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5 minutes alone with… HammerFall’s Oscar Dronjak

(Image credit: Press/Robert Tüchi)

Power metal bands don't come much more epic than HammerFall. Guitarist Oscar Dronjak founded the Swedish warhorses in Gothenburg in 1993 and has steered them ever since. Their latest album, Dominion, came out in 2019.

What’s the worst thing about being in a band?

“It’s difficult to comprehend if you haven’t done it a million times but the thing I hate the most is recording music videos. It’s a day or two of sitting around doing nothing, then doing nothing again, then all of a sudden performing and keeping on your toes for five minutes, then you have to do nothing again for two hours. It’s really hard on the concentration so I can imagine it must be excruciating on a movie set!”

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

“I took a lot of the advice that Dee Snider tried to instil into his listeners through Twisted Sister in the 80s – you’re the one who’s living your life so don’t listen to what other people think you should do, do what you want to do. I took a lot of that to heart, I can’t think of any better role model than Dee.”

When was the first time you felt like a rock star?

“The first time I realised what we were doing made a difference to people was when I first saw somebody in front of the stage when we were playing South America in 1999. They were looking up to where I was standing onstage and I gave them a guitar pick and they started crying, they couldn’t contain their emotions anymore. I felt like The Beatles and it took me years to understand it.”

What’s been your worst experience on drugs?

“I’ve never done drugs in my entire life, I’ve never even smoked a cigarette. I don’t believe in it at all; my stance has always been that if your life is so bad that you have to do drugs, there’s something else that needs to change. I don’t need artificial drugs, life is a drug enough for me!”

When was the last time you cried?

“I don’t cry very often, but when I do it’s usually because I’m watching an animal die in a movie. When I cry, it’s always animal-related. The last time was probably when I watched King Kong fall off the Empire State Building! If I wasn’t a musician, I probably would have worked with animals in some way.”

You’re an MMA fan. If you were in the octagon yourself, what would be your signature submission?

“I have always been very partial to the arm bar, I’ve loved that since day one. When I started watching MMA, I knew nothing about submissions but I always wondered how people can’t get out of them – somebody has your arm, they don’t have your whole body. Once you look at it and realise what they’re doing with their legs, it’s controlling your entire body.”

Do you train yourself?

“I’ve always been a fan but I’ve never trained. Anders Johansson [ex-Hammerfall drummer] and I went to California nine years ago to train at a beginners’ MMA class at Bas Rutten’s gym. It was just for fun but I loved it so much, I thought I’d want to do it more but when I got back home, I realised my body couldn’t take it.”

You have the potential rage for it, though, right?

“I have a temperament and that’s my problem; I yell and scream a lot when things don’t go my way. It’s not always directed at people, it’s more often directed at things that fuck with me. If you put a knife on the table and the knife falls down, the knife did that intentionally. It gets worse when I play video games, though, I can’t control my anger so I’ve had to replace a few things over the years.”

Which is your favourite HammerFall era of all time?

“The one we’re in right now because it feels like turning a new page with our line-up and our newfound energy. Things are very fun right now, we’re in a really good place and it shows in the songwriting and performance on our new album, Dominion.”

That’s pretty confident…

“To me, this sounds as vital as our first album did, plus the songwriting this time was more fun than any writing session I have ever had – it felt more natural and organic than ever before.”