On October 23rd, Swedish heavy/power metal icons Hammerfall will be releasing a brand-new live Blu-Ray/Album: “Live! Against The World,” which Is currently available for pre-order at the following link. I recently we spoke with Fredrik Larsson about the filming of the show, and what goes into creating such a massive production, and also how the band has been dealing with the pandemic.
Thank you for taking the time to talk with me. How are you in the rest of the band doing?
I guess we’re like the rest of the world, pretty isolated and just eager to get out and play, of course. But, well, it is what it is.
First, I’d like to talk about Dominion, which recently marked its first anniversary in August. The album had a lot of charting success and introduced a lot of new fan-favorite songs. What’s it been like playing those songs on the road and seeing the reaction of the fans?
It seems like the fans have really welcomed this record. It was a good solid record with many songs that we immediately wanted to get in the setlist. We had to make room for a couple of them, at least, and it’s always fun to tour on a new album and try to get as much room for the new songs as possible. It seems like they fit right in there. They’ve been very welcomed by the fans. Unfortunately, because of this COVID thing, we just had one European tour with it and a Colombian tour.
With the live DVD coming out next month, the recording of it was done back in February, which was right on the brink of the live music industry shutting down due to pandemic. So it seems that you had the good fortune of getting that finished just in time.
Yeah, we were really, really lucky. I mean, it actually started when we were out on the road. We read some things about it, but we didn’t understand how big this was. Right after we came home to Sweden, it was pretty much a lockdown for the whole world. So yeah, it was really lucky for us that we could settle back with a successful European tour, at least, even though we were so looking forward to all the festivals and the US tour this fall, and everything we had in the pipeline. But yeah, we were lucky in away.
Did you guys get to finish that run of touring that you did when the DVD was filmed?
Fred: Yeah, we just had to postpone two shows in Belarus and Ukraine. But that was actually due to Joacims voice. He had some problems. He was getting sick at the end of the tour cycle, as it’s a really common thing, you get exhausted on a long live set and people start to get snuffly and so on. He felt it in his voice. So he couldn’t finish the tulip chose.
How long have you been kicking around the idea of doing a new live album and DVD?
We had the plans for it for a long time. We figured it was quite some time since we did the previous one. There’s a lot of new songs, and we wanted to present HammerFall, as we present it now on this tour. This was actually the biggest tour we have done. With lots of stage sets and, we just brought a lot of stuff. We wanted to present HammerFall to the rest of the world who wasn’t fortunate enough to go to the European tour.
Is there any particular reason why you chose the MHP arena in Germany for this setting?
We had to figure out a good location for the full film crew and, as well as the audience. This was one of the shows that sold out pretty fast in the beginning. So it made the decision a bit easier since it was a solid show and a good location for the setup of the stage. And for the film crew as well.
The production of the show was massive and rather incredible. Do you prefer the more extensive and epic arena settings or the more personal feel of say a smaller venue?
I actually liked both. I mean, it’s amazing to play in the big arena like MHP. And it feels like the shows that I was looking at as a kid. You know, Iron Maiden came to Scandinavia in Gothenburg, a big show with lots of stage props. It was amazing to be entertained by the band. But at the same time, I love to be at a sweaty club just somewhere and be amazed by the indirection of the band and the audience.
From your mascot Hector to the stage set up of your live performances, how important are the visual aspect of the shows and the band to you?
I think it’s really important. I mean, you’re there to be entertained. You want to see stuff that you don’t see every day. I mean, it shouldn’t be just the scenery. Of course, it’s about music, and it’s about doing something together with the audience. But at the same time, I really like to be blown away by everything when I go to a concert and I like the visuals. And it doesn’t have to be the big Iron Maiden stage, but at least something. You don’t have to get on stage with your everyday clothes on and give a bored expression on your face. I like to be entertained. So give me something at least.
Did you feel apprehensive or any added pressure when doing something that you know is going to be recorded for a DVD or an LP?
I think most of the pressure is before the show. Cause when you get on stage, there are so many things going on in your head anyway. You don’t think that much about it filmed. We didn’t have that much pyro on all the shows, but most of the big ones we had it. So we were used to it, but at the same time, every time you have pyro, you need to be aware and alert to what’s happening when it’s happening.
Of course, they’re not going to shoot if you’re in the way, but you don’t want that to happen. You’re focused on everything at the same time. You have to be right there right now, with the audience.
Playing a nearly two-hour show seems quite taxing. Yet, at the same time, I feel like the adrenaline of playing heavy metal and power metal, with feeding off the energy of the crowd, is what makes it more endurable. What’s it like to perform for that long?
You don’t think about it being two hours or whatever. With the first couple of songs, you get in the mood. You have to really bring out everything you have just to get there, and then it’s a smooth ride. Unless it’s a really long set, then it can be really tiring and you have to drink lots in between sets to stay focused.
It’s usually not a problem. Especially if you get a good vibe from the audience, a good reaction, then it’s so much easier. The real problem is probably for Joacim, who has to sing for that long. I guess his vocal cords will get more exhausted than my forearm by playing. (laughing)
Oh, for sure. With the rich discography that HammerFall has, I’d imagine it can be kind of challenging to come up with a setlist for a tour. Was it difficult for you to come up with this setlist in particular for the DVD?
It’s always tricky because there are so many songs that you want to play, and there’s a certain amount of songs that kind of has to be in there, especially if you film a DVD out of it. I mean, we can’t play a show without Hearts on Fire, Last Man Standing, or a couple of other songs. At the same time, you want to pick some odd favorites, maybe some songs that we haven’t played for a long time.
It makes it interesting because we can’t play the same sets even if we have new songs. It’s getting harder and harder. There are so many songs from all of the albums.
On many occasions, I could imagine that you’d like to throw in some of those deep cut tracks and try to work that into the setlist.
Yeah, absolutely. You can’t please them all, but there are always people who go just crazy when they see that we play that particular song. “Oh, they play that from that record!” I just love that reaction. It’s worth it. You do have to pick some odd favorites.
What do you hope that fans take away from the DVD/album?
Well, it’s up for everyone to kind of digest the whole package. But I think this is the best HammerFall has ever sounded. And it’s an amazing stage show with high-quality production. It’s a really good way to get to know HammerFall and how we are nowadays. A lot of people speak about HammerFalls first two records or the first three records or whatever, and they think they know what we are all about, but even though we play classic heavy metal, we actually have evolved a lot.
If you listen and compare from day one, up until now, it’s the same vein of course, but we have evolved, and I think this is really good and proof of that.
Given that’s everything that’s happening with the pandemic, do you think this situation will leave a permanent mark on the live music industry?
Yeah. I’ve been watching a couple of live streams. And in the beginning, I must say it was really good to have live music in my life, but, at the same time, a lot of people seem to be doing it for the wrong reasons.
They needed something to say like a statement that we are still alive, we are around, and we are here. And they did it with no audience that didn’t get the kickback. So it was kind of boring to watch it. The bands weren’t on top of their game. If they do things like this, such as live streams, they should be the best they can.
And, that was not always the thing. At least what I’ve seen. So I think you need to be well prepared and do a proper, really good show if you’re you are going to present it.
Yeah, I definitely agree with that. Well, thanks again for speaking to me, can’t wait for the fans to check out the new DVD/Album later this month. Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers and your fans?
It’s hard to say when we can get out on the road again, but I really hope that it won’t take that long. Because we really miss it. I mean, we were supposed to be in the middle of a US tour right now, and Joacim will text me sometimes, and say like, “oh today we were supposed to be in Atlanta.” And it’s kind of sad, you know, but, hopefully, it won’t take that long to get back out there, and we hope to see you soon.