Highwire Daze: Hey Joachim, how are you doing?

Joacim Cans: Doing just fine. A little bit tired - it's getting late over here.

HD: What time is it over there now?

Joacim: It's 10:30PM.

HD: 10:30PM? That's not late for a rock and roll musician!

Joacim: I know, but this rock and roll musician was up at 6:30 this morning. It was the first time in years I was up that early.

HD: Oh that's not good! What were you doing up so dang early?

Joacim: I had to leave my car with the car repairman. Sometimes it's nice to get up quite early so you can check your mails and do some business before everyone else gets up.

HD: Sorry for keeping you up so late here…

Joacim: It's no problem. I have a few more interviews - my last one is at 11:30.

HD: Well first of all, tell me how Crimson Thunder compares to the previous releases?

Joacim: I would say that this is by far the most mature album we have done. In my opinion, since the majority of the songs on Crimson Thunder are mid-tempo, I feel that the mid-tempo songs are the strongest side of Hammerfall. It feels like we have the ultimate sound and the ultimate compositions for the band. It's still Hammerfall. You listen to the album and you hear a song like On The Edge Of Honor and you have another song called Dreams Come True - there you see the diversity that we still have -really fast songs and we can alter a fast song with an acoustic ballad. But production, performance and songwriting-wise, this is by far the best we have done. I would say this is the ultimate Hammerfall album in the year 2002.

HD: You just compare it to the first album and it's such a difference…

Joacim: The first album we had around $4000 as a recording budget. We had to get down on our knees and beg the studio guys for some free extra time. We spent 16 days in the studio including the mix for the first album. I had two days for all the vocals. So I think it's a matter of pure energy in what happened on that album.

HD: Well things have changed for you budget-wise, I hope…

Joacim: Yeah, there's now another "0" at the end of the 4000. But in the end, you pay for the studio yourself. It's all recoupable against your royalties. If we could record Crimson Thunder for $4000, I would be really happy because then I could probably buy a new house. But it really doesn't work like that.

HD: Where did you get the ideas for some of the lyrics on Crimson Thunder?

Joacim: A lot of people ask me what kind of fantasy books I read - they believe I have read everything. But to be honest with you, I have never ever read a fantasy book in my whole life. That is the truth. I think the only limits you have as an artist or a writer is within you. If you have a good imagination, you can create your own stories and characters. When it comes to the influences, I'm influenced by the 80's - the melody from the 80's - and these types of lyrics are exactly what I want to hear if I was into a metal band. When I start with the vocal melodies after I get the music from Oscar, I'm just trying to add flavor to something. The lyrics to me are just like adding colors to a painting - otherwise everything is in black and white. But when you put the lyrics there, you add in the colors and you can see the different shapes in a composition. So I'm just sitting down, trying to get a certain feeling for the song - trying to find out what this song tells me, and then I put it into words without too many swords and fights. It's just a matter of entertaining people. I just want to create small stories that are totally entertaining.

HD: How much input do you guys have on the cover art for your albums?

Joacim: Everything. Everything. For the new cover, I was sitting down and writing out to the artist what I wanted on the cover. Same thing for Renegade - I made a really bad drawing together with Oscar - and we sent that to the artist. And the same thing with Legacy Of Kings. For the first album we didn't have anything to do with it. They said, "We need really cool cover artwork for the album." We just said, "Okay" and came up with something that really looked bad. They said no and they tried this other artist. But for every single release, everything comes from me and Oscar.

HD: How did the US tour with Dio come about?

Joacim: We were working with a Swedish booking agency who owns SFX, a big major booking agent in the States. They had Dio going on tour on tour and they were looking for support acts. We just said please check if it would be possible for us to go on the tour. One day later, they responded and said, "You could have the tour if you want." And we said, "Yeah! Cool! Great!" We had some options to do some headlining tours, but then you would probably be headlining the bathroom in a dumpster - and I don't want to do that again. I did that in 98 in some places! We were looking to support maybe not a major act, but still someone who could pull enough people to play in a decent venue - at least we could get a shower once a week. And I think that's nice. I don't ask for too much - I need some food and I need a shower. The coolest thing was when I lived in Los Angeles in 93-94, I went to see the Black Sabbath show at the Universal Amphitheater and now we're gonna play there! That will be really good because I know that venue is really cool.

HD: Is Dio a big influence on you as a vocalist?

Joacim: Not as much as some other people. Actually I discovered Dio pretty late on the Holy Diver album. Before that, I have never even heard of Black Sabbath or Rainbow. I was more into Geoff Tate - that type of thing. When I heard Geoff Tate for the first time, it felt like God was taking to me or something. He reached out to me. Dio has a certain power to his voice and he's just amazing. He's one of the best metal singers - not only metal singers. If you compare him to The Rolling Stones - they still record albums and it sounds horrible! But Dio's just turned 60 years old and he still sounds amazing! Such a big voice in that tiny little body - it's fantastic!

HD: Have you met Ronnie James Dio prior to this?

Joacim: No, I've never met him. Anders, our drummer, met him a few times. He was actually about to join Dio's band back in the late 80's, but he was too crazy they said. And now they will meet again.

HD: You guys did a cover of a Dio song on a tribute album…

Joacim: We did a Rainbow song -Man On A Silver Mountain.

HD: What made you chose that song?

Joacim: It was for a Dio tribute album, but all the good Dio songs were taken. We wanted to do a song that would fit Hammerfall, and not a song that we would do pretty poor. And Man On A Silver Mountain was a favorite for both me and Oscar, so it kind of obvious we would pick that song. It's just a fantastic song and it was a challenge for me as a singer to sing. Even though it doesn't sound like Dio is a high pitched vocalist, he is. It's kind of natural to him, but for me it would sound weak for singing too high. For him it still sounds powerful. We could have probably picked any other sound and it wouldn't be a problem. But that sound meant a lot to both me and Oscar.

HD: Would you ever want to play that song for Mr. Dio himself?

Joacim: That would be cool! Maybe the last show on the tour, we'll do it together. That would be really awesome! I'll get him drunk one night and I'll tell him, "Last show, we're going to do it together."

HD: Cool! Now I want to talk to you about the tour you did with Death. First of all, how did the overall tour go?

Joacim: I think it was a huge success, referring to the album sales. Because after the tour we doubled the sales of Legacy Of Kings from 12000 to 25000. So that was a big success. I think the best think was that we got along so well with Chuck and the rest of the guys and that we became such good friends. And I'm still very honored that I got to know Chuck before he died because he was such a nice guy. The tour - some cities were really good, some were not so good. There were some places I don't even want to talk about - as I said playing in a dumpster in front of 100 die-hard death metal fans. It's not easy being a heavy metal band - we dress up for every show with our outfits and people are standing there saying, "What the hell is this? Get the fuck off the stage man!" I think in the end, it paid off. It was a really good tour, but no showers, no food, no dressing rooms.

HD: I saw that tour in two places - up in San Francisco and then the next night in Los Angeles…

Joacim: For me, the Los Angeles show was the best for us, because we had a lot of following there. It sounded like it was more of a Hammerfall show than a Death show, because there were so many Hammerfall fans, and I don't know where they came from to be honest with you. I know some people came all the way from Mexico to see us, so that was really cool. I'm really looking forward to Los Angeles this time as well.

HD: It was quite a contrast to your San Francisco show the night before. There were a lot of death metal fans in the crowd that night…

Joacim: Yeah, and they some glasses at us - plastic cups though. And ice cubes came flying! It was so weird, things going on there. And I mean the stage - no one behind the first row of people could see anything. They packed 1000 people in a room where only 10 people could see the stage.

HD: It was still great going to both shows and seeing your band and Death twice!

Joacim: Well, I got see to Death 25 times, and that was really cool! I was a big Death fan after that. I was not really into their music, but after seeing the songs live, I really discovered something and that was cool.

HD: What was your reaction when you found out that Chuck had passed away?

Joacim: I spoke to him on the phone a few months before it got serious again. He was in such a good mood after the first surgery. Then I get the news he had passed away. It was like it didn't happen. Sometime I take my photo album and go through the US tour and I check his pictures - and it hurts when I see the pictures - that was way too soon for a person to die. But still, I'm so proud I got to know him for the person he was -- because there were a lot of bad rumors circling around about the Chuck I never met. The really bad, disrespectful person, blah blah blah… That was the picture I had of Chuck before I met him - but then he showed something completely different. At that time, I realized you should make your own experiences with people, and you shouldn't listen to what other people say. Discover it for yourself if the person is good or bad.

HD: If they were going to do a tribute album to Death, what song would you want to do?

Joacim: Pull The Plug. That's absolutely my favorite song. But I don't think I could sing it, so I'd probably be playing the bass or something. Of course you could do it in the metal-ish way - I don't think that should be a problem. But it would be really cool. There's actually a song on the new album dedicated to Chuck - it's the instrumental song called In Memoriam. We wanted to do something and we felt that song would be our tribute.

HD: I want to go back to in time to another band you were in called Mrs. Hippie…

Joacim: Oh, yeah… (Laughs)

HD: What was your reaction when you found out the album was released in the States on Metal Blade Records?

Joacim: Actually, the album was released by my own label HF Records, and I licensed it to Metal Blade myself - so I knew it was suppose to be released in the States. Mrs. Hippie to me was some kind of experiment I did before I joined Hammerfall. I just wanted to prove that you could combine aggressive, more stoner rock monotonous guitar with melodic vocals. Cause the 90's was more less influenced by aggression and rhythm - and that was it - no melody whatsoever. And these guys asked me to join the band and I said, "No, no, I can't sing like that!" But they just told me "You could do whatever you want with the vocals" and I said "Hell yeah, I'm gonna do it" just to make a statement. I think they made the statement, but the album got lost somewhere. The stoner rock fans, they thought the vocals were too melodic. And the metal fans didn't like the music because it was too monotonous. I don't know who would buy the album, but still I think people should give it a chance. I really like the album - it has a certain atmosphere. It's kind of a low budget album, but still there was a lot of energy.

HD: Was it a $4000 budget album?

Joacim: Not even $4000 I would say. We got a great deal in the studio. And a lot of things were recorded live, because on this type of music you could do that. I think we spent $3000 or something. I'm really proud of the album. I haven't heard it in a while, but I really like the energy to it.

HD: Have you ever thought about doing a Mrs. Hippie reunion tour?

Joacim: No, there isn't time. We released this album for one purpose. I thought the songs were too good to be left unreleased. I just wanted to have this album out, and get the songs out of my system more less. Since I'm having so much to do with Hammerfall and also being part of Warlord these days, I don't have time to do it. The guitar player has a new band and there's no time for him either. And the drummer is in like 59 bands. So there will be no reunion of the band. Maybe if we sell a million copies in the States, bit so far we've sold a few.

HD: What were you doing in Los Angeles during 93-94?

Joacim: Actually I went to M.I. (Musician's Institute) up in Hollywood like 300 other Swedish people at the time. I started to sing quite late - I was 21. I started a little earlier but I thought it was so boring and I didn't like the sound of my voice. But in 91 I joined the band and I really thought maybe my vocals weren't that bad after all, and maybe I should give it a try. I was unemployed and found out about this school. So I went there and spent 13 months living in the center of Hollywood. It was a weird place to live I should say.

HD: What were your impressions of Hollywood at the time?

Joacim: A Toon Town. A lot of fake people walking around. It's just a façade. It looks nice, but if you just scratch on the surface a little bit, you see a lot of misery going around. But I still had a great time. My time is school was fantastic and I met a lot of really cool guys there. It was really nice. And when I got back there in 1998 on tour, I got really emotional when I came out there. I went to my street, I went to my house - I went to school and met my teacher. I got really emotional because that was a big part of my life. Now I'm going back - when we do the show I'm going to do a clinic at the school. I'm coming back to talk to the students and that feels pretty weird as well. Now I'm coming back to school, but I don't know what to talk about. I'm going to stand there and lie for two hours. (Laughs) I'll tell them not to bother - it's too much hard work to make it and if you make everyone is going to rip you off anyway.

HD: Well there you go! Oh, I wanted to ask you about the incident that took place in a bar a few months ago when you were assaulted. Did that ever catch the guy who did it?

Joacim: No, no. He got away and no one knows who it was. The police are searching for him and for his friends - maybe through them they can find him - but still nothing.

HD: It's pretty dumb. If you don't like a band, don't go and assault them in a bar!

Joacim: My nephew told me - he's seven years old - he said "You know what? If he doesn't like Hammerfall, then why does he listen to it?" That was the words from a seven-year-old. And if I seven year old gets it, then how hard could it be? If I don't like a certain band, I don't listen to it and I don't think about it.

HD: I'm just surprised something like this could have happened in the metal community, because most people are pretty open minded about music.

Joacim: Metal basically comes from the same roots during the 70's. What's going on now is just branches from the same tree. Together we can make a difference if we stop fighting each other. It's like black people killing black people - it's the same thing. People have to be strong.

HD: Didn't you wind up doing a video for Hearts On Fire a few days after the incident?

Joacim: Yeah, that was like 10 days after. The video turned out really good and there's a lot of power in it. People said "Wow, you look so cool with the stitches in your face!" Even though they put a shade on half my face, at one point I'm staring into the camera with my left eye where the scars are now. You could see that my eyes are more less telling that this happened to me - but you know what - this will only make me stronger. It turned out really good and the video is a big success up here. We're number one on the Swedish national video charts. It's cool - it's like a mixture of a performance video of a metal band but also there's a lot of influences for Army Of Darkness.

HD: Do you have any messages for fans here in the States?

Joacim: You know what? Now Hammerfall is coming your way, and we're gonna force feed you all with European heavy metal, so be prepared! And I want to see as many people as possible at the show in Los Angeles. This is a big thing for us. It feels like it's do or die for us in the States now. We lost a lot of money on the first tour. We're going to lose a lot of money on this tour, but we're willing to take the risk, cuz I know that fans in the States are craving for metal - and now they will get it!