Back in 1997 Hammerfall released their debut album ”Glory To The Brave” and I believe that somehow they were a big part that Heavy Metal came back strong after a couple of years with grunge and alternative rock. Now it’s 2020 and the Corona virus still sets the rules for music around the world. I gave Oscar Dronjak a call a couple of weeks ago and we were talking about Corona but also their brand new live album.
Hi there Oscar.
-Hello, you are right on time.
I usually are. I think I can show you that respect.
I start by saying welcome back on record with the new live album ”Live! Against The World”.
Your thoughts around that?
-It was time to do another live album, our 4th live album by the way. We get a good budget from the record company this time and Ludwigsburg in Germany is a classic town when it comes to Heavy Metal. We played there with Tank and Raven on our first tour and it’s extremely special playing in front of the german fans.
To release a live album was a great event back in the 70’s and 80’s and we want this to stand out 2020. We release the whole concert on Blue Ray as well because it was a great night playing in Ludwigsburg.
The corona virus have struck hard on the people around the world and musicians have been taking a hard hit. How do you get through the days?
-First of all you gotta keep yourself in shape. The last gig we did was on the 29th of february and it’s a very unusual situation right now. In the beginning it was kind of cool being at home and if I had to be real honest I’ve got a whole summer home with my family which was awesome. Of course it would have been fun playing all those festivals but you have to come up with other things and believe me I haven’t been without job. It took the whole summer working with the release of the live album and I also stream Hammerfall-TV where we did eleven programs, one of each of our albums.
We did those programs every friday this summer. This Corona virus is very boring of course but you can’t lay down and die, you have to do the best of it every day and if we keep our release rate we will have a new album out in 2022 but in that case 2021 will be very crucial, if we can’t go out and play live we might as well postpone the next album.
I saw you live at the Sabaton Open Air back in 2017 and two things hit me. Firstly you are extremely good live and secondly the sound was incredible. Do you got your own sound engineer also on festivals?
-Yes definitely, we need to have the right guy there. We have a couple of guys (Michael Spiess and Achim Köhler) that are extremely good and I think it was Michael who was the sound engineer when we played the Sabaton Open Air. These guys are super professionals and that means that we can work with our thing, in the end it turns out great.
Pontus is working with production and he take that very seriously and it’s very important that we have the right people around us.
Is Heavy Metal still fun?
-Yes! Yes! Yes! Everything isn’t fun all the time but my relation to Heavy Metal is a love story. I started listen to Hard Rock and Heavy Metal around 81-82 and after almost 40 years the flame is still burning.
I’m working with my passion and deep inside me I felt that Heavy Metal was my thing, I was meant to play Heavy Metal. It also fun that we got so many good bands from Sweden, some of them quite unique with their own identity.
According to me Hammerfall is a big reason that Heavy Metal was rising again in the end of the 90’s after a couple of difficult years. Did you think that ”Glory To The Brave” could be the album that changed the climate for Heavy Metal?
-No no, definitely not. It wasn’t even a daydream. We did believe in Heavy Metal back then and we still do, it’s a very strong music form. We never thought it would happen but we noticed that both ”Glory To The Brave” and ”Legacy Of Kings” brought us forward. With our third album ”Renegade” we got a new audience I think, before that album it was only hard rock music lovers who was listening to our music. With ”Renegade” we reached out to a new audience and it makes me proud when people are coming to me, telling me that he/she discovered Heavy Metal bacause of us.
Right there I believe that we have succeeded because it wasn’t very cool listen to Hammerfall before ”Renegade”. With that album we got a completely new respect and we were also played on national radio. To sum it up we helped out to make Heavy Metal popular again and we should have got some cred for that.
How many albums have Hammerfall sold if we see to physical albums?
-You are asking the wrong person, I really have no idea. I’m totally useless when it comes to our record sale. I believe that ”Renegade” have sold around 100.000 copies but that’s it. We must remember that it’s a big difference now if we compare to the 90’s. People are consuming music in a different way when they got it all available on Spotify for example, and if we go back to the 80’s the difference is even bigger. I am grown up with vinyl records and I’m still into that, I’m not a big fan of playlists on Spotify.
I listen to records in full and I’m also listen to entire discographies when it comes to certain bands, which is quite interesting if the bands have a proper catalog. Now for example I’ve been listening to Deicide which is a band I lost a couple of years ago. I saw that they were releasing a new album and when I go back to check the band out I realize that I’ve missed two or three albums over the last years.
If you look at Hammerfalls line-up right now you must be quite pleased?
-Oh yes, no question about that. This is by far the best line-up we have had, we’ve grown together as a band and for me personally I’ve matured over the last years and that is a big help for me when I’m on that stage playing and performing. The line-up is giving me enormous security and thanks to Pontus (Norgren) the band sounds a lot better.
Hammerfall has never been better performing live and the kombo is great. We are back in the Heavy Metal pace again.
Exactly what I think and Anders Johansson is not a Heavy Metal drummer if we have to be honest?
-No he isn’t. Don’t get me wrong here, Anders Johansson is a brilliant drummer and he was a big part of the bands sound when he was the drummer but with David Wallin we got a real Heavy Metal drummer.
If we look into the future we really don’t know anything at all but what will happen for Hammerfall when the world’s opening up again?
-Our plan is to release the next album in 2022 but everything depends on next year and to be honest I don’t see anything right now that points in the direction that the world can open up in 2021. Maybe, and that’s a big maybe there could be some festivals in august and then the tours could start next autumn, but it’s a big maybe. We will see every band going out to tour when it opens up and our plan is to release a new album in 2022.
Next week I will talk to Wolf Hoffman about there upcoming new album in January 2021. How does it feel for you that many of your old heroes are still out there recording and releasing new albums?
-It’s so much fun. If we talk about Accept they are my role models and Wolf is my biggest inspiration as a guitar player. They started over with a new singer and still they are making great records. I love Udo but Marc is also good and he is a great singer for Accept. Wolf is the master when it comes to riffs and he got a great sense for the guitar sound which matter a lot when it comes to Accepts music.
If we take another example, Judas Priest, I have to say that Rob Halfords voice is a huge part of their sound and today his voice isn’t there for 100% as it used to be. Because of that I think the abums have been a little bit boring and after K.K. and Glen left the band they just ain’t there anymore. Richie Faulkner is doing his part in a great way and they still have Scott Travis who is the best drummer in the world of Heavy Metal according to me,but still the music doesn’t affect me as it used to do.
It’s time to wrap this up Oscar and at last I want you to name your favourite album and favourite song of all time?
-It’s very hard but in the end I always return to the album and the song ”Balls To The Wall” with Accept. If we take the song for example I have to say that the riff in the intro is the 80’s ”Smoke On The Water”, everybody hear directly that it is ”Balls To The Wall” when they hear it and to be compared to ”Smoke On The Water” isn’t that bad I think.
If we go back to the riff in the intro in a songwriters point of view it’s very unique because that riff only appears in the intro and nowhere else in the song. And in the end every part of the song fits in perfectly and that’s why I think it’s the best song ever made. And the rest of the songs, oh my god, makes it the best album ever.
Thank you Oscar that you were taking the time talking to me.
-No problem. Thank you.