Fireworks Magazine Online 52 - Interview with Circus Maximus

CIRCUS MAXIMUS

Interview by Tony Marshall

Five long years have passed since the release of one of my personal favourite albums, Circus Maximus’ ‘Isolate’. When I heard it I expected this band to take the crown as kings of catchy, song-centred progdom that Dream Theater had been bestowed with for ‘Images And Words’.
‘Isolate’ had short tracks, radio friendly hooks and talent oozing from every pore. What happened to world domination by CM? Not a lot to be honest. Prog power USA in 2009 was probably the highlight (if you missed it check the live videos on Youtube). Hey, but that’s not too bad, I’m a fan and am selfish so I can still keep them in my box of “oh you should check this awesome band out” tricks. They are always good for impressing people. But now the band have made my life a lot harder by releasing their third album, ‘Nine’, on Frontiers and if they lacked anything on their previous outings they have more than made up for on this. My first listen to this album was on a busy train and the look of blissful concentration on my face as I listened to it probably worried the other passengers, but I was in heaven. Two minutes shy of an hour, the album takes melody, heavy, heavy riffs, great production and exceptional talent and shares them equally between the songs. We have the standard 10 minute songs for the prog loving aficionados and five songs weighing in at around 5 minutes for everyone else.
Discussing an unusually long writing, recording, baby making period is Truls Haugen.

How would you describe Circus Maximus to someone who has never heard your music?

I basically would say “it’s metal” and let the listener decide on which “branch” he or her wants to place us on the “Tree of heavy metal”. If I had to describe our music I would say that for the untrained ear it’s in the Progressive Metal genre, since it’s very diverse. There are no rules basically, but I prefer just saying Metal, haha.

Who is in the band and what are their roles in driving the band’s sound?

The band consists of Michael Eriksen on vocals, Glen Møllen on bass, Lasse Finbråten on keys, Mats Haugen on guitars and myself, Truls Haugen, on drums. Mats is responsible for composing most of the music, especially on our latest effort, ‘Nine’. The rest of us chip in here and there and I mostly complain about the end results, haha. In the past it has been mostly Mike and myself who has been writing lyrics, but on ‘Nine’ we all have been wielding the pen.

What influences do the band have?

It varies a lot. For myself it started with old Metallica and other bay area trash bands like Testament. In the mid nineties I got caught up in the Progressive metal scene with bands like Dream Theater, Symphony X and Queensryche. It evolved into more extreme stuff like Strapping Young Lad and Dillinger Escape Plan to more wild and wierd stuff like Mike Patton related projects (Mr Bungle, Faith No More, Fantomas etc.) and Devin Townsend. The last couple of years I also got really got into the band Muse. I’m musically mostly inspired by the metal genre but I can’t deny that I love a good melody in a simple pop song. I guess Circus Maximus’ music is a good mixture of all the bands I mentioned above and more.

It’s been five years since the release of Isolate. Why did it take so long to bring us Nine?

We did a lot of gigging and touring after ‘Isolate’. After that we spent a lot of time writing then suddenly we were familymen with a bunch of kids crawling and running around. Some of us had a bunch of other bands and projects going on too and then suddenly 5 years had passed. Haha ... no, we haven’t rushed anything with the new album. We wanted everything to be exactly as we wanted it to be. I guess tendonitis, voice problems and “waiting” for the right equipment to arrive played a big part in the delay too.

The release of ‘Nine’ has what I believe as a more mature song writing style. How did the feel of the album come together and how many songs did you demo before choosing the nine that ended up on the album?

Thank you for noticing! That is the exact approach we wanted. A more mature record in every way. I think we have thought through things differently than people would expect us to do. The production is much more “alive”, the mix sounds superior to every album I have in my personal music-collection. The songs are also were well thought through when it comes to arrangement and melodies. We demoed 13 or 14 songs so we have a lot more material besides the songs that ended up on ‘Nine’... the next album should not that take so long..

Can you describe each song in only 10 words?

I don’t think I can, but I’ll do my best!
Architect of Fortune – Long but feels short, intricate yet simple, Cool lyrics and guitar solos.
Namaste – Heavy yet catchy, The ultimate sounding rhythm-section!
Game of Life – Catchy, Heavy, Melodic, Kick-ass guitar solo, Addictive melodies.
Reach Within – The single, our ticket to more radio play, ha ha! Beautiful composition with addictive hooks.
I Am – Another “radio-friendly” track. Although it sounds simple it is still pretty intricate instrumentally.
Used – Fast forward heavy track, intense riffing and interesting instrumental part. (Really tough to play too).
The One – Straight forward metal song, Pretty basic approach with catchy hooks. One of my favorite mid-sections with a cool keyboard solo.
Burn After Reading – Contains basically everything you expect from a progressive song from CM. We’ve added some new unexpected “flavour” to it as well. Mike sounds amazing on this track and he shows a new side of his vocals.
Last Goodbye – Ultimate closing track in every way. Catchy and beautiful song with tear-dropping lyrics. Very radio-friendly but will never get airplay since it is ten minutes long!

The new album has a more classic, heavier, guitar driven feel than ‘Isolate’. Is this down to the writing style of Mats, who I believe did the majority of the writing for the new record?

Although Mats has written most of the music, it’s a mutual agreement that this record were supposed to be more guitar-driven. He has always been writing the majority of our music so nothing has changed except that he has written more for this album. In my opinion I think this album is more “rhythm-section” driven since the bass and drums are just as dominating as the guitars.

The production on the new album is outstanding. What problems did you encounter during the production process?

Yeah, we hit some bumps along the way. We were expecting some new equipment that didn’t arrive in time, we were supposed to records the drums at our rehearsal studio but it didn’t work out so we had to wait for Ocean Sound recordings to be available. I’m glad we did. Mike got sick so his voice wasn’t good enough for recording, we had to wait for him to get better …and so on and so on.

Circus Maximus are signed to three labels for worldwide distribution. Have there been any conflicts between these parties on how the album sounds or do the band have the final say?

The record companies have nothing to say about how our music is supposed to sound. That’s our only choice. As long as there are no conflicts with the release of the album I’m happy.

You have played the UK only once, at the inaugural Metalfest. I was there and thought you were the band of the day. What plans do CM have for playing live anytime soon?

That was a great show and we’ll love to come back! The plan is to cover as much ground as possible this fall/winter and keep playing live as much as we can.

I believe there have been three little Circus Minimus’s born in the five years between the albums? How has fatherhood changed the mentality of the band in regards to touring for the album?

Yes, you are right. Mike, Mats and myself has kids now and off course it changes how you think when you go touring. I’ve been out touring with other projects over longer periods already and it can be hard to be away from your family, but this is what we want to do and have to do. Luckily, we all have very supportive wives and girlfriends.

Some members of the band have outside projects/bands. Michael recently did The Magnificent and had some dealings with Kamelot and you are out metalling it to the max with Insense. Do these conflict with CM time?

Most of us have other projects. Like you mentioned, Mike has The Magnificent and has been helping the guys in Kamelot out after their singer quit. Lasse has been touring a lot with the Norwegian band Wig Wam as their live-keyboardist. Mats has been doing some projects too, even outside metal music. I’ve been touring a lot with Insense, recently a big arena tour as support for In Flames and been doing session work. Personally, I would go crazy if I didn’t “expand my horizon” and do other things musically. I believe it broadens my musicality and taste. It hasn’t made any big conflicts yet, luckily, but we make it work I think.

How do you see the future of CM?

Well, I see Circus Maximus on the next big step to world domination, haha. We have an amazing album that we are really proud of and we are eager to show it off to the world. Hopefully the world will love it as much as we do. See you on the road!

Circus-Maximus-Interview

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Comments (2)add comment

Kid Chavez said:

...
Quite simply, one of the best prog metal bands of all-time. smilies/cool.gif
 
June 14, 2012
Votes: +1

NetRom said:

...
I absolutely love the new album, nearly as much as I loved "the 1st chapter" on their first album. But its so well engineered and sounds pretty damn amazing.
 
June 15, 2012
Votes: +0

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