HammerFall – Drummer Anders Johansson & bassist Fredrik Larsson

April 18th, 2009
by EvilG

hammerfall

HammerFall drummer Anders Johansson & bassist Fredrik Larsson

Interviewed by EvilG

Interview questions by EvilG, Lord of the Wasteland, & Waspman

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In this two part interview we get to speak to both Anders and Fredrik about the new HammerFall album, NO SACRIFICE, NO VICTORY as well as the revamped line-up which see’s Fredrik return after being away from the band since 1997!

 


HammerFall Drummer Anders Johansson

hammerfall - Anders

Congrats on the release of NO SACRIFICE, NO VICTORY. Tell us a bit about the album’s recording. Was it a fairly quick and standard process?

Thanks! For me it was quick. But I’ve done this for almost 30 years now. The rest suffered through for twelve weeks. But the end result is what counts and it came out great.



What were the challenges you personally faced (if any) with the new recording both technically and in terms of learning/writing the new material?

None for me, except some fast stuff on the double bass (thanks Jesper…haha)). For the others there was this one song that was in a style they hadn’t came a cross before – “Life Is Now” It’s more an American groove.



What was it like welcoming (to you at least) a new bassist into the band? How has the feel and dynamics changed if at all and what does Fredrik bring differently to the HammerFall sound?

Fredrik brings stability both on stage and personally. He plays very consistently and reliably.



Do you think that the first two HammerFall albums are more traditional metal than the later releases, or or do you think there has been much of a shift in the band’s style?

I like these first two as well. Yes, a bit change towards more of a commercial style. But not really a huge difference.





Where do you see as the musical future of HammerFall heading? Do you think there is still a demand for swords and dragons and knights of metal?

More commercial. Swords and dragons might still be there but also more mature topics.



What are your motivations for continuing with HammerFall, and what would make you decide to step down from the mighty HammerFall drum throne?

It’s a job and I make a living from it. Stepping down…well, who knows. If they fire me.



Now that the traditional heavy metal resurgence is dying off, do you feel any pressure (internally or from the label) to "stay current"?

No pressure at all. We have a great label.

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Although HammerFall is still a big band, with the line up changes in the last couple of years (Elmgren and Rosen leaving) do you find it difficult to keep the classic "HammerFall feel" in the band?

It’s for sure different now. Not in a bad way. Just different.





HammerFall has a very distinct / traditional sound, so how do you differentiate between your albums or do you think there is room to do much of that?

I can’t hear the difference any longer (sound-style-wise). The first two I can. Now it’s sounding the same more or less. It might be bad but it seems like the fans, band leaders, and producer want it this way.

But the songs on the newest record sticks out bit I think. You could say HammerFall has found it’s sound.



Was it a surprise when Magnus Rosen and Stefan Elmgren announced they were leaving the band?



Not to me. And probably not to the others either.



hammerfall 2009Stefan’s replacement, Pontus Norgren, brings with him an extensive and varied musical career, including Talisman, The Poodles, Zan Clan, House of Shakira and Jeff Scott Soto. Has he spoken of the transition to playing more aggressive heavy metal guitar being a challenge?



No, he thinks it’s OK and easy. But he likes it. He is a fan of Accept so he loves it!



Excluding the new release, what is your favorite HammerFall album and why?

LEGACY OF KINGS. I like the sound and freshness of the songs.





HammerFall recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary. Did you think that the band would still be going strong ten+ years later given the rather sad state of metal when GLORY TO THE BRAVE was released in 1997?

Yes, I think so. What else would we be doing? :-)





Reflecting upon the experience in dealing with the athletes (i.e. the “Hearts On Fire” video), would you do that again if approached?

Yes!



Do you know if Joacim Cans plans to do a follow up up to ‘Beyond The Gates’ in the future?

No idea. Don’t think so.





As a drummer, what do you get out of exploring other types of music than metal? Do these forays outside the metal genre bring back influences that affect your playing / style in HammerFall?

Yes, I have a different feel than most strict metal drummers with a bit more swing in the playing. I play fusion and funk as well so the boundaries sometimes are a bit diffuse.





HammerFall has always tackled interesting cover songs, the latest being The Knack’s "My Sharona." Did you record any others for NO SACRIFICE, NO VICTORY that will show up as bonus tracks elsewhere?

No, that’s the only one.





What was the motivation for picking “My Sharona”? Were you going for something no one would expect, did you choose it because it’s a popular song?

It was my idea. I stole the idea from Van Halen. Thy did some great covers from rock songs and turned them into metal.







Regarding the MASTERPIECES compilation that came out last year, will HammerFall continue to record cover songs on future releases?

Probably. But maybe not. We have done too many already. ha!



Do you know what was the reason was for Oscar and Pontus tuning down the guitars on the new album?

It was so Joacim would have an easier time singing. He had vocal cord surgery a few years back and that’s when we started this. I think it’s more a psychological thing rather. He knows it’s easier when tuned down. But he would be fine in any which way.





On the new record, “One of a Kind” was co-written with Jesper Strömblad of In Flames, who, of course, formed HammerFall with Oscar. Was this an older song from when Jesper was still in the band or is it a new collaboration?

No idea. A new one, I think.



Also on the new record, “Something For The Ages” was written exclusively by Pontus. Was this penned for HammerFall or did he rework it to HammerFall’s style?

It was a song he had from before. No, it was like it was. No changes.





I understand that Joacim and Oscar have done most of the songwriting in the past. Is HammerFall moving in a direction where other band members will be contributing more to the songwriting?

I don’t think so (unfortunately) hahah.





You are currently touring southern Europe but no other dates show past the end of April. Beyond the usual summer festival circuit in Europe, are there plans to do another North American tour, such as the co-headlining one with Edguy back in 2005?

I think there are plans fore a tour. Maybe a few cities on the west and some on the east….and then a few festivals maybe.





Charlie Bauerfeind (Blind Guardian, Primal Fear, etc.) has handled production on the last four studio albums. Compared with Fredrik Nordstrom who produced the first two records and Michael Wagner who produced RENEGADE, what does Bauerfeind bring to the table that the others did not?

He is a working machine! And pays attention to details no one else cares about.

hammerfall - no sacrifice no victory

NO SACRIFICE, NO VICTORY just debuted on the Billboard Top New Artist album chart in the U.S.A. at #38. This many years in, do you find it bittersweet to find yourselves labeled as a "new artist" in the North American market?

North America is a huge continent. I think it’s understandable. Cool that they found us at all.



What has kept HammerFall going for so long with only few lineup changes?

Maturity of the members.



What ideas or things would you like to see incorporated into HammerFall in the future?

I think we have done all things possible in the style. But maybe some different effects and stage sets.

 

Thanks for your time!

Thank you!





HammerFall bassist Fredrik Larsson

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Congrats on the release of NO SACRIFICE, NO VICTORY. Tell us a bit about the album’s recording. Was it a fairly quick and standard process?

Well, this is only my third record, my second with HammerFall so I really don’t know if it was a standard procedure. Everything went smooth and we had time to experiment a bit with both sound and what to play. I think it was different for the other guys since both me and Pontus are new in the band they had to do things in other ways than they’re used to.

What were the challenges you personally faced (if any) with the new recording both technically and in terms of learning/writing the new material?

Nothing special I would say, I mean I’m not a technical bass player and my main goal is to make a steady foundation with the drums.

After returning to HammerFall after such a long absence did you find any difference in the creative process within the band compared to the early days?

Since I wasn’t a part of the process in 1996 I really don’t know, but I guess it’s pretty much the same. Oscar and Joacim is writing most of the parts and we add on.

Do you think there is there now a HammerFall mold that songs have to fit into before they will be considered for inclusion on an album?

HammerFall has always done things the way we want it to be. We don’t make records for anybody else and I think that’s why we’re still around. There’s no mold but I mean, we’re talking 80’s Heavy Metal. That’s what we like and that’s what we make. We all listen to a lot of different music but I don’t think we would ever incorporate that in HammerFall.

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Briefly, can you recount why you left the band after GLORY TO THE BRAVE and then what you were up to for the interim period before rejoining?

At that time there was so many things I wanted to do in life and I wanted to play a bit more aggressive music like Thrash and Death Metal. I couldn’t concentrate 100% on HammerFall and I didn’t think it was fair to the other guys who were really focused so I left my position to someone who could. I had my day job and played in local bands, mainly None, but didn’t release any albums. Later on I played in Joacim’s solo project, Cans, and after that in Evergrey.

When HammerFall approached you to rejoin, did you have a moment of hesitation or did you have any things that you had to clear up with regards to what your place would be in the band before you agreed to rejoin?

When I quit it wasn’t a problem. We all agreed that this was for the best and we were all friends so I had no hesitation about that at all. Oscar was and still is one of my best friends and even during those 10 years I was away we didn’t see each other that much but we always had a great time when we got together. I’m the bass player in HammerFall, I’m 20% of HammerFall, even though I don’t participate in the songwriting process. Oscar and Joacim are the ones with the visions and what to do with HammerFall and it has worked pretty good so far.

Glory to the brave

After you were back on board, what the first practice like with the band? Do you remember the first songs you played? Was it material from GLORY TO THE BRAVE or did you start out right away with working on the new album’s songs?

I don’t know which songs we played but I learned 5 or 6 for the first rehearsal and then we jammed a couple from GTTB that I remembered. It was like being back in 1997 again. We had a good chemistry from the beginning!

 

What was, or rather, is it like to lock in and play with one of the finest drummers in power metal, Anders Johansson? :)

It’s great! Anders is a very skilled drummer and I’m honored to play with him but it’s both easy and difficult at the same time. He can easily fool us all with some odd timing or a fill you never thought would work. That makes all of us on edge because you never really know what’s going to happen.

How do you think your style differs from Magnus Rosen?

I would say we differ a lot. I’m more groove oriented and as said before more into making a foundation with the drums.

Do you think that the first two HammerFall albums are more traditional metal than the later releases, or or do you think there has been much of a shift in the band’s style?

I think HammerFall evolves from album to album but it’s the same key elements as usual. This is what we like and this is what we do. 80’s Heavy Metal.



hammerfall2009t.jpgDid you closely follow the HammerFall releases after you left the band? What did you like and what didn’t you like so much about what they were doing?

I got the first couple of records from Oscar and he told me what was going on, other than that I really didn’t follow. I was happy for their success and wished them all the best but I was more focused on the things I was doing myself.

 

What did you think or the huge success HammerFall attained in Sweden and in Europe? Did you ever kick yourself and say “that could of been me” …or no regrets?

I don’t know how many times I heard this question and I can honestly say that I never regretted my decision but I would hate myself if I didn’t take the opportunity to be back in the band again.

You were in a pre-HammerFall band with Oscar Dronjak called Crystal Age. As many know, this band was nothing like HammerFall as it was Swedish Death Metal. What was going on in Crystal Age near the end…what did you see happening that was pushing Oscar, and I guess you, to switch to the traditional heavy metal style at a time when it was so unpopular?

I really don’t know what happened with Crystal Age. All of a sudden everybody just lost interest in the band and we never really spoke about it. Maybe the others did, strange anyway.

Oscar had started HammerFall earlier and since we didn’t play together in a band he asked me if I wanted to join. You’re right about it being unpopular but this was the kind of music I grew up with so of course it was fun to play. We really didn’t care what everybody else thought. We put on leather pants, chains and studs and there were a lot of people laughing but why should we care.

Did either you or Oscar think that the style of metal you went with on GLORY TO THE BRAVE would to many represent a monumental turning point in the re-immersion of traditional power metal? At the time I remember GTTB being a huge breath of fresh air from what was dominating the scene!!

I think our debut came exactly at the right time. There were no record company that believed in Heavy Metal in that time but I think the people wanted it and when Nuclear Blast decided to go all in for us it was a turning point for sure for the whole genre.

Since the late 90’s and early 2000’s this boom in the popularity of power metal has seemed to wane a little. Would you agree? Is it stagnation, over-saturation of the style, a part of the natural cyclical nature of metal/music styles…etc. Thoughts?

I think it’s all natural. When one band becomes popular everybody is looking for the next big thing and way to often they just want a copy of that to have a piece of the cake. Music as well as fashion will always have a cycle but maybe Metal is not that sensitive to trends, there will always be bands in all kinds of sub-genres.

Reportedly when you left HammerFall you wanted to get back to playing more death/thrash orientated material. Did you regret leaving Crystal Age and were you not into the power metal style of HammerFall? Would you say that this is where you heart truly lies, or are you just as satisfied NOW to be playing straight up heavy metal?

CrystalAge-album.gifI did my years exploring all kinds of Metal and that is what formed me as a bass player. I still love a lot of different music but a good song is a good song. My heart is in Metal so I’m very satisfied with the situation right now. I’m also in a band called DeathDestruction, a project with Henrik and Jonas from Evergrey and Jimmie from Dead by April where I can ventilate my more aggressive side.

Do you and Oscar ever bust our some old Crystal Age songs when jamming? Have any fans ever called for a one-off reunion show with that band?

Not that often, but sometimes Oscar starts with a part and I try to remember and join but it was so long ago and most often we cant even remember together. I haven’t heard a single person who would like to hear it again. Hahha!

HammerFall recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary. Did you think that the band would still be going strong ten+ years later given the rather sad state of metal when GLORY TO THE BRAVE was released in 1997?

Not in our wildest dreams! We were really happy just to record an album, specially when the climate for that kind of music was totally as it was.

 

You played piano on GTTB? Will you be playing any piano or keys with the band now either on albums or live?

I played piano when I was 10 or something. I never played on the album, I’m not that good. I faked playing in the first GTTB video, the song GTTB.

To close, what ideas or things would you like to see incorporated into HammerFall in the future?

I’m really happy as it is, we don’t make records with the intention to bring this or that into the music. We do what we want to hear and will always do it that way!


Website: www.hammerfall.net

Label: www.nuclearblastusa.com

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