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Hammer Horde - American Vikings (Ryan Mininger) -

Evidence is strong that the first Europeans to reach North America were Vikings under the leadership of Leif Ericsson. It should therefore be no surprise that Viking Metal has not only achieved popularity in that part of the world, but has also spawned its own practitioners. The Metal Observer recently shared a few words with HAMMER HORDE guitarist/keyboardist Ryan Mininger.


The most obvious question: what possesses a bunch of guys from Toledo, Ohio to come together to play Viking Metal?

Thatís a good question!  I would have to say it was the desire to create heavy melodic music that was epic and powerful.  Coming from Blackened/Technical/Death Metal backgrounds, we were looking to play something new and freshÖsomething we wanted to listen to ourselves. When we first got together to jam music for HAMMER HORDE, A GRUESOME FIND had just endured a sudden interruption in the lineup and forced the band to come to a screeching halt.  Two members moved away leaving myself and Jayson (drums).  FOREVER LOST was Tom (vocals), Jayson (drums), and Derikís (guitar) band back in 2006, so they already had a strong foundation of jamming together.  I had been jamming with Jayson for a year with A GRUESOME FIND and it really helped that we had all played with the same drummer already.  Once we got a few songs going, we were pleased with the direction of the music and the Viking theme seemed to match perfectly.


The term ĎViking Metalí is one that can mean many things to different people. How do you define the term, and how do you see HAMMER HORDE fitting into that definition, if at all?

We called it HAMMER HORDE right from the start, so we knew we wanted it to be Viking Metal and that seemed to fit.  From one perspective, Tom and myself participate in a full-contact battle game called Dagorhir and we are in a Viking Ďclaní in the game, so the idea of a band with a similar theme was convenient.  Another perspective is from a heritage point of view, while none of us have direct descendants of Vikings, some of us are German. And really, Vikings were northern Germans who moved even further north.  So, in a way, we may have some historic ties (way way way way way back). 


How long have you all been fans of Viking Metal? What were your reactions to the music as you first began to listen to and explore it? 

Iíve always liked Viking Metal, myself, but I prefer the melodic stuff versus the brutal Death these days.  Looking back, I guess Iíve been listening to Viking Metal in some form for about 15 years now.  I was somewhat naÔve about the history of the Vikings until a few years ago.  I knew some things, but I didnít realize how they really pretty much terrorized parts of the world for a long time.  They appeared to be savages, but were really a group of people with a profound culture and just knew how to kick ass to get what they wanted.


Do you find yourself more drawn to the Folkish elements of the music, or to the lyrical, historical element of Viking Mythology? 

I like the folk elements.  I am not a huge fan of the lyrics in music, since half the time I cannot understand them anyway.  Iíve been playing guitar for a long time and I have always preferred melody and harmony versus dissonance in music.  I know Ben (bass) really picks up on drum techniques and I never do that, always melody and harmony.


When you write songs, especially the lyrics, are you looking to achieve historical accuracy, or are more interested in establishing romantic imagery about your subjects? 

When I write, I am trying to create a particular mood with the music.  Whether itís a rhythm or melody, I want it to be able to sing musically.  We do try to have historical accuracy in the lyrics and presentation, and we want the music to flow like an epic journey.  We arenít singing about specific historical figures, but we do have lyrics about their myths and legends and beliefs.


Is there any literature that influences the writing of your music? 

Not that comes to mind.  Tom writes the lyrics, but he finds a topic or theme and then writes around it.  I do know that a lot of the lyrics are battle-themed. 


How much research do you do (or have you done) to understand your subject matter before writing?

Well, I know that Tom has done a lot of research on his own and I have a few books about Vikings, so we arenít completely in the dark.  The internet has been great for filling in gaps as well.  What fascinates me the most is how a group of people can harness the raw materials of the earth and create a ship with such incredible craftsmanship (among other things).  When I think about how they created so much with so little, itís pretty impressive.


Are any of you drawn to the Pagan/spiritual side of the Viking Metal scene? If so, what attracted you to it?

To be honest, we arenít very spiritual guys.  But the idea of paganism is more appealing than others. I was raised Catholic and I severely disagree with a lot of teachings.  While I donít worship any heathen gods, I do appreciate how they did.


You performed as local openers at the Heathen Fest show in Cleveland, OH last year. Did you get to spend time with any members of the touring bands? Was there anything special that you learned from the experience?

That was a great show!  It was our first performance as HAMMER HORDE and we got a good timeslot on the main stage in a full room.  We had a great response and people seemed to enjoy themselves.  We did get to hang out with some of the members of ALESTORM after their set.  I know Jayson had a few shots with DannyÖok maybe more than a few ha ha.  We played the very next night of the tour in Detroit and got to talk to them some more.  Then, back in November, we played in Cleveland and we got to hang out with them yet again!  It was pretty cool. 

As far as learning something special, I have to say that I hate selling tickets for shows even more than I already did.  It used to be that a show was scheduled and bands were added.  Promoters promoted and people showed up.  Now, as a band, you have to sell pre-sale tickets and promote yourself and hope you sell more tickets than the next band to you get a good timeslot on the main stage.  I believe that creates competition amongst the bands and the promoters never seem to do anything to help the bands anymore.  At least thatís how it seems where I come from.  


You all come from other bands with no connection to Viking Metal (A GRUESOME FIND, FOREVER LOST, CARRION, TERMINATOR), so this is a new direction for all of you. Have you experienced any problems establishing a fan base in an area that is not so closely connected to Scandinavia and its history & culture?

Not really that I have noticed.  It certainly is a niche style of music, but so far, it seems to have appealed to fans of several Metal styles.  We really havenít had the chance to get out and play in front of too many people.  Work schedules and time restrictions have hurt us in getting out there. 


Do you find it hard to establish credibility, given that you are not from Scandinavia?

Good question.  We were trying to book a 2-week tour in Europe and as it turns out, we are too unknown for us to get booked for ay decent festivals that would make the trip count.  I donít think itís because we arenít from Scandinavia, I think itís just that we havenít gotten the word out enough yet.


What are some of the difficulties associated with marketing a new band and establishing yourselves?

One of the largest challenges is where to place the marketing efforts.  You can blow up magazines with ads or have a web banner, but unless someone actually buys it, youíre throwing your money away in promotion.  Maybe not completely, because the name of the band IS getting out there, but with music piracy these days, people would rather download the music, so trying to figure out how effective an ad campaign is can be pretty frustrating.  The other big challenge is how to pay for it!


Last time we spoke, you mentioned that the band was considering making a video for one of the songs on the album. Did you follow through with it? If so, which song was it, and how satisfied are you with the results.

We did decide to proceed with a video after all!  We chose the song ďIn The Name Of Winterís WrathĒ from the debut release.  It turned out to be a much larger undertaking than we originally anticipated and took about 3 months from concept to completion.  The video was finally released just this past weekend (5/8/10) online and is available on our webite, youtube, myspace, as well as other music video sites online. I am very pleased with the results.  It was a lot of work, but I think we pulled it off. In just a few days, the video already has more than 1000 plays on youtube and appears to be well received so far.


Have you been courting any labels to support a future release? How has that gone for you?

Lately, we have been in contract negotiation for distribution opportunities in Europe, Canada, and North America for the debut release as well as future releases.  Itís tough to know what you are signing yourself into for the future, so we are trying hard to make sure that everything is correct and favorable for both the band and the distributor. 


Thanks, Ryan, for taking the time to speak with me. Any last thoughts for our readers?

I would like to thank you for the interview and I hope all of the readers can get a chance to check out the new music video online.  We are well on our way with material for a follow-up release and we canít wait to get in the studio again, but that will be several months away yet.  Stay tuned!

Steve Herrmann

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