HAMMERFALL have been an important face in the Swedish Heavy Metal scenario since the early 90’s. From their good old times in the infamous Gothenburg scene to their recent most album Built To Last. We speak with Fredrik Larsson about a lot of things related to this album, his idea behind rejoining, Hector and lots more! Excerpts:
MJM: Hello, greetings from MJM! How are you doing Mr. Fredrik? It’s so good to finally catch up with you.
FL: I feel great! Finally the album has been released and I’m looking forward to get out on the road and spread our music!
MJM: First of all, congratulations with the release of Built To Last. I recently heard the album and it was mind blowing! How is the reaction so far with the album?
FL: So far we have got great response from our fans and media. It’s a bit weird when you work so hard in a pretty long time and then you release it and can’t do nothing to control it anymore. It’s out there for our fans to judge. But I have a great feeling for this one and the reactions have been fantastic.
MJM: Does the album posses a different direction towards the identity of the band than the last few albums musically? How do you think will new listeners be able to perceive this one?
FL: I think ‘Built to Last’ is really close related to ‘r(Evolution)’, we had the same feel in the studio and it was recorded in pretty much the same way. We recorded drums, bass and guitars in Oscar’s Castle Black Studio with Fredrik Nordström as producer and the vocals were recorded in Los Angeles with James Michael. The only difference was probably that we had David Wallin behind the drums this time. And music wise it’s a natural progression from ‘r(Evolution)’, maybe a bit faster over all and a bit more diverse but definitely 100% HammerFall.
MJM: So tell us more about the new album Built To Last! What’s the story behind the name and what story does it emphasize to deliver? Any specific influences?
FL: Well, ‘Built to Last’ is a pretty obvious statement. When we recorded ‘Glory to the Brave’ back in -96 we were pretty much laughed at and nobody thought we would even record a second album. But now, almost 20 years later and with our 10th studio album we can proudly proclaim that HammerFall is Built to Last. The influences comes, as always, first and foremost from classic Heavy Metal but also from all kinds of new music around us. We bring our own influences to the table, within the boundaries that forms HammerFall, and that is what we are.
MJM: You quit the band back in mid 90s and rejoined after a decade. You even cited that you would have regretted not making this decision. What inspired you to make this change?
FL: At that time, HammerFall was a really small band in the beginning of the career and I wasn’t ready to put 100% of my time into the band so it was better for us all if I stepped back and let someone else take my place. I wanted to explore a bit more extreme music, Death and Thrash Metal as well as some Progressive Metal, and that was the right decision for me. If I hadn’t quit at that time, I don’t think I would be in the band today.
MJM: Sweden’s Gothenburg scene had a lot of Black and Death Metal bands at the inception. How challenging was it to be a band that played something entirely different? How did people receive the music back in 1993/1994?
FL: I actually met Oscar through a mutual friend and started to play in a Death Metal band with him in back 1993. The name of the band was Crystal Age and we released an album in 1995, ‘Far Beyond Divine Horizons’. People looked at HammerFall as somewhat a joke. It was all about aggressive music or Grunge at that time but we kept on doing our thing and we did it by heart and I think that is a key part of the success. People heard that it was honest and could relate to that.
MJM: Today, its safe to say that Hammerfall is unquestionably one of the most influential heavy metal bands, especially hailing from Sweden and spreading the vengeance since 1993. How does it feel to be still super active and powerful? Do you guys have the fear of losing out the ability to create new stuffs or have faced obstacles in creating new music as you guys been together for such a long period?
FL: I’m really proud of what we have achieved during those years but you can’t sit back and lean on old merits and think you’ll get by. We still work hard to make the best album we can and continue to grow as a band. We want to make more and bigger shows and spread our music all over the world.
MJM: Despite the lineup changes, the band has strongly lifted itself back and went on to become stronger. Tell us the secret behind such redemption?
FL: Well, it’s always hard with line up changes but sometimes they are necessary and often it will bring something good in terms of energy and to break old habits. I can honestly say that HammerFall has never sounded better than today. Pontus is a big part of this, with his know how in the technical part with in ears and stuff. He made us all sit better in the mix and we could focus on playing together in a better way. And think we work better as a band off stage as well. We all struggle for the same goals and we try to have fun as a band instead of handling the downside of touring by yourself, such as waiting and, yeah waiting. There’s a lot of waiting on tour. You wait for lunch, for the stage to be ready, for soundcheck, for dinner, for doors to open and then finally to get on stage and the fun begins.
MJM: ‘Built to Last’ is your 10th studio album, that’s a very huge number. Have these numbers ever affected you as a band and the process? What changes do you see that’s striking?
FL: I don’t see us thinking about that. We’re proud of our back catalogue but we always focus on our latest release. We’ve come a long way since we started. Just look at the songwriting and instrumental skills, there is miles apart if you ask me. And I think we are on the right path now, with both ‘r(Evolution)’ and ‘Built to Last’. But of course, only time will tell if these two records will stand the test of time. But they seem to fit perfectly into our live set at least.
MJM: How does it stands out from your last album (r)Evolution?
FL: As I said before, the pace is over all a bit faster and the new album is a bit more diverse but other than that it’s just a natural progression I think. Joacim sings better than ever and the solos really stands out. Fredrik Nordström did a fantastic job mixing the album and really made us shine. He did a great job on ‘r(Evolution)’ as well but this time it was even better.
MJM: You guys signed to a new record label with Napalm Records, how is it working out for the band? Why did you guys decided to leave the old label?
FL: We worked with our old label since day one pretty much and it’s hard not to fall into some security and do things the same way as you’ve done so many times before. We wanted someone that wanted to take us to the next level and believed in us. Someone that wanted to reach the same goal as us. And it’s the same thing with everyone we work with, we need to be on the same side and struggle together.
MJM: The fans love Hector, tell us more about how the band ended up giving life to Hector and how it’s so essential to have him around? Also can we say he is like a member of the band now?
FL: Hector was on the cover on the first album and then we just continued. He became a mascot early on but it was a bit later that Hector really became Hector and came alive. I wasn’t in the band at that time and when I rejoined Hector was a big part already. We learned a big lesson with the ‘Infected’ album, when he didn’t appear on the cover. The fans got really angry and I think the whole album got bad reviews as a big part of that. People judged the album by its cover. That’s bad but that’s how it is. I think it was a good album and we still play a lot of the songs live and they work really well in the set and people seem to enjoy them.
MJM: Have you heard about any Indian metal bands? Also do you guys plan to capture India in future?
FL: No, sorry, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of an Indian metal band. The closest would be V. Selvaganesh on Art Metal with Mattias Eklundh, Jonas Hellborg and Anders Johansson. We’ve actually done one show in India, in Chennai, a couple of years ago. I have some great memories from that visit and I would love to come back again some day. We have nothing planned and it’s hard to do a one off since it’s such a long travel.
MJM: Thank you so much for your time, we hope your new album smashes all the records.Thank you very much, it was my pleasure!
FL: Hope you enjoy ‘Built to Last’ as much as I do!
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