Interview: HammerFall – Anders Johansson

Formed in Göteborg, Sweden, in 1993 by guitarist Oscar Dronjak, HammerFall have been a dominating force in power metal ever since the release of their debut album ‘Glory to the Brave’ in 1997. Fast forward 14 years the band are now preparing to release their eighth studio album, ‘Infected’, to the world and while some see it as another album in the bands career, it appears that ‘Infected’ is in fact a new chapter and the beginning of a new era for HammerFall.

Recently I had the opportunity to submit questions to drummer Anders Johansson about the new album and to look at several points which seem to address my idea of a new chapter in HammerFall. Read on for his thoughts about the band, the controversy surrounding their album artwork and what he would do if he had to stop creating music.

HammerFall - Anders Johansson

HammerFall - Anders Johansson

There will be a number of questions below which relate to this idea but I wonder if my thought has any merit when I say that ‘Infected’ marks a new significant new chapter in the career of HammerFall? It is one of my favourite albums by the band but it seems to feel that there is a lot going on within the band that makes this feel like a new chapter or era for your music.

I think you are correct.

There is a lot of change, but mainly in the way we recorded. First, starting with the foundation for the bass and drums we went away from the previous strict and controlled feel as I didn’t even rehearse the songs. I’m an old studio musician so I just wrote down the basic arrangement and improvised through the songs in the studio and we didn’t bother to change what I came up with. Before they wanted everything more controlled and in my ears it was boring; now there is more of a rock ‘n’ roll feel to it. When we added the bass Fredrik played a bit more; he played a more aggressive style which he usually does and it felt good. I remembering hearing him with his own band DeathDestruction and thinking that he played better with them; now he plays as good with HammerFall as well.

What can you tell us about the direction you decided to take musically with this album? While it does keep that HammerFall feel, at times it does feel faster and certainly I suppose a little less rehearsed?

Yes, no rehearsing at all.

This album is faster than any other HammerFall record and there are not as many harmony vocals this time around. Personally I always disliked the backing vocals and I always told Joacim that he shouldn’t be afraid of showing his real voice. I think the vocal producer James Michael had the same idea and now Joacim is sounding better than ever before.

Was there anything new to this album in the way you wrote or recorded it?

No, not that I think writing wise but recording wise yes. Basic track in studio Bohus with Tobias Lindell and the overdubs (except vocals and mix) in HammerFall’s own rehearsal room with Pontus Norgren as producer. Oscar was co-producing.

As the band moves on and matures, do you look to evolve and push your sound to another level do you always look at new methods of writing, recording or styles of playing which may give you that edge and something new to your sound?

I think we have found a good way now.

‘One More Time’ is the lead single, what made you choose the song and would you say this is your favourite or the top song from the album? A personal favourite of mine is ‘Bang Your Head’ simply because it does get you banging your head and gets you in a good mood.

I agree, it was not my personal choice as I also wanted ‘Bang Your Head’. I think ‘One More Time’ is one of the poorer songs on the album but it might be because that style doesn’t fit Joacims’ voice as well as it does on other tracks.

You have been working with Charlie Bauerfeind for a number of years with your albums and now you have switched to James Michael. Was there any significant reason for the change and what do you think he brought to the table?

I think we felt he was a bit too perfect and that he wanted things too nice. He was a talented and hard-working man though, he just had a different idea from me about the feel of the music. I remember feeling that in the studio, when recording with him and Oscar that they were both being hard headed, I was just a robot playing more or less a basic beat. No input was wanted from me; I just went in and did exactly what they wanted but now it was more free and loose. I played what I personally wanted (well, sometimes of course I played what Oscar wanted…it is after all his band).

The artwork for the album has stirred up a lot of controversy, what is the story behind the legal actions and reception of the biohazard logo?

Well, again I disagreed with everyone else. But I’m just the drummer :-)

We first had a cover with Hector and I really liked it but for some reason they didn’t and then a bunch of things happened. I remember thinking when I first saw the Biohazard cover “Oh, no. It looks like the band Biohazard made an album called HammerFall!” Then they added these hands after someone from the Biohazard band freaked out and threatened to sue HammerFall.

Luckily the music is good and maybe in the end that will be all right, I think so anyway. Maybe it was time to get rid of the same old stuff as I thought the previous albums all kind of looked the same but in the end hopefully it will be all good.

The departure of your mascot Hector has caused a little backlash from fans. Why did you decide to remove him?

It was all because they didn’t like the cover with him. They thought he looked like a sissy as we had some guy posing with the helmet, it was a real photo. I liked it though.

Maybe they were right…what if Hector looked like a sissy? It’ll be all ok in the end since it’s a strong album.

This is your eighth studio album release on Nuclear Blast, how good has it been having the one home for so long which has treated you more like a family for your releases?

Without Nuclear Blast we wouldn’t be here. They are a huge reason HammerFall is where HammerFall is today.

As a band firstly what continues to fuel your music after so many years; is there still an ultimate message goal or direction HammerFall wishes to progress in? You joined and made your first album, Renegade, with the band in 2000 and this is now your seventh album with the band so do you still see a lot more to come.

It seems the guys have matured and the band is heading in good direction. My role has always been a bit “just the drummer” and all the direction and goals for the band are planned by the leaders Joacim and Oscar.

HammerFall Infected ArtworkAs a drummer you’ve had a long and great career with HammerFall, Silver Mountain, Yngwie Malmsteen and others. What still motivates you to this day to keep performing?

I think it’s because I still have something unique to give.

If you had to leave music tomorrow what do you think you would do with yourself?

I would start a business, maybe as an electrician.

Your booked to play Bloodstock in support of the album this year, are you looking forward to that date? Do you look forward to playing in the UK?

Always look forward to the UK; great polite people with nice fish and chips and pubs. It’s a great place.

What are the plans after the release of the album, will you be looking to tour as much as possible or do you have anything special in store?

Festivals first then we are touring. I have a feeling, due to illegal downloading, the industry is changing fast. All bands want to do now is tour in order to make up for lack of royalties but now there is no real meaning behind it, because if a band is not well known in a region then there is not that much of a point in going there to support the release. It’s a catch 22 situation.

Thanks for taking time to answer some questions, please feel free to add anything you wish below.

Thank you for reading this and taking interest in HammerFall.

‘Infected’ by HammerFall will be released on May 20th from Nuclear Blast Records. Pre-order your copy right now from their store.


About ??

Michael is the owner and creator of EspyRock. He is your general all round geek; sports fan; TV show fanatic. You can find him sharing his thoughts on his personal Twitter account. Contact Michael on Twitter or via Email.


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