Mad Hatter – Powerful SatisfactionWednesday, 7th October 2020
Generating a power metal sound that aligns well with the heights of the movement during the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Mad Hatter hail from Sweden and have developed a strong style through their two album releases to date. Playing to the strengths of the genre with uplifting vocal melodies designed for audience participation and catchy riffs plus solid tempos, it’s understandable that many of their songs have qualities that will make you think of Helloween, Edguy, or Stratovarius in their prime. We reached out to vocalist Petter Hjerpe to fill us in on more behind the Mad Hatter story. You’ll learn more about the development of the band from the previous outfit Morning Dwell, how they gained the attention of their current record label, thoughts on favorite power metal albums, and the man’s appreciation for fishing/hiking plus what we can expect in the future.
Dead Rhetoric: Tell me about your earliest music memories growing up in childhood – and how you made the progression into heavy metal and eventually wanting to pick up an instrument to perform in bands?
Petter Hjerpe: The earliest important memory I have was when I were like 14 years old. I heard Hammerfall and was blown away. I have never heard metal that had double bass drums like that, and they sang about knights and warriors. I played Legacy of Kings for my father and told him that this was awesome. He told me that it sounded like Helloween that he listened to back in the 80’s. I thought Helloween would be more like an old mossy heavy metal band but I was shocked when I heard “Eagle Fly Free”. After that I started to search for more bands that sounded like them. Then the ‘power metal-boom’ came in the late 90’s and early 00’s so I was sold.
Dead Rhetoric: Mad Hatter started in 2017 – what can you tell us about the formation of the band and did you know straight away the type of power/heavy metal you wanted to develop or was there a feeling out process to arrive at where you wanted to go style-wise?
Hjerpe: The first Mad Hatter album was actually meant to be a third Morning Dwell album. But I felt that the songs had another feel or vibe. I wrote the songs a little bit different that time. A lot of songs were written with keyboards then I added some guitars after. I also tuned the guitar to D instead of standard E to get the guitars sounding a little bit heavier. Then the band members in Morning Dwell were not ready to put so much time and money in a new album so Alfred (drums) and I decided to start a new band. We recorded the first album by ourselves and added band members after the album was finished.
Dead Rhetoric: Your debut self-titled album from 2018 came out on Art Gates Records – how did you end up signing with this label, and how do you feel the recording and songwriting sessions went for this effort? Do you believe you were able to establish a good foundation through this first recording?
Hjerpe: We announced on Morning Dwell’s Facebook page that Alfred and I were working on another side project. Art Gates Records wrote to us and was interested. We actually recorded the whole album in a studio and paid for it ourselves before any label had heard us. So it was all up for AGR if they liked it. They did.
The process to write these songs went smoothly. I had a flow and was inspired so six-seven songs were fast to write. Then I had a couple of older songs that weren’t finished. But with help from Alfred we completed those songs as well and recorded them for the album. Ronny Milianowicz was our producer and mixer and he understood exactly what we wanted with our sound. He did a great job.
Since we recorded the album without any economic support, we knew we took a chance recording it and we were ready to take that ‘sacrifice’ and lose some money. But if you want to make a good album you can’t always try to keep it cheap. We also knew that we were a small and new band so to earn money from the first album was something we knew would be hard. Our goal was not to get rich on releasing an album, it was to just release an album we were proud of.
Dead Rhetoric: Pieces of Reality is the follow-up effort. Where do you see the major differences between the two records – and were there any surprises, obstacles, or challenges to overcome this time around versus the previous effort?
Hjerpe: The main difference is that we used all our skills to record, mix and produce ourselves. Dennis Eriksson(guitars) joined our band in 2018 and he is a good songwriter and mixing engineer so he added some diversity to the album. The first album was only Alfred and myself recording but we used the whole band on Pieces of Reality. So it feels more personal and diverse. This time, time and money were the biggest obstacles. Alfred and I used a lot of our budget on our first album so this one we decided to do it all by ourselves. This time we had a deadline for the album and had to fight against the clock to get finished. The first album was recorded before we had any deal. Therefore, no pressure.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe Mad Hatter when it comes to your live show performances versus the studio work? What have been some of your more memorable shows that you’ve done to date?
Hjerpe: We are searching contact with the fans a lot. Running around and cheering. I think people enjoy us because of our ‘down to earth’ feel. I think they can see how much fun we have when we are playing. But we don’t have any special ‘show’ with fire and movies etc.
We have just played live once. In Geneta Rock, Spain. That was something special. Our first gig, a journey to another country and our first time getting contact with a crowd that supported us and cheered for us. It was awesome!
Dead Rhetoric: What would you consider three of the benchmark albums that you believe best exemplify your outlook and appreciation of heavy / power metal? And do you have an underrated band or two that you believe people need to check out more and dig deeper into their discography?
Hjerpe: I have to say HammerFall – Legacy of Kings because it started it all for me and led me to power metal.
Edguy – Theatre of Salvation. The whole feel of that album is a big inspiration.
Heavenly – Sign of the Winter. This album has so much going on and a lot of good riffs from both the guitars and keyboards. A really interesting and good album.
An underrated band that you have to check out is Chroming Rose. Their debut album from 1990! Really good early power metal.
Dead Rhetoric: How have the band members been handling the downtime due to the coronavirus epidemic? Has this given you a head start on work for the third Mad Hatter album – and what do you think some of the ramifications for live concerts may be as a result of this worldwide pandemic?
Hjerpe: First of all, we can’t play live. That is the biggest downside. But as you mentioned before we have time to write a third album. We haven’t started yet but we have spoken of it. So I guess we will start writing some new material soon.
Here in Sweden the country isn’t closed. We have more recommendations to keep distance. We also have like a limit of 50 people in one place for example at live shows. So the ordinary days are not so different as before. We go to work, go to stores but with some more thought.
It’s hard to tell what the future holds. We don’t know for how long we have to wait to be able to play live again. We have seen a lot of shows for bigger bands starting to pop up for 2021. But will they be able to play then or will it be stopped? It’s a confusing time so we just have to take one step at a time.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider some of the biggest challenges or obstacles Mad Hatter currently faces, especially in terms of making a bigger footprint on the scene and moving up the ladder for popularity?
Hjerpe: The biggest challenge is to get noticed because there are so many great bands out there. We also play in a genre that had its peak about twenty years ago. Our goal is to continue to create good power metal as it sounded back in the day and maybe that genre has lost popularity through time. To get popular we have to change our sound more for the mainstream and that is something I don’t want to do even if we want to get bigger. The most important thing for me is to play something we are satisfied with and feel that we can stand for the music we write.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of your interests and hobbies away from music when you have the free time to pursue them? And do you have the support and interest from your families, friends, and significant others when it comes to your musical pursuits?
Hjerpe: Fishing is one of my biggest hobbies. Especially fly fishing. I also paint a lot. I did our album cover for Pieces of Reality.
When it comes to fishing I have some friends I use to take fishing trips with. I also take some trips with my father a couple of times a year. Not always fishing but usually something related to fishing or hiking in the forest. I have support from friends and family but it’s not like they are cheering and pushing me. They are just like ‘If you like it, you should do it’. A typically Swedish way to see things. A little bit laid back-support in a positive way.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe the metal scene in your area of Sweden? Do you have the proper support/interest from club owners, promoters, other bands in your genre – or are there other styles that gain more acceptance?
Hjerpe: The metal scene in Sweden is hard because we have so many great bands and big names. It’s even harder to get gigs that I think are worth playing if you are a small band. We could get gigs at clubs but then maybe only a few people would come, only true fans. Most people here want to hear covers. So if you are a cover band you easily get gigs with quite a good payment. We have local metal clubs in bigger towns but where I live we don’t have any clubs at all. So it’s better to play out in Europe for us as a smaller band.
Dead Rhetoric: What is something that you’ve changed your mind about – either personally or relating to music – over the past five years?
Hjerpe: For me it is the songwriting. I try to make the songs more compact and remove unnecessary parts of a song or for example change a part just a little bit if it repeats in a song.
If we talk about music as a whole, I actually analyze music more and more. Why did I like this song? Why did it sound so good? Or how did they mix the drums like that? I guess it’s because I like to write songs and want to develop as an artist.
Dead Rhetoric: What is on the agenda for Mad Hatter over the next twelve months? Do the members have other outside music projects/guest appearances that we can look forward to?
Hjerpe: We are talking about how to write the new album. What to improve, how to mix, record or produce. But first we need to focus on writing good songs.
I, myself have some ideas for different projects. Nothing serious but I just like to write differently. For example, I have a lot of old songs I wrote when I was young and wasn’t that good at playing or singing. It would be cool to rewrite those songs with the knowledge I have today. Alfred, drums, is involved in a lot of other projects as a session drummer. Dennis, guitars, is a little bit like me. He always writes different types of music just to be creative and explore different territories in music.