Truls Haugen of Circus Maximus

Interview by: Alessandro Mascellino in 2016

VM: Why the name Circus Maximus?

 Well, when I was 13 years old I had no idea there was a place called Circus Maximus in Rome. The name comes from a PC game my older brother Mats – the guitar player – and I were playing when we were kids.It was called “Ripper”. Christopher Walken was in it. A cool game. At a certain point of it you had to enter a password to get into a Computer Base and the password was Circus Maximus. And we thought ‘Oh, it’s a cool band name’

VM: Are the five of you the founder members of the band?

 No. We originally had a different keyboard player – Espen Storø. He left the band after the first album. It was shortly after that Lasse joined us, and he’s been with us ever since.

 VM: How would you define your musical genre?

It’s Music, with roots in Metal. For me, it doesn’t really matter the reason why we call ourselves or are being called Progressive. It’s just, there are no rules, it could be whatever we want. That’s why we make songs like Havoc or Flames or The First Chapter. For me it’s just guitar-based good music. It doesn’t really matter if it’s a short song or a long one.

VM: What are your musical influences (Dream theatre, Metallica)?

 Well, growing up it was Metallica, AC-DC, Megadeth, Slayer. For me it was mostly Metal stuff. I love Faith No More, it’s one of my all-time favourite bands. Also, Muse, it’s an amazing band. We’re inspired by their live shows and their grandiose-ness. But you know, also pop stuff. There is a Norwegian artist called Susanne Sundfør, her latest album is “Ten Love Songs”. I absolutely, totally recommend that album, it’s amazing. What else… Film music, game music, old Nintendo, PlayStation 2,3,4 whatever. Influences are just too many to count. That’s why we sound the way we sound as well. We are based in guitar metal-ish hard rock music but it stops there, the rules are gone.

VM: Would you tell me a bit about the creative process of Havoc?

It was pretty much the same as for every other album. My brother Mats, he composed most of the music. And, he’s my brother so we argue a lot and I complain about stuff. It is kind of the arrangement deal we have, complaining about stuff, pretty epic. And, I write a lot of the lyrics, we work at the songs together, at his place, with computer programs. You can sound amazing now, with new technologies. After that we rehearse it altogether for couple of days and then we just record it.

VM: You mentioned that you wrote a lot of the lyrics for Havoc. What about the previous albums?

Mostly, it is myself, Mats and Glen. But it does change from album to album. In the first album there were a lot of Michael’s lyrics. There always have been a lot of mine on all of the albums. Mats has stepped up his game for the last two albums. He was very creative in the writing process, in the “poetry” process. And Glen too writes a lot of lyrics, then re-arranges them to fit the songs.

 VM: Did you start working on “Havoc” straight after “Nine” was published or did it take some time?

It took some time. It’s a four-year gap between the two albums. We toured a lot after “Nine”. We played pretty much everywhere, for about two years, then we had to stop for a bit. I think the last concert was in England, Nottingham. We had to stop because we had a lot of ideas and new riffs, they come up all the time. We just had to sit down and organise ideas, tidy up stuff. It took about a year and a half-ish, then we recorded.

VM: Which of the songs of the new album – “Havoc” – most represents Circus Maximus at this moment?

It’s impossible to pick one, as every song is so different. You can start with “The Weight” which is a kind of “in-your face” hard-rock song – it’s not even that metal. It was supposed to be a little more heavy but it didn’t turn out that way. Then we have “Highest Bidder”, which is definitely a more exploring one – the older metal side of us. And “Havoc” is just a totally new thing, and we think it is really cool. We don’t care about what everybody thinks. That’s one of the coolest live songs we’ve ever had. Everybody’s entitled to an opinion so, I know It doesn’t sound like Circus Maximus’ old albums but who cares? It’s music. But if I have to pick a song that represents the album in a whole, then I think it could be “After the Fire”. It presents a lot of work with the synthesizer, the intro is experimental, but it’s got the metal part and rock parts too.

VM: Do you think that online presence is important for fans to find you and critics to find your music to write about?

I think it is very important. Especially now that everything happens on the internet, you have to be there. I’m quite private with my own Facebook page, I don’t share family pictures and such as it has nothing to do with music and I use social media only to promote music, not my life in general.

 VM: Your music is on the Apple Store, Google Play music, Spotify and Deezer. What do you think about online music sharing?

 Well, you have to do that, because everybody listens to music on their phones and they have either Apple Music or Spotify or similar so you can’t avoid that. I mean, if you’re Justin Bieber or Justin Timberlake or Hotel you can probably release only vinyl and people will still buy it, but at the moment we’re a semi-big band. Plus, I think it’s a good thing to have music available, anywhere. And speaking about that, our first two albums were not “available” until recently because we were working out a deal with a record company – Frontiers Record. They released all of our albums and they owned the rights for the first two, but we managed to get them back and re-release them under our own cool label: Remember Records.

 VM: When you’re not touring or recording, do you have day jobs?

Yes, we have to. We actually don’t earn anything doing music because we break-even when we play gigs. Music is supposed to be our job, but right now we have day jobs. Glen is a firefighter, Michael works at a gym and Mats is the manager of a music store. Lasse is the only one working as a full-time musician, he plays with several Norwegian artists and tours a lot. As for me, I’ve been driving a truck for a brewery – Ringnes beer – for twelve years now. And that is also why I couldn’t go on tour last time, I had messed up my knee lifting beer crates.

VM: On July 16 you launched a crowdfunding campaign in order to produce your first Bluray and DVD. Your original target was €20k, but the final collected amount was of over 26k. Were you expecting such a sum? What are your thoughts on that?

 Actually no. I was hoping we’d get 20k, so that was just amazing and thank you, thank you and all the hearts and stars! We couldn’t be more appreciative!

VM: So when is this DVD/Blu-ray going to be released?

 Well, it is recorded. We did the show on February 6th in Norway in a very cool venue called “Rockefeller” – all big bands play there. We rented the whole place and invested a lot of money on pyrotechnics and we had a film crew too, so this is going to look amazing. It’s in the edit room right now, as for the release date, we’re thinking about February/March 2017. We’re not sure yet though, we need to get everything together first.

VM: Finally, London today is the first date of your 2016 tour. What are you hopes and expectations about it?

 I think this is going to be very cool, we are going to be very cool. The only place we’ve played before is Atlanta, it’s going to be the 5th time for us there. But we’re finally going to Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, New York, Mexico City, Santiago. It’s going to be amazing, really cool. We have really high expectation for this tour!

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