Interview with Andre Andersen (Royal Hunt)

Royal Hunt may well have just released the best album of their career. Mick Burgess chatted with mainman Andre Andersen about the making of A Life To Die For and reuniting with singer, DC Cooper.

You’ve just released your latest album A Life To Die For. How do you feel now that it’s out?

I’m relieved!! When you’re working so closely on a project that when it’s finally done and it’s finally out there it’s like your kids growing up. I’m so pleased that it’s finally out and the reviews so far have been great. It’s been worth all the hard work we’ve put into making this record. I’m really happy.

It’s been hailed as your best since Paradox and maybe your best ever. How do you see the album sitting alongside your previous work?

Quite a few people have compared it to Paradox. It’s difficult for me to compare them as the latest one is still so fresh so it’s difficult for me to be objective but I’d like to think it’s up there with our best work. Ask me in a year and I can give you a better answer.

How do you see this as a progression from Show Me How To Live?

We have been around for over 20 years and we’re now entering the third decade of Royal Hunt. I don’t think we’ve changed things a lot. We have done some experimental albums in the past but this time we’ve taken things only a little further. We didn’t do anything radical like a Rap or a Metal album. When we started work I suggested expanding a little bit on what we have done. We’ve made bigger use of classical instruments. We have used them before but just for atmospheric effect for a couple of bars but this time we wanted to get a larger group of musicians. I wanted to give them parts like a guitar has a part and have them there all the time so they became more a part of the music and expanded the sound of Royal Hunt. It’s become bigger but more organic so I think it’s very interesting in that sense.

When did you start the writing process?

We started recording during the summer so we started in the spring just after our last tour although I did have a couple of songs ready before the tour. It took about four months to write the songs. I then worked on writing the orchestral score followed by some rehearsals. There were about 16 people all in all to work with so the recording took a little longer than normal. It usually takes about three months or something but this time it was closer to four months maybe a little longer. It was definitely worth it.

When you have written the songs, how do you then bring those ideas to the rest of the band?

I usually do a demo and play most of the parts mainly on the keyboard and guitar and I also use a drum machine. The songs are pretty much finished in demo form with all the verses, choruses and bridges in place. By now, I know the guys I am playing with so know their preferences and how they work and it’s easy for me to imagine how the guitars will go as Jonas has a particular sound and style. 90% of the music is already there but when we meet each other all the time socially on weekends so it’s easy for us to discuss ideas and develop the songs further before we record them. It might go on for a month or so of fine tuning the music after discussing ideas between us. They can consider the song with a fresh point of view as I’ve been living with the ideas for a long time and we can develop the songs further. We also do some improvising in the studio if Jonas has an idea for a solo or suggests changing a riff. It’s not like I sit down and write a score and tell everybody what to do. I write a lot of the music but everyone helps with arrangements and improve the ideas.

The title track is quite possibly the most grandiose and dramatic song you have ever written. Is this the culmination of the Royal Hunt vision for you?

I think so. The first song, “Hell Comes Down From Heaven” and the title track are probably the songs that really represent what Royal Hunt is about. We needed a song to open the album that showed everything and all the elements that would be on the album from the huge choir, the string section and the brass section. The song became more and more elaborate and it’s a great way to open the album. “A Bullet’s Tale” was originally going to open the album as it’s powerful and up-tempo but someone suggested “Hell Comes Down To Heaven” and I thought that was a good shout. We’ll probably open the show with that too. The title track, which closes the album, built on that and just took everything even further so there’s more choirs and orchestras and everything is bigger and better. I think that brings the album to a great climax.

The album contains only 7 songs. Do you think it’s better that way than filling a CD just for the sake of it?

Some of my favourite albums ever aren’t very long. Something like Rainbow Rising is quite short. It can’t be much longer than half an hour. That’s not the point though. We don’t sit and count the minutes. There’s just some point when you feel that it’s done. By the time we’d done the last track I knew it was all there and didn’t need to go any further as that may have detracted from what we’d done. I had a bunch of other songs that I could have recorded but they didn’t fit. I have some albums that fill up a whole CD and you can’t remember the last few songs. I didn’t want that to happen with this album. I wanted to maintain a high quality throughout and not just fill the album up just for the sake of it.

Does self-producing ensure that your vision is captured exactly how you want it?

It was never something I had intended to do. It started out of necessity. I’d been working in studios a few years before Royal Hunt so I was well qualified to do it. After the first album our record label asked if we’d like to work with an outside producer. I thought “why not?”, it’s easier that way as the pressure can be crazy writing, recording and producing as well. We tried out a few different producers, maybe playing a few songs or just talking for a while and it just didn’t work out. One of the other guys asked why we just couldn’t do it ourselves and everybody felt great about it so I did the second record. Then it became a habit. I had found our sound then and knew what worked and everybody was comfortable with the way I worked so it just made sense for me to continue producing the albums.

You’re playing a couple of shows here in the UK in March. Are you looking forward to playing over here?

I’m very much looking forward to playing in the UK. We haven’t played there much at all. I think we’ve played at the Underworld in London and at the Firefest Festival in Nottingham. This time when we come over we’ll be playing at Sheffield for the first time. On this tour we’ll be playing in China and Japan and all over Europe and we’ll be playing in Australia for the first time and we’ll have some time in South America. We hope that maybe we can come back to the UK later in the year and play some more shows. We’ll see how it works out.

Will you be doing material only from the DC Cooper era or will you cover other albums too?

No, no. We did that before. This is our third tour with DC back in the band. The first one was like a test pilot and we played a few shows in Russia and Japan and we played only songs from DC’s period. We did a second tour including songs from outside of that period. We have a bunch of great songs that John West and Mark Boals sang on. Every time we have a new singer everyone always seems interested in how they’ll sing this song and that song. Not every song is suitable for his voice. We’ve picked ones that are in his range and he sings them really well.

Have you thought about the set list yet?

We’re discussing songs for this tour at the moment. There’s a bunch of songs that we have to play. There’s 5 or 6 that we have to do. Nobody will leave unless we play “Message To God”. We look at what people are saying on Facebook and across social media and see what they want to hear. We then have a third list of songs that we each want to play and we try to pick some from that list too. Sometimes on this list there’ll be songs we’ve never played before or haven’t done for a very long time and they might not be everybody’s favourite but they are songs we like to play. We’ll play our greatest hits, songs the fans want to hear and also songs that we as a band like to play. We spread those throughout the set list and sometimes they become regulars and sometimes they disappear but it keeps us on our toes and gives a good, well balanced set list. We’ll hopefully have songs from each era of the band.

Talking of DC Cooper. He is now back in Royal Hunt after being away for almost 14 years. How did you reconnect with each other?

We didn’t have a masterplan. I was happy with Mark Boals in the band. I realised after we’d done the second album with him, he was very much in demand. He was touring and recording with other people. He had a lot of projects on the go. We tried to organise a tour after we’d done the album and it didn’t work out. I called him and said that we should be out playing. Alan, our drummer, was in touch with DC and he suggested talking to DC and asking him to come and play some of the old songs again on a little tour. I thought why not. I called him and asked if he’d like to do it for a little fun with no obligation. He was up for it and we did a few shows and it worked out great. The record company then started asking for an album and promoters were getting in touch. I called Mark and explained the situation to him. He had plenty of his own stuff to do and he was really cool about us working with DC again. We did two great albums with Mark and it was time to move on and we did Show Me How To Live with DC and did a bigger proper tour and it worked out so well so A Life To Die For was such a logical progression for us.

Did it seem like 14 years had passed since last played together?

It was almost scary. We just started talking as if 14 years hadn’t passed. We just picked up at exactly the same level as we were at all those years ago. We started discussing songs, what we’d be playing and this and that. It was great to see him again after so long. The first song we played together was “1348” and when DC started singing we were back in ’97 again.

In the intervening years you had John West and Mark Boals. You seem to have the ability to pick great singers for Royal Hunt. What do you look for in a singer when you are looking for one to join your band?

I don’t know what it is, maybe I have an ear for a good singer or something. When we were looking for a singer to replace our original singer Henrik, DC was recommended to us by a few people. I could imagine him singing some of the songs; he had such a smooth yet powerful voice. I could imagine him in Royal Hunt so we made contact and we did two great albums together. When DC left we were sent so many CD’s of singers, some of them well-known names. It was incredible. When I listened to John’s I heard an early Artension ballad and it was incredible. John came over to play with us and he was such a nice guy and we just gelled after a couple of hours. I felt as though I’d already known him for a few years. We had a great run with John for 8 years. I think John grew tired of all the travel. He’d just had a little girl and he wanted to spend more time with his family. I understood that and then Mark Boals came into the picture. He’d just come back into the music business after being away for a few years and he was looking for a stable band to tour and record. We were looking for a great singer. He sent me a few tracks of when he was with Yngwie Malmsteen and some other stuff. He was a really special singer, not your usual type of singer; he had a unique voice that I thought would really work in Royal Hunt. I sent him a couple of tracks and I could see straight away there was a lot of potential for us. We started working together and he was so easy to work with. He was almost perfect. He had such a special sound to his voice, I liked it very much. We did two albums together and a tour and it was great but like I said earlier, it came to an end and we came full circle with DC again. I would work anytime again with John and Mark, they were both a real pleasure to work with and they’re both really nice guys. We still speak and from time on the phone or on Skype. I would love to work with both of them at some point. It’s great to have DC back again. I’m really enjoying working together with him again. I’ve been lucky to have worked with so many great singers.

What about a solo project? Would you like to do a large scale project with a host of guests?

I have done a couple of solo albums in the past but I really don’t have time to do anything like that at the moment. I have started doing some soundtrack work and it’s become a kind of hobby of mine. I knew a couple of people in the industry and usually it starts off small but I went straight into dong music for documentaries on television. It’s kind of cool to be able to get away from loud guitars and drums for a while and do something completely different. Maybe if I get a longer break in the future then I could do a solo album but I’m just too busy at the moment.

What have you got planned for 2014?

We are planning on touring right through to October and I’ve already seen some in for 2015 and our record company Frontiers, are thinking about shooting a DVD of this tour so we’ll be working out where we can film it and what crew to get to do it. There’s also the possibility that we’ll start working on a new album sometime this year too.

Royal Hunt’s latest album A Life To Die For is out now on Frontiers Records.

Royal Hunt play two shows in the UK:

5th March: Camden Underworld, London

6th March: The Corporation, Sheffield

For more on Royal Hunt visit


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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