INTERVIEW WITH H.E.A.T FRONTMAN ERIK GRÖNWALL
Date: February 26, 2020
Photos: Joe Schaeffer Photography (1st, 4th, 7th and 11th photos)
H.E.A.T SHOULD BE NO STRANGERS TO SLEAZE ROXX READERS AS THE SWEDISH ROCKERS HAVE RELEASED SIX STUDIO ALBUMS SINCE FIRST FORMING IN 2007 WITH THE LAST FOUR RECORDS — ‘ADDRESS THE NATION‘ (2012), ‘TEARING DOWN THE WALLS‘ (2014), ‘INTO THE GREAT UNKNOWN‘ (2017) AND ‘H.E.A.T II’ (2020) — WITH THEIR DYNAMIC FRONTMAN ERIK GRÖNWALL HANDLING THE LEAD VOCALS. SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH GRÖNWALL TO DISCUSS MANY TOPICS INCLUDING THE HARDER DIRECTION ADOPTED BY H.E.A.T ON THEIR LATEST ALBUM.
Sleaze Roxx: So, let’s get started. One big change from H.E.A.T’s new album compared to previous ones is that you have two of your band members producing the album rather than having Tobias [Lindell]. What made you decide with producing the album yourselves?
Erik Grönwall: Well, it was actually Tobias who suggested that we produce this album ourselves and both Jona [Tee] and Dave [Dalone] have been producing albums for other bands for a while now. So, it went pretty natural[ly]. We had our own studio. We have our own rehearsal space so we can record everything very efficiently. So it was natural for Jona and Dave, as they were also writing most of the songs — pretty much all of the songs — to also record it at the same time. Tobias mixed the album but it’s the first time that we produced it ourselves and I think that it was a very smart move.
Sleaze Roxx: Yes. I think so too. And why did Tobias suggest that you guys produce it instead of him?
Erik Grönwall: I guess both Jona and Dave have been very involved in the recording process in the studio when Tobias produced the albums. I mean, it was a natural step for us to basically keep them tracking all of my vocals. So we had them as producers but not officially in the same kind of way.
Sleaze Roxx: Now, I noticed in one of your previous interviews promoting the new album, that you indicated that you actually stepped away from the songwriting a little bit and let Jona and Dave take care of it.
Erik Grönwall: Yeah.
Sleaze Roxx: So, not many people would say that. Why did you decide to do that?
Erik Grönwall: Well, it’s just a matter of how I allocate my time basically [laughs]. I think that you should focus on what you’re really good at and build on strengths. And Jona and Dave are, in my opinion, the best songwriters in the band. So I think that it’s better that they focus on that, on producing, and I focus on my vocals, on being a frontman and giving the audience a good show. It’s just a matter of priorities.
Sleaze Roxx: How much input did you have in the previous albums songwriting wise?
Erik Grönwall: Well, I’ve written maybe three or four songs on each album but I’m mostly a co-writer. I’ve never written a song from start to finish so I come in and do a little bit of hooks here and there, and try to arrange everything. Maybe I have a verse that I show Jona and he puts something together and produces it. I wouldn’t really consider myself a songwriter but I have a few ideas here and there.
Sleaze Roxx: It’s always good when someone can recognize some people are better at some stuff than others, right?
Erik Grönwall: You know, I think that you have to do that. In my case, I wanted to be a songwriter for a while but you reach a point that you realize that, “Hmmm. Maybe this isn’t really for me.” I’m not really the guy who sits in the studio hour after hour. I’d go insane. I need to be on the move and do something constantly. Just try something new. I’m not really the producer / songwriter kind of guy.
Sleaze Roxx: Obviously, the new album has a harder edge sound. You guys announced that you were going to go back to a harder sound long before the album came out. What made you decide to go back to the harder H.E.A.T sound?
Erik Grönwall: Well, because it is so much fun!
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Erik Grönwall: [Laughs] You know, we love playing it live. We love rock music. I have always wanted to do — since I joined the band — I’ve always wanted us to move in a harder direction. I’m not really the AOR guy. I like raw rock n’ roll. Some of the songs that we have on this album were actually written for the ‘Address The Nation’ album. We have a library where we write stuff constantly and we put it in the H.E.A.T library so for each album, we listen to the ideas that we have. We knew that when we were listening to ‘Into The Great Unknown’, we wanted to do something heavier. So we had a few songs in mind for the album before we even officially started working on it.
Sleaze Roxx: That’s cool. So what are your favourite tracks off the new record?
Erik Grönwall: “We Are Gods” and “Victory.”
Sleaze Roxx: And why is that?
Erik Grönwall: Well, because I really love the power in “We Are Gods.” I guess that it is the heaviest track we’ve ever released. I like to sing it. I’m allowed to be a bit aggressive [laughs]. Yeah, I like that part. Also “Victory” because I just think that it’s a really great song. I think it’s powerful. [It’s got] good lyrics. I can’t wait to play that song live. I already know how I want to perform it.
H.E.A.T‘s “Rise” video (from H.E.A.T II album):
Get the single here: https://heat.lnk.to/Rise _____ H.E.A.T RELEASE NEW SINGLE & VIDEO “RISE” Recently, H.E.A.T announced their brand-new album “H.E.A.T II” …
Sleaze Roxx: Cool! I was exchanging ideas with one of the Sleaze Roxx guys and he mentioned that you sound better on this album than any other album that H.E.A.T have come up with since you’re been in the band.
Erik Grönwall: Oh really?
Sleaze Roxx: What do you think about that? Do you think that your vocals have gotten better with time? Is this your best vocal performance?
Erik Grönwall: Well, to be honest, I am very happy with the performance and I think that this is my best ever performance if you look at all the H.E.A.T albums. The recording process was smoother in a way because we recorded it in-house and everybody lived pretty close to the studio so instead of tracking vocals [for] two weeks in a row, I did vocals one day, had a day off, vocals on day three… You know, so it was better for the voice [laughs]. I like that way of recording. It’s also in the songs because like I mentioned in “We Are Gods”, I am allowed to be a bit more aggressive and I like that way of singing.
Sleaze Roxx: You mentioned that you’re one of the heavier guys or like the heavier stuff in the band. Obviously, the last album ‘Into The Great Unknown’ was more melodic rock and had a lot of AOR stuff in it. So what made you guys decide to go in that direction for that album?
Erik Grönwall: For the ‘Into The Great Unknown’ album?
Sleaze Roxx: Yeah.
Erik Grönwall: I guess that we wanted to experiment a bit because we wanted to try in a way — I am not sure if it’s the right word but I can’t come up with a better word now — to modernize it in a way. We wanted to do rock n’ roll 2019 or 2018. I don’t remember when we released it [laughs]. Probably 2018.
Sleaze Roxx: 2017 actually.
Erik Grönwall: Oh! OK. Time flies. So we wanted to try to… We wanted to see how rock would sound [in] 2017. It feels like we tried an experiment that was a bit too much in my opinion because now when we recorded this [new album], it was like, “Why hadn’t we done this from day one [laughs]?” It’s so easy and it comes so natural to us.
Sleaze Roxx: Now, even though you joined the band later on in its evolution, you’ve sort of become the face of the band and what are your thoughts in that regard?
Erik Grönwall: Oh, ummm [pause]. Ooooff [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Erik Grönwall: Well, I guess… I can guess that when I joined the band, I tried to replace Kenny [Leckremo] and I tried to do everything that Kenny did before I was there. So when I stopped doing that and found my own stage persona, that’s when things started happening for me personally. I think that I developed as a singer and as a frontman. I realized that if I just do what I enjoy doing on stage, if I am the person I am on stage, that’s… I can see why you say that. But it’s also, if you were in a band, most people, you know the frontman is almost always the face, the public face. So I guess that it comes with the job as well.
Sleaze Roxx: Well, I’ll give you an example. Let’s say, AC/DC’s switch from Bon Scott to Brian Johnson.
Erik Grönwall: Yes.
Sleaze Roxx: But I would say that the face of the band is still Angus Young, right?
Erik Grönwall: Oh yeah! That’s true! That’s true! Yeah, that’s true. Yeah, I’m not really sure why people consider me the face of the band but it’s flattering I guess [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: Obviously, H.E.A.T played the Monsters of Rock Cruise and from all the reports that I heard, you guys absolutely killed it and were fantastic. A large part of it has to do with the live performance and especially the live energy that you put out. What makes you such an energy bunny on stage?
Erik Grönwall: Well, I really enjoy my time on stage. I try to make the most of that hour or 75 minutes, whatever you have. It’s always a lot of waiting in this business. A lot of travelling and a lot of waiting, and once you’re allowed on stage, I just want to make the most out of it. I enjoy doing it and I want to make sure that people who have spent money to come to your show, they should feel when they’re leaving the show, they should feel that it was worth it. It was money well spent. [Laughs] I just try to put on a good show ’cause I enjoy myself and I just want that too… I want the audience to feel that.
H.E.A.T performing “Emergency” live at the Monsters of Rock Cruise on February 10, 2020 (video from Alex Vigil):
H.E.A.T. Performing emergency at the 2020 monsters of rock cruise
Sleaze Roxx: Cool! So why did you guys to decide to name your album just with the ‘II’ or ‘H.E.A.T II’?
Erik Grönwall: [Laughs] I know that it’s a bit confusing. It made sense to us when we discussed it and then we realized, “OK. Sixth album. [That] doesn’t make sense.” [Laughs] Yeah, well, it’s because we moved towards more of a sound that we started with and also, it’s almost like more of a H.E.A.T upgrade, H.E.A.T 2.0 in a way. We wanted to make a statement that we were back to the original sound and this is how a debut album would sound today if we had released it.
Sleaze Roxx: So you guys played on the Monsters of Rock Cruise. There are a lot of older ’80s era bands but you have the sound to identify with those bands. Probably in 10 to 20 years’ time, all those bands will be gone and it will just be the younger bands like H.E.A.T, Hardcore Superstar, and others like that. Do you think that rock n’ roll will have the kind of resurgence that it had in the ’80s where you know, the bands are headlining big arenas and stuff like that? How do you see the state of rock n’ roll in 10 to 20 years?
Erik Grönwall: That’s a very good question. I don’t think we will see the same… I mean, I’m very young. I was born in ’87 so I didn’t really see it back then. [Laughs] From what I’ve heard, I’m not really sure we will see the same kind of rock n’ roll movement as back in the day but it will be in another way. If you consider the way you release music today, you have the playlists, you have your own niche. When we released this album, most of the songs were added to Spotify playlists like ‘Kick Ass Metal’ or ‘Hard Rock Metal’ or ‘Rock Playlist’ so it is easier in a way to reach a new audience as long as you find a way… I mean, there’s a lot of tracks being released every day. I think Spotify is releasing 40,000 tracks per day. If you have your audience, if you have a way to direct market to that audience, I think that rock n’ roll can still be kept alive and actually even grow thanks to these playlists and the way that people consume music today.
H.E.A.T‘s “One By One” video (from H.E.A.T II album):
H.E.A.T – One By One (Official Video) 🔔Subscribe here: http://radi.al/SubscribetoGAIN 🎵Stream/Download here: https://orcd.co/q1y5nxj Track number 7 and first…
Sleaze Roxx: So Sleaze Roxx will be coming out with our Top 10 or 12 albums of the decade, 2010 to 2019, so I am going to tell you in advance but please keep it under wraps that one of H.E.A.T’s albums is going to make the Top 10.
Erik Grönwall: Oh really? That’s cool.
Sleaze Roxx: Can you guess which one?
Erik Grönwall: I guess that it’s the new one.
Sleaze Roxx: Well, it has to be [between] 2010 to 2019.
Erik Grönwall: Oh really. Yeah, sorry. Then I think it’s ‘Tearing Down The Walls.’
Sleaze Roxx: Yes. That’s it. And why did you choose that one?
Erik Grönwall: Because I think that’s the best album personally [laughs]. There’s no objectivity here.
Sleaze Roxx: Fair enough. Do you find the new album is better than ‘Tearing Down The Walls’ or do you find ‘Tearing Down The Walls’ to be the best one?
Erik Grönwall: I think this is the best one, the new one. But if it’s between 2010 and 2019, I would say ‘Tearing Down The Walls’ but I’m guessing that’s not right.
Sleaze Roxx: No. You are right [laughs]. You are right.
Erik Grönwall: I am right? OK. Cool! Perfect.
Sleaze Roxx: What made that album so special? You know, you’ve released a couple of albums throughout that decade but what made that album so special?
Erik Grönwall: I think it’s that we actually moved towards a more aggressive, heavier melodic rock sound and also, I think the songs were very well written. We had “Mannequin.” We had “Tearing Down The Walls.” Those two songs are good anthems in a way, if you don’t mind me saying. It’s great songs that can be performed in a great way live. It’s a really energetic and powerful album in my opinion but I still think that this new album is better. But maybe that’s how you’ll always feel, like the new stuff that you put out is the best album that you’ve ever made.
Sleaze Roxx: Did you feel that way when you released ‘Into The Great Unknown’?
Erik Grönwall: No, I didn’t actually [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Erik Grönwall: So fair enough. Fair enough.
Sleaze Roxx: So if you didn’t feel that way when you released ‘Into The Great Unknown’, did you share your thoughts with your bandmates or did you just say, “This is what we’re going to release and let’s go with it.”?
Erik Grönwall: Well, we always discuss very openly. I still think — don’t get me wrong — ‘Into The Great Unknown’ is a good album and we have a few good songs there but I don’t think, if you look at the whole catalog, I don’t think that it’s the best that we released. But yeah, we always discuss and talk about all the concerns that we have openly so they know [laughs].
H.E.A.T‘s “Mannequin” video (from Tearing Down The Walls album):
Order the new album ‘Tearing Down The Walls’ here on CD: http://smarturl.it/HEAT_TDTW and here on iTunes: http://smarturl.it/heat_tdtw_itunes H.E.A.T – LIVE …
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] Fair enough. I know that H.E.A.T will be touring the UK. You have some Europe dates. What else is on tap for H.E.A.T in 2020?
Erik Grönwall: Well, we have a few offers for fall 2020 but there’s nothing official yet. We’re going to play a few festivals this summer and we’re looking for a new tour in 2020 but nothing confirmed yet. And also, we have offers for 2022 already.
Sleaze Roxx: Wow!
Erik Grönwall: Yeah, so there’s a lot of planning and discussions going on right now on how to optimize the touring.
Sleaze Roxx: Have you guys talked about coming to the States because bands like H.E.A.T, Crazy Lixx, Eclipse — it seems that you just come over [to the USA] and play these one-off events like the Monsters of Rock Cruise and you go back [to Europe]. Is there ever…
Erik Grönwall: Yeah, I know.
Sleaze Roxx: So what’s going on with North America?
Erik Grönwall: We really want to tour there. Since I started with music, I’ve wanted to tour in the States. I guess, I think that we might have some possibilities to do that now after the Monsters of Rock Cruise. It’s basically the first time that we played for such a big audience in the States and within the genre. We played at Melodic Rock Fest in Chicago [Illinois, USA] twice but I think that this is a little bit different. So I think that we reached a new audience and there might be a demand after this for a US tour. I would love to bring the Swedish invasion to the States.
Sleaze Roxx: That would be fantastic. Now, a band like Santa Cruz on the other hand, has been part of different tour packages in the States and they’ve come in as opening acts. I’ve never seen H.E.A.T do that when it comes to touring. How come?
Erik Grönwall: That’s true. I guess that we’re just focused on the European market. When I joined the band, we started basically building in the UK and Germany and Spain. And there’s been an increasing demand for H.E.A.T in those territories. Also in Japan. You also have to look at the budgets, etc. Like can we afford touring [laughs]?
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Erik Grönwall: We haven’t really had any decent offers and financial possibility to tour in the States in the past. So you know, that’s the reality. I’m hoping that things will change now.
Sleaze Roxx: You think that they will change?
Erik Grönwall: Well, actually, someone mentioned something about a US tour somewhere in a discussion. You know, there’s no offers on the table. It seems like people are discussing it but we don’t really have an agent on [for] that market. That’s something that if we could get that, it gives us more possibilities to tour the States if we get an agent.
Sleaze Roxx: I noticed that you keep yourself busy participating in musicals and things like that on your time off. How did that come about?
Erik Grönwall: The director’s wife… If you’re referring to Jesus Christ Superstar, the director’s wife actually found me on YouTube when I was performing with H.E.A.T. They were looking for a crazy rock singer and they found me when I was performing with H.E.A.T. They saw a live show and I got an e-mail asking me to send in an audition tape. I actually thought it was spam so I deleted the message, the first thing I did. I thought it was one of those “Hey. send money to this account and we’ll give you $10 million.” It was one of those e-mails. Then I realized [because] they e-mailed my agent, they e-mailed my manager and I realized, “Oh. OK. These guys are serious.” I contacted them and I sent in the audition video. And yeah, I got the job. So I stayed a month in New York and did the musical. It was a crazy experience.
Sleaze Roxx: How do you say that it was crazy?
Erik Grönwall: Well, I mean because it’s a completely different kind of budget and production. It’s NBC and it’s live. It was John Legend and Alice Cooper. I was the Swedish guy wondering, “What the fuck am I doing here?”
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Erik Grönwall: [Laughs] Then also, it kind of snowballed from there. I was nominated for a Grammy. Like all the lead roles were nominated for a Grammy, for an album that we released with the musical. So a year after, I was at the Grammy’s in LA and you know, it was just really a different experience. It’s nothing I worked for in a way. I’m obviously working and performing, and working hard on that but it’s not like, I didn’t apply for the job and I didn’t expect it to come. And then, all of a sudden, you’re at the Grammy Awards in LA. So it was a nice surprise.
Sleaze Roxx: For sure! Is that something that you’ll be doing in the future?
Erik Grönwall: Well, I would consider it. It depends on the musical. I like Jesus Christ Superstar because it’s just music. I’m not really an actor so you know, I’m not really good with lines. If it’s the right musical, definitely!
H.E.A.T‘s “Dangerous Ground” video (from H.E.A.T II album):
H.E.A.T RELEASE 4th SINGLE “DANGEROUS GROUND” FROM THEIR UPCOMING ALBUM H.E.A.T II NEW SINGLE & VIDEO OUT NOW! Get the single here: https://heat.lnk.to/Dange…
Sleaze Roxx: I noticed while speaking with you, your English is very very good.
Erik Grönwall: Aaah. Thank you very much!
Sleaze Roxx: It’s better than some of your Swedish counterparts that I have interviewed in the past.
Erik Grönwall: [Laughs]
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] So how come your English is so good?
Erik Grönwall: Well, I guess that we have subtitles in Sweden when we watch movies or series, and I guess that helps in a way ’cause you hear the pronunciations and you also see the translation. That helps but I guess it’s also, you know, touring and working in different projects with English speaking people. I guess that it’s just the practice and the touring, watching good movies [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] OK. Do you have anything else that you’d like to add that we haven’t covered?
Erik Grönwall: I think that you had very good questions and you made me think a lot regarding the album and especially, one of the best questions that I’ve had in an interview. It’s not the same that you always get. So no, I think it was really good. I would like to thank everybody at the Monsters of Rock Cruise for being such a great support, for supporting us with the new album. It’s really flattering and I’m really happy that the USA is starting to like H.E.A.T.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] I think that it’s more than just starting to like. Thank you for the compliments by the way. I have one more question for you. Last question — what are your three favorite all-time albums and why?
Erik Grönwall: Oooh! Jesus Christ! Alright, I would say ‘Let There Be Rock‘ by AC/DC because that’s like rock n’ roll 101. If you listen to “Go Down”, that’s like the perfect shuffle [laughs]. It’s so groovy and Bon Scott is amazing on that album. And then I would say Pantera’s ‘Cowboys From Hell.’ That was the first album that got me into the heavier, like more hard rock / metal type of music. I grew up watching, when I was in high school, I watched a lot of home videos that Pantera did and I thought that Phil Anselmo was pretty bad ass. He was a really good frontman. So that’s been with me for some time. Then I have to mention — well, its a tough one — Queen! ‘A Night At The Opera.’ Just because [of] “Bohemian Rhapsody” [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Erik Grönwall: And Freddie Mercury. It’s an amazing album. I get goose bumps every time that I listen to it. It’s always hard to narrow it down to three. There are so many good rock albums but that’s the three that I want to give you today. If you ask me in six months, I might answer differently.
Sleaze Roxx: Alright. Well thank you so much for doing the interview Erik. It was a real pleasure.
Erik Grönwall: Thank you.
Sleaze Roxx: I’m a huge fan so I hope one day to have the chance to see you guys live and I am going to keep my fingers crossed for North America.
Erik Grönwall: Alright. Thank you very much for having me. I appreciate it.
Thank you to Michaela Sauter at Noble PR Consultancy and H.E.A.T’s management for facilitating the interview.
H.E.A.T‘s “Come Clean” lyric video (from H.E.A.T II album):
H.E.A.T – Come Clean (Official Lyric Video) 🔔Subscribe here: http://radi.al/SubscribetoGAIN 🎵Stream/Download here: https://orcd.co/comeclean Track number 3 a…