I had the opportunity to interview Oscar Dronjak, guitarist of HammerFall, before their show at Irving Plaza in New York on March 7th. We only had about 15 minutes but in that time I got insight into how the band teamed up with the Swedish Women’s curling team, what he enjoys about touring, how he enjoys spending some of his time off and his expectations for this tour along with some other items. The interview went as follows (note: my questions and Oscars responses are paraphrased from my notes):
Deuce: I see that you’re a “Sons of Anarchy” Fan. (Oscar was wearing a SAMCRO t-shirt. Note: “Sons of Anarchy” is a drama about a motorcycle gang on the FX network).
Oscar: Yes, I really enjoy the show but I felt season 1 was better than this one. This season, a bigger threat shows up in their town and suddenly everybody is ok with The Sons acting outside the law.
Deuce: How did HammerFall end up forming a relationship with the Swedish Women’s Curling Team?
Oscar: Well, the girls saw an article that they and their sport wasn’t very rock and roll and they wanted to prove that they are. Someone got in touch with our manager and things took off from there. We did the video with them before they won in the last Olympics and now it’s 2 in a row. I keep in touch with them by email.
Deuce: Where did the idea for the bands mascot come from?
Oscar: He was kind of created before the 1st album. We wanted a warrior with a hammer and the cover artist came back with what you’ve seen. We call him Hector and he’s like the 6th member of the band. We wanted something where if you take away all the text around him, people will still associate him with us like Eddie for Iron Maiden. He’s not exactly good or evil, everyone falls somewhere in between. Things used to be so black or white but it’s more mixed now. He has his scars but he still stands tall.
Deuce: How do you feel about touring in the States?
Oscar: I like it here. There are things that you can’t get back home, like UFC fights. I recently flew out to Vegas to catch a fight and have gone to England to catch one too.
Deuce: What’s your favorite country to play in?
Oscar: There’s a rule about Metal fans; they’re the same all over from India to Brazil. However, I find it easier to play in countries that are closer to the Equator. The South American fans are easiest to read because they wear their emotions on their sleeves. They’re not afraid to go nuts, get loud and really show their appreciation – they’re totally crazy. We first played there in 1999. I find that in some cases the Germans and Swedes need more alcohol to get into it; they tend to be stiff.
Deuce: Do you or the band have any pre-show rituals that you follow?
Oscar: Nothing that we do as a band aside from rehearsal and sound checks. I jump rope and do push-ups to get my adrenaline flowing.
Deuce: What’s your favorite touring memory?
Oscar: There are so many that it’s hard to name the best, but the most fun was the tour we did with Death in 1998. I still keep in touch with Richard Christy (Death’s drummer at the time) and was actually talking with him outside before we got started.
Deuce: Do you have a worst tour memory?
Oscar: Yes, the Dio tour. It actually had nothing to do with Dio, but our tour manager ripped us off for a lot of money so it left a sour taste in our mouths. It was someone the label had hired for us. We’re lucky though that we’ve been able to avoid a lot of pitfalls with bad contracts and such. This was the exception, not the rule.
Deuce: How do you spend your time off when you’re not touring?
Oscar: I play a lot of video games. I currently have all 3 of the modern systems. PS3 and XBOX 360 really offer similar games and graphics and the Wii has better game play. I’ve had the PS3 the longest and also think it is the most powerful and more future capacity. I initially boycotted the 360 because I thought how can I have all 3? But I liked some of the exclusive games for it and ended up buying myself one for Christmas. Gears of War is one of my all time top 3 games. I was blown away by the story, graphics and because it was so much fun to play. I also like the layout of the XBOX controllers to the PS3. I also have my dog Leo and he takes up a lot of my time. He’s a mixed breed Retriever, Setter and Collie.
Deuce: How have the fan reactions been to the new songs?
Oscar: Well it’s only the 3rd night of the tour but we’re getting better turn out than we expected. It’s good to see because it’s been 5 years since our last US tour. I know in 1998 we played a place in Coney Island which is now closed but that show was wild. I have high expectations for tonight. We’ve practiced some rarities, stuff we haven’t played in 5-7 years. We’re trying to give fans a little from every album.
Deuce: Any final messages for the fans?
Oscar: If you want us to come back then make sure you come out and see us. We’ve done 4 tours here and if you miss us this time you’re missing something special. This is our 1st headlining tour here; we used to only play as an opening band. If you miss us this time you’ll be missing more than you realize. We have the opportunity to play more than when we were limited to a shorter set.
The interview ended because Oscar had to get ready for the fan meet & greet.