The Great War is the best record so far:Interview with Hannes Van Dahl, Sabaton
Photo by George Grigoriadis
Every year in august a Swedish town named Falun is invaded by metal heads from all over the world, this year for example over 30 countries was represented over the four days of hard rock and heavy metal. Every year there is a local band, this year is no exception, holding court in their own hometown. Sabaton played on Saturday the 17th of august and two days earlier I hook up with the bands drummer Hannes Van Dahl backstage. We talked for about an hour and for me it was extremely interesting talking to the drummer.
First of all Hannes I wanna hear why you decided to accept the job in Sabaton?
-To be honest I was hesitating at first. My old band Evergrey was touring with Sabaton 2011 and we were getting along just fine. I thought Sabaton was well organized but I was rather tired of touring at that time. I was working full time in a studio and from time to time Evergrey did some shows.
It turned out that Pär Sundström got in touch with me, asked me to come to the Abyss studio in Pärlby and play. Like always I was well prepared but my expectations were very low, I was pretty sure that the offer would go to someone else. It turned out to be extremely fun and I sat there with a smile on my face playing the songs, and when I having fun I’m on so when I got the question to join the band I said yes.
What was Toms from Evergrey reaction?
-He said congratulation and wished me good luck. Tom is a very busy person so he understand why I wanted to move on with my musical career.
What feelings appear when you find out that you are number one on the album chart in your home country Sweden?
-I don’t have any special focus of that but of course i’m extremely honored by the fact that people in Sweden like what we are doing. Even if we weren’t number one my thinking about the music and Sabaton would be the same, and to be honest I don’t follow the charts so I didn’t know that we were hitting the number one spot. I’m very humble and glad though that we reached the top.
I guess that Pär Sundström were aware of the chart positions?
-Definitely for sure.
How is it to have Pär in the band? He seems to have hundreds of balls in the air at the same time.
-Pär is a hard working man and I have the deepest respect for him. He is stable and secure and he is keeping track on everything, for example it was his idea when it comes to the two stages at Wacken and he knows what catering company we had in Italy the last time we played there, he’s quite amazing.
For the rest of us it’s great having Pär because we can focus on playing those shows and work hard in the studio. In the world I think there is very few who is capable of what Pär is doing, and we stand behind him 24/7.
If you put your hand on your heart Hannes is ”The Great War” Sabatons best record so far?
-Yes I think so, we developed on this record and we have some exciting element on the record without leaving the concept. So if you ask me the answer is yes but we have to remember that it is the fans that decides in the end. If they don’t like the record it doesn’t matter what I say. It was fun recording it though and we definitely developed recording ”The Great War”.
How long time do you spend in the studio if you compare to the rest of the band?
-My parts usually takes about two and a half day in the studio, after I’ve worked six hours a day for three weeks in rehearsel time. Me and Jocke doing the drums and we’re working very good together, he knows and I knows. Jocke is also very interested in the drum parts so it floats on well, he also trust the rest of the band. If we talk the musical parts ”The Great War” is by far the best record we ever made. Chris and Tommy plays great.
How do you combine being father of a little child and play drums in one of the biggest bands out there right now?
-You have to be good at puzzles. Floor took Freja on an eight week tour in the states when she was eight month old and people around us said it was impossible. In my world you have to try things and it went extremely well. Nightwish used a tour bus who was about twenty meters long and Freja was sleeping like a baby (and that was what she was of course) when the bus were moving. She wake up when they stopped because the engine was very soporific, and when it was turned off it went to quiet. So if I sum it up it works real fine and both Sabaton and Nightwish understand our situation.
Wacken a couple of weeks ago was very special. Some of the old members of Sabaton came up on the stage right beside you and together you played for about an hour. As a drummer how do you think when you’re going to sync with another drummer?
-First of all it has to be two good drummers, otherwise it doesn’t work at all. Daniel Mullback is a very good friend of mine, he is interested and have cool ideas. And when he shows up he knows exactly what he is up to. The solo was my idea and Daniel wanted to be a part of it. It gets kind of easy when Daniel deliver 100.000 %, at the same time he is positive and happy and that makes everything much easier.
The contact between me and Daniel have been constant for about a year now and I think we were syncing quite well at Wacken Open Air. The energy after the solo was enormous and we thought it was so much fun.
I saw the live stream and I reacted that you were playing together for about an hour. It became worthingly if you ask me.
-It was never any other options, we wanted to do this as right as possible. I have a great deal of respect for Daniels drumming and his energy on that stage is awesome. When we played the songs my drums was in the PA on the songs I’ve recorded with Sabaton and vice versa. It went really good at Wacken and I wasn’t nervous of the way that we were going to play the songs.
Back in 2015, also at Wacken, I was nervous and no one in the band were excited afterwards because we could have done it so much at kdidn’t have pyro and tanks. In the end the most important thing isn’t the stage effects, it’s more important just to play the music.
If you rank yourself as a drummer would you make top 100?
-Not a chance. I could say 100 drummers right now that’s better than me, to be honest I have much to learn and as a drummer you have to show some continuity over a long time and Vinny Appice is a great example of that. I have been a professional drummer for eleven years now and that is too short time to make that kind of list. You also have to make an impression like Joey Jordison from Slipknot to end up there.
Your wife Floor Jansen ended up at number 62 when Sweden Rock Magazine let their readers vote for the best singer in the metal world and that’s the reason why I asked you the question.
-That sounds great. I didn’t have any idea of that. I will tell her and I want you to send me that in a text message.
The best drummer in the history according to Hannes VanDahl?
-I have to say two. John Bonham (Led Zeppelin) and Keith Moon (The Who). The reason why is that I like Bonham for his technique and Moon for his absolute madness on the stage. When I look at concerts I’m watching the drummer, and if they don’t have some kind of madness or the technique I’m losing interest. My goal is to have Bonhams technique and slew as the same time that I try to put on a great show like Keith Moon did, the early records from The Who is absolutely fantastic.
A couple of years ago I met Nicko McBrain (Iron Maiden) and I asked him ”Why are you doing this?”, the answer was ”What am I going to do instead?”. ”I can play golf but that would be rather boring in about two weeks and I’ve done this since I was 16 years old”. Right there and then I understand that despite all the money they are making it’s still kind of fun for Nicko to do it.
How big can Sabaton be?
-It’s extremely difficult to say. We have talked about it several times, I believe it’s hard playing ”Screaming Eagles” when you’re 70, and we are very happy that we can keep to the level where we are right now. Who knows, the life can turn around in one second but as long as I’m healthy and it’s fun playing I will sit there behind those drums. And when I come to that point where I find it boring I will quit because I can not see me cheating people by playing bad. To answer the original question I don’t know but we will be around as long as we and our fans enjoy our music.
Your favorite song to play live with Sabaton?
-”Lejonet Från Norden” (”The Lion From The North”) is a challenge and I want it to be a little bit difficult because if it is I will keep my focus. ”Winged Hussars” is also a favorite and I really like to play ”The Price Of A Mile” because it’s slow and got that really nice rhythm.
Do you have a favorite song in the metal world?
-Oh my god, that’s pretty tough to answer that question, but if we take it from a drummers point of view the best metal song is ”Painkiller” from Judas Priest album with the same name which came out 1990. The sound Scott Travis create in that song is quite amazing.
Thank you very much Hannes.
-Thank you. It went very well I think.