Where the hammer lies bleeding.

{mosimage}Swedish Hammerfall have been on top of heavy metal scene for more than one decade. We had a great chat with Oscar Dronjack, their guitar player, with time to talk a bit about everything: their new DVD and cover album, their little actions of mischief on tour, the leave of Stefan Elmgren from the band or how a motorbike accident affected him, having to rehabilitate his broken arm. A complete exclusive interview for the readers of FREE! 

I must confess I have had a weakness for Hammerfall since I saw them first time 11 years ago during their first European tour, opening for Gamma Ray and Jag Panzer in Madrid. A young Oscar looked astonishing on stage, all wrapped on leather. Now, more than 1 decade later, have the things changed a lot?

Well, everything has changed in a way, but in another way everything is pretty much the same. We are still recording albums, going on tour, making promotion. So it is a kind of cycle, but the way we think has not changed over the years; the way we write songs… The way we record has changed of course, before we had an idea in the middle of the night and we set the tape recorders, now we have Pro Tools and all that stuff to solve these things.

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You have just recently released a new DVD: Rebels with a cause plus the covers album Masterpieces. Why the release of this material just now?

Both releases were planned for last year, and for several reasons were postponed. Masterpieces is a good opportunity, we had done so many covers and we wanted to gather them together and add a couple of new ones, so the people do not need to go online and download them. Also the next studio album is not coming until 2009, so this time on summer was a good one.

The collection of covers there mix very famous bands with some others pretty unknown like Stormwitch or Roger Pontare. Is this mix made consciously?

Well, when we choose a song for a cover we choose it very carefully, something that we really like and we feel we can do “well” somehow. One of the reasons we choose unknown bands is that, for example, if we do an Iron Maiden´s cover, it would still always be compared to their original. It would be very hard to make it better even if you can make it different. Then we have other famous covers that we did for tribute albums. They come from many different eras of Hammerfall and many different times.

I was really surprised you include an Europe´s cover, taking into account you come from a black metal background. It gives a nice “glam touch”.

Well, if you were a Swede, it was impossible not to hear them in the 80s. Actually people gave them a lot of crap at that time, me included, not realizing how good they really are until the end of the 80s. The same kind of crap we got when Renegade came out and we became a little bit more famous. When I listen to Europe´s albums, especially the first two ones, they are really cool, pretty heavy metal. Then they added keyboards more.

You also sing in the cover of Breaking the Law

Yeah, that one is included because we used to do the same at the end of every show, we were switching our instruments and I was singing, a kind of telling the audience “thanks for a great night”.

So following the title of the DVD, what causes make you feel like a rebel?

Hehehe… well, we play a bit with the words. As you can see, big part of the DVD is us breaking things…

Yeah, I was surprised when I watched it. Do you really break so many things when touring?

Well, not now. Back then it was like that. Well actually we never destroy something “major”. We never destroy back stages or mirrors or whatever. It is just little things.

Well, when bands like Manowar release a DVD, half of the time you see naked women. Here half of the time you can see the band stripping themselves!

Hehehe, maybe we are a bit of exhibitionists! The stripping part was quite funny. Anders had the audience just downstairs, and we were shouting:  do it do it! And then he finally did it. It was totally unexpected for us. I was there with the camera. So since we do not have pictures or videos or naked groupies, there we are ourselves! 

Stefan lived his dream for 11 years in Hammerfall, and now he goes to live his another dream” –Oscar commenting on the leave of Stefan Elmgren from the band-

Stefan Elmgren has left Hammerfall to become a pilot. What is your opinion about his reasons to leave?

Well, it was kind of sad and surprise, because I did not think that it happened at this point, but then we started to talk about it. All in the band knew that was his passion, he was already flying for a couple of years, very into that stuff. When he got the offer to become a full time pilot, we knew that it was quite fair that was what he wanted to do, so we had to take it and move on. He is still a good friend; we have played together for 11 years, so not bad blood there. He lived his dream for 11 years in Hammerfall and now he goes to live another dream, so I admire him for that.

Maybe then you can get free tickets when you have to go on tour…

Actually we said that if we would have a show or a festival close to an airport, it would be nice to fly all together, so we could rent a plane and he could fly us there and back.

But this time you cannot throw or break anything in the plane…

Hehehe, we have to behave! I do not want to get the captain angry at us!

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Oscar, you had an important motorbike accident few years ago, where you broke your arm. Were you worried about the consequences, if you would be able to perform the same than before after it?

Absolutely! I was very worried. 10 years earlier I broke my elbow too. Now this is my profession, so my job was compromised. My mother was pointing out to the doctors that I was a guitarist… I took very careful rehabilitation at the beginning. I have a bit of dissolute mind sometimes, but this took a lot of will power. It made me feel stronger to go through that, in a way. Sometimes I still feel my elbow stiff. I train a lot, for example I do taekwondo, to keep my muscles in good shape.

Being Finland so close to your country Sweden, what is your opinion when you come to play here?

Well, interestingly enough we have not played so many times there. I think we have been only 3 times in Finland. I think it has to do because when you go there you lose a day in the ferry going there and one day coming back. But being in Finland playing has always been great. First time was in 2003. There is a strong metal scene there. I don´t really know why we cannot go there more often than we do.

What plans do you have for 2008?

No touring, no shows except for one in Canada. Apart from that we are going to focus on working in the songs for the new album that will come out on February 2009. We will start to record it at the end of the summer.

Hammerfall´s discography commented by Oscar Dronjak

{mosimage}Glory to the Brave (1997): We did everything with best intentions, but I think nobody realized how professionally sounded until we went on tour. We did not have many expectations; it was the first album we recorded together and that tour opened the eyes of many people towards the band.

{mosimage}Legacy of the Kings (1998): Also very important. We wrote everything for it in a couple of months, working with the same producer and recording at the same studio. When you try to establish your style, it is important to have a couple of very good first two albums.

{mosimage}Renegade (2000): It is probably the most important album of our entire career in some ways, overall the coverage we got from the media.  We reached number 1 in the Swedish charts, so we got interviews from the general press, not only from the music media. 

{mosimage}Crimson Thunder (2002): Very exciting to record with Charlie. He is a very good producer and knows how to get the best from us. He is like one more of the family It features Wheels on Fire, probably our most famous song.

{mosimage}Chapter V (2005): I think this album is more important for me than for any other member, because it was the first one after I broke my arm. So for me it was a big step in my musical career.

{mosimage}Threshold (2006): I think that the most complete album we have done so far. All the songs are different, but still work together as an album.

{mosimage}Masterpierces (2008): It is a handful of other people´s songs played in a “Hammerfall way”, collected all over 12 years.