DATE OF INTERVIEW:
19th January 2017
Gothenburg metallers HammerFall released their tenth studio album towards the end of 2016, 'Built to Last'. It's an apt title as, twenty years on from their debut release, 'Glory to the Brave', it seems the Swedish stalwarts are, indeed, built to last. Metal Discovery quizzed bassist Fredrik Larsson about this melodic crew's new full length offering, as well as their break from Nuclear Blast after a near two decade relationship, and plans for the current year...
METAL DISCOVERY: The first thing I noticed with this release is that after 18 years of working with Nuclear Blast you were starting fresh with Napalm Records. How did that come to be?
FREDRIK: Well, I have nothing bad to say about our relationship with NB, but I guess it's like a marriage where at some point you start to take things for granted. We want to continue to grow as a band and find ways to get there and not do as we've always done. And along came Napalm and they seem like a very hungry, upcoming label that fits the description, and us, very well.
(Fredrik Larsson on how HammerFall approach recording)
"...it's better to take a recording with a lot of energy and where you can feel that something is going on. We aim for a live feeling but with studio quality. There are so many "perfect" studio albums that just sound dull and boring because there's not much struggle going on."
HammerFall - promo shot, 2016
Interview by Joshua Jaeger
Photograph copyright © 2016 - Tallee Savage
HammerFall Official Website:
Thanks to Andy Turner for arranging the interview
HammerFall Official Facebook:
HammerFall Official Twitter:
MD: Was this different or similar in any particular ways, in terms of recording and writing while working with a new label?
FREDRIK: The labels have nothing to do with how we work or do things. We have a very strong integrity on that part and we would never take orders or directions from someone else. So it's really similar to what we’ve always done.
MD: Are there any traditions that you follow during the process of putting together a new album?
FREDRIK: It's Oscar and Joacim that write the most parts and they really know each other by now, and have a routine that works, I guess. Oscar told me that it was a bit harder this time and he really needed to sit down every day and just write something to get the process up and running before everything came together. The band gets a demo with the song structure and pretty much everything is finished and then we do our parts and put some layers on top of it.
MD: What would you consider the biggest struggle this time around? Or was it all plain sailing?
FREDRIK: We worked in a really similar way that we did on ‘r(Evolution)’ and it's a really relaxed atmosphere but, at the same time, we have a lot on our shoulders to make it as good as we want to. But we don't aim for that perfect take where everything is exactly in time and in perfect pitch; it's better to take a recording with a lot of energy and where you can feel that something is going on. We aim for a live feeling but with studio quality. There are so many "perfect" studio albums that just sound dull and boring because there's not much struggle going on.
MD: Do you feel that you were able to continue to progress from your last album or has this been more of a fresh start? How do you feel ‘Built to Last’ compares to your previous works?
FREDRIK: For me, ‘Built to Last’ is like a brother to ‘r(Evolution)’. We recorded it the same way, with Fredrik Nordström as a producer in the same studio, and Joacim recorded the vocals in L.A. with James Michael, which is a procedure that works really well. I don't think Joacim has ever sounded so good. The only thing different is that we had David Wallin behind the drums this time. He brought a lot of energy and the drums sound really powerful on the record.
MD: Can you share how the recording process has evolved from album to album?
FREDRIK: I came back in 2007, just a 10 year break, and in 2008 we recorded ‘No Sacrifice, No Victory’ with Charlie Bauerfeind. That was a totally different approach from ‘Glory to the Brave’, of course, and our next album was ‘Infected’ where we started to do things more on our own. And that is how we do it from there on. We use a producer to set up some sound and pop in every now and then to check that we're on the right track. This wouldn't be possible if we didn't have Pontus in the band. He's a great studio and live sound guy and we pretty much track everything ourselves.
MD: Do you have any specific messages you are trying to get across to the listeners with the new album?
FREDRIK: That's a question for Joacim but, as always, HammerFall is about believing in yourself and fight for what is right.
MD: Is the title track supposed to be self-reflective? Is HammerFall built to last, despite various lineup changes over the years?
FREDRIK: Absolutely! It's pretty obvious but we've been around for 20 years and there were not many people that believed in us in the beginning. HammerFall is definitely Built to Last and that's a statement we all can stand behind. Yes, there has been some lineup changes but, since it's Oscar and Joacim that writes pretty much everything and choose directions for HammerFall, the core will stay intact and HammerFall will sound like HammerFall.
MD: What can fans expect from a HammerFall show on this tour? Any surprises planned for the setlist, with maybe some tracks rarely performed live?
FREDRIK: Yes, we have a couple of songs that we haven't played at all and some that we haven't played in a long time. And since it's a 20 years anniversary for ‘Glory to the Brave’ we made a medley out of songs from that album. We can't make a proper anniversary show for just that album since we're out promoting ‘Built to Last’.
MD: What would be some of your favourite bands to tour with?
FREDRIK: My personal favourite bands at the moment would be Mastodon and a Norwegian band called Dunderbeist but that would end up in an odd package. But I would enjoy it! And, of course, it would be a dream to tour with a band like Iron Maiden!
MD: Do you have any wild or amusing stories you’d like to share from your most recent tours in 2016?
FREDRIK: Well, I wasn't on either the European tour or the South American tour so I can't tell you anything from that period. I was on the Asian tour we did, but it was just a couple of shows, but it was great to see places I've never been to. Japan, the first time for me, and China and Taiwan. We played Australia as well and we had a really good time. Nothing really wild, we’re getting old, you know!
MD: What is in store for the band next year, apart from the already announced tour? Any plans to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of ‘Glory to the Brave’?
FREDRIK: We have some plans, there are a lot of festivals coming up and hopefully we’ll do a South America tour this fall. No big plans as of yet to celebrate ‘Glory to the Brave’ but we will see.
MD: Thank you for taking the time to go over these questions, we really appreciate it. Can’t wait to see you guys on tour!
FREDRIK: Hope to see you, too!