Those Swedish purveyors of power metal Hammerfall have been churning out epic anthems for well over a decade, and June 27th saw the release of their latest and great compilation Masterpieces”.
Guitarist Oscar Dronjak took a time out from slaying dragons to give us this interview…
Interview w/ Oscar (Guitar/Vocals)
By Cameron Chambers
Hey mate, how’s it going?
Fine thanks man, sorry about being
late though. I think the times have been too short for the interviews.
How are you?
I’m really good man.
Where are you calling from today?
I’m in Stockholm, Sweden at
my brother’s. I’m down here visiting him and his family, which is
Makes for a bit of a change
then, normally you guys are on the road.
Ha ha. No, we are not going to
be doing more than one show this summer so we can focus on the next
record! There will be no gigs, ha ha.
You guys are off the road at
the moment, what does a power metal band do in their down time to keep
Too little man, ha ha. I haven’t
really been busy in the last couple of months… definitely not as busy
as I should be. I should be writing songs!
It’s starting to get closer
to our deadline but I’m the kind of guy that lets things get too close
to our deadline and then I realise I have tons of work to do, so I have
to really start on the writing!
For those that aren’t familiar
with Hammerfall, can you please tell us a bit about the band’s history,
how you got together etc…
Certainly. We started in the early
nineties playing music that no one else was doing at the time. It was
uncool to play heavy metal but we didn’t really care because that’s
what we wanted to do. No one really liked the grunge movement anyway,
ha ha so we started as a reaction to that.
We started and got a record deal
and then we released the album in 1997 and then um, it sort of took
off immediately from that point, ha ha. The label believed in us and
promoted us really well in Germany so when the album came out the hype
People understood that it was
something new… whether you liked it or not didn’t matter because
it was different from all the hard and dark music at the time. That
really started things off for us and we continued building from there,
just making sure that we were taking small steps all the time and refining
our sound and just trying to find a good way to work and never compromise
any of our ideals.
Your long-term guitarist Stefan
recently quit to focus on being a pilot. Do you think his departure
will have an affect on the Hammerfall sound?
I’m one hundred percent sure
it will. He was a very important part of Hammerfall, both playing wise
and all the solos that he did. The new guy Pontus is completely different
so it’s going to be a bit of an adjustment to get in tune with him
and for he and I to play on the same wavelength.
When it comes to the solos and
the way Pontus does things will definitely be an adjustment for both
Hammerfall and myself. It’s for the best though… we’ve been in
the game long enough to know what we’re doing so whatever happens
won’t be negative… only positive!
How did you guys come to select
your new guitarist Pontus? Is his role in the band going to be more
as a player or will he be a part of the song writing process?
I’m sure he’ll be writing
some stuff but we haven’t really gotten to that point yet. I’m sure
he’ll be involved though… hang on, what was the first part of your
question, ha ha?
Ha ha, how did you guys actually
Andreas, our drummer, has known
him for fifteen years and he already knew him really well… we all
knew him to some extent too because we toured with The Poodles (Pontus
former band) for six weeks last year. He’s a really nice guy with
lots of connections and everybody likes him so that’s why we started
thinking that maybe he would know some good guitar players in
Stockholm… coz I’m from Gothenburg and have no idea about Stockholm,
We called him and asked if he
knew anyone who’d fit Hammerfall and he said “yeah, I do… me”!
We tried three guitar players and two of them were people we thought
would work but Pontus was easily the best choice. He has a lot more
to add to the sound of Hammerfall… he’s not trying to change our
sound but he will add to it!
Speaking of song writing, your
last studio record was “Threshold” in 2006, do you have a rough
idea of when can we expect your next original album?
Not a rough idea… I have a precise
date for you! February 20th, 2009, ha ha. This is how we
always do it. We choose a date then we count backwards and work out
how long we’ll need to do everything and what we need to do to record.
So we’ll start in August and aim for our February release.
“Masterpieces” is scheduled
for a June 27th release, an album that features
eighteen different cover songs. Did you have a hard time choosing which
songs you’d be playing?
The thing with the covers record
is it features all the covers that we’ve already recording during
our career. There are three new songs on there as well but the covers
have all been –pre-recorded throughout our career. We had one on our
first album in 1996, then 1997 and in 1998 as well.
They’ve been spread through
our whole career and they were all good choices at that point… definitely
good ideas at the time, ha ha! Some of the songs were chosen because
we loved the bands and we thought the band didn’t have enough of a
spotlight on them, so we thought we’d bring them back to pay tribute
Other songs like “Head Over
Heels” were recorded specifically for the Dio tribute album but we
chose songs that we loved and knew that we could do well… but just
wanted a bit of a twist on them.
Are your cover versions going
to remain true to the originals or are they going to get the traditional
Hammerfall once over?
We haven’t changed anything
coz we want to pay tribute to the songs…. Not just the bands! There’s
no arrangement changes or anything like that.
There are two different schools
of thought on this. I believe in order to do the songs justice then
you need to play them similar to the original. I mean, we’re not Warlord
so it’s going to sound like Hammerfall, but we don’t want to change
them too much.
We used to cover songs that were
so obscure that people thought they were Hammerfall songs, ha ha.
“Masterpieces” also has
a DVD option available, which will showcase the band between 2002 and
2007. What kind of stuff is on there? Any tour hijinks?
They will be two different releases
that will be packaged together in some countries, but I’m not sure
From my point of view I think
the DVD is the main release because the songs on the CD have already
been released in one way or another. The DVD is totally new and was
recorded on our own cameras and shows the stuff that we’ve done over
the last six years. It will also have a ninety-minute documentary and
we’ll talk about the stuff on the DVD and some stuff that isn’t
on the DVD, ha ha. It’s basically interviews mixed in with personal
There’s also another ninety
minutes of bonus material with TV performances, all the promotional
clips we’ve ever done, as well as four live songs and a collage and
some short movies that we did ourselves. We basically collected everything
we’ve done between 2002 and 2007 and put it on one release. The CD
is fun but it’s more of a collector’s thing but the DVD is the main
release because it shows the band how we really are. We didn’t work
on the covers album but we worked really hard on the DVD!
Will you guys be playing many
of the cover songs on your one off summer show?
I’ve done a couple of interviews
today and that question actually came up in another one. We’ve never
thought about doing one of the covers live but it’s a good idea. I’m
going to bring it up and talk to the others about it.
That one off show I mentioned
is a week before the release of the album so it makes sense to play
a cover song. We’ll see! That’s a really good idea though, thanks
for that man!
No worries mate. After that
one off show, what touring plans do Hammerfall have for the near future?
We still want to grow as a band
and keep going forward and upwards. We have to tour a lot more once
the album is released but I don’t know what the plans are yet because
if we tour in March or April then we’ll miss all the summer festivals.
So what we might do is play some
bigger shows in spring and then do all the festivals across the summer
and then do our own tour in winter. It’s about a year away though
so we haven’t decided yet, ha ha.
I’m sure you’ve been asked
this a million times but can we expect an Australian tour? You’ve
got a lot of fans down here!
If all goes well it will be in
2009. We were actually on our way to Australia in 2007 and we had a
couple of offers that we more or less wanted to do, but then the promoter
changed it to another month and we weren’t able to do it. We even
had a schedule for Australia laid out!
I can’t promise anything coz
I’m not the one that decides all these things but I’m sure Hammerfall
will be in Australia in 2009!
We’ve got time for a quick
final five questions too mate…
Favourite place you’ve travelled
So far I would probably say Japan.
It’s so different from anything in Europe… its just world’s apart.
In a good way of course. I liked it very much in Japan!
This might sound like a suck up
but if Australia is anything like I’ve heard then that’ll be my
favourite… and I’m not just saying that coz you’re from Australia,
I really mean it!
Favourite album at the moment?
At the moment? I’ve been doing
some research for the album we’re recording so I’ve started listening
to the entire Judas Priest catalogue again… from first right through
to the last record! I recently did the same thing with the KISS catalogue.
It’s really cool, I’ve listened
to their albums a billion times but it’s been quite interesting to
go from the start to the finish and get a feel for how the band changed.
Most ridiculous thing you’ve
done for a buck?
Weird question! I don’t know.
I’ve done a lot but I never get paid, ha ha.
I always do ridiculous stuff when
I’m in the mood for it but money isn’t really involved. I think
that’s a cultural thing. Money’s not a big deal here in Sweden but
Americans think about that kind of thing a lot… and there’s nothing
wrong with that, but they have a financially focused mind. We don’t
think like that in Sweden!
Best hangover remedy?
Sex, no better cure man.
Good answer. Thanks for your time Oscar, is there
anything else you’d like to say?
No, not really. We really hope
we can get to Australia though because it’s one of the countries that
I’ve wanted to visit since I was a teenager and I never got around
to it… I’d never even travelled before Hammerfall! I’ve been fortunate
to go places that I otherwise wouldn’t have.
The metal scene in Australia
seems to be picking up a lot of speed at the moment too, so we can’t
Thanks again mate.
For all the latest info on Hammerfall head to the bands Myspace page.