Interview with Magnus Karlsson of Magnus Karlsson’s Free Fall and Primal Fear

2020 will surely go down in history for many different reasons. For the music industry, it will be a year remembered mostly for cancelled live events and postponed album releases. But all the missed opportunities put aside, there were things music fans could have looked forward to as well. Fans of Magnus Karlsson – a Swedish multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer – can consider themselves particularly lucky as their favourite guitarist remained as busy as ever. In March, Frontiers Music SRL released Worlds Apart by Allen/Olzon, an album Karlsson wrote and played on. Three months later, the guitarist delivered We Are The Night under the moniker of Magnus Karlsson’s Free Fall. A follow-up to 2015’s Kingdom Of Rock features vocals by ex-Black Sabbath singer Tony Martin, Dino Jelusick (Animal Drive, Dirty Shirley), Noora Louhimo (Battle Beast), Ronnie Romero (Rainbow, Vandenberg, The Ferrymen), Renan Zonta (Electric Mob) and Mike Andersson (Cloudscape). Then, in July, a new Primal Fear album Metal Commando saw the light of day, Karlsson again heavily involved in its making and recording. I managed to catch up with the extremely busy Swede to discuss the latest two additions to his discography as well as ask about his future plans.

Magnus Karlsson. Photo credits by Andreas Svegland.

Alexandra Mrozowska: Why did it took you as long as five years to record We Are The Night?

Magnus Karlsson: I didn’t even plan to do a third Free Fall first but changed my mind after a while. And I was also quite busy during those five years with Starbreaker, Primal Fear, Sinner, The Ferrymen, Allen/Olzon and many more productions.

AM: Is each song on We Are The Night linked to another in any way?

MK: It’s all separate stories, but the music is a link with a touch of Progressive Metal.

AM: The guest singers on the new album are mostly of the younger generation, not the music industry’s heavyweights… well, not yet at least! What’s influenced your choices? Was each song tailored to the specific singer?

MK: When I planned the first Free Fall, I was going to sing everything myself and maybe have a couple of guests… but I knew so many great singers that I really want to work with again. And now it’s a thing on the Free Fall albums to have all these singers and I absolutely love it. I just choose to ask singers that I really like and most of the time they like the songs and accept the invitation. I don’t care if it’s a “big” name or not… if it’s great, it’s great (laughs) It doesn’t matter if they are famous or not. And hopefully, if the result is great, the buzz will be there anyway. And yes, I mostly write a song especially for the singer. I think it’s a better result and also more fun to write if I know who’s gonna sing it.

AM: Talking about heavyweights, for We Are The Night you renewed your collaboration with ex-Black Sabbath singer Tony Martin, who sang on 2015’s Kingdom Of Rock too. What is so inspiring about writing and recording with him?

MK: I’m a huge fan of Tony Martin and his music with Black Sabbath. He was actually the reason I decided to do a third Free Fall because I really wanted to make more music with him. He’s a great songwriter and writes great lyrics… also, he wants to be part of the writing and not just sing a song I made for him.

AM: On the previous two Free Fall albums, guest singers included the likes of Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear), Tony Harnell (ex-TNT) or Joe Lynn Turner. Is there anyone you’d like to participate in the project in the future?

MK: I would love to work with Bob Catley again… and I certainly wouldn’t say “no” to Rob Halford or Geoff Tate.

AM: Well, who would…? Also, you sang a couple of tracks yourself as usual…

MK: It’s my solo project so I think I should sing at least something. But to say that I feel comfortable as a lead singer – it would be a bit of a stretch (laughs)

AM: How important is Free Fall to you?

MK: I’m involved in so many bands and projects and it’s great to have one where I can do what I want and try different things.

AM: Have you ever considered bringing your project to the live concert stage?

MK: Yes, we have talked about it and I hope it will happen.

AM: Just a month after We Are The Night hit the shelves, the new Primal Fear album Metal Commando followed. Are you happy with it? How much were you involved in the songwriting process this time and was it any different than before?

MK: Yes, very happy. It’s always fun and easy to write with Mat (Sinner) and Ralf (Scheepers). I send my riffs or song ideas and we work together on the ones everyone likes. We work a lot together on Skype and it works really well. And yes, we worked in a similar way on the last albums and this time I’m also very much involved in songwriting. For me, a lot of inspiration comes from Ralf’s voice and also the whole band and production. I know that even if we do an acoustic song with a nice melody, it will sound Metal in the end because it’s Ralf who singing it.

AM: I believe Metal Commando is actually the third Primal Fear album with three guitarists on board. What are possible advantages and disadvantages of the so-called triple guitar attack?

MK: On a album it doesn’t matter… all guitar parts are recorded several times and we have a lot of harmonies. solos and melodies. Most of the bands you hear can have ten guitars on the album, even if it’s just one guitarist in the band. It’s a bit different live, but the last years it’s only Alex (Beyrodt) and Tom (Naumann) who played live and that works great too.

AM: As it’s more than a decade since you’ve joined Primal Fear, how important is this part of your career to your artistic development?

MK: That’s hard for me to say… but it’s an honour to work with such a great band and I’ll try my best to keep the Primal tradition and at the same time move forward. It’s really been a great ride.

AM: Alongside Magnus Karlsson’s Free Fall and Primal Fear, you participated in many different projects, from The Ferrymen to Allen/Lande. Which was the most challenging for you and why?

MK: I never think it’s challenging… I just think it’s fun and I love what I do. It would be challenging to stop making music.

AM: Apart from all the new releases, what were you up to during the difficult months of lockdown and what are your plans for the near future?

MK: I’m doing a Metal opera with only female vocalists. It’s a huge project with real strings and it’s gonna be epic!

AM: Any last words?

MK: Thanks a lot for checking out my music! Cheers!

Magnus Karlsson’s Free Fall on Facebook

Magnus Karlsson’s bio on the Primal Fear’s official site

You can check out Magnus Karlsson’s Free Fall’s official music videos below.

“Hold Your Fire” featuring Dino Jelusick (Animal Drive, Dirty Shirley)

“On My Way Back To Earth” (instrumental)

Also, check out the new single by Primal Fear – “I Am Alive”