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:: Spotlight :: Magnet - Crossing Vocal Boundaries...

By: Carmine Pascuzzi

Magnet is Even Johansen, a singer-songwriter from Norway, who has released an album “On Your Side”, music that is rich in emotion and melody He is starting to cement his relationship with European and American audiences, having played live alongside such notable acts as Doves and Ed Harcourt. His songs can show lightness and darkness and his musical mood swings emphasise his talent. November sees him touring with The Beautiful South and I managed to have a chat with him just prior to the tour.

Q. Tell us a little about your musical background?

A. I was born in Norway. My dad was a musician and I grew up listening to Sinatra, Cohen, Waits, and lots of Bob Marley. Then I met the most beautiful girl in the world and we moved to the UK in 1994.

Q. You went to Lockerbie in Scotland, a place famous for the wrong reason…

A. Yes, I've actually spent almost ten years persuading her to move to Norway. Now, we've moved to a little island called Devil Island. That was in July. So it's turned full circle.

Q. Tell us about the name MAGNET. How did you decide to use it as a showbiz name?

A. It was an obvious thing, really. I was in the United States with my dad when I was thirteen. I wasn‘t feeling well one day and I went to the doctor. I got diagnosed as suffering from anaemia. Then I got prescribed to go to this tattoo guy. He supposedly had healing powers. The prescription was that he was going to tattoo a magnet on my shoulder; to draw iron from the body. From then, everybody called me 'magnet’.

Q. Your history shows that you've released three EPs and an album “Quiet And Still” in 2000. Is the development obvious?

A. Yes, the first record I released was something I recorded in a two-week period. I played everything myself and recorded it all. A friend of mine, who runs a label, wanted to release the songs. It was a low-key thing for me, but it ended up being a record. I got signed to a label called Ultimate Dilemma. It has a small indie label mentality, yet it sits in the Mushroom UK wing. There are more resources available and there is more clout now, without compromising your integrity.

Q. Give us an idea of the process in making a record like “On Your Side” - the vocals, length of time, instruments used, etc?

A. I've always been one to experiment with the sonic thing. I like recording things. I've always done that. It wasn't a difficult choice for me to want to do much by myself. It's always a good thing, though, to have somebody else lend you their ears and give you feedback on what you do. The process took about a year, as I became a father in that time and that slowed it down a bit.

Q. Have the changes in environment meant much in terms of what you've produced musically?

A. I don't think it's made much difference as to where I've been. I'm very restless as a person and my moves haven't surprised those who know me. It hasn't affected my music.

Q. What have been your musical influences?

A. One of the things that really hit me was that I ended up being a fan of the grunge movement. Then Nirvana released their Unplugged record and I thought to myself that you don't have to jump up and down and scream and force things down people's throats. You can be a bit quiet to get heard. That was a turning point for me. The underlying ideology, in what I've been doing, is that you make music for yourself and do it on your own terms. The reason for doing it is to communicate, not just wanting to become a star.

Q. The album contains some deep, emotional thoughts. Is it autobiographical?

A. I’ve never been one to make things so obvious, that it’s unmistakably one thing or another. I would say that the majority of the songs relate to me or of friends of mine that have gone through certain situations.

Q. The music is very spontaneous. Is that how your song writing is evolving?

A. Yes, I am a big believer in not having things done in a set way. I write my songs in a fresh manner. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Q. Tell us about the beautiful duet with Gemma Hayes on Bob Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay”?

A. The song picked itself. I’m not a big Dylan fan, really. But I’ve always loved that song. There are certain songs of his that you must appreciate, no matter how much you do or don’t like him. This has a very expectant and optimistic message. It doesn’t really have a conclusion as such. I thought that doing that song would enhance the feel of what I was trying to say overall, or to make it a duet, or to change some of Bob Dylan’s lyrics. But after five seconds of thinking about that, I thought it would be more pretentious to touch something that is hallowed stuff. Gemma is everything the song is about. It’s a laidback effort. I did some shows with Gemma last year and she was an obvious choice to do it.

Q. You played some shows with a great band, Doves. Was that a good tour for you, and what has your touring schedule been like?

A. Doves are one of my favourite bands too. It was just after the first EP when I got a call asking me if I wanted to support them. They are amazing people and an amazing band. It was one of the most enjoyable tours that I’ve ever done. Their “Last Broadcast” album is an amazing record. As for other touring, I’ve been to the States, but mostly in the UK and Norway. I did go to Japan for a few shows also, and they were incredible. It’s weird how it works in a live setting. People have their own relationship with the record, which is the ultimate compliment you can have.

Q. You’re about to tour with The Beautiful South. Do you perform a good percentage of the album at live shows?

A. This tour, which is a weird one to do, is something I’m looking forward to. It will involve just me and a friend of mine, who does some electronic stuff. It’s very different to the record but it’s much more intimate – less beat. It’s as much troubadour as you can get without having a troubadour feel.

The album “On Your Side” is out through Festival Mushroom Records.

:: Magnet is set to tour Australia in March 2004. See in our What's On page.
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