Fredrik Larsson of HammerFall: Hammering Dynamic Home

"I think you could say that recording a video is Oscar’s nightmare"

HammerFall are back at it with their 10th studio album, Built to Last. Metal as Fuck sat down with bassist Fredrik Larsson prior to the album's release to talk about the album, acting in front of green screens, and tour plans for 2017....

First off Fredrik, congratulations on the new album - I’ve had a sneak peek and it sounds incredible, how do you feel about the final product? “I’m really proud of this album, but it’s still early days for me. We’ve been in the studio for a long time and now we’re waiting for it to be released. We recently had a small listening party for 10 fans and their friends. That was good, we were able to see their first impressions, and it was very positive. We’ll see what the jury says when it’s released”.

I was really impressed that a story is told in each of the songs. Particularly The Sacred Vow and Twilight Princess… The fans are truly on a journey with HammerFall. What was the creative process like when coming up with these stories, both lyrically and musically? “We have a little bit of an unusual process – it’s mostly Joacim [Cans – vocalist] and Oscar [Dronjak - guitarist] who write the music and lyrics. Oscar does the main music and then he comes up with a title for that song – he then hands over the title and music to Joacim, who fills in the lyrics and the rest of the detail. Oscar typically has the start, but free for Joacim to interpret however he likes. This is how an album typically comes together for HammerFall”. 
Twilight Princess is a much softer, ballad-type song, which adds a different element to the fists in the air anthems that I first think of when I think of a HammerFall song.  Who came up with the idea for Twilight Princess, and creating a slower dynamic for it? “Oscar was responsible for both the lyrics and music for Twilight Princess. We usually have some ballads – it’s a big part of the dynamics of the whole album. Most people write song by song, and we write an album. It’s not as fun to listen to 10 or 11 fast songs in a row, you need more dynamic. A power ballad is a great thing in my opinion. It’s actually my sister who plays the flute in the beginning of Twilight Princess! Oscar had originally done a keyboard flute sample, but we felt it needed more, so I asked her to join us in the studio, which was great – we had so much fun”.

When I listened to The Star of Home for the first time, it really resonated with me. It felt so…inspiring. I think it will be a sure favourite on the album from fans. What’s your favourite song to play and why do you love it so much? “I like the two singles we’ve released, but they are all different – I like them all in so many ways! I haven’t played any of them live yet, so I will keep you posted. The song I like a lot and that is different is Second to None – it’s slow and powerful and I really like it. I’m drawn to that one. It’s a bit different, but it’s still very much a HammerFall song”. You’ve mentioned the small listening party however both The Sacred Vow and Hammer High have been released as singles from the album to the public, how has the response been from the fans to date? “It’s been really good. People really seem to like Hammer High. When we first released The Sacred Vow, they thought it was in the right direction. Both of these songs aren’t typical for this album, but they are typical HammerFall songs. We have a broad spectrum of songs, especially on this album. For me, this is a bit faster and edgier than our previous album [(re)Evolution 2014]. They are like twin records in my mind. They were recorded in the same way, with the same people – Fredrik Nordström from Studio Fredman produced the first few HammerFall records back in the 90’s, and came back to us to do (r)Evolution”.

I understand Oscar had also previously mentioned this record is a continuation of (r)Evolution – “It feels like that, yeah.  We recorded the vocals with James Michael in LA. In 2013 we took the year off and had a break. When we came back to record (r)Evolution, we came back with a lot of energy, and feeling focused on the new record, like this is what we wanted to do. We came back stronger and with a lot of confidence for
(r)Evolution. This time we didn’t have as much time to think about it, and it was just natural for us to go in and continue that journey”.
Out of curiosity, what’s it like creating a HammerFall music video? [Editors note: check out ‘Hammer High’] “It’s usually really, really boring. Often there is a lot of waiting around between takes, and you’re just hanging around.  You’re on a green screen by yourself and you need to act things out – it’s weird! When you’re on stage you’re playing for real and it feels natural but being on a green screen it feels a bit strange. There is a lot of work for small amounts of clips. This video shoot only took one day so it was a fast one, but mainly because it’s less of a focus on the band and more on the battle. I think you could say that recording a video is Oscar’s nightmare! He likes the results, but he doesn’t like the process”.

You’re on tour early next year, through Europe and North America and of course Calgary. I imagine there will be a lot of people seeing HammerFall for the first time, especially in North America. What can we expect from a HammerFall show? “I think we always try to deliver a great show, it doesn’t matter if it’s a big festival stage or a small club show. We always try to do our best for our fans. A HammerFall concert is a good live experience, we want put on a strong show, it’s important to us. It’s not just the music, you need a show to watch, not just the music. For us, it’s as important as the music. For Europe we bring extra lights and smoke machines so it will be a big production for Europe – for North America we will hopefully have the same, but will wait to see what we get to work with”.

I have seen a lot of footage from the big festival gigs that you’ve done in the past at the likes of Wacken Open Air, and Hellfest. This tour will involve lots of smaller rooms – how do you fit all of the power of HammerFall into smaller venues? “It depends on what the crowd gives you; it’s so much easier to give something back when the crowd is into it as well. We try to do something big with what we have. We’ll have some stage side drops and back drops, we do what we can. The energy that comes out on a club night – it’s amazing what people can bring out in you. It’s going to be really fun. It’s been a long time since we were in Canada – maybe 2011, so we are looking forward to seeing what the Canadian crowds have for us”. For Aussie HammerFall fans, is there any plan for touring Built to Last on Australian shores? “No plans for Australia yet – 2014/2015 we were in Australia, but it was just for fun and a small show, but a lot of people and great fun!  We have some touring to do on this record, European, North America, and South America – then lots of festivals after that. We have some plans tentatively booked for fall of 2017”.

Built to Last is HammerFall’s 10th studio album, and is available through www.hammerfall.net. And for all 2017 tour dates across Europe, North America, and South America hit the same.