Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Interview: Hällas

llas live in London.

On a beautiful, unusually hot and sunny day in April, Born Again's Louise Dornan sits down in the leafy Waterlow Park with the guys from Hällas ahead of their London show.  Settling down 100 yards from Highgate Cemetery - the home to poets, authors, artists, astronomers, free thinkers and philosophers - it seems like a fitting place to delve into the world of the Future Past.

Louise: Ok, welcome to London! I wanted to ask how the rest of this mini-tour has been. What’s the reception been like so far?

Kasper: It’s good, it’s all good.
Alexander: It started in Liège in Belgium and that was the first day of summer there so we started it off. It was a really nice show actually.

Louise: How have the crowds been?

Alexander: They stood a bit far away from the stage, they were shy maybe.
Nicklas: That’s a cultural thing we got to know. That you have to ask them to come to the front or else they stay about five metres away.

Louise: Did they come when you asked?

Nicklas: (laughing) We didn’t ask…
Tommy: We never force anyone to do anything.

Louise: And what about Newcastle last night?

Kasper: It was a bit special, intimate but still not. It felt like we were playing in a classroom. Very clean and very calm.

Louise: Calm people?

All: Yes, really calm.
Nicklas: Something that made me nervous was that here we come and play music when some of our main inspirations are British. We’ve come to play in Britain for the first time and the response was kind of delayed after the songs so I thought maybe they were thinking “who are they to come and play our music.”
Kasper: Some of the audience were wearing Genesis shirts and I thought, “We can’t live up to this.”
Nicklas: But afterwards we got a really good response from people and they were really warm and friendly.

Louise: You’ve had a bit of a sudden rise to fame, especially here. Is there anything in particular you would put that down to?

Marcus: Probably star rider.
Alexander: Fenriz of Darkthrone put us out so a lot of people noticed us then so maybe that helps as well.
Nicklas: But it’s also I think that we are ourselves, could you say that? We don’t play any game, we just are what we are and who we are and maybe people like that.
Tommy: We’re not party animals, we’re calm guys.
It seems like it’s a sudden rise of Hällas but we have put a lot of work into this for many years. We have worked really hard, so many hours and shows in Germany and Sweden, travelling a long way and we’ve worked a lot with the music to make it as good as possible for us to be satisfied with it.
Kasper: And it’s our first album, our first full length, so that’s probably why people got to hear of us.
Nicklas: But we released this EP a couple of years ago and that’s an important step too. Everything you do comes together. So it’s hard to say what exactly.
Alexander: The first EP we didn’t get as much attention, it came more with this album.
Nicklas: But we did get some attention.
Tommy: It took us to Germany.

Louise: To which gigs or festivals in Germany?

Tommy: We played in Berlin, Hamburg, Leipzig and also Denmark. And we got to the venues in Sweden where the bigger bands play so we could open for them. So the EP was a good opener for us to get access to play shows and to work more with music and the band.

The bands debut album, Excerpts From A Future Past.
Louise: Just to elaborate on what you said about ‘Star Rider’ – It’s quite different to your other material. Is that something that you did on purpose for any reason?

Nicklas: We just tried to experiment and there was this idea that the others had some kind of riff and then we thought about what would happen if we tried to make some sort of disco-hard rock song. Then when we got the result, we thought, “why not”.
Kasper: We did not think that people would like it. Maybe, but probably not. We were a bit scared.
Tommy: We thought about the old prog bands. They all always did one short song and the rest are longer so we were thinking a little bit about that. It was also a big challenge for us to write a short song.
Kasper: We’re not used to writing verse-chorus-verse-chorus. It’s like our first proper “pop” song.
Nicklas: We wanted to have something more simple because we felt the album material was quite hard to get into. So we thought maybe something lighter to begin with.

Louise: About your lyrics - The concepts are quite mystical and otherworldly on both of the records. Is there any particular literature or other source that inspires them?

Marcus: It all started with the idea I had for the first song on the album ‘The Astral Seer’. I just had that line for a lot of years, “he had walked the earth for a thousand years”. So I had this idea in my head but I don’t know where it came from.
It’s also about a guy being sentenced to death who manages to escape from hell but then lives on forever being chased by all these different demons. I guess somewhere I’ve read about it in Greek mythology; I don’t remember the name right now, maybe Orpheus? He’s going down to hell to get his girlfriend and he’s not allowed to look back so he gets the same fate. Somewhere, I probably had that in my head from school or something.

Louise: Going back in time a little. How did you all come to find each other and find you had musical interests which would combine to create this?

Kasper: It started out in Jönköping where me and Tommy are from. I guess we didn’t know each other but we both wanted to play rock music. We had friends in common and in that way we heard about each other. We played in our friend’s garage for a while and then I moved to Linköping where I met these guys (pointing to Alex and Marcus).
Tommy: Alex first joined the band and we were a four piece from the beginning with another guitarist but he left and then Marcus joined in because Alex and Marcus had played together before in other compilations.
Then we went into the studio after a while to record our first EP. Nicklas was the producer of that record and we felt like that things he laid on the tracks, the organs, the synthesisers, it added a new dimension to the music that we couldn’t be without. So we were forced to force Nicklas into the band.
Marcus: But you said we never force anyone to do anything. (all laughing)

Louise: (to Nicklas) Did it take a lot to talk you around?

Nicklas: No, no. I just felt like there was something with these guys. That this combination was very good and I always wanted to play this kind of music. So it wasn’t a hard decision at all.

Louise: Can you tell me about the best or your favourite live show that you’ve done so far?

All: Roadburn!
Kasper: Two days ago. It was a big crowd and everything was very professional.
Nicklas: I liked the Berlin one last time, it was really good. In Urban Sprefe. There was really good sound and everything.
Tommy: That was the first show in Berlin again since we released the record. But also one of my favourite shows was Stockholm. It was one of the first shows when we had released the new record and it was so crowded. They closed the doors because there were too many people. The response we got from the audience was so unexpected.
Alexander: I was thinking that one too. The reception we got there was so good.
Nicklas: For us to come to Stockholm, we’re from the countryside for them, so it’s like the farmers are coming to town. We didn’t think they’d like us.
Kasper: Stockholm was something completely new for us, it was great.
Alexander: Also Gothenburg. That was the first time we felt the audience really liked us.
Tommy: We’ve done many shows in Gothenburg and the audience there is really true to us. They come back and they show support for us.
Marcus: But we liked the others too, I just wanted to say that.

Louise: On to your classification or genre. What does adventure rock mean to you and your music?

Nicklas: We want to make music that makes you feel like you want to sit on a horse and go out to the world.
Marcus: I think you (to Nicklas) coined the term when we were recording “this sounds like an adventure, this is like adventure rock.”
Tommy: I think it’s also become a lead word in the band. The music should be an adventure for the listener. That also includes the progressive parts. The songs are not the same exactly as an adventure or an adventurous movie. There are ups and downs, it should be very dynamic and that’s the feeling we’re trying to put into our music.
Nicklas: We wanted to make the album almost like a play with side A like act one and side B act two. So we wanted the listener to sit down and listen through just like a movie.
Kasper: I guess you can say that we play a mix of prog rock and heavy metal but were not playing 100% prog rock or 100% heavy metal. It’s more fun to call it something else.

Louise: Have you made any decisions about the music you’ll be recording next or do you just go with the flow?

Marcus: There’s been some planning. We’ve been having meetings. But with music you can never plan anything fully. I guess we’ll have to adapt on where we are as people right now because you cannot just force it.
Alexander: With plans like that, we can say “We should do something like this, it would be cool.” But if it actually comes out that way, that’s another story.
Nicklas: Yeah, it always changes on the way. Nothing turns out the way you plan but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Kasper: As it looks now, we all enjoy the proggier part of the music way more. Until we are supposed to play it live. In song writing it looks like we are going more in that direction now. But we’ll see, maybe we’ll change that.
Tommy: We want to develop ourselves even more and add stuff that we haven’t been doing. Music, it has to be hard for us to do it, a challenge. We have started planning the next record. Not the music, but the story.
Nicklas: We have all of these ideas and some of them we will use when we see fit.
Tommy: We have a lot of music also but we haven’t started to put it together.

Louise: That’s pretty much it, but I’d like for each of you to recommend an album for your fans to check out. Preferably one that’s had a big impact on the music you make.

Tommy: I think the Trespass album by Genesis was really an opener for me to go into the more progressive part of music. I really loved that album when I first heard it and I listened a lot to it. I think the story telling parts of that album and the soundscaping and how they build music is something I’ve taken into me and tried to add to Hällas.
Alexander: I can say, Zarathustra by Museo Rosenbach because it’s a prog band but it’s also really rocking and straightforward as well, kind of like our record. It’s not that progressive like maybe Genesis or something. So if you like our record then you should check that out because it’s even better (laughing).
Kasper: Maybe Crises by Mike Oldfield if you’re tired of rock. It’s a good poppy album but also with a proggier side.
Nicklas: I cannot say one album but probably something with Depeche Mode, something from the late 80s and early 90s perhaps. Music for the Masses maybe.
Marcus: I’d say for this music it’s probably Rush, 2112. Yeah, I’ll say that one.

Take a look here for some photos of the Hällas gig later that night in The Lounge and be sure to check them out at any and all of their upcoming dates via  We’ll see you down the front at the Muskelrock show!

Photography: Charis Bagioki
Writer: Louise Dornan

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