There is a brand new adaption of Charles Dickins classic A Christmas Carol. It’s not a film or TV adaption, it’s a new album from Power Metallers MAJESTICA. Ahead of this album’s release, Rock Out Stand Out’s Lotty Whittingham spoke to bassist/vocalist Chris David about this new record, mental health and answers a few fan questions. Here’s what happened.
Hello Chris, how are you doing today?
I’m doing very well. There’s been lovely weather here is Sweden, even though it’s November. It was great today.
Let’s talk about your upcoming album A Christmas Carol. For most bands, there’s usually a two-year gap between releasing albums. You must have worked solidly to get this out just over a year after your debut Above The Sky. What was the work method like with added Covid restrictions?
Above The Sky was actually recorded years before it was released, my bass part was recorded five years ago. We didn’t start with A Christmas Carol until really late, we started it in May this year. We were actually planning to make Above The Sky two. So, we were writing demos but then somehow we got side tracked and we had these ideas of making a Christmas Record. It then evolved into a Christmas musical and then onto A Christmas Carol.
We discussed it and came up with this brilliant idea. Tommy [Johansson] figured out it was going to be about A Christmas Carol. He made a demo to show us what he meant and it was awesome so we decided to go with it. It then took a few more weeks and then we had a few more songs. I work as a music teacher and at the school I work at I was playing different riffs, recording them and sending them to Tommy.
I also wondered how you managed it due to Tommy being in Sabaton and having a busy schedule but of course they had to cancel the rest of their tour due to Covid.
That created a lot of free time somehow. In Sweden, there hasn’t been so many restrictions. It’s more like recommendations but we have restrictions on concerts. To be with other people elsewhere, there isn’t many restrictions. I live far out in the woods so where I am so it’s fairly normal. There are signs in the shops telling people to keep a distance and that’s about it.
The album was recorded here so everyone came here and we rented a house where we stayed for ten days working from eleven in the morning till five in the morning the next day. We did that for ten days, it was a bit stressful as the time was tight. We recorded it ourselves. Tommy was working on the vocal parts in one room and I was in another recording the drum parts, we had to work in shifts to make it work.
Speaking of the voices, there’s different voices for each character so Tommy is Scrooge, you are Jacob Marley. Who else provided the other voices?
Alex [Oriz] voices Bob Cratchit in some parts. In the song Ghost Of Christmas Present, the guy who voices the spirit is Anders Sköld from the band Veonity. We also have an old friend of Tommy’s and a vocal teacher who works at the same school as me in the song Ghost Of Christmas Christmas Yet To Come.
Did you already have in mind what characters you were going to voice or was it a case of singing and seeing what worked?
Some of it was planned, some of it wasn’t. There was supposed to be someone else at this point that we couldn’t bring in, so we brought in the vocal teacher. The Ghost Of Marley was planned from the beginning, we knew that there was going to be a duet between me and Tommy because I do a lot of backings vocals when performing live and we also do split vocals on recordings. For example Rising Tide from Above The Sky, there is actually two different voices. When we were in the studio, we came up with all these ideas that the other guys were going to be different voices as well.
Am I right in thinking you guys provide the choir voices?
Yes that’s right. We called ourselves The Majestic Choir. That was really cool as we had the opportunity. In this house on the top floor, there was this really huge room with a high ceiling. It looked like a church inside, we could record the four of us and the sound in the room. It was microphoned in so many ways so we could get the sound we wanted for the album. It’s pretty cool.
Some of the songs are along to the tunes of Christmas Carols and others are original melodies. Was this an idea at the beginning or did you add this later on?
That was the first idea, one we had from the beginning. We thought about what hasn’t been done already in original music and Christmas melodies came up. That’s what started off the whole Christmas Carol idea, let’s write our own music and add the Christmas feel.
When it came to deciding what carols you were going to include, did you already have in mind what carols you were going to use or was it a case of playing around and seeing what worked?
I mostly do the melody stuff so I send melodies to Tommy and he arranges things around it. He did the music for some of the songs, he had a plan for the melodies to see which ones suited which key. He had this in mind everything from the beginning.
Will this be something you would consider turning into a stage show or film once we’re out of lockdown?
Absolutely. That’s what we would like to do, we would do it this year but we know that won’t be possible. There’s going to be music videos coming out before Christmas this year at least. There’s going to be more theatrical videos where we actually play the characters we provide the lead vocals for. So, I will be the Ghost Of Marley in these videos. There will be something theatrical coming out as well as the album.
Is there going to be an album launch for this?
We don’t really know, we are planning to do it physically in Sweden but apparently Covid is getting worse in Sweden. So, at the moment we don’t know if we need to move to an online stream. Even with that, I think we will still do a release Q & A or something like that. There’s isn’t going to be a live show.
Given the current times with Covid, how have you been keeping busy?
Well, there’s the Christmas Carol record for a start and that’s been keeping me busy. I have my other work as a teacher at a music school and I usually do that on week days. We did a live stream in May, where we launched our merchandise as we didn’t sell any before. At that live stream, we got a couple of hundred orders and I was the sending them all out. So for the month after that I was sending out orders everyday. It was all signed; at the live stream, we did this thing where they could order and we would write their name and sign it live on the stream. So I had to keep track of these two hundred orders.
I have noticed during lockdown that mental health has taken a huge hit due to a number of reasons. Is there anything you do to helps keep grounded and positive when things get overwhelming?
This is a good question because I was burnt out last year so I was gone for about six months. At that time I had to figure out ways to stay positive, one of them was going on a mountain bike in the woods. When I do that, I need to focus as there are small roads also there are woods and stones all over the place so I need to keep track on that and not think about anything else. That helps get rid of any stress and negativity I had, so that’s one think I try and do as often as I can. I also sit next to the fire place at home if I am very stressed, that helps me calm down.
What’s mental health awareness like in Sweden?
It’s like you don’t really want to talk about it but there’s a lot of people who have mental health problems. Everyone knows at least someone who has been home or who is home all the time. It’s a very stressful environment in general today and I think it’s the same all over the world, especially with the Internet. We still don’t talk about it in the media, it’s still a bad thing that no-one wants to talk about.
What do you think we need to more of so people feel comfortable talking about their mental health?
First of all, we need to address it is a proper thing and that it’s OK to feel bad. I think that’s the problem in Sweden, it’s not OK to feel sick in any kind of way. When it’s mental health, it feels embarrassing as well so we need to get to the point where it’s not embarrassing to talk about our mental health. I also guess that we need to be less stressed and not think so much about social media because I think that’s a big problem.
On social media, there always seems to be breaking news every five minutes on how we’re all doomed so I suppose it adds to the stress.
I agree, I do think social media plays a huge part on why mental health is low. I mean social media can be a good thing as well but everyone is so into it and spends hours on it. They get so focused on what’s happening, social media is basically telling you what to do and how you feel. Social media tells you that you feel good but you don’t and that makes you feel worse. Maybe embarrassed as you don’t fit in with everything you see on the media. Life’s not perfect.
I have some questions from fans. First one, what’s the secret behind your hair and beard?
There is no secret for my beard, the only one is that I don’t use any kind of oil that people tell you to do. It’s regular shampoo, nothing else. For my hair, I have conditioner and shampoo. Tommy is much more into the hair masks and all that stuff. I am usually bad at the hair stuff. We had a lot of dry shampoo with us whatever we do; so for example when we were recording this album. we had about ten bottles of dry shampoo standing all over the place in different rooms.
Another fan wanted to know if you have any favourite bands at the moment.
Lately I have been listening to the latest record from Joe Bonamas, he released that the same day we released the single Ghost Of Christmas Past. It’s a bit more rock than his earlier albums and it’s recorded at Abbey Road so it’s a very cool album. I have also been listening to Rob Zombie, his latest single was awesome.
You were talking about Above The Sky Two, does this mean there will be a third studio album?
Yes but I think this one is going to take longer than between these two. I think it’s pretty far into the future as we got side-tracked with this one and we haven’t done any more about Above The Sky Two.
When you guys perform on stage, will the songs from A Christmas Carol be part of the setlist all year round or just at Christmas?
I’ve been thinking about that and I don’t really know yet. The songs are great and I would say this; even if you don’t like Christmas, I still think it’s a great power metal album. I’m pretty sure if people don’t care about the Christmas stylings, people will still like the album. So, I thought it would be great to play the songs after Christmas as well. Although it might feel a bit silly to play Christmas style songs at a festival in the middle of summer, so maybe in Spring time.
Do you have a message for your fans?
Even if you’re not a Majestica fan; I would say if you don’t like Christmas music and you’re worried about this being a Christmas album, I think it’s important to know it’s a good power metal album so I think you should check it out anyway. For the regular fans, I hope we get the chance to tour soon and also play the Christmas show we wanted to play this year.
Thank you Chris for talking to Rock Out Stand Out today and best of luck with the album.