Published on June 10th, 2017 | by Gareth Allen0
Interview with HammerFall at Hammerfest 2017
HammerFall produce a truly engaging and dynamic melodic metal, that has the same anthemic power on record as it does live. Their much anticipated appearance at a sold out Hammerfest 2017 was a complete triumph in the face of adversity, as founding member Oscar Dronjak, revealed, when Sonic spoke with Oscar after their set.
Sonic Bandwagon: It’s great to have the opportunity to interview you after you have played at Hammerfest 2017. You seemed to be on fire on the stage, with lots of smiles between the band. How was it for you on stage?
Oscar: The smiles were because we haven’t played together in a month and a half. So this was the first show we did after the European tour. It was so much fun to be on stage again. Also a lot of smiles from my side, because we had so many problems.
The main issue was that the instruments are still in Amsterdam, so we had to scramble and borrow stuff. Up to twenty minutes before the show I didn’t even know if I had a guitar to play on! Thanks to Destruction we got to borrow their spare instruments; but they only have one guitar player and we need two guitars, so we needed a second guitar. Which is why it took a little bit of time. However, thankfully Mike from Destruction also lent me his main guitar which was really nice of him to do. I would have done it as well, but I would still be worried. Because what if something happens to this guitar, what are they going to do. So obviously I tried to take it easy with the guitar and not do anything weird. Without Destruction, there would have been no Hammerfall show tonight! So we owe them a lot of gratitude for that.
What was also weird was that we had all of our stage clothes also stranded in Amsterdam. What you are looking at right now were my stage clothes for tonight. This was what I was wearing when I left home this morning. We didn’t really have any choice (both laugh) which was very weird. I don’t think I have played a show like this since the 80s, in jeans and t-shirt. The reaction from the audience was great.
Sonic Bandwagon: Could you tell us about the emotional connection you feel with the audience, who share the live experience of the music with you?
Oscar: What I love about playing in this band and the heavy metal music we do, is the feeling of the back and forth we have with the audience. Because I have been down there so many times in my life, as part of the audience for my favourite bands, when I look into a persons eyes and they sing along with every song, I know exactly what they are feeling. Its a true joy to play for people like that. For me a heavy metal show is about giving and receiving. If the audience is not into what is happening on stage, the concert will suffer. We have been really fortunate that people respond the way we need them to respond, to be able to take things to the next level.
Sonic Bandwagon: The song ‘Hammer High‘ from the album ‘Built to Last’ lyrically feels to have a strong message about being true to oneself whatever happens. Is that something that drives the band?
Oscar: I think thats the sort of thing that drives me personally, and it encompasses the band too. The chorus of the song is really personal to me. I don’t normally write lyrics, I do one song every album. I feel this song fits really well to my personality, and to what i think HammerFall is. It doesn’t matter what kind of adversity you face, you look it in the face and laugh . Because we have faced a lot of adversity over the years, especially at the beginning, this song has a lot more meaning to me than just the lyrics.
For me its the heavy metal spirit. Live you life on your own terms, and don’t harm anything or anyone else. Do what makes you happy, don’t listen to what anyone else says, because they don’t know what makes you happy. Follow your own path. you are the only one who is going to be able to make you happy.
Sonic Bandwagon: Clearly it’s a message that resonates for the audience, the way they sung it back to you.
Oscar: Funny thing about this, this was not meant to be the last song of the evening (chuckles), but we had so many technical problems before. We had three songs left and our tour manager motioned for 15 minutes left. One of those songs was ‘Let the Hammer Fall’ which is a really long one with an audience singalong. When that one was over he motioned six minutes. So we only have time for one more song. So I was about to say to our drummer one more song ‘Hearts on Fire’. But he already started playing ‘Hammer High’. So that was the last song of tonight but I think it worked tremendously. A really good song to end the show on. We have certain songs that we have to play, that people expect us to play, and ‘Hearts on Fire‘ is one of those. I thought people might be angry that we didn’t do it, but the show ended on a really high note. It worked so well today that we might try it again as he final number.
Sonic Bandwagon: How do you feel the band’s sound and musical approach has evolved over the years?
Oscar: That’s a good question. We recorded our first album in our mid twenties and we were really inexperienced, and we didn’t have any realistic way we were going to take it to the next level. The music scene in the nineties, the melodic metal scene….we didn’t think anyone was going to be interested. Maybe there might be enough people that we could do another album and some shows, and that was it. So when the album started taking off we had to adjust our goals accordingly. We started on step one of the ladder and now we are at step ten. That doesn’t mean we have always made one album that was better than the other one, but we have tried to do that. I see what we have improved on and how we have grown since the last album, and I think the new one is a much more complete one than we have ever done before.
Sonic Bandwagon: You are shortly about to embark on a North American tour together with Delain. What are you looking forward to most about the tour?
Oscar: Right now. Not so much at all, as we came off a European tour of four weeks, which while its not very long, I have a family now; and my kid is two and a half years old. But once we are there, obviously touring in the United States is fun. We are going to be there five weeks. Touring with Delain is going to be fun. I didn’t know their music very well, so I checked them out and this is going to be a good mix. Their fans have a good chance of liking HammerFall. That’s what I like about putting a tour package together, we always try to get a good mix of bands.
Sonic Bandwagon: Musicians and fans in the metal world will say how much the music and being part of the metal community means to them, and will talk about its healing power. What has metal meant for you personally?
Oscar: The first song I remember hearing and could not get enough off…. I knew of Accept and had a couple of their albums, and Judas Priest too. But I hadn’t really found heavy metal, the way I did with Accept’s ‘Balls to the Wall’. It came out and it was something that just grabbed me. Since that point (1983) I have known that this was something I would always love. There’s no question about it. I’ve had a lot of favourite bands over the years. I don’t think there is any band I liked, that I have ever stopped listening too. So my record collection is always expanding. My taste has never gone down and is always expanding to include another band, and another. But the core has always been the same. That is why heavy metal for me has meant everything. I can’t say now that the most important thing in my life is music, as I have a family. They are the most important thing. However, the most important thing in making me the person I am, is heavy metal.
Interview and photo by Gareth Allen