“We’re still sort of finding our stage presence, though. But the music is on the nuts; no one will be disappointed on that front.” – Sam Rhode
By Austin Kaus
The Minneapolis band Magneto Effect is Jeph Joolik’s brainchild. Looking for an outlet for his songs, Joolik started to work with local Minneapolis producer/engineer/drummer David J. Russ and enlisted the “occasional help” of notable Minneapolis musicians. As the album developed, Joolik put together a fully-formed band. The first to join with Joolik was guitarist and former Yankton resident Sam Rhode. Rhode’s experience with music ranging from folk (he was a member of dark-folk band Megonia, a group that included Tyndall natives Carolyn Koenig Gleason and Maureen Koenig McFarlane) to death metal. Now a solid band, Magneto Effect is releasing their debut EP “Nothing.” Here, Joolik and Rhode discuss the creation of Magneto Effect, musical influences, and Sam’s dog.
AK: Sam, you are originally from South Dakota. How did you go from South Dakota to Minneapolis?
SR: Pretty simple. I wanted to play original music for actual audiences, and you can’t do that in South Dakota. Not even in a college town like Vermillion, really; if you’re not a four-set cover band, you find most doors closed. At least that’s how it was back around the turn o’ the millennium. I got tired of “Sweet Home Alabama” and the like, so I split.
AK: Break down your musical history.
SR: I’ve been playing guitar for 25 years. I started playing in original bands in high school (with brilliant names like Bleeeargh and Morgue Rats). I went to college at USD, where I kept playing, graduating to names like Meatbomb and Flatt Earth. The music got increasingly weirder and more complicated. When I was 26, I moved to Minneapolis and started an even weirder, more complicated band called Sacred Ground (Beef). We kicked around the Cities for several years, playing anywhere that would tolerate us. From there, I moved on to Sirens of Titan, which was my most successful band. It was simpler stuff, relatively speaking, seeking to mine a sort of Black Sabbath/Soundgarden kind of vein. We had a four-year run, then folded for the usual reasons. During Sirens, I had joined a folk group called Megonia, and met Jeff, who was putting together Magneto Effect.
AK: When and how did Magneto Effect come together?
SR: (The band) formed about two years ago. The band was basically put together by Jeph Joolik. He had been recording his own songs for the better part of a decade, and was to the point where he wanted to perform the material live.
AK: How do the musical interests of each member help guide the overall sound?
JJ: We are an eclectic group coming from a various musical genres, punk, metal, funk, (and) jazz. Magneto Effect is how it sounds when that all gets put into a blender.
SR: Our personal interests certainly influence what each of us does with a particular song. Speaking for myself, I find myself drawing a lot from Iron Maiden, of all places. They wrote the best guitar melodies in the history of ever, and since my role in this band is more of a lead/melody guitarist, I find myself thinking “What would Maiden do with this chord progression?” quite a bit. It’s interesting, because the underlying music is nothing like Maiden, so it’s a bit of a re-contextualization, one that works surprisingly well.
AK: Sam, I heard you’re a vinyl guy. What’s the best record you bought this year? Favorite record ever?
SR: Best record this year? There’ve been so many. Orchid’s “The Mouths of Madness” is a recent favorite. They’re more Sabbath than Sabbath.
AK: My first impression of your record was that it had a real mid-late 90s vibe. Does this surprise you? Was this something the band was consciously shooting for?
JJ: We write what we like and don’t pay much attention to what date or genre it fall under. I guess we’re not too surprised.
SR: With the exception of “Embrace,” all these songs were written prior to my joining the band. I’ve always thought of it as a mix of 80s and 90s.
AK: What was putting this record together like?
JJ: Many of the songs game together quickly and just formed organically. However, “Flight Plan” was really tough. We liked the intro guitar thing and the chords over the chorus, but the chorus melody was never quite right. One morning dressed in my underwear in the basement of my house, I took a stab at the chorus and just winged it. That was the foundation for the chorus ever since.
SS: I added some guitar parts here and there, but “Embrace” is the one where I really was part of the process from the ground up. Not surprisingly, it has more of my guitar work than any other track. Putting the record together took time, but I can’t really point to a single challenge.
AK: What is a typical Magneto Effect show like?
JJ: We like to mix our live show with multimedia. We tend to focus on the music and worry less about choreography, but it is a rock-n-roll show.
SR: Hmmm. We haven’t played many shows, so I’m not sure if I can call anything about it “typical” yet. They’re high energy, and flow well because we actually rehearse our set to the point where we’re not leaving a bunch of dead air between songs. We’re still sort of finding our stage presence, though. But the music is on the nuts; no one will be disappointed on that front.
From left, Rhode, Jean Bardot (professional model and dominatrix), Bob Johnston (drums), Mike Shephard (keys), Joolik and Chip Barber (bass)/ Photo by Jim McFarlane
AK: What shows do you have coming up? Any tour plans? Any plans to visit South Dakota?
SR: Our next show is Saturday, May 24, at Icehouse in Minneapolis, with All the Pretty Horses. We have no immediate tour plans, though I’d be open to it. Playing in South Dakota would depend on being able to find good venues, ones that would be interested in original music. I’ve been gone long enough that I’m kind of out of the loop.
AK: As a Yankton guy, it only seems logical for you to play Riverboat Days. Any plans for that?
SR: I’d be down. No immediate plans though.
AK: What’s the future of Magneto Effect?
SR: Unwritten. Hopefully, a lot more live shows. We also want to do a second release by the end of the year, one that will feature primarily songs that have been written as a band.
AK: Final question: Sam, I heard you got a dog. What did you get? How’s that going?
SR: He’s a big black German Shepherd. His name is Chief. He’s 6. He looks evil from a distance but he’s not.
AK: So it’s going well?
SR: It’s going great. He hasn’t eaten the cat or the neighbors.
To hear, download, or purchase a vinyl copy of the album, go to magnetoeffect.bandcamp.com. The band’s video for “Kaboom” will be shown at the upcoming Twin Cities International Film Festival on April 19 at the Best Buy Northrop Theater.