HammerFall: Built To Last and Back On The Sunset Strip

HammerFall: Built To Last and Back On The Sunset Strip

The first time HammerFall played the world famous Whisky A Go-Go was 1998 with the legendary Death, leaving an indelible impression on all who were in attendance on that very special night.  And now in 2017, HammerFall was back at the iconic establishment with Delain, promoting their latest album Built To Last on Napalm Records as well as celebrating the 20 year anniversary of their landmark debut album Glory To The Brave.  Prior to their epic performance at the sold out Whisky, we caught up with HammerFall guitarist Oscar Dronjak backstage to discuss the many reasons why HammerFall are indeed Built To Last within the worldwide heavy metal arena.  Read on…

How has the tour been going and what have been some of the highlights?
It’s been, without question, the best US tour or North American tour that we have ever done. It’s been really good, not one time have we felt “We wish there were more people here”. It’s been fantastic every show, and that’s unheard of really, and Delain is a really nice band that we like touring with so we had a lot of fun, too. It’s a fantastic tour.

You played the Whiskey in 1998 with Death. What is your memory of that special night?
That was very special, that’s my first time in North America, ever. I knew the legacy of The Whiskey, of course, legendary, so it was very cool to have been there. I have one regret, and that is, there was a video company there who recorded the Death show, and they asked us “Do you want us to record your show, too. It’s gonna cost $50 bucks?”, I don’t know, it was nothing really, nothing. We said, “Eh, no, no, it’s okay”. I regret that. That would have been so cool to have on tape, but you live and learn.

I was at that show. Your newest member Johan Kolberg, how did he become involved with HammerFall?
Well our drummer before was David Wallin and he had problems getting to go on tour, he couldn’t really do all the touring that we needed, so he had to step down for a bit. It was unfortunate because we really liked playing with David but now we got Johan, so it’s all good.

Built To Last is your tenth studio album. How surprised are you that you got to ten and what can we expect from eleven?
I’m very surprised that we got to 10. If you look at what we were doing in ’97, but after awhile it felt like we could do this forever and then it didn’t for a while, but now it feels like we can go on for another 20 years easy. As far as number 11, I have no idea.

It’s been 20 years since your debut album, “Glory To The Brave.” What do you think of that album in retrospect?
You know, I listen to it because as you said, it’s an anniversary this year so we listen to it a little bit just to relive it, I guess. We’re doing a medley on this tour, of this album, so we do about five minutes of medley and then three minutes of an actual song from that. That’s all we do from that album. We felt we needed to do something special, but we didn’t want to put a bunch of Glory To The Brave songs on there when we were promoting Built To Last basically. I think that was a really good effort from a band that apparently knew what they were doing even if we didn’t realize it at the time. I remember when the album was finished, we all said to each other “Is this really us? It sounds so good”, ‘because it sounded much more professional than we thought it would, you know? We were really happy with it, but of course what I love the most about it is the energy. You can’t take that away from that album. We recorded in 16 days, I think, with mixing and everything –  and everything had to be done really quickly. There’s so much power in it.

It stands the test of time for sure. Did Dio ever heard or comment on your version of “Man on the Silver Mountain”?
I think he did, but I’m not sure actually. We toured with him in 2002 and we recorded just before that tour but I don’t know when it came out. Maybe or maybe not, if he did, I don’t know actually.

What was the experience like touring with Dio? What was he like?
He was the nicest guy you could ever meet. That’s what you say about everybody who dies, “Oh this was the best”, but he really was that person. He was so friendly, it’s like this is Dio for God sake, you know, but he made us feel really welcome. We were on his bus sometimes just hanging out and drinking a beer and just talking and that was such a big honor to be a part of that tour.

Are you involved with any other bands outside of HammerFall?
Well, I have a death metal band that was resurrected a couple of years ago called Ceremonial Oath, but we don’t really do anything. This was during end of the 80’s early 90’s.

I didn’t know you resurrected that, cool. What’s up next for HammerFall after this tour?
Festivals. Summer Festivals in Europe, that’s what we always do. Then – South America, I guess. We’re looking at coming back here, as long as this tour goes well, we were thinking we’d be given another chance next year. We’ll see what happens.

Do you have any messages for HammerFall fans reading this now?
If you went to one of our shows, we appreciate it so much. You have no idea how great you’ve been on this tour. If you didn’t, you missed out so please come back next time because we do promise we will deliver a really good show.

HammerFall is:
Oscar Dronjak – Guitars
Fredrik Larsson – Bass
Joacim Cans – Vocals
Pontus Norgren – Guitars
Johan Kullberg – Drums

(Interview by Ken Morton – Photos by Jack Lue)

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