Joacim Cans – From water to metal

He’s the front man of Hammerfall, one of Sweden’s absolute biggest power metal bands that together has reached huge success all over the world and have sold over two million albums. A true rocker with a voice that has taken him five laps around the globe, yet it wasn’t singing he wanted to do in the first place. Today he has two solo albums in his pocket and takes out his guitar now and then to as he says “befriend it again”. Svip.se spoke to Joacim Cans, a genuine and charismatic man with a high level of self-criticism together with a nice mixture of wisdom and humour…

Foto Michaela Andersson @ Michsign Photo

You were born in Mora but moved to Gothenburg as a teenager; Dalecarlian or a genuine Gothenburg citizen?

Well, it’s difficult… It actually depends on when you ask the question. If you’d asked me when I was fourteen and moved to Gothenburg, I became a Gothenburgian very quickly. My accent changed immediately, I don’t know what happened (Laughter). All of a sudden I spoke with a Gothenburg accent. I’ve felt like a Gothenburgian all my life but the older I became, the more I felt that my roots needed nutrition somewhere and this can only come from the county of Dalarna. So the older I become, the more connected I get with my roots up there. We have a summer house there and I go as often as I can.

I live in Stockholm since September last year and maybe that is what finally closes the circle, which I’m on my way back. It is hard to pin down an epithet on me; it feels like I’m in the twilight zone. I believe everything makes its mark and I do have a lot of Gothenburg in me, since I grew up there and I know the city. In a way it’s mine but for that matter I will always be a Delacarlian man.

You started out as a swimmer, please tell me about that…

Yes. In Mora it was all about hockey or football. But team sports has never been my thing, I would find it hard… I would never be able to go to a world championship and sit on a bench and accept a medal unless I played myself that would feel very strange. I am very much an individual person and the swimming was something that appealed to me. To make a long story short, I swam between the age of eight and sixteen and was in the Swedish junior national team. My best result were a silver medal during the juvenile Swedish national championship in breaststroke, I missed the European championship by 36 hundredths and that was in 1996, no it was in -86 and after that I quit. It was a big kill for me. I had built up everything around the fact that I was going there. Two months later I quit on behalf of the music.

How come you later applied to the Musicians Institute in Hollywood?

Yes, after I stopped swimming I started to play the guitar and ingratiated myself into different bands. But all bands was looking for a singer and that I didn’t want to do but I said that I could sing to get in to the band, and sang but ended up playing the guitar instead. I did some singing as well, since there were no singers. I did this for about two three years and after that I nearly quit with the music entirely, there were more and more singing and I just wanted to play the guitar. I wasn’t very good though and vocally, it didn’t sound as I wanted it to. I had a very clear vision of how I wanted my voice to sound.

I did a few other things during a couple of years and then I had a phone call and someone wanted a singer, it was a project with three songs. These three songs became a friendship that lasted for many years, so off and on I sang with this band over five, six years. During one of our breaks… Wow, this will be a long story!

The thing was that somewhere there in between things I felt I didn’t have anything to keep me in Sweden, work, relationship or family and I had an urge to go over to the USA. Well first of all to apply to the school and to give myself a chance to see how good I could become as a singer. So that’s how it was. I applied on my own; I didn’t have friends or anything applying. But after I applied, some friends did too so we were a bunch that went over together. Mainly to give myself a chance to an adventure in life, first and foremost to live in Hollywood for a year and study, just that kind of thing gives experience in life. Also I wanted to see if my voice could improve over a year…

With all the facts, you could say it really did improve!

Yes since we are sitting here now talking I must say that something worked out along the way (Laughter). It has a lot to do with low self esteem, to believe that you suck and then people ask you to sing with them… Okay, why…? I am very self-critical, but realized quite quickly that I wasn’t so bad after all.

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You’ve done two solo albums, the latest in 2013, what are your plans for the future?

Yes, I have my guitar next to me now. I usually take it out just to look at it and try to become friends with it again, which are how I wrote my last album. With an iPhone, an acoustic guitar and just me. When I write, I write and when I’m done I usually put the guitar away again. I don’t have any plans at the moment. But never say never!

With my last album I had a dream in life, to record an album in Swedish and do a more naked sing/songwriter thing, that kind of music is very dear to me. You know this troubadour thing with Cornelis Vreeswijk and Björn Afzelius who was a great artist to me when I grew up, as a parallel with the rough music.

That’s some contrasts!

Yes, but life’s too short to not have contrasts! Life is too short to avoid trying new things. I have made many mistakes in my life but at least I’ve tried things and I can cross them off my list. “This wasn’t a good idea!” Or vice versa.

So you have a Bucket list?

Well, I am starting to have more of a mental Bucket list inside my head, things I need to do. But the most important thing is that you have to do things for yourself and not to be acknowledged by others. If you have a low self esteem, it might be like; if I do this, then maybe people will like me? That’s not right, I want to do things for myself and so that I can move forward. I believe that when you have crossed something off the list, new doors to new possibilities will open

In 2013 you sang in the Swedish Eurovision song contest, is that something you could consider to do again?

No, that is nothing I have any plans on doing right now. I feel it was a really fun thing to do, something that you as a performer or citizen dream about. I thought I had a good song and we were a good bunch and had a lot of fun that week. We made life a lot easier for everybody else (Laughter) that week. The result… There and then, very disappointing! Now I believe that bulk artists are needed within the Eurovision song contest. Otherwise there would just be young girls and guys singing and dancing and we can’t have that. There is a need for a Hasse Andersson and a Joacim Cans!

I have heard that you tat, is that right?

No, I have never done that in my life! No I don’t even own a sewing machine and I don’t know how to use one either. During grammar school I sewed my finger on to a banderol, the needle went trough my thumb. So that’s how good I am! (Laughter) I am not very practical with those things. But it would have been fun to be able to!

Which was your first LP album?

My first album must have been with David Cassidy and it was Cherish if I don’t misremember, I’ll check, I have it behind me here on the radio… I also used to play songs from that one… I bought it at the market in Mora during the mud 70: s. The markets were really important back then, since it was one of the few places you could find music to buy in the minor villages. My first hard rock album: Saxon, Strong arm of the law!

Joacim Cans of HammerFall 2014 © Savage Beauty - Photo: Tallee Savage

What about Hammerfall, I saw you’d been on a cruise recently…

Yes, Wacken Open Air has their own little cruise down in the Mediterranean, so we went from Palma to Barcelona and after that we signed off and new bands signed on, the ship continued to Ibiza and back to Palma. We did two shows on the ship, one indoor and one in the open air on deck. There were 2,000 cheerful German metal fans, model larger and who had a nice cruise. It was interesting!

I’ve looked at your tour plan; there are very few shows in Sweden…

Yes, we took a break here a few years back since we had been going for about fifteen, sixteen years without possibilities for reflection. So we chose to take a break and prior to our break we had a lot of shows in Sweden. Several festivals, a club tour, we did a regular tour and it nearly… No, we needed to pull the breaks and create a need, a demand from people who want to see Hammerfall again.

This is why we decided during the European tour not to tour Scandinavia at all, and this summer we’ll do two exclusive festivals. One is the GetAway and the other is Sweden Rock. In November we have one exclusive show at Skandinavium in Gothenburg. I believe it is the right way to go, so people don’t take bands for granted and you don’t become one of those bands that come once a year. “Right they’re here again, didn’t they just…”

You have done an advert for Vianor, where you prank people and play at the car-repair garage…

Yes, goodness me! (Laughter) We were not prepared for how good that would turn out; this was the authentic candid camera! We created a quiz on our Facebook where five persons could win fantastic prizes, new tires and fellies. So all of them came to collect their winning and they also had a small bonus! (Laughter) It was really a fun thing to do.

Who is Hammerfall bringing along as an opening act during the show in November?

We are bringing Edguy from Germany and Civil War, the guys from Sabaton, it is a heavy package we have with us! We have worked together with Edguy for nearly twenty years and we do a lot of things together. We toured in South America and this autumn we are talking about the tour plan with different activities together, so yes that’s how it is!

Svip.se would like to thank Joacim Cans for a fun chat and foremost for your time!
Don’t forget to book your tickets to Sweden Rock, where you amongst others can enjoy Hammerfall again!