Interview with Pontus Norgren (guitars) & Fredrik Larsson (bass)
9th May 2015 @ O2 Academy Islington, London
Interviewed by Oliver M.
Photos by Graham Hilling
Three years after “Infected”, HammerFall came back in 2014 with a new masterpiece “(r)Evolution” which marked a return to their old melodic speed metal roots. Then, they went on tour in South America and Europe to promote this ninth opus which was both a critical and commercial success. They got outstanding reviews, reached number 1 in the Swedish album charts and had many sold out gigs. As it was not enough for them, the templars offered an exclusive show in London on the 9th of May to their UK fans. We had the great opportunity to interview both Pontus Norgren (guitars) and Fredrik Larsson (bass) who were very relaxed and in a great mood prior to their live performance. It was the right moment for us to know the background behind “(r)Evolution” in detail.
Hello guys! First of all, could you please tell us how your last European tour was in general?
Fredrik: Well, since I was on parental leave, I wasn’t on that tour! (Laughs) I will leave that question!
Pontus: Well, I have to say, in terms of referring to the other tours we’ve done before, this one has been very very successful! And I have to say that all the shows were amazing, almost sold out half of the tour and yeah… I can just say that was an amazing tour. You know, everything felt good because Fredrik wasn’t there of course… (Laughs) No, just kidding! But you know, the reception with the new songs and everything was… Because normally, when you play new songs, sometimes people are like more just listening or they haven’t heard the songs on radio for so many times. But this time, they sang along even on all the new songs and it was like: “Wow!” Really really good!
You have always been signed at Nuclear Blast since your first album “Glory to the Brave”. How can you explain that you have been working with them for so many years? It seems that there is a kind of love story between HammerFall and Nuclear Blast? Do you agree?
(Laughs) Fredrik: Yeah, in the beginning, they actually bought out the first record from a really small record label called Vic Records from The Netherlands. When they released “Glory to the Brave”, it was their greatest selling debut album of all times even after ten years I think. So, yeah! It was a great success from the beginning and then, we started to work together really intimate. And yeah, it has been a long time.
Regarding your contract with them, how many albums left do you have at Nuclear Blast?
(Laughs) Fredrik: We’ll see! We have some good talks with them.
Pontus: There have been meetings going on. So, we’ll see what happens! (Laughs)
OK, let’s wait and see! Now, let’s talk about your last album “(r)Evolution” released last year. First of all, I have to say that the “(r)Evolution” cover artwork is the best ever made for HammerFall so far. That’s also one of the reasons why I’m currently wearing your last tour t-shirt! Who made the artwork and how did it happen?
(Laughs) Fredrik: It’s Andreas Marschall who did the first couple of album covers. So, when we talked about getting back to the roots of the early HammerFall, we took Fredrik Nordström as a producer back. Then, we talked to Andreas Marschall and asked if he wanted to do the new cover. And it was all him and jumped the train! So yeah, it turned up great!
From my point of view, “(r)Evolution” is a masterpiece of melodic power metal. You came back to your old roots and it contains more melodic speed metal tracks compared to your previous albums. That’s why I love so much this album. How did you find the inspiration to write such great songs?
Pontus: I think it is because we decided to have a break. You know, we had a break for almost two years and I think we needed that because everything has been going! It has been album tour, album tour and album tour! And then, in the end, it’s like going to work and after that, going back home. You know, you lose the inspiration on the way. After the break, we started to write new songs and it was just… It was so fun again! It was back to the teenage feeling of writing songs. Oscar writes most of the songs and I’m part of the songwriting now. And it was just fun! You know, when he played songs, he was like: ”Yeah! Yeah!” (Laughs) I was writing a couple of songs and I went down to Gothenburg together with Oscar and it just became: “Yeah, that’s cool, fuck! Yeah!” That’s how you want to feel. It’s not like: “Oh, it’s cool.” And then, you just record the album and go on tour. Because that happens to every band I think. You know, when you do it, it becomes more of a habit than a fun thing. You just have to do it and open your eyes. Everyone could do what they wanted to do for two years and get the inspiration back I think.
What are the main lyrical themes of “(r)Evolution”?
Fredrik: Oh, I really don’t know!
Pontus: I can say! I think that, like Joacim said, he wanted to capture the whole HammerFall era from day one up until now. You can hear it in the song “Bushido” because that takes a lot of eras of HammerFall and I think it was quite big. That’s why we got Fredrik Nordström and Andreas Marschall back. It was like capturing the good moments of our career and of course, the lyrics gather those periods. It’s the evolution/revolution thing and I think… Yeah, it’s a round-up for 16 years.
And that’s what we can see on your video-clip of “Hector’s Hymn” as well…
Pontus: Yeah, exactly. So, I think that was the idea behind it. It shows all the good parts. Of course, everything is good, it has been a good career for HammerFall but it’s like… When you start to look back at it…
Fredrik: You take a glimpse from the whole period…
Pontus: Yeah and get a perspective like: “Wow! It has been great!” So, I think it represents the whole era of HammerFall. It has been like a revolution journey.
I think that taking a break helps a lot as well so you can get a perspective of what you have achieved…
Pontus: Of course! It doesn’t matter whatever you do. You just need to go back and see what has happened.
As you’ve just said, you have been looking back at your past a lot recently. Do you still have some contacts with HammerFall’s former members?
Fredrik: Yeah, Stefan was my replacement on tour. So, he‘s still a big part of the family obviously.
Pontus: Oh yes and we’ve done the 15th year anniversary DVD “Gates of Dalhalla” with some of the old members and then, we did a Wacken show last year.
Fredrik: Patrik Räfling (the drummer) and Jesper Strömblad were there with other members…
Pontus: Yeah, it’s a great family!
What are your next projects after this exclusive London show?
Fredrik: Oh, we have a lot of shows coming up this summer! Lots of festivals and we’ve just released a statement: we’re going to play in Japan at…
Pontus: Loud Park!
Have you ever been there before?
Pontus: Yeah, I’ve already been there. I was supposed to do a show with King Diamond because I work with him. Anyway, that’s really good but I think the whole summer starts at Sweden Rock Festival on the 4th of July. So, that’s where the summer festivals start.
To conclude this interview, I’ve got one personal question for Joacim. Since the release of his first solo album “Beyond the Gates” in 2004, I haven’t heard a lot about his solo career. Do you know when he’s going to release his second solo album?
(Laughs) Fredrik: I don’t think he’s planning to do that. I mean, he has released a Swedish solo album…
Pontus: Two years ago?
Fredrik: Not that long… Was it one year or two years ago? Well, a while ago.
Pontus: I don’t think he’s planning to do a solo thing because he has been busy with a lot of other stuff. He’s doing radio, TV stuff and musical stuff. He did Rock of Ages for one and a half year when we had a break. So, I think HammerFall is more or less his main priority and it’s the same for all of us when we have a break. I do tours with other bands and Joacim does radio and TV.
Thanks a lot for your time, guys. I wish all the best for you and HammerFall!
Fredrik: Thank you very much!
Pontus: Thank you very much for your support and as you’re French, I would like to say thanks and congratulations to France for two sold out concerts in Paris and Lyon during our last European tour!