Hard Talk

Interview with Hammerfall Vocalist Joacim Cans

Dubbed by their own words, “true German heavy metal from Sweden”, Hammerfall are unleashing to the world of heavy metal quite possibly the best power metal album to date.

Many classify their works right alongside many great bands and some say they are the Helloween of the new millennium. Being a fan of Helloween myself from way back, all I can say is from what I’ve heard from their sixth studio album and latest release ‘Threshold’, this by far may just surpass anything their processors have accomplished up until now.

I was given a rare chance to chat with vocalist Joacim Cans about the new album and what sort of touring will be going on for the album while they are here in the states for the release date.

By the time you are reading this, ’Threshold’ will already be in stores. And I must say, you are missing out if you don’t go get this rare gem of heavy metal. But we’ll save all that for the review.

JH: First off, a congratulations to you and the band for ‘Threshold’ hitting #1 on the Swedish charts.

JC: Yes, thank you. That was simply amazing.

JH: And also on what I feel is just an all around amazing album from Hammerfall. Can you tell us a bit about it?

JC: Well, in my opinion, the best effort from the band up until today I would say. I think the band is at the full peak of their performance and we invested so much more time in the studio to really try and to get up a notch when it comes to performance. This is in my opinion a combination of the early days of Hammerfall. ‘Glory To The Brave’ to a modern more heavier sounding Hammerfall which you heard on the previous album. I think that if you don’t like Hammerfall now, than you don’t like Hammerfall at all. It is a true Hammerfall album with all the elements that Hammerfall is all about. Also it is a very diverse album. You have the faster songs, also the mid-tempo as well as the slower tracks. But of course without a true ballad on this one.

JH: So the overall sound and feel of the album is what Hammerfall is all about?

JC: Definitely yes. But of course with some new twists. I do think that there are some narrow minded people that may say that this sounds like everything else, but if you actually get into the songs a little more you will realize that there are some new elements there.

JH: How about lyrically? Is there any particular concept or theme to this album?

JC: No. We’ve never done anything like that. The concept in my opinion is it’s heavy metal lyrics. I mean, this is what heavy metal is all about. You know that we’re a bit older now. Back ten years ago it was about fantasy type of lyrics. And now a days, I really don’t feel like getting into that. Dealing with sword fighting, warriors and all. This is more personal. A more darker feeling album. But still with a positive undertone.

JH: What can you tell to expect from ’Threshold’ who have not gotten it yet? (Didn’t we just talk about that?)

JC: I think if they want to have an updated version of the ’80’s and if they want to get into heavy metal the way it is suppose to be played, I think they will get all that from listening to the new album.

JH: And for the non-Hammerfall fans. What would you say is a good selling point of this album?

JC: Well if you want to have energetic heavy metal with melodies, this is definitely the album to check out. If you’re tired of the growling vocals and get something that you can maybe sing along, sometimes, then Hammerfall is definitely something you should check out. If you want to have true heavy metal, yeah, check this album out.

JH: So how did the recording/production process go for the album?

JC: Well since the recording went so well for Chapter Five, the previous album, we decided more or less to do it the exact same way. Using the same studio, same producer and so on. The song writing was a little more slower and a bit more hard work for me at least . After six studio albums and a couple solo/side projects it was really hard to come up with something new. You just sit there in your little studio at home and sometimes you can just sit there for hours. And not come up with anything. It for some reason was a struggle for me this time. The other guys did not have this problem. Maybe it was just a little more personal this time.

JH: So now the track ‘Natural High’ is the first single off the album? With so many great songs on this album, how did you guys end up choosing this one?

JC: Well we actually had another song in mind. “The Fire Burns Forever” was like the official first single because we did this song for the athletics championships. It was like a download single that if people wanted something new they could listen to it.

JH: Yeah, I caught that video on the internet just yesterday.

JC: Yeah, we just wanted to release it somehow. But in my opinion, ’Natural High’ would please, and I always say this, would please the true fans. But also to give them something unexpected. Usually our singles are very catchy. This song does not really have that particular hook line. Like ‘Hearts on Fire’. Like ‘Renegade’, like ‘Blood Bound’, like any other Hammerfall single. We just wanted to give them something to say, “hey we’re back and we’re bringing you something new.”

JH: You know what did it for me the first time I heard it last week was the opening riff. The guitar work is very catchy in this song.

JC: Yes, yes it is very up-tempo. But still it might take you listening to the song three or four times before you get the whole picture. It’s not like one of those songs that you can listen to and just start singing along to. I also think that this song represents the album.

JH: So how about the video for it? Tell us a bit about that.

JC: Well we decided to try something new. Six years we’ve worked with a guy in our home town of Gothenburg, but now we decided to do something else. So we got in contact with a Serbian production team who worked with Blind Guardian on their video. So we went down there, met the people and we wanted to do something that had to do with the song so ,you know a cool video that doesn’t go with a song doesn’t really make much sense. So , we wanted to do something with a vampire theme as the song is about getting high on blood. And what could be more natural than getting high on blood. That’s when I cane up with this little vampire story. The video is just like a very short little movie. Like our version of Blade, but in the video it’s Hector our warrior . He gets to be the Blade character killing all the vampires. It’s a cool video with some cool special effects. It’s very energetic.

JH: I was able to watch it here just before this call. It is pretty cool.

JC: Really? I did not think they had it here yet.

JH: The Nuclear Blast site was not working so I headed over to ‘YouTube’.

JC: Ah yeah. Really like the ‘YouTube’ site.

JH: So how does the touring schedule look for you guys?

JC: We will start our fifth world tour, oh we’re getting old, the fifth world tour will start in Europe in mid January for about five weeks. After that we don’t really have anything confirmed, planned. There is a lot of planning going on. Whether we are doing South America or North America first. But we are discussing how to do the U.S. next time. Either on our own, a co-headlining tour with a N. American band or we are going to find a bigger band over here that we can support. At this point after ten years we are still at the same point in the U.S. We do need to find a way to make the band bigger.

JH: Well it’s a tough market here. I mean, I really don’t understand how some bands become as huge as they do here and others don’t. It has not made any sense to me since the ’80’s.

JC: I know frequent touring helps out like that. And getting a support tour with the right band.

JH: How long do you typically spend touring in support of an album?

JC: Usually around seven or eight months. That includes the headliner tours we do, the festivals in the summer. I think this tour will be a little bit longer because next year we will celebrate a ten year anniversary of the band and do some special things. I think next year will just be one big party.

JH: I just noticed this morning that Nuclear Blast has been the bands only label. So there must be a great working relationship there?

JC: Or, we kinda signed a deal with the devil. (laughing) No, no. It’s not that bad. I mean, they believed in us from the very beginning and gave us a deal and in 1996 when we signed the deal heavy metal was not like the coolest thing to play for some reason. A lot of people working a NB were laughing at the owner because he was the one signing the band. They were all like “hey, we can’t sell this shit. No one wants to listen to this anymore.” But he believed in us big time and did a great marketing plan and in just a couple weeks we became the most successful band they had ever signed. So it really became more like a personal relationship. But still, knowing where to set the limits. Now it’s business and we can sit down and have a really good business talk and afterwards go out and have a beer. So yeah, it is a really good working relationship. We are actually now renegotiating the future with them. We’ll see what happens. I will say, it would take a lot for us to ever leave.

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