Interview conducted June 10 2016
Interview published July 19 2016
"The day you start to relax
Swedish heavy metallers Sabaton
are going to put out their new record, The Last Stand, on August 19th
and consequently Metal Covenant met up with drummer Hannes Van
Dahl and one of the band's two guitarists Chris
Rörland at Sweden Rock Festival earlier this
It was the first time that Sabaton
took one of the headliner slots on this festival and the band frequently
enlarges its fanbase as it is definitely a hard working unit that won't
pull the brakes until they've been able to squeeze out every last drop
of sweat to try to achieve their goals.
Tobbe: All right, guys. You and your record
company won't send out any promos to media this time and therefore I haven't
listened to the new album yet, so I guess that you have to pretty much
tell me exactly what it sounds like since I can't write anything about
Hannes: It's kind of difficult for us to answer
that, because when you've been involved in it for such a long time now,
it's hard to look at it in an objective way. I believe that this question
is something that I can answer in December. For real. It's really difficult,
you know. But I know that it's an album that's really varied and it
has songs for kind of everybody's sort of taste.
You're so into it, so you don't really see the entire songs. But it's
a little bit more than what Carolus Rex  and Heroes  were.
It's up there, you know [Points to the ceiling.], with choirs, symphony
orchestra and everything you can imagine. Very epic, so to speak.
Tobbe: And for you guys personally, who
haven't been with the band from the start, were you given more free hands
this time, in comparison to your latest record, Heroes?
Chris: You know, I joined the band just when
Carolus Rex had been recorded, so I toured with the band for that whole
cycle. With the next record, Heroes, it was like "Oh, there are
some new members in the band. How will that affect our sound?",
so it was kind of "Play it safe." and "This album must
really sound like Sabaton!". Now, we've been with the band for
quite a while and the band is able to broaden its perspective a little
bit, you know. Yet not too much, I think. (Hannes:)
You learn to work together too. It's like a marriage, you know. You
know, Jocke [Brodén, vocals] has written the majority of the
songs since the band started out, in 1823, but it's like this: Chris
is able to write the whole album and me too, as long as it's good enough.
veryone is writing stuff, but Jocke has the final
call. That's the way it is and you have to live with that. I think Chris
made a fantastic contribution on one of the songs and it's one of my
favorite songs on the album and it was really great to hear his influences
even more. (Chris:) Which, strangely enough,
happened to end up as the album's title track.
Tobbe: Is there any point in asking about
the lyrical content? I mean, is it about the same old usual stuff?
Chris: Nah, not really the same. It's about war
of course; war history. Heroes was more pointed to the individual himself
and details about a specific person and what he has done in history,
you know. With this one it's only about the final great battles, like
Sparta. Maybe it's necessary not the greatest battles, but they really
made a mark in history. Well, the film 300, you know. That battle.
(Hannes:) It's from like 480 BC with the Spartans.
Like 2500 years back in time and all the way to 1988 with the Soviet/Afghan
You know, Sabaton has a specific sound, just like a lot of other bands
have, but how much could you, theoretically, deviate from that sound and
still be relevant with what you do?
Hannes: It's a funny thing. When we record bonus
tracks, we often record covers, and as soon as Jocke is singing and
the Sabaton keyboard is there, it becomes Sabaton. It feels like we
could do whatever we please. I mean, a few songs are in major on the
album. It's an interesting question, so "Quite a lot", I think.
Tobbe: You know, in some way you always
want to stay with the original idea, but you still want to keep developing
too. Who wants to eat the same kind of food every day, you know? Eventually
you will get tired of it.
Chris: Exactly. (Hannes:) It's
true. Sabaton is probably a band that has to change stuff sooner or
later, quite substantially, I think. And this record is maybe a step
towards that direction. Really interesting.
Tobbe: You don't have to go the way that,
for example, Metallica did with St. Anger. It's not what it's all about,
Hannes: You have to go in the right direction,
sort of, which I think is really hard. And that's why, just like you
said, we don't send out any promos for the new album. But if we meet
a fan on the street, and I have the album in my pocket [on his cell
phone], and that fan wants to listen to the album: "All right.
Let's go!". You know, if the album is out sooner, it gets really
boring, because there is a plan on how you want to present an album
and to do justice to it.
Tobbe: About your coming tour in January
to March next year. You're headlining and Accept is the supporting act
and some loud people on the web have a hard time accepting this matter,
but doesn't everything has its time and right now it's your time?
Chris: Well, that's the way it is, but it's a
natural transition. I mean, Accept has been huge and like 6 years ago
Sabaton was supporting Accept. (Hannes:)
The market lives its own life, right? (Chris:)
Exactly, and we sell more than what Accept does. And it's really sad
that that's the way it is, because I really look up to Accept and I
listen to their music. But it's fun to have them with us on a tour,
but I know it's a pain in the ass to some people that we have them as
And it feels really bizarre, you know. You can see them go by the nice
title Special Guests, even if that's a bullshit title. But if we see
this whole thing like this: Why not? It's not like Accept will be playing
for 15 minutes. They will get full-time and we're not a band that sets
restrictions regarding the sound level and lights. (Chris:)
Like many other bands do. When we've been supporting some bands and
they're like "You won't get this and you can't do that!".
(Hannes:) And you can look at it as a nice evening.
It doesn't have to be harder than that. Accept is there. We are there.
If you hate Sabaton, then see Accept and give us the finger, you know.
Tobbe: Pär [Sundström, bass] has
said that Sabaton's goal is to become the world's biggest heavy metal
band when the giants, like Iron Maiden, call it a day. So, do you think
that it is good to have a high goal that's very hard to accomplish, yet
maybe possible, rather than having a goal that's easy to reach?
Chris: I think it's good that he has a certain
goal. I mean, Pär has always went in that direction, you know.
All from when he was here, 17 years ago, on this festival, with a demo
by Sabaton and "We're gonna play the mainstage some day! We're
gonna be headlining!". Everyone just laughed at him, but now we're
here. (Hannes:) He never gives up, and
now he has band members with that same attitude.
Tobbe: You both joined a band on its way
up, you know, and was it comfortable to join a band that's about to really
prosper, or was it tough and rather stressful?
Chris: Well, it was a little bit stressful in
the beginning. On the first tour I did we went to the U.S.A. and Sabaton
isn't big over there, so that was pretty nice, you know, with like 300
people coming down to the shows. I thought like "Well, this is
the level where we're at. Sabaton is pretty big, but that's about where
we're at.". And then we came back to Sweden and played Sweden Rock
and it was huge and "What the hell is going on?". And then
we were almost headlining Graspop and it was just awesome. Then Woodstock
[Poland] and "What's happening?". It's like a rollercoaster
that keeps going up, really fast.
It's really interesting, because both Chris and I have toured for a
pretty long time with other bands before, on a much smaller level, but
when the band is bigger even more work comes to it. Many people have
said "You made it"! You can just relax now.", you know.
Yeah, right! It's tougher than ever, and I think it's exactly where
we should be at. The day you start to relax it's over.
Tobbe: Is it just natural today to go out
on stage and play regardless of there are 20000 or 40000 people in the
Chris: Well, you know, not really. (Hannes:)
For each interview we do, the more nervous you
get, because everything is kind of blown out of proportion. (Chris:)
It's a big deal, but you have to try to see it as a regular gig and
to just get up and do it, you know. (Hannes:)
We made that mistake at Wacken . (Chris:)
Yes, everything there went to hell, you know. We were all so hyped up
and "It's so big! We're gonna record a DVD!" and then everything
went down the drain, you know. (Hannes:) That
gig wasn't fun, you know. It's better to just have a beer, say "Cheers"
to each other and just get up there and have fun.
Tobbe: Is it possible that Sabaton has reached
kind of the peak of popularity now, or is there still more to squeeze
Chris: If you would ask Pär Sundström,
there's absolutely more to squeeze out of this thing. [Laughs] I believe
so. He never stops. It's so sick, you know. (Hannes:)
Yes, I believe so too. You know, Sweden Rock isn't that big, no matter
how crazy it may sound, in comparison to Wacken and Download. When we
went to Download in England we played at 4 in the afternoon and that's
not so mighty. So there's plenty of work still to come and you can't
become too comfortable at home. (Chris:)
Exactly, like "We're the greatest! Yes!", and then just like
"No!". But none of us is like that anyway, you know.
But when you have reached your level, you must really go for it, because
most bands have their ups and downs.
Hannes: Maybe there will be periods where Sabaton
loses some popularity in Europe, but then you just have to be prepared
for it. But that's when we have to go through our ordeal by fire where
you have to realize why you do this to begin with.
Tobbe: Is there any truth in the statement
that the band always must come first?
Chris: Yes, the band comes first. Jocke, I mean,
said "If I have children, I will still go on tour." and "If
you're giving birth to a child. Sorry! I can't be there.". You
know, Sabaton has never canceled a gig. (Hannes:)
Not because of ourselves anyway. We try to keep it as one big family,
with both band and crew, and that's really important, to have a good
If we stay at a 5-star hotel, everyone stays
at a 5-star hotel. If we can't afford a 5-star hotel, for some reason,
we will stay at some other place. But if it comes to something personal
and if something would happen to Chris, for instance, of course we got
his back, you know, and then it's not like "The band comes first!"
and that kind of stupidity.
Tobbe: The greatest source of income for
a band is to attract the everyday fans, because the hardcore fans will
always be there, no matter if you're up there playing in your drawers,
backwards and are playing your most obscure songs. So is it hard to balance
your sets to whom you will play for?
Chris: Sure, the real die-hard fans will always
be there, but you want to win over the largest audience possible, or
else you won't survive, really. (Hannes:)
It's really hard to make a setlist, you know. Therefore you have to
listen to people who have heard the record and have their opinion, like
"No, I think you made a pretty bad album.". But balancing
between them is the best, I think.