“I think everything is a learning experience” – exclusive interview with Joacim Cans from HammerFall

I’d like to start this article with a personal, but brutal honest opinion: I don’t know why isn’t HammerFall as popular as Metallica or Iron Maiden. They should be playing in arenas! They have the whole package for that. But okay, move on… On 24th of October HammerFall showed us what’s the real heavy metal! Before their performance in Budapest, I had an opportunity to ask a few questions from the voice of the Swedish band, Joacim Cans.

However, I arrived 15 minutes before the scheduled time we could start the interview immediately because Joacim just came back his usual sightrunning ritual.  “When I’m not on tour I’m trying to run around 30 kilometers per week. I either run outdoors or go to the gym and I do intervals. So, I’ve been doing this now for 5 years or a bit longer. On tour, it’s sometimes… You know, hard to get up in the morning and go running.

Today I ran almost 11 kilometers along the river and across a couple of bridges and back.

There’s so much energy on stage – it’s kind of a workout what we are doing on stage, but I’m trying to keep up the pace also running on tour. It’s called sightrunning – it’s kind of a sightseeing just you are running. I just check a map, like „okay, I’m gonna run here” and then I allow myself to get lost. And if I can see a nice scenery I stop there, take a selfie and I keep running. 

Q: -Have you ever met with fans while you were running? A: -When I did a race in Stockholm once, a guy was cheering when I was passing by. I don’t think people usually recognize me since that I dress like this and may have a cap on. Photo: Péter Tepliczky / MyTouche Blog

I’ve been 85% vegan for many years, but I can’t live without cheese, and I have to have egg and butter. Apart from them, it’s all vegetarian, mostly vegan. But from time to time I eat fish and seafood.

This started… Let me see here… I think it will be five years in January. It started earlier when I started to eat only certified meats. It’s much more expensive but I wanted to make sure that the cow was a cow until the end. But after while I just said no… I stopped eating meat because my body doesn’t need it, and when I took away all the meat I felt so much better.”

Did you know that Joacim was also part of the Swedish Junior Swimming National Team? Well, it’s surprising but true however he gave up his sports career at age 16. What led him to make this decision?  “I failed to qualify to the European Championships with 0.36 seconds. That was my last year as a junior, and the next step was being a senior and  I would have 5-6 years of hard training. And I just picked up the guitar a bit – and I didn’t really feel like it anymore. So I quit. But, in between – when I quit I was sixteen, and when I start to run I was 42 or 43 –  I didn’t do anything. I was much bigger also. 5 years ago I was almost 15 kilos heavier.

I thought that it’s just too boring. But when I picked up running I realized: this is my way for meditation…

You just stop thinking, you just go straight, you know. So, your mind is sorting out things… I call it that the mind is filing things. Just put everything in the right spot. And I don’t have to do anything about it. For me, it’s like a religious thing, even though I’m not a religious person. So, running is good for you.

Photo: Péter Tepliczky / MyTouche Blog

Well, my biggest dream is to do a triathlon. Yeah, that is something I really want. I have the swimming. I have the running part also. It’s the cycling part what I don’t really have. Maybe I should do a little cycling on the side, go swimming from time to time and then do a short triathlon. I think that is something I want to try. My next race is a half marathon in May, but I really wanna do the full marathon and one day I wanna do the ultra also. I have the vision that one day I will do something really long.”

Well, we are talking about heavy metal and sports – and Iron Man (or at least I think) fits in. So I asked Joacim: is he planning to attend Iron Man as well? “I think Iron Man is way too long, especially you have to swim for 3500 meters, you are on a bike for 200 kilometers, and then you have to run a marathon… You know what? Why not? I think it would be cool! But maybe I’m too old and I should have done that 20 years ago. You know, my knees are hurting, my feet are hurting, everything is hurting in this body.”


Hammer High!

Even though it’s always great to see another side of a successful musician, it was time to talk about music. A few years back HammerFall released their eighth studio album under the name “Infected“. If you take a look at the tracklist you can find a song “Send me a sign” which is actually a Pokolgép cover – and it also has a Hungarian version!

“That was really hard, to be honest with you.

I had a friend of mine who translate the lyrics into Swedish so I just have gotten an idea what it was all about. Then I listened to the song, and I listened to how he sang the Hungarian words, and I wrote it down the way I thought it was. So I just came up with weird words and I just stood there and sang. I could never memorize those words. The chorus was easy to remember, but the rest was hard. Hungarian is a tough language.

Q: -Have you ever performed this song in live?
A: -We did once together with Pokolgép, I was on the stage and sang the song with them.

In September Joacim worked as a radio host for 4 weeks. How did that idea come to his mind and how did he feel as a radio host? And is he planning to do an own radio show just as the Sepultura guitarist, Andreas Kisser does? “I’ve been doing radio from time to time and I got a chance to do a full month when the regular host went on tour – it’s the keyboard player and the drummer from Europe. So I took over their job. I would love to continue doing something like that this absolutely, but unfortunately, at that station there’s no opening position at the moment. But maybe in the future I can do it once a week, or something.

Photo: Péter Tepliczky / MyTouche Blog

Joacim was 11 years old when he ‘met’ heavy metal music for the first time – what was the moment when he decided that he want to be a professional musician? And what would be, if he couldn’t do it? “Well, that’s a good question. I started to sing very-very late and I had some bands from time to time. I was 18 when I just quit music because I thought that that’s really not for me. My guitar playing skills were really bad, then I started to sing again when I was around 21.

At age 23 I didn’t have anything that kept me in Sweden. I didn’t have a job, I didn’t have a girlfriend, I didn’t have anything, so I thought: let’s go to Hollywood!

So I applied for music school and I was rolled – I just wanted to give myself a treat. Like: let’s see how good I can be at singing after one year at this school. I came back home then, I was 24… You know, there were some bands here and there, but I said nah… Heavy Metal was not really happening, and I wanted to see metal. But when I was 26 I got contact with Jesper Strömblad and Oscar Dronjak because they already formed HammerFall.

Photo: Péter Tepliczky / MyTouche Blog

I decided I help them out for one show, that was the idea. And all of the sudden everything just changed. My life totally changed.

Of course, I had that crazy dream that I wanna go on tour, I wanna be in a successful metal band, but I never thought that I have the ability to actually do it. And this was just like a big bonus and happened like wow! I’m a professional musician now. Unbelievable! If I wouldn’t…. I’m pathetic… I don’t know. I have no idea! I was working in a record store before I went on my first tour, and I loved being there! I would probably stay there until they had to close it down and I probably stayed in the same department store because I don’t have a university degree or anything like that. And I would probably be pretty fat. I think.”

Q: -If you would be a HammerFall song which would you be and why? A: -One hundred songs you choose from. I would say it’s an impossible question to answer because I have such a personal relationship to every song since I’m the part of the writing team. I mean there always songs that are lyrically meaning mean a lot more to me. There is a song, Wildfire from the (r)Evolution album which is inspired a little bit by the book and the movie „Into the Wild”. That idea, by you know, get rid off all your possessions and just go out there and live your life. Maybe that could be that song to me. Photo: Péter Tepliczky / MyTouche Blog

In a recent interview, Joacim said that at the beginning of his singing career he wanted to sound like someone else. So how long it took for him to find his own voice? “I think everything is a learning experience. You learn by doing and listening. You need to be inspired by other singers of course. I think I started to develop my voice a couple years before the first album with HammerFall, but when we released the first album I was still in the process of finding the true me. And I would say in the past 8 years I kinda know where and who I am! So I think now I know exactly what my voice is all about.

So if you listened to the last 3 albums, I was much more confident as a singer, because I know my limits.

And I think that is very important. So you don’t go out and bounce all the time. Stay within your frame and know how to control your voice.
In the beginning… No one want to be a singer anyways when you’re a kid, because everyone wants to play guitar, bass, drums. Guitar players practice and practice as so the drummers practice, the bass player practice. But the singers… They don’t practice. Never.

So it takes longer for a singer to really find his voice. And since everyone is unique you should never tried to copy anyone else. Influence – yes. Copy – no! There’s so many really good singers out there but they don’t have what it takes.

Photo: Péter Tepliczky / MyTouche Blog

Every part of your life, every year in your life is so unique. I mean I think life itself is a challenge, but you just need to learn by your mistakes and just move on and don’t repeat these mistakes. I think the biggest challenge is for everyone just try let go of things that you can’t really do anything about and move on.

I think it’s sometimes really hard to let things go because you got stuck in them.

Maybe my biggest challenge was that a lot of my friends turned 40-45 years old and they all became really fat. All the guys, all of them. And I told myself that I will not look like that when I’m 45, I’m gonna give myself the best treat ever! And I think that was the challenge, to change lifestyle. And I did. And I do not look like them. I’m in a better shape now when I was 20. So I think I challenged myself to change my lifestyle. And I managed to do that and that was the biggest challenge of my life.”

The Swedish Heavy Metal Templars, HAMMERFALL announced the 20-year anniversary reissue of their second album Legacy Of Kings as 2-CD/DVD boxset, out on December, 7th. Click the photo below and get your copy now!


Don’t forget to check out the full gallery of  HammerFall gig at Barba Negra.

Interview: Afrodite Szeleczky
Photos: Péter Tepliczky

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"I associate heavy metal with fantasy because of the tremendous power that the music delivers." - Christopher Lee

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