There are a lot of different genre names for the style of music you play “Pagan metal”, “Viking Metal”, “Folk Metal” etc.. do you consider yourself any of these genres or do you kind of just write what you like and go with it?
Ryan Mininger (RM): Hey, first of all, thanks for the interview! I think the beauty of these genres is that there is a wide variety of sounds being brought to the table by previous and current bands. Pigeonholing any band into a “Viking Metal“ or “Folk Metal“ sub-category really downplays it for me, as I find the distinction between a lot of groups to be strongly vast. When Derik and I first got together to start writing for Hammer Horde, we had planned on it just being a two-man project. Our backgrounds were already rooted in Melodic Death Metal, which was our main common ground when writing together, without having any original intentions to incorporate Viking-themed elements. We had no idea where the band would go, lyrically or visually. We completed 3 or so songs before eventually asking Ryan to be a part of the group, and the inspiration from Pagan Metal slowly started to saturate the music that we had written together, less at the beginning, and more towards the end. Once the band became more stable as a whole we had a better understanding of where we wanted to take it, especially once Tom joined and the lyrical attitude was established, things really became clear to us. We reworked our initial material, but truth be told, it was an easy transition. There has always been an underlying mind set geared toward Pagan Metal characteristics in our music that just needed acknowledgment and emphasis to make them surface.
PP: Was the writing process and influence behind your first album, Under the Mighty Oath, different from your second album, Vinlander?
RM: The philosophy of Hammer Horde has been a slow-growing experience to identify, and I think the more we continue to mature as a band the more we begin to understand what that philosophy truly is. On UTMO, we were still trying to find ourselves, and we experimented with a lot of different elements during those recording sessions. A couple of songs featured ocarina, bodhrán, and even a more prominent use of keyboards. On “Vinlander” we seemed to stray from these types of ideas, focusing more on song-writing instead of the gimmicky elements you would expect to find in our genre. We also focused more on pre-production this time around, ensuring that we had a better final product by preparing the songs in advance.
PP: Are there any songs, in particular, the band loves to play live?
RM: The new material from “Vinlander” is currently the most fun, due mainly to the fact that its fresh and exciting to us. There are still a few staples from UTMO that we enjoy playing, like “Triumph of Sword and Shield” and “In the Name of Winter’s Wrath”, but the songs from “Vinlander” seem to translate very well to the stage.
PP: Do you ever get any pre judged for being an American Pagan/viking metal band?
RM: There are many listeners who can be biased towards a band because of their location. We are just five guys inspired and influenced by the bands that we love, and never claimed to be something that we are not. Hammer Horde writing songs about Norse Mythology is no different than Nile writing songs about Ancient Egypt – it is simply a deep interest that the band revolves around. When we write songs about the Sagas or Norse Mythology, we are simply retelling stories, or trying to bring a new perspective of our own. Where someone is born geographically should not put restrictions on their interests and desires in other cultures, especially in regards to music. Let’s not forget that Manowar has been writing songs with Nordic themes since ‘82, well before Bathory and other successors pioneered the genre. In all cases, I would say it‘s best to just let the music speak for itself, since what makes something truly great to any listener is relative to the eyes (or ears) of the beholder.
PP: Do you play any local shows in your area? If so what is the response like? I know Pagan/viking metal isn’t as big here, in the United States, as it is in Europe.
RM: Yes, it is true that the Folk/Pagan scene is pretty scarce in North America, but the popularity and interest in these genres is slowly on the rise. Festivals like Heathen Crusade and tours like Paganfest and Heidenfest help bring the fans out of the woodwork, but any actual bands playing this kind of metal are few and far in between, at least as far as the public eye is concerned. There is a lot of great stuff happening in North America under the radar, you just have to look for it. Oregon’s OAKHELM is certainly worth mentioning, and another great Canadian act is DARK FOREST, as well as dozens more throughout the nation: ADAVANT (Arizona), DETHLEHEM (Pennsylvania), and NORTHERN SWORD (Michigan), just to name a few.
PP: I know Hammerhorde played the Ragnarok festival in Germany back in 2011. How was that experience? Any memorable moments you wouldn’t mind sharing with our readers?
RM: Unfortunately, our appearance at Ragnarök Festival that year had been canceled due to financial restraints with the responsible promoters/organizers. Evidently, the concert promoter failed to fulfill his agreement to pay for the flight tickets and guarantee the band’s arrival in Europe. We still keep our hopes high for the future in finally bringing the sounds of Hammer Horde over seas.
PP: Your lyrics seem to be based upon The Norse Pagan Gods, and Battles. Are you guys Spiritual at all? Do you practice Ásatrú or something of the sort?
RM: At the end of the day, we are all ultimately just fans of the genre, inspired and influenced by our predecessors. The interest in Scandinavian Paganism for each of us can be considered a simple hobby, more so with other members. The attraction to these topics is essentially just a modern fascination, brought on either by our own research or interest in various forms of media. None of us are spiritual in a religious sense. We are not Ásatrú, Neo-Pagans or Odinists, but rather enthusiasts of the history, mythos, and culture. Not to say that there are not positive things to be found in these belief systems, we just happen to keep the spiritual and religious aspects out of things when trying to write music and function as a band.
PP: I know of a few other Pagan Metal bands who claim they aren’t even really influenced by the genre itself, are there any bands in particular that have really influenced your band?
RM: The inspiration for Hammer Horde to be focused around Nordic topics and themes stems primarily from the fact that we have a passion for the culture, and more importantly, a true love for the Viking Metal that came before us. We are recognizing the paths founded by our predecessors, and while upholding a true passion and hunger to exist as a genuine band, we express our own portrayal of Pagan Metal in their honor. Ultimately, we are fans at heart, first and foremost – inspired by these genres to create an exiting brand of music that we love and respect, while at the same time challenging ourselves to make it stand out as our own. As a band, our influences vary from one another – ranging from Falkenbach to Windir.
PP: Are there any bands right now that you just cant get enough of?
RM: Collectively, we all listen to various things. Right now I’m big into bands such as Brymir, Kalmah and Forefather.
PP: Any country or US state in particular that you would really like to play in the near future?
RM: Being in a genre with an “acquired taste” such as ours, it seems difficult to gain popularity in our home country. Most fans of metal music in America can’t really relate to what we are doing and they either feel that our outfits are silly or that our content is confusing. If it were up to us, we would play everywhere possible, but unfortunately the demand is not there. Nonetheless, we are very grateful to those in the US who lend their support to us, and help raise the flag for Pagan/Folk metal in general. We are but a small army, but our ranks are growing with every passing year.
PP: Any crazy fan stories? Anything crazy happen at a show that you would not mind sharing?
RM: Nothing really crazy has happened that we can remember. We played Ogrefest in Lansing, MI one year and Ryan had broken a string on stage during one of our songs. At this time we hadn’t really prepared for this sort of thing, and the guys didn’t have any back-up guitars on stage. Ryan ended up having to run through the crowd to the back of the venue to grab a pack of strings from his bag.
PP: What is your touring plans for this year? (We would like to add your tour schedule in the feature.)
RM: Without being on a major label, the funding for tour support is non-existent. We try our best to play as many shows that we can manage, but as five guys with regular day jobs, Hammer Horde has been primarily a studio band. We hope that can change one day and would love to see booking tours as a possibility for us in the future.
PP: Any last words for your fans?
RM: Thank you once again for supporting Hammer Horde by arranging this interview, we truly appreciate it. “Vinlander” is available pretty much everywhere on the internet, so do us a favor and Google search it to check it out for yourselves; or better yet visit www.hammerhorde.com
We would like to thank Ryan Mininger from Hammer Horde for taking the time to speak with our readers!
Also, you can purchase the album, along with their newest release Vinlander