Panicland: Behind The ‘Magnum Opus’ Prank

Panicland: Behind The ‘Magnum Opus’ Prank

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Before every Green Day album, fan-created “leaks” pop up everywhere – Reddit, 4chan, Instagram, etc – but this one was different. Most often fans debate the reasons a leak can’t be real, but in the case of the Magnum Opus Of The Inglorious Kind leak, fans wouldn’t stop believing it because they wanted it to be real. A Canadian band called Panicland created a prank so elaborate and convincing that there were some fans actually disappointed when Father Of All Motherfuckers, the real Green Day album, was announced.

So what was it that made fans want to believe so badly that this was all real? We interviewed the band for the story behind the prank, but first, let’s look back at where it all began.

The dr.robertdoback leaks

On September 1, 2019, an Instagram account with the handle “dr.roberdoback” (named after a character in the 2009 film Step Brothers), posted the first of four videos with the final one uploaded on September 6th. Fans were enamoured by the brief snippets but there was plenty of debate on their legitimacy.

It wasn’t until the final video was posted, which included a shot of the Magnum Opus cover, that fans really thought this could be something. The same cover in the video had been mysteriously leaked out by the Panicland on September 3rd so the connection for fans was easy to make that Green Day were deliberately revealing secret teasers for their upcoming album.

Magnum Opus Of The Inglorious Kind

With the leaked song clips featuring a choir and rousing choruses, fans were already excited for what sounded like a very ambitious album. Though some questioned the legitimacy of the song clips the leak of the album cover (below at left), featuring the grandiose title Magnum Opus Of The Inglorious Kind, had even the most hardened skeptics at least wanting to believe. On September 4th I wrote about the leaks for the first time in what would become one of the most viewed stories I’ve ever written, but the Magnum Opus story would unravel just two days later.

“We might have been bamboozled”

Those were the words of Reddit user IHadThisUsername who compiled fan research into a post on r/GreenDay that proved pretty conclusively that Magnum Opus was an elaborate hoax by the band Panicland. A sharp-eared fan had noticed audio clips in the dr.robertdoback leaks matched audio from a video posted on Billie Joe Armstrong’s personal Instagram account on May 27, 2018, where he meets none other than Panicland.

 

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A post shared by Billie Joe Armstrong (@billiejoearmstrong) on

Coming Clean

While that should have been the end of it, for months there have been fans continuing to believe Magnum Opus Of The Inglorious Kind is real. The fan theory was that Magnum Opus would be issued independently sometime in 2020 after their Reprise Records contract expires with the February 7th release of Father Of All Motherfuckers.

Things were finally cleared up when Green Day tour manager Bill Schneider linked the video below on the GDC Forums which had been sent to him by Panicland in hopes he would show it to Green Day. The video features Panicland not only confessing to the prank but showing how they pulled it off, finally putting an end to the fan speculation.

The Interview

Braedon Horbacio, guitarist and vocalist of Panicland, was kind enough to answer some questions about how this prank was carried out.

GDF: How did the idea of the prank come about?

BH: For like two years we always thought it would be fun to make a fake Cigarettes & Valentines album, just because that’s sort of like a lost era of Green Day, but you can kind of imagine what it would’ve sounded like (Too Much Too Soon, The Pedestrian – basically the American Idiot sound with power pop, Maria-esque songwriting) but never got around to doing it. I was at the airport heading to Halifax when I saw that original track listing leak last July and thought it would be way more fun to make a fan fiction album using those titles – that way we can sort of combine the sounds of our favourite eras. So on the plane, I wrote most of “Rome”.

GDF: How long did it take to put everything together?

BH: I was sort of just casually writing a bunch of songs using those titles over the last summer and leaking them wasn’t part of the plan at that point. Then once we started recording them in August we thought, hey lets put these up as leaks and see what happens. All the little details that you see in the video were all planned out a few days before we posted the first leaks. One possible problem that could lead to the leaks being debunked would lead to a new idea that we’d incorporate into the whole thing and that would just repeat until it seemed solid.

GDF: You mention in your explanation video that you recorded songs based on a fake tracklist found on 4chan, how many songs did you end up recording in full? 

BH: We recorded about 5 or 6 full songs (there are a lot of alternate versions). We started recording all of them but only continued with the ones we were most into. People wonder “why waste the time?”, but I don’t know how to classify something as a “waste of time” when writing music. Usually people consider anything that doesn’t make money a waste of time, but those same people will also say “oh you’re just doing X for money”, so I generally just think it’s ridiculous to think in those terms at all.

GDF: How much did putting this prank together cost? It was pretty elaborate and included studio recording which is what sold it for a lot of people thinking nobody would go to such lengths.

BH: Oh yeah haha, I read so many comments where people were saying stuff like “someone must have a lot of money to spend” and things like that but we did it all for under $100. We didn’t really record the songs in the studio that you see in the leak videos – we rented it out for an hour to shoot the leak videos and recorded the actual music at home. We did the mixing and mastering ourselves, so that saves a few thousand. And making the fake vinyl was cheap and easy – we printed the album art at Staples for like $10 and we just glued it onto an old record, haha. The stack of records was actually a stack of cardboard cutouts and we printed a big sheet of only the album art edges, cut those out, glued them onto the cardboard cutouts, and arranged them in a way so you could only see the edges sticking out of the stack in the album cover leak photo.

GDF: Another selling point for the prank was Billie’s tattoos on the fake Magnum Opus cover, they were pretty well done. Did you do the cover editing yourselves or have someone else do it?

BH: Haha, thanks! We did that one ourselves too. They’re such a big band that it’s relatively easy to find pictures of their tattoos from every angle possible (this band likes to take their clothes off a lot).

GDF: The album title had a lot of people excited, along with the song clips with the choir, making people believe they were in for some epic ‘Jesus Of Suburbia’ type songs. Who came up with the title and what inspired it?

BH: I came up with the album title, almost as an afterthought. I was pretty obsessed with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood at the time (we’d all go see it every Tuesday haha) and read that Quentin Tarantino shipped the movie to theatres under the name “Magnum Opus”, so I put that in a list of song titles I keep on my phone. “Inglorious Kind” was an unrelated title that happened to be next on the list, so I just put them together when I was exporting one of the songs and to to save it as something. It just stuck but sounded better as an album name.

GDF: A hint that the album was fake was the re-use of the God’s Favorite Band font on the cover, was that intentional?

BH: That was a mistake. Another weird thing with that is how one of the fans asked one of the guys who designed some of Green Day’s album covers about the Magnum Opus cover and he told them it was an alternative “God’s Favourite Band” cover. My guess is that it’s pretty normal for a band to have multiple people try multiple designs for album covers, and he would know that, so he probably assumed it was another designers pitch and that the font was chosen by the band ahead of time and sent to everyone designing possible album covers. It felt like an album name a band like Green Day could put out when they’ve reached legend status and don’t need to prove themselves, but still have that fire. Sorry for the cheesy explanation, but that’s what I think.

GDF: It didn’t take long for a fan to remember the Instagram post where you met Billie Joe and put together that the audio from that was in one of the Magnum Opus studio clips. Was that meant to be a hint for fans and were you surprised at how quickly they both noticed that and figured out the clips were recorded in a studio in Canada?

BH: Yes! That was very impressive. To be honest, we didn’t think the leaks would take off the way they did – we thought a few people would see them, assume they’re fake and move on. So when the fans started to reeeally go deep with their investigation I knew someone would eventually either recognize the Billie Joe audio or recognize the studio.

GDF: While disappointed, most fans moved on at that point but some just refused to believe it wasn’t real. What made you finally come forward and admit to the prank?

BH: We weren’t going to ever say anything. I think it would’ve been way cooler if it went on to be an unsolved mystery, even if we don’t get credit for it – that’s not what it was about. We originally made the video explaining the leaks purely for Green Day so they would know this wasn’t intended as anything except fun as fans (a lot of people thought we were doing it for different reasons). We didn’t expect that Dropbox link to be public, so when it started getting shared around we had no choice but to let everyone else in on it.

GDF: Have you had any backlash from Green Day fans? I know people were pretty upset when it was originally figured out but it seems people have come around and appreciated both the music and the prank now.

BH: We got way more backlash before the video – when people were only speculating that we could be behind the leaks. Since they didn’t know our motive and that we were genuine about it, it could’ve looked vicious and clout chasey. But once they saw the video I think it was super clear that we’re just a bunch of Green Day fans like everyone else and it was purely out of love for the music and a form of album anticipation, just a very weird, uncommon form of anticipation.

GDF: Since you guys are big fans of Green Day, what are your thoughts on the songs that have been released so far from Father Of All Motherfuckers? While I’m a big fan of the first single, it’s been divisive for the fanbase along with the album cover itself. Because of that, some people really wanted to believe Magnum Opus was real.

BH: I look at their catalogue as sort of like a balancing act – they seem to do tight, snappy songs until they’ve gotten that fully out of their system and then jump over to the total opposite side of the spectrum and make more epic, theatrical stuff. Both are great. I honestly don’t care about individual album releases at this point – they have legit legacy now and it’s more about the timeline of their entire catalogue if that makes sense and in general, I don’t think music will be about albums and releases as much as it will be about artists offering an overall experience. But I do find it very cool that they’re doing 2 and a half minute songs because that’s clearly the future of music and Green Day is in on it early. I also find it very cool that they seem to be more single-oriented than album-oriented. That’s how the music industry used to be until Sgt Pepper, it’s nothing new… some of the greatest songs of all time were written within a single-oriented music industry.

GDF: What’s next for Panicland?

BH: For the next week, we’re going to continue finishing and dropping our favourites of the Green Day fan fiction album. We didn’t intend to (or else they would’ve been fully ready to go!), but we’ve been getting a lot of requests to release them, so we will. Plus I think it’s adding to the fun of the speculation. It’s not really about us, it’s more about the whole community. It’s just a fun thing.

You can check out the full Magnum Opus track’s that have been released by Panicland on their Soundcloud page.

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