Hello Joacim. How has the response been for your new album Crimson Thunder?
We're at the end of the promotion now, and most of the response and reviews have been fabulous. And even some people who didn't like Renegade as much are now crawling back and say that they like this new cd a lot, which is a very good thing. This is our fourth album, and I think that most people are coming out of the closet and realise who we are and what we are about. Fans and journalists have tried to label us as many things: power metal, epic metal, and god knows what more. Well, we're Hammerfall and we play Heavy Metal. That's it! Five years ago people didn't think that this band would become anything special. Well, it's 2002 and we are still here. Metal is stronger than all, and Hammerfall is still around, with Crimson Thunder as our strongest album yet.
What do you think about your newest album?
It's definetely the best album for Hammerfall. Especially the production. The vocals have always been my main concern, from the moment that we did the first album. This time I got the lead and backing vocals exactly like I wanted them to be. Mainly thanks to the help of Charly Bauerfeind, who was a genius in the studio. I told him what I wanted, and he immediately understood what I meant.
How has the sound evolved from Renegade, according to you?
On this album we are much more geared towards the Accept-style of German metal, whereas in the past we were more geared towards the Helloween-stuf. That's the biggest difference, along with the improved production.
What is the biggest difference between Glory To The Brave, which came out five years ago, and this new cd?
The difference is the budget, definitely. For the first cd we had a budget of €5.000, which was just enough for 16 days studio-time for the recording, mixing and mastering. I spent my days in the studio screaming how I was supposed to sing everything on time. On this new album we have a better production, but I also think that we are more mature. When we did our first album we were all new to this. I had no real studio experience before that. We were just a bunch of kids, even though we were all above 25. Right now we put more care into writing and recording. On this album, everything exists for a reason. Every note, every chorus, everything has a reason for being there at that specific place. So I feel a bit awkward about comparing the new album to other ones. I've been living with this album for so long now, these songs have become a part of me. But it'll surely be a lot of fun to play live and play all those old songs from our first cd again.
[/b]The lyrics are also different. Did you try to avoid certain clichés this time?[/b]
Hell no! Heavy metal is all about cliché's, both the lyrics and the music.
But you don't use the words 'metal' and 'steel' as much as you did in the beginning.
That's true,. I think that there's an unwritte rule that you can only write twenty songs with those words in it in your career, and we've used up our 20 songs, heheha! But seriously: this time the music didn't need it. I write the lyrics while I listen to the music, and let the music tell me what to write. This time we have a bit of a darker touch to the lyrics. The theme of the album called for it. Most song have a theme in common, the theme of the battle between good and evil, between heaven and hell. Which is a cliché in itself, of course. I felt that this theme was already strong enough, and didn't need words like 'steel' and 'fight' as much.
You guys recorded the album in three different studio's, four if you also count the preproduction. Why did you choose this way of recording?
I have no idea, hehehe! No, it was mainly Charly's idea, for this album Oscar and I put all trust into Charly. We wanted to have a really strong drumsound, because the drum is the foundation for the rest of the cd. So Charly came up with Wisseloort in Hilversum, which is probably the best studio in Europe and at the same time also the most expensive one. Then we had to pick a studio for the bass. And for this we didn't need a big or fancy studio. All we needed was a place with proper equipment that was compatible to Charly's needs. So he came up with the Twilight Hall Studio's, which is owned by Blind Guardian.
And the third studio was in Tenerife, on the Canarian Islands?
Yes, that's right. The bulk of the production was done there: the vocals, the guitars and the mixing and mastering. We wanted to record the album in a calm environment, somewhere far from home. Far away from traffic and daily activities. When I sing I need to be completely relaxed, so the studio in Tenerife was perfect. It's on a tropical island, making it the ideal place. I sang for four hours a day, and spend the rest of the time walking to the hotel and back. Or going for a ride, having dinner with Andi Deris and his wife, or just reading a book or watching a video in the hotel. This was the best way of recording the album. It was expensive, but strangely it wasn't even as expensive as the recordings of Renegade.
To which recordcompany are you officially signed? Nuclear Blast?
I've always wondered this. You guys started out on a small Dutch label called Vic Records. Are you guys licensed to Nuclear Blast, or did they buy you out?
Nuclear Blast bought us out. It was much easier that way, to deal with one company instead of two. When the guy from Vic signed us he didn't have any big plans. He just wanted to put out an album every now and then, and that's about it. When we started this band nobody had any idea of how far we would get. We wrote some songs for fun, signed to Vic and entered the studio with a budget that was way too small. By the time NB showed interest it all became too much trouble for him, because this whole business part that he had to deal with. So he sold us to NB. I don't believe that he has released another album since then.
And of course, back then when you signed to them, nobody had any idea of how this would turn out.
I remember that when you guys started out you played small venues. Now you're playing to crowds between 1000 and 5000 people. How for do you think you'll get to grow? Is the sky the limit?
I don't know, really. And I don't care a lot about it. As long as we are happy with the band. Of course it's better to sell 150.000 records rather than 50.000, because that'll ensure that there's a budget for the next cd.
But that's no answer to my question. How big do you think this band will become? Do you think that you'll for example ever be as big as Iron Maiden or Judas Priest?
Well, ehr, no. I mean, the time is not right for bands to become as big as those two. . When those two bands were around you had MTV, which was pretty new at the time. Those bands had some exposure there, and that was how metal got really big in the eighties. Nowadays, 85% of the music on MTV is hiphop. There's no room for Heavy Metal anymore. So I doubt that we'll be as big. What I want to achieve with this band is to realise all it's potential, to take the next step. There are some regions like Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany where we sell very well, but also country's that barely know us. I want to play in those countries too, so that people there get to buy our albums too. Because heavy metal is popular right now. In numbers it is not as big as in the eighties, but the way it has grown is similar. And most of the bands that were around in the eighties vanished, but a small number of groups carried on in the nineties after the style went underground. I'd like to be such a band in ten years time: a band that's recognised to have sticked to it's music and fans, despite a decreased attention for the genre. If we could achieve that, then I'll be a happy man indeed.
That's a very modest answer. But look at which bands are the biggest bands in metal right now: Maiden, Priest, Slayer, Motörhead… All those muscisians are in their forties or fifties right now. There's gonna be a day when they're gonna retire. That's something that's bound to happen in the next, say, 10 years. If you think that the time isn't right, then does that mean that there won't be anybody to fill the space they leave behind?
Interesting point of view. Well, come to think of it, there'll be probably be some bands that will rise up from the crowd to fill those band's shoes. But for that we need a new generation of fans. If Maiden would retire when they're sixty, who would be the fans that come to see us when we fill the hole they left behind?? Surely not the fans of those band which are forty, fifty themselves too. Those people now have jobs, families, and don't go to heavy metal shows anymore. For that we need to attract a whole new generation of metalfans, and that's something that's impossible to do without the mass media like radio and television. I wouldn't mind replacing those bands you mentioned in ten years time, but it will be hard without the support from MTV. But you never know how things will turn out. But it has never been our aim to become as big as those bands, although I wouldn't object to it.
You did score a hitsingle in Sweden.
That's true, the song Renegade became a huge hit in the Swedish charts. That's very good, to have a single in a chart that's dominated by this artificial rubbish. But at the same time it's only Sweden. We don't just need Sweden, but we also need hitsingles in Germany, the Netherlands and the UK.
I remember that this single did lead to interesting things two years ago. I saw you guys on the first evening of the Renegade-tour, in the Liseberghalle in Göteborg. When we went to the nearest McDonals a couple of hours before the show, we saw 12 year old kids eating burgers, wearing shirts of Hammerfall, Blind Guardian and Rhapsody. And when we were at the gig there were high school girls, and even parents with their toddlers. That experience completely freaked me out, because that's not something that we're used to in the Netherlands.
That's right, that's exactly what the power of mass media can mean for a band. Those children probably wouldn't have heard of us if it wasn't for the single. For them this style of music is completely new to them. Despite that we're nothing but an offspring of the eighties, they experience this music as if it was something completely new and fresh. And that's good, that's exactly what heavy metal needs: a new generation of fans to ensure its future. And what we've experienced in Sweden in the last two years is something that gives me hope for the future.
You're going to tour for your new album. The first one is the American tour, right?
That's right, next month we're going out on the road with Dio. What my expectancies are? Well, for starters I'm expecting to see 35 really good Dio-shows. Besides that I think that it'll be a really good chance to promote not only Hammerfall, but European metal as well. In the States, Dio is a phenomenon. He attracts huge crowds. Not just the people that's of the same age as he is, but younger people as well. So we'll get to play to whole new audience, who'll perhaps even like our music.
Have you ever met Ronnie in person?
Not yet, but I'm hoping to meet him of course.
Do you think that you'll get to spend much time with him, or will it be separate busses, separate dressingrooms?
Well, we'll definitely have our own busses and dressingrooms. But I hope to get to spend some time with him. From what I've heard about him he seems to have a great personality. Some people have told me that if you tour with Ronnie, you've made a friend for the rest of your life. So we'll see what happens.
A couple of years ago you recorded Rainbow's Man On The Silver Mountain for your I Want Out-ep. Do you think that you'll have him listen to it?
No, not listen. But I'll give him a copy of that cd for sure.
I assume that you won't be playing that song on that particular tour?
No, not really. But I'll probably propose to sing that song together on the last evening of the tour.
That's something that I want to see included on your next dvd.
And after that the European tour. Which bands will you be taking along?
We'll have Masterplan, the new band of Roland Grapow and Uli Küsch as a special guest. And we'll have a third supportact, that's undecided yet. Actually it is quite decided, but I can't confirm it yet. You know how it goes: our people have to run everything by ten times before it's settled. I hope to announce the support in a week.
Being a headliner, do you have any control over the bands that you tour with? Do you get to pick them yourself?
At the moment we're in a position where we have a lot to say about the bands that tour with us. A large part of it is recordcompany-policy. Business deals. But in the end we get to say yes or no to a proposal. We usually get some bands to choose from and obviously, if I have to choose between a band that I like and a band that I don't like, of course I'll pick the one that I like. But we're usually offered some bands to choose from, so we don't really get to 'pick' one or two. Actually, that isn't entirely true either. Even if we don't get to pick a band, it does happen that we advise a band to get their recordcompany to get in touch with our recordcompany, if we think that they'll be a good support-act.
And what do you prefer: to go on tour as a headliner, or as a support for a bigger band?
Ehr… Difficult question. Difficult, because it doesn't matter for how we play the music. No matter if we play in a small club or in a large venue, our energy is the same. The biggest difference is that, when you're headlining, you can bring along your complete production. Like on the last tour, we had a drawbridge, lots of pyro's, the templar… you can't do that if you're a support. So ultimately I prefer headlining, because we can give people the full Hammrerfall experience.
By the way, how is your other project Warlord doing?
Not much going on at the moment. We won't be doing a tour, due to the busy schedule with Hammerfall. But the new album was received great, so there'll definitely be a follow-up. William is working on new songs at the moment. We're hoping to record it before the summer, so we can have it out after the festivals. Perhaps we'll do some touring after that.
How do you look back on the Wacken gig? I had a great time.
It was great. It was VERY late in the evening, but we had a great time. The best part of it for me, was when the intro-tape was rolling. I was standing there, listening to the introtape and I had goosebumps all over. That was when I realised again that I was going to sing, and I thought: SHIT! I had much rather stood in the front row.
Warlord is one of your all time favourite bands, isn't it?
Yes, right. I got to know them in the early eighties. I was drinking a beer with some friends, and another friend came in met the lp, saying: “this is something you've got to hear”.
Most of the guys in Hammerfall have side projects. Isn't it hard to combine those with the band?
Yes, it can be hard. I have to make very tight schedules for myself. In fact there's a list hanging on my wall where I write down what I have to do and when I'll do it. If it wasn't for such a schedule I would've gone crazy because of all the work to do. But for the other bandmembers it's not as hard. Oscar and I devote the most time to the band, so Anders, Stefan and Magnus have more time for their projects. And that's cool. All bandmembers know that they have all the freedom to do other projects, as long as they know that they should make sure they have time whenever a new Hammerfall album or tour comes around.
And what do you think of the other bandmembers their solo-albums?
Well, with Magnus it is a bit strange. His solo-albums aren't metal, but jazz/fusion. It's undeniably very great music, you can hear that it's very skilfully done. But it's just not something that I personally would put on and drink a beer to. But he enjoys it, and that's great. He puts a lot into his solo-albums that he cannot put into Hammerfall, because the bass plays a very small role in Hammerfall.
His solo-album is really, really good. It's just that I expected it to be a bit different. I think that Stefan is still trying to find his own style, and that's something you'll probably hear when his first album came out. For example, I was expecting more instrumental songs.
Personally, I love his solo-album We Will Rise to death, it's one of the best albums of the year. But it's so close to Hammerfall that it makes you wonder why he wrote it in the first place.
Right. That's exactly why Oscar would never do a solo-album: if he did one it would sound exactly like Hammerfall. I think that in Stefan's case his album was partly born out of frustration. Most of it is stuff that he writes doesn't fit into Hammerfall. It's not like Oscar and I deliberately close doors for him, but only a small portion of what he writes ends up on our albums. I think that he put those elements on his solo-album that he really wanted to put into Hammerfall.
Now that we're on the subject of other bands, what do you think of the Lost Horizon-album Awakening The World (to those who don't know, Lost Horizon is the continuation of Joacim's old band Highlander, who released an album last year on MFN?
I think that it's a very good album. It's funny to hear it, because all of those songs are ten years old. They were written when I was still in the band, in '92 – '93. They changed the lyrics and the singer sounds more high pitched than I did, but the songs are exactly the same. I really hope for their sake that they'll get to do a tour, which is something that they haven't done so far.
That's indeed something that they need. The only big thing that they did was Wacken 2001.
That was a good show though.
Yeah, I saw it.
I noticed you standing next to the stage, watching them.
That's true. Watching some old friends. In fact the whole Hammerfall-band was there.
What was the reason why you left Highlander at the time?
Well, it wasn't really the case of leaving. There wasn't a real point in time when we said goodbye to eachother. In '93 I moved to Los Angeles for two years, and at the same time the band didn't do much. When I returned in '95 Wojtek had started another band called Luciferion, and I joined Mrs Hippy. After recording an album with Mrs Hippy I joined Hammerfall in '97, and later Luciferion split and Wojtek picked up with Lost Horizon. At that point it was impossible for me to return because I was already in Hammerfall, so they looked for a new singer.
How famous did you become with Highlander?
That can be an admirable position, depending on the circumstances.
It was pretty cool. We played every now and then for crowds of 350 people, which was pretty good for a band without a recorddeal at the time. Especially because grunge was a big trend back then.
You recorded two demotapes with Highlander, do you think that those'll ever be released?
I surely hope not! They were recorded with a very low budget in a cheap studio. We had a day for each song including mixing, and the recordings are very bad. And there's no reason to release them anyway: all the songs that we recorded back then are on Lost Horizon's album. But you never know how things turn out: perhaps it'll end up on the internet one day.
Yeah, or on a bootleg-cd. I know what bootleggers are like.
Speaking of bootlegs, what do you think of them? There are quite a lot of HF-boots on the market.
I think it's cool. I mean, it's flattering that someone would go through the trouble of recording, pressing and distributing our music. It's flattering that someone would do that for us. But what I don't like is the large exchange of music on the internet. Our cd Crimson Thunder isn't even out yet, but it's already available on mp3. That's something that worries me, that people don't have any respect for the artist. Of course I know that our real fans will buy the album when it comes out, but this is something that could kill the music. And the best part about having a new metal-album is the element of surprise. But regular bootlegs are ok by me. As long as it's a good show, hehehe.
Knowing that there are so many HF-bootlegs available, don't you think that it's time for a live-album?
Well, we're likely to record one in the near future. all signs are pointing in that direction.
Well you know… signs.
Hahaha, I'm afraid that you've got to tell me.
Well, you know… people are kinda expecting us to release a live-album So we're now pondering if we should release it now or after our fifth album. But we'll surely record some shows on our next tour. After that we'll decide when we'll release it.
You also did some acoustic shows, one of which is included on your dvd. How did that idea come by?
Well, that was something that just happened. We did our first acoustic show in '98. It wasn't really a matter of choice, we were forced into it. We were going to do a South-American gig, but the costs of it were too high to break even. So we were asked to do an extra unplugged show to make up for the high costs. We were reluctant to do so because our music isn't meant to be acoustic. But essentially we could choose between going there and doing an extra acoustic show, or not going there at all. We chose the former and did the show. Last year we were asked again to do it after a signing session, and recently Oscar, Stefan and I did some acoustic shows in France.
A and do you like to do acoustic shows?
Yeah. It's fun, because you have to choose a totally different approach for some songs. You can't really do those high-speed solo's, because they sound awful on a Spanish guitar. And I can't scream as much, I've got to keep my voice down and put more feeling into it. So with some songs you have to totally rearrange them to make them work acoustic. After all, most of our material was meant to be played on a electric guitar. Some songs didn't really work out at all, but others went surprisingly well. The song Renegade sounds like something by the Olson Brothers, and Heeding The Call and Where The Dragon Lies Bleeding are really good unplugged-songs too.
Really? I didn't expect Dragon to turn out really well.
Neither did I!
And do you think that you'll do these shows more often?
Well, every now and then perhaps. Or if MTV asks us to do an MTV Unplugged, hehehe.
I think that 'yeah right' of yours says it all, really, hahahah.
Well, that was about it, I think. Got any last words?
Talk about a cliché question! Well, I'd like to thank all fans in the Netherlands for supporting Hammerfall in the last couple of years, and I hope that to see you all on tour in the next months. Keep the flame burning for the power of metal!