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.
David: 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.
How serious were you at that time?
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
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.
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?
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
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
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?
David: 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
David: 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
David: Will it be more of that kind on the
David: Thanks for your time!
See also: review
of the gig at Gates Of Metal the same day »»