Linnéa Olsson is the rock n roll mentor we can all learn from. After being a part of successful acts like Grave Pleasures, The Oath, and Beastmilk, she moved on to forming her own band Maggot Heart. Their first release in 2018 was a critical success due to the post-punk rock n roll sound that people had been longing for. The band successfully toured all over the world and played festivals like Roadburn and Hell Over Hammaburg.
Now Maggot Heart is about to release their sophomore album Mercy Machine on July 10th. This time, the album is being released via Rapid Eye Records which Linnéa owns and operates. Her independent attitude, honesty, and lack of desire to fit into society's expected molds makes her a true rock n roll bad-ass. Mercy Machine is her best work to date so it was a pleasure having the chance to discuss it with her. Her growth as an artist is inspiring and I look forward to the world getting to hear her new music which will undoubtedly be the best release of 2020.
The title track and first single, Mercy Machine, lyrically feels like you are letting go of some things in your past. Talk about the new record and what was influencing you this time around.
L.O.: On this album I was interested in some themes and concepts surrounding the body, and the body in correlation with the mind and spirit. Sometimes it feels like you are trapped in your body, not part of it. Your body is the machine that serves you, or fails you. After “Dusk to Dusk”, which was quite “head-y”, I felt a need to get more centered, more into the flesh and blood. A “mercy machine” is a real device used for assisted suicide. So with that I started thinking of a machine that takes your pain away and brings you to another plane of existence, where you are cleansed. Of course there are many things that can act as a mercy machine in that sense - whatever it is that you use in your daily life to move on from whatever is troubling you. I think tension/release, restraint/freedom, control/chaos and so on are themes I come back to a lot, and they are present also on this album. I also think of the city in all its beauty and decay and horror and light as one big machine, an artificial organism who takes a life of its own, and keeps on going by the steam of all the people.
The album is being released on your new label, Rapid Eye Records. Since I know you could have been easily picked up by other labels, what was it that made you want to release it yourselves? Can you tell us if you will be working with other artist and releasing their music?
L.O.: All Maggot Heart recordings are self-released, it was one of the main things that was important to me when I started this project. I have two close friends who run Teratology Sound & Vision here in Berlin. I asked them if they wanted to license the first EP and then the first album, which they did, and did a great job doing so. It was a really perfect way to build the band.
I have a certain amount of ambition and goals I want to meet, and the time is right to push it to the next level. Since I take care of the management and administrative side of this band anyway, it wasn’t a huge step to take. It also seemed like a no-brainer to start this label together with my partner Ricky, who also has experience releasing records. We talk a lot about the state of underground music and what kind of role we want to play. We want Rapid Eye to serve as a platform and connective ground for independent artists, and to hopefully help nurture and inspire the scene. So yeah, there are more releases coming, by other bands.
I have been signed to mid-sized independent labels and to major labels in the past, and honestly there isn’t much difference. Everything is done according to a certain formula, which is correlated with a touring schedule centered around a release, festivals that have stages and slots saved for certain labels, and magazines where favourable reviews and space is determined by ad sales. It’s phony and uninspiring. I want to have a world around Maggot Heart where every single person who works with the band is someone I connect with and trust. I don’t care if that means I will never get bigger recognition than I have right now. To get this kind of world, I have to create it myself.
For our musicians that read this, tell us about your gear setup. Did you do anything different gear-wise for this album that you have not previously tried?
L.O.: I’m still playing on my Hagström that I’ve had as my main guitar for almost ten years, and I alternated that with a Strat here and there on the album for leads and whatnot. I have a very trusted OCD pedal that I’ve also had for a long time, and our bassist Olivia uses the same one for her set-up. Amp wise, I play on a mix of Fender combos - usually a Deville. Besides the OCD my pedal set-up is minimal; I have a delay and an octaver and that’s pretty much it. The next step will be to play on two amps, I’m beginning to figure out how to do that at the moment.
The reason I started this blog is because I believe women in metal and punk do not get the recognition they deserve. Since you are a musician, with a background in journalism, what is your opinion on the current press for women in these genres?
L.O.: I don’t read a ton of music media, but obviously as long as music is covered by mostly men, then the perspective is always going to be mostly male. It really is a world that women sort of knock on the door to, hat in hand, asking for permission to be let in. It is getting better though, I imagine. It’s absolutely true that female musicians don’t get the recognition they deserve. There is a small group of men who decide what is good and what is cool, and what isn’t - and as a woman you’re expected to be grateful if you’re accepted into that realm.
I was lucky enough to see you live on your last tour in the states. Do you enjoy touring and meeting fans? What is the best way to approach you?
L.O.: It is such a trip to me that people actually listen to my music, so yes - I love meeting people from the audience. You can come up to us anytime after the show, I’m usually hanging around the merch table. You saw us on the third North America tour we did in five months, so I was probably a bit tired! I do love touring, but it’s undoubtedly hard work for a band at our level. On these tours we often stayed at strangers’ houses, and it was amazing how well we were taken care of, and the weird houses you get to see, and the stories you hear. I really treasure those moments, even if it’s not the most comfortable way to travel. Right now I miss touring a lot, for obvious reasons.
Your lyrics have always been thought-provoking. Describe your writing process and how you work with the band to create the music to go along.
L.O.: Thank you. I write the music as well as the lyrics - but it’s different to what extent the song is finished when I bring it to the others. Some of them we work a lot on the arrangements, others not much at all. It depends on how clear my vision of the song is.
Have you been bullied in the music scene? With social media I think hiding behind keyboards has become the new form of disrespect. How do you deal with these “keyboard warriors.”?
L.O.: I’m not on social media, so that helps. I use Bandcamp as an online community for my music, which really is a great tool, but I’ve never even had a Facebook page. The negativity and fake online personas that people create, is part of the reasons behind that. I have always been a bit of a technophobe. I got my first smartphone only a couple of years ago. So I’m old school in the way that I don’t really understand online culture, why everything has to be on public display and so on. I really try not to get involved too much, I feel it keeps me sane.
Tell us a little bit more about you as a person. What album inspired you to pick up a guitar? What makes you happy?
L.O.: I grew up listening to 60’s soul music through my parents, and then a mix of classic 70’s punk, 80’s metal from my older brother, and the mainstream pop that was popular when I was young. Guns N’ Roses were a big obsession of mine growing up, and I taught myself how to play the guitar because I wanted to be like Slash and Izzy.
What makes me happy… I just really love hanging out with my friends, having some drinks and cracking jokes. It’s probably my favourite thing - to talk bullshit for hours on end, listening to good music. I also love sleeping! So yeah, simple needs for a simple gal.
What advice do you have for women learning to play guitar and playing in a band? Was there anything you know now that you wish you would have known then?
L.O.: Just to go for it, and to have fun. Don’t ask for or wait for permission. Playing music in bands is one of the greatest joys in life. Don’t think so much, just do it. And don’t think that you have to be great from the get-go. Or even at all, just do your thing. Play with people who are more advanced than you are, if you can find them. I think girls and women are so much more self-conscious about their playing than boys and men - and for a reason, we are more closely watched, because we stand out. But there is a flip side to that coin, and that is an advantage. It’s the only advantage you’re gonna get as a female musician, so I suggest you take it! How many terrible to mediocre bands have you seen in your life with guys playing, who really don’t think twice about whether or not they have a right to be on that stage? That is the mindset for everyone to have, I think. Those guys are for sure not going to hesitate, so either they take all the space, or you claim some of it, too.
Since the world is currently in lockdown, any plans for virtual live shows or touring once this ends?
L.O.: We’ll start playing live as soon as it makes sense to do so. We’ve had a break from live playing since October, so let’s hope it won’t be too long.
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