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H.e.a.t interview: meet the new guy, same as the first guy

H.e.a.t
(Image credit: Fifth Island Music)

Back in the early 2000s, H.e.a.t were a bunch of kids in Upplands Vasby, Sweden, dreaming of being somewhere else. Somewhere with palm trees instead of snow, where Def Leppard and Iron Maiden ruled instead of Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys. 

Since forming in 2007 they’ve made good on those dreams (creatively at least), and this year hit a gleeful, glossy new peak with H.e.a.t II. Most recently, though, they’ve announced the departure of Erik Grönwall, H.e.a.t’s fireball frontman of the past decade. 

“There’s no hard feelings whatsoever between us,” says keyboard player/co-producer Jona Tee, who’s spent much of 2020 producing records for other bands. “He’s been giving us his blessing.” 

Grönwall’s place has been filled by H.e.a.t’s first singer, Kenny Leckremo. Tee tells us more.

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How did that line-up shift come about? 

We kind of felt that Erik grew a bit distant, really, so we just had a grown-up chat: “So dude, do you wanna do this?” He came to the decision that it was better to leave and focus on other stuff, and let us keep doing H.e.a.t. 

We’ve known about this since February or March, so we were like, well, should we keep going? Because it’s a huge loss without Erik. He’s such a great frontman. The only option we all wanted to even try was to talk to Kenny again. 

What has Kenny been up to for the past ten years? 

He’s been transforming himself into a rock’n’roll god, basically. We asked him in the summer, and he was like: “I’m ready for this!” He’s been doing shows in Spain, a bunch of covers, that sort of thing. He’s been touring all over Spain and he’s been living there as well. He put out an album two or three years ago called Spectra, which is a bit proggy compared to H.e.a.t. You should check it out. 

Erik Grönwall passing the mic back to Kenny Leckremo

Erik Grönwall (right) passing the mic back to Kenny Leckremo (Image credit: Fifth Island Music)

H.e.a.t II is such a slick, tight record. Would you consider yourselves to be perfectionists?

I don’t think I’m a perfectionist. I appreciate ‘vibe’, and on the albums from the seventies not everything is perfect. There can be some abnormalities, some weird guitar, something to keep it alive. I like to keep those things, the small errors, the perfect imperfections.

As one of the album’s producers, what are the records you really admire sound-wise?

Sound-wise I really like Dark Horse by Nickelback. It’s produced by Mutt Lange. I love the sound, it’s so huge. And from the eighties I would say [Def Leppard’s] Hysteria sounds amazing.

Is Hysteria a record you grew up with? 

Well I’d heard the songs since I was a kid, but I really started listening to it in, like, 2005, 2004. I got into Def Leppard and the eighties stuff. Before then I was a metalhead, listening more to power metal. Stuff like the early Hammerfall albums, Helloween, Stratovarius… 

The influence is there on H.e.a.t II. If you listen to Victory, for example, that could easily be a power metal song if you added some bass drums and more high-pitched screams. 

For a lot of listeners H.e.a.t’s music harks back to a simpler time. What does it do for you? 

We never experienced the eighties – I was about two when Hysteria came out. But we have experienced the music and videos from it. [For us] it was a nostalgic: “Ooh, I wish I was there”, kind of thing. So we started to take matters into our own hands and created the kind of music we wanted to listen to, and to make that experience we wanted. 

Do you get recognised in your home country? 

Eurovision in 2009 [H.e.a.t competed in Melodifestivalen, Sweden’s qualifier event], that was a big thing. We had a major hit in Sweden with 1000 Miles, and when you went to the grocery store people would be like: “Ah, you’re from H.e.a.t!” 

But that was in our home town, Upplands Vasby. If you go to rock pubs in Stockholm people will come over and say: “Hey! What’s going on with H.e.a.t?” We can walk the streets here without getting harassed – easily! But we have our crowd, the rockers. 

How do you feel about rock’s place in the world these days? 

I think it’s like a flourishing underground thing. You have this big group of cool misfits, basically, uniting under the banner of rock’n’roll. It’s cool. I think that’s how it started; rock’n’roll was music for the kids, or for the workers even, the working class. I think it’s kind of back to that now. 

Pandemic-permitting, what does 2021 hold for you guys? 

We’ll be working on a new album next year, and we have a lot of tour dates booked. We’re going to Australia in May for the first time… I don’t want to jinx anything though.

Polly is Features Editor at Classic Rock magazine, where she commissions regular pieces and longer reads (including new band coverage) and writes a few things. She also writes for Louder, Prog and Metal Hammer, and talks about songs on the 20 Minute Club podcast. In her spare time she writes fiction and cooks.