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Oscar Dronjak – Guitarist for Hammerfall

Date: 10/29/06
Interviewed By: Rich Catino


1. So tell us about the new album “Threshold” and how would you compare it to “Chapter V”?

OSCAR: Well it has been out in Sweden for about two weeks or so and their it debuted at number 1 on the charts so it is being well received this far in Europe at least. It comes out in the States on October 31. People seem to be as into it as much as we hoped and people's remarks have been relatively the same as our thoughts on it so that's a good thing.

I think this album is a very natural development from “Chapter V”. Its very varied like “Chapter V”, many of the songs are similar yet different from each other like “Chapter V” but I think “Threshold” has a better production and that was something we tried to do with “Chapter V” but never succeeded. “Threshold” I think has a lot of the action contained in our live shows.

2. Is there anything you try to do with your music with each album to try and keep it sounding fresh and new?

OSCAR: Nothing really specific. I think when we write the music we try to feel it. I think if we don't feel it then nobody else will ya know.

Also I think Joacim wrote a lot of the vocal lines a little differently and did a few different versions when he recorded them.

3. Since Hammerfall has a very specific style to its music, is there anything you try to do when you write each album to prevent things from getting redundant?

OSCAR: I mean not necessarily consciously. When we write music we write what we would want to hear that is representative of Hammerfall music. We do have a drive to keep from writing the same album over and over again. I guess it depends really because if you're a pop band then your style can change like people change shirts ya know what I mean. We are a Heavy Metal band and that's what we do, so we are not going to incorporate other elements in our music because its fun to experiment because that's not what Heavy Metal is all about. We just play the kind of music we like and what we would like to hear from other bands.

4. Looking back on the Hammerfall catalogue….Can you tell me something good, bad, or maybe important about each release?

OSCAR: Well for “Glory to the Brave” in 1997 we had a lot of energy and enthusiasm because we were recording our first Heavy Metal album. That negative may be that we only had 16 days to record it so the production suffered a bit.

“Legacy of Kings” – I think it's a very strong album…a lot of people find that their favorite maybe because they were at a certain period of time in their lives when they discovered it. I was very happy with it because it is hard to get such a strong second album for a new comer. It has a lot of good songs and lets get something straight I am happy with all our albums and how Hammerfall were portrayed at that time. I would not go back and change anything with any of them. But I think “Legacy” suffers from what “Renegade” does and that is a lot of the songs are fast and that happened with both albums. I don't think the variation was there.

“Renegade” was our first album that we didn't record in Sweden , it was recorded in Nashville with Michael Wagner and that was an experience in it self. I think the production also came out very well. The guitar sound is very sharp. Maybe the negative thing is that the album maybe does not have enough edge. I think it has a variety of ingredients on that one which makes for more variety in our songs on “Renegade”.

With “Crimson Thunder” that was the first album where we learned to write songs for a full album instead of twelve individual songs for an album. We learned how to put things together better and make the album as diverse as I think it needs to be. The negative of “Crimson” may be I don't think the production doesn't have a lot of life. I think it sounds a little flat compared to our later records.

“Chapter V” was different because at the time prior to its recording I got in a motorcycle accident and broke my arm. At first I didn't think I may be able to play guitar again and then when I realized I had to work at playing again it took me much longer to get back to normal again. I don't think I was back in form again until after that tour. When writing the album it changed the feeling when I was writing the songs for that album. Before, when I wrote songs for the album it felt good what I was playing. But for “Chapter V” with the injury I wasn't sure what I was writing. I think I only really felt good about three songs and those were the last few we recorded.

For ‘Threshold” it is too early obviously to find anything negative about it. After some time passes and we record the next record then I can look back on it and make that kind of assessment. I think the production has a good edge to it.

5. How is your fan base in America and how has it progressed over the years?

OSCAR: Well we have done three tours here so far. The first one was in 1998 with the band Death and at the time people really didn't know what the hell melodic Heavy Metal was, at least most people didn't. For us it was a great time because it was our first time in the States so for that fact alone it was very exciting for all of us. Many of the territories we played which were in the mid west were not that good in attendance, it was the same for Death as well. There were very few people there and we had to play to get to the next gig because the U.S. is so big. Overall I think overall everyone was very happy and after that we went out another six weeks in Europe so we were not home for like two and a half three months. So we had to get back home and really digest the whole experience.

It took us then four years to return to the States and that was for the Dio tour. It was hard to find someone to work with and honestly at the time it was hard to find someone who wanted to book a tour for Hammerfall and even harder to be support for the bigger bands without the right connections. So our drummer Anders Johansson, who was in Yngwie Malmsteen at one time in the early eighties along with his brother Jens (who has been playing with Stratovarius for many years) was also in Dio at one point in the early 90's. So I think Dio knew of us through that connection but I am not sure is he really knew our music. I think that tour with Dio was good for us but not as good as we hoped.

Then when we did the headlining tour in 2005 with Edguy the scene for melodic Heavy Metal had drastically changed since we first came their in 1998. Especially in New York and L.A. the shows were great, Texas was also very good I guess because there were a lot of Mexicans there too. There are a lot of Heavy Metal fans from Mexico who made there way to that show in Texas since we just don't get the chance to go to Mexico that often. And there are a lot Hispanic people in the U.S. anyway.

6. Any plans to come back to the States behind the new album “Threshold”?

OSCAR: No immediate plans but we are trying to put something together. I know it is what we have to do in order to grow over here. We also have to consider that we cant just forget about Europe since our strongest markets are there. We really need to go to South America as well, we haven't been there since 1999 and that's also a very good market for us as far as live shows. Japan also is a great country that supports Hammerfall . We will definitely do our best to return next year.

7. Have you ever been offered to play ProgPower in Atlanta and is that festival something you would like to play?

OSCAR: Not that I know of but I think if we come there to play a festival we would like to do more than one gig and do a full tour.

I know Evergrey has played it right. I heard great things about it.

8. What are some of the newer bands that you really like from the last ten years?

OSCAR: Nocturnal Rites they are Swedish guys and really good friends of mine, maybe I am little biased then (laughs) but I do think their music is really good. I have not really been following the scene too much recently or getting into the newer bands too much. So many bands release cds and it is hard to weed out the good from the bad really. It just got too much, every band was releasing a cd .

There is an unsigned band called Crionic from Sweden that approached me and gave me some of their music that was sounding really good. There is another band from Sweden called Manimal , like the W.A.S.P. song ya know, they also don't have a record deal but they have a Myspace page, as does Crionic where you can check out some songs.

9. From the newer generation after the 80's…..What bands do you think deserve to sit beside the round table of Heavy Metal kings like Priest, Sabbath, Kiss, Dio , Maiden, Purple, Metallica , ACDC, etc?

OSCAR: Apart from Hammerfall (laughs)…..I don't know really. Well as we all know a lot of times it doesn't even have to do with musical quality unfortunately, when people start making those type of decisions. As far as the next big thing I don't know.

10. What does the rest of 2006 into 07 looking for Hammerfall ?

OSCAR: Not too much for the rest of 06, we are town as we speak doing some promotion for the States in New York for “Threshold”, doing a listening party tomorrow in the city at the Lit Lounge. Then in December we go record some cover songs for our 10 th anniversary as a recording artist. So we are working on something special for that and doing some cover songs are part of that celebration. We will do something special after the first half of the new year . Not sure what cover songs we are doing. We will also do another DVD similar to our previous two “The First Crusade” and “The Templar Renegade Crusades” where we pick up where “Templar Renegade” left off from 2002-2006. So we will include all the videos, some performance footage, backstage stuff, TV appearances, we will try to include as many of our activities during that period as possible.

Thanks to all the support from the U.S. Hammerfall fans and we will see you hopefully sooner than later.

Cheers, Oscar

Official website: www.hammerfall.net

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