Swedish metal powerhouses HammerFall released their latest album, the aptly titled Built To Last at the end of last year. We caught up with bassist Fredrik Larsson to hear all about the album, their plans for live shows, festivals and all manner of metal madness.
Your new album Built To Last is out now. How did the recording of the album go?
The process of the recording was nearly identical to when we recorded rEvolution. Fredrik Nordström produced together with Pontus and Oscar, James Michael recorded and produced the vocals and the rest was recorded in Oscars Castle Black Studio. It felt like we had the same intensity and energy but we managed to capture that a little better this time. And the record as a whole is a bit better composed.
What comes first for Hammerfall in the creative process. The music or the lyrics?
Usually Oscar writes the music and even comes up with a title that he thinks fit the music and then Joacim interprets and writes something around that.
What are some of the songs on the album about?
That’s a question for Joacim but he usually answers that it’s up to the listener to interpret. HammerFall is about fighting for your rights and stand up for what you believe in. No matter what.
What has the reaction to the album been like so far?
We’ve got a lot of really good reviews but the most important for us is the reactions from the audience when we play live. And from that point of view I must say that I’m overwhelmed of how well the new songs fit in the set list. The crowd seems to love the new songs and even know the lyrics and that’s a good sign.
Do you have a favourite song from the album yet?
It’s a bit too close to choose a favourite. I think I need more time to let the album sink in and get a feel for it again. But an odd favourite would be Second To None. A vocal driven song with a theme going all the way through.
The band started back in the mid 90s, so you really are built to last! Is that why you decided to call the album that?
Yes, that’s definitely one obvious reason. When we recorded Glory To The Brave back in 96 it was nearly noone that believed in us. People laughed and thought we were crazy bringing back the 80’s Heavy Metal that we loved. We just made music the way we wanted it to be. And now, 20 years later with 10 studio albums I think we can easily say that HammerFall is Built To Last!
What have been the highlights throughout the years of HammerFall?
For me, just to be able to record an album with Heavy Metal in the mid 90’s was a really big thing. And to stand at the stage at Scandinavium in my home town, where I have seen all of my childhood heroes like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Accept, Motley Crue and many many more. Something I couldn’t dream of when I first started to play bass. And to be able to do this for a living now, 20 years later is also something that I’m proud of, because we have never comprised just a tiny bit and always done exactly what we want to ourselves.
What bands inspired you to make music?
Well, pretty much the same ones I mentioned before and a lot more of course. Nowadays I don’t listen that much to Heavy Metal but more Metal in general and a lot to different genres. I find inspiration in a lot more soft and dark music and sometimes even pop/rock. A good song is a good song, the genre doesn’t matter.
What are your thoughts on the state of heavy metal in the year 2017?
It seems to be alive and kicking! There is so many sub genres but Heavy Metal seems to be pretty strong, it might not be the most popular but I’m happy to see a lot of young faces along with the older ones at our concerts. That makes me confident that we still have a future with Heavy Metal.
What music are you listening to at the movement?
Right now it’s Karnivool, Mastodon, Dunderbeist and Foo Fighters. And some Chris Cornell. A bit on the dark and heavy side but it makes me feel good.
You have quite a lot of festival dates already booked for next year, do you look forward to playing at massive events like Hellfest and Summer Breeze?
I like both the really big ones as well as smaller festivals. It’s like going on a tour, the small clubs are intimate and sweaty and the bigger venues are great as well with a lot of people and a lot of response.
Will you be making it to the UK in the new year for any shows or festivals?
Yes, we will at least attend to Hammer Fest. Hopefully there will be some more dates but I’m not sure yet and nothing more is confirmed as of now.
You have played at Bloodstock in the past. Is that a festival you have fond memories of?
Yes, we had a really good time at Bloodstock. Nothing special that comes to mind right now but I remember that I would like to go there again.
What other festivals do you love playing and why?
Well, there is a lot of good festivals. One that I would like to play again is Rock am Ring because of the large variety of bands playing there. I remember seeing the reunion of Rage Against The Machine and the response from the audience was massive. I had a great time and we did an awesome show as well with a really big crowd.
Who would HammerFall love to tour with in the future?
It would be fantastic to tour with Iron Maiden of course. A great band that’s still going strong and one of my childhood favourites.
What has been the best tour that you have ever done?
We are in the middle of a great European tour right now and we will continue with North America later on and so far it’s been a great tour.
Where do you enjoy playing live most in the world?
Well, I like playing all over the world but it’s hard to compete with the emotions of the audience in South America. We always have a great crowd over there.
What is your favourite HammerFall song to play live?
It might not be the favourite to actually play but the reactions when we play Hearts On Fire is always fantastic.
What has been the best gig that Hammerfall have ever played?
If I have to choose I would say Wacken 2009. Or a free concert we did in Gothenburg the same year. They estimated that it was about 75000 people attending that show, just amazing.
Next year sees the 20th anniversary of your debut album Glory To The Brave. Will you be doing anything special to celebrate that special anniversary?
We have talked briefly about it but nothing in the pipeline. Since we are out to promote Built To Last right now it’s not a really good time. And we actually have played the entire album once already with a lot of guest artists when Wacken celebrated 25 years.
Your mascot Hector is a recognisable part of the band and your image. When you first used him did you ever think it would turn out as popular as it has?
When he first appeared we didn’t even think we would record another album but it was a clear choice from our side to have a mascot. Someone that would represent HammerFall and was easily recognised in the same vain as Eddie.
Aside from Hector, who do you think are the best metal mascots?
Of course Eddie would be the natural choice but I really like Rattlehead since I liked Megadeth a lot.
Tough question I know, but What are some of your favourite metal albums of all time?
Well, as you said, it’s a really tough question and I would probably answer differently tomorrow if you ask me again. Here’s some of my favourites. Dio – Holy Diver, Accept – Restless and Wild, Motley Crue – Shout at the Devil, Iron Maiden – Seventh Son of a Seventh Son and finally a “new” album I’ve listened a lot to: Karnivool – Sound Awake.