Friday 18 June 2021

An Interview With Keenan Kinnear from ACID MAGUS

The South African Stoner Rock/Metal scene has impressed myself over the last 18 months thanks to bands such as Ruff Majik, Filthy Hippies and Monstroid doing their own style of Heavy Psychedelic Rock with Stoner based influences. Though, a big part of this recent discovery is Warren at Plug Music Agency sending myself bands to feature on the blog.

However, I have to say today's guest Keenan Kinnear (Guitars) from ACID MAGUS is perhaps my favourite band yet from the South African Stoner Rock/Metal scene. As their upcoming new album WYRD SYSTER takes the classic 70s Hard Rock sound of Led Zep and Black Sabbath but mix it with the legendary 90s Stoner Metal Sound such as SLEEP and KYUSS.

WYRD SISTER is a superbly entertaining album that crosses the boundaries of Stoner Metal and Classic Hard Rock with addictive Psychedelic Grooves to match. The lyrics and vocals are SPACED OUT and give Acid Magus a more adventurous sound.

The album will be released on July 30th 2021 via Mongrel Records.

Here's my interview with Keenan where we discuss the making of the album and what to expect.

Hi Keenan. Thanks for doing this interview. How are things with you today. For people not in the know. Can you give a brief history of how the band came together and where it is today?.

Hi! We are doing great, thanks for asking. Well, I actually started messing around with some ideas for a new project just before the hard lockdown hit with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. I just wanted to do some more guitar focused stuff and push my playing as much as possible. From there I pulled the guys in one by one and it all slowly took shape. Today, we patiently wait to get out and play some shows, but this is being hampered severely by the 3rd wave of the pandemic in South Africa.

How would you describe your sound in your own words. As I found it to be a fantastical mix of different heavy styles with a trippy atmosphere.

Well, to be honest, I think you got it just right there! That said, I like to think that the Acid Magus sound is both all of the genres that inspired us, for example, prog/classic rock, shoegaze, psychedelic rock, doom metal, stoner rock and grunge, while at the same time also none of them. As much as it can be massive and crushing it can also be relaxed and beautiful. We tie all of this together with some psychedelic elements and somehow seem to get away with it! (At least I hope so haha)

We’re here to talk about your brilliant new album – Wyrd Syster. What can people expect from this album and what’s the concept or story of the album?

Thank you! I think people can expect to be taken on a journey with Wyrd Syster. It is one of those albums you should sit down with and listen to right through from beginning to end. It ebbs and flows but also doesn’t let up until the very end! Conceptually, there isn’t necessarily a single story here but rather a bunch of musings. The focus is on the power of femininity and is largely an observation from the perspective of the masculine.

Was this a hard album to write and record for. Especially during COVID-19 still being around us all.

From the perspective of the artist, every album is difficult to write! Even if it comes out easily and naturally, for me at least, it’s a mental nightmare, especially when being overly self-critical. Regarding COVID-19 and the hard lockdown’s we were experiencing, it actually worked in our favour because it afforded me the time to actually write and record everything. We record and mix ourselves, so this luckily didn’t affect us too badly in that respect, in fact, it was a boon, and it gave birth to this album.

What influenced or inspired you when making this album.

Lyrically, I was inspired by the stories of all the women in my life, especially with regard to women’s plight at the hands of the patriarchy. Musically, I could go on forever ha ha, but I must say that at the time I was listening to a lot of Slift, Psychotic Monks, Piere Cavalli (I love the French scene), Pink Floyd, Slomosa, Kikagaku Moyo, Jefferson Airplane and Iggy Pop…

What formats the album is being released upon.

Currently only digital. We are however also planning to release on vinyl, but I don’t know when yet.

Mongrel Records are releasing the album. How did you hook-up with that cool label and did you have any other offers to release the album on?

Well, no, no other offers came through, and probably because we were still very much unknown at the time, we are quite new, I guess. Johni Holiday from Ruff Majik fortunately got behind us right from the beginning and he was gracious enough to share our music on his social media. That’s where Warren from Mongrel Records got wind of us and then got in contact. So, we have both of them to thank for us being here talking to you today, and I can state that we are indeed, very grateful!

Who designed the fantastic artwork for the album. And how much input did you have into the final design of it all.

Tyrone Le Roux-Atterbury, out of Durban, South Africa (instagram handle @just_that_guy_who_draws) designed and hand illustrated the fine album artwork. I had a loose concept in mind after seeing an image of a staged pagan ritual. I then conveyed this idea to Tyrone whereby we have a woodland ritual being performed with a pagan priestess levitating in the middle. He then set to work on the concept and devised and drew everything himself. He also illustrated the logo for us. We couldn’t be happier with the outcome; he is an incredible artist, and it looks like we will be continuing this partnership on future projects!

COVID-19 has pretty much put a stop to all life as we know it for the time being. How big of an impact has it affected the band. And how are you surviving in this stressful time.

It’s been tough for all of us. Some of us were put out of work and are still picking up the pieces. It has also obviously meant we can’t play shows and grow our audience. It has however also given birth to Acid Magus so it is a double edged sword! We can only look ahead now and use this time to hone our craft so that we can bring it to as many people as possible in future.

After everything is back to some sort of normality. What does the future hold for the band. Will you be touring the record if possible?

Definitely! We can’t wait to play it for people because it’s going to sound so much bigger live. When it is safe, we will play as many shows as possible here in South Africa. We are behind on vaccinations over here so the chance of us touring abroad any time soon is very low. What I can say though is that after the album drops, we aim to put as much as possible away every month in order to afford to take our live act overseas as soon as possible. If all goes well, maybe even in 2021? I suppose it will also depend on the album’s reception there.

It seems the South African Hard Rock/Metal Scene is starting to produce more and more cool bands to check out thanks to folks such as Warren at Plug Music Agency promoting them and Ruff Majick. What is the scene like for yourselves to participate with and how can this be improved for bands to thrive.

Yes, I think South Africa always has produced incredible hard rock/metal acts and both Warren Gibson and Ruff Majik, Johni in particular, can be seen as pioneers or generals on the frontlines of the movement. Unfortunately for us, the scene, while thriving, is quite small. We are also very limited in terms of venues to play at. For me personally though, I think we need to put more effort into giving the youth a platform to grow their interest and skill in the art of heavy music. 

We need venues and airtime dedicated to high school bands and artists, a safe place for young people to hear heavy, distorted guitars and fat, loud drums live as opposed to watching a “DJ” play their laptop live. I think this would “convert” some kids as nothing is as impactful and life changing as heavy music, loud and proud, in the flesh! The future of our scene is in their hands, and we can only guide them. If we don’t, we have failed…

Thanks for doing this interview. Before you go, do you have any words of wisdom that you want to say to your fans.

It’s been an absolute pleasure, thank you! For anyone out there considering getting into making music or even releasing music. Just do it! Put in the hard work it requires and you just might surprise yourself…

Words by Steve Howe and Keenan Kinnear.

Thanks to Warren at Plug Music Agency for arranging everything and for Keenan for doing the interview.