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Something For The Ages


Архив интервью | Русская версия

Over the past 10 years we have done quite a few interviews with various members of Hammerfall, both in person and by phone, both with current ones and the ones who are no longer in the band. But as guitarist Oscar Dronjak himself puts it, one of the things he’s most proud of about Hammerfall is its consistency. The band keeps on releasing good albums, thus, there’s still interest in the people behind the music, thus, here we are once again, briefly getting together with Oscar backstage at Tochka Club in Moscow, where Hammerfall came to play for the second time in its history. Read on to find more about the band’s current line-up, details about the recording of the latest album “No Sacrifice, No Victory”, and Oscar’s TV and sports experiences…

What are your impressions from your yesterday’s performance in Ukraine? And what do you remember best from your show here in Tochka Club three years ago?

From the last time we were here, two things come to mind. The first thing and the only thing I do remember really well is the very loud audience. This is a really good place to play, because you get really close to the fans, and the stage is high enough so that everybody can see what you’re doing onstage. I film the shows sometimes from the mixing desk, we just put up a camera for my own sake, and one of the songs – I don’t remember which one – people were singing so loud that you almost couldn’t hear the music. (everybody laughs) It’s a really good memory. As to Ukraine – there was a festival, so it’s much more open, but the audience was incredible there as well. I really didn’t know, we’d never been there, and it was a lot of fun. They started shouting “Hammerfall” long before we were going onstage. I was really surprised, and I’m really happy with that show.

You’ve done quite a lot of festival appearances this summer – was there anything special happening there? Or were they more or less regular shows the way you usually play them?

There were a couple of special moments this time. In Germany, we did Rock am Ring and Rock im Park, which was the first time for us, and it’s not a traditional metal festival, so it was special. We also headlined Bang Your Head in Balingen – it’s a big festival, and it was really cool for us to headline that festival. It’s also important because we played there on the first tour that we did with Gamma Ray in 1997. Back then we played on Bang Your Head 2, and now it’s like... I don’t know how many times. This time at Bang Your Head we played “Man On The Silver Mountain”, a Rainbow song, we recorded that in 1998, and released it on some single, later it was on the “Masterpieces” compilation. And the original singer of Hammerfall is not Joacim (Cans) actually, it’s Mikael Stanne from Dark Tranquillity. They were playing right after us on Bang Your Head, so he joined us for “Man On The Silver Mountain” onstage and sang that. This was really cool.

Hammerfall is known for having close connections to sports – Joacim was a swimmer, Oscar and Andres (Johansson, drummer) learned taekwondo, and the whole band recorded an anthem for the Swedish curling team that won the Olympic games under it. Apart from what mentioned above, what are your favorite sports? Do you find time to go for them? Do you watch sports on TV regularly?

I train taekwondo still. I do that about two or three times a week, it depends on what schedule we have. I really like that, it’s perfect for me. You don’t have to worry about breaking your hands or fingers, because that would obviously be a problem, as I’m a guitar player, but we have gloves when we try. It’s very all-round training for your whole body, it’s not just kicking, it’s everything. Anders is doing karate now. He also did taekwondo for a couple of years, but he switched to karate. I think he’s done this for a year now.

But karate is pretty dangerous, you can easily break something…

Yes, they don’t have anything on, there are just fists. But he’s still on a fairly low level. Sometimes he says that it hurts. (laughs)

Oscar, you took part in physical game show Wipeout on Swedish TV this spring. What is this show about, and what are your impressions?

Oh, it was terrible! (everybody laughs) You run through an obstacle course, and if you fall down, you fall down into water all the time, and you have to swim to the next thing. I was falling down all the time, so I had to swim a lot. By the time I came to the finish, that turned out the most physically exhausting thing that I’ve ever done in my life. It took me three or four minutes, I don’t know how long it was, but I was not in a very good shape then. I’d been sick for two weeks before that, so I didn’t get my physical training. I was actually pretty bad at that show. I think if I did it again, I would be much better now. But it was fun, it was an experience for sure. The show is really tough, the first round is basically designed so that you’re going to fall, because it makes a good TV thing, that’s the whole idea. But when you go through the first round to the quarterfinals and semifinals, it’s much more of a physical competition, it’s much tougher. The first round was like a game, seeing you fall is the funniest thing, and everybody falls in the first round. Then you advance from that, but I didn’t advance. On the other hand, I got a couple of days of vacation for free in Argentina, so I’m not complaining! (everybody laughs)

You were playing with the same line-up for nearly a decade, and then two band members left and had to be replaced. How much have the atmosphere in the band and the feelings on stage changed with the arrival of Pontus Norgren (guitar) and Fredrik Larsson (bass)?

It’s completely different both on- and offstage. Like you said, we had the same line-up for about a decade, and if you’re with the same person, as it is in case with a girlfriend or boyfriend, for ten years, a lot of things are going to happen. You either grow together or you grow apart. I believe that, with Magnus especially, we grew apart. There were four people in one corner, and Magnus (Rosen, bass) was walking around doing his own things. He didn’t have the same interests as we do, we never connected on a personal level. But he left about a year before Stefan (Elmgren, guitar) did. Stefan, I think, was tired of all the traveling and just being in the band, he’d been in a band for a long time. Moreover, he had another dream, which was to become a pilot, and he did become a pilot. Now he wanted to work with that. He got a job offer he couldn’t refuse, and there you go… But I’m happy that this happened, because with the inclusion of Fredrik on bass and together with Pontus, I think we’re a unity now. I don’t think we were a unity for many years before that, maybe in the beginning, but I don’t think so either, not even then. Now it’s much more of a band that works together towards the same goal. It’s much more fun being the band.

So Stefan is still a pilot, right?


But how did it happen that he still plays on one song from “No Sacrifice, No Victory”?

Because we wanted him to! (everybody laughs) We thought it would be a good idea. He actually wrote that song (“Bring The Hammer Down”) together with Joacim, and that song was written and planned for the album before he left. We figured he might as well record it, and since we do it pretty close to Gothenburg, he came down to the studio and played guitar on it, just for fun.

By the way, why did you choose Pontus to be the new guitarist? What qualities made him the best man for the job?

We all knew him more or less. Some people knew him well, some people knew him a little less, but we had been on tour with Pontus the year before when he played with The Poodles, so we kinda knew what he was like on tour. Pontus is a great guitar player, and he fits in really well, those two are the most important things. Then Pontus has a great offside to him: he’s a sound guy for Opeth, he’s been for Europe, he’s been traveling with these bands and making sound for them. He knows how to make things better for us, too, so we benefited a lot from that knowledge.

As far as we understand, for most of the songs you write the music and Joacim writes the lyrics, but some times you writes the lyrics, too. How and why does this happen? Are these songs more personal than others?

Yeah, of course they are. The lyrics is where you can really get personal. I only do one song on each album, that’s a sort of the tradition, it started with the first album, and we just continue with it. Five times out of seven it has been a ballad that I write, and of course, it has been personal. I thing everybody has had some sort of problem with their relationship once or twice, so it’s easy to relate to that.

You have some very famous guest musicians on “No Sacrifice No Victory”. First of all, there is Jens Johansson on keyboards in the songs “Between Two Worlds” and “Something For The Ages”. How did it happen that you invited a guest keyboard player?

First of all, he’s a tremendous musician, and he’s also the brother of Anders. We wanted something like a real church organ, so we said, “This is the part with the notes and chords, play it in your style.” And the first time we got something from him, it sounded just like a church organ, he just played it the same way that a church organist plays. That was a bit too much for us, it was not what we wanted. (laughs) We asked him if he could tone it down a little bit, and I think the end result was perfect for the song, it really sets a mood for the rest of the song.

There are also some very famous backing vocalists on the album, including Biff Byford from Saxon and Nicky Moore of Samson/Tygers Of Pan Tang. How did you get them to sing on the album?

Charlie Bauerfeind, the producer that we use, has recorded Saxon as well, so he knows Biff. I don’t know how he got Nicky, maybe Biff knew Nicky or something. We also had Dave Hill from Demon. But that was only on “My Sharona”. They did a special version of “My Sharona”, those three with Joacim, each singing a part.

By the way, how much does Charlie contribute to your albums? Is he only “twisting the knobs”, so to say, or…?

(interrupts) Yeah. He doesn’t do anything creative basically… well, that’s not exactly true either. He’s involved in the drum recordings quite much to get the right feel for everything, if Anders is gonna play on the hi-hat or right cymbal, which I also am involved with. We do this together with Anders, of course. But as far as the musical side and songs are concerned, everything is already written before we’re going to the studio.

There is an old saying, “it is easier to reach the top than to remain on it”. Would you agree with it? Does it really get more difficult with the years to stay on top of your genre?

I’m sure that’s true. Let’s say 20-30 years from now, if we’re not doing Hammerfall still – but let’s hope not (knocks on the table three times) – the thing I would be most proud of is the consistency that we have had. We had quite a bit success early on, and then we stayed, we built on that and continued to climb. I think that’s one of the hardest things you can do. We were very fortunate that we could do this.

We guess you get asked a lot of times what do you think about Hammerfall’s influence on a new generation of heavy and power metal bands. Honestly we get an impression that there’s not much going on in this genre at the moment, when it comes to new bands. But do you personally listen to this new generation of heavy and power metal bands? Do you have any younger favorites?

Oh yeah, I certainly do, but maybe not so much in that genre. There’s one Swedish band called Cryonic, they have released one - or maybe two albums now, I’m not sure if the second one’s out yet. Their first album is called “Evil Mind”, and that’s the only one I’ve heard, but I think that’s a fantastic album. They could have used more time in the studio and perfected some things, but the general vibe of the music is very good. I think if you like Hammerfall, you will like this, it’s the same style. And I have to mention another band, Veins of Jenna, which is also a Swedish band, it’s more sleaze/rock’n’roll kind of thing, but it’s fantastic. I really like them!

Hammerfall on the Internet: http://www.hammerfall.net

Special thanks to Vera Dmitrieva (Spika Concert Agency) for arranging this interview

Interview by Roman Patrashov, Natalie “Snakeheart” Patrashova
Photos by Natalie “Snakeheart” Patrashova
September 4, 2010
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