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Interview conducted March 30 2022
Interview published April 8 2022

"If I would have just been at home sitting on my couch I wouldn't be the one I am."

Swedish retro rockers Hällas release their new album Isle Of Wisdom on April 8th and Metal Covenant were able to get some time with drummer Kasper Eriksson and guitarist Marcus Petersson.

Tobbe: Rock or hard rock as it used to be like. To what extent does that sentence fit the band Hällas?

Kasper: Well, pretty good. We have realized that it's there we are and where we function. I guess it's some kind of retro rock in a way.

Tobbe: Could it be difficult sometimes to be called retro? Even if that could also come out in a positive way.

Marcus: Well, we started out like that and just started writing. And everyone was almost only listening to, you know, old music, so it came pretty naturally. It has on the other hand never been a declared goal from us. We have never said that it was gonna sound a certain way.

Yet, sometimes we can say the opposite, like "Okay, now it sounds maybe too modern.", so surely we have at least a small framework to stay within, even if it's not declared so. I think most people hear, and also know, that we have influences from 2010 and 2020 as well.

(Kasper:) Yes, we would never get sad if someone called our music retro rock, you know. That would just be stupid. Then maybe we play the wrong kind of music and we wouldn't know what we were doing.

Tobbe: So how did you guys get into this music in the first place?

Kasper: Just going through parents' records, you know, We would find Iron Maiden and Rush and stuff like that. Then this interest continued as I got older and I tried to find artists that were more obscure and stuff like that. So I guess it got a bit nerdy in the end, and fun too.

(Marcus:) As a guitarist, and as a drummer too, I guess, it's more fun to play this and there's a chance to develop yourself and be a little more technical. Well, surely modern rock might be difficult to play as well, but my perception is that it's usually the standard rock chords and that it relies a lot on the vocals.

Tobbe: I think that Isle Of Wisdom maybe feels a bit cleaner than the previous albums.

Kasper: I have always looked at it as quite the opposite. [Laughs] You know, because we're coming from Conundrum that had quite a few synths and was very soundtrack inspired, while this one is in some way more hard rock-ish. But it's interesting to hear it from your perspective too.

(Marcus:) But I might agree, because it is a little bit airier, the new record. I guess we have tried to work with that in the rehearsal room, like maybe not going full throttle with the exact same stuff all the time, but instead giving one another a little bit more space. That's something we constantly work on and I think we learn how to improve that with every record.

Tobbe: Do you guys feel that you want to do something unique or is it just about making the best music you possibly can?

Marcus: Number 1 is that we personally must like what we're doing and then it has to be fun. Then it's rewarding if it comes out unique, but maybe we ask ourselves "What might this add? Why should we use it if it just sounds common?" and then we're like "Maybe we ought to swap this riff to something more special?".

Tobbe: What do you guys tell the listeners through the lyrics this time?

Kasper: Well, there's a new story starting now. The previous three records [1 EP + 2 LPs] have had the same concept, so to speak. This is a new story, which actually is in the same universe that we have created. It's partly about an island that has been created due to a comet hitting the earth.

Because of complex magical powers this island has in some way been protected from the rest of this world. The story takes off because some youngsters have to flee from their home town, which is under siege, and find a hidden way via a tree, which also functions as a portal into this world, during their flight.

A major part of the record is about what takes place on this island. How they meet, and how these people differ, and how they can partake with one another. Then this meeting doesn't work so well. But I can't tell you more now unless I wanna spoil the whole story.

Tobbe: When you write a long text and build a concept record it takes a lot more from the music as well. How are you able to glue those ingredients together?

Marcus: You know, it's helpful both ways. On one hand we can use a lot of the story or the texts we write, like in what way the music should sound like to reflect that. But also the music helps to create an atmosphere, like "Okay, then we have to write the lyrics like this." and describe that feeling.

(Kasper:) We try to do as much as we possibly can simultaneously, you know, so that the record and the lyrics develop together.

Tobbe: You're still on the concept of 7-8 songs and 43-44 minute albums. I would say that this is a conscious choice, or am I wrong and it's just a coincidence?

Marcus: I think it's probably more of a coincidence. It's the time there's room for on an LP, so I guess that's the limit we have. Perhaps also fortunately sometimes too. (Kasper:) This time we actually had to remove some stuff that there was no room for. So you always have to have in mind that on a vinyl record there is an absolute maximum room of 45 minutes, or you will have a record that sounds bad.

Tobbe: All your records are in the same style of music. I see it as difficult, but is it possible, hypothetically, to take this band to a different style of music? Or have you guys locked yourselves in in this department now?

Kasper: We have probably locked ourselves in to some extent. But anyhow I think we have chosen a type of music that lets us be pretty free with what we do. We don't have to only get inspiration from the '70s, but we do what we want, you know.

What we have said between us is that we can do what we want as long as it sounds like Hällas. But it's only we who decide what sounds like Hällas, so actually we're not locked in whatsoever.

Tobbe: Besides trying to put out as good music as you possibly can, what could you do to get a good share of listeners? Or is it almost impossible to get anywhere for a band of your generation?

Kasper: I actually don't know. It's really difficult. We don't really know where our place is either, but we just are where we are and try to get what we are given, you know. But I think it's just about making music that people like. Fortunately there are some people that like our music, and as long as that's the case we also get gigs, and our desire to do this keep going.

Tobbe: Most bands today say it's difficult to make any money by doing this and they do it on the side of their regular job. Of course you earn some money when you're playing live, but the real big money hasn't starting rolling it, and how much time and effort could you guys put into this if it doesn't really pay off in the end?

Kasper: Well, we have said that we will keep doing this as long as it's fun. And we still think it's fun and we all get something out of it by doing this. Not only creatively, but also we're not losing money on what we're doing. We try to run it so it's working for everyone, you know.

Then it's of course more stressful on some occasions and then sometimes it's less to do. But, in short, as long as we think it's fun… And naturally it would be rewarding if it would start going even better for us so we could start working half-time, or whatever.

(Marcus:) There's also an enticement, and almost like an addiction, because we see it grow all the time, and as long as it's doing that… Even if it's really fun to make music, but if it completely stagnate for maybe 10 years, then perhaps we're not so eager to do it anymore. Or maybe we are.

Tobbe: Yes, seeing the numbers grow is a great attraction, I guess.

Kasper: We get statistics for everything, where we see how many followers we've got, and how many people that are listening to our music, and sales. Everything is very clear. Well, it doesn't go in the wrong direction yet, so we keep going, you know.

Tobbe: You're out on tour in May and then you're playing on a few festivals during the summer. Is that what we will get to see from Hällas live during 2022?

Kasper: We have plans for the rest of the year as well, but that's something we can't announce at this point, because of stuff like exclusivity for a festival. But more Hällas will come, but where and when you will get to know later.

Tobbe: So to what extent do you guys have time to be away from home? I mean, are your employers and families understanding?

Kasper: Well, our employers have been really kind to us anyway. There has never been a problem to go on tour. Then of course it's difficult, because we live far away from each other and some of us have families, and it might be a little difficult sometimes to get things together.

But we try to not do more than we're able to and we never want to make it difficult for someone else in the band, but we always try to keep everyone in mind when we take decisions and stuff.

(Marcus:) But still the will is strong. You have to compromise on other stuff in life since this is so fun and giving. I also believe that this gives my employer a whole lot, because I come with other impressions and have gone through this and have gotten experience from this. If I would have just been at home sitting on my couch I wouldn't be the one I am.

Tobbe: You play music in the borderland of rock and hard rock, and from what kind of festivals do you receive offers and also what kind of festivals do you guys try getting a slot on?

Kasper: The majority of them are hard rock / heavy metal festivals. There is a dedicated scene for this type of hard rock, or retro rock, or whatever I'm gonna call it. So there's always an audience there for us. We've been trying to do more mainstream festivals, but it's hard to get into that world. But I mean, there is an audience within hard rock and that's the audience we attract on festivals, so that's usually where we end up.

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