Magnus Karlsson – “my first Boss overdrive pedal was an a-ha moment”

Sweden’s Magnus Karlsson has a discography as long as a restaurant menu, including Last TribeAllen/LandePrimal FearKiske/SomervilleThe Ferrymen, and his other project, Magnus Karlsson’s Free Fall.

However, his latest project is arguably his most ambitious.

Heart Healer has just released “The Metal Opera By Magnus Karlsson, wherein Magnus teamed up with seven different singers to convey a wide range of musical timbres across the album – Adrienne Cowan (Seven Spires, Sascha Paeth’s Masters Of Ceremony, Avantasia), Netta Laurenne (Smackbound, Laurenne/Louhimo), Youmna Jreissati (Ostura), Ailyn (Her Chariot Awaits, ex-Sirenia), Noora Louhimo (Battle Beast), Margarita Monet (Edge of Paradise), and Anette Olzon (The Dark Element, ex-Nightwish).

We caught up with Karlsson via email to talk about the project, his use of Kempers and how his first boss pedal was a revelation.


Heart Healer (Magnus Karlsson) - "Into The Unknown" feat. Noora Louhimo - Official Music Video

So tell me about how Heart Healer came about?

I’ve become more and more interested in orchestral music the past years and I thought to make a metal opera would be the perfect format to try it all the way. I have worked with a lot of great singers but not so many female singers and thought that this would be a great opportunity.  

Going into making this record, were there any specific metal operas that you had in mind as touchstones for what you wanted to achieve?

Not really. I listened a lot to epic soundtracks and classical music and got inspiration from that.

What would you say was the most challenging aspect of bringing this project to fruition?

The music was the easy part but to make lyrics from the story and make parts that would fit the different singers demanded some thinking.

I’m curious if the record was written to exist as a standalone entity, or if you were writing it with an eventual stage show in mind? If the latter, is there a stage show on the cards?

I wrote it without thinking about a stage show..but if it would work with everyone..I would love to do it.

Guitar gear wise, what did you use on this record?

I use a MusicMan the Steve Morse signature..the blue one. I play through a Kemper that goes into a channel strip and a tube eq were I tweak the eq a bit.

If someone wanted to learn something from the record on guitar, what would you say is the most enjoyable passage to play, either for intermediate or advanced players? 

I think you can learn from the rhythm guitars how they are arranged. How to squeeze in guitars when there’s tons of orchestra drums and vocals. 

You have a pretty incredible discography covering so many different styles of music. Is there any musical itch that you would love to scratch but haven’t had the chance over the years?

I would love to write music for a movie or games.

Are there any projects you worked on over the years that you felt didn’t get the attention they deserved?

All of them haha! there are so many releases so it’s hard to get through all the noise.

Heart Healer (Magnus Karlsson) - "Who Can Stand All Alone" ft. Adrienne Cowan & Anette Olzon

There’s a lot of talk among guitarists these days about digital gear, be it modelling or profiling. Where do you stand on the issue?  

When you record in a small studio or in your home I absolutely think that stuff like the Kemper is a game changer. I recorded in big studios with real tube amps and thats great but often you don’t have the time to tweak and you have to record as fast as possible. In your home studio you can tweak your sound for weeks until you’re happy. 

With the Kemper do you tend to use your own profiles or do you have any favorite profiles of others that you could recommend?

I often use different Engle profiles made by others and then I change them until they are perfect for me. I found some great profiles from Sinmix but also free ones that sounds great. 

As a guitarist, what would you say was the biggest “a-ha” moment when you were starting out on guitar? Something that you realized or learned that quickly opened many doors for you as a guitarist?

When I got my first Boss overdrive pedal. I wasn’t sure how hard rock and metal band did get that great guitar sound.. now I understod.

What’s next for you? What should we expect to see from Magnus Karlsson in 2021?

We just finished Anette Olzons solo album. A really heavy thing. And right now I’m working on the next Ferrymen album with Ronnie Romero and Mike Terrana 

Brian Kelleher

I'm the main guy at KillerGuitarRigs.com and I want to tell you all about guitars. I've been playing music since 1986 when my older brother taught me to play "Gigantic" by The Pixies on a bass with two strings. Since then, I've owned dozens of instruments from guitars to e-drums, and spent more time than I'd like to admit sitting in vans waiting for venues to open across Europe and the US.