Interview: by Shadow Editor
Norway has produced some top notch progressive metal bands throughout it’s time, and Circus Maximus are one of the most recognizable and unique bands that the country has ever produced. With their perfect balance of melody and heavy, these fellow Norwegians have been a staple of what’s great in the genre, without relinquishing their heavy roots. Guitarist and Song Writer Mats Haugen, took some time recently to talk to MGM, about their new record “Havoc”, the history of the band and much more…
Myglobalmind: Hi Mats thanks for taking the time to chat with MGM, Circus Maximus was touring in Europe for March and April, how was that like? And how has the new record “Havoc” been received by audiences?
Mats: Hi there Denys! Thank you for the interview!
Well, the tour was really great! We played in places that we have not been for a while and it was nice to meet up with old and new fans. The reception of ‘Havoc’ has been really great. The reviews have really surpassed our expectations and we are really proud to have so many dedicated and passionate fans.
Myglobalmind: How did it feel to get back on the road after a hiatus? What did you miss the most about life on the road?
Mats: It felt good! Its been a while and we’ve all been eager to hit the stage again.
So doing the shows is what I’ve missed the most.
Myglobalmind: The new album Havoc is your 4th studio album, what had the band been doing in the last 4 years since the success of “Nine”?
Mats: Besides doing a lot of great shows in the ‘Nine’ aftermath a lot has happened within the band. More kids, new houses, new cars like ferraris and stuff! No, seriously we’ve been busy with different things besides the music. Time flies fast! We started writing ‘Havoc’ around 1 year prior to its release and here we are. That sums it up a bit.
Myglobalmind: Talk to me about a few songs on the record, for instance “After the Fire”, one of my favorites along with “The Weight” and “Remember”. Is there a story behind the writing in these songs? How we’re these songs created?
Mats: Well, we had a ‘flame’ theme going on throughout the album. So every song is metaphorically attached to what fire could be. In terms of what love, hate, jealousy, lust and loss does to a person.
Most parts of the lyrics were written before the song came alive and we chose the lyrics that fitted each song individually. ‘The Weight’ had two different lyrics to the entire song and was actually the hardest one to finish. I started writing ‘Remember’ after watching the animated move ‘Brave’ with my son. That song was basically written on an acoustic guitar in the sofa. Old fashion style.
Myglobalmind: At what point do you feel content with the amount of music written for a record? Most bands write a lot of content, deciding on what makes the final cut has a certain method no?
Mats: I know! That is something we’ve never really done. There is of course a lot of parts, riffs and melodies that does not make the cut, but they never get to be a/or in a final song. We seldom waste time to finish a song that’s not right from begin with.
Myglobalmind: For a progressive metal/rock band like yourself, how has the progression in your music changed since your debut in 2005?
Mats: It has progressed from each record. The song structure and the landscape of the music has stayed somewhat the same, but the production and mix has become a little more honest and dry.
If we were to mix all the records in the same way as for example the ‘Isolate’ album, I think people would’ve accuse us for not progressing. We stay true to the foundation of the band and that’s the melodies. We’ve never been just and cliché progressive metal band. There are too many bands doing that a lot better than us.
Myglobalmind: Explain the process of making music in Circus Maximus, specifically the flow of ideas, who does what in the band? In relation to composing, writing, producing etc?
Mats: I do write/produce most of the music and that’s how its always been. When you use most of your spare time writing music, trying and failing, its easier to know what will and what wont work.
Its like playing and instrument! Practice to get better. Easy as that! When you play together as long as we have, its easy to know what the guys will put on table. So bear in mind, all the guys contribute to each and every song and its definitely a democracy in the band. The concept of democracy is important in any group.
Myglobalmind: With Nine, I think the band manage to take a more commercial approach to the musical structure, but at the same time did not sacrifice the heaviness you are known for. Do you feel is hard to keep that balance when you are a progressive metal band?
Mats: Thank you! Although it was not our intention to become more commercial. Actually, I am not that fond of using the word commercial. Because we will never become a mainstream commercial band that will get tons of streams and plays on radio. Like I said, its the production and mix that is the main difference on ‘Nine’ and ‘Havoc’ compared to ‘Chapter and ‘Isolate’.
Keeping the balance is what we’ve always done and I don’t think its hard. Mainly because I don’t think that we are just a progressive metal band.
Myglobalmind: Take me back into your musical history, influences etc. What bands did you grow up listening to that have influenced you now in Circus Maximus? I know Dream Theater is a given obviously for many in the genre…
Mats: I grew up listening to a lot of stuff! My main influence back in the days was music from bands like, Testament, Metallica, Megadeth, Judas Priest, Queensryche, Vicious Rumors a.o.
Dream Theater and Symphony X was a later discovery. I was and I still am a huge fan of video games music. I think that is as important to me as the bands I’ve mentioned.
Myglobalmind: Growing up what did you find was the moment where you knew you wanted to make music and better yet, when did you feel you wanted to make this type of music?
Mats: If my brother and I did not meet up with Mike back then, I think the music would be less melodic and more heavy like some of the bands I mentioned earlier. I believe that is the crucial change that grew to be the root of today’s Circus Maximus.
Myglobalmind: What is it about Norway in particular that has top hidden talent in the genre of Progressive Metal? With bands like yourself, Pagan’s Mind, Enslaved, Emperor, Green Carnation, Triosphere etc?
Mats: Maybe it’s the pure air and clear water up here, hehe! All the bands you mentioned are all great bands. Some more or less progressive than the other. Although we are way behind our neighbors in the east, we do have several up and coming bands.
Myglobalmind: What has been the best compliment a fan has given you about CM?
Mats: ‘You saved my life’ That’s definitely the best one.
Myglobalmind: Time for a few fun questions to wrap things up. Name one song you can play in your sleep, cannot be a Circus Maximus song.
Mats: ‘500 miles’ by ‘The Proclaimers’
Myglobalmind: Who would make you nervous if you met them in person?
Mats: Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII
Myglobalmind: What guitar gear are you using these days?
Mats: I use Ibanez and fender guitars. Fractal Audio Axe FX. ISP stealth power amp. TS mini. Audio Technica Wireless. Shure In-ear system with ACS in-ears. Mogami cables. That’s some of it…
Myglobalmind: I know Circus Maximus the name was not influenced by anything from Rome, but a video game. If you had another name for the band, what would it be?
Mats: Hmm! Not sure… Maybe ‘Brakewind’ As in holding in the… You know what I mean.
Myglobalmind: Who would win in a bar fight, yourself or your brother Truls (drums)?
Mats: Me of course! I used to wrestle. For real.
Myglobalmind: Finally I know you guys are coming to Prog Power again this year in September, but before that, is there any chance of a small tour in the USA? Say yes and drinks are on me. (this question was sent before the North American tour was announced)
Mats: Hehe! Well, I might take you up on that! We are doing shows prior to PPUSA 🙂
Myglobalmind: Thanks for taking the time Mats!!!
Mats: Thank you.
The Circus Maximus North America invasion is finally coming!!! Check it out!!! And don’t miss the dates….
CIRCUS MAXIMUS ANNOUNCES SELECT NORTH AMERICAN DATES
Circus Maximus will be doing select North American dates prior to their return to ProgPower USA this September. The worldwide-renowned melodic metal band will be joined by Detroit’s rising stars Imminent Sonic Destruction as special guests. Rounding up the lineup is Canadian newcomers Ascendia.
South American fans need not worry – dates for Chile, Mexico and Brazil will be announced later this week.
Tickets will be available this week and links will be posted soon on Circus Maximus and Infinity Concerts pages.
CIRCUS MAXIMUS, IMMINENT SONIC DESTRUCTION, ASCENDIA dates:
Sep 2 – Chicago, IL – Reggies
Sep 3 – Toronto, ON – Hard Luck Bar
Sep 4 – Montreal, QC – Cafe Campus
Sep 5 – New York, NY – Studio at Webster Hall
Sep 8 – Atlanta, GA – ProgPower USA Festival*