s not booked yet because I had a lot to do before that. But that was a great experience and great singers, but I think it was much harder to write a story for the whole album. I’m more used to writing one great song and then go to the next song and then to the next. This time, I had to write the whole album at the same time. It was great. But very, very hard. I was almost close to giving up.
Well, sometimes challenges are really good though.
Yeah, it is. But I’m lazy so… (Laughs) And it was also hard because it was only female singers and I had to sing the demos. So you can imagine what the demos sound like that I had to send over to them. It sounded like Bee Gees metal or something.
Will will we ever see those Bee Gees metal demos released one day?
Yeah. Then my career is over. (Much laughter)
So, what’s up next in in your immediate future?
The next thing after Ferrymen is another album with Russell Allen and Anette Olzon. I’m actually done and send all the stuff to Jacob in Denmark and he’s going to mix it. So I’m waiting for the first mix right now. Then I’m hired for a new project only as a guitar player, and I wrote a couple of songs but it’s another producer. And I don’t think the name is official yet. But that’s something completely new. And after that, I will start on the next Free Fall album with some new singers.
Do you have any messages for your fans here in the States, who are reading this now?
Even if we’re not touring yet, at least, I hope we will do. I hope you will check it out and if you know Ronnie and his voice, he always sounds great, but he sounds better than ever. So, you should really check it out!
One More River To Cross by The Ferrymen will be released worldwide on January 21st via Frontiers Music Srl!
(Interview by Ken Morton)
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