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Magion Interview 2013

Magion Interview
September 2013 (via Skype)



It is definitely hard to beat the Dutch for ear-tingling symphonic metal. Magion’s sophomore album, A Different Shade Of Darkness, created quite a stir at Sonic Cathedral HQ, after a few of us got a taste of un-mastered samples during last year’s Metal Female Voices Fest. Notwithstanding that we listened to the samples over tiny mobile phone speakers (with the roar of the festival in the background), it was something special indeed -- lush orchestration layered over the dual-guitar riffing, and Myrthe’s expressive voice soaring overhead.



Sonic Cathedral’s Robin Stryker sat down with Myrthe van Beest (vocals) and Joop de Rooij (keys) for Magion’s first interview about their new album. Dive in for a close-and-personal look at A Different Shade Of Darkness, poetry that veils deeper meaning, the best damn wake-up call you’ll ever get, and much more!

Sonic Cathedral:  We are very happy to welcome Myrthe and Joop from the Dutch symphonic power metal band, Magion! Well guys, would you bring us up to date on what Magion have been up to since the release of Close to Eternity in 2010?

Myrthe:  Since Close to Eternity, we’ve been recording a new album, called A Different Shade Of Darkness. Some of those songs are pretty old already, and people may have heard them. We did do a lot of shows. <laughs> I don’t really recall everything. Joop joined us …

Joop:  Somewhere in time.

Myrthe:  … somewhere between that particular time. Do you remember when it was, Joop?

Joop:  Yeah, officially it was in February 2011.

Myrthe:  That’s true.

Joop:  Then I basically joined, and officially it was announced in April 2011.




Sonic Cathedral:  Joop, prior to joining Magion, what other bands were you with?

Joop:  Well, I started out with a band in the middle of the Netherlands, called After the Silence. That was my first presence in a band for a long, long, long time. I hadn’t been playing until then for about 20 years, so there I learned some things about being in a band, playing, etc. Then I became a member of a symphonic gothic band called Transentience. We did quite good, but we split up due to various reasons -- musical differences to put it politely and politically correct. Then I started my own band, which was called Galanor. We had a quite good time, and actually had been touring in Japan as well. Then, David the drummer of Magion called me, and asked me if I wanted to join Magion.

Myrthe:  You forget to mention that we were in Galanor for a while.

Joop:  True! That’s true. Ah, I forget sometimes things, sorry.

Myrthe:  Me and David.

Joop:  Actually, David had been a drummer for a short while in Galanor, and Myrthe had been a singer in the band for a short while as well. After David called me, I thought everything through because there was a lot of time and money in Galanor. But I decided to go to Magion in the end because I felt it was a long-running band that has great qualities, opportunities and talented people. I was like: “Okay, let’s give it a shot!”

Sonic Cathedral:  I was able to get a sneak peek copy of A Different Shade Of Darkness. Myrthe, your vocal style on the new album sounds quite different from Close to Eternity. What sort of vocal work did you do to prepare for this album?

Myrthe:  That’s funny actually because I didn’t do a lot of vocal work. I used to do that. On the previous album, I had classical singing lessons. I pretty much let that slip a little bit, and I tried out different styles. I use my chest voice a little bit more, and I’ve been singing a lot of different kinds of music in the past. So, it’s just a matter of trying out new stuff.

The vocals for Close to Eternity were my first in the studio. I was pretty young at the time, and wanted to do perfect. You can just hear that I’m trying to be as perfect as possible, so it’s very cautious. You know, I was not taking risks, and I chose the technique I was most familiar with. At the last album, we recorded it at Chris [Vrij, our guitarist’s] home studio, and that gave me more freedom to experiment and try out other stuff. So I think that is the main reason I sound different.

Sonic Cathedral:  When you are at a studio like Excess Studio, where it is expensive and you are under time constraints, do you feel pressure to not take risks?

Myrthe:  Yes, that’s true. And it was also with another producer, whom I didn’t really know. You want to do okay; you don’t want to fall flat on your face. I have known Chris for a looong time, so with him, it’s just easier to try out some other stuff. Of course, I have some pretty bad fails on my name. <Joop laughs>

Joop:  We KNOW (and we heard)! <laughs>

Myrthe:  He always saves those files, unfortunately. <all laugh> We also have a little gag reel of me choking up on lyrics and on vocal lines that are just not doable. I try, and sometimes I surprise myself. Chris says to me: “Okay, try this a little different. Can you do it in a rock voice, or can you do it a bit higher?” Sometimes, I try and I’m like: “It is never gonna happen. It is not gonna work.” And then, it just comes out!




Sonic Cathedral:  Joop, in a symphonic metal band, the keyboardist does a lot of the heavy lifting. Would you tell us about your process in composing for an album that has quite a few orchestral elements?

Joop:  Well in this case, it is fairly easy. Chris (our guitarist and producer) basically composes all the songs. He is the one putting in the base lines of the keys, drums, guitars, and bass guitars. So basically, the keys are there. As I learned that Chris in the past was fairly … how do you say that? … very close to his own key, so the keyboardist had to play what Chris had composed.

Slowly but surely, I managed to put some of my own ideas, come to his place, repeat the pieces he had been programming, and give it a little twist and turn. So it developed to have some more Joop sounds (so to speak), instead of just Chris’s sound. Basically, that is what is happening now. Chris puts the framework there, and I just play whatever comes to mind. We discuss it, and then we have a final product that is going to be recorded.

Sonic Cathedral:  You mentioned that fans who have been at live Magion shows have heard some of the songs from A Different Shade Of Darkness. Which songs have you already road-tested? Are there any particular fan favorites?

Myrthe:  We have a few that we already play a lot at live shows. One of them “Ever And A Day”, it’s a little bit of a folk-y song, and it’s one of the happiest of the album, I’d say. That one always seems to cheer up the audience because you can dance to it. We also have “Untrue,” which is a heavier that song. We have been playing that one for a while, and it’s a crowd-pleaser as well.

The oldest one must be “Chance To Change”. We haven’t been playing that recently because it was in the “fridge” for a while (so to speak). We took it out, perfected it again, and changed some stuff. The new version will be on the album. It is already online in a very, very old and raw version … we didn’t even use our backing tracks in those days. That is how old the song is.

Sonic Cathedral:  Just looking at the album, virtually every song tops the six-minute mark. Joop, from your perspective, tell me about some of your favorite songs.

Joop:  My favorites? That is fairly easy. My favorites are “Neverending Winter” on one, “Beloved Enemy” on two, and “Shallow Grounds” on three. “Neverending Winter” has the dynamics, the power, and the sensitive melodic parts in between. “Beloved Enemy” is quite for the same reason -- it has balls; it has rock; it has metal; it has EVERYTHING. And “Shallow Grounds” is my third because it builds up in a very nice, constructive way. It is very sensitive, and then it ends in a huge climax of symphonic sounds and waves.

Sonic Cathedral:  Myrthe, in addition to being the frontwoman for Magion, you are also a poet and photographer. From the standpoint of the poetry of the lyrics, which of the songs on A Different Shade Of Darkness have the greatest meaning for you?

Myrthe:  That is a hard question! Let me think … uhm well, some of them are very personal. “Untrue” is one of those. I don’t think you can hear it, but at one point in the recordings, I was even crying. It is about … should I say it? … it is about my father. At that point, I was really disappointed. One of the other ones that is really emotional for me is “Break The Silence”. You can hear that my voice is very achy-breaky in that one because of the meaning of that song. Some of the others aren’t about me. They are not autobiographical. I think “Untrue” and “Break The Silence” are the most personal for me.




Sonic Cathedral:  I realize that lyrics veil the meaning under poetic imagery, but even so, you are revealing very personal things to strangers. Do you ever feel vulnerable on stage, when singing some of your more personal lyrics?

Myrthe:  Yes. On the one hand, I do because they are very personal. But it is not that clear in the lyrics, and you can hear something completely different. It is not like: “Oh, I’m so sad, and this and this and this make me cry.” It is always a little more poetic than that, so people can give their own twist to it. Writing those things down, does feel a little vulnerable, but it also helps with dealing with those kind of stuff. When I perform them on the stage, it just empowers me. So it’s the other way around.

Sonic Cathedral:  Speaking of performing on the stage, Magion will be kicking off the Saturday show at Metal Female Voices Fest in Belgium, which you call the best wake-up call ever. What do you in store for us?

Joop:  The best wake-up call ever, of course!

Myrthe:  We have put together a mix of new songs and old ones. It is going to be the shorter songs and the more powerful ones. We want to wake up everybody, and show them as much as we can in the short period of time we could play there. So, I think it’s six songs. Joop, correct me if I’m wrong.

Joop:  Without divulging too much, I think it’s five. One of the downsides of being at such a festival is that you only get a time slot of about 30 minutes, which quite prevents us from showing everything we have. So we had some discussion about it: “Which ones should we choose? Should we choose slower ones?” Finally, we agreed on ones to just blow the whole venue up and give them hell! So we have mostly all songs with a good, dynamic impact. We start out with a slow song, of course, because we can’t be rude to people who come early to see us. <laughs> But that only take 1 ½ or 2 minutes, then playtime is over. Then we’re going to rock!

Sonic Cathedral:  The line-up at MFVF this year is pretty astonishing. For each of you, what do you think your fan-boy or fan-girl moments will be, as far as bands that you can’t wait to see?

Myrthe:  Ah, for me it’s a different story because I won’t be there all day, unfortunately. Probably because I have just a one-month old baby at home, so I cannot stay there the whole day. I would have loved to have seen Tarja because she is one of the singers who got me into gothic metal and got me into taking singing lessons, so I was very curious about that one. We play the same day as Lacuna Coil, who is also an all-time favorite of mine. There is no Floor Jansen, so that’s too bad because she is my favorite singer of them all.

Joop:  She’s there.

Myrthe:  Is she? Oh, but not on our day. I met her once, and I was a little fan-girl. Literally, because she is like two meters tall or something like that. Usually, I am not that star-struck, and I am not afraid to talk to people because of who they are. But with her, I was like: “Oh, can I take a picture with you?” I felt so tiny and insignificant next to her. So, I would have loved to see ReVamp again.




Sonic Cathedral:  How about you, Joop?

Joop:  Robin, we’ve known each other for two years now, I think, and we both know what MFVF is all about. So, for me, it’s more like a family reunion than to be there star-gazing at bands. So, if you ask me which band I would love to see live, it’s basically Floor Jansen, Tarja, and Lacuna Coil. For the rest, I will be talking bullshit in the smoking lounge in the VIP area, I guess. <laughs>

Sonic Cathedral:  Myrthe, I was glad that you could block out time to talk with us today because you are just two weeks away from the delivery date for your little girl. Have you noticed changes in your voice as a result of being pregnant?

Myrthe:  Oh yes. Yes, I have. <laughs> I just got the first review of our album. It said that I sound different, and it may be due to the pregnancy. But it is not the case because I recorded the vocals waaaaaay before I got pregnant, which is lucky because these days I’m pretty much out of breath all the time. I hope that when she gets out, I will get my voice back.

As you can maybe hear when I’m talking already, I go out of breath very fast because there is just no room any more. Yeah, it’s really different, and I don’t sing as much as I used to. But we did a house concert just a few weeks ago, with Joop on my keyboard and Chris on the acoustic guitar. It was very fun to do, but I could really tell that I’m not very good in shape at the moment. I had to work a lot harder to get it out.

Sonic Cathedral:  Magion announced a try-out show on November 17, 2013, along with Skeptical Minds and Mental Circus from Belgium. How did that show come together?

Joop:  Well, that’s fairly easy to answer. I have known Michel Stiakakis of Skeptical Minds for also three years now, from MFVF of course. During my presence at MFVF, I got to know a lot of people, including the organizers, Phil and Val. The last half-year, I have had quite a lot of contact with Phil. Besides the organization of MFVF, he has his own booking and management agency [2Wild4Metal].

Two of the bands, Skeptical Minds and Mental Circus, are in his stall. So he approached me and said: “Listen, , Joop, can you arrange something for the three bands -- Magion, Skeptical Minds and Mental Circus?” I said: “Well, let me look.” And then I accidentally talked to Ton Dekkers [Sonic Cathedral staffer], and he was like: “Well, if you are going to do something like that, I would be happy to be the sponsor of such an evening.” So after that, it was quite easily arranged. It is a very small world, and everyone knows each other, so that’s how those bands and those management and those people did get together.

Sonic Cathedral:  I assume that, at the try-out show, Magion will have more time to play. Do you have an idea of how long your set will be?

Joop:  Well, we rented the venue, so basically we call the shots. I am aiming at Mental Circus as an opener for about 45 minutes, and Skeptical Minds and Magion will both be playing for an hour. It is going to be on a Sunday afternoon, so everybody can be there and then get home on time (because most people have to work Monday, of course).




Sonic Cathedral:  When is A Different Shade Of Darkness slated for release?

Joop:  As far as it looks now, it should be the middle to end of September, depending on how fast the printing company is preparing the CDs. Of course, you know that we got into a cooperation with Sonic Cathedral, and John Wolff helped us find a suitable printing company for our new album. So there it is now, and ready to be printed and distributed.

Sonic Cathedral:  ; On the Close to Eternity album, quite a lot of time and attention was paid to the CD booklet artwork. Will A Different Shade Of Darkness also have an art-focused CD booklet?

Myrthe:  I guess that you can say that it is even more, since it is personally made. We used a model for the artwork. We had been thinking about putting me on the cover, but I didn’t like the idea because we are a band -- it is not just about me. So we chose a different model, who is a good friend of my sister’s. I have known her for quite some time, and she is also a body-paint model and just a model in general. I really thought she would play that part very well, so I took some pictures, and they were made into the artwork. For each page, I had a different theme in mind that reflects the lyrics. <laughs>

Even my boyfriend is in the artwork. (He is sitting right next to me, actually.) But we needed a male model for some of the stuff. You can only see his back, but it’s really funny to see him on the artwork. His face is not on it.

Sonic Cathedral:  But YOU know it’s him because you’d recognize that back anywhere.

Myrthe:  I know it’s him, yeah!

Joop:  She would recognize his butt like you do mine. <laughs>




Sonic Cathedral: Shush, Joop. Don’t be telling all my secrets.

Joop:  <laughs> You can take that part out.

Sonic Cathedral:  <still laughing> We are about at the end of our time together. What final words would you like to leave readers in Sonic Cathedral Land with?

Myrthe:  <to Joop> You go first.

Joop:  I’ll go first. Well, I think my message to the readers of Sonic Cathedral webzine would be: “Buy the new album!” Of course, every new band says that. We promise you this will be a killer! It will be refreshing; it will be nice. Just buy it.

Myrthe:  We would like to thank Sonic Cathedral for everything they’ve already done for us. Pretty soon we’ll have the CD in our hands, and that is just an AWESOME moment for a musician. You have been working on something for so long, and then you have it. So that is awesome! !

To our fans, thank you very much for your support and your patience, because it did take a while to come up with the second album. We hope you like it as much as the first one, and hopefully even better. .

Sonic Cathedral:  Thank you so much Myrthe and Joop. We can’t wait to see you live at MFVF!

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