“Infected“ is the title of 8th studio albums os Swedish templars Hammerfall that will surely raise some eyebrows as it features some twists and turns in their already established formula. Guitar player Oscar Dronjak called us to give us all the information we need about it.
The first question is obviously about the new album „Infected“ so please could you present it to your fans here?
Yes, „Infected“ is our new album, it’s gonna be out on May 20th in Europe and I think that it’s little bit of a new era for Hammerfall. The last four albums we’ve done have been very similar to each other in tracks or production, and the way we approached the recording and the songwriting but this time… If you were fan of Hammerfall everything that you liked about the band is still there but if you weren’t a fan of Hammerfall before, there is a chance that you will like it now. It’s just there’s a lot more energy and we’ve approached the music a bit different this time, we still play Heav Metal… but just with a little twist.
OK, since I had a chance to hear the entire album, I will ask some questions about it. Definitely this album is going to be different comparing to previous Hammerfall records. Was there any aim to create, compose such a different album in the beginning of songriting process because it’s so different.
You know, there was not really question „let’s do this and see what happens“, it was more a question of just a natural evolution for us to do it this way. A lot of things have happened in last two years, and „No sacrifice, no victory“ was a sort of a prelude to „Infected“, if you will, it was just natural for us to go in this direction. What you are hearing as the major differences are… There are a little bit of differences in the songwriting for sure, but the main difference, I think, is in the production. We did things a lot differently this time, with recording everything ourselves, we laid down the foundation of the basic tracks, drums and bass and then we went to Nashville to work with the guy called James Michael for the vocals and the mix and this is the completely different approach than we had before. So I think helped a lot to make this album sound a lot different.
OK, I also wanted to ask you about the production and mixing process with James Michael, he is well known for working with Motley Crue, Scorpions, Meat Loaf… mostly Hard Rock bands, so how did it went?
Well, the thing is that people seem to make general mistake, it was a same thing ten years ago when we went to Nashville to work with Michael Wagener for the „Renegade“ album. It seems that people think that just you’ve done this before, you can’t do anything else and that’s a stupid assessment, especially when it comes to producer. The producer generally can do a lot of different things, but the producer, same thing as band, can get stuck in a sort of a category that it’s hard to get out of but James Michael… he’s a professional. James Michael knew what Hammerfall was, he did his homework before we started working together so knew what defines Hammerfall as a band and we worked really hard to preserve that with him just to made the sound into perfection and that’s basically what we did with him. He was a very valuable addition to this recording but we have done the most of the ground work before we started working with him as well, so it’s a little bit of both for us here, a case of us doing a lot of things ourselves and to have Michael to help with some other things which of course ties everything together so that makes him really important, of course.
The opening track “Patient Zero” is definitely different when it comes to Hammerfall, it has even some, I would say, Doom Metal moments so how would you describe this track? And also the other tracks sometimes sound very different from the others…
Yeah, there is for sure a different approaches to songwriting than we’ve done, I think one of them is to open up a little bit than before without really thinking about it. There is a similar structure of the songs, for example you start with the intro riff and then you have verse and the pre-chorus and chorus, then the riff comes back but we decided to switch things up a little bit, to change it up and not be so strict in terms of where the different parts of the song are placed. You know, whatever feels right, let’s do it that way. And that was one of the exciting ways for me as the songwriter to do it that way, this is also the natural evolution of being 15 years in the business, you get tired of doing things exactly the same way all the time.
You have already filmed one video clip for the track „One more time“ and it’s already out so please, can you comment the background of this video?
The basic concept of the video is zombie movie-kinda thing. We are all zombie movies’ fans so we wanted to do this. Actually the whole concept of the layout and artwork for the album is also zombie based so this is also the intentional theme that we wanted to run through all the aspects of the album. You can easily do a lot of things with the zombie idea, so the basic idea is that we’re busy rocking, filming the music video and then the zombies outbreak so we start running for our lives and try to get away from them. We really like them so we think that it’s kinda cool to have the video like this. Director was Patrick Ullaeus who was working with tons of other bands from Gothenburg and from all over so he has done a lot of really, really good videos so we were very excited for working with him. He has done the whole layout of the album, the cover artwork and the video and he has been there for us from the day one, so it’s been the first time that we ever did it like that before. Everything is more thought out and put together this time.
You have been in Serbia a few times to film video clips with Ivan I Code and his team but this time you have done it in Sweden so was there any particular reason to change the director this time?
No, none really other than the fact that I’ve known Patrick for many years and we always talked „let’s do something together“ and we never really had the time when he had the time and vice versa. This time we just both were lucky that both of our schedules fit, it was also a matter of him wanting to do the whole layout and everything from scratch, we thought that it was brilliant idea so we went for it.
In the end it says that it’s going to be continued. Are there going to be any more clips from the new album?
I hope so! Otherwise we would look stupid. We don’t have any plans at the moment but for sure, if we do another one it has to be continued. Or maybe we will continue the story on the next album, who knows.
When I was listening to „Infected“, the first thing that came up to my mind is that this album has some sort of lyrical concept… the songs are linked in one way or another, as it seems to me. Please can you say something about that?
Not at all, actually the „Patient zero“ is about zombies of course because patient zero is the first patient in any kind of disease, then it stretches to everybody else and the song deals with the zombie outbreak. Apart from this, the one called “Dia de los muertos” which is about the Mexican day of the dead which is a sort of celebration of the dead, kinda like Mexican Halloween, after a while in song all hell breaks loose so the dead starts killing people. But those two are the only ones that have something to do with zombies, everything else are separate songs unto themselves. There is no concept, either lyrical nor musical for this album.
Let’s focus now on touring. Do you have any idea when the European tour will happen, now or perhaps in autumn?
No tours yet, not many bands tour Europe in the summer because there are so many festivals. But we’re gonna go back and of course we’re gonna do a proper tour for the album but that’s gonna be maybe in October or November of this year. So it’s gonna be late in the year but for sure it’ll happen.
Many bands nowadays like to play some legendary albums in its entirety, so the fans from Serbia were asking will you perform for example „Glory to the brave“ or „Legacy of kings“ one day?
Hmmm, one day maybe but this is far in the future for me. I don’t see a need for that. If you are in a band you can do the same thing for a long time, I think that it is a great idea but I feel that Hammerfall is not in that position now. I think that we in Hammerfall still have a lot more to do and a lot more to give, to explore within the Metal community. We really want to continue being a new band and breaking new ground, we really don’t want to go back. For some bands it is fine to do the „greatest hits“ tour, reunion tour and all that which is fine, some bands do it that way, I have no problem at all with that but that is not Hammerfall I think. We are so much younger band that has so much new stuff to do before we go back and do the old stuff.
For how long do you typically stay on the road in touring support of the new album?
It’s usually maybe a year and the half on touring and then about half a year in writing and recording the new one, that’s generally how it works. I think that it’s a good amount of time, we get time to go to a lot of different countries that we have to go to but since in the summer there are a lot of festivals there is a big difference between going away for a five weeks in a row and going away every week for five weeks, that’s totally different thing. It’s not that hard being on the road, it’s actually quite nice.
Do you prefer to play on bigger festivals like Wacken, Metal Camp or smaller shows, club gigs?
Everything has its charm. I like doing the festivals, it’s really nice because you get to see a lot of different bands, you get to meet a lot of different people you haven’t seen for a while but the real gigs are the tour shows. In the festivals you have to appraoch the wider audience, people at the festival might not necessarily like Hammerfall, they might not even know about Hammerfall so it’s you job to present Hammerfall in the best light. And when you are going on tour people are there to see Hammerfall, so at least they are the real fans and we try always to please them as much as we can, which is also why I like the touring better – you get to hear the band in much more intimate and personal atmosphere which is hard on festivals, you can’t really get that so I do prefer the tours.
And for the last question, please tell me your top five albums of all times.
That’s a bit harder but… top five albums right now, that I listen to the most at the moment, would be: Judas Priest – „Screaming for vengeance“, Rammstein – „Liebe ist fur all da“, the Swedish band called (I couldn’t really make out the name of the band, sorry – ed.) which is dream music with funny lyrics, not joke lyrics, Morbid Angel – „Gateways to annihilation“ and the last one would probably be „World painted blood“ by Slayer.
I would like to thank you for the interview, do you have the last message for the fans here?
Of course, as always – thank you for everything, it’s fantastic to be able to come back. My father was born in Belgrade so to me coming to Serbia is such a happiness all the time. We will be back because we got the really good reception from people in Serbia so I’m really much looking forward to it. Last week we have played our first gig since eight months, so I am so excited for going on the festivals and tours, we are starting to play and it’s been a long time since we were on stage I can’t wait for that. Thanks and see you!
- Answers by Oscar Dronjak
Interview was done by Marko Miranovic