Jan Axel “Hellhammer” Blomberg, internationally recognized drummer, three-time winner of the Spellemannprisen award (Norwegian “Grammy”), and his style and technique has been an inspiration for many aspiring drummers. He’s involved in bands such as Mayhem, the band that saw him grow up and who will be celebrating 30 years next year, Arcturus who has impressed all its followers with its return in 2011, and of course other recognized bands and projects such as The Kovenant, Troll, Winds, Shining, Dimmu Borgir etc.
- Before we start the interview I want to thank you for granting us this interview. It’s great to have the opportunity to interview one of the most recognized drummers in the scene, and im sure our readers agree.
Let’s start at the beginning of your career. When did you start playing drums?
Hellhammer: I started when I was 13 years old, back in the school days. At the music class, there were only ONE drum kit, and of course EVERYONE wanted to play the drum kit. But since I was a very, what should we say, “convincing” pupil, the drums were handed over to me, hehe. And from there on, my interest in drums and drumming just grew.
- Who has been your main influence during your career?
Hellhammer: Back in the days it was Buddy Rich. Number one! Later Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor, Nicko McBrain and Clive Burr, and then Dave Weckl. These are still my heroes to this day, of course with a bunch of others as well.
- What do you think are the main reasons as to why you have reached your current level as a drummer?
Hellhammer: I would guess a burning interest for the instrument and the art of drumming is what mostly did it. I really enjoyed playing and rehearsing 5 hours a day. I just wish I had the time for that today. My interest however, is just, if not even more, the same.
- How do you see your career as a musician has evolved over the years? Has there been any big changes?
Hellhammer: There was a time when I said yes to most bands, projects and sessions that were handed over to me, touring with two bands in Europe at the same time, playing at several festivals right after each other etc., and I had no problem doing that! But I guess that band members weren’t overwhelmingly happy with me running around all the time, in their eyes jeopardizing gigs and stuff, haha. So I came to the conclusion of stepping down a bit. When I concentrated on only two gigging bands, but not at the same time, and just doing session work when I was free, it became a bit easier for everyone involved.
- Are there still things you would like to achieve in your as a drummer?
Hellhammer: YES EVERYTHING!! Because in my eyes, I’ve hardly achieved anything.
- Which moments in your career made you feel really proud?
Hellhammer: When I finally master some technical stuff that I have been practising for months, I’m kind of ok with myself, haha. But there is so much to learn and that’s the beauty of it!
- Norskmetal.net is not a drummer specific webzine, but we all would like to know a little bit more about your drum kit. Care to tell us about it? Do you use the same setup on all the projects you’re involved in?
Hellhammer: Well, now I’m lucky enough to be internationally endorsed by Sonor Drums and Paiste Cymbals. But the actual SETUP hasn’t changed much over the years, and for most projects I prefer to use the same setup. It’s like Simon Philips, for instance, he uses mostly his BIG Tama double bass, octobans, gong drum, dual snare, 7 tom kit for most of his stuff. It’s his vehicle and he drives the one he knows the best, regardless of trends and what other people might think.
For the full specs on my kit and stuff, please visit hellhammerdrummer.com.
- Do you have a favourite snare drum or cymbal amongst your collection?
Hellhammer: I don’t think I have ONE favourite, they’re all GREAT since they are in my collection. I guess like wives in a harem, haha.
- Could you tell us a little bit about on your drumming technique?
Hellhammer: French grip style with Moeller technique is what I mostly use, very little finger technique. It’s all about the snap of the wrist and arms and shoulders, and to this day, I’ve never had any drum related injuries. The prolapse in my neck in 2007 was not because of drum related technique, and I have never had tendonitis or anything.
- Do you have any tips for beginning drummers?
Hellhammer: Get GOOD equipment first, and stay away from the beginner’s kits. Rather buy a used pro drum kit instead of a Chinese produced brand new at the same price. They don’t fall apart or sound lousy, and will not lead to you wanting to give up due to lack of inspiration. Get a teacher who knows what he or she is doing, and stay healthy, as drumming and being in good shape goes hand in hand.
- Do you enjoy practicing/playing styles of music other than metal?
Hellhammer: I enjoy playing all musical styles actually. I find inspiration in everything from jazz to metal, rap to modern classical. And I enjoy learning and playing it all.
- Have you ever thought about playing other percussion instruments or maybe other instruments?
Hellhammer: I do play tuned percussion, but not as well as a drum kit of course. But I enjoy it too. Other than that, I’m not too good at other instruments, reason being the interest just wasn’t there.
- A short video was published with trommer.no where you talked about drumming technique. Have you ever thought about releasing some material of the same type, or giving classes/lessons?
Hellhammer: I’ve been giving some classes and drum lessons, but that’s not something I do on a regular basis no.
- You have played with Mayhem since the late 80s and Arcturus since the early 90s. What does these two bands represent for you now?
Hellhammer: Since we will release records with both bands in 2014, or with Arcturus it might even be at the end of THIS year, I would say these 2 bands is what I will have to dedicate my full attention to now and in the near future. Luckily both bands have the same agent, so no double bookings, hehe.
- You have played with many bands in your career and you’re still involved with a couple of bands. Doesn’t it get difficult when it comes to rehearsals, touring, recording etc?
Hellhammer: Not for me, but for some reason some other people have a hard time with that. Me, I just do what I love, and that’s playing drums.
- When it comes to composing music, how do you find inspiration to create the majestic “Hellhammer drumming” we are used to?
Hellhammer: Thank you Well, If I only knew the formula, I would use it all the time, haha. But seriously, I don’t know how. It just happens when it happens. But one thing is for sure, and that is I never strive for inspiration. Because if u do, you will find nothing.
- So far 2013 has had plenty of activities, with Mayhem having performed various gigs, same with Arcturus, plus the recording of new albums. Andy Winter’s “Incomprehensible” album was released with you performing on drums; you are also involved with Dynasty of Darkness. Will the second half of 2013 be just as busy?
Hellhammer: I enter the studio on July 26th to record the new Mayhem record, and there are still festivals to do, one off gigs and a scheduled tour in November/December. So yes, very busy, but that’s what I like.
- Do you have any new musical projects on the way?
Hellhammer: Not at the present time. I’m already done with the next Winds album as well as Age of Silence, but nothing unannounced as of right now, no.
- Your personal website has recently been launched, congrats!
Hellhammer: Thanks a lot! Yeah it was about time to get my lazy ass in gear regarding that, hahaha. BIG thanks to Triosphere’s drummer Ørjan for making this possible!!!
- Before we finish this interview; once again many thanks for making time in your busy schedule for us. Any last words for our readers?
Hellhammer: Don’t do drugs..give it to us instead. No seriously, I want to thank you for this interview and I’m extremely grateful that I have the possibility to work with what I love the most, music and drumming, and I wish every aspiring drummer the same. Thank you and cheers!