Interview: Hammerfall’s Axeman Oscar Dronjak

After a short break and eight successful studio albums, Swedish heavy metal pioneers Hammerfall are set to be back in full force on August 29th with their killer new album (r)Evolution.

To find out more about the album, and thanks to our friend John Howard from Nuclear Blast, we had the chance to speak with Hammerfall‘s founder and guitar virtuoso Oscar Dronjak, who also shared with us about his hopes to finally visiting our shores next year, coming back to the band’s roots and even expressed his excitement for the new Planet of The Apes film, that is somehow linked to the name of this new album.

SR. We must say the new album sounds amazing, congratulations! As the mastermind behind the band, how do you manage to keep things fresh and with the same quality level, after all these years?

OD. (laughs), Thanks for the compliment, really appreciate that. It’s just a matter of loving what you do. I love what I do , I love heavy metal, that’s why I started playing it, because it’s based on the passion of what we are doing. Its something that makes me feel young all the time, when I’m writing heavy metal it makes me feel like I’m the same fan of the music as I always was 20 years ago, or 30 years ago. But that’s one of the things, the passion for the music have made it much easier to deal with those things.

SR. Do you feel that the new album (r)Evolution was harder or easier to put together than previous releases?

OD. The songwriting for this album was very much easier, much easier, much less stressful, no anxiety or self-doubt, I didn’t have any of that…so I think if you just write the music that you love to do it makes it so much easier. When we do something that I’ve been dreaming of doing my whole life and Iv been fortunate enough to be able to do it for a long time so that makes it easy to do it.

SR. Which one would be your favourite song of the album?

OD. (laughs) What a hard question! There are so many songs in this album that I’m proud of, the thing is when we write an album I don’t write 11 song or whatever it is, 10 songs, I write an album, I plan the songs like the tempo and the key that they’re in and the type of songs that they are.

I plan that so the album should be a full album and not just 11 songs stacked on top of each other cause then you may have 11 of the same songs that would make the album less varying for me, less good in my opinion so what I think we try to do is to write a complete album and all the songs complement each other, they’re all the same style but they’re all very different.

“I plan that so the album should be a full album and not just 11 songs stacked on top of each other…”

That’s why it’s very very difficult to choose one but of course I can choose something for you and this is for me personally as a songwriter I think that the song (r)Evolution, the title track is the one that stick the most for me. I’ve done most of the melodies for that song, Joacim (Cans) has only done the lyrics for that song, and normally he does lyrics and vocal melodies and I just think that they turned out really cool. Also I think, it would be really cool to have someone else to sing that song, just as an experiment. It would be interesting because it’s a song to fit Joacim’s vocals but I think it would fit in other people’s vocals as well. It’s that type of song.

I know this is like a standard response but it’s very true, they are like your babies cause we worked so hard on every one of them. It’s very difficult to choose.

apornas_planet_revolutionSR. We were reading a note saying that the title of the album is somehow linked to the Planet of the Apes films?

OD. Yes that is true. Actually the title , Revolution with the “r” in brackets and capital E, it comes from the Swedish translation . In Sweden they sometimes take a title of a movie and translate it into something similar or vaguely similar or something completely different, they sometimes take liberties with the translation of the movie titles which I didn’t realise. It wasn’t until I started researching it that this is the second movie in the remake series so it’s Rise of the planet of the Apes.

This movie when it came on in Swedish theaters is was called Planet of the Apes: (r)Evolution, spelt the way that we did on the album and for a long time I thought that was the original title, the American title of the movie, and I realized when we had decided to use that title it was just the Swedish title, so it made it even better cause it wasn’t available to so many people. So I can’t take credit for coming up with it but I think it’s a fantastic title especially that movie.

SR. It’s a great film too and you will be blown away with the new one man, seriously. We gave it 5 stars.

OD. Yea I love the Planet of the Apes movies. I’ve got goosebumps now. The song title (r)Evolution has meaning for us as well. For me it means an ongoing revolution that we’ve had basically since 1993 there’s been a revolution for heavy metal because back in those days heavy metal was very much the uncool, non popular thing to do so it’s always been a battle for us. That is the revolution part. It is on constantly, ongoing, battle for a revolution to come so people can show heavy metal the respect that it deserves basically.

“…it reflects the elements of old Hammerfall and a lot of the new stuff…”

I also think the “evolution” part of the title is linked to the songs, the music on the album cause it reflects the entire career of Hammerfall, it does reflect the older old school Hammerfall but it also has a lot of the elements of mid-life, the mid 2000s maybe but of course its got to be the evolution of a new album. So it reflects the elements of old Hammerfall and a lot of the new stuff, like the 2014.

SR. Also for this album you got to work with producer Fredrik Nordstrom and with Andreas Marschall on the artwork. So how was it coming back to those guys?

OD. That was cool. With Marschall we actually hadn’t had real contact it was always through the label but we decided to ask him if he was available and willing to do another album cover for us He seemed really interested and he’s got a lot on his mind now. He did the cover for us really quickly and we were all blown away and it was a perfect fit.

hammerfall-band-2014With Fredrik Nordstrom was another re-acquaintance really. Marshall we had never met but with Fredrik I’ve known him since the 80s and he’s much more a friend and I’ve done a lot of recordings in his studios before Hammerfall as well.

It’s very different to work with him. He was very comfortable. Freddy is highly responsible for the albums production and sounding the way that it does. His main strengths are for me the drums and the mixing. He’s really good at everything but the drums is the mix we really needed him for, guitars we have accumulated knowledge over the years now and we have a very clear idea of how we want things to sound and how to get that sound but Frederik was still very involved in the sound setting process, more like a consultant and then the actual tracking on the album.

We recorded the drums and bass, that was done by Pontus, Anders and myself so Frederik came to the studio at least once a week to check it out. We recorded the vocals with James Michael in LA because we wanted to work with him again. Good results there, he put great finishing touches on the album.

SR. Just a couple of questions for you from a couple of fans. Have you considered to do some more shows with Ceremonial Oath?

Ceremonial Oath the book of truthOD. We did a couple of shows last year actually, 3 shows, January, July and August. Last year was the 20 year anniversary of the first album, The Book of Truth, which was also recorded by Fredrik Nordstrom back in the day. It was his first death metal album, he didn’t even know what death metal was before he recorded that. I kept the tape all these years and we had him do a remix of the album and the album was reissued on century media last year and then we did a couple of shows in conjunction with that.

SR. What all the Aussie fans want to know is when are you guys touring Australia?

OD. We were on our way this year but it didn’t materialise. But it almost certainly will happen next year. I can’t promise anything but it’s very very probable.

We have never been to Australia and have heard so many good things about the country and the fans of the country so I really would like to experience that for myself and we have been in talks and maybe we will be able to bring us over. It’s been a long time

SR. Just to start wrapping up. Can you share with us any weird story or experience involving a fan while on tour?

OD. (laughs) There’re many things, it’s kind of difficult to remember. There’s one thing I remember that happened in Sao Paulo, Brazil . Brazil is the only country where when we left the venue, I think was from the sound check, not from the actual show, we left the venue in the van to go back to the hotel and there was a fan running after the car screaming “Yeah Hammerfall!” for a long time. I mean he wasn’t running 50 meters, he was running I don’t know how long.

Every time we stopped at a stop sign, he came closer and then he had a fall. Then the lights turned green and we went away and he ran again as fast as the car and he caught up to us at every stop sign. He never stopped running, it was unbelievable. Really funny, very very dedicated person.

SR. Just to finish, feel free to send a message to your Australian fan base.

OD. I’m sorry that it’s taken us so long for us to come and visit you. I really think it will happen next year and I’m keeping my fingers crossed cause that’s like the last country that I really want to go that we haven’t gone to.

I’m really hoping that we are going to do everything that we can to make it happen next year then we will experience Australia and Australia will experience Hammerfall.

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(r)Evolution will be out on August 29th via Nuclear Blast.