“Correct me if I’m wrong but I’m right!”
Magnum Coltrane Price arrives on a motorbike. He has just come back from the countryside and his small cottage where he often goes to think, get inspired and give himself a break from the commercial bustle of the city. And yet, when you listen to his music it is not exactly nature that comes into your mind. Rather asphalt than birds singing. More anger and frustration over the state of the world than incipient love and sunsets. Reality music, he calls it. The lyrics cut like a knife through the noise of everyday life. This, on the other hand, isn’t so strange when you consider the fact that his name is Magnum. But when his jazz loving American father gave him this name, it wasn’t so much the gun (Magnum) he was thinking of, as of one of his idols, the saxophone player John Coltrane.
And maybe he is a romantic after all. For Magnum – or Mag as his friends call him – there has always been more to life than just to make music, to earn a fortune, and become a celebrity. “That kind of life would feel totally pointless. I want to do something that is greater than the music itself. I believe that music has the power to change the world, to make people strong and prepared to stand up for what they think. At least I want to believe that this is possible. I hope that my music attracts those who are tired of the ordinary, commercial stuff and who are looking for something that wasn’t made just to be aired on the radio. Those who don’t just want to be fed with a lot of bullshit.”
And “his” music… That is hip hop combined with soul, r&b and a substantial dose of funk on top.”I’ve got the funk in me. Funk is beautiful.”
Just like Prince, Magnum does everything himself. He plays bass, drums, piano, saxophone. He also sings, raps, produces and writes music for other artists. On his CV you find collaborations with the Swedish jazz group Esbjörn Svensson Trio as well as some of the greatest pop stars in Sweden, such as Titiyo, Mauro Scocco and Lisa Nilsson. He participated on one of Janet Jackson’s albums and played with Mary J Blige on television. On top of that he is a member of – and one of the driving forces behind – the band Funk Unit which attracts full houses all over the world.
But maybe we should start from the beginning. And the beginning is just as intriguing as his music. His musical career started at the tender age of nine, in a small village consisting of 30 people in Northern Sweden. Together with his mother, Magnum lived in a tiny flat on top of a meeting hall for the local temperance society. “I don’t know why but in school I was thrown out of the class room all of the time. There was a piano outside, and after a while I did everything I could to get kicked out again…”
“I knew I wanted to learn how to play bass”, he continues. “But at that time you had to start by taking flute lessons before you could move on to bass. And I just couldn’t do that…”
But Magnum was determined. He was to become a great bass player and in order to succeed – without having to go through the pain of playing flute – he started picking cones in the forest. This way, he made enough money to buy his first bass guitar.
Why bass? ”My relatives in the US sent me some cassettes with funk, soul and jazz. Someone played slap bass and I just loved it.”
Now there was just one remaining problem; young Mag had to find a PA-system to plug in the bass. Creative as he was he soon found the solution: the system that the temperance league used during their meetings…
And so his life as a musician started. A young boy, with a big bass, sneaking into the premises of the Good Templars.
A couple of years later, at 14, he moved to his father in Detroit, and here his career took another and somewhat unexpected step forward when his grandmother forced him to go to church. “I hated it. But then I joined the church choir and started singing gospel. And that was fat music, man!”
His family background is, to say the least, multi-cultural – a fact that probably has influenced him musically as well. American father, Native American grandmother, Finnish mother with gypsy roots…no wonder that his music has the power to reach out all over the world.
Besides Prince he is influenced by George Clinton, Marvin Gaye, Roy Hargrove, D’Angelo, Slum Village among others. And the lyrics are just as important as the music. Magnum often finds inspiration in his daily life; in the media, politics, religion, and in everything that has to do with oppression. He hates oppression. Often, he starts writing a song about something he heard on the news. But never television news, Magnum doesn’t have a TV; he just couldn’t stand the stupefying effects. His political engagement – and the fact that he had become the father of a daughter – resulted a few years ago in a manifestation against the oppression of women. “I believe in equality, between women and men, but also between races and religions. And once you start caring about stuff like that, it is impossible to stop.”
He was only 19 when he signed his first contract with a record company in Sweden. Two singles were released before the company went bankrupt. Then a few years later a new contract and one LP, and then he and the company decided to say goodbye. Ever since, Magnum has lived on his music, recorded his own albums as well as working as producer and composer for other artists.
As a member of Funk Unit, he sold gold in Germany in 2007 with the albums “License to Funk” and “Funky Abba”. Ironically, the extensive international touring with Funk Unit has perhaps made him more well-known in far-off places like Korea, Russia, China and South Africa than in Sweden. “When we played in South Korea we experienced a ‘Beatles moment’, where the audience was cheering so loud that we couldn’t hear ourselves play!” he laughs, thinking back of the slightly surreal experience.
Mag is the kind of guy who inspires and influences others. And yet, during the last couple of years, he has been in the shadow of other great artists. But then again, that may not be so strange, considering that Magnum insists on being the one to decide over his own music. After having experimented with soul, R&B and rap flavours on recent albums, he is now returning to a more organic, jazzy type of funk. This has resulted in fewer samples and production techniques, but a larger group of musicians. Fans can also expect to hear a number of exciting collaborations and duets with some of the top names of the Swedish music scene.
“I want to do my thing. I want to experiment and find out what it sounds like when you combine this chord with that one. I understand the fabric of music, I know how it works.”
The conclusion? Magnum had enough of spending his time in the shadow; he is ready to step forward to show the world what he can do. Which probably also means that nobody will be able to stop him. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but I am right!”