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Hammerfall is (in competition with In Flames) the biggest hard rock band from Sweden these days. But for every time they achieve new successes, they also gather a lot of anti-people among 'true' heavy metal fans. Now they have just finished the recording of their sixth album, Threshold, which Metal Covenant has prelistened to. At the same time we took the opportunity to ask some questions to singer Joacim Cans. Since he was on his way to family vacation, he had his daughter Mathilda assisting during the interview. Still he managed to keep her calm and give quite exhaustive answers to Metal Covenant simultaneously.

David: Tell us something about Threshold...

  • Joacim: Well, first I must say that I'm very satisfied with the outcome. We have managed to take yet another step further. If you think of Chapter V, the sound was a bit rawer on that one, we have taken another step in that direction. Songwise, the same... it may not be those catchy Hammerfall-songs that you are used to, which you listen to once and then you know them. It will probably take a couple of times before you get it - especially with the single, Natural High. It's not another Harts On Fire or Blood Bound. It's recorded in Denmark, just as the last one, with the same producer, Charlie Bauerfiend. We have worked a bit more with the vocals this time. Instead of four to five hours a day, I have worked about six to seven hours a day. It was hard. But, I'm satisfied with what I have accomplished. And it is the first time I am fully satisfied with my performance. Otherwise I usually feel that: "Ahh... I could have done this better"... Why didn't I do it better then, you might ask? I don't know really. It has a lot to do with timing, the weather, your physical and physical condition and all those things; constrains that you put on yourself.

Is it a conscious plan that it is getting heavier?

  • Joacim: Not conscious. We have no such plans at all. It's all about the feeling you have when you sit down and write. All that has happened so far is natural evolvement. When it comes to the production on the other hand, then you can take out directions. But we never sit down and schedule that we must have one such song and one such; and this song must go in a certain tone or so. All falls in place naturally.

David: Can you compare it to earlier records...

  • Joacim: Not directly. Chapter V had a certain feeling of joy that you could take way back to Glory To The Brave. Threshold is yet another step back to that feeling. It will stand great in the competition with the earlier albums. People may even think it's better, because I think that it has no weak points. But as I said, it's not as direct as the others are. On the contrary to Crimson Thunder and Chapter V we have more faster tracks on this one. That is more of the earlier Hammerfall. But without being a power metal cliché. Heavy metal is the foundation of the whole production. We always hear that we are 'power metal' but what the fuck, we are heavy metal and that's it.

David: But you said yourselves during your early career that you were "a German power metal band from Gothenburg"...

  • Joacim: No... I think I said more like 'true German heavy metal'. But then the record company said something like 'epic power metal'. But please... what is 'epic' about this? They want it to be something unique, that each band should have something of their own. Rhapsody has 'Hollywood metal', what is that? We play heavy metal, and within those frames you can do pretty much. As with this record, we have taken out the turns even wider, but still without compromising with our own musical ideologies.

David: If we return once again to Glory To The Brave, is it even possible today, with the evolvement of the band to do a raw and naked production like that?

  • Joacim: I don't think so. It was ten years ago. We were just happy to go into the studio to record a heavy metal album. That was almost impossible then. You couldn't get a fair record deal for a heavy metal band in 1996. I was just so satisfied to get the chance. I did all lead song in two days. On Threshold one single song could take two days. So I don't think that you can do it that simple again. It was a once in a lifetime moment. We were short of time, but we went into the studio and just gave it all. The result may not be perfect, but there was a certain life in that production. Well if it is produced at all. We just recorded what we should and that's it. There was no time to try new things with extra guitars and dubbed song. The choirs were made directly with the help from some friends who we called into the studio. You could probably do something like it, but Glory To The Brave is Glory To The Brave... I hate it when bands state the intention to 'go back to the roots'. A Glory To The Brave Part II would be a disaster. Look at Queensrÿche. Operation Mindcrime is a masterpiece, and now they have been standing still for quite a while, then they release Operation Mindcrime II. And from the little I have heard I thought: "No! Don't destroy this old masterpiece with a follow up." You can't do that! Listen to Glory To The Brave and compare it to Threshold. It is lightyears between. Then it all came so unexpected as well. Today people have certain expectations on each record. But why have expectations on something that you cannot control? It is better to clean your brain and take it for what it is. With Glory To The Brave, no one were really prepared on what to come, not even we ourselves.

David: How serious were you at that time?

  • Joacim: It was a project the three first years. But that was before I joined. When I came in I decided that we should concentrate on this. So when the recording was finished Oscar and I more or less stated an ultimatum for the three others: "Either you join us or return to your other bands." They chose to step aside. I had no other band so for me Hammerfall was everything. From then on Oscar and I worked on this one hundred percent.

David: The sixth record now. Have you ever discussed changing the sound radically?

  • Joacim: No that doesn't even exist in our world to make such decision. One day the band will have setbacks, so it is for everything. Then we will still struggle on, because it is this we want to do. This is the music that is Hammerfall. If I want to do something else I will do it somewhere else. Hammerfall stand for something. Soundwise, yes you could do some changes here and there in the production, but not musically. If you one day run your head in the wall, it may be better to quit than to try something new. There are few bands that have succeeded in changing their sound. It usually falls flat.

David: Do you have any special anecdote to tell from the recordings?

  • Joacim: I did not happen that much. We did the video for the European Athletics Championships in the middle of the recordings, in Stockholm. Oscar's car broke down when I drove it back down to the studio in Denmark. I burned off some cooling hoses. He says that it was my fault, but it was his scrap-car... The Soccer World Championships started, and it was the most boring tournament ever. We were looking forward to this when entering the studio, and then we get this defensive fucking shit… It was 28 degrees outside and became 28 degrees in the studio. It became so hot that the data equipment refused to work. It was out of order for one and a half day. The owners didn't believe us when we called them. Finally when we asked for some air condition, some dude went to get a cooling fan that they use in a diary desk at the supermarket. That went for ten hours, and then we were back at the same point.

David: Speaking of sports. You have done one video with the ladies in the Olympic curling team and now one with the athletics team. You seem to be very interested in sports?

  • Joacim: Yes, most of us are very into sports. We are brought up with slalom, bandy... - or bandy is not that fun actually - tennis, hockey, soccer, swimming - I'm an old swimmer myself. There is a certain admiration for the athletes. You become a fan yourself when you meet those who have achieved something big. Curling is a quite strange sport, but it is extremely exciting when you sit and watch the Olympics. And Kajsa Bergqvist is the world's best in high jump. It was fun to make her rock as well. But no one rocks as hard as the curling ladies do. They went totally metal when they got into their outfits for the video. It was fun that they made it all the way and our song (Hearts On Fire) became more famous than the official Swedish Olympic song.

David: So you are going to see everything from European Athletics Championships now?

  • Joacim: As much as I can. My family is going to Gotland and I should have been with them if it wasn't for the gig at the opening ceremony of the European Championships in Gothenburg. I usually follow the finals, but when it is family week one want to spend time with them.

David: Have you reached the top of your potential or can a hard rock band be any bigger today?

  • Joacim: We have definitely not reached the top yet, I think. As long as we can keep growing as musicians and songwriters, I think we have a lot more to give. When we had finished this record and I heard the closing track Titan I got a lot of new ideas right away. The day I wake up and have no ideas or plan for the future, then it may be time to quit. But right now I have so many ideas that the time is not enough. You can't take them all in. It's just to keep going. If other people like it or not is a different thing, as long as you can do what you like to do.

David: How do you do to keep growing as musicians?

  • Joacim: As a musician you tour a lot and play a lot. It is always certain songs and certain tones you will have problems with, they go so fucking high. So you seek new ways to take them or do them in another way. And that is a way to grow. It's just like the training of an athlete. You keep on practicing. To find new angles when you write music is another way. When I did Fury Of The Wild for the last record, I had one version ready. I listened to it and thought it was pretty ok, but... It was to predictive. I had done it before. Then I deleted the whole file, cleaned out my brain and went down to the studio to do a completely new version. It's all about finding new angles and new levels. For each record it will be tougher, but I like challenges. There is a limit when you start to lose your voice - the high pitch - around the age of 45 or so. But I will try to push that forward for ten years or so, ha ha…

David: At the same time as you feel that you develop, the old fans will keep repeating that it was better in the old days…

  • Joacim: They will always do that. But there are always people who weren't around at that time as well, who discovered us at Chapter V for example. It doesn't matter if we write the masterpiece of the century. They old fans will still think that Glory To The Brave was the best. It had something. It is always fun to have such record that people refer to. Better than not having it.

David: If any Swedish hard rock band should repeat Lordi's exploit to win the Eurovision Song Contest, many say that it would be Hammerfall...

  • Joacim: But we will never do that! Bert Karlsson (legendary Swedish music manager and a mighty person in the world of schlager) keeps nagging about this. I almost can't stand it any more. No offence to Bert, but he is nagging. If we should have done it, it should have been now. Next year will be a disaster, when so many countries will try to copy what Lordi did. You can picture the misery... We will not do it. It doesn't feels like our scene. Just to do a three-minute song is impossible. We did our little Song Contest thing when we played When Spirits Are Calling My Name (När Vindarna Viskar Mitt Namn) with Roger Pontare on an Anniversary show on TV. That was the only schlager song that worked with us.

David: But has it ever been close?

  • Joacim: No. We have been offered wild cards and Warner have called and offered us a spot as surprise act: "We have a great song for you..." Never! If we should ever do it we should at least write the song ourselves.

You have done some covers on your old favorite bands. But do you ever find inspiration in modern music?

  • Joacim: I might do that personally. I listen quite a lot to the radio. I listen to System Of A Down for example - but that is nothing I would bring with me to Hammerfall. But it is still interesting how they mix the hard and aggressive with the nice melodies. I like melodies. If you take a composition without a song melody and give it to five different persons, everyone should make a different song melody. It is always fun to see how others do it. I listen to Christian Kjellvander and I was watching Lars Winnerbäck the other weekend. You have to do things with the family sometimes as well…

What can we expect tonight at Gates of Metal?

  • Joacim: We have three times as large budget for pyrotechnics as usual. We thought that now, when we are the headline act on a Swedish festival for the first time, we must show us worthy that position. Then you have to spend some extra money. We could have had quite nice cars today - if we had saved all the proceeds from the tours. But the last tour broke even. Then we had spent 500 000 crowns on pyrotechnics and the needed permits. But Hammerfall is a visual act - otherwise we could just quit. So those who say that we only do it for the money should know how much that has gone up in flames.

David: Will it be more of that kind on the upcoming tour?

  • Joacim: As far as it's possible. There are severe restrictions on what you can do, since there have been some accidents. All tests and permits cost money. But we will keep on.

David: Thanks for your time!

  • Joacim: Thank you!

See also: review of the gig at Gates Of Metal the same day »»

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