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Interviews

HammerFall (Joachim Cans)

by: ZOLTAN KONCSOK - 2006-10-17 19:30:32

email: zoltan(AT) metalexpressradio(DOT)com

Songs with this one

The new album followed Chapter V really quickly. Not even a year passed since its elease ...

There was such a big break between Crimson Thunder and Chapter V. It was almost three years. We felt that we had so many great ideas after we released Chapter V. We wanted to go on tour and then start writing as soon as possible. We felt we had really strong songs for the new album, and we felt like weíre also not following the original recipe when it comes to releasing an album in every second year. This was more like going back to when we released Glory To The Brave and Legacy of Kings followed it a year after.

Do you consider yourself quick writers?

Not really. I mean we donít write anything on tour. I guess Oscar comes up with some ideas while weíre on tour, but thatís not recorded. Usually it takes about six months for us to write an album and, of course, you always get really stressed out the closer you get to the start of the recording, and I think it was the same way this time around. I got the last song from Oscar to do vocals on a week before it was time to enter the studio, so you get kind of stressed out. But, somehow I think we all work much better under pressure. If you have too much time, you always postpone things ... ďOkay, Iíll do this tomorrow. Today Iíll go to see a movieĒ and all those types of diversions. Bu,t when you sit there and you have limited time, itís so much easier to focus and do what youíre supposed to do.

Your previous album had sort of a style change. How was that received by the HammerFall fans?

Very well, I would say. I think people really liked the new edge that we had on Chapter V. It was a little more raw, we dared to try some new elements without betraying the original style. Of course, youíll always find people who say it sounds exactly like Crimson Thunder, but obviously they didnít even listen to the album.

Did you also get favorable reviews from the media?

I think we got really good reviews everywhere. I donít think I actually read anything that was really bad. The majority of the media really liked the album and felt that it was a step in the right direction.

Speaking of reviews, how do you deal with criticism about the band?

In case of constructive criticism, if people criticize things that could be better, itís fine with me. But, if itís only based on personal judgement, maybe they donít like the genre at all or are just saying ďyou should go this and that directionĒ ... how can you tell someone else what to do? This is our music, our way to express ourselves. So, if I read a really bad review, I see if it really makes any sense or if it's just bullshit. If it makes sense, you might think about it, but on the other hand, we play the music we wanna play and we are really proud of what weíre doing.

Could you recall the best and the worst review you ever received?

The most memorable was from the first album. It was one of the biggest morning papers and they gave us 4 out of 5. They said something about our influences from Gamma Ray and Helloween, and then they said, ďItís just a matter of time until both Helloween and Gamma Ray will support HammerFall.Ē I was so proud of this, because it was our first album and we didnít even know what is going on in the real world. But, the worst one is probably the funniest one and I think it was Kerrang! from the UK. It was just a one sentence review of Legacy of Kings saying, ďThis sucks badly.Ē Itís very memorable and itís also very funny.

Chapter V was a slight change from the usual, but how does the new one compare?

I think this is much more unpolished and I think itís rawer than Chapter V in my opinion. It has a little more twist in the music and you might not get the album when you listen to it for the first time. You might find some new elements the second time you listen to it. Itís not a Progressive album or anything like that, but I think itís not that easy to grasp. So, I think we show a slightly different side of HammerFall.

Were these changes decided prior to writing the new album or did they just happen?

I think the only way to write music and to make sense to yourself is to stay true to yourself and kind of write from the heart. Just compose the music you have inside. I think itís just the matter of natural progress. If you sit down and make too many plans, and if you decide ďwe should do this, we should do that,Ē then you can really hear that the music is not true. You wonít feel the joy of music anymore. So, itís just a natural progression, no planning or anything behind it.

And how about the lyrics?

No planning whatsoever. I have no idea actually what theyíre all about. (Laughs) Just kidding. It feels like I left the warriors and the templars and the battles behind me a little bit. The songs are describing the same things, but in a different way. The importance is to stay true to yourself. The songs have a big variety, theyíre about different things. ďNatural HighĒ is about a vampire. ďShadow EmpireĒ is a dark futuristic story. I think the lyrics on the new album are a little darker than before. I mean the feeling that I get when Iím done with a song is what Iím actually describing.

What would be your favorite song musically and also lyrically?

Actually itís the same song for both. ďDark Wings, Dark Words,Ē because I think I did my best vocal performance ever on that song. Also, the lyrics on that one are really intense, and also itís a great story, in my opinion. Itís about not to believe anything others are saying to you. If someone tells you something, you might just stop for a little while and think ďCan this be true?Ē

What's your favorite song by HammerFall throughout the history of the band?

That is impossible to say, but thereís of course one song that people demand to hear live, and this is the song that we ended our last tour with, and of course itís ďHearts on Fire.Ē

Last time you had a rather long album title and now itís a shorty ...

Well, it just ended up like that. I think itís a cool thing not to make it too complicated, because the previous album had a really long title, and, of course, people need to memorize that. This time, the title is also a track on the album and Threshold to me is kind of where HammerFall is right now. Next year, weíll have our 10th anniversary with HammerFall as a recording artist, and you donít really know whatís waiting in the next decade.

Actually, you have a new labelmate at Nuclear Blast called Threshold.

Yes, thatís right. Iíve heard about that today. So, hopefully theyíll release an album called HammerFall. (Laughs) That would be funny. I havenít heard them yet, but I know that theyíve been around for a while. I might have listened to them when I was at a record store 9-10 years ago, but honestly Iím not really following the music scene anymore, because when youíre so much into what youíre doing yourself, you donít have the time anymore to check things out.

Mentioning the label ... howís the relationship?

Like an old couple. We have our fights, we are close to a divorce, but then we fix things and weíre back. Itís really happier than ever. Now itís almost ten years and I think itís based on mutual respect. They really respect us for what weíre doing, they donít interfere in the songwriting at all. That makes it so much easier to really present exactly what you want to present. For the new album and the album before that, they never heard it until it was done. So, we have a really good relationship and I donít see a point in changing labels for the future.

Charlie Bauerfeind produced the album again. Why is he that special for HammerFall and many other bands?

Charlie is a great producer. He knows how to handle different types of musicians. Some people have a problem getting told what to do and they can freak out totally. Charlie knows how to push the right buttons. Especially with me as a singer, we have a great way of working together, and Iíd have a hard time seeing myself working with anyone else. Also, Charlie understands our music and he knows how to make the band better and how to make HammerFall sound even more like HammerFall.

Do you like any of the other bands he produces?

Well, I donít really listen to that much stuff anymore. Iíve heard one song from the new Blind Guardian album, and now heís getting back again with Saxon. I mean Saxon sounds like Saxon, Blind Guardian sounds like Blind Guardian, so he knows how to keep the originality.

Are you going to release a single prior to the album?

Sure. ďNatural HighĒ is the single, and if you listen to it, itís not an obvious HammerFall single, because that song doesnít have the typical chorus and hookline.

How did you decided on this song to release as a single?

To me, there were no other options. I felt this song was the ideal single song. Itís uptempo, itís high on energy, and it has a very strong chorus even though it doesnít have this obvious hookline.

Will it feature any other songs?

Yeah. On the single thereíll also be ďThe Fire Burns ForeverĒ ... the one we did a video for for the European Athletic Championships. There's a special version with one of the athletes singing with me. The video of that song is also on the single, and also, thereís the live version of ďRaise the Hammer.Ē

How did you get involved with this sport thingy?

We already did a curling video for the Winter Olympics some time ago, and everything started already back there. That video was a huge success. The public relations company behind that video asked one of the sponsors of one of the best high jumpers of the world, Kajsa Bergqvist, and they wanted to do something with her and some other guys as well. And, since we were so helpful the first time around, they asked if we wanted to be part of this. We said, ďYeah, why not?Ē because some of us in this band are totally addicted to sports and weíre fans of these athletes. They wanted us to look for some songs that we could use for this, but we wanted to write a completely new song for this event. That is how the whole thing got started. Then we had a lot of problems, because we were entering the studio in Denmark to record the album and at the same time we had to go back to Stockholm, Sweden to shoot the video. But, it was really cool.

You also performed this song at the opening ceremony of the European Champs. How did that feel playing in front of that many people?

Just before we hit the stage, I went up the stairs at this big square in Gothenburg and I looked down the avenue and there were 100,000 people, and we also knew that we had the cameras right on us and there were 54 countries broadcasting this event. But, as soon as I went up on stage, and the song started, I didnít care about it, because when you are so into what you are doing, you want to perform and do something really good. Iíve never seen an opening ceremony in any sport event where you had a Heavy Metal band playing on stage. So, after this 15 minutes of pretentious crap of Symphonic Orchestra, everybody was sleeping in their chair. Then we came with pyrotechnics and we had a lot of fun. To top things off, we had this Hurdles guy, Robert Kronberg (110 meters Hurdles athlete), who came on stage and sang with me. So, you could see the people going crazy in the crowd, and it was a great honor.

Do you see yourself making even more sport-related music in the future?

Weíve already done that actually. (Laughs) We just finalized an intro for one of the ice hockey teams in the Swedish Elite League. When thereís two minutes before the players enter the ice, this intro will start in the stadium. I think thatís a cool thing, especially that they are my favorite team, Mora IK (Mora Ishockeyklubb).

What are your favorite sports besides ice hockey, which is a national thing in Sweden. (Laughs)

Yes, it is. (Laughs) I used to be a swimmer, so I love to watch swimming. And, for many years, I saw a lot of my old friends at the Olympics and World Championships. I also like football of course, but after this yearís World Championship, I really lost interest. It was the worst Iíve ever seen. There were only really boring games. Iím a little bit into tae kwon do and any sports on TV, track and field and high jumping I love to watch. I love to play badminton and tennis, but not to watch it. Too boring on TV.

Yeah, itís not the same anymore like when Stefan Edberg was playing ...

Yeah, those were the days. (Laughs) Now, itís only about the serve. If you serve well, you win. If not, you lose.

What can we expect this or next year touring-wise from HammerFall?

Itís more like next year, because the European tour is planned to start in early January. We might do 5-6 weeks of touring, which is quite a big tour this time around. We have some dates confirmed, but I donít want to get into details yet.

Now that you have a lot of albums with so many great songs, how can you pick the setlist?

I donít know. Itís impossible, because now all of a sudden we have to remove some of the old songs. We already had a problem the last tour picking songs, so I guess you can imagine the problem for the next tour. But, I think itís a good problem, it would be worse to be on stage for two hours with not enough songs to play.

Can fans expect more solo and side projects from HammerFall members?

Not in the next one and half years, because there are too many things to do with HammerFall, and personally I donít want to focus on anything else as long as weíre working so hard with the band. But, I have some new songs done already for my next album, so if thereís time then Iím gonna record it next year.

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