Let the infection spread!! Oscar speaks out.
Swedish Power metal act 'Hammerfall' have really taken the world of heavy Metal by storm over the years and with each album released the band seem to be getting stronger and stronger. Originally formed roughly in 93 when Oscar and In Flames guitarist Jesper Stormbald formed Hammerfall out of the ashes of a band called Ceremonial Oath. At this time the band were called 'Steel Meets Steel' but soon changed their name to Hammerfal. Oscar later on found Niklas Sundin (guitars) Johan Larsson (bass), & vocalist Mikael Stanne for the 1st chapter of Hammerfall's foundation. The band released their debut album 'Glory to the Brave' in 97 with Joacim Cans (vocals), Stefan Elmgren (guitars), Magnus Rosen (bass), Patrik Rafling (drums). With a successful debut album the band went onto record many more classic albums 'Crimson Thunder', 'Chapter V', and now their new album 'Infected'. I managed to have a chat with guitarist Oscar Dronjak about the new album and what the future holds for the band. Here is what he had to say, so sit back enjoy the interview and check out the new album before you become infected!!
OK Oscar, nice to speak to you once again, been a while my friend, so lets start by asking you a little bit about the bands previous albums. The last time we did an interview was for the album 'Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken', so there a lot to talk about if we have time. Just how successful was that album for you?
"Well it was a good seller, and we haven't had any unsuccessful albums in sales terms to be honest, but we will see what happens with the new album."
Was the next album 'Threshold' a successful album for the band? Also what about the album 'No Sacrifice, No Victory' was that also a successful album too?
"Yeah pretty much so, we did a world tour and it also made us resign with Nuclear Blast. As for the 'No Sacrifice...' album was a little different as we changed 2 members of the band we for Pontus and Fredik in the band I didn't think it sold as well as the other ones and I think it was down to the line-up changes within the band."
How did you hook up with ex The Poodles guitarist Pontus Norgren into the band? Also who else did you have in find to replace Stefan?
"Well it was pretty much basic really, we had tour with them and we knew Pontus and some of us also knew him before the tour and when Stefan decided to leave he actually became a pilot and he wanted to work full time with that we had to find a replacement which was a quick search. We knew Pontus would be a great replacement for Stefan as a great musician and we were happy that he agreed to join the band. We never had that many choice to replace Stefan, but we did have Hendrik from Evergrey as a replacement in mind but Pontus seemed the perfect choice."
The album you recorded titled 'Masterpiece' was a great album featuring some of your influences growing up as a band, featuring songs by Picture, Pretty Maids, Judas Priest and many more.. would you ever consider doing another album like that?
"Well that was a CD with songs from some of our influences, doing cover songs. We had done a lot of songs on b sides of singles and bonus trax on CD's so we decided to put it together for fans that wanted to hear more of our influences. I think it would feel strange to do another covers album, I think one is enough at this point."
Moving on as you have just recorded the new album 'Infected', so why the title for this album? Was there also any other titles in mind?
"Well we usually think very hard about what we will call the next album, I think this idea came about when we were in a drunken state of mind, we were having a listening party in the studio in the process of recording the album and we wanted to see where we were at and I told Joacim that he was singing infected in the 1st song 'Patient Zero', I told him I got Goosebumps when I heard him sing that word 'Infected'. So I told him we should call the album 'Infected' and then I forgot everything about it and next morning he emailed me saying he had been thinking about what I said all night and I love the title of the album 'Infected'. It is a simple title and easy to remember and we had this whole zombie concept thing going on through the booklet and video so it suited the title very much. (Ed: Is it a concept album based on zombie?) No not at all, there are just a couple of songs based on the zombie theme and every song is very different from one another both musically and lyrically. We had no other titles for the album as we had no disgusted up until that point, but I do think we had the title 'Redemption' was one of the titles but I wasn't really happy with that title. I am glad the way that the title turned out."
Tell me a little bit about the album cover? Who's idea was it to do that cover?
"Well the booklet cover for the jewel case is more of a photographic piece of art like a concept thing for the cover but it is not a cartoon cover like we had before. From the photo's to the artwork which was done by the same artist who has worked with In Flames, and a lot of bands from Gothenburg, he is well known for his artwork. I have known him for some time now but have never had the chance to work with him until now and I am very happy that we finally had the chance to work with him."
So who's idea was it to come up with the Zombie concept?
"Well we are all zombie fanatics, we all like zombie films but I think Fredrik is more into it than I am and he collects everything with the zombie in a title of a film or anything that has to do with the living dead. We all think they are pretty cool and we just enjoy the concept of zombies because it is pretty cool actually I guess. We wrote the song 'Patient Zero' to which Joacim wrote and they were zombie related, and it just went from there really."
You said you had done a video, for which song and does it have zombies in it? Are you the zombies in the video?
"I have not seen the video yet but it will be similar to the film 'Zombie Land' with the open credits and we have a similar idea and everything is in super slow motion cameras to the point of the zombie outbreak. I We had an idea of playing live and it was interrupted by zombies causing havoc really."
In the past you have used produced Charlie Bauerfiend, but this time around you have done the new album by Pontus and the band, why was that?
"Well Charlie is a great producer and Pontus is a great producer as well, he had dome a lot of good things in the past with the set ups and hooked everything up really well for us. Using Pontus firstly saves us some money and more important it has made us have 100% of the sound & the recording of the album. I think it has achieved us get what we want with this album and I am talking more about the guitar sound. We had put a lot if time into this album to get the right sound for the guitars for a live and raw sound, and if you compare it to the previous stuff we have done with Charlie they sound too good if you know what I mean, clean and polished. We wanted to have a raw feel to the guitars on this album which we have done & I think this is the perfect setup and we recorded the album in our rehearsal studio and we have enough space to record the album there. We had no studio time counting down, we had all the time in the world to record this at no extra cost and that really helped the band out and I think it is the best sounding album we have done."
Was the whole album done by the band then? Or did you have it finished off else where?
"Well after we finished the album we then sent it to Nashville (U.S.A) to work with James Michael who has worked with Motley Crue, The Scorpions, and he was responsible for the vocals and the mixing of the album. I think he has done a fantastic job and he is a very open and easy going guy to work with. He did Joacim's vocals and I was there the whole time, we really got along really well. I would like to work with him again if he has the time for sure."
How long did it take to record the album? Also how are the songs wrote? A band effort of just certain musicians within the band? Does Joacim write the lyrics?
"Well in recording and mixing time I think it took about 8 weeks. Well we do things the same way we have always done our albums, I write most of the music and and Joacim does most of the lyrics and the melodies for the vocals and Pontus was involved in one song and Fredrik on another song."
Briefly Oscar what are the songs about on the album? We've talked about some been about zombies, what about the rest of the album?
"Well there are some songs about zombies like I have said 'Patient Zero', and there is 1 song which is about the walking dead, the song is called 'Dia De Los Muertos', which means 'Day of the Dead', in Spanish which is a little bit like the Mexican Halloween, It's to celebrate the dead but in our song the dead strike back and start killing people. There is 1 song called 'Let's get it On', which is about mixed martial arts and is about fighting in a cage with the feeding of the audience, the feedback they get in the cage, same thing happens with us on stage. I like every song on the album, it's just a perfect album in my mind."
What's the press reviews been like so far for the band?
"Well everybody seems to like it so far, and you will get journalist who won't like it but I am happy with the way people are commenting on our album in a positive way."
So I guess once the album is released it's party time on the road then? Where will you be playing and how excited are you to be playing Bloodstock?
"Yes we are playing some festivals, and tour later on in the year. We are looking forward to playing this years Bloodstock festival, we think it will be fun."
That's great news, so will the band be doing a new live DVD for the new album?
"Well there will be a ltd edition in a digi pack with a bonus DVD of us doing a performance playing them live from the new album, the kind of thing they did in the 80's. It is not a live show, we were just filming it and then we put the studio sound to the images of the DVD."
Well Oscar, thanks for doing the interview, best wishes for the future and the sales of the album. Do you have anything to say too your fans out there? See you at Bloodstock!!
"Yes thanks to our fans for their support, check out this new album, it's different but still Hammerfall and we look forward to playing some festivals later in the year, especially Bloodstock."
Thanx to Nuclear Blast for the interview.